Thursday 21 October 2010
I know. Some of the subject matter I tend to write about is not nice. Surprise! Neither is this, but I felt really good about allowing Stella to have her revenge.
Over the last hour, the needle vibrated in and out of his skin, leaving a permanent reminder of her. Every time he looked in the mirror, he would see Stella. Every woman after her would know the impact Stella had on Byron’s life. He’d never be able to escape her; he’d never be free.
She sat watching him wince as the grim biker guy worked on the tattoo. Byron had a low tolerance for pain, and the action of the tattooing needle was making him decidedly uncomfortable. He thought he might even pass out.
‘What is it with guys? Every woman I know who has a tattoo says it never hurt getting it. And yet, every guy who has one, tells me how agonising it was.’
The grim tattooist grunted a laugh and looked at Byron, whose face was gradually losing colour. Animal was the only tattoo artist that Stella trusted. He had worked on all of her ink, spending almost six full days on the massive tattoo of Tutankhamen’s burial mask on her back, earlier that year. He looked incredibly menacing, but Stella knew that when you really got to know him, Animal was a sweetheart. Byron would never have guessed that from the behaviour Animal was displaying towards him.
‘Isn’t it funny, Byron, the way the things you say when you’re younger come back to haunt you?’
Byron said nothing. He sat as motionless as he could.
‘I only ask, because I just thought back to what you said to me when we were younger. Do you remember?’
He remained motionless, the sensation of the tattoo needle piercing his skin was making him nauseous.
‘You told me you loved me. That what we were doing was right. And I believed you, Byron. I really did. Why wouldn’t I?’ Stella wheeled a chair close to Byron and sat down. She looked over at Animal, a wry smile spreading across his face.
‘Baby girl,’ Animal said, ‘this is going to be one of my best pieces.’ He wiped ink and blood away from the tattoo site. ‘And you realise man, red ink is the only colour that can’t be lasered off. You’re gonna be stuck with this forever, so I hope you really love my girl here.’
It was all too much for Byron. He began to sob, tears rolling down his cheeks.
‘Don’t move dude, I don’t wanna make a mistake.’ With his free arm, Animal pushed Byron down into the chair to prevent him from moving.
Stella looked at Byron’s tanned skin against his black shirt. Funny, she thought, how someone who seems so tough, is actually so weak.
Animal broke her focus on Byron. ‘Kinda weird that he’s getting his first tattoo at such an old age. What are you, like seventy?’
Stella answered for Byron. ‘He’s sixty-three this year. It took me a long time to find you again, Byron, my love.’
‘Explains the white hair,’ said Animal. ‘I’m done, sweetness. You wanna get the mirror and show your man here his new tattoo?’
She rose from the chair and walked over to the bench behind Animal. Taking the small, rectangular mirror she returned and stood in front of Byron. She smiled as she held up the mirror for Byron to see Animal’s artistry. He wept like a child when he caught sight of the tattoo.
Stella handed the mirror to Animal and straddled Byron in the chair. She straightened his shirt, and did up the top button, as tears continued to roll down his face. Reaching across to Animal’s table, she retrieved his white collar, and inserted it into his shirt.
‘There you go, Byron. All done. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Why don’t you clean yourself up and get out of here before anyone sees you?’ She snickered. ‘It only hurt because I love you. Isn’t that what you used to say to me, Father Byron?’
She stood up and stepped around the chair, and stood beside Animal. He wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders.
Father Byron barely had the strength to stand. He pushed himself up from the chair and stumbled out of the tattoo parlour, a single word the permanent reminder of his past.
On the street a young mother pulled her son away from the priest exiting the shop to her left. The boy, old enough to read the tattoo across the man’s forehead, asked, ‘Mum, what’s a paedophile?’