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Reiko had pretty hair. That's what a lot of people said. It was long, black, straight, and simple. She often held it up in a ponytail, or tied it off in a bun, because it was so long and such a pain to deal with. But everyone thought it was pretty. Which meant she was pretty. And she was a girl, so she had to be pretty.

But staring at herself in the mirror, completely nude, with a fresh scare on her upper thigh taunting her, teasing her, her face patched up with bruises and scratches, and her heart sunken to her feet with the realization of her never being able to run slapping her in the face. All because of him. Her life hit the shitter all because of that mocking, dick nosed asshole.

Being a girl on the track team was, unfortunately, hard for Reiko. As she was the ONLY girl on the track team. A team led by a man. Before, their first track teacher was a genuinely kind man. One that nurtured each member into being better then they were at the start. He taught them well, and kept them close like a little running family. Reiko loved it back then. Even if the other track members were...blunt with their disrespect for a woman being on the team and being able to run so well with them.

...and then Kamoshida showed up, and it all got so, so terrible.

Kamoshida reinforced the idea that Reiko, being the only girl on the team, was holding them back. That their failures were her fault. That she was to blame for all their abuse because she didn't pass her time, or didn't go fast enough, or didn't work hard enough. Eventually, the conversation sparked. Reiko doesn't remember how it started. All she remembers is that Kamoshida talked about her "bitch of a mother" and her "shithole of a dad" and how she'll "either turn out a coward like her mom or a beater like her dad".

Well, maybe she proved him right. Because punching him so hard she heard and felt his nose snap and blood gush down from his nostrils to his upper lip, dribbling down his chin and splattering across the polished gym floor didn't exactly disprove his theory about her becoming "like her dad". But his reaction to her attack, along with her shouts of demanding he "cut the bullshit, old man!", was what sealed her fate.

He grabbed her hair. He shoved her to the ground. He had the others pin her down. She was so scared. He grabbed the metal bat used for baseball and held it so tight his knuckles turned white. Her father gripped the wine bottle tight and glared down at her. Called her a stupid whore. Told her she should've stayed in line like the rest of 'em.

Reiko's screams echoed through the gym, but her sobs of pain and fear and anger and sadness were quiet as a mouse as she covered her face with her arms and wept.

Now here she was. Out of the hospital, with chronic pain in her leg, and the knowledge of never being able to run, to be free, the knowledge of constantly being chained down now following her through her entire life. She couldn't run from it, after all.

Pretty. Her hair was pretty. Everyone said it was pretty. Her mom said it was pretty, that she was a pretty young woman. Her teachers complimented her on it. Students were jealous of it. Kamoshida gripped it tight with his sausage fingers and it caused her to fall. Her dad grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into the closet, locking her inside and leaving her there so long she thought she'd be lost forever. (she sleeps with a nightlight now, because of him.)

Pretty. Reiko Sakamoto was pretty. Reiko Sakamoto was a pretty young lady. Reiko Sakamoto was a crude bitch. Reiko Sakamoto should've stayed in line like the rest of 'em and maybe she would've gotten off with just a few touches.

Reiko Sakamoto shouldn't have defied Kamoshida's ruling and gone along with his touches and attempted kisses and desperate attempts to get alone with her, according to them.

Teeth ground together, battered face scrunched up in disgust, her stomach twists as she feels like she'll be sick. Instead, she stands from the stool she sat in to rest her leg and grabs the pair of scissors she used to cut up a cooling patch to stick to her bruised cheek, balled up her hair, and began to hack away with no remorse.

Snip, snip, snip, gone went her hair. In small sections. In clumps. In huge piles. She didn't care. She tied the last section into a ponytail, the one she wore when she ran, and angrily snipped and snipped and hacked and tugged and pulled and cried and sobbed and finally let the huge hunk of hair hit the ground without a care in the world. She would never run again, so why keep the ponytail? Why keep the one defining feature she had when she ran? When she was free?

She was a caged animal now. And caged animals do as they please. Which is what she'd do. She doesn't remember why she bought the hair bleach under the sink of her bathroom, probably lack of impulse control, but she doesn't care. She follows the instructions on the box, mixes everything up, and begins to lather her short, choppy, messy, bad black hair. Because black was like Kamoshida. Black was the hair color she inherited from her father.

She took great pride in watching the black fade away into bleach blonde. By the time her forty minutes of waiting were up, Reiko ran a shower, dragged her stool from in front of the mirror into the bath (she couldn't stand in the shower easily anymore. not with how her leg shook. not with the possibility of slipping and cracking her skull open on the faucet. though...she's not so sure if that'd be a bad outcome, anymore.), and sad herself down as she cranked the heat as high as she could handle and sat, letting the bleach and shampoo and sins wash away down the drain.

Tears mix so easily into water, she didn't even notice herself cry until she heard herself sob.

She's not sure how long she was in the shower for. All she knows is that her mom knocked on the door and told her she'd start making dinner soon, which meant it was time to get out of the shower. Cranking off the hot water, Reiko snagged a fluffy white towel and began to run it across her body. Oh, her back felt sensitive and hot. She might have to just lay with some ice for a bit. Either way, she finally finished with her hair, letting it poof out like some kind of explosion, and caught a look at herself in the mirror.

...she wasn't pretty anymore. Her hair was choppy and uneven and messy and it was blonde, it was a bad dye job because some parts were more yellow while others more blonde. Her face was messed up with a large bruise near her left eye and a cut near her right, along with one right across her nose. (thanks a lot, Kamoshida. asshole...) Her eyes were slightly bloodshot from her many, many tears, and she...didn't feel pretty. She felt...okay. For once since she woke up in the hospital, since she joined track, since she turned five and her fathers attention turned from her mother to herself, she just...felt okay.

She couldn't help but smile. A real one. A real, wide, toothy smile that made her oh so happy to see.

Reiko doesn't have pretty hair. She doesn't have long black hair she could pull into a ponytail to run anymore. No. Reiko has ugly hair. Reiko has ugly, bleach blonde, uneven, choppy boy hair.

Reiko had pretty hair, and she was sad.

Now, she has ugly hair...and that makes her very happy.