Misha examined herself in the looking-glass, frustrated. Her cheekbones were too long and bony, like the rest of her. The powder could not quite cover up her sun-damage. More than ever, she felt like her face was not her own.
Misha was fourteen today; the Passing Ceremony would happen to her. She was so grateful Karenina was there to help her get ready. Even though Karenina had to manage all the girls, Misha felt that the kindness in Karenina’s hands was a bit more for her than for the others. Probably because Karenina knew the other girls hated Misha. Well, the little ones Misha kept during the day hadn’t learned to hate her yet, but she couldn’t very well share her secrets and dreams with little girls barely old enough to talk.
Karenina carefully unwrapped the once-white gown which had been used for each girl in Marana for as long as anyone could remember. She left the room for a moment so Misha could dress in privacy. It had been preserved with aksa, which smelled like pine tar. As she pulled the fabric over her head she was overwhelmed not only with the scent of aksa, but also the perfumes of the hundreds of girls who had worn the dress before her. Misha’s headache grew worse. She fumbled with the corset strings, which were not quite long enough.
Finally encased in the dress, Misha flipped back her despised hair. It was the color of pale mud. Why could she not have shining black hair like everyone else? If she was going to be a freak misbirth, why could she not have been blond like a Selucian? She tried to smooth her offensive hair under the golden circlet she found with the dress.
Something behind her made Misha whirl in alarm. Karenina stood in the doorway, staring at her, eyes wide, her hands over her mouth. She was staring at Misha’s naked knees. Misha felt the ugly red blush move up her throat towards her face. The dress was not decent on her.
“What can I do? “ Misha panicked. She knew the dress could not be altered. She wished that Karenina could speak; usually she could answer just fine with her hands, but this was too difficult to explain.
Then she noticed the bloody stain spreading up the front of the dress. Misha tore off the dress in horror and ran.