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Lucas' Loss by Joelsweet
A customer hadn't shown up for a good half hour, and I was getting ready to close up shop. No sense in just waiting there for no reason on the off chance that somebody would show up. My boss was long gone, and I was sure she would understand me leaving before ten. I opened the squeaky cash register in order to move the day’s profit to the lockbox, wriggling the tray as I pulled it out so that it wouldn't get stuck. It did, and I sighed in frustration. We needed to buy a new one, but business was usually considerably slower in the winter, and my boss was a penny pincher anyways.
I was about to pull out the money, when I heard the bell on the door jangle loudly. I jolted, startled, and looked up. Standing there was a tall figure with a hood over their head and a scarf covering their nose and mouth. Their slender frame and baggy jacket looked hermaphroditus, not giving away any clues to the gender of the individual. The door quickly swung shut behind them, but the room was already at least ten degrees colder. They walked over to the counter, and they were close enough that I could see the snowflakes clinging to their dark eyelashes.
"May I help you?" I asked. Without a word, they pulled down their scarf and flipped back their hood. Against my will, my heart skipped a beat. He was gorgeous, but in a different kind of way than what I usually went for. I usually liked masculine guys with short hair, and he was the complete opposite of that. To my surprise, my face began to feel flushed. Gently, he pulled his hair out from under his navy blue coat. It was a golden blonde color that had a hint of red under the fluorescent lighting, and tumbled in soft waves down to the man’s waistband. Avoiding eye contact, he commanded,
"Shave my head." The voice was small and soft spoken, but resonant and certainly male. I looked at him blankly for a second, and blinked.
"What?" I asked, not believing my ears.
"Don't make me say it again," he whispered. "Just do it."
"Sorry," I apologized, a little confused, and attempted to close the register. Of course, the tray didn't slide in all the way, so I just left it ajar for the time being. "Um.. Go and sit over there." I pointed to the closest chair, and he strode over. I watched as he lowered himself into it and bowed his head melancholically, staring at his lap with half-lidded eyes.
I came over and turned the chair away from the mirror, before tilting it back so that his head was in the sink. Tenderly, I lifted up his neck and slid his hair out from where it was trapped under his back. I turned on the tap and watched him shiver. I felt guilty, but it wasn't my fault that the water took a second to warm up. Once it was more heated, I took the sprayer and doused his hair at the scalp. He closed his gray eyes solemnly and I moved the water down the rest of the length. As I ran my fingers through the soft locks, I wondered why he wanted to chop it all off. It was well maintained, so he clearly cared about it. He wouldn't need to cut off all of it if he was donating it, so that wasn't the answer. Maybe somebody was putting him up to it? But that didn't seem right either. Most people that loved their hair wouldn’t bet on it or cut it as a dare.
I put the sprayer onto its rack and squeezed a dollop of shampoo into my palm to begin working it through his wet hair. When it lathered up, it filled the air with an intoxicating coconut scent. I massaged his scalp, hoping that he would relax. His muscles were as tense as a rock, and he seemed to flinch every time I rubbed my fingers over his head. Normally people seemed to enjoy when I washed their hair, even if they were scared of haircuts. But this guy seemed like he could get up and run at a moment’s notice. I rinsed out the shampoo after a thorough cleansing, the suds dissipating until no traces remained. I looked at the boy’s face some closely and noticed how gaunt and pale it seemed. It was if he wasn't eating or going outside enough. He looked to be about five years younger than me, about twenty-one, but it was hard to tell his age. His lankiness made him seem more like a teenager. While he was taller than me, he appeared more fragile and small because he lacked my toned body and tan skin.
With a pop, I opened the cap of the conditioner bottle. I squeezed a good amount out and then lifted his hair out of the basin to apply it to the ends. I wasn't used to dealing with a customer with this much hair, especially a male one. There was always something so erotic about washing another person’s hair to me, but, to my disappointment, he was unaffected. I reveled in touching his silky locks, but apparently the feeling wasn't mutual. Silently, I wondered if he was into guys. But I quickly shot that idea down. He'd probably hate me anyway after I shaved his head.
"Why do you want to cut your hair?" I asked, my voice cracking the long quiet. I cursed myself in my head. Clearly, he didn't want to talk about it. "Sorry," I quickly apologized. He opened his eyes and shifted them to look at me.
"It’s okay.." he replied kindly with a touch of sadness. He broke eye contact, bit his lip, and then sighed. "I’m selling it, is why."
"Why?" I blurted out, my curiosity getting the best of me.
"I.. don’t really want to talk about it."
"Oh." Awkward silence ensued. ‘Nice going, you idiot,’ I thought.
To fill the soundless void somewhat, I turned on the tap again, and washed out the conditioner, enjoying touching his hair as long as I could. I switched off the water and wrapped a towel around his neck, then lifted up the chair to a vertical position. Gently, I pulled the towel around his hair to soak up the extra liquid, then placed it around his tightened shoulders again. He was gripping the arms of the chair so tightly that his knuckles were white. He was leaning forward, as if to jump up and take flight. I caught his eye and smiled reassuringly. I felt so bad! He looked so frightened. I wanted to hug him to give him some comfort, but I was afraid he’d run. I took the hair dryer off of the counter and plugged it in. A comb went into my right hand, and I turned on the dryer.
I began combing through the damp tresses, although there were virtually no tangles. I switched the dryer to its "cool" setting, even though the room was already frigid. Heat causes damage, and even if he was chopping it all off, I didn’t want the strands split or broken. Silly, I know. I lifted sections of hair with the comb and gradually brought the dryer down them until they were fluffy and light colored. When his hair was entirely dry, I set aside the comb, clicked the power button on the dryer, and then pulled the plug from the socket. I hoped that the boy wouldn’t notice, but I kept stealing touches. I’d move, and my fingertips would casually brush against that soft hair. It took all my self restraint not to grab it and play with it. I removed the towel and folded it, before placing it next to the basin.
"Alright, I need you to take off your jacket," I requested. The boy sat up and gingerly released the arms of the chair. He unzipped his coat and pulled it off, a difficult task considering how much his hands were shaking. I took it from him and hung it up on a hook by the mirror. Without it, he looked even smaller than before. He was wearing a loose black tank top over his slim frame. His shoulders looked so bony, and I could see his collarbones clearly. Poor guy. He must be a student, I deducted. Barely making ends meet. Probably was paying more attention to his work than to taking care of himself. He bowed his head, and his hair covered his face. He was hiding behind it. I opened a drawer and withdrew a large black cape. Then, I lifted up his hair and tied it around him. I brought out a paper strip as well, and covered his neck with it. I looked over to him. His face was still obscured by his hair. He looked like he was absolutely drowning in swathes of shining black fabric and golden hair. I ran a hand over his head, pulling his hair back, and then tied it with a cloth covered elastic holder.
"What’s your name?" I implored, trying to lighten the mood, as I took the clippers and plugged them in.
"Lucas," he made out. I couldn’t help but smile slightly.
‘Lucas. Light-giving,’ I remembered. ‘How appropriate.’ His beauty wasn’t striking, but gave a soft glow, like a butter-yellow drop of sun. I noticed that he was clutching the arms of the salon chair again. Slowly, I spun it around to face the mirror. I raised his chin delicately, and he squeezed his eyes shut. My heart was beating loudly as I fired up the clippers. They were so loud, so rough and cruel looking. And there was Lucas, fragile and sweet and scared. I poised them above his forehead, about to drive them through his hair, when I noticed a tear slip down his face. ‘Don’t do this!’ my conscience yelled at me. I felt so guilty. A hard feeling settled in my stomach, and...
I lowered the clippers.
"Um.. This will be easier to do it you’re standing up." Lucas slowly rose, and looked away, trying not to let me see that he was crying. His face was flushed, and another tear splashed onto the cape. The ponytail was gently unwound, and I smoothed his hair flat. I took the comb from earlier and made a straight line at the ends of his hair. Steadily, I trimmed an inch off with the clippers. He gasped when he felt the slight tugging on his hair. "I figure it will be easier to sell if it’s even," I quickly improvised. Truth was, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I switched off the clippers and ran my hand over the blunt edge I had created. With a sigh of defeat, I undid the string holding the cape on him and removed the strip.
"Wh-what are you doing?" he asked, his voice breaking. I swallowed.
"I’m sorry. I can’t shave your head," I admitted. "You obviously don’t want me to."
"You don’t understand!" he cried, and turned to face me. "I have to! I need the money to pay rent this month." He pushed his hair out of his face, agitated. "My boy- My roommate hasn’t been splitting the rent, and I won’t have enough."
"Doesn’t he have a job?" I asked, concerned.
"He does, but he spends it all."
"Well, leave then!"
"I can’t!" he sobbed. He covered his face with his hands and his hair. "I have nowhere to go. And I can’t just- .. I can’t just leave him." The room fell silent, besides Lucas’ quiet weeping. Tentatively, I reached out an arm and pulled the taller man into an embrace. We stood there for a second. He felt so.. right in my arms. I didn’t want to let go, but he pushed me away.
"I have to go," Lucas whispered quietly. He turned and began walking away, and rummaged in his pocket to pull out some coins, which he set near the cash register with a clatter.
"You don’t have to-" I started, but he ignored me and strode out into the snowy, dark night, with only his tank top on.
He’d left his jacket behind. By the time I realized, he was long gone.
I had locked up the shop and gone home, but I couldn’t get Lucas out of my head. I laid in bed, my blankets drawn close to me to protect from the cold. I couldn’t help but fantasize what it would be like to have Lucas next to me. We could keep each other warm… I shook my head. That poor guy. He was stuck in a bad relationship, no doubt. He was dating some douche that was probably blowing all his money on chicks or drugs. But Lucas clung to him in desperation, hoping that he’d change. I felt so awful. I didn’t get a wink of sleep.
The next morning, I came into work as usual, and went through my monotonous routine. I was in a trance; I wasn’t aware of what was going on around me in the slightest. I buzzed undercuts, I colored gray roots, I trimmed endless ends. But it was all so much more lackluster than usual. The time in between customers dragged on and on as people trudged in and out, one by one. There were some half hour stretches between people coming into the shop. I was the only stylist at work that day, because the rest were on winter holiday.
The bell rung, and I looked up, expecting to see another middle aged woman walk through the door.
"Hello, welcome to-" My eyes widened, and I was left speechless. I almost didn’t recognize him at first, but Lucas was standing there, looking at his feet. His eyes were puffy and swollen, as if he’d been crying for hours. He had on a thin white t-shirt and loose jeans.
And his hair was gone. It had been messily snipped off, leaving some parts slightly longer than others.
"I left my-," he cleared his hoarse throat. "I left my jacket here yesterday." I was frozen there for a second, dumbfounded.
"Oh!" I spun around and grabbed the coat off of the hook it had been left on. I handed it to him, and he turned to leave. Instinctively, I grabbed his hand. "Wait, please. Come sit down." I motioned to the chair he’d sat in the night before.
"Why?" he asked.
"Um.. Let me even out your hair." Unwillingly, Lucas came over and sat down. I touched his head, and he cringed. It broke my heart. He must have gone home and cut off his hair himself. With kitchen scissors, it seemed. I inspected it. Some chunks were so short… I wrapped the black cape around him again and he looked even smaller now, missing all of his locks. I added a paper strip and put the plug into the wall for the clippers. I turned them on and slowly brought them over Lucas’ scalp.
They didn’t have a guard. Even a one would be too long. He winced as the buzzing clippers moved across his bare head. Short, dark blonde strands fell onto the cape all around him, sticking to his eyelashes and neck. I worked on the sides and back, making sure I was as gentle as possible, and held his head with one hand to steady it. I dusted his head off, saw some spots I missed, and returned to buzzing. When I was sure that what little was left of his hair was gone, I clicked off the clippers and dusted him off again. With a swish, I removed the cape and then peeled off the strip. Lucas stood, rubbing his head. He looked so miserable.. I touched his scalp, feeling the bristles. It felt so good, but I didn't think that he would appreciate that.
"Thanks." He gave a half-smile.
"Lucas…" I looked him. "I know we just met, but.. would you consider coming and living with me? I don’t think you’re in a healthy relationship with your boy- sorry, your roommate." He met my gaze, but quickly dropped his eyes.
"I don't even know your name."
"Anthony," I responded firmly. "And.. just think about it. I don't think I could live with myself knowing a sweet guy like you was stuck in a situation like that." It was hard to tell, but I could swear that he blushed.
"Thank you. I'll consider it." He sounded sincere. I watched him reach into his pocket.
"You're not paying me, hon," I told him, smiling.
"You sure?" he asked, worried.
"Definitely," I affirmed. Lucas gave me a grateful look. I took one of the salon’s business cards from next to the cash register, and wrote my number and address on the back, then gave it to him. "Here you go." Without thinking, I leaned forward and pecked his cheek with a kiss.
Lucas was paralyzed for a second; definitely blushing now. He touched his cheek, grinned sheepishly, and put the card into his pocket. I watched his back as he walked out of the store.
I had a feeling that this wouldn't be the last time that I saw him.
(Might do a continuation with Lucas' boyfriend.)