'Plaits' by Tania Hershman
Someone behind started plaiting my hair.
Hey, I said.
Sorry, he said. Just given up smoking... hands fidgety... hang on.
I sat there waiting for the lecture to start, feeling the gentle tug as he pulled one section of hair over the other. My knees said, Marry him. Don't turn round, just decide.
We married six months later. His face was as delicate as his hands were dextrous, his temper cool and his love eccentric. He washed my hair, made me pies with pastry messages on top, grew prize-winning roses, and said that the washing up was his meditation.
When I cut my hair, he said that it was fine, that he could tickle my scalp now, but his hands were disappointed, and soon I smelled tobacco.
Stress at work, he said.
I talked to a wise friend, who said, Grow it back. My knees said, He should love you any way. I saw him in a cafe with a woman I didn't know. His fingers were playing with her curls. I threw up in a rubbish bin and went home. I found a pack of his cigarettes and started one a day, even though my knees weren't pleased.
I love you, he said in bed, when my hair had reached my shoulders again.
I know, I said, and fought my knees' insistence that I go into the garden and dig up his rose bushes.
[This was Tania's first ever published story and we are delighted to reprint it. Tania's new book, My Mother Was An Upright Piano, is now available here: http://taniahershman.com/