Vision in Silver Page 10

Meg shook her head.

“Your hair was short when you first arrived at the Courtyard. Not this short, but short, so it must have been trimmed on a regular basis.” Merri Lee continued to study Meg. “But not at a salon?”

“I don’t remember my hair being cut,” Meg said. “But sometimes I had odd dreams of things being done. The Walking Names took each of us to a room for a maintenance sleep. When I’d wake up, nothing seemed different.”

Simon watched the two girls and shifted his weight. Merri Lee looked like she wanted to bite someone, so he wasn’t sure if he needed to leap forward to protect Meg or leap away to protect himself.

“Did you watch the stylist cut your hair this time?”

“No. I could feel her using the comb and scissors, but I couldn’t see her.”

“Ah.” Merri Lee nodded. “The stylist had the chair turned away so that when she was done she could spin the chair to face the mirror and surprise you with the new you?”

Meg nodded. “I think she knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t stay, couldn’t talk. . . . It wasn’t me anymore.”

Merri Lee sighed. “When I was eleven, my mother decided she didn’t like my long hair and took me to her stylist to get it cut. I loved having long hair, and I didn’t want my hair cut, but I wasn’t given a choice. They had already decided between them that it was going to be short because that’s what my mother wanted. So the stylist kept the chair turned away from the mirror while she cut my hair. Then she spun the chair around and told me it was such a cute haircut, and my mother smiled. . . .” She paused, then shook her head. “The point is, I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. I saw a stranger and felt . . . disconnected.”

“Yes,” Meg whispered.

Simon stared at them. “Yes? Yes? You look the same, you smell the same. How can you not know you’re you? Meg, you turned your hair orange and you didn’t get upset. Not like this!” He growled as a thought occurred to him. “Did you get upset like this but kept it hidden from us?”

When she hesitated, his growl deepened. He couldn’t have her staggering around and around like a brain-damaged bison. Not now. Not ever. Not his friend.

“You.” He pointed at Merri Lee. “Starting today, you’re working two hours less at the bookstore and coffee shop.”

Merri Lee paled. “But I need those hours.”

“That’s not fair,” Meg said, making an effort to stand on her own instead of leaning on the table. “Just because you don’t like what she said—”

“I didn’t say she’ll be working less hours,” Simon snapped. “But she’ll be working here with you because you two are going to figure out exactly why this happened, exactly why Meg panicked, and what to do so it doesn’t happen again.”

“Simon, I’ll be fine,” Meg began.

“This isn’t just about you,” he said. “The girls we brought back from the compound are breaking down like you did just now, only it’s happening to one or more of them every day. The Intuits don’t know how to help them. The humans who know the most about blood prophets aren’t going to help us give their property a way to live outside the safe cages. You know they won’t. Jean called you the Pathfinder, the Trailblazer.”

Merri Lee jolted. “What did you say?”

Simon eyed her. “Pathfinder. Trailblazer.”

Merri Lee swallowed hard and looked at Meg. “Those were two of the things you said during the prophecy. Path and compass. Trail and fire. Those were things the terra indigene were supposed to watch for.”

“You two are going to figure out what the cassandra sangue need—and what humans and Others need to do to help them stay alive,” Simon said.

“What do you expect us to do?” Meg shouted. “Write The Dimwit’s Guide to Blood Prophets?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I want you to do.” Looking at their stunned expressions, he wondered if he’d been a little too honest. “Figure it out and write it up so we can pass on the information to everyone who is trying to help these girls.”

“I’m not a writer,” Merri Lee protested. “I can make notes, sure, but I can’t write up something like that!”

“Ruthie will help you write it.” There. Problem solved. Ruthie was a teacher. She wrote sentences all the time.

“Have . . . have you talked to Vlad?” Merri Lee asked. “Has he told you about this morning’s prophecy?”

“Not yet.” He looked at the girls and softened his voice. “Figure this out, Meg. Jean said you’re the one who can do it.”

Simon walked out of the office, closed the back door, and stopped. Just stopped. He couldn’t call the other Wolves in the Courtyard to help him drive away this danger to his friend. This danger lived inside her, was part of her—like the blood swimming with visions and prophecies, like her fragile skin.

How was he supposed to protect Meg from Meg?

Tess stepped out of the back door of A Little Bite. It would have been easier for her to use the inside doorway between the two stores to reach the upstairs meeting room, so she must have come outside to check on him.

<You going to the meeting?> she asked, pointing to HGR’s second floor.

<Yes.> He crossed the paved area behind the buildings, and they went up to the meeting together.

He didn’t regret staying in the Courtyard in order to stay with Meg, but right now he wished he could shed all the human problems along with the human skin.

*   *   *

Meg and Merri Lee stared at each other.

“Before we deal with the other stuff . . .” Merri Lee waved a hand to indicate Meg’s hair. “Why so short?”

“I got tired of the way deliverymen looked at my hair. I got tired of the way the Others looked at my hair. It wasn’t supposed to be orange!” Meg huffed. “I went to the haircutters in the Market Square. I hadn’t met the Crow who was working there. She said she could cut my hair to remove the orange part. But I thought there would be more left!”

Merri touched her dark, layered hair. “It took me years to find a stylist that I trust, so I never went to the salon in the Market Square. But I think the two women who worked there part-time were being paid to teach some of the Others to cut hair as well as provide haircuts. I wonder if the Crow had been learning to cut hair before the women quit, or if she simply volunteered to provide the service and doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

Prev Next