Surveying her handiwork in the mirror, it’s as bad as she thought it would look.  A jerry rig of the worst kind.

But if she wears it backwards…

She slips her arms out and spins it around on her body, and instantly feels the puff of the empty bust at her back.  As tight as she had spread the tape, it wasn’t tight enough for this switch.  And the back that is now the front is restrictive, with cold zipper teeth grating against her chest.  So she spins it around again.

She sighs.  So much for the mess trailing behind her like a shameful tail.

But looking at the mirror, she thinks again.  That’s the whole point, isn’t it?  The disorder?  The symbolism of going in the dress they made her destroy.  The streaked eyeshadow as the evidence of tears they provoked.  She looks terrible because of the terrible things they did to her, and now she’s going to shove it back in their stupid faces.

As long as the dress monstrosity doesn’t come apart and expose her bodily to her whole school, that’s all that matters.

She grabs the comb from her dresser top and carves her hair straight back.  She likes the vague stigmatic menace this look gives her.  Wet and slicked, her hair’s a red that’s almost black.  Styled like this, it evokes the motorcycle ganglords, the mob enforcers, the other anti-establishment pirates and rebels – their pop culture portrayals, really – people incomparably tougher than she.  People who would head-butt you soon as look at you.  Look at my hair, it says.  My hair says don’t fuck with me.

She’s reminded of the convict photos her father liked to cut from the newspaper.  When she stayed with him he’d leave them out for her on his kitchen table with a sticky note attached.  Sometimes he’d send them to Ma’s house in an envelope.  There they’d be, exhausted but confident, totally remorseless.  “He doesn’t look like he did anything wrong, right?” the note would quip.  Of course, they looked like they did plenty wrong.  They just didn’t care.

She grabs a tall aerosol can from the dresser top and douses its contents over her hair, solidifying it into a valkyrie helmet.

It’s not enough to say her world is safer than it was. That makes it sound like the world did her charity.  Takes it out of her hands.  She is harder than the current world is, and not the reverse.  Come to think of it, the afterglow is too soft of a spirit compound.

“I am a diamond.  I went into the furnace as coal and came out the other side.”

From her bed she grabs her purse she had stocked as a contingency kit: extra lip gloss; lip balm; photo ID; emery board for broken nails; tampons; eye drops; band-aids.  She thought she had planned for everything.

She descends the stairs and opens the front door.  Looks longingly at her heels sitting on a rug to the side.  There they are, waiting patiently for a different night altogether.  She supports herself with her hand against the doorjamb and slips them on.  Although she had selected them as an armistice between fashion and function, thinking she’d be on her feet all night, now they grip like vices, lift like lead.

She takes one last look around her dark house and shuts the door behind her and locks it.  Drizzle wafts down onto her bare shoulders as she steps off the porch and onto the driveway where Bertha is waiting.

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