Jess was gone far longer than I thought she would be. By the time she came back, I had finished bagging the copies and had fallen asleep, on the ground leaning against the printer. I woke when the lights flicked on. I tried to jump to my feet, but halfway up, my ribs screamed in protest. I leaned against the wall, gasping. Jess put down the shopping bags on the low table. She then walked over to me, a hint of a smirk on her face.
“You need to take it slow,” I grunted in agreement. I eased myself over to the table and looked through the shopping bags. The few groceries we could afford, and that I couldn’t get earlier. I found the box of hair dye and was shocked by the color. Razzleberry Chestnut, in other words, purple. I held up the box and looked at Jess incredulously.
“Purple, really? Purple?” She laughed and said.
“What are you talking about, that’s Razzleberry Chestnut.”
“You know what I mean.” She took the box from my hand and began to open it.
“It was the cheapest brand they had, and it should last about a month to six weeks.” She looked me over. And said, “Do you think that you should get a haircut? You weren’t wearing a hat or hoodie, so I think a length change should be good for you.” I groaned, I liked my hair the color and length it was, but she was right. I was too recognizable. I mumbled my acquiescence. She sat me down gently in a folding chair and got to work. She decided to cut my hair first.
I had a long dark blonde hair, and I usually kept it in a long braid. Jess and I didn’t say much as she snipped away. When she told me my hair was cut, she began to dye it. It was a long arduous process. I didn’t really look at the time. When finally I was allowed to look in the mirror. I had to say, it didn’t look too bad but, I still wasn’t too much of a fan of the purple. I played with my short hair, it looked like Jess had let my hair down and hacked it with a knife, and it curled a little at the tips.
I checked my watch it was about two in the morning. Jess and I stared wearily at each other for a while, then we walked over to the corner where our sleeping bags were stored. Each of us rolled out our sleeping bags, Jess clicked off the light switch. I crawled into my bed, tiredness numbing the pain in my side. Then we both lay there listening to each other breath until the darkness pressing on our eyes melted into the soft darkness of sleep.
I woke before Jess, a rare occurrence. I stretched and winced. I had forgotten about my rib. But on the bright side, I thought, the pain seemed a little less today. I unzipped my sleeping bag, rolled and stored it in the corner. I then began loading the copies into our bags. I checked the front pocket of my backpack and the inside pocket of Jess’ messenger bag. Inside were small rolls of emergency cash, a burner phone, and a utility knife. Once I had finished with the bags, I replaced the ice pack in the fridge. Jess was awake by now, she stretched and stowed her sleeping bag. She reversed the hoodie she wore last night, it was now a dark purple, looking at it reminded me of my hair. I ran a brush through my hair and pulled on a dark red hoodie.I applied makeup hurriedly, then we slung on out bags, and exited onto the train tracks.
Slipping again into the abandoned sewers, our feet took up where we needed to go. If you didn’t know your way down here, you could die in a veritable labyrinth. We exited a sewer via a manhole that opened up in the back alley of Shopping Palace, one of the biggest discount realtors in the country. We walked about a block until we met our first distributor, Lenny. He dropped his bag onto the ground, as casually as you please. I unloaded about forty-seven copies into the duffel. Jess handed Lenny a twenty and said,
“Distribute in suburb Alpha, avoid Alpha forty-five and Alpha ninety-one.” He nodded, picked up his bag and went on his way. We crossed the street a Wilcox and Crescent and met another distributor. Ash took about twenty copies, in her small backpack. As I transferred, Jess handed her another twenty. I began to wonder where she got the money, we usually didn’t pay this well.
“Distribute in Echo, avoid Echo twenty, Echo fifty-six, and Echo ten.” Ash nodded and slipped away. We headed to our next distributing appointment, which happened to be on our route to our job interviews. We entered Slush Station, the biggest frozen beverage store in the city. We entered and Mariah and Kenny called us into the manager’s office. Mariah was Kenny’s wife and secretary. Mariah was also a distributor, unbeknownst to Kenny. I hung my empty backpack on a hook, and Jess put her bag on the chair. We entered Kenny’s office to apply for our jobs.
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