Sophia was on top of me, her weight and leverage pinning me down on the bathroom floor.
"Do you have it?"
Out of the corner of my eye I can see Madison, ever the helper, pulling something out of her backpack and passing it over to Emma; she turns it over in her hands, flicks a switch and there's the rattling buzz of one of those barbershop hair trimmers and her eyes meet mine and she smiles as I start to struggle against Sophia's hold.
"Hold still, Taylor, unless you want to look like a spaz."
Bubbly laughter, ringing off the stalls. "Maybe she does ohmygod-"
Emma kneels down next to me, her fingertips brushing my cheek in a soft caress before she mashes her palm against my face, grinding me down into the tiles that reek of disinfectant and mildew and a hint of stale shit as I squeeze my eyes shut-
-and then I can feel it stutter on my skin, chewing at my hair, the crappy motor starting to slow and stall out as it runs into something more than beard stubble-
-and then Sophia's pulling her weight off me with an annoyed grunt, leaving me there on the cold, tacky floor.
"...slipped. You done?"
"Yeah, for now."
Feet. I'm staring at their feet, Emma's feet as she stands over me.
"You don't want to do the whole thing?"
"Nah. She'd look like she had cancer, and that might get someone feeling sorry for her."
My- my head-
It feels wrong. It feels cold and raw and one of my hands comes up to touch and someone plucks at my wrist as I feel stubble and hairtuft and almost-bare skin.
"No, sweetie, you can't cover up. Madison's not done taking pictures."
"Nah, it's cool. She can't hide it all anyways."
The camera flashes red through my eyelids.
"Such a cutie." Emma's voice is syrupy. "I'll be sure to leave some photos for your mom."
I don't- I can't say anything, frozen up half-curled on the floor, eyes closed, hand pressed down over pinprickle-tufted hair like I'm putting pressure on a wound.
They were finally gone.
They were gone and I was staring at myself in one of the scratched bathroom mirrors and all I could hear inside my head was the sound of myself screaming I can't, I can't, over and over.
Emma had blazed a swath from the top of my head down to behind my left ear, the curve of shadowed skin still shockingly pale against the fall of my dark hair.
There's no way I can hide this. I try anyways, combing at my hair with my fingers, trying to part my hair a little more on the right so I can cover-
It doesn't work; my hands are shaking and tears are stinging my eyes and the hair wants to fall in the way it usually does and Emma blazed a fucking highway across my scalp it's so wide I can't hide this I can't fuck-
And then the hurt is gone. My eyes are clear and the tension is gone from my chest like a watch that's unwound itself in one smooth burst.
I'm not in my body, but behind it; I'm standing there in the bathroom, staring at my back as I cry in front of the mirror.
Without thinking, I reach out to touch my shoulder with an arm I don't remember, my hand and sleeve and the charm bracelet on my wrist strangely familiar as my fingers make contact-
I see her eyes in the mirror, hollow and red behind her tear-spattered glasses as she sees me and recoils faster than I can react, flinching away from my touch and backing away from me, and when she does-
I can see myself in the mirror, and for a moment, I can't breathe again.
Because I'm Emma Barnes, down to the clothes on her back and the hair on her head and the look in her eye, sad and sympathetic and more honest than I've seen her since starting at Winslow.
And that's when the bathroom door opens.