“Hi! I’m Rachel, I’ll be your stylist today.”
A petite, pretty girl who had blushed when their eyes met, lifted her long thick hair.
“So! We’re going short!”
She’d come out of town, where no-one knew her, heart racing as she made the appointment, racing now as she nodded and handed the photo over her shoulder.
“I’d like it like this please.” She held her breath in the silence, waiting.
“Ok, no problem, just come this way and we’ll get you shampooed.”
When she thought back to the start, it felt strange, like looking into someone else’s mirror. She was at home, a Thursday evening maybe, tv on, her phone in her hand, watching Instagram stories. It had all started with a story on Instagram.
Not a story, a reel. She felt an awkward shiver even using the word about him, it felt so basic. Instead, she imagined it to be a cinema reel. Imagined herself sitting in the dark of the back row, watching him step across the screen in flickering silver, press against that invisible barrier and emerge in glorious technicolour.
It’d been a shock. Up til then in her mind anyway, he’d been this teeny bopper kid singing cheesy pop, but this was a man. A fully grown adult man. When he sang his heart ached, his body ached, he wanted to be more than he’d been before. And suddenly so did she.
Back then she felt shameful, embarrassed, to be attracted to someone she’d only known for being a grinning sixteen-year-old? At her age. But she couldn’t stop watching.
Hours passed in a haze, she switched off her screen time report after the third day. But maybe it wasn’t so much that she was attracted to him, she never considered sleeping with him, or kissing him even, she just couldn’t put her finger on it.
She kept it secret still, watching at night, swiping impatiently through content that wasn’t his. Next, next, next. Maybe it’s his voice, maybe it’s his confidence, maybe it’s his style.
Then one afternoon she bought a ring, like the one he wore on his little finger. Just from a jewellery stall in the market, she sold silver. Just one. Not showy. It sat, wrapped round her little finger, warm against her skin. The first time she wore it at work, it felt good.
She watched at work now too, first going into the toilet to sit with her phone on for five minutes, then finally daring to show a colleague one of his videos. When they agreed there was something about him, she felt invincible.
After that it was nail varnish. Totally out of character. Dark reds, greens, one black or gold. That was fine, it was winter, she wore gloves a lot anyway. The wide wool trousers, they were great for winter too, dark colours at first, then brighter. Another ring or two when the first one went unnoticed.
A photo of him blu tacked onto her mirror at home encouraged his confidence to grow in her as she dressed, lifted her head, walked with purpose.
Then there was the first time someone called her sir on the phone. It was just before Christmas, she was at her desk booking tickets for her boss, listening to canned jingle bells from the street outside. She finished reading out the card number, and confirmed her bosses very female name.
“Thank you, sir, we’ll get those right out to you.”
She froze, her palm suddenly sweaty on the receiver, but didn’t correct them, said thank you, merry Christmas, goodbye.
Maybe her voice was a little deeper. She was more relaxed, more confident. She held herself differently.
That evening she stood in front of the mirror, dressed in her new clothes, things she could order online to be specific and discreet. Every parcel taped package a new layer for her. She hardly needed a bra any more, her hips slipped into the narrowest of new underwear.
His album played softly in the background, adding to the glow in the room. Do my eyes look different to you? She danced, swaying, arms around herself, eyes closed, picturing him. His eyes were green, hers had been blue.
The first time it happened in person, she was asking for it. It was a test. A test she wanted to pass.
She dressed carefully, a cream shirt, charcoal grey trousers, black boots. A dark wool coat against the wind, green and gold scarf. She brushed her hair back off her face. No makeup. She touched his face in the photograph, touched her own cheek. Slipped the photo into her pocket.
On the bus she sat with her legs spread, manspreading a whole double seat. She watched her reflection in the window, felt the physical difference between her spread thighs.
The bell over the door tinkled politely, the smell of leather, wood and expensive cologne filled her nose.
“Good morning sir. How may we help you.”
“I’d like to have a suit made.”
“Certainly sir, step this way.”
The tailors tape slipped round her waist, her hips, and dropped from her inner thigh to her heel. Her heartbeat vibrated against it as he measured her chest.
“Thank you sir, if you’d like to follow me, we have a selection of fabrics and linings in the next room.”
Outside she’d found a quiet square and sat, biting her cheeks, eyes welling, her reflection clear in her mind.
Above the tailors grey head she’d watched the mirror. She’d seen the wide sensual mouth, the humourously arched eyebrow, the jawline. She swallowed, tried to keep her breathing steady. Oh but that hair had to go.
“There you go, all done. Would you like to see the back?”
“Yes, please Rachel.”
He smiled at her, bringing that blush back, and held her eyes while she held the mirror.
“That’s perfect. I look rather fabulous Thank you, Rachel.”
“Oh no! Thank you! Please do come again, any time. Just ask for Rachel!”
He watched her cringe.
“I definitely will.”
Thank you! Um, sorry, but would you, would you mind signing your album for me? I just love your music!”
“Sure.” A flourish of sharpie. His name. His name.