Chapter 1: Prying Eyes

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People say blondes have more fun. 

Please. 

I snatch the wig off my head and toss it toward Greg. He catches it like a fly ball, his eyes never leaving my face. Leaning over in the chair, I dig through the pile of wigs he's brought me. 

Brunette? 

Redhead? 

My fingers land on hot pink tresses that fall in long, sexy waves. Bingo, my friend, bingo. I slide the wig over my head, pull the straps until it's snug, and flip my head up like I'm a starlet in a soft-core porn. "Well?" 

Greg claps his hands slowly, as if he's got all the time in the world. Judging by the lines around his eyes, I'm not sure that's true. "Fantastic." 

"I'll take it." My thighs create a sucking sound against the leather chair as I stand. I like the sound, I decide. It makes it seem as if I have a little meat on my bones like a real woman. But a quick glance in the mirror tells me I'm still the shapeless girl I woke up as. 

Greg fidgets as I stare at myself. Finally, in an attempt to make me feel better, he says, "Looks like you've put on some weight." 

I smile at the lie and click toward the checkout counter in my super-duper high heels, the ones that make me look a hand taller than the five feet I stand. The second I think about my height, I hear Dizzy's taunting in my head: five feet, my ass

"I am five feet," I grumble. 

"What?" the counter girl asks. 

I look up at her. She must be Greg's new girl. 

"Nothing," I answer. "How much?" 

She clicks a few buttons on the register with shiny purple nails. I'm pleased that she chose a fun shade instead of the typical pink or red or—dare I speak it—a French manicure. 

"Twenty-one dollars and forty-four cents," she announces. I glance at Greg, who's busy replacing the wigs onto creepy mannequin heads. I clear my throat. When he doesn't hear me,or pretends not to hear me, I decide to pay the full amount. He usually hooks me up with a discount, which he should, considering I'm here every week. I dig into my pocket for the cash, knowing Dizzy would give me hell for paying at all. 

When I glance up at the cashier, she's looking at the underside of my left forearm, at the crisscrossed scars that nestle there. I instinctually pull it against my side. The girl straightens, realizing I've caught her staring. I think we'redone with this awkward moment, but the girl isn't going to let this slide. 

"What happened to your arm?" she whispers, as if that helps. 

I shake my head, hoping that'll deter her from asking anything else. No such luck. 

"It looks like you got in an accident or something." 

I meet her eyes, my blood boiling, wanting so badly to shut her up. Instead, I slap the money on the counter and grab my pink wig. The bell chimes as I push open the glass door. "I'll be by next week."

On the streets of Detroit, the heat comes in waves. The pink faux hair dampens from my sweaty palm, and I silently curse the sun. It's so hot in the dead of summer that people are practically immobile. They sit on chairs outside their homes,and on benches near stores, and on the cracked sidewalks. And. They. Don't. Move. 

Except, that is, to gawk as I pass by. 

They ogle the blue wig falling past my shoulders and down my back, the one I'll replace tonight with the gem in my hand. They stare at my tattoo, the way it slithers down my exposed side. And they narrow their eyes at my pierced lip and wonder where else I may be pierced. What else I'm hiding. 

They come to a conclusion: I am a freak. 

And they are right. 

I head down the sidewalk toward our home, the place where Dizzy and I live. The house doesn't really belong to us, but in this part of town it doesn't matter. No one cares. Certainly not the police. They have bigger problems to worry about than teenage kids squatting in an abandoned house. 

Nearing our block, I notice a parked sedan. A guy leans against the side, smoking a cigarette. When he notices me,he nods. I put my head down and walk faster. If Dizzy were here, I'd lift my chin and lock eyes with the man. But he's not, so I don't. 

I hear a whistle, and my head jerks back in the man's direction. He's smiling at me. It's not a terrible smile. He's got a mouthful of teeth. That's something. He turns so his body faces mine, and watches as I walk past. The man looks to be in his mid-twenties. He's wearing dark jeans and a proud white shirt, and even from here I can tell his nose is too big for his face. His cigarette dangles between his fingertips as he raises his arm and waves. 

I wave back. 

His eyes narrow when he sees the underside of my arm. I rip my hand down and walk faster. I don't want to see his reaction, but I can't help looking up one last time. 

The lazy smile is gone from his face. A look of satisfaction has taken its place. He pulls a phone from his back pocket and makes a call, eyeing every step I take. 

If I didn't know better, I'd think he just found something he'd been searching for. 

I rush toward the end of the street, glancing at a nonexistent watch on my wrist like I have somewhere important to be.Behind me, I can feel the guy watching. I don't know why he looked at me the way he did, but I don't like it. Dizzy and I work hard to ensure no one notices us. The tattoos, the piercings, the loud clothing—you'd think it's to attract attention, but it has the opposite effect. It shows the world we're abnormal, and the world looks away. 

Twice I look over my shoulder to check if I'm being followed. There's no one there either time, and I begin to feel like an idiot. 

No one wants to follow you, Domino. 

No one except a particularly determined social worker who's approached me more than once. This neighborhood is part of her territory, and underage strays are her passion. 

Just thinking about the woman sends shivers down my spine. Her frizzy blond hair, the way her arms seem too long for her body like she wants nothing more than to snare me in them. Twice now she's followed me as I made my way home,speaking softly in her tweed business suit and scuffed black heels. I could hear what she was saying, but I didn't want to hear it. She's a paper pusher. Someone who pretends to care. In the end, I'd be another tick mark in her body count. Another dog off the streets, shoved into a kennel. 

That's when they'd find out who I really am. What I am. 

And then the badness would come. 

Standing outside our house, I feel relief. Gray paint peels in frenzied curls, and the front light is broken. The grass is dead and half the windows are covered with boards. But the bones are strong. The house stands three stories tall and is an old Victorian build. This part of Detroit used to be glamorous,where all the rich people lived. But they built too close to the ghetto, hoping against hope that this section of the city would turn around. The opposite happened. The slums grew arms and legs and crawled toward their shiny homes and manicured lawns, and then swallowed them whole without remorse. 

And now Dizzy and I have a home that used to be beautiful. 

"What are you doing?" someone calls from the upstairs window. 

I raise a hand to shade my eyes from the sun. When I see Dizzy's face, I have to stop myself from smiling. Instead, I shake my head as if I'm disappointed to be home and head toward the door. 

"It's Friday, Buttercup, you know what that means." Somewhere above me, I hear Dizzy howl long and energetic like a prideful wolf. 

I want to tell him not to call me Buttercup, that my name is Domino. But I don't. I just curl my hands into tight fists. I open my mouth wide. 

And I howl right back. 

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