I couldn't cook. Or stir. Or scrub. So instead I paced, but never further than one or two steps from the door. The only time I stopped was to grip the door frame when Darion's grunts of pain turned to screams.
This one lasted so long I had to bite my fingers to prevent screams of my own from escaping.
"Eve. You need to leave." Micah pressed a hand down on my shoulder.
I shook my head. "Give him something. Please, Micah. Tell them to give him something. I know they got some morphine from the hospital."
"Darion refuses. He knows Gabe needs it more."
I pounded the door frame and inwardly cursed Darion. Why did he think he needed to be a tough rebel like the others? Another scream erupted. Micah reached for my arm. I shook him off. He sighed. His footsteps slapped across the floor, and the couch groaned when he lowered himself onto it.
“You going to tell me about that fight you had with Vega? Able said you really laid into her. And you’re really different than the last time I saw you.”
“Being a rebel isn’t a choice for me, Micah. You know that. I’m here because I can’t be anywhere else.”
He laughed, a short, bitter, barking sound. “You actually want to go back to Isoli, don’t you? And I bet you’re blaming me you can’t.” He laughed again.
“No, I’m not,” I lied.
I turned toward Gloria’s voice. The dim glow of the florescent light behind her made her skin look weird. “Yeah?”
“Time for your haircut.”
“You look pretty much exactly like the wanted posters of you up all over town,” Micah said. “Except dirtier.”
I scowled at him. He laughed good-naturedly.
“Come on, Eve,” Gloria prodded.
I hesitated by the door, waiting for more eruptions of pain from Darion.
“Make her go, Gloria. If you have to carry her out over your shoulder.” Micah took my arm and shoved me toward his comrade.
Gloria wrapped her arm around my shoulder, escorting me out. I saved myself the embarrassment of being carried out and let her lead me.
She took me down the hall to a dingy bathroom. A straight-backed, wooden dining chair sat in the middle, facing the mirrors. “Take a seat,” Gloria instructed.
I obeyed, straining my ears for sounds of Darion’s treatment down the hall. Gloria must’ve known what I was doing. She crossed the room and shut the door. When she returned she took a pair of scissors off a nearby sink and went to work. I cringed at how close the scissors sheared the hair from my head. A long, thick lock dropped to the floor. I closed my eyes, unable to look as little by little my hair disappeared.
Once the bulk of my hair was gone, Gloria’s hands moved quickly over my head. I dared to open my eyes, surprised that the pixie cut didn’t look like someone took a weed-eater to my head.
“How do you know how to cut hair?” I asked.
“How do you know how to cut hair?” I asked.
Gloria flipped her wrist toward me. “Cosmetology. Who woulda thought.” She stepped back, eyeing me with narrowed eyes. “Are you ready for color?”
I leaned back, rubbing my hand along the short hairs above my neck. It felt so foreign not to have hair to braid. “Color? Like make-up?”
Gloria grinned. “Like hair color.”
I nodded. What did it matter? My hair was already gone. So was my life.
Gloria wouldn’t let me look in the mirror until after I changed clothes. The dark jeans and black t-shirt didn’t look particularly “rebel” to me. After I pulled the shirt over my head, I reached around my neck to pull my hair out, still surprised when fingers brushed bare skin.
“Are you done?” Gloria asked impatiently. “Close your eyes before you come out.”
I obeyed, pushing open the cool metal door of the stall and letting Gloria take my hand to lead me.
“Okay,” she said when we reached the middle of the floor. “Open them.”
I stared into the mirror. How did Gloria make such a short, boyish cut look so feminine on me? My face seemed so different without my hair to hide it--thin, but dramatic. My brown eyes glowed against the blonde/golden-brown streaked hair. The girl in the mirror looked like a rebel.
She wasn’t me.
I looked back at Gloria and saw disappointment. She wanted me to like my makeover. “I’m sorry, Gloria,” I whispered. “It looks good. It really does.”
She laid a hand on my arm. “I know this isn’t you, Eve. Believe it or not I liked my life too before I came here. I had some pretty hoity-toity clients.”
“Then why...?” I gripped Gloria’s wrist, waiting for answers; something to help me be the girl Darion and Micah wanted me to be.
Gloria waved her hand. “Some snooty politician’s wife didn’t like the cut I gave her--exactly what she asked for, by the way--and told a Seazan she thought I was a rebel. Didn’t have much choice after getting pegged like that. Especially when one of my better paying clients turned out to actually be one.” She sighed then smiled. “I used to hate all this as much as you. Don’t worry. It’ll pass.” She wrapped her hand around mine and dragged me out of the bathroom. “Let’s go show your boyfriend.”
Gloria laughed. “Right.”
Darion’s voice led us down the hall back to the “waiting room.”
“I’m not wearing a long sleeve shirt in 98 degree weather. I’ll stick out like a sore thumb.”
“And a white bandage won’t?” an unfamiliar female voice argued. “The point is to get you guys through the wall without being recognized. Believe it or not, I’ve done this thing a time or two.”
No one noticed when Gloria and I entered. It immediately made sense why Gloria insisted on the flat-heeled, knee-high, black boots a lot of the rebel girls wore. They were noiseless.
A red-haired girl stood facing Darion, hands on her hips and scowling.
“I’ve got an idea,” Gloria interrupted. She strode across the room to Darion and used her scissors to cut off his sleeve at the elbow. “All better.” She grinned.
Darion shrugged and held out his other arm. I only waited until Gloria was clear with the scissors before rushing to him. He wrapped his good arm around my back, holding me close to him. His lips brushed my now visible hairline above my ears. "I'm fine, Eve. I promise. The bullet passed through cleanly."
I blew out my pent up breath. "Okay."
He wrapped his good hand around my neck, then pulled back, startled. It surprised me he hadn't noticed until now. "Wow! You look...hot, Eve. Absolutely amazing."
Gloria snickered. "Typical guy."
I smiled, feeling self-conscious. "Thanks."
"Sorry to ruin your reunion." Gloria stepped forward and took Darion's arm. "It's your turn in the hot seat. You too, Micah." She turned to my brother. "Neither of you guys are leaving Phoenix without some work."
Micah followed the red head out. Darion hesitated. He leaned over and kissed my forehead. "I'll be back as soon as I can, 'kay?"
I nodded, smiling bravely, trying to match my attitude to my new look. "I know."
Darion grinned. At least I was fooling him so far.
Tanner tapped on the door frame. "Go get yourself something to eat, Eve. Soon as those boys are done we're headed for the Tempe gate. It's time we got out of Phoenix."