“I asked you a question. How do you like it?”
The woman staring back at me in the mirror is a stranger.
A hideous, puffy-eyed, broken down stranger.
But that’s what he wanted—the humiliation was the point.
My beautiful hair has gone from almost waist-length, silky and golden to an uneven, chopped-up mess that’s both as short as my ear and as long as my chin. I rub my lips together to stifle another cry, trying to bottle up my true horror.
The scissors are still clenched in the fist at his side. A lingering threat that makes fear clog up my throat.
“I… I like it,” I whisper.
He kisses my wet, tear-stained cheek. “Good. I like it too. Know why?”
I shake my head, so broken down my voice has left me.
“It’s a whore’s haircut. A reminder of your place.”
Lucius hooks a thick arm around my slender waist and holds me against him. The kinda embrace two lovers would share during an affectionate moment. He’s smiling once more as he brushes his lips near my ear.
I feel sick. Crawling inside my skin at him touching me at all let alone intimately.
“Don’t fucking try me, Stef. Don’t ever lie to me again.”
Before I can deny his allegation, he presses the sharp point of the scissors into my stomach. I whimper out of surprise—not because he’s actually pierced skin—but because the warning jab catches me off guard.
“Pray that it’s mine,” he snarls into my ear. “Or I will cut it out of you myself.”
He lets the scissors go and they clang dropping to the floor.
The door slams shut after him and I jump at the loud noise.
I’m on edge and panicked. Dizzy and tearful. Shaky.
Today is the day I decide I need a drink. Or two. Or a lot.
Marsia and Florina scream when they return and find me a mess.
I’m sitting on the floor with the confetti that was onceanima gemella’sletter and the bottle of Prosecco. They take one look at my chopped up hair and stagger to a chair before they pass out.
“What… did… you… do…?” Marsia asks. Her eyes fall on the heap of blonde tresses gathered on the floor.
I shrug and take another swig of the Prosecco. I didn’t bother with a glass.
“You’re getting married in two hours! And you chop your hair off?!” Marsia scrubs her hands over her face as if testing whether she’s awake.
Florina seems less panicked about it. In the coming minutes, I find out why. She helps me to my feet, stealing away the bottle from me, and guides me into the bathroom.
“I can fix it. Even it out,” she says, pulling out some sheers from a drawer. “My mom was a hairdresser and she taught me. I used to cut my little sister’s hair sometimes.”
My throat tight and eyes itchy, I nod. I’m drunk and tired and ready to get today over with.
Lucius won. He always wins.
“He was mad?” Florina asks suddenly. A deep frown crosses her face. “That’s what I was worried about. I tried to hide that letter for a reason, Stef.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s over.”