[All 5 prompts included, 2916 words]
“What a wonderful birthday gift! A hair stylist appointment with hard to get Andre, and spa day including sauna, full body massage, and a hot mud bath — not in that order, I hope. Thank you so much, my love. I can’t wait.” Well! If he didn’t like my hip-long hair, he could have just told me. And a massage plus the stylist? Did he forget I don’t like strangers touching me? What’s wrong with him? I suppose it was a sweet gesture and I shouldn’t be too hard on him. I hope she loves how thoughtful that is. I love her long and silky blond hair and I hope she doesn’t change it much. It’s not only beautiful and sexy, but I just love how weighty and fragrant it is when it covers my face. Of course it’s hers to change as she wishes, but it’s $850 wasted if she trims it too far. She likes showing off her toned, athletic body so she won’t mind spending the spa day naked, but I pray the stylist and massage help her get over her Haphephobia. “Honey, I know you’ve had a fear of being touched ever since your friend, Gail, was groped in the stalled subway car and some parts of this gift will be hard for you. I think you are ready to handle the challenges. You told me your Haphephobia is the real reason you let your hair grow so long. You don’t need to cut it at all; just let the stylist condition it and brush it for you and you win. I love your long hair.” He may be right, but I’m already hyperventilating at the thought of a stranger touching my scalp, my face, even just my hair. I have to do this. I can’t do this! He can’t see my chest heaving and know what a coward I am! “WHEN you get to the massage, you may feel the worst fear. You can beat it. Imagine those are my hands on your shoulders, back, ass, legs and feet. Just remember how much you love my touch and relax into it. I’m happy to be with you at least the first time you face your fears. Don’t worry about the CORVID-19 virus since they promise they disinfect daily and each masseur disinfects before and after a massage. They even add extra sanitizer to the mud bath before each client. You have a week to prepare and visualize your meeting and beating the challenge. I’ll help you any way you need.” *** one week later *** “My heart is racing. I can’t believe I’m going to face this and beat it today. Even if I fail, I know I can trust you and this is just one small, well not so small, step. Please be with me at the stylist too? I can’t do this alone; I need you.” “Of course, my love. Though I hate the stench and long waits, I’ll be with you all day if you need me.” God, I hope she doesn’t need me there. I can’t stand those salons! “I checked with the spa about staying with you. They said they will consider me an emotional support, or comfort animal, who is your pet that provides therapeutic support. I won’t even have to wear the orange vest or leash — though I’d even do that for you. I can’t use the sauna or mud bath, but you won’t need me there.” “Yes, I suppose I can manage those since no one will touch me. I-i-i-I guess I’m ready to go on this severe adventure.” With those fateful words, she ran to me and hugged me tight. Her fear was palpable in her trembles. I moved her thick, beautiful hair aside and gently kissed her ear. “Whenever you are ready.” She relaxed as I nibbled on her ear lobe. When she kissed me, with a tear in her eye, I knew she was as ready as she would ever be. “My legs won’t move. I’m telling them, but they won’t listen. I know I have to face my fears, but does it have to be today?” “Yes, love. Or we are out half our rent payment. I’m with you. No one will touch you but me until after you are in the spa. You have nothing to fear at least until then.” She made a crooked smile and eased into the car. All the way there, she wrung her hands between her knees and stared silently out the window with intermittent tremors as though she were walking her last mile. I wonder if this is too much and I should just call it off. Wondering if she would bolt, I walked her to the front desk with an arm around her waist and a hand under her elbow. As she signed in, I confirmed the order of events. “Yes, sir, we have your schedule. Sanitizer spray followed by the sauna first to open her pores, next is a hot sanitizer spray followed by the hot mud bath, followed by a full body massage using sanitized oils. I see you have a support pet with you, where is it?” I slowly raised my hand. “That’s me. Woof. I cleared it with the owner.” The receptionist expanded the notes on our file and took a moment to read the owner’s approval note which explained our needs. A beautiful, naked woman walked slowly through the lobby, a towel over her arm; she exited into a short tunnel. I gulped. “I see. This is most unusual, but is not a problem. Before your first and between each treatment you may order a complimentary drink. First time, or nervous, guests usually order a Long Island Iced Tea before the first treatment, then go lighter later. Just water for you, Rex?” She smiled at my appropriate first name and shook her head at her own joke. “You may order a hard drink too, but I suggest you stay light so you can calm her anxiety. All facilities are adult only and co-ed. Enjoy your drinks. You should enter the sauna in twenty minutes for twenty minutes then slowly cool down before the hot mud bath. Andre’s salon is through that door and down the short tunnel.” So far, my wife was fine with the twenty minute reprieve and the tall ‘iced tea’ to dull her anxiety. We hadn’t realized the salon was attached to the spa. Hmmm. In precisely twenty minutes, a young and pretty woman in tight, spa clothes came over. “Ms. Peur, and . . . Rex? Follow me to the staging area, please. You may finish your drinks before the sauna and I’ll take your glasses. This is your shared locker. If you will both defrock completely, I’ll get towels for you and spray you before the sauna.” She was so nonchalant, we didn’t question getting naked in an open locker room with others in sight. As we sipped our drinks in the buff, we were both surprised that other men and women casually walked naked past us to the sauna before Ann came back. “Due to the virus concerns, we’ve changed our procedures a bit. You may wear the towels to the spray booth, but may not put them on again before entering the sauna unless you are willing to stand in the booth until the sanitizer evaporates. Most can’t wait, as you just saw.” Ann walked us, towels draped on our arms, to a waiting area, told us we should stand until dry, and she would bring refills on our drinks. I wasn’t sure Kari could hold another LIIT. We were already seated on our towels when Ann came back. She sprayed the furniture and told us we had fifteen minutes before the mud baths, so we drank and chatted. Kari didn’t let on about her fears, yet avoid contacts. When Ann returned for us, I had to help Kari stand on her wobbly feet. We entered the mud bath room and Ann sprayed the mud surfaces before everyone climbed into their tubs. She reached for Kari’s hand to steady her wobbly stance and Kari yelped then pulled away and fell into the tub, bare ass first. Ann looked at me in shock that being naked was acceptable, but touching a hand was not. I nodded and took Kari’s hands to steady her into the hot mud. Ann left, flustered. Twenty minutes later, each stood on the platform in the tub and let assistants scrape the mud off them. I scraped Kari clean. Ann helped the others out onto the drain and pointed at me to help Kari out. She was still dizzy from the ten shots in the ‘iced tea.’ As I reminded Kari, “This is why I am her comfort animal today. Rrruff.” A solemn nod was her silent reply. She led us to the community shower. I joined the others to steady my wife and help her wash off the mud from every crevasse and especially her long, muddy hair. After drying off, we went back for another sanitizer spray. Our three sauna friends were done so they dressed, said goodbye, and left. Next was the huge challenge — the massage. Ann led us into the open area for massage and Kari picked one of six tables. After Ann sprayed the table, Kari climbed on, face down. Her back and butt tensed and clenched despite her calm, but slurred words. When a muscular spa man, AL, came close, she whimpered and squeezed her eyes shut. I took her hand and reminded her I was with her all the way. Apparently no one informed Al of the specific problem, so he asked, “Why so tense? You’re here to relax and it’s my job to help you. You don’t want me to lose my job, do you?” After a few prolonged seconds, she shook her head no. I moved her long hair aside as Al rubbed the sanitized oil on his hands and touched her shoulders. She curled nearly into a C shape and whimpered as she squeezed my hand. “What? What’s wrong here?” queried Al. He looked frightened and afraid to touch her. “She has Haphephobia. Why don’t I help you? Honey, my hands will be massaging you with just a little help. OK?” She grunted. I worked on her shoulders and back as Al worked on her feet, legs and ass. She finally relaxed. After ten minutes, she flipped onto her back and watched as I worked on her neck, shoulders and down to her hips. Al again stayed at her feet, calves and thighs. She tensed then relaxed as she focused on me. Fifteen minutes later, we stopped and watched her finally relax totally. Al left and Ann returned to spray us both. “Kari, honey, you did great for a hard challenge. I hope you are feeling some relief.” “I don’t know yet, Rex. I’m still dizzy from those drinks, but I also feel, umm kinda euphoric and tingly — even more than from your usual massage.” “Your ‘surviving’ must mean something to you. Are you ready for your last challenge at Andre’s?” “Oh, God. I nearly forgot about my hair. I don’t think I want it cut down. Can I skip it?” “Sure, if you need to. It’s not likely you will ever get another shot at Andre’s $200 hair care special if you do. He won’t cut without your permission. Can we go see what it’s about?” She reluctantly agreed. Ann walked us through the lobby, naked and still evaporating. Now we knew why that first woman we saw naked in the lobby was there. She left us at the tunnel and shook my hand. When she reached for Kari’s hand, she pulled away and hid behind me. “Sorry. Good luck to both of you.” She seemed frustrated when she walked away. Halfway into the tunnel, Kari wrapped her towel around her. Was she getting shy suddenly? I’m the shyer one, but I’m not putting mine on. At the end of the slight downhill ramp, the stylist’s room was bigger than the lobby. One of the cutters met us and took my towel then reached for Kari’s. “You won’t need this, baby girl.” When he gripped Kari’s towel, he touched her chest and she gasped, pulled away, surrendering her towel to him with a shriek. He stared, scanned her and walked away, beckoning us to follow. Andre himself met us at an empty chair. As he scanned her body in great detail he reached out to turn her and she again screeched and moved away. “She has a fear of being touched so this is extremely hard for her. Just let her know before you touch her and be gentle. Honey, is your hair a problem to touch?” She stared at me wide-eyed and incredulous, silently screaming “of course it is,” but verbally whispering, “N-n-no, I guess not.” Andre slid along her long hair to its end, below her waist. Each time he touched her neck, shoulders, back and ass, her tensed muscles twitched; her jaw locked as she suppressed a scream. I held her hips to help her stay calm, but this was already an improvement. Andre lifted her beautiful, straight hair and showed her the four inches of split ends. He said at least another six inches were at risk so he suggested he trim ten inches off. Kari was horrified — at first. When I reminded her why her hair was so long, she agreed to let him trim her. “Now Ms. Peur, take a seat. I’ll hold your hair up as you hold this blue smock against you and my assistant clips it on. Beautiful hair, but it does need conditioning.” In seconds, he clipped ten inches off the bottom. Smiling with false confidence, Kari said, “Don’t get carried away back there. Rex and I love the long hair.” Andre rolled his eyes at me. She looked at me with pleading eyes, hoping this wasn’t a mistake. As the conditioner set in, Andre asked her about removing her wispy side burns as that was the latest style. I hope she says NO. I love the soft look of her loose hair framing her beautiful face. “Worst case, Ms. Peur, it grows back quickly.” She wasn’t convinced. He showed a few celeb photos which finally convinced her. After trimming the hair on one side, and not touching her face, he took electric clippers to cut closer. When he cupped her left cheek, she gasped and jerked away — right into the clippers. Before he could react, he had cut a bald furrow across her scalp. She screamed, yanked off the smock, and moved to the mirror. When she felt the wide, bald strip, she burst into tears. “What have you done? You ruined me. I can’t . . . I can’t . . . be seen like this. Why did . . . You have to fix this! How can you fix this? Rex, what can we do?” She buried her face in my chest and quickly soaked it with tears. Andre looked mortified. He sat and flipped through his album looking for a direction and suddenly jumped up. “I know what to do. Look at these celebs. Two have both sides of their heads completely shaved, but one has just one side shaved. She is the new fashion lead. Let me shave at least that one side and you will be the proud fashion leader. If we shave both sides, it will look like a Mohawk with very long Mullet. Just one side is better.” Furious, Kari paced naked around the room. She came back to the album then paced some more with her long hair trailing. After minutes of silence in the room, she stared Andre in the eye and up close, “You will refund your fee for this mess. If you agree, then do it! If not, I’ll stay like this and tell everyone how YOU messed up.” He nodded agreement, had our $200 fee returned, and buzz cut all her hair off her right side. It looked atrocious. When done, my extremely unhappy wife stormed up the tunnel back to the main desk. All who saw her were stunned, then, with varying degrees of sincerity complimented her on her daring style cut. Ann looked distressed. As she led us back to our locker she said, “I know that’s not what you wanted. If you make a stink, I’m sure the spa will refund all your costs to avoid the bad publicity. I can champion that for you before you dress, if you like.” Kari unclenched her jaw, but no words came out. She nodded yes and Ann ran to the main desk. The spa manager appeared, apologized, and handed me the full $650 refund saying, “I know this can’t make up for such a bad, no horrible, hair day, but I can’t think of anything else to do for you.” She left and Ann gleamed. Kari ran to her and hugged her saying, “Don’t touch me. Just let me hug you.” I joined the hug from behind Ann and got a feel of her muscular body. “This truly helps. Don’t tell anyone, but I kind of like this look now. We owe you dinner. Please come to our home for a special dinner next weekend?” She said yes, then led us to the booth for a final spray down. Silver linings? Since Kari got to like the half shaved look, it wasn’t such a bad hair day after all.