I suppose almost everyone who takes part in a pharmaceutical trial does it for the money. There may be some researchers who do it to advance knowledge, but I had no such higher purpose. An acquaintance mentioned that the local university was offering to pay volunteers and I needed the money. I contacted an agency, filled in an online document and was selected. A few weeks later I arrived with about a dozen other volunteers for a five day residential study, although we were informed that we would have to attend follow-ups after a month and three months.
The introductions were made and it was explained that the drug we’d be getting was a new type of antidepressant. A doctor interviewed me and took an extensive medical history. I had little to report; my health has been exceptionally good, apart from a broken arm when I was twelve. Otherwise nothing more serious than ‘flu. It was explained that in order to provide a control some of the group would receive an inactive tablet, and that the medical staff wouldn’t know who was receiving the active drug. I was asked to report any behavioural changes I felt, no matter how small. Since it was a drug that acted on the nervous system the behavioural effects were likely to be important in finding out whether the test medication would be licensed.
During the afternoon I was provided with the tablet. I felt anxious as I swallowed it. I knew that almost every trial passed safely, but then we’d all heard of those rare disasters where people suddenly fell ill. I was relieved to be able to say that I felt nothing. I completed a number of questionnaires and spoke to a doctor several times. By the following day I’d still felt nothing except some difficulty in getting to sleep and a mild headache, which might as easily have been caused by the anxiety of my unfamiliar setting as by the medicine.
The tedium of being locked in a university building for five days was relieved by my growing relationship with another volunteer, Alice. We first spoke at the evening meal on the first day. At breakfast the following morning she sought me out and looked pleased to see me.
“Hi, Katie!” she said warmly. “Can I sit with you? There’s a creepy guy who’s a bit stalker-ish and I was hoping to avoid him.”
“Please do,” I laughed. “Any side-effects from the drugs?”
“Yes, I have these big blood blisters all over my back, they’re turning black. Do you think that’s serious?”
“Oh, I shouldn’t imagine it is,” I said, equally dead pan. “But it you do die can I have that handbag? It’s gorgeous.”
She giggled. “See, if I’d said that to Johnny Stalker over there he’d have thought I was serious and rushed to get a doctor.”
“Yes, never trust people who are gullible,” I smiled. “I did have a terrible restless night though,” I complained.
“Me too!” Alice said. “See, that’s the sort of thing that an antidepressant could cause, they’re stimulants. I reckon we both got the real drug, not the placebo.”
Soon Alice and I were inseparable. She was good company, drily witty, an interesting conversationalist, irreverent and mischievous. She was also exceptionally pretty: tall, slim, long dark hair and exceptionally clear blue eyes. I was normally shy, awkward in large groups, but Alice seemed to bring out the best in me. Within a few hours I felt like we’d known each other for years.
Then the trial was over and it was time to say our farewells. Alice lived quite a distance away but we’d exchanged contact details, insisted that we’d stay in touch, arrange visits. I felt a little melancholic as I saw her leave, knew that I tended to lose touch with people and wondered if I’d ever see her again. My melancholy was tinged with the knowledge that I’d developed a huge crush that I doubted was reciprocated.
The next few weeks were quite stressful for me. I started to feel very uncomfortable when I looked in a mirror, frustrated by my appearance. I found myself daydreaming every time I saw anybody I found attractive, imagining being transformed into their doppelgänger. There was a woman I saw every morning on the train into work and I’d always admired for her elegance and beauty (she was tall, slim, around forty but still very pretty). She wore her hair in long bob, dark blonde, and I started to become obsessed with her hair. I decided that I’d have mine cut and coloured to match hers, even though I’d always had, and loved having, long hair.
My hair was chestnut brown, slightly wavy, thick, down to my waist. But then I was looking in a salon mirror and my hair was sleek and straight, a centre parted blonde bob that stopped short of my shoulders. I was suddenly filled with regret. Why had I done this? The style which looked so elegant on the woman on the train just made me look plainer, I was sure. And my insecurities about my decision only increased when most of my friends expressed surprise that I should have cut so much of my lovely hair. Their assurances that it looked good seemed hollow.
My discomfort in my appearance was only heightened now when I looked in the mirror, yet in the days following my makeover I was filled with an excitement when I felt my new hair. The risk I’d taken in cutting off so much hair excited me, physically aroused me. When I was alone I couldn’t resist letting my hand rise up my neck to experience afresh the shock of how high up my hair was cut, and my hand would slide into my waist band to savour this guilty delight. Holding a strand before my eyes would only add to my pleasure as I saw how my rich brown hair had been bleached.
A couple of weeks later I found myself walking into another salon, which looked more edgy than my usual place. I’d seen it in passing a few days earlier and had become slightly obsessed with seeing the sort of styles they could create.
A beautiful young stylist, Rosa, with her hair set in regimented waves and victory rolls caped me and smiled. “So what are we doing today?” she asked, her voice marked by a European accent.
“I’m a bit bored with this look,” I said. “I wanted to try a short bob.” She nodded as if I’d spoken wisely. I’m sure I was more surprised than her.
“Something very blunt and boxy? Fringe?” I agreed, whilst wondering what I was letting myself in for. “Colour too? I think something warmer would suit you.”
“Sure,” I said with a nervous smile.
She set to work with great enthusiasm. I seemed unable to disagree with anything she suggested and suddenly I saw that my hair was being cropped to a hard line high on my cheek. I was terrified by what was happening. My jaw was clamped so tightly that I was getting a headache.
“What about the nape? I was thinking it would look good if we did it really close buzzed, like very shaved looking.”
That sounded like a very bad idea. “OK, let’s try that,” I said meekly.
She yelped with joy. “Oh, Katie, you’re such fun. I wish everyone was as bold as you.”
Moments later she’d made me bow my head and had taken her clippers from the shelf. “Ever tried these? You’ll love it, I promise.” There was crack as the switch was flipped and they rattled and buzzed into action. As the blades swept up my neck I felt sheaves of hair tumble over my shoulders. “I’ll do it with a number two, then fade it up with a one. Is that OK, honey?” I could only grunt as I tried to come to terms with what was happening to me. As she sheared away more of my hair she laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry, you never got clippered, did you? I bet you have no idea what I mean. Number two is a quarter inch, one is an eighth. That OK?”
“So there’ll only be an eighth of an inch on my nape?”
“At the bottom, yes. You’ll love it, don’t worry,” she assured me. I hoped she was right but feared I’d be less than keen. Regardless, it was too late to change her plans now.
As I lifted my head I could see that my bob was frighteningly short, chopped to show almost half of my ears. I could feel my confidence draining away as I imagined how severe the shaved back was going to look. “I was thinking a nice red,” my constantly happy stylist said. “Do you want something nice and bright or more natural looking?”
“I suppose more natural. I think with my job too bright mightn’t present the right image.”
“Sure, got it,” she said with a reassuring smile. “What is it you do?”
“I just work in a coffee shop. I’ve been trying to get a job in a museum but no luck so far.”
“Yeah, finding a job is hard. You just need to be persistent. Fringe about here..?” She tapped the side of her scissors at the middle of my forehead.
“It’s quite short,” I said, for the first time expressing my worries at how bold her vision of my bob was becoming.
“It’ll look so pretty with your big eyes. You’ll see.” She snipped across my forehead with great concentration and I did see. I saw that I had a fringe that was far too wide, too heavy, too blunt and most hurtfully, too short.
She seemed to be ignorant of my concerns. “You see? It looks beautiful. The most perfect box bob. You were made for this cut.”
I was soon painted with red dye, except that it had been decided (and not by me) that my nape should be darker, so that had had a second shade applied. Then I waited impatiently for my style to be finished. As each moment passed I was more sure than ever that this cut had been a dreadful mistake and I was desperate to escape, to hide in my bedroom. I wanted to stay there for months until my hair had grown to a more reasonable length.
As Rosa let me see the colour for the first time she looked pleased. It was a bright, coppery shade, too orange to be natural, and I could only wonder what the less muted colour she’d considered would have looked like. I blushed as I saw how it added to the severity of the style, hoping that it would fade to something more restrained after a few washes. She brushed through the damp hair, so short now that it didn’t resist the movement of the brush at all. She blasted it with the dryer, tugging it out firmly to blow out any wave. Soon it sat on my head, gleaming like a burnished helmet. I’d asked for a short bob (though still I couldn’t explain why) and she’d certainly given me that. It was perfectly executed, the lines cut with immaculate precision. I felt a tremor as she held up a mirror to show my nape. The dark stubble faded into almost nothing on my neck, so short that it paled where scalp showed through.
I tried to muster some enthusiasm, appalled that my dislike of the style would upset my stylist, who’d been so sweet since my arrival. I tried as best I could to pretend I was happy and paid her a tip. As I walked out I felt my bared nape with an intense sadness. It was almost shaved, that was no exaggeration. As I remembered my long hair from only a couple of weeks earlier I felt a furious frustration at myself. Why on earth had I cut my lovely hair?
I felt emotionally frozen as I walked home, afraid to lift my head and see the faces of people staring at my ludicrous haircut. As soon as I got inside I rushed to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I started to sob as I saw just how short my hair was. I tugged at the ends, as if I could somehow make it a little longer. Then I rubbed at the nape, where it was buzzed so close. I wanted to hide. How would I ever face my friends again?
I stumbled tearfully though to my bedroom and stripped off. I pulled open my drawer and took out my vibe. I was so horny that I’d cum with great intensity within minutes, but that didn’t satisfy me. I continued for hours, until I was raw and exhausted.
The following day I washed my new bob and realised that styling it wasn’t as easy as Rosa had made it look. I was late for work as I tried (without success) to blow it straight. Only after resorting to straighteners did I make some approximation of the smoothness of the bob I’d had the previous day.
My colleagues were struggling to hide their shock at my latest makeover. Their diplomacy about my previous cut was now more strained and I became quickly disillusioned by being asked why I’d cut it so short. I couldn’t hide my discomfort with the brevity of the new cut and I felt anxious and defensive all the time. I found myself seriously contemplating taking to wearing a hat, even a wig, but I knew that it was crazy to imagine that this could solve my difficulties.
It was only during my day at work that I was reminded that I’d booked the next day off. I remembered that it was my first follow up for the drug trial. I suddenly remembered Alice, and felt guilty as I recalled that I’d not communicated with her in weeks, that I’d not replied to her last email. I had no idea whether she’d be likely to be at the follow up, and was ambivalent. I wanted to see her again (every time I thought of her I felt a little rush of excitement) but my shame in my new appearance meant that part of me hoped that she wouldn’t see me. I would feel so embarrassed if she looked at me and asked why I’d cut my hair short.
I was sick with nervous energy as I arrived at the centre where the appointment was scheduled. I’d set off early but had got lost on the huge campus and arrived barely before the set time. As I entered the waiting area I scanned anxiously for Alice.
I’m not sure whether I recognised her at first. Her hair was still long but messy and deliberately dishevelled, in contrast to her previously well maintained appearance. But more shocking was that she wore a vest top which exposed her slender arms which were now covered in a mesh of tattooed lines.
She seemed to take a moment to recognise me, then rushed to hug me. “Oh, shit! Look at you, Katie! Your hair, I absolutely adore it.” I was tingling all over as she ran a hand up my buzzed nape. “I never imagined you being so bold but I’m so pleased you took the step.”
I felt tongue tied. I’d expected to have to try to justify my decision but instead I was left filled with joy at her compliments. Then she sensed I was looking at her tattoos.
“Oh! You noticed,” she said, suddenly more serious. “Yeah, I got some tattoos. I just started to feel really obsessive about tattooed girls and a couple of weeks ago I started. It’s not really impressed my friends but I love them.”
I smiled. “If you like them then that’s all that matters.”
“Well, I don’t care about most opinions but I’d like some people to approve. I’d be happy if you thought they looked good.”
I looked into her big, clear eyes and I knew I couldn’t lie. “To be honest I’m a bit shocked. Let me get used to seeing you with tattoos and by the end of the day I’ll tell you if I like them.”
“Thank you, Katie. You’re so different to most people I know, who either rush to judge or just say 'Yes, they’re ok,’ when they don’t mean it.”
Our conversation was interrupted as we were called to see the doctors in charge of the trial. I was called in to see a young woman who hadn’t been part of the staff at the original tests. She went through some sets of questions, then asked some more open ended questions. “Have you noticed any obsessive-compulsive behaviours?” she asked. “Especially with regard to your appearance, perhaps?”
I felt myself becoming tearful. “Yes, I had long hair. I had it cut twice in the last couple of weeks and I can’t really explain why I wanted to do it. This is connected with the test drug?”
She looked uncomfortable. “How long was your hair?” she asked.
I told her that it had been to my waist, and offered to find some pictures on my phone. Moments later she’d called in an older colleague who’d been present at the trial. I was becoming very tearful as I explained to her how I’d suddenly started to obsess about other women’s appearances, and felt an urge to mimic them.
“The second cut seemed very spur of the moment,” I explained. “I was suddenly agreeing to getting a cut I hated, and didn’t seem capable of disagreeing with anything that the stylist suggested, even though I didn’t like her ideas.”
I was asked to send photos from my phone to provide evidence and the younger interviewer wrote down my statement. She took a picture of me to evidence my newest hairstyle. I didn’t dare look at it, sure I would have looked unbearably miserable.
“Has this happened to other people?” I asked. She looked unsure whether she should reply. “You asked about it so you must have had some idea.”
“There does seem to be a possible connection,” she admitted. “There’s another girl who’s turned up covered in tattoos.”
I gasped. “Oh yes, she’s my friend.” I’d been so caught up with my own problems that I hadn’t even allowed myself to think of Alice.
“I’m not saying what happened to you isn’t unfortunate, but her changes are far more permanent.”
“How much longer is this problem likely to last?” I asked.
“The truth is we’ve only just become aware of it within the last few days. We still can’t be certain this is a side-effect but even if it were we have no idea why it’s caused this behaviour. Unfortunately that means we can’t predict how long this will take to resolve. The drug is cleared from the body completely within three to four days so I can’t really explain why it’s still causing compulsive actions four weeks after a fairly small dose.”
“It could be permanent?” I was terrified by the possibility.
She smiled but I could see it was bravado. “I can’t see any reason why a single dose would cause a permanent change in behaviour. I’m sure it will improve soon.” I found no consolation in what she said, since she’d already admitted that this was beyond anyone’s understanding. “We do need to run some tests though. It’s in everyone’s interest to find out what’s going on and how to get you back to normal.”
I agreed that this seemed sensible. “Right now though I want to see my friend. Please can you find out if I can see her?”
A few minutes later I was allowed to go and see Alice. I put my arms around her and started to cry. “I can’t believe this has happened. You poor thing, you got all those tattoos because of this stupid drug.”
“Hey, it’s ok,” she said, smiling. “I like my tattoos and I’m going to get them finished. I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret you cutting your hair either. You look so cute with that sharp little bob. Anyway, you were supposed to tell me about your verdict on my tattoos now you’ve had a chance to get used to them.”
She stood and held out her arms, turned before me to allow me to judge. I took a closer look and saw that the outlines described large flowers. “I’m going to get them filled with intense colour and fill the gaps with black to make the colour stand out.”
“They are quite pretty,” I admitted. “But your arms are going to be almost covered.”
“Not almost,” she insisted. “There’s more to be done. You know we’re going to get a pay out for this? That’s great because I want money to pay for more tattooing,” she laughed. “You could accept me with tattoos?” She was suddenly more serious, looking at me intently. I nodded. “I liked you as soon as we met, Katie, but I had too many doubts to commit to anything. But now I’m suddenly more impulsive because of this drug and I like who I am now. And anyway, you’re ten times cuter now since you cut your hair so I couldn’t possibly live with myself if I didn’t say anything. So what do you say? Can we get to know each other better?”
I felt myself contorting inside, my face burning. A few minutes earlier I’d been in despair and now I was being asked out by a girl that I felt sure I could fall in love with. “I don’t think anything could make me happier,” I said. I put my arms around her and started to cry. “Oh Alice, I don’t know why I’m crying, I’m so happy. But it’s been such a difficult day, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. There’s been too much for me to process. But just when I thought everything was going wrong you make everything good. I can’t believe how positive you are about all of this. I was in despair at how weirdly I was acting and you just accept it as a blessing. You’re the most extraordinary person I ever met.”
She put her arms around me and put her lips to mine. I closed my eyes and prayed that I could learn from her. I imagined us fusing together, our substance flowing between us, becoming one. I felt that this moment was more than just physical, there seemed something mystical. In that brief kiss I felt that Alice was the woman who would be my single great love.
When I later asked Alice why she’d hesitated to try to get closer to me during our initial encounter her main doubt was about the distance that separated us. She’d had another long distance relationship which had proved unsustainable and had hurt her deeply. Since neither of us owned a car we were separated by a four hour journey, and the problem was significant. I was frustrated that hours after pledging our commitment Alice had to leave me and return home. However, we’d agreed to meet three days later since both of us would attend the university for further tests on our mysterious condition. She’d been booked into a nice hotel, all expenses paid by the pharmaceutical company that had commissioned the tests. She’d asked me to spend the night with her and I’d agreed eagerly.
I met her at the railway station, delighted to see her emerge from the platform. We hugged each other tightly, and it felt like our separation had been far too long. “I don’t do long distance relationships,” Alice said firmly. “One of us has to move very soon, Katie. We’ll make a decision by tomorrow morning.” I knew it would be a hard decision, but I was ready to do as she said. I wanted to be with Alice all of the time. “You need to find a lawyer too. We need them to accept that the trial harmed us and that they pay us what we deserve. We could always use the same lawyer to act for both of us.” I agreed to this plan.
There was a long day of tests, numerous sessions of motor tests, cognitive tests, memory function, answering questions about behaviour and previous health problems. In the afternoon we were both taken to a private clinic for MRI scans. We were given another appointment to see the program coordinator a week later to be informed of the results.
We made our way back to the hotel where Alice took me in her arms. “You should be the one to move,” she said. “Come and move in with me.”
I smiled. “I do want to be with you, Alice, but why is it me who has to move?”
“Because I want it,” she said mischievously. “I don’t know, since the changes happened I like the idea of being more forceful and controlling. I’m sure I’m going to be a real bitch from now on. Sorry baby.”
I blushed. “I… kinda like that idea,” I confessed.
“Oh, you do? Right then, in a month you’ll have wound up all your ties here and you come live with me. And that’s an order.”
I winced. “That’s going to be a nightmare. I mean, leaving my job, moving out, leaving my friends.”
“But you’re forgetting the reward. Me!”
“That’s true,” I laughed. “OK, I know it’s crazy but let’s make it happen.”
She kissed me tenderly and rubbed her fingers over my stubble. I could sense that she liked the feeling as much as I did.
She stared into my eyes. “And when did you start to feel that you liked being controlled?”
“That’s not really how it is,” I admitted. “When I got my hair cut the stylist was quite bossy and I found myself just going along with her suggestions, like I couldn’t resist anything she said. I really hate how short my hair is, but it makes me really horny too. I must sound crazy. I feel crazy.”
She started to fuss with my hair. “It felt nicer last week,” she said as she stroked my nape. “How about I take you in for a trim tomorrow before I head home?”
I shook my head. “It’s less than a week since I had it done, it’s too soon.”
“But your hair’s so short now that even a few days makes a difference. You want it to look sharp and sexy, don’t you?” I could feel myself breathing heavily. Suddenly Alice was making me feel that obsessive urge that I’d been subject to in recent weeks. I knew that now the idea was planted in my mind that I’d eventually have to act, even if Alice didn’t ever mention it again. “Call now and see if the same stylist can fit you in tomorrow morning.” A few minutes later I’d agreed to another rendezvous with Rosa at ten the next morning.
Alice styled my hair for our trip to the salon. She was more skilled than I’d been at smoothing out my waves and it looked almost as good as it had as I left the salon. In contrast, Alice has teased her hair to make it look wilder than ever, and with her dark make-up she looked so different to the girl I’d met a few weeks earlier. “You look like a metal fan,” I smiled.
“Maybe I am,” she winked.
We were soon at the salon where Rosa greeted me enthusiastically. “I didn’t expect to see you back so soon, honey. What can I do for you?”
“Oh, just a little trim,” Alice said before I could respond.
“This is Alice, Rosa,” I said proudly. “My girlfriend.” I filled with joy to be able to say that someone so wonderful and beautiful was my girlfriend.
I was taken to the chair and caped. “We’d discussed a different fringe,” Alice said. “Something V shaped.” Of course, no such discussion had taken place. I stared in the mirror, still uncomfortable with the red helmet bob that looked so out of place with my features; I still expected to see long waves. I tried to imagine a V fringe. It only made me think it would look even stranger, but I knew that I’d leave the salon with a new fringe.
“Quite a gentle peak or more angled up?” Rosa asked, standing behind me now, studying me in the mirror.”
“As angled as possible,” Alice decided. “Right up to here…” She pointed to a spot near my hairline at the side of the fringe.
Rosa lifted the side of the fringe with a comb. “It would expose this hair on the temple, though. It looks a bit untidy unless it’s buzzed. Or shaved. But that can look quite extreme.”
“Would you like that?” Alice asked me. “I think it would be so sexy. Shaved smooth, yes? Maybe you could take an undercut back across the sides over her ears, and down her nape. Shave all of it smooth.”
Rosa laughed. “I like how this girl thinks! But that’s a big bold cut. Are you up for it, Katie?”
I felt sick as I tried to imagine being shaved but as I looked into Alice’s eyes I could see how much she wanted this. I was so weak anyway that I could never have said no. I forced a timid smile and nodded. Rosa set to her task without delay.
The top of my hair was divided and fixed with clips. I watched as a parting was made angling up each side above ears, extending up to the hairline at the side of my forehead. “You’re going to shave all that?” I asked, still sure this wasn’t sensible.
Rosa took the clippers and removed the guard that had covered the blades. “Say yes and I make it happen,” she said. I glanced at Alice who was revelling in my imminent transformation. I knew I couldn’t say no. Much as I was afraid of how I would look, I needed this to happen.
“Do it,” I said, looking up at Rosa. She gave a whoop of joy as she turned on the clippers and sheared through the ginger hair on my temple.
“Oh shit, they really do shave, don’t they?” I could see bare skin in the mirror, no softening of stubble as I’d had on my nape.
“They cut pretty close, but it’s best with a razor.” Rosa could barely speak, so intent was she on my cut. I glanced at Alice but she didn’t acknowledge my eye contact. She too seemed too engrossed in my shaving to take in anything else.
I hated how the shaved sides looked. My ears were now surrounded by bare skin and they seemed too prominent. I was glad when Rosa moved behind me to shave my nape, head bowed and unable to see the mirror. She was clippering much higher now than on my previous shearing and more locks fell free. I looked like a different girl when I raised my head again. With my hair clipped tight to my head and the sides shaved so high I felt like I’d been deprived of much of my femininity. It was a very disconcerting reflection for me to accept.
But Rosa was clearly dissatisfied with the closeness of the shave. “Feel it now,” she said to Alice and me. I was shocked to feel how bald I was at the back. There was nothing left of the soft silk of my previous buzz. Alice yelped with delight, however. “Oh, Rosa, it’s wonderful.”
Rosa shook her head dismissively. “No, it’s going to be better.” She daubed my head with shaving cream and gently massaged it into my shaved scalp. The skin felt a little raw from the chafing of the blades and the lather made it tingle. The massage started to become a little too pleasurable. I closed my eyes and imagined a similar experience where those were Alice’s fingers I was feeling in a more private setting. I knew that I would beg her to let me feel this, so that I could express my arousal without inhibition.
And then Rosa was scraping through the creamy lather with a razor. “Wait till you feel how different it is, how much better. Whenever I do this I always think how I should get a sideshave. I’ve even thought of shaving my head. I’m sure I’d look awful, but it’d just feel so…” Words couldn’t express what she felt and she ended with a low sigh. She finished shaving me in silence, then gently wiped away the lather from my bared scalp.
“Now feel it,” she said.
I was shocked at how smooth and strange my head felt, so strange that I could barely bring myself to touch it without a sense of shame. I felt alienated from my own body. Alice, though, seemed enchanted as both hands caressed my nape and temples. “Oh yes, baby, it’s just so sexy. Rosa, you’re right, this is so much better than the clipper shave. I just adore it.”
I was relieved as the clips were pulled free and my bob fell back into place. “It doesn’t look any different,” I said with some relief, feeling some femininity restored to me.
“It does from back here,” Alice giggled and stroked my bald nape.
“You’d better wait to play with that,” Rosa said. “She needs to keep still while I cut her fringe.” I held myself rigid as she stood in front of me and started snipping at my already too short fringe. She seemed to take an eternity shaping it to the precise form she’d visualised. Tiny cuttings rolled down my face and I could feel hairs coating my lips and resting on my eyelashes. I endured the discomfort without moving, afraid that she might make a slip which would ruin the line. When she finally rose and stepped back I saw my fringe was now cut in a wide peak, the outer edges exposing the bare skin of my temples.
“Just perfect,” Alice said. Her approval made me feel a glow, even though I couldn’t bear to look at myself. “Even better than I’d imagined. Can you tidy up the bob too?”
Rosa looked surprised. “It’s not been a week since it was cut. It still looks very crisp to me.”
Alice shrugged. “Yes but… maybe a touch shorter? Like a centimetre off all around?” Rosa looked at me for agreement. I grudgingly nodded.
Alice insisted on paying and as she did I took in my new cut in the mirror, again stroking my bald nape as I tried to come to terms with what had been done. My new bob was less classic, more edgy. The previous cut had had something childish but now my image was more extreme, the angular fringe and undershave giving it a punky touch. I shivered as I thought that now I’d come under Alice’s influence. This was how she wanted me to look and I had to submit to her wishes. Maybe that wasn’t quite right. I needed to submit to her wishes, and I loved to.
Rosa interrupted my reverie. “That fringe will lose shape quickly but I’ll be happy to do a fringe trim for you when you want to pop in.”
“I’m back in town next week,” Alice added. “I’ll make sure she comes in then. We need it looking sharp, don’t we, baby?”
I willingly agreed to Alice’s suggestion.
Once more we met at the railway station. I ran to hug Alice as I saw her approaching. We’d both had busy weeks and hadn’t had nearly enough time speaking to each other. She ran her hand over my nape. “You didn’t keep it shaved! I’m not happy about that. I’m going to take you to Miss Rosa later to get you fixed up nice.”
“Miss Rosa?” I laughed.
“Yes, that’s what you’ll call her from now on. She makes you so pretty and I think you should show her more respect. Besides, I love seeing you getting all red and embarrassed. It’s so cute.”
“Let’s see how the results turn out,” I said, turning more serious. “I’ve been losing sleep all week. I’m really nervous, Alice. I keep worrying something bad happened.”
She kissed me on the cheek. “I’ve got no concerns at all. I feel fine, in fact better than ever. You really need me, don’t you? You’re such a worrier.”
We asked to see the doctor together and our request was reluctantly agreed. As soon as I saw her face I knew that my pessimism wasn’t misplaced. “I’m afraid the results of the scan show that there is some damage to pathways in the frontal lobe,” she said without preamble. “It seems that the drug caused toxicity in some neurons and that’s caused those pathways to be lost.”
“So the changes we’ve experienced are permanent?” Alice asked.
“Yes, the changes are irreversible, but what tends to happen in cases of brain injury is that there are compensatory actions in the long term. For instance, your impulsiveness is likely to reduce over time, and there are therapies that can assist.” Alice looked at me with a wry smile. I knew she’d refuse anything that would make her more like her old self.
“So you’re admitting responsibility for the damage we’ve suffered?”
The doctor was suddenly defensive. “It’s too early to say. We have to investigate why this syndrome has developed. I should say that there is good news. Your cognitive functioning seems to be unimpaired. Have you experienced any difficulties with memory? Struggling to find words? Forgetting where you put things?”
“I have been a bit forgetful,” I admitted.
“You’ve been under a lot of stress too. We need to assess over a longer period to see if there are any changes.”
“This syndrome we’ve developed, has it been seen before?” Alice asked. The doctor suggested it wasn’t like anything that they’d been able to find in medical literature.
“But there are similar cases in other trials of this drug?” A nod. “And you still maintain it could be caused by something other than the medication we took?”
“I understand your frustration but I can’t tell you what you want to hear. I have responsibilities to my employer and I can’t admit fault on their part before we’ve completed a full investigation. These things can take time. Our legal representatives will meet with your lawyers to discuss short term arrangements. We don’t want you to think that we’re anything but supportive of your position.” I noticed her looking at Alice’s arms with a pitying look. “We’ll ensure that you have access to the best medical treatment and therapies.”
“What about expenses? We’re taking more and more time off work. My employer’s tolerance isn’t infinite.”
“I’m sure that some arrangements can be made to contribute to your living expenses.
I saw when we got out that Alice was furious. “She’s disgusting,” she fumed. “Did you see her looking at us? Like we were something dirty and piteous. You know, it would be in our interests to go more and more extreme with our look?”
“It would?” I was feeling alarmed.
“Sure. It would help our case if people like her were adjudicating. We used to be nice pretty little girls, respectable and well brought up, but now we’ve turned into real freaks and we can’t help ourselves because of the drug they gave us.”
“I’m not sure I want to be a freak though, Alice.”
She laughed. “I’m sorry, I don’t know where that came from,” she said apologetically. “I do fly off the handle, don’t I? It must be the impairment to my impulse control. I never used to be like this. That’s why we’re good for each other! You’re much more cautious and sensible, so that counteracts my wildness, but my optimism balances your tendency towards negativity and inaction. We’re like yin and yang. We’re perfect for each other.”
I hugged her to me. “I agree. I can’t wait to move in. I hate being away from you.”
“And you need me!” She rubbed at my nape. “We need to get you to Rosa for a good close shave and get your fringe nice and pointy.”
We took a taxi and soon we were in the salon, which was almost deserted. Alice greeted Rosa like a long lost lover and then turned to me. “What are you going to call her?” she asked.
“Hello Miss Rosa,” I said, struggling to hide my embarrassment.
“Miss Rosa?” she laughed. “What’s going on with you two? Is there some joke I’m not in on?”
“Oh, it’s not a joke,” Alice explained. “You were very important in showing my little love about some very deep feelings she has. And I fell in love with her when I saw the cute little bob you gave her. So as a mark of respect, my very submissive little girlfriend will address you as Miss Rosa.”
Rosa started to giggle. “Aw, poor little Katie! Did Alice tell me more about you that you wanted?”
“Yes, Miss Rosa.” There was more teasing at my reply.
As I took to the chair Alice spoke. “We’d only planned for a quick shave and a fringe trim but I feel bad, it’s dead here today. You must get bored on days like this.”
“I do enjoy being busy,” Rosa admitted.
“How about you give little Katie a new colour? Entirely your choice.”
Rosa laughed and looked at me. “Would you like that, Katie? Something a bit more daring than your ginger?”
Alice was smiling but I knew she wouldn’t allow me to refuse. “Yes Miss,” I said nervously.
“You do look like a pretty little sub with your bob, I suppose I’d unconsciously picked up on that when I cut it first. Let’s get you all shaved up first.”
I was wrapped up in a cape and once more my hair was pinned up to expose the dark stubble that had grown in the last week. Rosa rubbed her hands over it and made a delighted vocalisation. “Like suede, feels so good. But unfortunately for you I prefer smooth. It’s got a bit long for a razor, it’ll drag if I shave it like this. Probably best to clipper shave you first.”
“No, Rosa, she has to learn. She should keep it shaved herself and if she doesn’t there are consequences.”
“Oh, she’s a tough one, your girl,” Rosa whispered. “She scares me so I’m not doing anything to upset her.” She winked at Alice. I felt her slap shaving foam over the stubble and massage it in. “We’re keeping the fringe the same as last time?” she asked.
“I think so. Did you have other ideas?” Alice asked.
“The V fringe is very high maintenance. I could just even it off.”
“Really? That would be very short. Right to the top of her forehead.”
“It would. But she has a nice forehead so where’s the harm. It would look very subby.”
“Oh, you’re making me want it now,” Alice laughed. “Would you like it, Katie?”
I winced. “Right up to my hairline?” Rosa nodded. “Oh god, that would look so geeky.” I gave a little cry of distress as the razor pulled down over my nape, dragging uncomfortably at the stubble.
“Sit still,” Rosa ordered. “You shouldn’t have let it grow for a week if you wanted it to be easier to shave.”
“Yes,” Alice chipped in. “Apologise to the nice lady.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Rosa,” I said gloomily as I endured more tugging from the blades.
“So do you want a nice blunt fringe again? I think Rosa might have a good point, about your point,” she laughed. “The V is a bit too edgy. Do you want to look more like my little sub again?”
I looked at her with fear and excitement. The idea of getting such a brutal fringe was making me want to be alone again with Alice, my excitement growing toward a level where I could no longer contain it. I nodded at her. She pointed to Rosa to prompt me to speak.
“Please Miss Rosa, can you give me a nice short blunt fringe?”
“It will be a pleasure, Katie. It’s going to be a big change from how you looked when we first met.”
Alice laughed. “She only had that haircut a week or two. She used to have long brown hair until about a month ago. She was so pretty.”
Rosa tugged at my ear and shaved roughly around it. “I thought that cut looked fresh. You’re a little haircut addict, aren’t you? This is your third time here in less than two weeks, and four salon trips in a month?” I confirmed that she was correct. “But you used to have long hair, so I guess you didn’t have regular cuts. What’s happened?”
“Oh, that’s complicated…” Alice wouldn’t let me get away with evasion.
“Tell her our story. I’m sure Rosa will find it interesting.”
“Alice and I met at a study at the university, we were volunteers in a pharmaceutical trial. We both had a reaction to the drug that’s caused neurological changes. We’ve both become impulsive and obsessive since we had the drug.”
Rosa looked incredulous, only appearing to accept my explanation when Alice nodded. “All my tattoos were done after I’d been treated. I’d never even considered a tattoo before and now I’ll have full sleeves as soon as I can get the money together.”
“That’s… I don’t know what it is!” Rosa said. “Aren’t you upset?”
“I’m not, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Poor little Katie though, she was in despair when she started to feel the need to get her hair cut. But fortunately she found me and we fell in love, so really things couldn’t have turned out better.”
Rosa laughed. “I think you’re so good together. It’s the strangest love story I ever heard, but it’s beautiful when people turn misfortune into something positive.”
“And now we’re hoping to get a big compensation pay out and we’ll be rich too,” Alice laughed. “We just have to show how we’re suffering so much so that they have to take pity on us. Actually, Katie does suffering much better than me. Once I’ve got a few more changes to how she looks I’m sure she’ll be very convincing when they interview her. 'I used to be a normal little girl but look at me now! I’m a freak and I can’t stop doing these things to myself!'”
“Oh Katie,” Rosa said, “are you going to get all the things done that your tattooed girlfriend wants for you?”
Alice spoke. “The thing is she’s so obsessive that I only have to start her thinking about something and tell her I like it and she can’t resist it any more, even though consciously she might hate it. Like the ultra short fringe you suggested, she was probably horrified, weren’t you, Katie?” I nodded. “But how do you feel about it now?”
I felt my shame growing. “I really want you to cut it, Miss Rosa. I mean, reallywant it.”
Alice smiled. “She’s just adorable, and so sexy. She’s my perfect little angel.” She made my excitement grow with a lingering kiss on my cheek.
And Rosa was now pulling the razor over my scalp with scarcely a hint of resistance. I was smooth again, and that only made me feel pleasure. “I’ve been reading up on how to get the closest shave. Someone suggested this and I’ve been wanting an opportunity to try it out.” She’d gone into a cabinet and taken out an electric shaver, a triple headed rotary design. “Want to see how it feels, Katie?” Of course I agreed.
The feeling wasn’t as pleasant as the teasing buzz of the clippers, and the sound was an irritating whine. My scalp was very sensitive and the heads chafed at my skin, leaving a raw, burning sensation as she pressed the shaver hard against my head. I make it sound like I didn’t enjoy the experience but I’d started to like being discomforted and the knowledge that Rosa was pushing me toward an ever more perfect shave was thrilling. Every time I glanced up I saw Alice smiling at me. As the motors were silenced she came toward me, hand outstretched.
“Ah ah!” Rosa said firmly. “Not yet, I’m going to put some lotion on her scalp first.”
She applied it liberally and I cooed as I felt how cool and soothing it was. The burning and rawness seemed to vanish instantly and it had a beautiful perfume, sweet yet slightly sharp. She caressed my scalp and neck until the lotion had been absorbed. “OK, Miss Alice, your little sub is ready for your inspection.”
“Oh, wow. That’s just so soft and smooth. I’m absolutely wetting myself,” she giggled. “Feel it, Katie, it’s just perfect.”
I allowed my hand to nestle between Alice’s and sighed as I felt just how hairless my scalp was. And the lotion had made it feel like silk.
“We’re getting you one of those shavers and a bottle of that lotion,” Alice insisted. “This is so sexy.”
“Ladies, this is a salon, not a bordello,” Rosa laughed. “We could have a customer come in!”
“I’m sorry,” Alice said. “Katie is such a naughty girl, isn’t she? She deserves a punishment. How about she’s not allowed to see her new hair at all? Hide the mirror and she leaves here not knowing how she looks?”
“Aw, that’s cruel,” Rosa said. “Does Katie think she can bear that?”
A towel was clipped over the mirror and as soon as it was done Rosa set to work on my fringe. She smoothed it over my forehead with a comb, then the shears snipped. Alice watched closely. “Oh, that is short,” she said. “Do you think it’s too severe?” She was teasing, I thought but then I couldn’t see any humour. Perhaps she did really think it was unflattering.
“It probably is,” Rosa agreed. “I want it to look as severe as possible. She’s going to look sub, remember.”
As I rose from the chair Alice ordered me to keep my eyes on the floor. “There are mirrors everywhere in here and I don’t want you catching a glimpse of yourself.” Rosa embraced me and told me I looked cuter than ever.
“I’ve never enjoyed my job more than my sessions with you ladies,” she said. “I hope we can do this often.”
Alice looked sad. “I’m afraid that Katie is moving in with me in a few weeks. I’d love to keep coming here but the journey here is so long. I promise we’ll make it a couple of times a year, but it’s too much to make this our regular salon.”
Rosa was obviously disappointed. “Well please come and see me one last time before she moves away. And how about I do something with your mop, Alice? I’m sure Katie would love to see you with a really hot new style.”
“Oh, yes, let’s do that. I’ll be in touch to let you know when I’m in town.”
We said our goodbyes and I headed out into the city with my new hair colour and my bared forehead. I had no idea how I looked.
“Don’t be looking in shop windows to see your reflection,” Alice warned. “If you get a look by accident I’ll take you back to Rosa and get her to do another colour. Or I might just shave your head completely.”
“I won’t, I promise,” I said fearfully. I knew Alice might just carry out her threats. “I just need to see myself, though, Alice. I feel like I’m going to explode with my curiosity.”
“Curious? Is that a euphemism for horny? If you make me cum when we’re back at yours I’ll let you look in a mirror.”
Alice’s self control was amazingly strong. Despite my best efforts she resisted. And if she didn’t climax then I didn’t either. The following day I saw her off at the station, still unaware of my new hair colour. “You be a good girl and head off to work now. No peeking, ok? If you get through the day without looking I’ll call you tonight. When we’re on the phone I’ll let you look in the mirror and we’ll take it from there. Promise to be good?”
“Oh, but Alice, I’m bound to see a reflection by accident, or someone will comment on the colour.”
“If that happens it happens. But I want you to be ignorant of how you look for as long as possible. You’ll cum so hard when I let you if you’re a good girl. And let me know if the shaver is there.” We’d ordered one online and it was due to be delivered to a local shop by the afternoon.
I entered the coffee shop where I worked feeling horribly nervous. “Wow, another new haircut?” one of the other staff said as I walked in. “It looks really cute. I’d never imagined you with a style like that.”
I thanked her but couldn’t hide my embarrassment. I felt like I was regressing into the shyness that had made me suffer so much when I was young.
All day long I felt stiflingly paranoid. A customer smiling at me seemed someone who revelled in my humiliation, smirking at my ridiculousness. I couldn’t face my colleagues and tried to avoid them wherever possible. At the end of my shift I rushed home.
I immediately called Alice. “I did it,” I said proudly. “I got through the day without seeing my hair.”
“And no one mentioned the colour?”
“Not specifically. Someone said it’s really bright.”
“Yes? It’s not really. Go and get a mirror but don’t look. Actually, first get your laptop and let’s see each other on camera.”
Only once she had a view of me was I allowed to finally look at myself. “Oh shit… that fringe!” I wailed. “It’s awful, Alice. My forehead looks huge!”
She only looked amused. “You should be proud of your forehead, high and wide. It makes you look smart. Your fringe just shows it off.”
I stroked at my bob. “And it’s green,” I groaned. It was a vivid emerald green with lighter turquoise streaks blended through the little remnant of fringe.
“You love it, don’t you, baby? The extremeness of the fringe, the bold colour. It’s something you really enjoy.”
I looked at her. Did I really like the girl I’d become?
“You can undress and finger yourself if you admit that it makes you feel sexy.”
“It does,” I said guiltily.
“Next time we go back to Rosa she can do as she pleases with your hair, can’t she? You trust her to make you look sexy.”
“Really? It’s already so short. She’ll probably leave me nearly bald.”
“I wouldn’t mind if you were totally bald. Did you get your shaver?”
“Go get it, you can shave yourself as you play with your pussy.”
Soon I sat in front of the camera naked running the new shaver over my nape as I started to rub myself. I’d been trying to contain my arousal for so long that I barely dared touch myself, since I knew I could orgasm so easily.
“What do you think about being totally bald?” she asked. I bit my lip as she smiled at me seductively. “I mean, feel your nape now. Imagine how good it would feel if your entire head were like that. Would you like that?”
I ran my fingers over the area of scalp that I’d just mown back to near perfect smoothness. I nodded, ashamed of my need to feel sexy, which was starting to far outweigh any sense of propriety or caution.
Alice wrinkled her nose. “Wow, Katie, I was only teasing. I don’t think you’d look so good bald. Still, if you decide you really want it and you keep begging me I might let you try it for a month or two.” I knew she’d snared me already. I had only to feel a strong desire for something for it to become fixed, obsessional. I knew that the idea of being bald would nag away at me, no matter how much my rational mind told me that being shaved bald was something normal girls didn’t ever think about. “Press that shaver really hard against your scalp. I want it to be the closest shave you ever had, smooth and sexy.” I did as she asked and rubbed my scalp. I could feel the graininess of the hairs growing back in where the shaver hadn’t touched. The newly smoothed areas were so much smoother and nicer. I pressed on, eager to make my whole undercut as hairless as I could. The strands of bob flopping over my temples were a distraction and for a moment I contemplated pushing the shaver up into the longer hair, and making myself bald right away. I screamed with passion and gave in to the uncontrollable excitement. “I’m cumming,” I gasped. “Oh, Alice, I wish we were together. I love you.”
I went to visit Alice ten days later, my first visit to the place I’d soon call home. She’d said almost nothing since we’d met at the station, just smiling at me mysteriously. As soon as we were inside she threw herself at me and tore away my clothes. “You little bitch, how dare you look so sexy?” she screamed, and we both fell laughing to her bed. She stroked my nape. “You shaved this morning, just for me, didn’t you? It’s absolutely dreamy, baby.” She started to kiss my scalp which was the most beautiful feeling.
“I got sent some money toward expenses, and you should be getting a payment too. I’m going to blow mine on some pampering later, but I need you to fulfil me before I go or I’ll me unbearably horny all the time and embarrass myself.”
We spent almost two hours in bed, exploring, delighting in each other’s company, in our bodies. At the end Alice pushed my head down firmly between her thighs. She shivered as she rubbed at my scalp and I began to use my tongue to bring her bliss to a peak. After we lay in each other’s arms in silent contemplation. Nothing needed to be said, we were as happy as we’d ever be.
We showered together and Alice gave me the treat of shaving my undercut. The razor probably didn’t touch the stubble (the shaver cut closer) but it felt delicious, even more so when we were out of the shower and she roughly towelled it dry and anointed the tender skin with my favourite lotion. She styled my bob, smooth and gleaming, far nicer than I could manage. Then she added more make-up than I was used to, deep red lips and sharp eyeliner wings. Alice’s hair (which she’d kept covered in the shower) was looking wilder than ever, and she added some dark powder into the roots to give it more volume. She looked at herself admiringly in the mirror. “I look so witchy,” she giggled. “I love my wild hair. I suppose it’s tempting to let Rosa do something really new though. Would you like it if she took it really short and neat?”
I hugged her. “I think I’d cry if she cut it short! Don’t let her, please Alice. You have such sexy hair.”
“Isn’t yours sexy too?” She stroked my bald nape then kissed it. “This feels hot, Katie. And sometimes I feel really envious that you can reach up and feel this whenever you like and I just feel my long hair. Wouldn’t you like your girlfriend to try short hair? A really boyish cut so I look androgynous?”
I shivered. “I don’t know, Alice. You always have my head spinning. That sounds really intriguing but I love your long hair.”
“So if I stay the same you’ll do all the changing for both of us? Did you think more about being completely bald?”
I nodded. “Sometimes I get the urge to do it. Just chop it all off and run the shaver over my head. Get rid of every hair on my body.”
“Oh Katie! All your hair? Even your little eyebrows? And those long pretty eyelashes? You’d look like some weird big baby. Do you really want that? To be a hairless freak?”
She started to kiss me excitedly and I knew the idea excited her. I couldn’t resist her attentions and I became breathless. “I don’t want it,” I said sadly. “I know I’d be so upset but I get these urges, same as you do. It feels… like a sickness, something pathological. It scares me that I won’t be able to control myself one day.”
“I’ll still love you after you give in, baby. We’re special now. The changes we underwent were sacred. We should listen to our urges, not try to be conventional.”
I was close to tears. “You want me to be bald? If I gave into everything I imagine I don’t know where it would end up. It terrifies me, Alice.”
“It doesn’t matter where your ideas lead you, you’ll always have me beside you to hold your hand and love you and worship you for your beauty. I think we’re privileged, baby. Convention holds us back, imposes rigid ideas about what looks right. We can free ourselves of those repressions. What we feel the urge to do is what’s right and proper and beautiful.”
“Are you saying you want me to shave now?”
“When you need to do it then don’t fight it. Maybe you should let Rosa have your hair next week and see how she wants to make you look. Do you think the urge will be too much before next week?”
I shook my head with some relief. “I’m sure I can resist for a while longer.” I knew that letting go would unleash something dangerous, that I’d start to feel separated from everything and everyone that had once seemed so important, but that with Alice encouraging me I would soon give in to my compulsions.
When we headed out I found that Alice’s idea of pampering wasn’t a day in a spa but an opportunity to add to her tattoos. As she greeted the artist who would eventually cover her arms with pigment, she looked excited. “I had an idea,” she gushed. “I thought it would be really cool to give the tattoos a texture like a tapestry. That the colour would be arranged like a grid of little knots. Almost like a pixel pattern but softer.” Her tattooist, Kristen, nodded as Alice showed her some images on her tablet to illustrate her ideas.
“That does sound interesting, Alice. It would certainly add a challenge to doing them but I like being pushed outside my comfort zone. And it would look original. I never saw a tattoo like that.”
“Could you even add a texture to the black? Make it look like a woven material?”
“I suppose. I’d have to think about the best way to make that work but I’d leave the black till the end anyway.”
Alice reclined in the chair and Kristen began to add the first colour to her arm, working on a blue flower, four inches wide, on the inside of her left bicep. She drew in a fine grid in pen to act as a guide over which the individual dots of colour would be placed, and progress was infuriatingly slow. My initial excitement at seeing Alice’s tattoos start to flourish into colour soon gave way to an ennui at the repetitiveness of the actual work. I’d fallen into a reverie from which I was woken by a tap at the door.
A pretty young woman entered and smiled at me. “Is this her? Katie, yes? I’m ready for you now.”
I smiled at her but couldn’t hide my confusion. Alice called me over and pulled my ear to her lips. “This is Joanna, she’s a piercer. She’s going to put some nice decorations in you. I’ve told her a few to start but I want you to be a brave girl. Get as many as you can take. Make me proud of you. You want a lot of piercings to look pretty for me, don’t you?” I looked at her, my need to satisfy her obliterating all sense of caution.
“I do,” I panted.
“You’ll adore the pain of being pierced. I know you will. I’ll see you later, my little sexy baby.”
I followed Joanna into her studio. She looked at me with a smile. She had a very friendly face and I felt an immediate liking for her. “Alice said I should be firm with you. You like that?” I nodded and felt embarrassed. She didn’t look at all strict.
“Well you should undress completely. You need to take off everything, underwear too.” I hesitated and she raised her voice. “Come along, Katie, Alice is paying. Do you want me to charge her extra because you took so long? Do you think you have something special under your clothes, something I haven’t seen before?” She kept giggling as she issued her orders which only added to the weirdness of the situation, but she seemed to be enjoying her role.