“Bye, ma,” Cray whispered into her ear while she stroked back her mother’s grey hair to reveal a tear moistened cheek. Cray planted a quick kiss thereupon, tasting the saltiness of her tears. Her mother stared out through large vacant eyes. Cray wrinkled her forehead and her lips pulled down into a disapproving frown. Her mother had been going off, more and more lately, into her own mind. Cray sighed. At least they would not have to fight this time.
Cray stepped into a night that would have been beautiful had she been wearing more clothes to shelter her from its chilly bite. Not wearing enough clothes was the point though. She crossed her arms and tried to pull the bits of her shawl a little tighter around her shoulders. This action made her rather humble bust look a little bit bigger. There is a always a positive side, if you look for it. Of course, it helps to keep a sardonic sense of humor, especially in this hell hole.
Cray walked along the usual path toward the gates, where a group of skinny, scantily-clad girls were also waiting and clutching themselves in futile attempts to stay warm.
“You’re actually on time,” Voila said in a voice that sounded too husky for her frame. “I can see why you’re usually late: you need all the time you can get to look even a little human.” She looked up and down Cray’s short stature with distaste while another girl snickered.
Cray shrugged, “Congratulations.”
“For what?” Voila asked.
“For standing upright despite that huge melon head of yours. That’s really impressive. Honestly, I’m amazed your neck hasn’t snapped yet, if not from the enormity of your head, than by the stupidity of your mouth. Seriously, I am really surprised no one has killed you yet. You are a freaking miracle.”
Voila rolled her eyes and huffed, but Cray was spared a retort as the gates opened up. Cray quickly shot out her right leg, pulled back her shawl and stood with her chest out as far as possible. All the girls stood in a line, all of them needing desperately to be picked.
The Captain was a portly man with hungry eyes that took his time eyeing each of them. He fed off of their desperation and anxiety more than anything else. Small men, petty men, crave any kind of power. He was the kind of man that liked leaving his girls with an imprint of his hand. Luckily for him, Cray, despite being chosen for the Tower on numerous occasions, had never been his personal choice.
He squatted down to look Cray in the face. He bloody well knew what she looked like. This was just part of his game. She felt her face redden and her shoulders shuddered involuntarily. She had, however, picked a wire on the gate as her focal point and this steadied her. The Captain breathed in deeply with a small nose whistle and then blew out into her face, so that the meat on his breath made her nose wrinkle. After his lungs emptied, he whistled in through his nose, stood upright and continued down the line.
Finally, he walked behind them continuing his painstakingly carefree stride.
“Captain?” a young guard said.
“Sir, I do not wish to be impertinent, but the girls are expected at the Tower.”
“Yes. Yes, very well. This one,” the Captain said pushing Liza forward. “And, you, you and you,” Voila, Noor, Clements were pushed forward.
Come on, Cray urged. Yesterday, she had arrived just as the gates were shutting with the selections on the other side. She needed to get through tonight.
“You,” he urged Cray forward. Breath she had been holding escaped in a sigh. Maybe tonight will be the night.