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Cassandra stood poised at her vanity mirror. Her long hair, which spilled past her waist, was twisted in one hand, and in the other was a pair of jeweled scissors.

As she lifted the scissors to cut, a larger hand wrapped around hers.

Cassandra withdrew with a cry. "Kell! I didn't see you come in."

He took the scissors away. "I take it you got the job."

"I did," she said crisply. "Return my scissors to me."

"Not if you intend to cut off your hair. What do you mean by this nonsense?"

"I can't have long hair in the laboratory. It might catch fire or something."

"Look there." He guided her to the window. Below them lay the scattered remains of a centuries-old city park. The benches were near invisible due to growth, while the pond had extended far beyond its original boundaries. Ducks floated serenely on its surface. "We played as children. Do you remember how you prized your hair?"

Cassandra laughed a little drily. "Of course. I insisted all my powers as princess lay in my hair. I was haughty. unworthy of the friendship of you and your sister."

"Eliza adored you. You were an example to her. You were only haughty when taunted."

"Which explains my consistent haughtiness toward you." She gave him a sideways glance. "Get out of my room, Kell. We are not children anymore, and I have things to do."

A tone, so cold as ice, rarely came from her, but Kell merely smiled thinly. "You are still a child. You don't know what you are doing."

She laid a hand on his arm, gentler than her previous tone. "Do you hear that?" she whispered.

"I hear nothing."

"Yes. Nothing. The city is empty. Our kind are dead and dying. We are hunted. We are starving. I am a princess of nowhere. And thus, I am only a person, and I will do what I have to do. I'm no longer in a fine tower to be protected from myself and anyone else. I am going to leave this place, and make lots of mistakes, but I will do my best."

Author's note: Did not get a table today - boo hoo! Had to post sitting in an armchair over another chair. The rigors of a coffee house.

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