Onus Angelorum

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Saturday morning, I slept in past nine wanting to be rested and fresh looking for the long day ahead. I managed to get in an hour at the gym. The endorphins from exercise cleared my head and calmed my mind. Plus, the water pressure at the gym is much better than in my apartment.

I left the building happy and clean with wet hair and an empty stomach. The air outside felt fresh and new. The strange situations from the week felt obsolete in the Saturday sunshine.

Henry sent a text. “guy who cut’s my hair is at my place. There is time to style yours if you like.

“Sure thing, be there soon,” I replied.

Henry’s hair guy, Roy, was a real character. An older flamboyant man with pure silver hair and a thin mustache to match. He talked about his husband and how their new litter of four terrier puppies kept them up at night.

It was a simple, happy-sounding life that made him glow with peace and kindness. Roy looked over my dress and shoes. He loved the brown rabbit stole and made me promise to wear it all night.

I sat in a kitchen chair and let him work his magic on my recently lackluster hair. A quick trim of my ragged ends and several hot appliances later, my hair was shellacked into place.

“What a gorgeous pheasant plume clip. We must use it,” Roy insisted. “Plus, a few of the brown crystal picks, they match your fur. Beautiful, just beautiful.” Roy took several photos of his work. He seemed quite pleased with the final results.

“He never gets this excited when he cuts my hair,” Henry whined. We all laughed. Roy packed up his tools while describing his dog’s quirky habits and his upcoming vacation plans and headed for the door without a pause in his story.

I grabbed several twenty-dollar bills from my wallet and followed after him. “Roy, how much do I owe you?”

“Nothing, nothing. It’s all taken care of, Sweetness. Have a wonderful time tonight, enjoy the city.” Roy’s phone rang. He answered cheerfully and waived as he all but skipped toward his car.

“What the hell just happened?” I plopped down on a chair and felt my head buzz.

“Roy happened. Let’s get a drink and sit in the calming silence. Your brain will go back to normal—I swear.”

“Thank you for picking up the tab. I brought cash with me to pay him.”

“Not necessary. Roy comes over every two weeks. I can shave pretty well on my own, but he cleans up the sides and trims my hair, so I don’t look like a derelict.”

“Derelict? Ha. You would be the cleanest, whitest derelict I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“Wait, I’m white?” Henry asked, grabbing the tabletop dramatically.

“What? Oh my God, Henry. Don’t you know what you look like?” Stunned, I could barely get the words out at any volume.

“Nah, just fucken with you,” Henry snickered. I could tell at least one of the bruises on his sides was bothering him.

“You are such a shit!”

“Me a shit? Yeah, I guess so. What you think because I’m blind, I can’t be an ass?”

“Obviously not.” I took a long gulp of soda and felt the cold liquid run into my empty stomach.

“Seriously though, I haven’t seen my own face in fifteen years. I’ve forgotten what I look like.” Henry seemed to squirm like he was letting go of a deep dark secret. I could barely keep from laughing.

“Well, let’s see now. You’re taller than me by several inches. Good posture and wide shoulders. Thick chest and nicely toned arms.” I ran my hands over his shoulders and felt him inhale. “Your hair is brown at the roots and gets lighter brownish-red at the ends, sun-bleached.” I ran my fingers through his thick hair. He closed his eyes and turned his face toward mine. “Your eye color is very similar to mine but more hazel gray than hazel brown. If you grew a beard, it would be light, maybe reddish-brown like your nicely trimmed eyebrows.”

“My father grew a thick, red beard when I was younger. Makes sense,” he pondered. “Wait, I always keep my eyes covered. Shit, I hope I didn’t freak you out.” Henry walked toward the couch and leaned against it with his face pointed at the floor.

“No, you didn’t.” I put my hand on his shoulders. “Your eyes are quite striking. I don’t know jack-shit about blindness, but your eyes don’t look like there’s anything wrong with them. You’re a good-looking guy Henry.” I ran my fingers across his forehead, smoothing his hair back in place. “There is nothing wrong with how you look,” I whispered my admission, hoping he would realize I found him attractive.

“Hm, well, I’m happy you think so,” Henry smiled and looked up. I imagined he thought he was looking in my direction, but he wasn’t. My eyes begin to tear. I moved to where he expected me to be standing. “The micro responses you trigger from people when you walk in a room are because you’re uncommonly beautiful, Alerie.”

“Circus freak,” I replied quickly.

“Some freak you turned out to be. The gayest man I’ve ever met in life couldn’t keep from gushing over you and taking selfies.”

“Freak all the same. The pretty girl who thinks she has a brain, a Chem major who can’t pass a math class, the investor’s daughter who didn’t go into finance, the small-town hick who should have stayed home and learned to bake pies. I won’t even go into all the rumors about my family and the compound of secluded farms we own. We all have our handicaps, pretty boy. Mine just can’t be seen easily.”

“I think you’re brilliant. You can choose whatever life you want. You can buy pies. Nobody can tell you how to live.” Henry held out his hands. I dropped my hands in his. He pulled me to his chest and hugged me tightly. “Thank you for telling me what I look like. Not a normal question to ask somebody.”

“You’re welcome.” I ran my fingers through his soft hair and tried again to place the thick tendrils back where Roy styled them.

“Holy shit, my phone was on silent. What time is it now?” Henry asked.

“We have a little over an hour before we need to leave for the airport.”

“It can be done. Wriggle into that hunter’s wet dream, grab your dead rabbit and let’s get moving.” Henry clapped his hands together and took off down the hallway. I heard the shower running, and about the time my dress and earrings were on, Henry walked down the hall dressed, holding his cufflinks and pocket square.

“Here, let me see if I can get those for you.” I stuffed the pocket square in place before attaching his cufflinks.

“Thanks, we’re doing great on time. The driver just texted me. The car will be here in fifteen minutes.” Henry wore a large gold watch and a money clip in his hand. “I don’t smell any makeup, but I think my nose was chemically burned out by all the hair products Roy used.”

“I’m looking for some good light. It only takes me ten minutes to get whored up, as my mother calls it.”

“Lovely aura to surround yourself with every time you do your makeup.”

“Yeah, she can be a cold-hearted bitch, but my mother means well. I don’t share her enthusiasm for small-town life.” I sat down at the table and unzipped my makeup bag.

“Ahh, yes, I too lack my family’s enthusiasm for stupid shit that doesn’t interest me in the slightest.” Henry sat and adjusted his watch. I could see the stack of bills in his wallet folded uniquely.

“What does interest you?” I carefully wiped my face with a hot washcloth and rubbed in my moisturizer.

“I have no clue. I haven’t found one perfect thing yet. I know people who have. They seem to be laser-focused on everything they do. I don’t have that.”

“Mine was becoming a doctor, but now I don’t know. I think maybe it was too far a reach.” I lined my lips and pressed my lips together to smash my first layer of lipstick.

“Nah, I don’t believe that at all. You can get into the next layer of classes you need to move forward. Unless you found another reason to switch your major?”

Having covered my eyelids with primer and dark green shadow, I colored my lashes and eyebrows. “I don’t want anyone to die on my table or under my care. I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s death. I want to help people, but I don’t want to risk hurting anyone, and there’s no way to possibly do that.” I brushed bronzer over my cheeks and under my jawline. “It’s ridiculous, I know patients die, but it’s too much for me.”

“I get it. What does your family think about your choice to switch majors?”

“My father understands, he supports my side-step, but my mother doesn’t.” I blended my work and made a few touch-ups to my eyeliner. “Hm, well, there we are. Ready to go.”

Henry’s phone buzzed. The driver was almost here. I packed all my stuff back in my bag, washed the makeup off my hands, and pulled my fur around my shoulders.

Standing in the well-lit room, I noticed the only mirror was the one brought along with the dresses. I took a good look making sure my zipper was secured and the dress was hanging correctly.

I didn’t recognize the image looking back at me. She was polished and complete, smiling from ear to ear, standing in a beautiful room with a well-dressed man talking on his phone in the background. She was happy. I wanted to walk into the mirror and take on her beautiful, sparsely decorated life.

The feeling of an old dream pulled at my image in the mirror. Melting my thoughts of reality and filling my mind with soft hazy images of a dance hall and a man in military uniform smiling at me as we ran out to the floor. I touched the cold mirror glass, trying to determine what image was real.

As if to answer my question, I saw Pax. Just in the corner of my vision, his dark stare, emerald green eyes, and the shine of his wet inhuman skin flickered. I twirled my earrings and secured the clips in my hair tightly.

I wasn’t entirely human, and this was a totally human experience I was going to enjoy. Several deep breaths later, Henry was off the phone and ready to go. I shook the ridiculous experience from my mind and followed him out of the house.

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