For the next few weeks I will be sharing the first several chapters Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 3. Chapter 4 will be posted on Thursday.
CHAPTER 3: CONVERSATIONS WITH AN ANGEL AND A BIKER
“Are you sad?” said a little voice.
It took Tatia a minute to realize that the voice wasn’t in her head but was coming from Angel who was standing in front of her, staring up into her face. She smiled at Angel, wiping away the wetness from her cheeks.
“No, sweetheart. I was thinking about a time when I was sad, but I’m happy now.”
“Me, too!” said Angel, rocking from one foot to the other. “I’m going on an airplane to see my grandma.”
“I’ll bet she’s happy about that, too,” said Tatia.
“Yeah. Are you going to see your grandma and make her happy?”
“No, sweetie. My grandma is with Jesus now, and I’m sure she’s happy there.”
“Yeah, Jesus makes people happy. I gotta go now.” Angel turned toward where her parents were sitting.
As Angel skipped away, Tatia thought about her grandmother. She did the right thing and took Tatia into her home – she always did the right thing – but she never grew to love her granddaughter. Maybe it was because her heart was broken over the loss of her only son, or maybe she was filled with the guilt of her daughter-in-law’s suicide. Regardless of the reason, she rarely spoke to Tatia or even looked at her. She stopped going to church and eventually withdrew into the safety of her bedroom where she surrounded herself with photo albums and memories.
One day a neighbor dropped a bag of groceries on the way from the car to the house. A careless grocery clerk had put a half-gallon of orange juice in the same sack with a bag of cereal. The heavy juice landed on the cereal, and the bag burst, scattering toasted O’s across the driveway and the lawn. The frustrated homeowner hurried into the house and returned with a broom and dustpan, hoping to sweep up the mess before she had a mass of ants to deal with. She was shocked when she saw a dirty and unkempt five-year-old girl kneeling on the driveway, stuffing handfuls of cereal into her mouth as fast as she could.
The neighbor brought Tatia inside and sat her down at the table with a real bowl of cereal, a piece of toast, and a glass of milk. Then she began making phone calls. Within hours Grandma had been taken away in an ambulance, and since she had no other living relatives, Tatia became a ward of the State, one more homeless child in the foster system.
Tatia’s phone simultaneously vibrated and chimed, jarring her out of the past. She looked up, surprised at the crowd that was now packed into the waiting area and the line that was beginning to form in front of the tunnel entrance. Then, she looked down at her phone and smiled at Jesse’s latest text.
Are you there yet?
Still at the gate, she typed.
Better get going, Girl. I’m halfway there!
Ha! That ancient hog probably isn’t out of Ohio yet.
Did you pack your boots?
No room. Wearing them. Should be in sandals. You better have a good reason!
Maybe. Maybe not! You’ll see!
Tatia had been ignoring the annoying announcements of the gate agent, but the words “Boarding all rows” finally caught her attention.
Final boarding call. Gotta go! she typed quickly.
See you Sunday!
She flashed him an emoticon smile, set her phone on silent, and stuffed it into her pocket. She felt it vibrate as she handed her boarding pass to the agent. She rolled her bag down the jetway, and when she stopped behind the line of people waiting to board, she pulled her phone out and glanced at the screen. The little round face blowing a heart-shaped kiss made her own heart skip a beat, but she shook her head as if shooing away a buzzing pest. If only she had met Jesse before she met Eric, she thought. Setting her phone on airplane mode, she slipped it into her shoulder bag and tried to shift her thoughts from Jesse to the two pre-teen girls who were waiting for her in Texas.
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