Jesse paints a “tattoo” on Tatia’s forearm – a foreshadowing of a coming sorrow.
For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 8. Chapter 9 will be posted on Sunday.
CHAPTER 8: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO EVERYBODY!
After dinner that night, there was a huge party for the whole camp with popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, bounce houses, a climbing wall, and face painting. Campers were running everywhere, trying to see and do everything at once, and the counselors were hard pressed to follow the rule of knowing where both their campers were at all times. The boundaries of the party area had been clearly marked to make the counselors’ job a little easier.
Tatia drifted around close to the edges, close enough to feel the excitement without being overwhelmed by the confusion. She was fascinated with the face painting, more accurately with Jesse who was one of the painters. She had seen him several times throughout the week, and he would always smile and wave, and sometimes he would stop and ask if she was having a good time and if she needed anything. She looked forward to their little encounters, almost like when she first began to run into Eric. It wasn’t the same thing, though. Eric was almost like a real boyfriend, and he was taking her on a real date when she returned home.
“Hey,” Jesse shouted, calling her back to the real world. “Are you going to let me paint your face or not?”
She laughed self-consciously, a little embarrassed at having been caught daydreaming. “Sure, why not,” she said, and walked over to his table.
“What’ll it be, Ma’am?” he said in a very bad southern drawl. “Fairy? Butterfly? Unicorn?”
“I’ll have the butterfly.” She watched him clean his brushes and prepare his paints for a minute before she continued. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No, I’m from the Chicago area. How did you know?”
“Let’s just say your accent could use some work.”
“You mean you didn’t take me for a native Texan,” he said as he began to apply paint to her cheek. “I’m crushed!”
“That tickles,” she said when he began to fill in the wings.
“Don’t giggle or I might smear this wing up onto your nose.”
Of course, she giggled, and he had to do a little bit of repair work.
“How did you end up in Texas?” she asked.
“I’ll talk. You listen – and be still!”
She clamped her lips together, and it was his turn to laugh. “That’s better,” he said sternly. “I came here for the camp. Last year was my first year as a staff member, and I loved it so much that I saved my money all year so I could spend the summer going around the country to as many camps as possible.”
She started to open her mouth, but he put his finger to her lips before she could say anything. “Don’t speak,” he said. “In addition to being a talented face painter, I can read minds. You want to know how a bum—I mean student—like me can make that kind of money. After school and on weekends I work for the best tattoo artist in Chicago. I clean his shop and do whatever needs to be done. The pay’s not bad, and if I’m real helpful, all the artists share their tips with me. And besides that, he’s teaching me the trade.” He sat back a minute and admired his work. Then he handed her a mirror and said, “So, what do you think?”
She gazed at the blue and silver butterfly that looked as if it could take flight at any moment. “It’s perfect, Jesse. You really are talented.”
“Aw shucks, Ma’am,” he drawled.
“Just not with accents!” she laughed. “Did it hurt?”
“That,” she said, pointing to the tattoo on his forearm.
“Oh that. Yeah, a little.”
“Would you paint one on me? I mean, there’s nobody waiting in line or anything.”
“Sure,” he said. He quickly decorated her right forearm with a stylized cross inside a heart.
She watched him work, fascinated by the way he knew just how to get the effect he wanted with only a few strokes of the brush. “I used to go to church before…well, a long time ago. But I don’t go any more.”
He paused a moment, still holding her hand, and looked into her eyes. “It’s okay, Tatia. God understands.”
She felt as if she could sit there and talk with him forever, but everyone was beginning to move toward the Chapel.
“Looks like it’s time for the big birthday dance,” he said as he put the finishing touches on his design. “Try not to get it against anything for a couple of minutes until it’s good and dry.”
“Thanks! It looks great. Maybe someday I’ll get a real one like yours.”
“Maybe. Now, go dance the night way. Happy Birthday, Tatia.”
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