Pink Water and Braids
I was lucky I didn’t drain the water from my previous bath. It made it easier to step into and wash the blood off my hands and legs when it dripped from Comfrey’s chest wound. Even with the cold water I still bathed as I usually would. The sound of Howl’s nail on the floor brought me out of the daze of the blood mixing with the water.
“Sorry, I know you hated him for a while now like me but he was a good kid before all that happened. Now, he’s just another beast that’s been recruited for their side. What are we going to do, Howl?” I asked her as she laid her nose on the edge of the tub.
“You speak to her as if she will answer you back.” A voice made me look over at the bathroom door entrance. I was no stranger to being naked in front of other people and Cherry was no exception. “She does talk back to me, in her own way.” I looked at the sky blue eyes of my best friend who hadn’t moved from her leering spot on the tub. I washed a few more streaks of blood off my arms before asking Cherry the important questions.
“Did he make it all the way down?” I asked and when she kneeled by the tub I knew it was time for her to take pity on me.
“He’s in the clean room away from sector three as promised. Are you going to tell me what happened?” She asked as her legs moved her to kneel behind me while I was still in the tub. She lifted herself up to grab my hair from the inside of the tub. While the ends were wet she still draped it over the edge while she hummed along to an old song.
“As long as sector three stays safe and away from people who don’t need to know about it, I’m fine. Are you really going to sing and braid my hair again?” I asked as I felt her gently tug on the strands of my hair. “You know it’s traditional, you haven’t forgotten your culture, have you?” She asked, almost condescendingly, I knew my former family’s culture but it really wasn’t mine to call anymore. It’s been so long since the traditions were even thought of that it didn’t cross my mind very often.
“It’s not like you remember everything, just the braiding part and you don’t even know the reason they did it.” I pushed back at her with a bit more anger than I should have. “I don’t need to know all the details as long as a little bit lives on then it’s fine.” She countered and began singing the song she was humming before as she crossed my hair into the thick braid she was used to doing.
Sometimes she was so polite and passive that it made me even more frustrated but she’s the closest person I can call a friend around here.
“You’re still keeping track of them, aren’t you.” She rhetorically asked me and when I looked down at my ankles I couldn’t hide the obvious answer. “It’s the only way I can permanently keep track of how many I kill. It’s not like I’m a danger to myself or anyone else around me for doing it.” I tried to protect myself from her accusatory tone.
“It’s not good for you, I know you can cover them up with your pants but they’re still there. Those tiny little nicks in your skin that scar over quickly after making them. It’s not very pretty.” And there was the main reason she didn’t like them. They weren’t feminine enough for her. There was nothing wrong with being feminine or anything I just didn’t live by that type of life but when someone wanted to push me into something I didn’t like or guilt me for something I wasn’t, then I had a problem.
“Cherry, I love you and everything but don’t say anything about the scars anymore.” My voice dropped and I felt the slack in her hands suddenly but they tightened again and finished off the braid.
“Thanks for the braid, even though I sort of made fun of you for it. It will keep it out of my face until I can cut it.” I nodded my head when I watched her come around the tub and put down a few hair ties for me to use later.
“It’s not bad to have traditions, you know. It’s what been keeping us alive.” She always sounded so sure of herself. The only time I felt like that was when I had my dagger inside of someone’s heart watching the life drain from their eyes. When it came to tradition or stuff back here? I wasn’t always as sure of myself.
I know I’ve said I was basically the leader around here but that mostly pertains to the fighting and defense of our community. When it came to decisions that dealt with more emotion then I leaned on people like Cherry or Jillian. They had their emotions intact enough to make a sound decision that wouldn’t hurt other people like mine usually would.
“Here I thought I’ve been keeping us alive all these years. That and the people I’ve trained.” I butted back and watched the pink water stain some of the skin on my leg since I haven’t moved it in a while.
“You may think that fighting and war is the answer to ending Ba’al’s reign but have you even tried looking at it from another point of view?” She stood at the door and tried to challenge everything I knew and used to get this far. I’ve helped build an impenetrable dome and sustained the life inside of it. All of that was with the knowledge that killing was the best answer to getting up to the top and killing Ba’al with my bare hands.
“It’s been working so far and if you think they’ll ever see us in a new way or new light and stop stealing or turning our people then you’re wrong. They’re just as bloodthirsty as I am.” I pulled my legs up out of the water and set my feet on the edge of the tub so I could clean the blood off of them completely. Seeing the scars as tick marks going up the tanned flesh I could see the pain behind each of them. But that wasn’t the point of keeping track. I needed to add thirteen more marks before I go see Jillian.
“I’ll leave you now but I hope you think over what I’ve said.” Cherry’s last words before she left my bathroom. Howl was still sitting by the edge of the tub not saying a damn thing.
“I guess you’re all for the killing, huh?” I asked her while brushing my hand over the top of her head letting little water droplets land on the dark grey of her wild mane.
I can still remember the day I got Howl, the day I knew we would be best friends forever.
I couldn’t have been over the age of six, my mother and I were about to move to the last community house we lived in together but we stopped at my grandmother’s house first.
She was a bit of a hermit and continuously said she could take care of herself. She stayed in a cabin alone that wasn’t on any maps. She protected herself with a silver fence which eventually became pieces of the dome we have now. My mother didn’t talk about her much but the day we visited was the last time I saw her.
That day I opened her front door and saw a small puppy sitting by my grandmother’s feet. She had soft white hair and a big light grey line down her back. She had the biggest eyes I had ever seen and they were filled with a sky blue that still mesmerized me to this day. My grandmother introduced us and said she would be my companion for life. I named her that day when we were playing and she howled when she found me under a bush.
We would run while the wind ripped through my red cloak I had been given by my grandmother on my very first visit. She was always the one that told me I would bring down the destroyer and I’ve taken those words to heart even after she died a few years after that. She wasn’t killed, like my parents, her heart gave out while she was sleeping. The most peaceful way to go, in my opinion.
Seeing Howl sitting by the tub with the light grey color stretched across her fur turning darker as it centered on her back, her belly still showed the fluffy white fur from when she was a pup even though it’s been over twenty years since we’ve become a team. Reaching for the dagger next to me in the tub I began to make the next thirteen marks climbing up my thighs. I would keep count until my entire body was covered. If that’s what it takes to destroy all of them.