“Would you like some more mayonnaise on that sandwich, Miranda?”
“No thank you, LaJean.” Miranda nudged LaJean’s hand away, and she returned to the kitchen counter by the sink, where Claude had dumped the store bought loaves of bread only a few minutes before. He returned his focus to the table, where everyone but Jeaneé were chomping away at their lunches.
Audette set her sandwich down on her place, wiping her mouth with her sleeve. Aside from the birds chirping outside, rejoicing in their newfound springtime, no sound permeated the room until Audette spoke. “You all are too quiet. Say something. I’m getting worried.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Sheila scooted a few inches away from Jeaneé, who crossed her legs on her seat and started hacking at her ham sandwich with a fork. Sheila rolled her eyes and reached for her plastic cup. Eyeing Miranda from the corner of her eye, she suggested, “Maybe the newcomer should be the one to break the silence. Tell us a personal story, Miranda.”
“Well…” He scratched the back of his neck, and LaJean slid the sandwich she had made for him onto his plate. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” Sheila leaned to her right and snatched the fork from Jeaneé’s hand, too late to prevent the disintegration of the sandwich. “Tell us about your experiences at the Lab. LaJean’s had all the juicy secrets locked up for too long.”
“I have not!” LaJean wave a mayonnaise-covered butter knife at the lot. Her eyebrows spoke exasperation, but the growing smile on her red lips spoke playfulness.
“Alright, maybe not every single one of them. But please, Miranda, tell us a story.”
He twirled a finger through one of his locks of hair. After a handful of seconds spent in staring into space, unsure of what to tell, he sighed. “Fine. But this is going to take a while, so I hope that LaJean isn’t expecting to sit down anytime soon.”
“You overestimate our stomachs, Miranda.” Maine pulled a compact out of her pocket and checked her face, removing a spot of dirt before putting it away. Meanwhile, an apathetic Jeaneé to her left began to nibble at the shreds of sandwich left. “Did the Laboratory have any gardens? LaJean said there were, but she didn’t elaborate at all.”
“Yes, Maine.” Miranda paused to take a bite of his sandwich. Noticing how all the women at the table simultaneously put their elbows on the table and propped their heads up on their arms, he scooted his chair an inch away from the table and laid his hands in his lap. “There were flames of crocus plants and small heads of daffodils peeking out through the frost when I last set foot in there. There were other flowers bursting in bloom of all sorts of colors, although it’s been so long since I’ve seen them that I can’t remember exactly. And Anders…” He sighed, glancing down at the hands in his lap. “We were in matching white winter coats that day. That was the only time I’ve ever seen him dress like an angel, and even then, there was something dark hiding behind his eyes.”
“Ah, here’s the good part!” Claude’s face lit up, and she clapped her hands together. “Tell us about the man you -”
“Anders?” Jeaneé dropped the strip of bread back onto her plate and locked eyes with Miranda. “‘E was at church yesterday! Saw him when I was waiting for the pastor’s mandatory therapy sessions. I never listen, and he knows, but he persists anyways since he’s under the impression that I’m a demon myself.”
Miranda’s eyebrows furrowed. “Then why does he let you into the church?”
“Because, according to him, demons can turn back into angels. Or some other convoluted crap along that thread.”
“Do his motivations matter?” LaJean shushed Jeaneé and grabbed Miranda’s wrist, pulling him out of his seat and away from the table. “We’ve got to find a suitable disguise of some sort. I haven’t risked jail time and a criminal record only to have all my work poof away because someone recognized you.”
Funny, I thought I was worth a better noun than ‘work’. Miranda stumbled on the transition from kitchen tile to living room carpet, and LaJean helped him to his feet before continuing towards the bathroom.
Claude and Audette joined the procession of people, stopping in front of the bathroom doorway as to block Miranda’s way out. LaJean pulled a bar stool out of the shower and positioned it up against the sink. “Could you sit facing away from the mirror, Miranda?”
He clenched his jaw and crossed his arms over his chest, stepping back until he bumped against Claude and Audette. “What exactly are you going to do to me?”
“Bleach your hair to start. Claude has some different-colored iris contacts she’d love to try out on somebody. And if you don’t wiggle around too much, Audette will abandon her station at the doorway and attempt to contour your face to look more…” LaJean’s eyes drifted to the ceiling and she snapped her fingers a few times, catching her train of thought. “Feminine, I suppose. Unrecognizable is the ultimate goal.”
LaJean expected a reply out of Miranda, but she got none as the androgyne sighed and bowed her head. Claude and Audette abandoned their posts at the doorway to lend their hands and were immediately replaced by the peeping eyes of the rest of the group. LaJean dug around in the bathroom closet until she found the bleach kit, opening it and placing the brush and the bottle of bleach on the counter.
“Are you ready, Miranda?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” Miranda closed his eyes. Past his eyelids, the three women moved all around his body in dark blurs, bickering as they brushed the bleach into his hair. After a few minutes of the nonsense arguing, Miranda opened his eyes, only to be met with the beige bathroom walls and a Claude sliding her gloved hands through her hair.
“We’re almost done, beautiful. Don’t move your head.” Claude pulled her hands away and slipped off the gloves, depositing them in the sink. She brought a pearly contact case into Miranda’s field of vision, opening the left side of the container. “Can you pull down on the skin under your eye?” Miranda fidgeted a bit, eliciting a few muffled curse words and then profuse apologies from LaJean as he followed the order. “Perfect.”
“How much longer is this going to take?”
“We’ve been here for five minutes, and we’ll be here for a few minutes longer. The dyes from Soona Bris were always ungodly fast.” Claude picked up one of the lenses and leaned forward, softly touching the lense to Miranda’s left eye. His forehead wrinkled as he blinked, softly wincing as Claude repeated the same steps to Miranda’s right eye. “I think we’ll have to put off the contouring until tomorrow, Audette. Sorry.”
“That stinks.” LaJean and Audette pulled away, depositing their tools on the counter by the sink. They whirled Miranda’s stool seat around, allowing him to see the ghost that he’d become under their touch.
The previously brunette locks of hair flowing from his scalp were now a soft white, not as pure as the snow from a few weeks prior but more so than the egg whites of the morning’s breakfast. Miranda placed a hand on his cheek, attempting to remember if his already dark irises had been closer to green or blue before the contacts had concealed them to ebony.