Raylene was still for a whole second, eyes wide.
Then, stung unbearably, she began to buck her hips like a jolted rockinghorse, while the second stripe formed across both cheeks, broad and likely to be as bright as its predecessor.
She shook her head in furious denial, though she kept her forehead on the step and her hands behind her neck. She cried out, “Aaaaaaaaaaaa”, high-pitched and gritty.
I said, “That was one.” That was a warning, a reminder that she had to get back in position. The ritual demanded it.
Raylene stilled herself somehow, and straightened her legs again. Her cry, that long, breathy “aaaaaaaaaa”, continued, but quieter now, a moan to herself alone. She straightened her strong legs and arched her back, presenting herself for me.
She was back in position. I had no idea how many seconds had passed since I’d strapped her. But I said, “Good girl. You were quick. And brave. And good. We’ll make it.” I raised the razor strop again.