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A Man of His Word - Epilogues by Zero

A Man of His Word - Epilogues (Paris, Vienna, New York)

I. Paris - Mathieu

Quite frankly, Otto had no idea how Mathieu had restrained himself from posting in social media when he was snapping selfies at every opportunity and seemed to always be on his phone.

Apparently, he enjoyed the idea of keeping his family in the dark about what exactly he had done to his hair. As they waited for the equipment and heard him chatter non-stop, Otto admitted that the French teenager had been a good friend to him. Ever since they started to hang out and talk more, he had really helped him out during their summer English course. As opposed to him, he was just a natural with languages.

"Your hair’s growing back fast" Otto observed.
"Yeah. I know. I hate it, it’s a total pain" his French friend ran his hand across his head with an annoyed expression.

Mathieu’s scalp wasn’t completely bare anymore. A very short, dense layer of stubble had appeared in time. It had been a feat, considering his friend had constantly toyed with the idea of going back to the barbershop to get it buzzed to zero again before they left or even with a razor at some point.

Otto stared at him in disbelief "Are you serious?".
"Dude, you have no idea how much I don’t want to deal with my hair, ever again in my life" he watched him grab his luggage. "But seriously, Otto, you really have to try shaving your head at least once in your life" Mathieu added after some thought.
"No, thanks" Otto caught his own case in his hands.

Once they crossed the gate to the terminal, they were both welcomed by the sight of a very elegant and very displeased woman. Next to her a man with an impeccable appearance and a disapproving look on his face and his arms crossed. They both had their eyes fixed on Mathieu.

The French teenager just smirked devilishly and walked towards them.

Otto’s French was rusty, but he caught that those were Mathieu’s parents right away. They were mouthing him off for shaving his head without their permission in New York, while the teenager fought to contain back the laughter and asked them to calm down and rubbed his shaven nape with his fingertips.

He couldn’t help but be amused at the overreaction of his parents as well. Mathieu seemed at ease and pleased with himself despite the scene they were causing, like he had won a victory over them.

Mathieu ignored what seemed like a monologue from his father and glanced over his shoulder to wave at him with a grin "Hey! Take care, Otto!"
"You too, Mathieu" he smiled at him.

Otto left to board his flight back to Vienna with the impression that, despite whatever his parents were saying, Mathieu was going to shave his head again very soon, just to spite them further.

He guessed he had to admire his guts.

II. Vienna - Otto

"Otto, what happened to your hair?" his mom looked like she was going to faint when she saw him at the airport.

As he had expected since the first snip of the scissors, the moment the barber cut off his bangs almost at the root, his mom was dismayed at his sight. Horrified, she wouldn’t even touch the blond fuzz he had left underneath the baseball cap.

He still wasn’t sure how he was going to explain what had happened in that barbershop.

Right next to her, his dad was completely ecstatic, with a huge smile on his face.

"You take that cap off now" he ordered him with disbelief.

Before the teenager could even touch his cap to remove it, his dad’s hand had swiftly ripped it off his head. When he surveyed the top and confirmed it was almost as short as the back and the sides he seemed to grin even wider in delight.

"I can’t believe you finally did it" his father stared at him, with an expression he could only describe as a victorious zest.
"Hi, dad. It’s good to see you too" Otto laughed.
"If I had known that sending you off to America for the summer was all it took for you to get a decent haircut, I would have done it ages ago, son!" his dad immediately fingered the velvet like hair he had on top of his head beaming with joy.
"Erich!" his mom yelled at him.
"What? I’ve spent months trying to convince Otto to get a haircut on his own and he finally shows up with one!" his dad argued "Can’t a man celebrate that his son made a change for good?" he hugged him roughly with one arm and kissed him in the forehead.
Otto tried to get his dad off him and struggled to get his baseball cap from his hand "Give it back! Dad!".
"Alright, alright!" his dad laughed out loud "I just love that I can see your face now", he handed it back to him.
As he retrieved his cap, he could see in his dad’s eyes how much he meant it and he remembered how much he had missed him during the last couple months.
"Besides you're a good-looking kid, like your old man here, of course" his dad added.
"Oh, Erich" his mother rolled her eyes.
"Well, you married me for a reason, didn’t you, Maria?" he countered with a smirk.

Otto held his baseball cap in his hands. He didn’t exactly love the way his hair looked, even though it had grown a bit and now he had about an inch or so all over, maybe a little more on top. But he had gotten used to it by now and recognized that it saved him a lot of time getting ready. It had its perks, after all.

His dad caressed the fuzz on the back of his head with affection and Otto wished he stopped doing it, but he let him, knowing it was going to be a lost battle, and decided to enjoy having him around instead. He had really missed his dad.

Once they finally made it home, after going for lunch together, Otto couldn’t believe how much he had missed his own room. Everything was clean and orderly. It had a fresh fragrance, like citrus, he guessed his mom had sprayed some deodorant in the air. He plugged in his phone right after he entered.

The group chat of his English classmates was buzzing with notifications. He typed a couple messages to let them know he had arrived safely as well and then left it alone. The jet lag finally set in and once he was back in his very own bed, he fell into a deep slumber.

The next morning, he began unpacking. He had a ton of laundry to do and some gifts he had bought for his family and relatives. Otto put them aside.

Then, he heard a knock on his door.

"Otto" his dad peered through the door "You awake, son? Your mom left early for a meeting with one of the grad students she’s supervising at the university. She said it’s probably going to be a long one. I’m going to the barbershop, how about you join me, and we go for breakfast at a café, today?" his dad looked at him, "Just the two of us, in a men-only Saturday, what do you think?".
"Sounds great, dad!".
His father’s face lit up "Excellent! Get dressed! I’ll be downstairs!".

Otto decided to leave unpacking aside and showered quickly. In a matter of minutes, he was in the car with his dad, changing the radio station as he drove and just a while after, he was entering his father’s usual barbershop.

He didn’t know if it was because it had been so long since he last came with him, but it didn’t look like he remembered at all. It seemed it had undergone a renovation.

It was now an eclectic, vintage flair shop and he thought it looked nicer now. It no longer seemed like he had traveled in time when he was inside.

"Erich! It’s been a while!" his dad’s barber welcomed him with a pat on the back. A second later, he saw him studying him with his eyes "Is that… is that Otto!?".
"How are you, sir?" he smiled at him.
"So, you finally convinced him to get a haircut, Erich?" the barber asked, astonished.
"That miracle happened in America" his dad rubbed the blond fuzz on the back of his head again and Otto just gave up on trying to stop him.
"You’re looking sharp, lad" the barber complimented him.
Otto felt his dad slapping him on the back with pride "Thank you, sir".
"You could use some tidying up in the neck, son" he heard his father say as he examined the trail that grew down his nape "Maybe one of these fine gentlemen can help you out with that?".

The fair-haired teenager reached out to touch the base of his neck, his dad was right, there were some stray hairs there. He hadn’t noticed them before. Or they weren’t visible when he had his hair down to his shoulders. The barber in New York had shaved them with a straight razor, now that he thought of it. He guessed that he would have to try to keep those trimmed regularly now.

"No, thanks…" Otto declined with a smile in a soft voice tone.
"Hey, Franz! You have an open slot?" the voice of the barber across the shop drowned out his response "Can you take care of Erich’s son, here?" Otto heard the positive reply from the other side and then his father’s barber motioned him to move towards there.
"Thank you very much, sir… but…" he couldn’t finish.
"Go ahead, son! You’ll be in good hands!" his dad slapped his back affectionately.

Otto could see he was full of pride and genuine excitement at the thought of his only son joining him in the barbershop he frequented, like a bonding activity of sorts and he couldn’t bring himself to disappoint him. So he just smiled back at his dad.

He guessed that maybe he could get his neckline cleaned up and just that.

Silently, Otto made his way to the newly refurbished lounge area to wait for the barber to finish with his current customer. It was a Saturday morning, and the place was not full, but it sure was busy with a couple of chairs occupied.

He watched a twenty-something getting a haircut with shaven back and sides that progressively got longer on top. The barber ran a pair of hair clippers back and forth over his temples and the machine’s loud mechanical noise filled the air.

Sitting there in the barbershop, Otto realized that he had never cut his hair with clippers.

He rose a hand to his head and fingered the slight growth he had managed in the last couple weeks. He had been growing out his hair out since he got that unplanned shearing in New York. And he would be lying if he said he wasn't slightly attached to his hair, he could recognize that.

However, he felt… curious about how the clippers felt.

This had to be Mathieu's fault somehow. His insistence when he first shaved his head that he did the same had somehow ingrained in his subconscious or something.

Now, Otto was sure he didn't want to shave his head, thank you, very much.

But still…

He looked at the blond fuzz he had in one of the mirrors, the remnants of his once shoulder-length mane. Otto knew it was going to take ages for it to look remotely like it used to. And even though he had thought at some point of growing it back, he had discovered that he could live with short hair just fine and wasn’t so sure he would (or that he wanted to) wear his hair that long again.

In fact, he could cut it a bit shorter.

Despite the butterflies in his stomach, Otto made up his mind.

"Young man" he heard the barber call him "You’re next".
He nodded in response and rose to his feet.

Full of nervousness, he took off his baseball cap and marched to the second to last chair in the row, running a hand across the barely past an inch-long hair on top of his head. The barber (Franz, he recalled quickly) was younger than his father’s, he didn’t look thirty yet and for some reason that made him feel more at ease. He wore his own dark hair in a very crisp short back and sides, with low fade.

They shook hands and introduced each other to the other and before long, a cape was secured around his neck.

"So, Otto… what’s it going to be?" came the young barber’s voice.
The question triggered his nerves even further and he replied without thinking "I want it cut shorter, please".
"Okay, something shorter" the barber asked as he picked up his hair clippers "So, a buzz cut, take it down to the same length all over, then?".
Still filled with uncertainty, Otto practically forced himself to say it "Yes".
"Alright. What number do you want?" he finished cleaning the blades and looked at the attachments in the drawer. Then, Franz examined him for a second "Does number one sound good?"
He hesitated for a second "Yes".
"Alright then".

Then Otto saw him fire up the hair clippers. Their low buzz sounded louder as the barber moved closer. His heart began to beat faster. He braced himself for them. The barber angled the machine on his cheek and he could feel its vibration. Franz placed them right in front of his ear and made a first pass up his sideburn, he felt the cool blades tingling against his head.

The short fuzz he had came off without resistance and poured down to the cape. The noise of the clippers became lower and brasher when they touched his hair. In the mirror, Otto saw the machine leave mere bristles behind as the barber started a second swipe in the same ascending motion. With every flick of his wrist, short tufts of blond hair fell over him.

He realized then that Franz was cutting his hair shorter than the barber in New York had.

Otto didn’t even think that was possible.

Maybe, just maybe, a number one was too short.

He thought of Mathieu. He had said that he should shave his head at least once in his life. Perhaps, he was right. The clippers removed the short fuzz he had almost completely. His head began to feel cold, he could feel the air on his scalp.

Otto calmed down when the clippers went up his head a fifth time and Franz had finished his most of his left side. The barber turned the chair around. Then, Otto felt his hand on his crown, pushing his head forward and securing it in place. He pressed the clippers against his nape and then moved them upwards once again, several times.

Once his initial shock had died down, Otto focused on the sensation of the machine against his head. It felt… good. Like a massage of sorts, it was relaxing. Even the steady, constant buzz in his ears was an oddly soothing rhythm when he got used to it.

Franz worked very fast and soon, he was buzzing the other side of his head, following the shape of his skull with each movement.

A couple months ago, Otto had never imagined himself with short hair. And now, he was in a barbershop with clippers running all over his head at his own request. Setting his nervousness aside, he decided to enjoy the experience for what it was.

"Okay, keep your head straight now, please" Franz lifted his chin firmly.
Otto nodded automatically in response. The barber positioned it back the way it was until a millisecond ago, holding his chin again.
"Alright, please, don’t move" he emphasized in a friendly tone.
"Sorry" Otto laughed.

Franz rose the clippers to his forehead then and drove them back, straight to his crown. Otto closed his eyes as the inch or so of hair he had rained down. Very soon, the barber had finished buzzing off all that remained.

The fifteen-year-old looked at himself in the mirror. All his hair had been buzzed down to an eighth of an inch. What he had left was stubble. He smiled a bit. He had never thought he would dare to do something like this. As Franz went once again all over his head in search of uneven patches, Otto couldn’t help but feel pleased with himself for going all the way through with it, despite his initial nervousness.

Perhaps going to New York on his own had made him just a little bit more daring.

Finally, the barber turned off the clippers and cleaned his neckline with a straight razor. He did the same for his sideburns and behind his ears. He dusted him off and uncapped him. Tiny clippings of blond hair stuck themselves to his neck, Otto rubbed his hand against his skin to try to get rid of them.

"Thank you, Franz" he jumped out of the chair, exploring the stubble on his scalp with a sense of wonder and curiosity. He was satisfied with the result, with how he looked in the mirror.
"You’re welcome" he answered him in a warm voice tone.

He walked towards the cashier, to meet with his father. Noticing his approaching figure, his dad looked at him out of the corner of his eye. Then, he returned his attention to his wallet. Otto expected a comment that didn’t come right away.

"That’s one heck of a haircut, son" his dad’s hand reached out for his head to touch it "It’s very short, Otto…" his voice was quiet, uncharacteristic of him.

He only saw his father smile at him. But the gesture wasn’t that usual boastful, carefree and proud grin he wore whenever he placed his eyes on him. It was just a soft movement of his lips in a curve and Otto wasn’t sure what to make of it.

He smiled back at his dad "I know".
"I thought you were just going to get your neck cleaned up" his father studied the stubble underneath his cap.

They both walked out of the barbershop and headed to the parking lot quietly. Outside, Otto enjoyed the soft breeze, how the air felt on his freshly buzzed scalp beneath his baseball cap. He thought he could get used to the coolness and the lightness on his head.

As they walked, his eyes father’s eyes shifted between the streets in front of them and him, for a while, until they finally set on him.

"So, a buzz cut, huh?".
"Yes" Otto fingered the bristles on his nape, trying to get used to them "You always threatened to give me one when my hair was long" the teenager remembered "You kept saying all the time that you would buy hair clippers and cut it yourself, and doing that click/bzzz noise and pulling my bangs back, like you were shaving my head" he chortled.
"Yeah…" his dad whispered.
He glimpsed at him fondly "I know how happy you are that I finally cut my hair... I mean, you always wanted me to get a real haircut ‘like a man’ and all that and I'm thinking I'll keep it buzzed and go to the barbershop with you, from now on...".

Then, Otto heard the footsteps beside him going silent and saw his dad stop in his tracks. Something seemed to burden him.

"Hey, I know I bugged you a lot to cut your hair before, but you know I wasn’t really serious about giving you a buzz cut or anything" his father glanced at him briefly "I know you liked your hair long and I…".
"Dad, come on…" he anticipated where this was going "It’s not really…".
His dad’s face was still serious "Otto, I really didn’t mind that you had long hair and I want to make clear that I don’t want you to cut your hair short if you don’t want to because of me or feel pressured to do so" he paused "I was joking about all that and when I wasn’t serious when I asked you to cut your hair in New York before you returned…".
"Dad. Stop. Listen" Otto cut him off "First, I got a buzz cut because I wanted to, okay? And second…" he hesitated for an instant, until he decided to tell him the truth about that "What happened in that barbershop in New York… that was… well…" the teenager sighed, feeling himself flushing at the memory of the episode playing in his head "That was a language accident".
"What" his father’s voice was flat "Are you serious?".
"Well, yes" Otto felt his face grow hot with embarrassment.
"How did that happen?" his dad was laughing out loud now "Otto! What did you...?".
"Okay, you can stop laughing!".
"No!" the man struggled to speak "You have to give me the full story now!".
"Alright, alright… I’ll tell you while we’re eating breakfast!" Otto proposed "I’m starving, dad".
"Sure" his dad smirked in anticipation "This is going to be good!".
"You have promise not to tell mom about it!".
"I give you my word, son" then without warning, his dad snitched his cap off his skull. "And, you give me that cap. Because I really want to see your face once in a while" he playfully rubbed his fingertips against his buzzed head again "And you have really nice hair, grow it out a bit".

Otto smiled at his dad and didn’t fight him to retrieve it.

Seeing his father’s warm smile, he remembered again how much he had missed him.

III. New York " Edward

He had told everyone that he had shaved off all his hair in summer to get rid of the damage from the dye and to start over again. All his classmates and teachers were used to his almost shoulder-length hair and he had to deal with constant questioning through the first week of school.

One of the teachers he admired the most told him that short hair made him look more mature (well, made him look like ‘less of a punk’ were his exact words) and applauded him on his decision. Edward had accepted the compliment even though he was not exactly flattered and planned to grow back his hair now that he didn’t have to get that f***ing buzz cut every two weeks.

Over the course of months, he had patiently grown his hair from a buzz cut to a crew cut, to a short back and sides, to a medium length style, that was maybe couple inches shorter than what he used to have. And at that rate, Edward had calculated that he would have his hair back to the length it used to be before winter and he was feeling pretty good about himself.

Until a couple weeks ago, that was.


His mother wrapped her arms around him when she saw him at the airport terminal. She had at last finished her PhD overseas. Edward hugged her as tight as she did, embracing her warmth again after all those months of seeing her only through a screen.

She separated herself from him at an arm’s length and studied him with her eyes full of love and longing "When did you get so tall?" she asked him with a wide smile on her face "I missed you so much!".
"I missed you too, mom".
"And your hair…" she ran her fingers up and down the bristles on the back of his head, with curiosity "It’s so short!".
"Quit it already, mom!" he took a step back, without pushing her away and raised his own hand to his buzzed nape. In response, his mom put one hand on his shoulder as to secure him and make sure he didn’t get any further away from her.
"I thought you were growing your hair out again" she fixated her eyes on the hair on top of his head and ran her hand across it a couple times "It looked so nice the way you had it… why did you cut again?".
"No reason in particular" only after he heard the words coming out of his mouth, he realized how rushed his tone had been.

Immediately, he heard his stepfather suppress a laugh behind him.

"With due respect, my love, I think he looks really good with short hair, and I’m not alone in that, right, Ed?" the man patted him on the shoulder and brushed his fingertips briefly against his close-cropped temple.

Edward tried to ignore the remark and offered to carry his mom’s hand bag and laptop case for her instead. Rod had already entertained himself a lot ever since he cut off his hair again and the teenager knew he wouldn’t stop messing with him any time soon.

In fact, he suspected he would never let him live that down. At all.

"Really?" his mom was intrigued by her husband’s comment and Roderick’s amused grin only grew broader when she pressed on the topic.
"So, how was France?" he tried to dodge the conversation "How was your dissertation?".
His stepfather didn’t miss it "Changing the subject real smooth there, Ed".
"What is going on?" his mom chimed in "What did I miss?"
Now he wanted to swear out loud or disappear from their line of sight, so he could stop feeling her mom’s eyes staring holes at him "Nothing, mom. Really. I just got a haircut".
"Okay, then".

Yeah, Edward could see his mom didn’t believe a single word he had said.

"What you missed was l’amour" his stepfather whispered in his mom’s ear. He kissed her tenderly in the cheek and put his arm around her wrist, smilingly lovingly at her. She looked deep into his eyes and reciprocated with a peck on his lips.

Usually, he would roll his eyes or feel uncomfortable with their public displays of affection, but not this time. For so long, he had wanted Rod away from them, now he was glad he made his mom feel so loved. Slowly, he turned his back to them and continued moving forward, without saying anything to them.

Edward rose a hand to his head and felt the dense, not yet inch-long hair that had covered his scalp. It had already been a couple weeks since he cut off his hair again.

As he stood outside the barbershop that day, Edward couldn’t believe he was doing this. He wasn’t even sure where the damned idea had come from.

Hesitating, with a pit in his stomach, he watched the pole spinning over the door with blue, red and white stripes. A part of him told him he didn’t have a reason to be back here. Another part of him told him the former was right and he should turn around and forget about it.

This was all some kind of big cosmic joke, really.

Growing out that buzz cut had been a sovereign pain in the ass to begin with. Enzo had warned him the very first time he had sat down on his chair and he had been right, he always was when it came to these matters.

He liked his hair the way it was then: touching the back of his collar, and long enough on the sides to tuck behind his ears, with bangs he could brush back and keep under control anytime he wanted. His visits to Enzo De Rossi’s barbershop had become more sporadic and far in between. The third-generation Italian man had helped him through the process of growing it back with good advice and his skilled, experienced hands saved him from awkward in-between stages.

Building up courage (or maybe just trying to ignore the dread inside him), he made up his mind and pushed the door open.

"Edward! It’s been a while! Rod told me you were coming today, you’re a little early, though, aren’t you?" Enzo saw him enter right away in the mirror’s reflection "I kind of miss having you come here every two weeks".

Edward didn’t really miss that. He preferred the regime he currently had, once a month or so, if not longer than that. In fact, as his hair had grown out, Enzo himself had told him he wouldn’t need to come as often to the shop as it got longer.

"So, what’s it going to be?" the barber folded his cape neatly and turned to him "Clean up the neck and split ends today, an inch off maybe?".
He couldn’t think of a way to say it and it just came out of his mouth "It’s going to be all off".
Edward saw Enzo’s face fall in confusion, his eyes pupils flared in surprise. Then, the man’s expression hardened "Edward, did you get in trouble with the school or with Rod again?" he crossed his arms.
He didn’t seem convinced "Alright, tell me what is going on".
"Nothing" the teenager replied flatly.
"Then you expect me to just take your word that you want to cut all your hair off just because, after you’ve spent months growing it back?" he asked him.

He felt cornered against Enzo’s coal, piercing gaze behind his glasses.

Maybe Roderick had been satisfied with a single ‘I need a haircut’ when he asked him if he could set an appointment for him last week and didn’t give it much thought or ask further. But not the man in front of him, who had learnt to read him with terrifying precision since he had first sat down on his chair.

Edward sighed.

"Okay, you win" he paused then "I’m seeing a girl today" he hurried with the words.

A snicker escaped from Antonio’s throat when he heard him, and Edward felt even more uncomfortable now. The other barber quickly recomposed himself and continued tapering the back of a customer’s head with his hair clippers.

"I see, a special occasion then" Enzo returned to his usual self and put his hand on his chin thoughtfully, studying him "Well, your hair is a little bit shaggy, maybe I can take off the back and sides, and just a couple inches off the top if you’re meeting her parents. You will want to cause them a good impression, after all".
"That’s not…" the teenager shook his head "It’s not her parents" he answered "It’s…" he trailed off.
"It’s...?" Enzo pressed on after a couple seconds.

Well, he had already told him so much, might as well give him the whole story.

"This girl, she thought that…" he stopped himself "She really liked when I had my hair short, I mean, she told me back then".
That was not enough information for the barber "Crew cut short? Ivy league short? Short back and sides?"
"Short as in, back when I had a buzz cut" Edward continued "And since I asked her out and she agreed to go out with me, I thought that maybe I should cut my hair like that again" he ran a hand through his thick locks and averted his gaze.

There wasn’t a response.

Edward looked back at the barber, wondering why he had remained quiet. It was right then, that Enzo took off his glasses to clean them and he could see the self-satisfaction gleaming in his eyes.

The man wore the smuggest smirk he had ever seen.

"I told you the buzz cut suited you" the barber remarked with delight.

Now Enzo was amused. And he was turning red in embarrassment. Edward rubbed his face with one hand and massaged the bridge of nose, between his eyebrows.

"You know which one my chair is" Enzo whistled to himself.

Still flustered, Edward climbed to the seat, hugging the armrests tightly with his fingers. His stomach was in knots when Enzo tied the familiar white cotton cape around his neck. Then as the barber ran the comb through his hair, he stared at himself in the mirror. He knew he wouldn’t look remotely the way he did then in a couple minutes.

"So, what number?" the barber went to the counter and Edward saw him lift his silver hair clippers.
"One, that’s what I had back then, wasn’t it?" he replied resignedly, reaching his hand out from under the cape to rake his fingers through his hair one last time before he started. It had taken so long to grow it out again.
"Well, actually… considering I last gave you a number one buzz, it was a couple days before school started, you probably had a little bit of growth" the man meditated for a second "Besides, that is a tad too short, and you look better with your hair a bit longer than that… I’ll use one and a half, instead" Enzo cleaned them with a spray and then looked for an attachment inside the drawer.
"Whatever you say, Enzo" Edward couldn’t keep himself from rolling his eyes at the barber’s meticulousness and rigor, he really doubted he or someone else would notice the difference between one or one and a half.
"You just trust me" Enzo went back to him faster than what he expected with clippers already in hand "When I'm done, you'll be absolutely impeccable" he made a sign with his hand joining up his index and thumb while extending the other to emphasize.
"Please just get it over with, Enzo" the teenager let out a sigh and rubbed his eyelids.

He heard the sharp click of the power switch being drowned by the low hum of the machine starting. He took in a deep breath and lowered his hands to the armrests again.

Without any mediation of words, the barber pushed his head down. He placed the machine on his neck. He could hear the powerful noise of its motor. Then, adjusting his grip tightly around it, Enzo started moving them upwards, towards his crown in a steady, and dexterous movement.

Edward twitched involuntarily when he felt the clippers touching his hair and gliding up his head. He heard the blades’ sound change and become harsher as they dived into his thick and heavy locks, shearing them off almost completely. Then, as the barber flicked his wrist, he watched the good four, almost five, inches he had grown back tumble down on the cape.

Edward couldn’t stop the sharp pang of regret inside him when he saw the firsts clumps.

He felt Enzo angling his clippers on his neck again for a second pass. Edward forced himself to calm down. He let out a breath. He decided to concentrate on the continuous, rhythmic vibration of the hair clippers against his scalp. Trying to keep his mind off the amount of hair that was rapidly falling on his shoulders as Enzo continued working.

He couldn’t believe he was buzzing off all his hair again.

The back of his head started to feel weightless, he could feel the A/C’s coolness on his exposed nape and Edward knew his hair was reduced to bristles. It had been months since it had last felt like this, since he last had clippers running across his head.

Once he had finished on the back, Enzo tilted Edward’s head to the right and began working on the opposite side, this time the clippers ascended from behind his ear up to the top of his head, following the curve of his skull. With another flick of the barber’s wrist, more glossy chocolate locks rained down.

"Tell me about this lady friend of yours" Enzo, who he knew was a enthusiast of chit chat, asked him with curiosity.
A smile traced itself on his lips when he thought of her "She's in my class" he told Enzo "She’s currently running for the student council. She’s brilliant, and gorgeous".
"Beauties and brains" Enzo ran the clippers from his sideburn to the temple and Edward saw the path of bristles they left behind "They make a woman deadly, just ask your stepfather, he can tell you I’m right".

Edward continued looking in the mirror as Enzo buzzed his hair off and thought of her. Victoria Sevilla. Always so eloquent and gentle. So brilliant. Her light, inquisitive eyes that seemed to pierce through him. The copper of her hair, in a braid starting at her temple or up in a messy bun or cascading down her back, and always beautiful. And her gentle, breathtaking smile.

Looking back, he had noticed how she wouldn’t stop staring at him after he arrived back in school with his hair completely buzzed off. He would surprise her often with her eyes over him and she would turn her attention quickly either to her book, the floor or just about anything she could on.

Lots of people stared at him during the first week. And Edward had tried not to think much about it and act cool while he ran his hand across his head repeatedly, unconsciously trying to reassure himself that his hair was growing back.

Just to cut it all off again today.

"You must really like her" Enzo held his head firmly in place as he finished buzzing the other side, angling it to get his clippers behind his now exposed ear.

The barber adjusted the position of his head once more and pushed his bangs away from his face. Edward tried to remain still. Then, he felt the clippers going from his forehead, all the way back to his crown and closed his eyes to protect them from the rain of hair that followed their motion.

"I have to say she’s clearly a lady of taste" Enzo stopped for a minute and did a brief gesture with his hand "With an eye for a perfectly barbered man" he added.

Edward heard the self-congratulatory tone in his voice and he thought that Enzo seemed content shearing off his hair and running his hair clippers over the top of his head.

The man made one last pass through the longer locks left. Quickly, most of his dark hair rested on his shoulders and lap or had fallen in around chair’s steel base and the floor. Enzo moved and turned his head side to side and back and forth as he went over his entire scalp with the clippers again. Then he turned off the machine and the teenager reached out to touch the bristles with his fingertips, inspecting his work in the mirror.

It was kind of surreal, that he looked exactly like he used to some months ago.

Now he remembered that he hadn’t exactly missed that prickly sensation in his fingers when he touched his head.

Over six months’ worth of patient and at times excruciatingly slow growth thrown out of the windows in minutes.

He knew he was going to face a lot of snide remarks for this.

From his stepfather, first and foremost.

"I'm going to taper around the back and your sides with the zero and blend it with the one, it will look much cleaner and polished that way" the barber commented him, he removed the guard from the silver machine and then returned "Alright?".

Edward gazed at the bare metallic teeth with his previous apprehension finding a way back to his stomach. He reminded himself that he had trusted Enzo’s judgement and hands before, he was trusting him with this as well.

"Okay, I need you to remain still as I work, and don’t worry, you’re in good hands, Edward" Enzo gave him a reassuring smile.

The teenager wondered how he always seemed to read his mind. He let him angle his head once more. The he heard him turn on the clippers. Edward felt the cold blades biting into his sideburn and the pressure progressively diminishing as the barber ran them towards his temples in quick, methodic and precise movements upwards. Then he folded down his ear and shaved around them as well, in those soft, agile bursts, up and down.

He repeated the action on his other side. Right after that, he took his straight razor and shaved his sideburns in short, gentle strokes. Edward heard the scraping of the blade against the front of his ear. Then, Enzo retrieved his clippers and worked with a number one attachment, adjusting the leveler of the guard with caution every time he moved an inch higher.

When the barber was done on both sides, he peered into the mirror and noticed that the difference was very subtle, but it did look cleaner that way.

Enzo pushed his head down and ran the clippers across the back of his head again, tapering it tightly. Edward could see the millimetric hairs showering the upper part of the cape. He felt the non-stop movement of the machine going once and again over the back of his head, against his nape. He trusted Enzo, but he also thought that the barber was just a few swipes of the clippers away from giving him a high and tight or a recon at this point or something like that.

Finally turning off the clippers, the barber went back to his work station "Almost done, young man".

With a trimmer, Enzo defined and cleaned his hairline, sharpening the natural arch behind his ears as he did so. Then, he turned him away from the mirror and studied his outline, looking for any imperfections, any darker shadows or uneven patches with clippers again in hand. Once he was satisfied, Enzo exchanged the machine for an electric shaver.

"Please, bend your head forward" the barber instructed him as he slightly untied the cape without removing it completely yet. The movement made the shorn hair on his shoulders slide across the fabric down to his lap.
Edward felt him going completely over his neck multiple times with the machine, making sure he hadn’t miss anything. At last, Enzo smiled and turned off the shaver "Alright. Now we’re done".

The teenager sat straight in the chair again and the barber uncapped him. Copious amounts of his deep brown hair dropped to the wooden floor when as removed the cape from him. The man reached for his brush and dusted his shoulders, neck and face. Still, Edward felt the millimeter-long hairs stuck to every inch of his skin.

"Take a look" Enzo presented him with a hand mirror to let him see the back of his head. The teenager rose his hand to his nape and felt how the stubble gradually blended into his hair flawlessly. The outline had millimetric perfection and he had to recognize the slight taper made it look very clean "Do you like it?".
"It looks really good, Enzo" Edward surprised himself when he said it out loud.

Enzo smiled proudly and placed the mirror back on his station. Then Edward returned his attention to his reflection and ran both his hands across his buzzed head. His fingertips’ tactile memory recognized the familiar texture of the bristles and even though it was unreal to have his hair so short again, it didn’t seem foreign at all.

"Like I said before, the buzz cut really suits you".
"How much do I owe you, Enzo?" he rose to his feet, still exploring his scalp.
"Today’s on the house for you, young man" the barber prepared to sweep the hair on the floor "I was honored to help you look your best".
Edward smiled at him "Thank you, Enzo".
"Good luck with your lady friend".

Truth be told, even if he never would actually bring himself to do it, he had to thank Roderick for introducing him to his barber. Enzo truly was a master of his craft.

When he arrived back home, Edward rushed to shower, get dressed and put on cologne. As he finished adjusting his jacket and inspecting his appearance in the mirror, his stepfather peered inside his room without warning.

"Ed, have you seen…?" whatever Rod was going to tell him was promptly discarded when he opened the ajar door further and looked at him "Okay, what did you do to your hair?".
"Hey, Rod" he put on a leather wristwatch as a lone accessory and walked past him "Well, I got a haircut. I told you I was going to get one today, didn’t I?"
The man crossed his arms as he watched him pass "I didn’t think you would go back to the buzz. What’s up with that?".
"Nothing" Edward looked at the time. He still had an hour spare. He had to arrive punctual.
"You buzz all your hair off the same day you happen to go out with this girl? I don't think that's a coincidence, Edward" Roderick paused "Apparently, this lady that clearly prefers a clean-cut gentleman" his stepfather teased him.
He felt himself blushing "Please, shut up, Rod".
"Good luck, lover boy" Rod added in a singsong voice.

Trying not to think about his stepfather’s mocking on the way as he held a bouquet of fresh flowers, Edward arrived at the front door of the Sevilla family house with ten minutes spare.

He was greeted by Victoria’s father. He presented himself with a firm handshake and handed him the flowers he had brought as a gift for them. He saw the man inspecting him from head to toe, trying to dissect him. Then, with the door half-open and no invitation to step in, he waited for her outside. In the cold, of course.

Unconsciously, he caressed the stubble on his nape with nervousness. The chill nocturnal breeze bit into his scalp and made him miss his hair already.

His heart raced when the door opened again. She heard her saying goodbye to her father and caught sight of her hand first, then the rest of her emerged. He smiled and shifted his feet, to try to look relaxed pose when she came out. Then, he saw her sky blue eyes turning to him.

"Edward… your hair!" she remained quiet for a second, assessing the situation with a hand clasped over her hand in shock.
"Yeah, I went to the barbershop today, I got tired of it" he lied, trying to sound as casually as possible.
"Really? I never imagined you would be the barbershop type" Victoria smiled "You look so cute!" she giggled in amusement "May I?" she stared at his buzzed head with a hand up in the air.
Edward smiled back and nodded in response.

She proceeded to reach out and touch the side of his head, brushing his temple, exploring the texture gently, sliding her fingertips behind his ear, all the way to his occipital bone, touching his nape and then just swaying slowly in a caress, ascending and descending. His body filled with electricity when she did. Her hands against the millimetric stubble, against the back of his head, drove him crazy.

Then, she pulled back with a grin lighting her face.

"I kind of wish I could also do that whenever I got fed up with my hair" Victoria joked.
"Please don’t" he laughed "Your hair is beautiful".
"Thank you" she stood right in front of him and he was lost inside her eyes.

After that first evening they spent together, they went out a second time, then a third, until it was progressively becoming a regular thing between them.

That day, as he headed out of the airport and watched his mom and his stepfather together, looking over his shoulder, Edward thought of Victoria Sevilla.

He loved the trace of his fingertips across his temple and his nape.

He rubbed the back of his head, feeling the weeks’ worth growth he had now and smiled to himself. Then, he thought that maybe he would return to the barbershop the following week.

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