Side Effect

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Side Effect

Seated beside her husband, Tom Armour, on the side of the desk across from the alternative natural therapist, Helen felt a flight of butterflies lift off in her stomach. It’s typical to be nervous under these circumstances, she told herself. After all, couples struggled to admit to a problem like this, let alone discuss it with a professional, such as Kat Surth, but Helen accepted that they needed help. She just questioned whether they’d found the right professional in Kat. Before making up her mind, Helen decided to hear what Kat recommended as an alternative therapy. As if she’d read Helen’s mind, the young woman leaned forward over the desk, speaking reassuringly.

“I understand that concerns like yours are anxiety-provoking,” she folded her hands before her, “but I can offer you a range of treatment options that will address your issues very effectively.”

“That’s good,” Tom replied, visibly relieved. Helen nodded eagerly, too, ready for more.

“As you know,” Kat continued, “there are traditional treatments that include drug therapy to stimulate a response in patients, but those can be expensive and have numerous undesirable side effects.”

“Yes, we know,” Tom said. “That’s why we sought you out—for alternative treatments.”

“Indeed, and I would suggest a much more cost-effective treatment, but, of course, that, too, will have a side effect—but, thankfully, only one.” She held up her right index finger, with its blazing red nail, to emphasize her point.

Helen expected a hitch like that—and dreaded it. She leaned forward herself. “And what’s that?” she demanded.

“Hair loss.” Kat fell silent, letting it soak in, gauging the reactions on the faces of both her patient and his spouse.

Helen spoke first. “How much hair loss?”

“Total.” Having delivered the worst of the bad news, Kat leaned back, relaxing.

“And where?” Helen probed, still unsatisfied.

“On the head, but Mrs. Armour …” At this point, Kat rested her elbows on the desk and steepled her fingers. “The real question, the one you ought to ask, is whose head.”

Helen sat up, puzzled. “Wouldn’t it be his?” she looked over at Tom, already mourning the loss of those salt-and-pepper curls.

“No,” Kat said patiently. “Yours. In other words, Mrs. Armour, you will be bald as a peanut.”

“Me?” Helen looked at Kat, scowling. “The issue is his.” She pointed at Tom. “My husband needs treatment. Why wouldn’t the alternative therapy affect him instead of me?”

“Remember, Mrs. Armour,” Kat spoke gently. “We said that this is an issue for the couple, not the individual.”

“Well, I don’t see why treating him should affect me.” Out of the corner of her eye, she noted Tom shifting uncomfortably. Is he feeling guilty? Helen’s eyes narrowed. Did he put Kat up to this?

“Remember, Mrs. Armour,” Kat repeated, “we’re treating you as a couple, not individually. However, in this case, the side effect applies to you alone.”

Tom tugged at his collar. Between this gesture and Kat’s words, a thought struck Helen that made her squirm: Maybe he feels like I’m blaming him. I shouldn’t do that. Helen reached a hand across to her husband and patted the left knee of his khaki pants. “I’m sorry, honey. It’s just that it’s a shock.”

“I know,” Tom said in a subdued voice. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to go through with the treatment. We can try something else.”

“But, as Kat says, those alternatives have many more side effects and are expensive.” Helen surprised herself making this argument when she stood to lose her hair, but that’s why they’d come to Kat in the first place: to seek a better solution. She looked back at Kat. “How long would the hair loss be for?”

“Permanently,” Kat said the word as gently as possible.

“Really?” Helen scowled at her. “Of course it would grow back if we stopped the treatments.”

“Yes,” Kat nodded and replied with her most patient tone of voice, “but if we stop the treatment then the symptoms will return.” Kat turned to Tom. “How do you feel about that?”

“It’s up to Helen,” he replied quickly. “It’s her hair.”

Helen reached out again and took Tom’s left hand. “I appreciate that, but we want you to get better, and this beats the alternatives, but, be honest now: you wouldn’t mind having a bald wife?”

“Not at all,” Tom squeezed Helen’s hand. “You’ll be beautiful. Besides, we can always get you a wig.”

“I could help with that,” Kat chimed in. “I’m a full-service provider.”

“That would make it easier for me,” Helen admitted.

“Indeed,” Kat leaned forward. “When would you like to go wig shopping?”


Helen felt lost, especially after Kat’s stark explanation of the dire side effect of her husband’s treatment, but when Kat offered to go wig shopping with her, relief flooded into Helen. Kat morphed instantly from her role of deliverer of hope—and bad news—to a kind of co-conspirator, almost a girlfriend, tuzla escort ready to go out with a buddy on an adventure. She never expected to feel close to Kat—considering the gap in their ages—but the young woman’s enthusiasm infected Helen. Perhaps because of Helen’s newness in town and her lack of friends, she welcomed Kat’s proffered friendship. It certainly helped when Kat offered to introduce Helen to her attorney friend, Heather. An attorney like Helen, seeking work in a strange, new city, desperately needed networking leads—and Kat’s willingness to offer them indicated that she “got it” when it came to Helen’s concerns about her post-treatment appearance. Still, the need for a professional exterior didn’t diminish Kat’s delightful playfulness as they drove to the store.

“Okay, then,” she gushed as she steered, “what color do you want?”

Helen shrugged. “I don’t know. Brown, I suppose, something like my natural hair color.” She didn’t add, but thought, That is natural before the gray started coming in. That’s one thing I won’t miss when I’m bald, she admitted to herself. Gray hair!

“Really?” Kat queried, suddenly incredulous. “You don’t want to experiment? Don’t want to fulfill some fantasy?”

“I’m not interested in being a blonde if that’s what you mean,” Helen replied quickly, glancing out the window at the sun-drenched scenery flying by them on this fine June morning. Then, regretting how her response sounded, she added hastily, “No offense.”

“None taken,” Kat, naturally blonde herself, laughed. “Take it from me—being a blonde is overrated.”

Kat’s disarming self-deprecation started to win Helen over. She laughed and confessed, “Well, I always dreamed of being a redhead.”

Pulling into a spot in front of a storefront, Kat parked the car and regarded her. “It would suit you,” she mused. “We’re here. Should we go in and see what you look like as a redhead?”

Actually, Helen decided a few minutes later, she did make a good redhead, but curls, not color, caught her eye next.

“Oh, look at that,” she said, stepping over to a brown wig on a stand. “I’ve always wanted curls like that. May I try it?”

The shop lady obliged, pronouncing it becoming, of course, but Kat’s studied opinion ultimately decided Helen. After insisting that Helen twirl completely around, Kat pursed her lips, nodding and pronounced gravely, “That does suit you.”

“Really?” Helen asked, uncertain. “Would you hire an attorney with hair like this?”

“Absolutely.” Kat’s resolute reply won Helen over—to the wig and to Kat herself.


A few days later, the three of them sat in Kat’s office, ready for the treatment. After they’d met briefly in front of Kat’s desk, Kat got up and opened the door behind her, ushering the couple through, then following them briskly herself, her white coat whirling around her bare knees. Upon entering the room, Helen froze at the sight of the old-fashioned barber chair, complete with lime-green vinyl cushions, sitting in the middle of the room. Behind it stood a counter with a sink and various haircutting tools. Across from the barber chair sat another chair. Kat turned to Tom, “Mr. Armour, if you please, step through that door and disrobe then come back here.” Indicating the seat across from the barber’s chair, Kat added, “You can make yourself comfortable, Mr. Armour, while you watch the procedure.”

“Naked?” he blanched.

“Yes, of course,” Kat replied matter-of-factly. “How else can we tell if the treatment is having the desired effect on your symptoms?”

Still, he hesitated. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Kat reassured him. “Remember, I’m a professional.”

Nodding reluctantly, Tom went through the door. Helen suppressed a smile. She stood poised to make the greatest sacrifice so she felt some satisfaction in Tom’s being discomfited a bit as well. Moments later, he re-emerged, completely unclothed. Helen, having settled into the barber chair, said nothing. She decided not to be so ungenerous as to gloat—even inwardly—at Tom’s embarrassment. Kat, always professional, left his nudity unremarked. She merely invited him to have a seat with a nonchalant wave of her hand. He did so, still tentative. Helen felt a small thrill of pleasure, either from getting even with Tom—albeit in a small way—or just from seeing him naked. She gave herself the benefit of the doubt and decided his nudity excited her most.

Kat turned to Helen. “I guarantee you, the effects will be amazing.” She grabbed a cape from the back of the chair and, covering Helen’s dress with it, tied it around her neck. “The reversal of your husband’s symptoms will be immediate,” she promised,

“I hope so,” Helen replied, pulling dubiously at the cape. Days ago, after bringing home the wig, she’d come to terms with this. In fact, she and Kat made a game of it, refusing to let Tom see the wig to ensure a surprise after she went completely bald, but now facing the reality, she felt qualms göztepe escort again.

Kat smiled reassuringly, first at her patient and then at Helen, and, seizing the electric clippers from the counter behind the chair, flipped them on. The buzzing filled the silent room, echoing from the walls. Without the slightest hesitation, she drove the blade directly over the crown of Helen’s head, sending shorn locks cascading in profusion around her ears and down the back of her neck. Tufts settled on her lap, covering her cape. Kat glanced down at Tom.

“You see, Mrs. Armour?” she said, turning back to her and indicating her husband’s crotch. “The treatment’s already having the desired effect.”

Helen, her lips still pursed in doubt, nodded, even if a bit reluctantly.

“Now, please hold still,” Kat requested. Helen complied; the alternative therapist started methodically running the blade down either side of Helen’s head, broadening that first narrow but undeniable and irreversible strip she’d plowed into her brown mane into a wider and wider denuded path from her rapidly vanishing hairline to the nape of her neck. When Kat finished with the electronic clippers and snapped them off, the silence overwhelmed Helen. Her newly exposed scalp covered with only a bristle of stumble, Helen shifted in the chair, sending clumps of curls floating down. Kat stepped aside and, with a small flourish of her right hand, directed Helen’s attention to her seated spouse. Helen gasped. Kat smiled, satisfied. “I’d say it’s working, wouldn’t you?”

Helen nodded. “So we’re done then?” she stood up, triggering an avalanche of hair from her lap and shoulders. Tufts settled in profusion on the piles already littering the floor around her ankles.

“This is only the start,” Kat replied. “Have a seat, please.”

As Helen settled back into the chair, Kat stepped to the counter and, grabbing a can of shaving cream, shook it vigorously before depositing a generous dollop on the top of Helen’s head. As she smoothed the white foam over her cranium, a rush of unexpected sensations crowded in on Helen. Either because of the tingling of her newly shorn cranium or the sight of her husband’s burgeoning penis, to her surprise, a moan involuntarily escaped Helen’s lips. This unintended expression of pleasure embarrassed her—after all, no sane woman liked going bald—but neither Kat nor Tom commented.

Kat pulled out a straight-edge razor and, with great care, buried her bright red fingers in the white foam to stretch out a patch of scalp. The razor slid over it easily, leaving a smooth area of completely exposed skin utterly devoid of even a trace of hair. She wiped the blade off on the towel draped over her shoulder and set to work on an adjoining patch of scalp. When she’d finished her thorough and methodical work of completely denuding Helen’s cranium, she rubbed Helen’s entirely tonsured head with a towel, eliciting more ecstatic involuntary groans from her.

“Come here, Mr. Armour,” Kat commanded.

Reluctant, Tom stood then awkwardly ambled over, his distended manhood thrust out before him like some kind of ungainly probe. With each step, it wiggled back and forth. The sight struck Helen as immensely comical. Her emotions— delight and relief at the disappearance of her husband’s symptoms—and new sensations—such as the cool breeze on her suddenly bare scalp—nearly overwhelmed her. Helen almost burst out laughing; however, she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, Kat’s professionalism. Since Kat played it straight, Helen forced down her chuckle—or, perhaps, sob. Helen failed to pick out the emotion, so many swirled around her.

Glancing down at Tom’s crotch, Kat pronounced with satisfaction, “The treatment was completely successful.” She turned to Helen, “What do you say, Mrs. Armour?”

Helen swallowed, choked up. Licking her dry lips, she croaked, “Yes.”

“Now, as regards further treatment,” Kat addressed Helen and Tom. “You’ll have to repeat the procedure daily, and if, between treatments, you notice him becoming unresponsive, have him do this.” Kat gently put her hand around Tom’s right wrist and placed his resistless palm on Helen’s freshly shorn cranium. With a nudge, she started him stroking. Tom and Helen responded simultaneously and instantaneously. With a groan, Tom came to stiff attention again, while Helen felt a moan, unbidden, arise in her throat. When she’d recovered her breath, she said, “It works, doesn’t it?”

“Every time,” Kat smiled. “It’s like a button that you can use to turn him on whenever you like.”

Despite the rising lump in her throat as she contemplated living the rest of her life totally bald, Helen smiled. “I like that.”

All this time, Tom stood wordless but not silent. He panted noisily.

“What about his shortness of breath?” Helen asked, her voice filled suddenly with mock concern. “Is that another side effect?”

“No,” Kat smirked. “That’s an indication that the therapy üsküdar escort is working.” She turned to her patient. “You can get dressed now, Mr. Armour.” Helen didn’t see his underwear fitting, given his current condition.

After Tom stepped into the bathroom to puzzle out getting dressed, Kat swung into action with Helen. “Okay, let’s get that wig.”

Even though, after their shopping trip, Kat practiced with Helen putting the wig on, Helen felt relieved that Kat stood by now to guide her through the process again. The hardest part came when Kat twirled her in the barber chair, so that Helen faced the counter—and the mirror—for the first time. Horrorstruck, she beheld an alien creature, its head rising, like some barren, ravaged moon, a perfect parabola over the horizon of her eyebrows.

Involuntarily, Helen gasped, a sob sticking in her throat. “That’s me,” she squeaked as if in someone else’s voice.

“Yes, it is,” Kat gushed. “You look wonderful!”

Helen shook her head, fighting tears. “No, I don’t!”

Kat swung her around in the barber chair to face her. “Yes, you do. Remember how your husband looked at you when he saw you?”

Helen swallowed hard and nodded wordlessly.

“Well, he thinks you look beautiful, doesn’t he?”

“I haven’t seen him that turned on in years,” Helen admitted.

“That’s because the treatment is working. Now, it’s going to take him a while to figure out how to get dressed with that massive hard-on, but, still, we should get going. You want to surprise him with that wig when he comes out,” Kat said briskly but with a broad smile. She swung Helen around. “Now let’s get that wig cap on first.” She plucked a bit of nylon from the counter and handed it to Helen, who stretched it over her skull.

The feel of the nylon against her tingling scalp distracted Helen terribly. “It’s like putting on pantyhose,” she tittered self-consciously.

Kat laughed. “It looks like it.”

“I mean, it feels like it,” Helen clarified. “How strange,” she said, suddenly meditative. “I shave my legs and pull on nylons without a second thought. Now shave another body part—my noggin—and pull on a nylon wig cap, and it feels odd.”

“Well, you don’t want to stop there, now do you, silly?” Kat remarked as she bent down, opened up a cabinet drawer beneath the counter and pulled out, from its hiding place, the wig on its Styrofoam stand.

“When I put this wig on the first time, this is when I had to make sure I tucked all my stray locks under the cap,” Helen commented ruefully, still considering the strange creature wearing a nylon beanie on her tonsured head and staring back at her from the mirror. “I don’t have to worry about that anymore, do I?”

“No,” Kat beamed. “See? You’re discovering the advantages of baldness. Think of all the others you’ll encounter shortly!”

Helen, a rueful expression on her face, stared at Kat momentarily. It took her breath away how this bubbly young woman insisted on seeing the glass half full!

“Let’s get this on, shall we?” Kat said, pulling the wig off the stand and flipping it upside down, so that the front of the wig faced Helen’s forehead. She stepped in front of her. “Remember, bow your head.” Helen did so, feeling like a monk praying. The image certainly fit, she decided with a sigh, given her new hairstyle. Kat deftly fitted the wig onto Helen’s shorn cranium. Helen raised her head and, with her hands, flipped the artificial locks over her shoulder.

Transformed again, Helen thought. She contemplated still another version of herself looking back from the mirror. Twice in one day. Natural-looking brown curls cascaded down, framing her face. This may not be the real “me” anymore, but at least it’s a “me” who can go out in public. The bathroom door swung open.

“Quick,” Kat urged. “Get up. That’s your cue,” she said, making a theatrical reference, a subject near and dear to Helen’s heart. Kat quickly untied the cape from around her neck and stashed it behind the chair.

When she stood, Helen felt like an actress. Make that “starlet” instead of “actress,” she thought as she beheld her husband’s slack-jawed wonderment. “What do you think?” She smiled brightly.

“No, no, don’t say yet,” Kat intervened. “Helen, give him a twirl, like we discussed, so he can see the back.”

Obligingly, Helen twirled. When she’d turned around again to face Tom, Kat prompted enthusiastically, “Well, now what do you think?”

“I’ve always wanted curls,” Helen added. “Now, I’ve got them.”

Tom gushed, “You look great!” though Helen detected a forced quality in his enthusiasm.

Whether you like it or not, Helen thought, I will feel better driving home with hair on my head—even if it’s just a rug!

During the drive home through the evening gloom, Helen noticed that Tom, as he steered, kept stealing sidelong glances at her in the passenger’s seat. Helen almost chided him for not keeping his eyes on the road but said nothing and decided not let her face betray her feelings either. If that made her husband nervous, well, so be it. She didn’t mind teasing him and, truth be told, get a bit even. After all, she’d made the supreme sacrifice for their happiness. She deserved some payback.

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