Octavia took another freezing shower and brushed her teeth before heading out on her, as Shard called it, "fieldtrip" with him. Before heading for the courtyard, Shard was insistent on her wearing her hair to show it was shaved. Octavia refused to until she used it as her bargaining chip to have a female chromy search her instead of Shard.
Shard wanted to pat her down and check her for any weapons or possible ways to conspicuously convey information between other hostages before allowing her to go. But with the way Shard has been speaking to her, she knew the pat down would be more than a pat down. There was no way she was going to let him touch her.
"All the other handlers will be checking their hostages. I am entitled to check you too before you are able to go to the courtyard," Shard had said. "If you don't let me, you won't be seeing Winters."
Octavia wanted to see Mindy. She wanted to know if she is holding out well. Between the two of them, Octavia knew Mindy would be the better equipped one to survive this because of the training Mindy's father forced her to go through in case of a situation like this. But Octavia also knew Mindy would worry herself sick over her, especially since she was Shard's prisoner. She had to see Mindy to show her she was okay and to make sure Mindy was still in one piece and sound in mind. Though Mindy had been dubbed as well-behaved, there is no telling what her handler or other Chromies have done to her in order to keep her well-behaved.
"Have a female chromy check me instead," Octavia said.
"No can do. You're my responsibility."
"Have a female chromy check me, and I'll wear my hair the way you 'styled' it."
Shard raised an eyebrow as he contemplated it.
"A much tempting offer but I'd like to keep my responsibilities. Especially when they're hands-on."
His eyes crinkled.
"So you don't want others to see your hard work? You worked on my hair for a long while. And it would be in the pictures you send to the Committee and to my parents. Didn't you say they would love my hair? What a shame they couldn't see it the way you intended. Also, not to mention everyone at the courtyard will notice the difference in my hair and will be talking about it. And they would know it was your handiwork. But, I won't take care to keep it intact if you as much as lay a finger anywhere other than my head to restyle my hair," Octavia said.
"You pose a convincing argument, Sweetheart."
Shard held his chin in thought.
"And what's stopping me from restyling your hair anyway?"
"As long as I have hair to mess up, I'll mess it up unless you shave it all off, but then all your hard work you did yesterday will go to waste."
Octavia's heart jumped. That was a stupid thing to say. She feared Shard would shave her hair completely. Her parents' admonitions over her speech resounded in her head. She hardly ever spoke well. She wished she her parents were there to give her a script.
Shard tilted his head side to side as he intensely looked at her hair.
"Tam," he finally said to the female guard Octavia met her first day, "I can trust you to check her well?"
"Yes, Sir," she said.
"Then let's get to it!" Shard said as he gestured for Octavia to go in the bathroom.
After being thoroughly triple checked by Tam, Octavia resists fixing her hair as Shard leads her to the courtyard. They walk many halls and stairs. Octavia swears Shard has walked her in some circles but can't be sure since all the halls are monotonously grey and musty white. Whenever she tries to focus on keeping track of where they have walked, Shard would disrupt her concentration with conversation.
"Why did you keep staring strangely at Tam?" he says now. "Tam told me you do. Is it because I inspired your hair after the way I did hers?"
Octavia had noticed the resemblance but didn't think it was on purpose, mostly because Tam's hair is electric blue and completely shaved on the side of her head. No parting of hair could hide the shaved area.
"No," Octavia says.
"Then why do you stare at her? Is it because of her scar? That's not polite, ya know. 'Specially since it was some of your parents' people who caused it."
"'No' what? Ya better answer me otherwise we're gonna miss the photoshoot."
There were several reasons she stared at Tam, including the death threat, but Octavia knows better than to mention that. So she huffs and responds with a safer answer.
"I didn't know female chromies existed."
"Then where do you think the male ones come from then? We spawn them from our foreheads?"
Octavia rolls her eyes.
"Women play very important roles here. They're the mama bears of this here den. Heavily armed, scarier-than-actual-bears mama bears. They keep the home front safe while the men are away. And while they're here, too..."
"Sexists..." Octavia says under her breath.
"Call it what you like but that's how things work around here. As long as I'm in charge, I won't let them out in the field because..."
A dark, distant look glazes over Shard's eyes. Their periwinkle seems to turn dark chocolate. His white hair appears to slightly darken, too. But walking into this hallway's dark lighting, it's hard to tell. Still, Shard's darker, more-human look and hard gaze focused on something unseen chills Octavia. She stops walking.
Shard keeps walking but does not address her, nor anyone, and is distracted. As he talks to no one, his voice is deeper and heavier than she had ever heard it.
"I will never allow them another one. Not another of mine. Never. Never... I don't want them gone or to face either, but half better than all. They could. They're so alike but not. Strong. Maybe stronger... But no. And yes. But no. No... I can't. Too many opportunities... Too preciou-"
Shard cuts off his own babbling when he walks into a lobby-like area at the end of the hall that has better lighting. Shard's eyes and hair return to their normal appearance. His eyes lose their distant gaze and crinkle.
"What are you doin' hiding in the dark hall? We're here!" he says.
Octavia is stunned silent by Shard's sudden change but is quickly shocked into a reaction when Shard runs back down the hall, grabs her wrist, drags her down the hall, and shoves her through double doors in the lobby area leading to an outdoor area fenced with barbed wire. The fenced in area is completely paved over, but outside the fence, bright green grass grows.
"Bur-bur-bur-burrr!" Shard says in his best trumpet impersonation as soon as the door slam with a loud boom behind them. "I present Octavia Sweethart!"
Over a hundred eyes look in their direction.
YOU ARE READING
Being the daughter of the most powerful people in the country places a high societal value on Octavia. The glamour of this public-placed status wore off for her years ago as tragedy after tragedy has followed Octavia because of it. But the glamour n...