When the lanky man strolled into my Hair Care Beauty Salon, my head swiveled, and the heads of my two other stylists and their clients popped up. "Oh my!" Mrs. Ellison, the elderly, gray-haired lady sitting at my station said.
"Just a second," I told her. I set my scissors and comb on the sink. I stepped up to the reception counter and said in my most customer-friendly voice, "May I help you?"
The lanky man tried to smile through his scruffy beard and mustache. "Umm...I found your salon listed on the Internet." He cleared his throat. "I'm checking...you participate in the Locks of Love program?"
"Yes, of course," I said. "We cut hair, bundle it properly, and send it on so it can be made into a wig for youngsters who have lost their hair. For whatever reason."
His deep brown eyes turned solemn. "My niece—my sister's little girl—may be in need. She's eight."
"Oh no! I'm so sorry."
"Just checking..." At this point, the lanky man flipped the longest ponytail I'd ever seen over his shoulder—beautiful, silky, chestnut-brown hair. "I may want to donate this."
I blinked. "It's certainly long enough. Not bleached. You realize it takes a number of ponytails to make a hairpiece. Your hair mostly likely won't be included in a wig for your niece."
"I understand that."
"You'd like to make an appointment?"
He gave the ponytail and long look. "Two weeks from now," he said. "I'll call to cancel if...if I don't need it cut."
My heart ached for him and his niece. With a deep sigh, I wrote his name into my appointment book—Jeremy Foxx—and we said good-bye.
During the next couple of weeks, I thought of Jeremy. So handsome. Such long hair. His poor niece. Of course I knew why he wanted to donate his hair: If his niece lost hers, he wanted to prove he'd be there for her in every way. I wondered if I'd see him again. I hoped so. But then I hoped not.
My pulse spiked when Jeremy stepped cautiously into my salon at the appointed time. "Shave and a haircut," he said simply.
Once he was seated, I pulled the elastic from his ponytail and braided his luxurious hair. "Ready?" I asked. He gave a nod, and I snipped his ponytail off with two quick strokes. I glanced at him in the big mirror in front of us. "You all right?"
He nodded again, his face expressionless.
"I'll give you a wash," I said. "Then cut your hair short on the sides, a little long on top? Is that all right?"
"Shave it all off," he said. "Beard and mustache, too."
I gulped. "You're sure?"
While I shaved his head, I tried to get him to relax. I told him my name. Patti Albright. I asked him questions about himself. He was an elementary school art teacher. During the summer he worked as a wood carver, sculpting animals—owls, bears, eagles—from tree stumps in people's yards. We were both single. Never married. Doctors feared his niece Lisa had a cancerous tumor on her brain.
When I finished, he stood, scowled at himself in the mirror, and rubbed the top of his head and his chin. "Smooth," he said with a rueful smile.
"You've done a wonderful thing," I said. I forgot to breathe when I added: "With or without hair, you're handsome."
He shrugged sheepishly.
"Call me," I said. "Keep me posted. Please."
He called to say Lisa would have to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. He called again to say that nearly all of Lisa's tumor had been removed but because of its location a bit remained. Doctors were optimistic that with chemo and radiation therapy they could destroy the rest; Lisa's prognosis was good.
I knew that chemo and radiation meant Lisa would definitely lose her hair, and I was delighted to have played a small part in having a wig made for her. My staff and I pooled our money and sent flowers to Lisa in the hospital.
I didn't expect to see Jeremy again. But a week after his last phone call, he appeared at my salon. While my staff and their customers smiled at us, he fished a cell phone from his pocket, clicked a button or two, and said, "Look at this picture."
A grinning Lisa, her head still bandaged, held a chestnut-brown wig in her hand. "She can't wait to wear it," Jeremy said. "And she's expected to recover fully."
"I'm so happy for her. And for you." I glanced at him. My heart danced. Dare I speak? "Looks like you'll need a haircut soon."
"First how about dinner and a movie over the weekend. We'll discuss it."
I smiled. "A shave, too?"
He smiled back. "All right," he said. "Shave and a haircut. Just for you."