Before she could say any more, I was in front of the dull metal mirror, rubbing away the fog frosting.
My hair looked awful.
“I think we needed to use more.” She shrugged.
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t think of anything to say. The fact that my hair was a mottled grayish-pink seemed to stop my brain from functioning.
We had to finish Mouse’s hair before we could go anywhere, but it took no time at all. Her short hair rinsed clean effortlessly and the color looked like it had on the box.
I twisted my hair up into a baseball cap and we went back to the store. This time we stopped one of the passing sales assistants. She was about forty with perfectly groomed hair.
“Excuse me,” Mouse said, “are you busy?”
“Hi,” she replied in a sickly sweet tone. “What can I help you with?”
“I came in earlier and bought some hair dye but I don’t think it worked,” I explained nervously.
“Let me have a look. Then I’ll see what I can do to help.” She was way too bubbly; it ground against my nerves.
Reluctantly I removed the cap and let my hair fall free. I had expected her to laugh but she actually looked as if she pitied me. “Oh, honey! What one did you use? Come on, come and show me.”
We returned to the dye aisle and I pointed out the mahogany.
“Did you only use one box?” she asked, to which I responded with a nod. “Okay, so I think to fix this, you’re going to have to redo it. But you’ll need at least three boxes, maybe four. Your hair is really long and thick. One is only enough for hair that’s about this long.” She indicated a point barely past her shoulder. “Maybe you should take two of these—” she handed me two boxes of the mahogany, “—and two of these.” Two more boxes, labeled chocolate brown followed. “It’s a bit darker, and when you mix it with the other two it should cover the mistake completely.”
I thanked her and she moved away.
We wanted to look as different as possible so we found ourselves leaving with a large bag containing the dye and something called bronzer, which promised to give us a sun-kissed complexion. We’d barely ever spent time outside the labs, and our current pale skin confirmed this. We also had a small package of make-up and a pair of glasses with plain glass lenses for me.
We couldn’t get different glasses for Mouse; she needed the ones she already had to see properly. Something had gone wrong when they’d been fiddling with the genes that controlled Mouse’s eyesight. She could see fine at night, but during the day and in brightly lit rooms everything went blurry.
We returned to the station and repeated the entire process again, but this time as we dried my hair, I caught sight of rich, dark strands falling in front of my face.
“I think I need to cut my hair too.” At the store I’d been paying more attention than usual to people’s hair, none of them had any quite so long. “Can you chop it up to here?” I pointed to an area below my shoulders. It seemed to be a more reasonable length.
When it was all done, a sense of shock washed over me, but in a good way this time. The color was striking, but there was one little thing wrong.
“My eyebrows are funny.” I peered at them, bringing myself closer to the mirror. They were too light.
“They’re not. You’re just not used to it,” Mouse said. “They were always a bit darker than your hair anyway, so it’s not too bad. You know, you should really have bangs...”
I cut her off before she got any more ideas.
On the way out of town we stopped at a drive-thru fast food restaurant and ordered some. My stomach twisted and gurgled, unused to the greasy food.
We made our way down a long, narrow track into the forest and parked there to sleep. It was an early night but we wanted to get into the city early the next day. We were going to find out everything we could about the labs before we put our plan into action tomorrow night.