“Don’t move, keep your head in that position and carry on breathing,” says Violet. I want to laugh. Carry on breathing? Why would I stop?
“You can’t see your hair colour right now but there are mirrors at the end of the Test Hall. You may have a look at that. Now, I’ll take you through the colours and their meanings so you know what yours will mean. First off blue.” She smiles at me, a clever mask, disguising the emotion of my colour. For the first time, fear strikes through me. What if it’s bad?
“Blue means loyalty. Not many people possesses loyalty, considering that friendship and love does not exist. Then there is green, which means that you’re very intelligent. White means you’re not very intelligent, pink means you’re helpful…” The list went on, but I’d been told it so many times before I zoned out. By the time I zoned back in, my hair was finished.
“Thank you for your, um, time. You may leave the cubicle. Once you’ve been to the mirrors make your way home,” says Elle and as I get up from my chair, the anxiety and fear still sparkling in her eyes.
Voices in my head tell me that that is a good sign, that it isn’t a good sign, that I should be afraid, that I shouldn’t be afraid. All screaming and making me dizzy and confused. As I walk out the cubicle door, I’m greeted by the entire hall gasping one huge, choral gasp.
All the voices start screaming louder and the calming ones are blocked out. Fear and worry and anxiety strike my heart at the same time. Hundreds of eyes watch me, wide and shocked.
So I run. I run past the waiting people for the cubicles, past the pupils sitting hushed in the rows, past the teachers who lean against the door frames. I run past them all, down to the end of the corridor where the mirrors are. What’s so bad? Did Violet cut it horribly? Was it my colour? As I near the end of the corridors I can see my reflection, a panicked girl with long red hair and on seeing that I stop.
No. No. No. No. Red? That can’t be me. It isn’t me. But when I step forward, so does the girl in the mirror. The girl with the red hair. My fingertips graze the mirrors surface, rubbing the hair, trying to erase the colour.
You see, red is not a bad looking colour. In fact the richness of the red is quite beautiful, but what the red stands for is not beautiful at all. Red is almost like being un-decided. You stand out, you’re different. You said something outrageous, something that hasn’t been thought of, and you can continue to do that. You could be one of the people that might one day bring Head down. Everyone sees you as a danger, as an out of place individual.
They’ve given me extensions, straightened, but that I don’t care about. All I can think of is the colour. Elle’s instructions float into my minds and I tear myself away from the mirror. The doors are open, exposing the world outside and I’m scared to go out. But what can I do? I can’t stay here forever.
So, very slowly, I step outside and make my way home. It doesn’t take long, three minutes, and I seem to attract attention everywhere. People stare at me as I move, trying to mix in with the wandering crowds but it is the day. The sea does not weave through the streets and only single strollers walk by.
As I walk down my drive way, onto the porch, I notice someone next door. A boy, my age, who has just had The Test. I only glance, but something catches my eye. His colour. I turn my head fully and stare at him with a mix of gladness and shock. Because there was a boy with red hair just like me.