Authors: Dani Matthews
“This is your car?” I ask Zoey later that evening as we approach the solid black Camaro in the parking lot of the complex.
“Sweet, isn't it? I had a cherry red one with white racing stripes, but it was totaled in a car accident last year. Instead of getting the same thing, I decided to switch it up,” she says as we climb in.
I already know about the accident, so I don't drag out the topic by commenting about it. “I like it,” I say with a smile in reference to the car.
As Zoey backs the car out of the parking lot, she glances at me briefly. “You look cute. I like that outfit.”
Tonight, I'd determinedly dressed myself. I'm wearing cute, black pants and a sleeveless shirt with an Aztec pattern in sequins. I'd paired the outfit with a pair of black high-heeled sandals. I'd thought I looked good until I saw Zoey in her dressy, black shorts and silver shirt. On her feet she's wearing black wedges that show off her tanned legs. The other girl is everything I will never be. I also know I need to stop comparing myself to every pretty girl and start trying to embrace who I am and how I look. I'm just not sure how to do that after all of Justin's put-downs over the span of our four-year relationship.
“Thanks,” I say lightly to Zoey in response to her compliment as I try to shut down my wandering thoughts. I need to find a way to erase Justin from my mind or he'll haunt me for the rest of my life.
“Did you bring the money?”
I look at her suspiciously. “Why do I need a couple hundred? I don't exactly have the money to spend, Zoey.”
“I know, but I think you'll find it's worth it. Just trust me,” she insists as we cruise through an intersection.
“Are we going to another bar? I don't think I like bars.”
“Nope, no bar.”
“Then where are we going?” I ask with puzzlement.
“Somewhere you've never been,” she teases.
I give her a look. “That could be anywhere considering I just moved here.”
Zoey laughs. “It's a surprise.”
I give up and peer out my window as we make our way downtown. Zoey's idea of a surprise could literally be anything. I am less than thrilled when Zoey parallel parks in front of a bar less than five minutes later.
Zoey catches sight of my expression and snickers. “We're not going in the bar. It's just a good parking space that we got lucky enough to grab.”
I shake my head as we climb out and begin walking down the sidewalk, our heels clicking on the pavement. I'm growing more comfortable with Zoey, and I know that if I don't like wherever she's taking me, I will for sure be speaking up. I'll just have to be tactful about it since she seems quite excited over whatever she has planned.
A group of guys walk past us—headed for the bar—and they whistle and catcall. Zoey rolls her eyes and ignores them while I fight the urge to look back at them. Not that I'm interested.
Well, they were kind of cute.
My phone chimes from within my purse, and I dig it out as we walk. I see that it's Caleb.
What are you and Zoey up to?
I stare at his message with surprise and turn to Zoey. “Hey, you didn't tell Caleb what you have planned?”
“Give me that,” Zoey says with a frown as she grabs my phone out of my hand. She pauses on the sidewalk and quickly texts something. After she sends it, she hands it back to me.
“Are you guys fighting or something?”
I study her for a minute, and when her expression doesn't give her away, I sneak a peek at the last outgoing message.
You ruin my surprise, and I'll cock block you for a week.
My mouth drops open. “Zoey? Why can't Caleb know what you're up to?”
“Because what I have in mind is a surprise for him.”
I look at her with confusion. “What exactly are we doing?”
She grins widely and points to the next building “That.”
My feet pause on the sidewalk as I stare at the shop with the neon sign that announces Red Gannon's Piercings and Tattoos. Zoey brought me to a tattoo shop. My lips part, and my blood immediately thrums within my veins with anticipation.
Zoey walks up to me, her eyes questioning. “If you're not sure, we can go do something else,” she offers.
“I want one. I know I do. I just have to work up the nerve to actually do it,” I confess.
“Let's go in and look around. If you see something you like and if it feels right, you can get it done tonight. Or we can leave, and you can think on it for a while and then come back when you're ready,” Zoey suggests easily.
“I want to look around,” I agree as excitement builds within me.
We enter the tattoo shop, and I look around with awe. The shop has vibrant orange walls with black floor tiling. One long wall is lined with tattoo designs encased in what reminds me of poster frame books attached to the wall. A sign is posted next to the designs announcing that the shop also offers custom made tattoos as well. The room's lighting has been dimmed slightly, giving it an appealing bar-like effect. In the center of the room against the back wall is a long glass-encased counter that has displays of body jewelry, and on the other side of the room are black, leather couches. The place is busy tonight, and loud music plays overhead. No one seems to be paying attention to us, and I find myself relaxing.
Zoey leads me over to the wall of poster books. “Did you have anything specific in mind?” she asks me as we find a place for ourselves so we can browse. There are several other people nearby flipping through the designs.
I shake my head as I begin scanning the first page. “No, not really. The scars aren't centered all in one place, so I'll either need a really large tattoo or a bunch of small ones.”
“Hmm. I can't imagine you with a full back tattoo.”
“Neither can I.”
“Then don't do it. What about butterflies or something? You seem like the type to get something delicate and feminine.”
I glance at the dragon tattoo on Zoey's left shoulder. She and I are total opposites, but yet we still seem to get along great. I'm glad Caleb found her. I have a feeling Zoey is about as loyal as one can be. “I like the butterfly idea,” I agree.
“We'll look around, see what catches your eye.”
We look at all the designs for about half an hour, and the only thing that keeps drawing me back are the butterflies. I could get multiple butterflies, and they wouldn't look odd. Everything else would look out of the ordinary. I don't want a bunch of flowers on my back. Or dragonflies. Some of the fairies are really pretty, but I couldn't imagine having half a dozen of them on my back.
“I like the butterflies,” I tell Zoey.
“Is that what you want to do?”
“I think so.” I bite my lip, feeling a hint of uncertainty. Once I get a tattoo, I can't change my mind. It'll be permanent.
Zoey looks around, her eyes scanning the room before turning her attention back to me. “They're busy tonight, so I'm guessing there's going to be a long wait. Let's get our names on the list and go somewhere until the appointment. It'll give you time to think it over. Sound good?”
I nod. “Let's do that.”
We walk up front and wait until it's our turn. Zoey takes control and speaks with the heavily tattooed man behind the counter, requesting a tattooist named Logan. It'll take an hour before he's available, so we sign our names and leave.
As we walk back down the sidewalk I ask, “You're getting another tattoo?”
“No, a piercing.”
“Your belly button?”
Zoey looks at me and quirks an eyebrow. “You think I'd make a big deal to Caleb about a belly piercing?”
“Okay, I guess not. What kind of piercing are you getting?”
“I'm getting my hood pierced.”
I stare at her blankly.
She looks at me with a bemused smirk and clarifies, “I'm getting my clitoral hood pierced.”
“Really?” I ask as I struggle to keep my shock off my face. “Won't that hurt?”
Zoey shrugs and walks up to the glass doors of a restaurant. “It'll hurt briefly, but it'll be worth it.”
We enter a restaurant called Grendel's, and Zoey doesn't bother waiting around for a hostess. She leads me to the back where the bar is located, and it looks packed. The room has loud music playing and it's lit with black lights, making anything white glow. She makes room for us at the bar and calls out to one of the bartenders that we need a couple of drinks.
“They'll card me,” I warn as we settle on two stools that a couple just vacated.
Zoey gives me a reassuring look. “I work here, so we're good.”
A couple minutes later, I have a drink in my hand that resembles a smoothie. I take a cautious sip and find that it tastes really good.
Zoey leans in and says in my ear over the music, “It's pretty light, so you won't get drunk off it. It won't mess with your decision making where the tattoos are concerned,” she promises.
I take another sip and give her an odd look. “You're okay with a guy...uh, piercing you down there?”
Zoey waves a hand as if she could care less. “Nah, it's just Logan. He's seen what I've got.”
“You dated him in the past?”
“No, I screwed him in the past,” she corrects with a laugh.
“Won't Caleb care that you went to him then?” I know Caleb enough to know that he won't be thrilled that Zoey had an ex messing with her like that.
“Better him than some stranger,” Zoey shrugs.
“So you don't think he'll care at all?” I ask doubtfully.
“Nah.” Then, she gives me a sheepish look. “Well, maybe a little, but he'll get over it.”
I'm not sure what to say, so I sip my drink. I glance at her diamond ring on her left hand. “Have you guys set a date for the wedding?”
Zoey shakes her head. “Not really. We'll wait until after graduation and when we're settled with our careers. We'd like to buy a house, but there's a chance one of us might get a job outside of the area, so we'll see what the future holds first. It would bite to get a house and then have to move shortly after, you know?”
“Yeah,” I agree.
Zoey gives me a devious smile. “Logan's good in bed, and he's not looking for anything serious,” she announces bluntly.
“Why would I care?
She leans closer and says, “But if you do hook up with him, don't tell Caleb. He's got it in his head that if you get close to a guy—any guy—he'll hurt you. He's really protective of you, you know.” Her expression softens. “He's got a big heart, and he worries over those he's closest to. With what happened with Justin, he's just trying to look out for you.”
“I know. I have a lot of cousins, but I think Caleb is my favorite.”
“Of course he is,” Zoey says firmly, causing me to laugh.
We chat for a bit until Zoey looks at me expectantly. “So, you gonna get some ink or not?”
Nerves coil around in my belly even as I slowly nod. “I think I am.”
As Zoey gets her piercing, I'm left to wander the tattoo shop. I'm mentally keeping track of where all the butterfly tattoos are that I want. I have seven scars, so there'll be at least seven butterflies on my back. Maybe more if Logan can come up with a nice design so that they don't look so sporadic.
Someone walks past me, almost brushing my arm. I move back against the wall, trying to stay out of the way of some of the big bikers that are in shop. I've gained a few interested looks, but everyone's left me alone.
I turn my back on the room and act like I'm studying the tattoo designs on the wall in front of me. I'm not seeing them, though. Instead, my mind is on Zoey. I can't believe she's getting her hood pierced. First and foremost,
Second, I can't imagine having a complete stranger lingering down there or touching my most private body part. Then again, Logan and Zoey have hooked up before, so I guess it won't be too awkward for her. But still...
When I asked her if she really feels it’ll be worth getting herself pierced, she just gave me a wicked grin. I guess having a piercing down there makes it easier to orgasm and sex is more pleasurable. Not that she needs help in that department, she claims. She just thinks it'd be hot to have the piercing, and she knows Caleb will have a lot of fun playing with it. That was way more information than I wanted to know, if you ask me.
There's a tiny part of me that's curious about what it would be like to have one. When it comes to orgasms, I guess I need all the help I can get. However, the day I let a stranger between my legs like that is the day hell freezes over.
“Your turn,” Zoey announces, startling me.
I turn around and see her standing before me, grinning from ear to ear. She looks happy rather than in pain. “How'd it go?” I ask politely.
Her nose wrinkles. “Hurt like a bitch.” Her face clears as she says, “While you get your tattoos, I'm going to go hit the closest bar. Logan slotted you for an hour, so I'll be back then.”
Zoey squeezes my arm reassuringly. “You'll be fine. Or would you rather I stay?”
“I'm good.” I'm working on being more independent these days. I don't need someone to hold my hand with everything I do.
“Okay, I'll be back in a bit.”
I watch her saunter out of the shop, and it doesn't escape my notice that more than a few pairs of eyes watch her leave. I'm about to turn around to study the tattoos one last time when I see Logan walking towards me. I'd seen him briefly when he'd come out to call Zoey in the back. I swear, the people here in Long Beach are way more attractive than those back in Harrison.
Logan has short, brown hair that stands up in spikes while surprisingly friendly brown eyes peer back at me. He has a lip piercing at the corner of his mouth, and I find my eyes drawn to it for a brief second. Like most guys, he seems to loom over me thanks to my short height, so I have to crane my neck to peer up at him.
“I'm Logan,” he introduces as he holds out a hand.
“Faith.” I shake his hand, smiling slightly. I can feel the stirrings of interest building, but I try to ignore it. No matter what my bucket list says, I have no intention of jumping in a stranger's bed.
“Zoey said this is your first tattoo?” he questions.
At the mention of Zoey, I remember that he was just all up in her...area. That's enough to make my interest fizzle. “Tattoos,” I correct.
His brown eyes roam over me, no doubt seeing a little country girl trying to live the fast life—and probably failing miserably. “How many are you thinking?”
I lick my lower lip nervously, and it seems to draw his attention to my mouth. I feel flustered and clear my throat as I try to be confident with this new adventure I'm embarking on tonight. It's what I want, what I've been aching for in the past year. I am desperate to erase Justin's mark on my body. I need to stop being uncertain and just go after what I want.
I straighten up and meet his gaze. “I need at least seven. Maybe more if you can do something so that the butterflies don't look so scattered. It'd be nice if it looks like each tattoo is meant to be there, like it's connecting the pieces of a puzzle. Does that makes sense?”
Logan nods, looking a bit intrigued by my request. “You want the butterflies to resemble a pattern.”
“Yes, that would be great.”
“I've got you scheduled for an hour, but I'm thinking you'll need a second appointment. I work fast, but not that fast.”
“That's fine,” I agree.
“Show me what you're interested in. I can always change sizes or colors to make a design look different if you want to use it multiple times. I can also draw something up to your specifications if you're not liking the ready-made designs.”
I walk around and show Logan everything I'm interested in. Fifteen minutes of my allotted time is taken up with Logan making copies of the designs and downsizing or enlarging them to my specifications.
When we eventually enter a private room, I feel my stomach twist with nerves. Logan opens up a cupboard and hands me a soft towel. “Everything is already set up but for the colors. Why don't you change, lie flat on that chair, and we'll discuss colors when I get back.”
I look at him a bit skeptically. “Can I wear my bra?”
“It'll likely get in the way, but if you're not comfortable taking it off, leave it on,” he says lightly. He flashes me a kind smile before he disappears out the door, shutting it firmly.
I draw in a deep breath and then exhale softly.
I can do this.
Since I'm afraid he might show up before I'm ready, I quickly undress and then clutch the towel to my breasts as I walk over to the reclining chair. Logan had reclined it all the way back so it is now flat as a table. I gingerly climb on and lie on my stomach. It's more comfortable than I thought it would be.
A knock on the door has me starting slightly. “You good?” Logan calls out.
I turn my head away to face the wall, not wanting to look at him. I feel weird being half naked in front of him, even if it is only my back that is visible.
“What colors are you thinking, Faith?” he asks. A chair squeaks as he sits down near me.
“Um, I don't know. I'd like pretty colors, like purples, greens, and blues. No pinks,” I add. I might like girlie things, but I do not want pink tattoos.
Silence falls over the room, and I wait for him to start applying the stencils like he'd explain he'd do. He plans on outlining the pattern first, then he'll start filling in with color until our time runs out. I don't hear him moving, though.
Logan clears his throat. “Faith?”
“These scars... I see now why you want the butterflies, but damn girl, these look like knife inflicted wounds,” he says quietly.
My body tenses slightly. “They are,” I reveal softly.
When I feel a soft touch on one of the scars, I start badly.
“Shit. I'm sorry! I... Christ, I'm fucking up here, aren't I?” he mutters.
He sounds embarrassed, and I can relate to it. I find myself turning my head, and I look at him. He's sitting next to me, his expression troubled. “It's okay. The guy who did it is in prison. I just...I need to erase his mark from me. Can you cover them and turn them into something beautiful instead?”
His brown eyes meet mine, and he nods. “I'll make it so that when you see yourself in the mirror, you see nothing but beauty and hope. I'm not psychic by any means, but I'm guessing these tattoos represent a new chapter in your life.”
“They do.” I smile up at him, relieved that he's the one I'm trusting to turn the horror of Justin's wrath on my back into something I'll be proud to see when I look in the mirror. He gets it. “Thank you.”
He nods, and a professional mask falls across his face. “Are your scars sensitive?”
“No, not anymore.”