I inhale heavily to self-calm and level myself out, shake my head and give myself an internal rattle to snap out of this. I haul out an oversized night shirt that Meadow gifted me in the manor, my all-time favorite, and underwear, and quickly strip, loving the feel of fitted soft delicate lingerie and an actual cozy and loose t-shirt, printed with delicate pastel florals, over grey sweats any day. It's the little things that can restore you in weird ways.

I yank out my toiletries bag and find my hairbrush, facial wipes, and all manner of self-grooming products I left behind, as they were too heavy to lug around, and start to put myself to rights. There's a mirror over the mantle and it's only now I can see how grubby and scruffy I look and decide to quickly remedy it. I look like a hobo who hasn't seen water in weeks, and my hair is a dull brown because it's so dirty.

Meadow was right though; I do look different. My hair is longer, my face slimmer, and I seem to have aged a little in my time in the wilds. My green eyes seem brighter, the color more intense. My skin tanned gently from being outside all the time, and I have a natural rosy glow to my cheeks, nose, and forehead, that have brought out a few light freckles. I seem taller, but I think it's because I stand differently now. Upright, almost proud, and the small amount of growth my hair has had, makes all the difference. Even dirty, the layers are softer and hang around my face and past my shoulders in a much more flattering style than how the orphanage used to cut it. I like this look, and I might just let it grow out fully.

I clean my skin, brush out my tugs as best I can and find all manner of debris and twigs in the knots. I feel grubby now I have clean pastel clothes against my skin and try and make myself presentable while contemplating linking Colton to ask if he has a bathtub close by. Although it's late, and I am tired so maybe I should just clean myself up, sleep, and worry about bathing in the morning.

It feels good to have the ability to cleanse some of the grime off with wipes and I look around for a means to brush my teeth, as that in itself will make a huge difference to how gross I feel. I wander around looking for a water jug, or something I could use, and stumble upon a door I previously missed because it's stained the exact color of the wood around it. A small door in the corner, next to the desk, that was almost completely concealed, tucked in and narrow, right at the side of the last cupboard, that I open in hopes of finding something useful. To my delight it slides open behind the wardrobe to reveal a tiny bathroom.

There's a shower that looks newly installed, with an array of toiletries in a basket sat within, some towels hanging at the side, and a fluffy mat on the floor that hints this is where he gets ready most days. The smell of sealant and paint are faint in the air, as though this was a recent conversion, and I guess that makes sense if Colton had this room repurposed. He can get up, shower, and get ready here without having to go find an available bathroom. There's a small wash basin, and toilet, fitted into the space snugly, but not so much that it's crammed and I strip back off without hesitation, the urge to jump right in, desire overtaking tiredness with a need to be clean and hygienic once more.

The outside living is great when you're outside, but once you're back among people, and cleanliness, it really does make you feel all kinds of yuck. This right now, as I slide under hot water from powerful jets, is as close to heaven as I've been in a while. I close my eyes and tilt my face up at the jet, and let it wash over, cascading all my worries and aches away with the kind of goodness only a hot shower can bring.

Hot water, soap, shampoo. It all feels amazing to be back in civilization with real home comforts. No more river washes or using stones to scrub my clothes, and plain water to brush my teeth that always had a faint tint of fishiness to it. I can lie to myself every day and say that I was doing great out there and would happily have existed that way for an eternity, but one shower and it unravels all of it. The bed calling to me, soft sheets, and springy mattresses, and being able to walk barefoot on soft carpeted surfaces and not having to choke half to death on fire smoke to get any kind of lights in the dark. I was never built to be truly off grid, and isolated, and being back here highlights all of it.

I spend a good forty-five minutes scrubbing every single little inch of me and lathering up the shower products deliciously. They smell like Colton, but I don't mind it at all. It's comforting, familiar, much like his presence always is. He always smells good; citrus fresh, with subtle undertones of musk, a luring heady scent that ignites so many memories of being close to him at just smelling his products. On me it's maybe a little masculine, but it's better than woodland damp, and stale river water. It makes me feel human again, although it does kill any urge to sleep, and revives my energy levels which maybe I shouldn't have done.

I brush my teeth when I get out, oddly obsessed with peppermint toothpaste now I get to use it again and redo my teeth four times just because I can. Running my tongue over shiny smooth enamel and the breathy fresh taste when I inhale. I brush out my damp hair after I rub it almost dry with the soft towels hanging nearby, and cover my body head to foot in the lotion from my bag that smells like tropical fruit, in a bid to smell female again. It does a great job of blending with Colton's scents and I end up sort of pineapple tinted and smelling rather edible. I redress in my underwear and night dress quickly, and revel in how good clean feels. There's no comparison to this kind of sensation.

I feel a thousand times better and scoot back to my cupboard to find thick fluffy bed socks for my now soft and supple feet, and climb on the bed to plait out the front of my hair to keep it off my face. The layers are long enough now, and always falling in front of my eyes so I French plait across the front and finish it off down one side of my face with a little elastic from my bag.

I hop up to admire myself in the mirror once more, and the difference it makes is amazing. Radiant and squeaky clean; my skin flawless in its sun kissed beauty, and glowing. My hair is lighter, and shinier once more, now the filth is stripped out and the natural highlights of my blonde are softly shining through. The style framing my face and drawing attention to my now slimmer cheek bones and long neck.