Nothing quite compared to the feeling of a soft spring breeze in newly-straightened hair. It was the first time Julie had attempted to do such a thing to her own head, having only recently consented to let her hairdresser give it a go. The results Sharon had managed to produce were stunning, but expensive.
Three singed fingers and ninety minutes of cursing later, Julie hadn’t quite managed to duplicate the look, but deemed the styling passable for a first attempt. She’d only managed to approach the look Sharon had achieved from a simple blow out, but felt it was at least a better result than her usual careless brushing.
Julie briefly considered popping back in the shower for a quick reset to allow a reversion to her usual look. She’d clearly spent time on her hair for an imperfect result, which went against her deepest-held sense of self image. After years of childhood bullying and teasing of any effort she made to appear fashionable, she’d developed a care-free, relaxed style that might be generously described as eclectic or nerdy. It was a defense mechanism; if it was apparent that no effort went into her look, that she dressed and presented herself for practicality rather than style, it was easy to shrug off any criticism. Plus, if she wore trainers all the time there was no risk of tripping in heels.
Taking a deep breath, Julie gathered her things and headed out for the coffee shop. She may look like a teenager experimenting with her first hair products, but it was nonetheless an improvement from her typical barely-tamed frizzy pseudo-curls, and deserved to be enjoyed in public for at least a few hours. At the very least, it had involved considerably less rage directed at her scalp than her morning ritual of furious brushing, which had to be good for her self esteem.
Besides, it wasn’t as though she was looking to attract any attention with her appearance. She was more than happy to wile away the afternoon with a good latte and an excellent book at the Starbucks in the local shopping center, secure in the knowledge that the banal and regular-less crowd in the chain shop would hardly notice her or any differences in her appearance.
Which really just goes to show that the universe has an excellent grasp of irony.
“You look very nice today.”
Julie nearly spat her coffee over her book as the unexpected voice startled her. Carefully swallowing as she regained her composure, she turned to see a familiar face over her shoulder.
“Matt. . .,” Julia started as she recognised the man from down the block, struggling to find words through her shock- men were not supposed to notice things like hair. “What are you doing here?”
“I was meeting a few friends from the office, just about to leave and figured I’d stop by to say hello. I love what you’ve done to your hair today.”
“What do you mean?” Julie asked, trying to hide her panic but only managing to pull off a vague sneer.
“Well, it’s straight-like,” Matt began.
“And who are you to judge?” Julie all but growled.
“What I mean is-”
“Oh shut up. I was just messing around,” Julie snarled back at him, her ingrained defensiveness of her appearance bubbling to the surface with surprising speed.
“No need to get defensive, it was just a compliment,” Matt assured her, raising his hands in mock surrender.
Julie took a deep breath to calm herself, trying to feel the tension flow away. She succeeded only slightly; long-held pain can’t be dismissed easily. “It’s alright. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”
“No hard feelings, mind if I join you?”
Julie glanced wistfully at her book, sorry to be torn from it, albeit temporarily, but felt she owed him a bit of conversation to make up for her rudeness, particularly considering that he was willing to speak to her after her outburst.
“Sure,” she acquiesced, trying not to sound disappointed.
Matt plunked down across from her, and struck up a cheerful conversation, banishing all thoughts of the book- and her hair- from Julie’s mind as she lost herself in his seemingly endless and entertaining stories.
All too soon her mug was empty. Julie was about to say farewell, when Matt stopped her.
“If you’re not doing anything this afternoon, would you like to swing by my place for a while? Friends don’t let friends drink chain-store coffee after all. If you’re still thirsty, I could make you a proper latte.”
Julie smiled and agreed, amicably following him out the door and back to their street.
The afternoon bled into evening in what seemed only a blink, and soon Julie felt herself beginning to tire.
“I really should be going soon,” she said through a yawn, “but thank you very much for inviting me over. I hope we can do this again.”
“Me too,” Matt said with a smile.
“Thanks,” Julie replied smiling in turn, “and thanks for sticking around, even after our rocky start earlier,” she said, referencing her initial outburst.
“Yeah, did your parents teach you no manners? Mine would have given me such a whacking if I’d spoken like that, I quickly learned to watch my tongue.” Matt’s comment was offered lightly, but Julie couldn’t keep herself from blushing.
“Well, maybe you should,” she said softly.
“Should what, whack you?” Matt asked, a joking smile on his face.
“Well, only if you want too,” Julie backpedaled, then as Matt’s expression softened added coyly, “I mean, I do deserve it.”
Matt was silent for a bit. “Well, if you insist,” he finally said semi-sternly, “I would say you could do with a good old-fashioned spanking.”
Julie tried to reply, but her words caught in her throat. Matt reached for her arm, tentatively at first, but with a grip that proved firm and reassuring as he guided her across his lap. As she crawled clumsily over his knee, her feelings of awkwardness intensified. At least in this position he could not see her blush.
An abrupt, sharp swat helped take her mind off her own insecurities. Through her jeans the spank didn’t exactly hurt, but it was an alien sensation that made her eyes pop open. Though she knew her clothing was absorbing most of the force of the spanking, the cumulative effect was still enough to set her twitching and flinching after a few minutes.
“I see this is getting through to you,” Matt said, the scolding tone in his voice holding almost no hint of the play it had earlier, each of his words accentuated by a hard swat to the lower curves of her bottom.
“Yessss,” Julie hissed through clenched teeth. Matt gave her a few more firm swats before helping her up.
“Better now?” he asked as she caught her breath.
“You think?” Julie replied, affecting a put-upon expression, but unable to stop a small giggle from bubbling up to the surface.
Matt laughed with her, then asked, “What was it, anyway? You must have been in quite the mood earlier.”
“Not a mood, exactly. . .,” Julie began.
“What?” Matt asked again, his eyes searching hers.
Julie considered offering a petty excuse, an ill-formed joke about female moods, or simply turning to leave, but after he had been so open and kind to her she felt she owed him an explanation.
“I was teased a lot when I was young. About everything- my hair, my clothes, my makeup.
“That must have been difficult,” Matt empathize. “That sort of thing sticks with you.”
“And it wasn’t just open teasing,” Julie continued, emboldened by his support. “Teasing I learned to handle easily enough. It was the fakeness, the deceit. People who would compliment me, tell me that I should try this or that, say that something looked really good, then turn around and criticise and laugh when they thought I wasn’t listening. I didn’t know who to trust, didn’t know what to do. I just stopped trying; it was easier on everyone that way. What you said earlier, and I know you were just being nice, it brought all that back.”
“I had no idea,” Matt said, squeezing her hand in sympathy. “I stand by what I said, though. You do look beautiful today.”
His kindness affected her in a way even the pain of the spanking could not manage, and she felt tears running down her cheeks. Matt noticed as well, and rather than commenting pulled her into a fierce hug.
“Thanks,” Julie told him one final time, the word whispered into his neck as they embraced.
“Anytime,” Matt replied. “It’s good to let your hair down once in a while, and I’m happy to help.”