”Balaam’s ass,” the angel said wisely.”I beg your pardon?” For a moment Gillian thought she was being insulted.”I mean, animals can see us.””But they were scared. All their fur-I’ve never seen them like that before.””Well, they may not understand what I am.It happens sometimes. Come on, let’s get the scissors.”Gillian stared down the side hall for a moment, then obeyed.”Now what?” she said as she brought the scissors back to her room.”Go in the bathroom.”Gillian went into the little bathroom that adjoined her bedroom and flicked on the light. She licked dry lips.”And now?” she said, trying to sound flippant. “Do I cut off a finger?””No. Just your hair.”In the mirror over the sink, Gillian saw her own jaw drop. She couldn’t see the angel, though, so she turned around.”Cut my hair? Off?””Off. You hide behind it too much. You have to show the world that you’re not hiding anymore.””But-” Gillian raised protective hands, looking back in the mirror. She saw herself, pale, delicate boned, with eyes like wood violets-peering out from a curtain of hair.So maybe he had a point. But to go into the world naked, without anything to duckbehind, with her face exposed…”You said you trusted me,” the angel said quietly.Gillian chanced a look at him. His face was stem and there was something in his eyes that almost scared her. Something unknowable and cold, as if he were withdrawing from her.”It’s the way to prove yourself,” he said.”It’s like taking a vow. If you can do this part, you’re brave enough to do what it takes to get your heart’s desire.” He paused deliberately. “But, of course, if you’re not brave enough, if you want me to go away …””No,” Gillian said. Most of what he was saying made sense, and as for what she didn’t understand-well, she would have to have faith.I can do this.To show that she was serious, she took the open scissors, bracketed the pale blond curtain at a level with her ear, and squeezed them shut. Her hair just folded around the scissors.”Okay.” The angel was laughing. “Hold onto the hair at the bottom and pull. And try less hair.”He sounded like himself again: warm and teasing and loving-helpful. Gillian let out her breath, gave a wobbly smile, and devoted herself to the horrible and fascinating business of cutting off long blond chunks.When she was done, she had a silky blondcap. Short. It was shorter than Amy’s hair, almost as short as J.Z. Oberlin’s hair, the girl at school who worked as a model and looked like a Calvin Klein ad. It was really short.”Look in the mirror,” the angel said, although Gillian was already looking.”What do you see?””Somebody with a bad haircut?””Wrong. You see somebody who’s brave. Strong. Out there. Unique. Individualist. And, incidentally, gorgeous.””Oh, please.” But she did look different. Under the ragged St. Joan bob, her cheekbones seemed to stand out more; she looked older, more sophisticated. Andthere was color in her cheeks.”But it’s still all uneven.””We can get it smoothed out tomorrow. The important thing is that you took the first step yourself. By the way, you’d betterlearn to stop blushing. a girl as beautiful as you has to get used to compliments.””You’re a funny kind of angel.””I told you, it’s part of the job. Now let’s see what you’ve got in your closet.”An hour later, Gillian was in bed again. This time, under the covers. She was tired,dazed, and very happy.”Sleep fast,” the angel said. “You’ve got a big day tomorrow.””Yes. But wait.” Gillian tried to keep her eyes open. “There were some things I forgot to ask you.””Ask.””That crying I heard in the woods-the reason I went in. Was it a kid? And are they okay?”There was a brief pause before he answered. “That information is classified. But don’t worry,” he added.”Nobody’s hurt-now.”Gillian opened one eye at him, but it was dear he wasn’t going to say any more.”Okay,” she said reluctantly. “And the otherthing was-I still don’t know what to call you.””I told you. Angel.”Gillian smiled, and was immediately struck by a jaw-cracking yawn. “Okay. Angel.” She opened her eyes again. “Wait. One more thing…”But she couldn’t think of it. There had been some other mystery she’d wanted toask about, something that had to do with Tanya, with Tanya and blood. But she couldn’t summon it up.Oh, well. She’d remember later. “I just wanted to say-thank you.”He snorted. “You can say it anytime. Get this through your head, kid: I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here tomorrow morning.” He began to hum a Blind Melon song. ” I’ll always be there when you wake….’ Yeah, yeah, yeah.”Gillian felt warm, protected… loved. She fell asleep smiling.The next morning she woke early and spent a long time in the bathroom. She came down the stairs feeling self-conscious and lightheaded-literally. With her hair gone her neck felt as if it were floating. She braced herself as she walked into the kitchen.Neither of her parents was there, even though her father was usually having breakfast by now. Instead, a girl with dark hair was sitting at the kitchen table, bent closely over a calculus textbook.”Amy!”Amy glanced up and blinked. She squinted, blinked again, then jumped up, standing an inch taller than Gillian. She moved forward, her eyes huge.