Her First Assignment

Every successful pregnancy provides the female with a higher station in the new S.A.F.E hierarchy of power. Let me rephrase that, women are powerless, but a woman who has borne live children-a thing that has become rare-have certain perks. A larger apartment was one of these perks, so I was currently enjoying the space in my neighbor Ebony’s bathroom.

I sat at her vanity waiting for her to magically transform my hair into a shape. I couldn’t have gone to a stylist, even if those people still existed somewhere, I didn’t have any money. The S.A.F.E program required females to be clean and the purity belts we wore demanded a certain style of clothing, but there was nothing stating we needed to have haircuts.

“Hold still unless you want me to muck it up,” Ebony warned. She was from Wales and had the misfortune to be in the U.S. when the Gender Flu hit. She hadn’t been able to flee the country before the travel ban and was effectively stuck here.

The blades of her giant sewing shears snicked together and strands of pale lifeless hair floated to the floor. She’d been a stylist in another life and still enjoyed practicing her craft in secret. I wanted an inverted bob with bangs but she said it would be too drastic a change and someone would notice. I didn’t understand who it helped to have every detail our lives so regulated? My short haircut wouldn’t hinder getting pregnant, but it also wouldn’t help it, and that would be their argument. Ebony wasn’t even a citizen but she was fully committed to the repopulation effort. If they ever updated the manual to say that haircuts were no longer allowed, she would obey the order without question.

Ebony finished and removed the towel she’d draped over my dress. “Fancy a Squeeze?”

I didn’t want a tart lemon drink, I wanted a glass of wine. I remember my mother was always given a single glass of white wine when she had her hair done. I was given a water or juice if they had it and sometimes the manicurist would even paint my nails while I waited on her. Of course that had been a real beauty salon and it was prior to the Gender Flu.

“Squeeze sounds good,” I lied. I didn’t want to seem impolite or ungrateful. My hair would be hanging down the middle of my back by now if it wasn’t for Ebony.

I opened the can she gave me and took a long swig. The first taste was always the worst, but once you got past that it went down easier. Despite it’s awful taste we all kept drinking it because it was free and also because the government said we needed to drink or risk intestinal infections.

Dorian stood in the doorway with his arms crossed and a severe expression on his face. “It’s time to go we’ve wasted enough of the day.”

I stood and did a twirl. “Do you think he’ll like it?” I asked. Tonight was my first scheduled encounter with my new assignment from the Dating Pool. I didn’t know anything about him other than his name and the fact that he’d paid an absurd amount of money to be with me.

“He has no choice but to like you,” Dorian said and ushered me out of my friends apartment.

I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or a bleak and obvious comment on the current state of affairs.

Ebony followed me us to the door and before I walked out she turned me around and placed a palm on my flat stomach. “Good luck, and let it be a girl,” she said.

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