Kara hates the smell of burn wards, the stench of antiseptic and artificial mint. The smell of burned flesh is more familiar and she wishes they’d stop trying to cover it up.
This time Greer has the decency to not show up, not to flaunt her failure. She expects him to, but he never comes. She’s outlived her usefulness. Again. But this time she has a name. It’s burned into her mind now.
She lays still and waits as the doctors stitch together the skin on her face and pull out the shredded remains of the CDs that had been in the glovebox from her chest. She waits as they wrap her arms with gauze and prod the marble sized chunks missing from her inner thighs where the half full water bottle exploded against her legs. She waits until they leave for the night on a Friday and turn the lights off, joking about a football game. And she sits up.
It hurts, almost as much as Mark smiling in the rearview mirror, and it takes her until the night guard gets up all four flights of stairs before she makes it the four steps to the door. But she’s still fast enough to kill him in under four seconds.
She passes a mirror on her way out, wearing the guard’s clothes even though they’re a loose fit. She looks different. Raw, pink, and like a new woman; a woman burned.
She gives herself three days to heal. If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for her, and she spends hours on end soaking in a cold bath and studying herself in the mirror.
The rivers of water that spill off her skin mimic the curves of scars that run up her jawline and through her hair. It’s cut short now, singed off in places, shaved off in the still-swollen patches that are filled with careful stitches.
She doesn’t recognise herself anymore. But it doesn’t matter because she has a name, and when she stands up from the tub and lets the water run down her legs onto the floor, she walks naked to the computer and types “Harold Finch” one key at a time.
She gets looks now. People double take on the street, check to make sure she’s exactly as damaged as they thought. She’s ugly, scarred and with skin that’s still peeling off, tight and shiny underneath. She could wear makeup to cover the difference in skin tones, put on a scarf to hide the exposed black stitches across her scalp. Kara likes the stares from strangers, though. She used to get them because she was beautiful; she prefers being something people are afraid of.
“Coffee. Black,” she says to the woman behind the counter. The woman doesn’t make eye contact.
“Make it two,” a light voice behind her says. “And mine with cream.”
The woman looks like Kara used to: wavy dark hair, clear brown eyes, smooth skin. She smiles. “I hear you’re looking for someone,” she says as she pays for their coffees, and she stares straight into Kara’s ugly face. “I can find him, but I need help from someone with your... skill sets.”
She can kill this woman in eight ways without getting creative. But she doesn’t smash the napkin dispenser into her skull.
“Maybe I just want a coffee,” Kara says. The coffee sloshes out of the paper cup when she brings it to her mouth, and it scalds her hand, but it's just one more burn.
“Who says you can’t have both?” The woman winks. “You can call me Root.”