Brushing, long lengths, starting at the bottom, endless waves before starting all over again. Hours and hours and hours of it She didn’t mind the wait.
In here, it was safe.
In here, she was in control, for all her hair lay in the sure hands of Franziska Feifalik. Feifalik wove the magick that she dictated, brought her the possets that eased the headaches caused by the elaborate hairstyles, pampering her mistress by pampering her hair. Every strand of hair that was lost was mourned and elaborate steps were taken to ensure that the losses were light.
In here, she was important. Or at least her hair was. Important enough to justify taking an entire day every two weeks to wash it with eggs and cognac, tenderly taking care of each strand, honoring the whole. Cancelling every other engagement on that day so that proper attention could be focused on her hair, her glorious hair.
In here, she was valued, albeit for the shallowness of an external trapping. Inside her secret heart, she dreaded the days when her hair would turn to silver and its value be lost.
Because then she would have nothing.
She vowed that she would never allow that to happen.
Her husband loved her hair, in the way that men do, and while she did not return that love, still, it gave them something to share in the long nights in his bed. He would often play with her long hair, brushing it over her bare body, his, until they both were roused to a fever pitch that left them hungry for more, if only for that time.
Once, he’d tied her to the bedpost by her hair, then ravished her for what seemed like hours, a thing that was far more thrilling than she cared to admit.
The love shown her by her husband was in no way mirrored by his mother. To her, Sisi was too. Too wild, too uncultured, too informal. Too physical.
Everything about her was wrong. She was the wrong sister, the wrong temperament, not quiet and pliable, but loud and active, unused to the tight strictures of this new court she found herself in.
Again, her hair was the one thing that was acceptable. But then, it was always tightly constrained in public, put up and away in those elaborate braids.
Never let down until she was in private, when she could be simply and only herself.
She saw comparisons. Which was why she loved her time with Franziska even more.
One of the loves in her life was riding. She’d spend hours on horseback, riding through the countryside, her hair carefully put away in braids so that it would not be tangled by the wind as she rode.
When she returned, the times spent brushing and rebraiding were times when she’d think back on what she’d seen and done, the escape for a little while at least from the tightly regimented Court. It was those times that Fransiska would see a smile on her Empress’ face and wonder what it was that pleased her mistress so.
Before every child, her hair was done up carefully, so that it might not get horribly tangled by the strains of her labor.
After every child, the thing she looked forward to the most was the loving bath of her body and then her hair. The hours it took almost took away the sting of her losing yet another child to her mother-in-law, of not even being allowed to name it, never mind care for it in any way. None of her children would feed at her breast or be named by her, and with every child she retreated into her hair even more.
As much as she insisted on the pampering of her hair, Sisi also desired to expand her mind. The hours every day that she felt necessary for her hair’s care left her mind idle, which she detested, even as she loved the feel of the brush, tho’ not the pull of the braids.
“While my hair is busy, my mind stays idle. I am afraid that my mind escapes through the hair and onto the fingers of my hairdresser,” she said and determined to allow that no more.
She began to learn during that time, a man, the Greek Constantin Christomanos, allowed into the intimacy of her boudoir to teach her as Fransiska brushed and braided, pulling and pampering. Her hair gave her multiple languages and the time and understanding to write reams of poetry.
Her hair was the true love of her life, certainly not her husband, and not her children either. The life they all lived constrained her to the point of panic, and she did anything she could to escape. In other times, in other worlds, maybe they could have loved one another, but they loved and lived in the world they had, and it was not enough.
But the Emperor kept her portrait in his office, one that showed her hair flowing free, and he wished that he could be enough for her. He kept himself warm at night remembering the nights when her hair had brought them both to the highest heights.
He required his lovers to keep their hair short, so as not to compete with the memory of Sisi’s hair.
And even in death, his love for her and for her hair persisted. Before she was buried, he caused a lock of her hair to be cut and preserved in a locket, which he carried with him ever after. He smiled through his pain as he saw the threads of silver among the chestnut and remembered how she’d told him that she would never allow her hair to silver, that she would always remain young and beautiful for him.
Even tho’ she was not able, at the end, to keep that promise, still, her hair could and did. He gently kissed the locket before returning it to its place among his clothes and returning his thoughts to the day and the world around him.
A world without Sisi and her hair, and a world the poorer for it.