“So she responded. So what?” Marco snorted. “So, who is she?” He leaned over my shoulder, peering intensely at the screen of my carrier.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I taunted, dancing away from my brother’s reach. Quickly I brought up her answer. Kira Pray.
That was Kira Pray? Holy crap!
“Jacque, who is she?” Marco snatched the carrier from my hands, his eyes quickly scanning the eight simple letters. He gasped, the carrier falling from his hands and smashing on the floor. “She’s…” Marco’s eyes snapped into focus. “This needs to stop. No more mooning over that girl-”
“Kira,” I interrupted.
“Yes, Kira. That’s the whole reason you have to stop, don’t you see!” Marco exclaimed. “Jacque, you will get arrested if you entertain this thought of a romance between her and you… Now that you know her name, they will see it when they scan your mind next month! They will see it, and we will be punished! She is a traitor! Her mother committed treason-”
“Her mother tried to save her kids from living in a huge junkyard!” I argued instantly, my hackles rising. “She tried to save her kids and they murdered her for it in front of her dying husband!”
“Everyone must pay their dues to society,” Marco growled. “Herself included! She tied to get away from that!”
“What she tried to ‘get away from’ was a life of squalor and misery! Don’t you see? We have to help her!”
“Don’t. Jacque, you aren’t thinking! You’re letting your hormones control your thoughts! I will not let you throw away your life for this treasonous girl!”
“What’re you saying!”
“If I ever see you watching her out the window again, I will have us relocated. If you ever say her name, I will send you off to the Social Instructions boarding school.”
“You wouldn’t. Mother would never forgive you.”
“Well mother isn’t here, now is she?” Marco snarled. “You’re seventeen, Jacque! You’re confused! I’m not going to let you ruin your life for this… I will not let you live to regret this terrible thing. You shall go no where near her!”
I could see them yelling from where I worked by the fence. The guy who always stood by the window was angry. He kept gesturing towards me through the window. The person with him- his brother?- was scared. They were both yelling a lot. I could hear the low buzzing of their sound from here. Maybe telling him my name wasn’t a good idea.
I sighed downheartedly and straightened up, bracing my aching back with my dirty hands. They’d been arguing for nearly an hour. The older one was winning. I wish the younger one would win. For a split second I allowed myself to think back to the fairy tales of childhood, like Cinderella. Her prince saved her from living in squalor as a servant in her own house. How amazing that would be, if my Prince Charming would come along and sweep me off my feet and carry me away from here, but that won’t happen. Marriages are all arranged at birth, and if the man I was due to marry still had wanted me, we would have been married early, when my father died. I was thirteen then, but marrying very young and bearing children very young… It would have been preferable to living like this. I think.
Everyday I wake up in my hut, the my rats nest of hair with a strip of cloth, strap on my boots, gulp down a stale crust of bread, if I have it, and head off to the fence to work. When I finish working my twelve hour shift, I go home and drink down some water- the only thing I’m provided with by the society- and go to bed. I think that if I could choose any one object to have with me here, I’d probably choose a brush. My hair was my pride and joy. Now it all needs to be cut off. It itches with lice and smells of decay. If my Prince Charming did come along, he wouldn’t be able to recognize me as his princess anyways. Not with how I look now.
“I just don’t understand it.” I sighed, rolling onto my back. I was talking to my friend, Ace, over my holo. “I’ve never seen him this upset… Not even when mom died.”
“Dude.” Ace laughed, “He’s just worried about you! He thinks your gonna run away with that chick you’re obsessed with and lose all your prestige and wealth. He’s scared you’re going to ruin your life for that messy chick.” Ace hesitated. “You’re not gonna go over there, are you?”
“No… But do you know anyone who can?” I was really hopeful. I wanted to get a message to her, but I was currently trapped in my house. Marco had locked it so only his DNA would open the scan lock on the front door.
“I might…” Ace smiled suggestively. “But their service comes with a price.”
“Of course! Don’t worry about the cost, I have lots of money.” I waved away the concern like a feather floating through the air- fluff, unimportant, not a big deal.
“See, that’s the thing…” Ace winced. “They don’t charge money…”
“What do they charge?” I demanded, sitting up, suddenly worried.
“Generally they charge a free nights stay in your home as an honored guest and…” Ace hesitated.
“What?” I demanded. “Ace tell me!”
“It’s weird, but, uh… They also require that you shave your head and give them your hair.”
“Uh!” I squawked in alarm and displeasure, running my hand through my thick black hair. I took more pride in that than Anyang. It was my one beauty, as far as I was concerned. It was perfect, with thin streaks of blonde spread throughout the bulk of it, and it reached my shoulders, almost. My little sister, Penny, had always loved braiding it.
“Dude, it’s the only way. So if you really want this, you have to do it.”
Slowly, I let out a deep breath, roughing up my hair. “I’ll do it. Contact them for me.”
“Will do.” Ace winked and turned out his holo. I collapsed back on the bed, holding my pillow to my chest. Tomorrow, I would lost my beautiful hair. But tonight, I would sleep like a king.