I wrinkled my nose as Manara took another strand of my hair, sighing.
“Obvi. I’m starting from scratch here.”
I settled uncomfortably into my chair, trying to hide my queasiness.
“When will it be over?”
“Commander, we’re just getting started.”
I tapped my fingers on the armrests impatiently, trying to ignore the smell of chemicals surrounding me.
That, right there, was hell. Actual hell.
LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE. ONCE IT’S OVER, IT’LL BE A LOT WORSE.
“Shut up, Bob.” I muttered, “I’m scared enough.”
“You should be.” Manara commented, “I don’t know who recommended pink and purple. You would look hot in red.”
I turned, almost surprised at the near-compliment, but she turned my head back with a hand.
“I mean, somewhat less horrifying then what you have now.” She added, “If you straightened out the curls.”
I rolled my eyes, resisting the urge to bolt out of the chair.
“Hey, Manara…” I started, “I…I know we haven’t talked for a while.”
“Yeah. No duh.”
“And…no hard feelings. About the castle.”
She stopped tugging at my hair for a second.
She hugged me from behind the chair, laughing as I let out a sound of annoyance.
“Okay, Z,” She started, returning to her task, “I was wondering, and I didn’t know whether I should ask you this or not since things were kinda awkward…”
“Yeah?” I asked, almost anxious.
“Do you know if Purgatory has any good malls? I mean, they all seem to be wearing grey all the time, so I guess they haven’t found out it’s out of season, but at the same time I could really go for a nice grey cocktail dress and blahblahblahhhhhhhh…”
I felt myself tuning out and, leaning my head back, nodded every few minutes.
“Yep. Yeah. Totally.” I affirmed, yawning.
Well, on the bright side, I was going to get a great nap out of it.
“It’s not that bad…” Manara offered, chewing her gum half-heartedly.
I looked in the mirror again, as if trying to confirm the horrors I’d seen.
“Not that bad?” I almost shrieked, “It…it’s purple! And…pink!”
“Hey, I did the best I could with what I got.” Manara shrugged, “And with that combat suit…nobody’s looking at your hair anyways.”
I gaped at her, not sure whether to be more horrified by what I saw or by what I heard.
“You know how it is.” She shrugged, “You’re the only female remotely near the front lines.”
I pulled a face.
“What? What about you?”
She smiled sadly.
“Not all of us are High Commander. I’m in the auxiliary forces.”
“So…you haven’t even fought yet?” I asked incredulously, hair momentarily forgotten.
“I’m usually on mercy duty.” She shrugged, “I have a small squadron of women under my command, who don’t see much more of the field than I do.”
I shook my head, stunned.
“I’ll have a word with Lucifer. This is ridiculous.”
“It’s not that bad.” Manara offered, “It’s…safe.”
“What’s safe isn’t always what’s good.” I sighed, “You’re just as capable as any male soldier, if not more, and you deserve a chance to prove it.”
She looked surprised for a moment, and then pleased.
“The King chose you well.”
“Maybe.” I shrugged, “But…at this point even my place on the front lines is in jeopardy.”
I turned back to the mirror, running a hand through my dark purple hair, grimacing as the pink streaks caught the light.
"I don't know," Manara chuckled, "He might be more accommodating than you expect."