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Tatia’s Tattoo: Chapter 20 – …AND IN THE SLAMMER. Read it here!

The first man who approaches Tatia on the street turns out to be Officer Kevin Adams, and she spends her first night in jail.

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 20.

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CHAPTER 20: …AND IN THE SLAMMER

The man reached into his hip pocket and pulled out his wallet. He popped it open with one smooth, practiced move, exposing his badge and confirming Tatia’s worst fears.

“Kevin Adams, Cameron PD. You’re under arrest for prostitution. Stand up and turn around with your hands behind your back.”

As he began reciting her rights, he pulled some flex-cuffs out of his pocket. He hated the things, because if you tightened them too much, you had to cut them off and start over before your detainee ended up with blue hands. The metal ones tended to rattle at the wrong time, though, so he made do.

“Do you understand these rights as I’ve told them to you?” he asked as he tested the cuffs to make sure he hadn’t made them too loose.

“Yes,” said Tatia in a voice so quiet it was almost drowned out by the buzz of her cell phone. “Can I take my phone?”

“You can’t handle it in the car, and you know you can’t keep it when they put you in a cell.”

“Oh,” she replied with tears in her voice.

“First time?” he asked with his voice softening a little.

“Yes.”

He picked up the phone and slid it into his pocket. “They’ll give it back to you when you’re released.”

Tatia nodded, biting her lip and struggling to control the fear of what would happen when she was released. Eric had no patience with girls who cost him time and money by getting arrested. Officer Adams held her arm securely but not roughly as he directed her back to his car, and he was careful not to bump her head when he helped her into the back seat. She knew Eric would not be so gentle.

While he drove to the station, Tatia saw him glancing at her in the rearview mirror every now and then. Finally, he spoke.

“What’s your last name, Kaitlyn?”

“Golden,” she answered.

“How old are you.”

She did a quick mental calculation, making sure her answer matched her ID. “Twenty,” she said.

“Shame,” he said. “If you were, say, sixteen or seventeen, this would be a lot easier for you – especially if you told me where to find the guy you texted back in the room.”

“Oh, that,” she said. “That was just my roommate letting her know that I wouldn’t be home tonight.”

“Ahh,” he said cynically. “I thought it might be your pimp.”

“No, I don’t have a manager. I’m on my own – just making a little spending money,” she said, trying to sound much more blasé than she felt.

Both driver and passenger were silent for the rest of the trip. Adams pulled into a parking lot where he pulled in between two patrol cars. He helped Tatia out and guided her up the steps into the station and past the front desk where an officer was talking on the phone with his feet up on the desk.

“Slow night, huh?” said Adams.

“Yeah. Looks like you got a live one.”

“Uh-huh. Is Anderson here?”

“Yeah, she’s taking a break. We don’t have a houseful, but there are a few ahead of you.”

Tatia’s eyes were wide with apprehension as the reality of her situation played out in front of her. “Where are you taking me?” she whispered to Kevin.

He lowered his voice so only she could hear. “To a holding cell where you’ll stay until we’re ready to complete the booking process. Then you’ll be moved to a pre-arraignment cell where you’ll stay until the judge gets here and gets started tomorrow morning.”

“Tomorrow?” she said with tears puddling and threatening to spillover.

“It won’t be too bad. I type slow, and the night’s half over anyway.”

“You still have my phone, right?”

“Right here,” he said, patting his pocket.

The holding cell was down the hall from the front desk, but Tatia wished it was miles further. The small barred room was bare except for four metal benches bolted to the wall and the floor, a sink against the back wall, and an exposed toilet next to it. Women were lying on two of the benches with their faces turned toward the wall, and a third was sitting on another. None of them paid any attention as Kevin and Tatia approached. The officer who was sitting outside the cell at a tiny desk, however, gave her a thorough inspection.

“Hey, Adams! Looks like you caught a new one tonight. I haven’t seen her around here before.”

“Be nice, Hill. She’s never been inside before.”

“Yeah, first time but probably not the last. You know the drill – sign her in.” He shoved a clip board toward Kevin and continued his inspection of Tatia. Kevin wrote down her name, his name as the arresting officer, and the time.

“Okay, Hill. Get your lazy butt out of that chair and open the door so we can get on with this.”

While Hill unlocked the door, Kevin pulled a utility knife out of his pocket and used it to remove the cuffs from Tatia’s wrists. She rubbed her wrists, not because they hurt, but because she couldn’t believe she had actually been handcuffed. Hill swung the door open, she took a couple of steps inside, and stopped, frozen in place.

“This might take a little while,” said Kevin. “There are three ahead of you, but Officer Anderson will come get you and finish the process as soon as she can.”

About ten minutes later, Tatia moved toward the remaining vacant bench when she realized her toes were going numb from standing in four-inch heels. She sat on the edge of the bench, just enough to take the pressure off her feet, and stared at her hands to avoid making eye contact with anyone.

Tatia didn’t know how long she had been sitting there when she heard a female voice call out a name. She looked up long enough to watch Officer Anderson collect one of the other women and take her back down the hall. Anderson didn’t look nearly as nice as Kevin. In fact, the tall, husky brunette had a scowling mouth and an intense look that scared Tatia. She scooted back against the wall, tucked her feet under her, and wrapped her arms around herself, trying to keep from trembling.

She must have dozed off, because the next thing she knew, Anderson was calling her name. She stumbled to the door, trying to clear the sleep out of her head, and followed the officer to another room where she was instructed to sit down in the chair beside the desk. Anderson tapped on her keyboard for a few minutes, then, she began to ask Tanya some simple questions.

“Full name?”

Tatia caught herself before she gave her real name. “Kaitlyn Golden.”

She made it through the rest of the questions, stumbling only slightly over her date of birth. She gave Cindy as her contact person, and she answered the medical questions easily since she had always been healthy. Before she printed the completed form, Anderson asked three more questions.

“Do you understand that you are being booked on a charge of Prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor?”

“Yes,” replied Tatia quietly.

“Were your rights read to you, and do you understand those rights?”

“Yes,” she whispered, thinking that the only rights she had were the ones Eric said she had.

“Would you like to make a phone call?”

“Yes, please.”

Anderson dialed the number Tatia gave her and then handed the phone to her. Tatia listened hopefully to several rings, but her face fell as the voice mail activated. She listened to the familiar message before leaving one of her own. “Cindy, I hope you got my text. I’m at the Cameron PD, and court starts in less than an hour. Please come get me!”

The sound of Tatia’s voice was covered by the chatter of the printer next to Anderson’s desk. The officer took the phone back from Tatia and reached into her desk drawer, pulling out an ink pad and another form. As if she was grabbing another implement off her desk, she grabbed Tatia’s hand and began rolling her fingers, first across the ink and then across the form. While she worked, Tatia asked her first question.

“Will I be searched?”

The hint of a smile tugged at one corner of the officer’s mouth. Without looking up, she replied. “Not that a full-body search would be all that new to you, but no. I don’t think you could hide anything under that dress. Besides,” she said, looking at her watch. “It’s less than an hour until court convenes. We won’t even have time to put you into one of our lovely orange jumpsuits.”

Anderson directed Tatia to an area with a backdrop that reminded Tatia of the back of the closet door where her mother measured her every few months to see how much she had grown. It was the first time she could remember being glad her mother was dead – at least she didn’t have to see what her daughter had become.

“Face the camera and hold this in front of you,” said Anderson as she handed her a slate with her name and a series of numbers on it. After snapping a front view and a profile shot, Anderson directed Tatia back to her desk. “Have a seat while I get your inmate ID.”

She came back in a few minutes with a strip of plastic that contained Tatia’s ID number, her name, her mug shot, and a bar code. As Anderson fastened the bracelet around Tatia’s wrist, she caught a glimpse of Tatia’s tattoo peeking out from under her three-quarter-length sleeve. She pushed the sleeve up a little and made a clucking sound with her tongue.

“Looks like you already have an ID. I thought Officer Adams said you were a solo act.”

Tatia pulled her sleeve down, folded her arms across her chest so the tattoo was well hidden, and exercised her right to remain silent.

# # #

Thank you for following Tatia’s adventures through the first 20 of 55 chapters. You can find the complete book on Amazon in either digital for $.99 or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5| Chapter 6 | Chapter 7| Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16| Chapter 17 | Chapter 18| Chapter 19

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo: Chapter 15 – Suspicion. Read it here!

Tatia’s excuses are wearing thin, and her foster mother Josie is getting suspicious.

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 15. Chapter 16 will be posted on Thursday.

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CHAPTER 15: SUSPICION

School started the week after Tatia’s makeover, and her double life began to take even more of a toll. She was so tired during the day that, even though she didn’t actually fall asleep, her class participation suffered, she missed assignments, and her grades were well below previous years. She managed to cover the interim reports of failing grades by forging Josie’s signature, but she hadn’t come up with a plan to avoid showing her report card when the other kids came home with theirs.

Her Saturday excuses were wearing thin, too. She had become lax in doing her chores, Macy had begun to whine about babysitting so often, and Josie had become suspicious. She was growing tired of taking up the slack, and she started asking questions that were hard to answer.

On a Wednesday morning after a very late night, Tatia woke up late and was rushing out without breakfast when Josie blocked the door. “Cade had an interesting story at breakfast this morning,” she said.

Cade was her five-year-old foster brother, and Tatia’s heart jumped into her throat as she wondered what he might have said. “He loves making up interesting stories,” she said. “I’m really running late this morning. Can you tell me about it when I get home?”

“You can spare a minute. Cade said he got up to go to the bathroom, and he heard something in your room. He peeked in the door and saw a burglar climbing in your window. What do you have to say about that?”

“He probably had a dream. That’s all.”

“I thought of that, but I went out and checked around your window. Your window screen was on the ground propped up against the side of the house, and there were lots of footprints in the flowerbed under it.”

Tatia’s heart was beating faster as she searched for a plausible answer. “I haven’t been sleeping well lately. The nightmares have come back. Sometimes when I wake up and have trouble going back to sleep, I go for a walk.”

“And you climb out the window to go for your nightly walks?”

“I don’t want to wake the kids. You know they leave their doors open. Now, I really have to go or I’ll be late for first period.”

“Okay,” Josie said, stepping out of the way. “But you’d better not be lying to me. If I find out you’ve been sneaking out to see some boy or letting one come into your room, I’ll tell Ms. Dunham to find another placement for you.”

“I’m not seeing a boy, Josie. I promise,” said Tatia as she made a mad dash for the bus.

She made it to the corner just in time and fell breathlessly into her seat just as the bus pulled away from the stop. She pulled her cell phone out of her backpack and dashed off a text to Eric.

I need to talk to you after school. Josie suspects.

He hadn’t been meeting her after school for the last several weeks and hadn’t been picking her up for work himself. He had explained that business was so good that managing it was taking more time. Tatia knew what kind of managing he had been doing, because she had seen him squiring around a hot new brunette. She didn’t really mind. Her fantasy of his being her Prince Charming had faded the day he stood over her with his belt in hand. With his attention focused elsewhere, she was less likely to experience a repeat performance.

He had also explained that the extra business was bringing in extra money that had allowed him to purchase a late model Beemer and hire a driver to pick her up. She rather enjoyed being chauffeured around. If she was alone in the back seat, she sometimes had time for a quick nap. Some days, though, when there were lots of clients, they made several stops to pick up other girls, and it was almost like a party until they arrived in Cameron and the driver began dropping them off at various motels. After an evening of dealing with the reality of their lives, the ride home was much less festive.

In spite of his busy schedule, Eric still checked on Tatia regularly, and he always told her she could contact him any time she needed him. Apparently, he meant it. By the time she arrived at school, he had responded.

How about a decaf mocha?

She sent him a thumbs up emoticon and slipped the phone into her backpack.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11| Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Chapter 14 – A New Identity. Read it here!

As Eric took everything from her, even her name, she learned that compliance was the only way to survive.

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 14. Chapter 15 will be posted on Sunday.

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CHAPTER 14: A NEW IDENTITY

The next time Tatia saw Eric after the beating, he was attentive and as sweet to her as if nothing had happened. First, he took her to the mall where he bought her a pair of high-heeled, knee-high boots and a sassy mini dress. Then, they visited the cosmetics department at one of the anchor stores where he seemed to know several of the girls behind the counter.

“Hi, Eric,” cooed a gorgeous redhead named Kitty. “What can I do for you today?” she asked suggestively.

“Kitty, this is Tatia. It’s time to get rid of the little girl look and go with something more sophisticated,” he explained. “She also has a new outfit. I’d appreciate it if you’d show her to one of your dressing rooms where she can change. I’ll be back in thirty minutes to pick her up.” With that, he spun on his heels and walked out, leaving Tatia standing alone in the middle of the aisle looking confused.

“Don’t worry, honey,” said Kitty. “You’re in expert hands. Have a seat on that stool while I pull a few samples together.”

For the next few minutes, Kitty skillfully applied a light-weight foundation, translucent powder, blush, and a staggering array of eye make-up. Some of the brushes tickled, and Tatia thought again of the butterfly Jesse had painted on her cheek a few short months ago. She pushed the thought away, though, as Kitty looked at her curiously and dabbed a tear away from the corner of her eye.

At each step, Kitty explained what she was doing so Tatia would be able to duplicate the look on her own later. When she was satisfied with the results, she released Tatia’s blonde curls from the ponytail she wore and fluffed them with her hands until they fell softly around her face. She surveyed her work and smiled.

“Good! Now, let’s go get you dressed.”

When Eric returned a few minutes later, he whistled appreciatively and said, “Now that’s what I’m talking about. Thanks, Kitty. Put it on my bill.”

“Don’t worry,” she grinned. “I will.”

Tatia followed him through the mall and out to the parking lot, glancing in the windows at a reflection she hardly recognized.

“Thanks for the new look, Eric,” she said as she climbed into the car.

“You’ll earn it,” he said without looking at her.

Yeah, that’s what I figured, she thought to herself.

Instead of driving straight to the motel, he pulled into an old strip center and stopped in front of a narrow establishment with a neon sign that said “Coffee Shop” in the window. She followed him in and was surprised at the trendy-looking interior. There were three small tables and a comfortable seating area in the corner by the window. A well-equipped serving bar was tucked into the back corner, and the tantalizing aroma of fresh-roasted coffee beans filled the air.

“Hi, Eric,” greeted the barista behind the counter. “What’ll it be?”

“A double espresso for me and a decaf mocha for the lady – as soon as she returns from the ladies’ room.”

“Coming right up, Eric. Miss, the restroom is just past the bar on the right. Ignore the sign on the left stall and use that one.”

Tatia followed instructions without question, assuming she was about to pay for her afternoon at the mall. She found the restroom and walked in, expecting to find a client waiting for her. Instead, the room was unoccupied. The left stall sported an out-of-order sign, so Tatia opened the door and peeked in. As she stepped inside, she heard a buzzer sound somewhere behind the side wall, and the wall swung away, revealing a hidden room.

“You must be Tatia,” said a voice from the darkness in the corner. “Come on in and have a seat.”

She wasn’t sure what she was stepping into, but she did as she was told and sat down on the small stool that was a few feet in front of what looked like a camera. The voice and the man who owned it stepped behind what really was a camera, made a few adjustments, and said “Smile.” She smiled and was momentarily blinded by a flash. “Okay. That’ll do. Go enjoy your coffee, and I’ll have this out in a few minutes.”

Totally confused, she retraced her steps into the coffee shop and made her way toward the seating area in the corner. Eric was sitting on a latte-colored leather sofa, talking with a distinguished looking older man who was in a matching chair that was set at a right angle to the sofa. The older man rose as she approached, and she smiled, wondering if this was her next client.

“Tatia,” said Eric, “this is Joseph. Joseph, Tatia.”

“Hello, Joseph.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Tatia.”

Eric patted the sofa next to him. “Have a seat,” he said. “Have you ever had a decaf mocha?”

“No.”

He picked up a steaming cup from the table and handed it to her. “Let me know what you think.”

She sipped the chocolaty liquid and smiled. “It’s delicious. Thanks, Eric.”

He patted her on the leg in a proprietary manner. “Enjoy,” he said as he resumed his chat with the man who was sitting in the chair beside him.

Tatia could tell they were talking business, so she tried to shut them out. She occupied herself with her new favorite drink and with enjoying a few more minutes without having to sell her body.

She had just finished her mocha and was wondering what was next when the barista walked out to the table. “Excuse me, Miss. I believe you dropped this in the restroom.” He held out a small laminated card, and Tatia took it from him.

“Thanks,” she said as she looked down and saw a picture of herself staring back at her. She realized she was holding a Texas driver’s license that said her name was Kaitlyn Golden and that she was nineteen years old. She looked at Eric with a question in her eyes.

He glanced at her and said, “Put that in your purse and try not to be so careless with it.”

“Sure, Eric.”

“Come on. Play time’s over,” he said, standing and shaking hands with Joseph. She followed Eric to the car, thinking about the difference between this afternoon and the last time she had been with him. She was learning that the more money she made for him and the more compliant she was, the better he would treat her. She knew there was no way out, at least in the foreseeable future, so she made up her mind to smile and pretend to welcome each new customer.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3| Chapter 4|Chapter 5 |Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 |Chapter 11| Chapter 12 | Chapter 13

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 13 Here!

Tatia’s nightmare worsens as Eric treats her like the slave she has become and marks her as his property.

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 13. Chapter 14 will be posted on Thursday.

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CHAPTER 13: LONG SLEEVES

Tatia survived the rest of the weekend and avoided Josie’s questions and most of her regular chores by saying she had a stomach virus. When Monday rolled around, she wished for school so she could avoid closer scrutiny, but she offered to take the kids to the park instead, knowing that Josie would stay home. She dragged herself behind the noisy herd, making half-hearted attempts to keep the little ones out of the road. She drifted through the next hour or so, pushing swings, spotting budding gymnasts, and examining scraped knees but feeling more isolated and out of place than ever. When the complaints about being tired, thirsty, or hungry began, she asked the next oldest foster sibling if she would take the kids home.

“While you do what?” snapped Macy who was always spoiling for a fight. “Go shopping or sneak off to the DQ by yourself?”

Tatia sighed, lacking the energy to think of a smart comeback. “No, Macy. I want to go to the library and check out a book. You can come with me and bring all of them along if you like.”

Macy wrinkled her nose as she always did at any mention of books. “No thanks! Come on kids. Our resident genius is going to the library, and we’re going home for a delicious lunch of mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

When Tatia began her solitary walk toward the library, she felt a small sense of relief until she saw Eric’s car parked in front of it. She tried to walk past as if she didn’t see him, but he opened his door, stood up, and leaned against the car as if nothing had happened.

“Hi, gorgeous!” he called.

“Hi, Eric,” she said softly, looking at him in spite of herself. Why did he have to be so good looking!

“I was passing through and saw you with the kids. I was hoping you’d stop by here. Have you got time to go for an ice cream?”

She hesitated for a moment, but the need to be with someone with whom she didn’t have to put on a front was too strong.

“Sure,” she sighed. “Let me run in and grab a book so I don’t have to answer questions when I get home.”

She came out a few minutes later with two books under her arm and climbed into the car. He began chatting as soon as she had fastened her seat belt and kept up a steady stream of chatter until their ice cream was almost gone and they were parked on an isolated side road on the way to her house. He popped the last bite of cone into his mouth and wiped his hands on a napkin. Then, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. He placed it on Tatia’s lap while she scraped the last bits of cookies and cream off the bottom of her cup.

“What’s that for?” she asked, licking her spoon.

“I forgot to give it to you the other night. My friend enjoyed himself so much he gave me a little extra for you. Buy yourself something special.”

Tatia looked at the bill as if it were something vile. “I don’t want it,” she said.

“Why not?” he asked. “Are you too good to take money for making somebody feel good?”

“It’s not that, Eric. You said I wouldn’t have to do it ever again. I just want to forget that it ever happened.”

“Did I say that? Well, that was before I knew how good you would be and how much my friend would like you. Do you know how much he liked you?” he asked, leaning close and whispering in her ear. “He liked you so much he wants to see you again tomorrow night.”

“No, Eric!” she cried out in horror, turning to look at him. She saw the anger flash in his eyes, and fear flared in her stomach.

“Don’t you tell me no,” he snarled. He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her roughly toward him until they were almost nose to nose. He slid his hand slowly from her shoulder toward her neck and began to squeeze her trapezius muscle gently. “You’re my girl now, and my girls do what I tell them when I tell them. Understand?” She nodded, and her eyes began to water as he gradually increased the pressure. “I don’t want to have to treat you like I do Cindy, and I sure don’t want to tell Josie and your social worker what you were doing Saturday night when you were supposed to be at a birthday party.”

“Eric, you’re hurting me!”

He gave her muscle one last painful twist before releasing his hold. “Now,” he said, with a predatory smile, “take your gift and put it in your pocket and be grateful I didn’t keep it. I’ll need you to meet me here at eleven o’clock tomorrow night. Josie and the rug rats should be asleep by then, so you can sneak out. I’ll have you back before they wake up, and you can sleep in Wednesday morning.”

Before the week was over, Tatia had met two more of Eric’s friends, and by the end of July, he had stopped calling them friends and had begun referring to them as clients. She was soon working two or three nights a week which wasn’t a problem since everyone was asleep before she slipped out. However, she was also working several hours on Saturday, so she had become adept at inventing excuses.

At first she was afraid Josie would question her about the mysterious new friends she met at the mall every week, but Tatia began using part of her tip money to pay Macy to watch the kids. Macy loved to shop, and as long as the money kept coming, she asked no questions – and as long as Tatia’s chores were done before she left, Josie didn’t seem to care either.

Tatia hated her new life, but she learned quickly not to express her feelings. One Saturday shortly before school started back, Eric dropped in between clients to see how she was doing, and she announced that she was going home and that she was not coming back.

“Oh, really!” he sneered as she turned her back on him and headed for the bathroom, intending to change out of her “working clothes” and back into her jeans and T-shirt. His fist hit her just below the shoulder blades, knocking the breath out of her and throwing her to the floor. Before she could recover, he removed the crocodile belt from the waist of his custom-tailored slacks and beat her with it until he could see the red welts across her back through the sheer fabric of her blouse. While she lay on the floor in a pool of tears and sweat, he slipped the belt back into place and made a big show of composing himself.

“Let’s get one thing straight. You are mine, and you will do whatever I tell you to do with whoever I tell you and whenever I tell you. Do you understand?”

When she didn’t respond, he grabbed her by the shoulder, flipped her over on her back, and leaned down so close she could smell the liquor on his breath. “I said, ‘Do you understand?’”

She nodded.

“And don’t get any ideas about running away from me. I found you once, and I know how to find you again. In fact, it may be time to make sure you know who you belong to.”

He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and hit Cindy’s speed dial. “Hey Cindy, make yourself useful. Tatia needs a little ointment on her back, so get over to her room and see what you can do. Contact her next client and send him to Cheri…I don’t care what she was planning. Now she’s planning to take care of another client. And when you get that set up, get hold of the Ink Guy and see if he can do a rush job this afternoon. Tell him there’s a big tip in it for him if he can be finished by six o’clock.”

He disconnected, slid the phone back into his pocket, and turned his attention back to Tatia who was now lying on her side with her eyes closed and her knees pulled up to her chest. He kicked the bottom of her foot to get her attention, and she looked up at him through swollen, bloodshot eyes.

“Now that we understand each other, I’m giving you the rest of the afternoon off. But I don’t want you to leave this room until I tell you to.”

“Okay,” she whispered.

“Cindy is coming in shortly to check on your back, and then a guy is coming in to give you a tattoo.”

“A tattoo?” her eyes widened. “But I don’t…” She stopped when she saw the anger in his eyes.

“That’s better. You’re learning.”

A light tap on the door drew his attention. “Yeah?”

“It’s me,” called Cindy.

“Well, what are you standing out there for?”

The door opened and Cindy came in carrying a small first aid kit. Even in the dim light, Tatia could see that her right eye was swollen and discolored and her jaw was somewhat puffy. Eric grabbed her by the back of the neck in what might have seemed like an affectionate grip except for the grimace on Cindy’s face.

“Now Cindy here is a slow learner,” he said, giving her a less than gentle shake, “aren’t you, Cindy?”

“Yes, Eric,” she said without looking at him.

“Okay,” he said, loosening his hold on Cindy. “Looks like we’re good here. You two have your instructions, and I have work to do.”

He slammed his way out the door, and Cindy knelt on the floor next to Tatia. “Honey, are you okay?”

In answer, Tatia began to sob quietly.

“Can you stand up?”

Tatia rolled over onto her hands and knees and then sat back on her heels. “I’m a little light headed.”

“That’s just the adrenaline. It’ll go away. Come on, hold onto my arm, and we’ll get you over to the bed.”

With a gentleness she had learned from experience, Cindy removed Tatia’s blouse and inspected the welts on her back. “The good news is he didn’t break the skin, so you won’t have to worry about your clothes sticking to you. You’re going to be bruised and sore, though, and it’s gonna be hard to wear a bra for a few days.”

She dumped the ice bucket into the sink and filled it the rest of the way with water, using a hand towel to make a cold compress. Tatia gasped when she laid it on her back.

“I know it’s cold, but it will keep the swelling down and numb the pain some. Lie still. I’m gonna run back to my room and get you one of my T-shirts to wear home. It’ll be more comfortable than that little skin-tight number you wore over here. Do you want me to get you a downer while I’m at it?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Are you sure? You might need it when you get the tat. This guy is pretty good, but it still stings a lot.”

“I’ll bet it does, but I don’t like the way they make me feel.”

“Okay. I’ll be right back.”

Tatia lay still, trying not to think or feel until she heard the door open again. Cindy came in with a soda in one hand, a T-shirt draped over her arm, and a plastic grocery sack in the other hand. She set her open soda on the night stand and flopped down on the other side of the bed.

“Here’s a shirt for you,” she said, laying it on the pillow next to Tatia’s head. It was long-sleeved turquoise shirt with a sparkly appliqué of a butterfly on the front. Tatia was relieved to see it wasn’t one of her heavy metal shirts. Cindy continued as she emptied the grocery bag. “I brought a soda for you. I put a little something extra in mine, but I didn’t think you’d want that. I also brought chips and cookies. Since we have some time off, we might as well make a party of it, right?”

Tatia managed a wan smile and said, “Cindy, you’re a good friend.”

“Aw shucks,” Cindy teased, but Tatia could see she was pleased. “I think that cold pack has been on long enough. Let me smooth on a little topical ointment. I don’t know if it will help, but it won’t hurt. Then you can put on the shirt and join the party.”

A few minutes later, the two were sitting cross-legged on the bed giggling like the teenagers they were, sharing jokes and stories and trying to forget the reality of their lives for a few minutes. At one point, Tatia pushed the sleeves of her shirt up – again. It was too big to begin with, and she was used to wearing short sleeves or tank tops.

“Cindy,” she asked, “why do you always wear long sleeves?”

Cindy looked at her for a minute and then sighed. She slowly pulled up her sleeve to reveal her own mark of shame. Tears slid down Tatia’s cheeks as she reached out and touched the imbedded ink, not wanting to believe it was real.

“Cindy, why do we have to get tattoos?”

“Well, you know how they brand cows?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s kinda like that.”

The party was pretty much over after that. Cindy continued to sip her spiked soda, while Tatia scrubbed her face, put on her jeans, and put the rest of her belongings in her backpack. She wanted to be ready when Eric released her. She had just finished and sat down on the bed when there was a tap on the door. Cindy stood up and threw her empty can in the trash can.

“I’ll get it on my way out. I gotta get back to work.”

“I thought you had the afternoon off.”

“Yeah, I’m not seeing any clients, but I have money to account for and stuff like that.”

“Okay.” Tatia didn’t want her to go. She had felt almost normal for a little while. “Thanks for everything.”

Cindy stopped with her hand on the doorknob and looked back at Tatia. “Any time, kiddo.” She opened the door and spoke to the visitor on her way out. “Hi, you know what to do. Here’s what he wants,” she said, handing him a small slip of paper.

Tatia heard her steps fading as she walked away and down the stairs, and a large, muscular man stepped through the door. He had an equipment bag over his shoulder, a folding stool under one arm, and what looked like a wooden TV table under the other. She could see why he was called the Ink Guy. Every inch of visible skin was covered with a tattoo of some kind. In spite of the circumstances, she was fascinated with the variety of pictures that decorated his arms, chest, face, and even his bald head. “Hi,” she said in a small voice.

“Hello, Miss,” he replied in a gentle tone that surprised her. “You know why I’m here, right?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever had a tattoo?” he asked.

“No.”

“Well, try to relax and enjoy the experience. I’ve been on both sides of a tattoo machine – a lot – so I know what I’m doing. The design we’ll be doing today is simple, so it won’t take too long, and since there’s only one color, it’s a one-step process. We won’t have to come back and do any fill-in.”

Tatia couldn’t help but smile at his obviously practiced patter designed to put her at ease and distract her from the reality that he was about to mark her like the many slaves who had been marked before her. He set his table down beside the bed and slid his bag off his shoulder onto it. He pulled out a bottle and a hand towel and handed them to her. “This is antiseptic hand wash. Use it to wash both hands and all the way up to your elbows. And use my towel to dry off, not the one from the motel.”

She did as she was told, and when she came back in he was sitting on his stool beside the table, wiping down the surface with an antiseptic wipe. He looked up at her and smiled in a reassuring way. “Lie down on this side of the bed and get comfortable. I’m going to lay your arm on this little table, and I want you to be as relaxed as possible.”

“I’ll need to lie on my side. My back is…” she hesitated, looking for words to explain.

He looked at her with sadness and understanding. “You do whatever you need to do to get through this. I’m flexible.”

After she settled into a relatively comfortable position, she extended her arm onto the table, and he sprayed something on it that tingled a little bit. “I’ve sprayed your arm with a topical anesthetic that will ease some of the discomfort,” he said. “I’ll give it a few minutes to take effect, and then I’ll wipe it with some alcohol to further clean the area where I’ll be working. Now, close your eyes and think pleasant thoughts while I get my equipment ready, and then we’ll get started.”

She watched his face while he worked, trying to identify various tattoos and trying to understand the look of hurt she saw in his eyes. “I used to have a friend who liked tattoos.”

“Yeah?” he said, glancing up with a half smile. “What happened?”

“Oh, that was before, you know. I’ll probably never see him again.”

He stopped and looked into her eyes. “Miss, sometimes we do what we have to do to survive. We do what we’re told, when we’re told, and where we’re told. But they can’t take what’s inside us unless we let them. I sense a strong spirit in you. Don’t let them break that spirit.”

She continued to watch his face and examine his tattoos, carefully avoiding looking down at her arm. She never did know his name, but he did his job quickly and efficiently and with relatively little pain. When he was finished, he wiped it once more with alcohol, apologizing for the sting. He applied some over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment and taped a sterile gauze pad over the new tattoo.

“This ointment will keep it from getting infected, and the gauze is just in case it seeps a little. You can remove it in twelve to eighteen hours and then apply this ointment a couple of times a day for the next week, just to be sure. If you do decide to put a new bandage on it, be sure the adhesive doesn’t touch the ink. As it heals, it may itch and peel a bit. Some moisturizing lotion might help. Any questions?”

She shook her head and took the tube of ointment he gave her. She pulled her sleeve down over the bandage, and she knew it would be a long time before she wore a tank top again.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1| Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4| Chapter 5 | Chapter 6| Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 |Chapter 11 |Chapter 12

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 12 Here!

Eric promised her love, but instead he emptied her of any shred of hope she had left and filled her with fear.

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 12. Chapter 13 will be posted on Sunday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

CHAPTER 12: AFTER THE PARTY

With the help of the pill Cindy had given her, and the ability she had developed through the years of disassociating her mind from reality, Tatia made it through the next half hour, but in spite of Eric’s reassurance, her life never went back to the way it was.

After her first client left, she took another hot shower and put on her jeans and pink T-shirt while crying for her lost childhood. She wiped the steam off the mirror and stared at the face that no longer looked familiar. The hair was still blonde, but the blue eyes looked flat, lifeless, and so very tired. She wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and wake up yesterday when she was eleven and innocent. Instead, she walked over to the corner, staying as far away from the bed as she could, and sat down in the single plastic chair next to a tiny table. Whatever Cindy had given her was making it hard for her to focus, so she crossed her arms on the table and laid her head down.

She didn’t know how long she stayed like that, but the next thing she knew, Eric was shaking her gently by the shoulder. “Tatia, wake up, honey. I have to get you home before Josie calls the cops.”

She was groggy and disoriented, but when she caught a glimpse of the rumpled bed, she recoiled, both from Eric’s touch and from the memory of what had happened. She jumped up and spun away from him, putting the chair between them. However, the sudden movement made her light-headed, and she clutched the back of the chair to keep from falling.

“Are you okay?” said Eric, reaching out a hand to steady her. Then, he put a finger under her chin and tilted her head up until he could look into her slightly dilated pupils. “Are you on something?”

“Just half a pill Cindy gave me,” she said, slurring slightly.

His eyes darkened in anger, and he struggled to keep his tone level. “Don’t ever take anything Cindy gives you. Do you hear me?” She nodded, her eyes wide with fear. “Good. I don’t need another druggy on my hands. Now, get your stuff, and let’s go.”

They rode in silence until they were three blocks from her house. He pulled over to the side of the road and turned to face her. “You did real good tonight, Tatia. My friend really liked you.”

She stared at her hands and remained silent. He slid his arm gently around her shoulders, pulled her to him, and kissed her hair. “I really am sorry that I hurt you before. I shouldn’t drink that much, especially when you look so good.” He kissed her temple. “Hey, beautiful, are you still my girl?”

She tried to resist, but she wanted to believe him. She nodded her head slowly and looked up at him, searching his eyes for the reassurance she so badly needed. He laid his free hand against her face and kissed her gently. “I love you, Tatia. You believe that, don’t you?”

She nodded and laid her head on his shoulder, surrendering what little was left of her will to his manipulation. He hugged her tightly to him as he checked his watch over her shoulder. He brushed another kiss against her hair and whispered, “I could sit here like this all night, but you’d better get on home.”

“Okay,” she said, pulling away and avoiding his eyes. She opened the door and stood on the side of the road, watching while he made a quick u-turn, flashed a smile, and sped away, leaving her more empty and alone than she had been since her mama died.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8| Chapter 9 | Chapter 10| Chapter 11

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 11 Here!

Tatia’s childhood ends on her 12th birthday as she becomes another sad statistic.

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 11. Chapter 12 will be posted on Thursday.

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CHAPTER 11: STATISTICS

Eric stomped over to the connecting door and flung it open. “Cindy,” he yelled, “Get in here!”

“I’m with a client!”

“Well, hurry it up,” he replied as he slammed the door.

Three minutes later, Cindy came through the door. She didn’t look happy. “What was that all about? Thanks to the interruption, he didn’t even leave a tip.”

Eric grabbed the front of her robe and pulled her up close enough for her to smell what he had for dinner. “Watch your mouth! You can be replaced, you know.”

“Okay, okay. I’m just trying to keep the customers happy. What did you need anyway?”

“I need you to get Tatia ready for her nine o’clock. She’s in the bathroom bawling – and she’ll need something to wear.”

Cindy scanned the room quickly, not missing the rumpled, stained sheets and the torn dress lying on the floor. “Been sampling the merchandise, huh?” she smirked, scurrying back to her room before he could swing the fist he raised threateningly.

“One day you’ll push me too far!” he yelled as he kicked a small silver sandal across the floor and stormed out the door into the parking lot.

Cindy peeked back into the room a minute later and, seeing that the coast was clear, she came in carrying her make-up bag and a robin’s-egg-blue baby-doll nightie. She knocked gently on the bathroom door and called out quietly.

“Hey, honey. It’s me – Cindy. Can I come in?”

The door opened slowly, and Tatia, sobbing and wrapped in a towel, threw herself into Cindy’s arms. “Oh, Cindy. Why did he do that to me? I thought he cared about me. And when he says I have to be nice to his friend, he doesn’t mean…that, does he? I wish I was dead!”

Cindy, definitely not the motherly type, patted Tatia’s back awkwardly, making what she hoped were soothing, calming sounds. “Don’t cry, baby. He’s just like that sometimes, especially when he drinks. His friend won’t be so bad. He’s gettin’ old, and he’ll be done and gone before you know it.”

Her reassurances didn’t help. Tatia drew back in horror. “NO! I won’t do it. He can’t make me.”

“Honey, you don’t want to cross him. He can get real nasty when he doesn’t get what he wants.” She had moved closer to Tatia and encouraged her sit down on the toilet seat. While she dabbed at Tatia’s smeared make-up, her robe fell open revealing a huge bruise on her thigh. Tatia reached out a tentative finger and touched the purplish mark that looked strangely like a hand.

“Did he do that to you?”

“Yeah, but I probably deserved it. I can get pretty mouthy in case you hadn’t already noticed.”

The color drained out of Tatia’s face as her eyes fell on the sheer nightie and she realized the hopelessness of her situation. “Do I have to wear that?”

“Honey, I know it’s not as fancy as that little black number, but it will look sensational on you – much better than it does on me. The blue will really bring out your eyes. Now slip it on and then I’ll see if I can straighten your hair a bit.”

Tatia did as she was told, moving mechanically and keeping her back to the mirror. At the same time, Cindy unwrapped one of the plastic glasses on the bathroom counter and filled it with water. She pulled a small bottle out of her pocket and shook a tiny pill into her hand. She broke it in half, popped half of it in her mouth and held the other half out to Tatia along with the water.

“Here ya’ go. This is just a little something to take the edge off.” Tatia started to object, but Cindy shushed her and continued. “It’s just a mild sedative, nothing that’s gonna hurt you. It’ll just help you deal with everything. It’s a lot for a kid your age. How old are you anyway?”

Tatia took the pill and washed it down with a swallow of water. “Twelve. Today’s my birthday,” Tatia said almost too quietly for Cindy to hear.

Cindy’s face flushed, first with anger and then with tears that threatened to spill over her carefully-lined lids. Then, she visibly pulled her emotional armor back in place and produced a small tube from the other pocket.

“Here, take this. Rub it around, you know, down there. It’ll kind of numb that area so it doesn’t hurt so much. All the new girls use it.”

“All the girls?” Tatia asked, eyes wide with disbelief. “You mean there are more?”

“Oh, yeah! Eric has a stable of a couple dozen fillies. You’re the finest one he’s brought in so far, though.” She knew she’d said too much when Tatia’s eyes became glistening pools, putting her freshly applied make-up at risk. “Now, now, don’t you worry yourself about any of that. Like I said, I let my mouth run away with me sometimes. Just take a deep breath and think how happy Eric will be with you after his friend leaves.”

Cindy went over to the bed and began straightening the disheveled sheets.

“Cindy?”

“Yeah, honey.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Cindy made a strange noise – something between a sob and a laugh. “Don’t worry about that. He’ll know, and he’ll tell you what he wants you to do. And don’t be afraid of this one. He’s pretty easy to please.”

A soft knock at the door made both girls freeze in place, looking into each other’s faces. Cindy saw the terror in Tatia’s eyes, so she winked and said, “Relax and enjoy the ride. You look stunning, and you’ll be amazed at the power you have. See ya’ later.” Before Tatia could reply, Cindy scooted through the connecting door and closed it quietly behind her.

As that door closed, the front door opened a few inches, and a soft voice said, “May I come in?”

Tatia relaxed a little bit when she heard Eric’s voice, but she tensed and stared at the floor as he approached her. She flinched slightly as he reached out and put his index finger under her chin.

“Tatia?” he said tentatively.

He sounded like the Eric she thought she knew, so she allowed him to lift her face until she was looking into his eyes. “I am so sorry I hurt you before. The last thing I want to do is see you unhappy or in pain. You believe that, don’t you?”

She wanted to lash out at him, demanding that he take her home immediately, but she remembered the fear in Cindy’s eyes and the bruise on her leg. There was also a part of her that wanted to believe him, to go back to the way they were yesterday, so she nodded her head and let him draw her into a tender embrace. She laid her head on his chest and felt the vibrations of his voice as he continued to talk.

“This is hard for me, too, you know. I can hardly stand the thought of you with another man, and if there was any other way, I’d take it. But after he’s gone, things will go back to the way they were. Okay?”

She nodded, and he lifted her face again, stared into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity, and brushed her lips lightly with his. The moment was exactly the birthday kiss she had imagined, except that she was in a borrowed nightie instead of her beautiful new dress, and she was about to become one more statistic in the sex-trafficking industry in a small Texas town.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital ($.99) or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10

Blessings,

Linda

Mom’s Long Goodbye – Prologue & Chapter 1

MLG Promo 2 Read the Prologue and Chapter 1 for free. If you want to read further, get the ebook for $.99 at Amazon.

PROLOGUE

You Say Goodbye, but You Don’t Go Away

Genesis 24:56 (KJV) And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

Some people have a hard time saying goodbye. There are the false-start types. When it’s time to leave, they say, “I’d better get on home now,” but they stand in the doorway, keys in hand, and talk for another fifteen minutes. Sometimes, it takes them several more attempts before they actually make it out the door.

There are also the revolving-door types. They make it out the door quickly enough, but they pop back in several times to retrieve something they forgot or to tell you one more thing. I tend toward the second type, and I have a friend who finds it amusing. On my second or third round trip back, she smiles knowingly and says, “You say goodbye, but you don’t go away.”

There’s another type of person who takes a long time to say goodbye. It’s not a loveable personality trait that makes them linger in the doorway to tell you just one more thing or a quirky forgetfulness that makes it difficult to leave. Instead, it’s tangled knots of nerves in their brain that become encrusted with plaque and steal them away from their loved ones a piece at a time. Mom was one of those people. She had Alzheimer’s, and it took her fifteen years to say goodbye.

CHAPTER 1

Fear and the Red Photo Album

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

 Mom was afraid for a long time. I found evidence of her fear in an old, red photo album, the kind with a thick cardboard cover bound with braided cord. It had a rose embossed on the front, and I sat on the floor, wondering what forgotten pictures were inside. Instead of pictures, there were articles. Page after page of neatly clipped and mounted stories about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Stories of symptoms, stories of promising theories, stories with more questions than answers, stories of Mom’s first steps into the darkness.

#

Mom was always a fearful person, especially when she was alone. Dad worked nights several times during their seventy-year marriage. She sometimes told the story of being a young bride, left alone in an isolated country house while her groom worked at the ice house every night. One evening, she was awakened from a restless sleep by a terrible noise. She later described it as sounding like someone was trying to get into the house straight through the wall of her bedroom. She had no phone and no close neighbors, so she huddled in the center of the bed, trembling with fear and wondering how long she had left to live.

The noise continued for a while, but when the walls didn’t splinter and the threat didn’t seem to increase, she screwed up her courage and crept outside to investigate. She slipped down the front steps and peeked around the corner, and there, she saw it. An old milk cow was chewing on the grass that grew up beside the pier and beam foundation that supported the house. She laughed about it after the fact, but she and I had a replay of sorts years later when I was in my early teens.

We lived in the city by then, and Dad still worked nights, this time at the post office. My older brother, Jim, was away at college, so Mom and I were on our own. I was sound asleep when I was awakened by an urgent whisper.

“Linda! Come in here. Somebody’s trying to get in the window.”

I jumped up and ran into her room. She was sitting up in bed, her back pressed against the headboard with the covers drawn up to her chin.

“There,” she said, pointing to the window beside her pillow. “Somebody was scratching on the screen.”

I sat on the side of the bed for a minute, staring at the window. The closed window shade was backlit by a full moon and gave off an eerie glow. Suddenly, a shadow passed across the window, and I scooted under the covers and into Mom’s arms. We sat that way for a few minutes, but when there was no further movement or sound, curiosity overcame fear, and I slid out of bed and tiptoed to the window. I pulled the shade away just far enough to peek out.

“I don’t see anything. I’m going to call Dad.”

Without turning on a light, I went to the phone that sat in its recessed nook in the hallway wall. All the modern houses had them. Like a blind person reading Braille, I slid my fingers over the dial, counted the holes, and dialed the number.

“Dad, I think somebody’s trying to get in. Something was scratching on the screen in your bedroom, and I saw a shadow on the shade.”

“Did you look out?”

“Yes, I peeped out and couldn’t see anyone.”

“Okay. Stay away from the window. I’m going to call the police.” “Okay.”

Within minutes, we heard a car pull up in front of the house and saw the beams of flashlights as Mesquite’s finest investigated. Then, we heard a knock on the door.

“We didn’t find anything, Ma’am, but we’ll have a patrol car drive by here frequently for the rest of the night.”

When Dad got home the next morning, he found us still huddled together under the covers. He immediately went out to investigate; he was laughing when he came back inside.

“I didn’t find any footprints or anything, but I did find some evidence. There were rat droppings on the window sill.”

We took a bit of kidding about being afraid of the dark, but Mom wasn’t just afraid of things that go bump in the night. She was afraid in the daylight, too. She was afraid of making a mistake, afraid of looking foolish in front of others, of being embarrassed, of being looked down on.

She had a beautiful voice and helped lead the singing in her tiny, country church when she was a teenager. That was before air conditioning, when church windows actually opened and congregations cooled themselves with cardboard fans provided by the local funeral home. One Sunday morning, a fly flew in an open window  and straight into Mom’s mouth as she sang. She was so embarrassed she became reluctant  to lead the singing. Not long after that, she learned that the former song leader had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Fearful that his singing might have contributed to his illness, she retired from her leadership position and rejoined the congregation.

She had other musical talents, too. She learned to play the guitar by watching her uncles when the kinfolks gathered for a songfest, and she also played the piano by ear. We had an old player piano we inherited from one relative or another. The player mechanics had been removed, Dad had refinished it, and Mom spent many happy hours playing honky-tonk tunes and old gospel favorites. When we moved from a small West Texas town into the suburbs of Dallas, though, she feared that city folks would look down on her country origins, so she did her best to cover them up. Her guitar was relegated to the back of her closet, and the piano was made available for me to practice the Old Masters favored by my piano teacher.

Mom also feared illness and physical infirmities of all kinds. She was born with yellow jaundice, as it was known in the country, and she was sickly as a child. As an adult, she endured a tonsillectomy, an appendectomy, a hysterectomy, three spinal fusions, and the removal of a deformed kidney, so she saved her best nightgowns for her next trip to the hospital. She feared falling victim to any epidemic or new disease that made the rounds of the morning talk shows. In spite of her fear, or maybe because of it, she often developed the symptoms of those diseases. What she feared most, though, was Alzheimer’s. I didn’t realize how much until I found that old photo album. Mom and Dad lived with us for six years before they went into assisted living. By that time, neither of them was capable of making the decisions necessary in downsizing. I went through their personal belongings and made piles: things to pack, things to store, things to donate, things to throw away. I found trash, and I found treasures—and I found the photo album in the bottom of one of Mom’s dresser drawers. I wonder how long she lived alone with her fear before the rest of us suspected.

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 10 Here!

The dream begins to crumble, and what began as the best night of Tatia’s life turned into the worst.

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 10. Chapter 11 will be posted on Sunday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

CHAPTER 10: THE REAL NIGHTMARES

The restaurant was beyond anything Tatia had imagined. Eric pulled up in front of what looked like a turn-of-the-century mansion. Three attendants dressed in black pants, white shirts, and red vests surrounded the car. One opened his door, another opened hers, and the third drove the car to an unseen and supposedly safe place. A uniformed doorman ushered them through the entrance, and a maître d’ in a black tuxedo signaled to a black-suited waiter who ushered them to an intimate table for two by a corner window overlooking an atrium with a lighted fountain.

After seating Tatia on her side of the table, the waiter took the fan-folded napkin out of the stemmed glass in front of her and ceremoniously placed it in her lap. He repeated the performance on Eric’s side of the table and then handed him a menu. Tatia wanted to laugh with delight at everything she saw, but everyone else seemed to be so serious that she struggled to keep a straight face.

“I assume you will order for the lady,” he said.

“Yes, if that’s okay with the lady,” he said, looking at Tatia with a straight face but with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Sure,” she said, ducking her head and putting her hand over her mouth.

“And would you care to begin with a cocktail?” asked the waiter.

“Why not. Would the lady care for a sweet drink or a salty one?”

“Sweet,” she said, barely stifling a giggle.

“The lady will have a Faux Bellini, and I’ll have a Double Martini.”

“Very good,” replied the waiter. Before he left to order their drinks, he waved over a busboy who filled their water glasses. After both men were gone, Tatia broke into a fit of giggles that made Eric chuckle in spite of himself.

“What’s so funny,” he asked when she had composed herself a bit.

“I’m used to ordering food through a speaker mounted on a pole and picking it up from a window. If it takes more than a couple of minutes, the other kids start whining, and Josie starts yelling. We’ve been here at least ten minutes, we’ve seen seven people, and we haven’t even ordered our food yet. I just didn’t know places like this existed except in the movies.”

“Well, as you can see, they do exist, and you deserve to be waited on hand and foot every day of your life.”

The waiter brought their drinks, and Tatia gasped with delight when she saw her sparkling drink in a champagne flute. The waiter disappeared and Eric lifted his glass and said, “A toast to the birthday girl. May you always be as happy and radiant as you are tonight.”

She smiled and blushed, touching her glass to his before she took a sip. She closed her eyes as she held the icy liquid in her mouth, savoring the delicate peach flavor. When she finally swallowed, she opened her eyes and said, “That is the best thing I ever tasted in my life!”

Eric grinned and said, “Hmmm. Now the pressure is on to pick the perfect meal to live up to that beginning.” He picked up the menu, but before he opened it, he looked at her and smiled. “I know that you like ice cream, but what else do you like?”

“Hamburgers, spaghetti, pizza.”

“Unfortunately, none of those is on the menu. Do you like prime rib?”

“You mean like barbeque ribs?”

“No, this is more like roast.”

“Like pot roast?”

“Well, not really. I guess you could say it’s like a really tender steak, and it’s usually pretty rare.”

“Oh, gross! You mean like bloody?”

“Okay. Maybe not prime rib. Do you like chicken?”

“Sure.”

“How about ham and Swiss cheese?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Okay. Now for dessert. Cherries or bananas?”

“Bananas.”

“Got it.”

The waiter returned as asked, “Are you ready to order, sir?”

“Yes. The lady will have the Chicken Cordon Bleu, Lyonnais Potatoes, and Green Beans Almandine. I’ll have the Prime Rib, medium rare, and I’ll have the same sides as the lady. And we’ll have Bananas Foster for dessert.”

“Very good. And would you like another round of cocktails, or would you like to see the wine list?”

“Bring the lady a sparkling water, and send over the wine steward?”

“Yes, sir. Right away.”

After the waiter walked away, Tatia took the last sip of her drink and said shyly, “That was really good. I wouldn’t mind having another one.”

“You don’t need another one,” Eric said in a less than kind tone of voice. When he saw the surprise on Tatia’s face, he softened his expression and his tone and placed his hand gently over hers. “Unless you really want one, of course. After all, it is your birthday. I just thought all you beautiful women were always counting your calories.”

She brightened a bit when he called her a beautiful woman. “Oh, no. I don’t want another one. I usually drink water with dinner anyway.”

The waiter brought her sparkling water, and when the wine steward arrived, he and Eric had a conversation, most of which she didn’t understand. From what she gathered, he ordered a bottle of wine to go with his dinner. That worried her a little bit. She still remembered how her mother had acted when she drank too much.

When the food came, she sat and stared at her plate without picking up her fork. “Is something wrong with your food?” Eric asked.

“No, it’s just almost too pretty to eat.”

“Yeah,” Eric laughed, a little too loudly. “At these prices we should probably have it bronzed and put in a display case. But don’t worry about that. Go ahead. Enjoy!”

He poured himself a glass of wine. It was his second one. When the wine steward had brought the bottle to the table, Tatia had wondered if he and Eric would go through the little ceremony she had seen at some of the other tables. They didn’t. The steward had pulled out the cork and held it out to Eric, but he had waved it away, and when he had poured a little in the glass for Eric to try, Eric had snapped at him, “Cut the fancy nonsense and just pour the wine.”

The steward had raised an eyebrow and said, “The Merlot is best when it is allowed to breathe for a few minutes.”

“Well, it can breathe in the glass. Just pour it.”

Tatia had noticed a couple of people at other tables looking their way and snickering, and she had been a little embarrassed for Eric. She wondered if maybe he didn’t know how it was supposed to be done or if it was because of the double martini. She didn’t want to make him feel bad so she turned her attention to the fountain in the atrium and pretended she didn’t know anything was amiss.

Once she tasted her food and discovered how delicious it was, she didn’t pay much attention to anything else for a few minutes. When she finally looked up, Eric was leaning back in his chair, staring at her with a look she didn’t understand but that made her uncomfortable. It reminded her of a look she had once seen on a dog’s face when he was stalking a squirrel.

“What?” she asked. “Do I have something stuck in my teeth?”

“No, you’re perfect. Almost too perfect to share.”

“What do you mean? I met some friends at camp, but nobody special or anything,” she said. An image of Jesse’s easy-going grin flashed through her mind, but she pushed it aside and focused on Eric. “You haven’t touched your prime rib. Don’t you like it?”

Eric shook his head slightly and grunted under his breath. Then he emptied the bottle into his glass. “I guess I’m on more of a liquid diet tonight. Go ahead. Finish your dinner.”

She took a few more bites before carefully placing her knife and fork across her plate at an angle the way she had seen the lady at the next table do when she finished. “I’m finished. I want to save room for the dessert you ordered. What did you call it? Bananas Foster?”

Eric looked irritated. “Yeah, I forgot.” He looked at his watch. “I hope they don’t take too long. I was kinda hoping to have dessert at the motel.” Tatia didn’t understand what he meant, but the way he looked at her when he said it made her skin crawl.

He finally attracted the waiter’s attention and let him know they were ready for dessert. When the busboy had cleared the dishes, a man in a chef’s hat and a white jacket rolled a little cart over to their table. On it was what looked like a little camp stove surrounded by a variety of bowls and bottles and two tulip glasses filled with vanilla ice cream. He smiled at Tatia and, as he began to peel and slice the bananas, he asked, “Have you had Bananas Foster before?”

“No,” she said, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “I never even heard of it before tonight.”

“It’s really quite simple,” he said, “I melt some butter and caramelize some brown sugar with some secret ingredients. If I told you what they were, I’d have to kill you.” He winked good naturedly, she giggled like the twelve year old she was. “Then I sizzle the bananas a few seconds, and then I do this.” He poured a little dark rum into the skillet and tilted the pan until the flame touched the sauce and the alcohol erupted into a geyser of blue flame. Tatia gasped and clapped with delight as he extinguished the flame and spooned his creation over the ice cream. He topped each glass with a swirl of whipped cream and a sprinkle of shaved chocolate before he presented one to each of them with a flourish.

“This is better than a dozen birthday cakes!” Tatia cried.

“Is this your birthday?” asked the chef.

“Yes,” she said.

“Then you must accept these,” he said, plucking two perfect red roses from the vase on an unoccupied table and wrapping a napkin around the stems in a graceful swirl, “as a token of our appreciation for spending your special day with us.” He presented the small bouquet to her with a courtly bow, and she blushed with pleasure.

“Thank you. I never got flowers before.”

The chef turned to Eric and said, “Treasure these special moments. They grow up all too fast.”

“Faster than you might think,” said Eric with a slight slur.

Tatia was too busy with her dessert to notice Eric’s suggestive wink or the dark look that passed over the chef’s face before he hurried away with his cart.

Eric paid the bill, and he and Tatia ran the gauntlet of attendants to get out the door and retrieve his car. He had a little trouble getting the car in gear after he fired up the engine, and he narrowly missed a tree as they wound down the driveway toward the street. Tatia wished he hadn’t had that after dinner drink while she was finishing her dessert.

Once he was on the highway, driving more or less straight in his lane, he picked up his phone and said, “Hey, Siri, play Tatia’s album.”

“You picked out songs for me?” she asked in surprise. She really didn’t like the oldies music he listened to, but it made her feel special that he had set up an album for her. Still, when she heard the lyrics of the first song, she wasn’t so sure. It said something about a little girl and a man who wasn’t supposed to be alone with her, and it made her feel kinda creepy like when he made the comment about dessert at the motel. That song was followed by one that was even worse. At one point the gravelly voice sang about loosening her pretty French gown, and Eric put his hand on her back and began playing with her zipper pull. Finally, there was a line about letting him come inside, and Eric put his hand on her leg and began inching her skirt up.

She sat up as straight as she could, clamped her knees together tightly, and brushed her skirt as if to remove stray crumbs left from dinner but in reality brushing off the encroaching hand. “You know, Eric,” she said. “This has been the best night of my night, but all the excitement has worn me out. Maybe you should just take me straight home.”

“Oh, honey, don’t be a party pooper,” he slurred. “It’s a long time till your curfew, and you need to change back into your jeans. Besides, I need you to do me a favor.”

“What kind of favor?” she asked, suspicious but relieved that he had put his roving hand back on the wheel.

“No big deal. It’s just that, with all the money I’ve been spending on you lately, all the gifts and taking you places, especially tonight, I’m a little short on cash. I have this friend who’s rolling in dough. He’s in town on business, and he’s lonely. I told him about you, and he’s dying to meet you. All you have to do spend a few minutes with him.”

He pulled into the motel parking lot, stopped the car, and turned toward her, giving her a look that made her feel as if he could see right through her clothes.

“I know you know how to be nice to a man. Right?”

“No, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as tears began to form in the corner of her eyes.

“Sure you do, Tatia,” he said, leaning toward her as she backed against the car door. “You just let him kiss you a little bit, like this,” he continued, kissing her on the neck.

“Stop it, Eric,” she cried, pushing him away. The tobacco and alcohol on his breath repulsed her, and she couldn’t imagine how she ever found him attractive. “I just want to go home.”

“Why you ungrateful little tease,” he shouted. He hit her seat belt release, jerked open his door, and stormed around the car. Tatia tried to lock him out, but before she could find the button, he jerked her door open and pulled her out by the arm. Her roses fell forgotten to the asphalt as he dragged her toward the room.

“You want to go home, huh?”

He fumbled the door open and flung her inside where she stumbled and sprawled on the floor. The candles were gone and even in the dim light of the lamp on the nightstand, she was aware that the interior shabbiness matched the exterior perfectly. Without the distraction of her perfect dress, she could see the faded bedspread and the chipped veneer on the furniture that was edged with cigarette burns.

“Do you know what will happen if I take you home now?” Eric continued. “I’ll tell Josie what you were doing all those afternoons after school – sneaking off to meet an older man, going riding with him in his fancy sports car, going who knows where and doing who knows what.”

“But..but..nothing happened. We didn’t do anything wrong!” she cried.

“Do you think she’ll believe that when she sees all the gifts I’ve given you?” he sneered, contorting his handsome face into something ugly and vile. “Do you think she’ll believe I gave you all those things out of the goodness of my heart?”

Defeated, Tatia stared down at the carpet and watched her tears add another dark stain to the collection that was already there – and that’s when her real nightmares began.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 9 Here!

It was Tatia’s 12th birthday, and as her fantasy date with Eric began, she saw a few cracks in his slick veneer. A shower of gifts and unfamiliar attention soon overcame her doubts, and she was caught up in the dream.

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 9. Chapter 10 will be posted on Thursday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

CHAPTER 9: BIRTHDAY DREAMS

Tatia woke up and stretched, trying to hold onto the dream that was fading away as the sun slipped over her windowsill and threw a bright ray across the foot of her bed. For the second time in the week since camp she had dreamed about sitting and talking with Jesse instead of her usual dreams of death and loneliness. She thought about pulling the sheet up over her head and trying to return to that happy place, but suddenly, she remembered what day it was. It was Saturday, June 30, and she was twelve years old today. Not only that, it was the day of her first real date.

She jumped out of bed, pulled on a pair of shorts and a tank top, and went to work. She completed her chores before anyone else in the house was awake, and then, she started on Josie’s chores. Her plan was to be sure everyone’s work was done so Josie would have no excuse to keep her home for the evening. As far as Josie knew, today was a normal Saturday except that Tatia had been invited to a birthday party. She was sure her records included her date of birth, but she was also sure that Josie didn’t know or care that the birthday was hers. She was also sure that Josie didn’t need to know that the party was for two, her and Eric. The plan was for Tatia to meet Eric in front of the library around 5:00 pm. That would leave plenty of time for Eric to spring all his surprises before Tatia’s 10:00 pm curfew.

Motivated as she was, Tatia worked quickly and efficiently. Still, the time dragged, and she thought 5:00 pm would never come. Finally, though, all the chores were done, the kids were bathed, fed, and settled in front of their favorite movie. She took a quick shower, carefully curled her hair, and dressed in jeans and the pink T-shirt Eric had given her. He had told her not to worry about what she wore, because his gift to her would be a new outfit he had chosen especially for her. She hoped it would be as pretty as the dresses she had worn at camp. He had also promised her a real dinner date at a nice restaurant. She hoped she would know which fork to use.

When she arrived at the library, she was excited and relieved to see the red Corvette in the lot and Eric leaning against the trunk.

Based on her life experience, she was afraid he wouldn’t show up, and she would end up hiding in a gas station restroom until it was time to go home. She shouldn’t have worried, though. He was there, just like he said, and she just knew tonight would be the best night of her life.

As she approached the car, he straightened up and greeted her with a brotherly hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday, sweetheart. You look beautiful.”

“Thanks. You look great, too.”

He was wearing black slacks, a black shirt, and highly polished black loafers. To Tatia, he looked simply elegant. In a move she had seen only on TV and in the movies, he offered her his arm.

“Your carriage awaits, Miss.”

Giggling, she took his arm as he escorted her around the car, opened the door, and handed her into her seat.

“We’re going to dinner in Cameron so we won’t run into anyone you know. The last thing I want is to cause you problems at home.”

“You’re always so good to me.”

He smiled and patted her hand. “I rented a room close to the restaurant so you can change before dinner and then back into your jeans before you go home. We’ll have to figure out a way for you to take the dress home later.”

“It sounds like you have everything planned perfectly.”

He laughed. “I read a lot of magazines.”

Tatia smiled and thought that Eric must be the most perfect man in the world. She couldn’t remember any fancy hotels in Cameron, but she had only been there once or twice. She tried to imagine where he had rented a room as they entered the city limits. There were lots of motels on the south side of town, some that were fairly nice, at least according to the ads on TV. Some, though, were not so nice, with names that were not meant to be remembered, as if the owners were ashamed of the dirty, run-down conditions of their businesses. She was shaken when Eric pulled into one of these. It was painted a sickly yellow color with a stripe of lime green around the middle like a wide belt that held the building together. The windows in one section were boarded up, and the rest were too dirty to see inside. She turned her head toward the window, hoping Eric wouldn’t see the distress on her face. She didn’t want to embarrass him if this was all he could afford after paying for everything else.

She tried to put a smile on her face as he came around and opened the car door, again offering his arm and escorting her to a door that sported a tarnished number “12”.Some of her doubts weakened as she wondered if he had asked for this room in honor of her birthday. Then, when he opened it, her remaining misgivings disappeared.

The room was alight with scented candles, and spread out on the bed was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. Instead of little-girl pink, it was a black satin, strapless dress under a lace overlay with a scooped neckline and elbow-length sleeves. The flared skirt looked like it would hit her about mid-thigh, and there were just enough sequins scattered across it to give off a nice shimmer when she walked. On the floor, a pair of silver sandals with kitten heels sparkled in the candlelight. The ensemble was the perfect combination of elegance and innocence so she would look grown-up without looking like she was playing dress up.

She picked up the dress, held it against herself, and twirled around the room a couple of times.

“You like it?” asked Eric.

“Oh, yes!” she gushed, running over and hugging him around the waist. “It’s perfect.”

“Careful,” he said, pushing her away gently. “You don’t want to get it all wrinkled before you even try it on. Now, I know a blonde in a black dress can be a little tricky, so I asked Cindy to help you put on a little make-up – just enough so you don’t look washed out. I hope you don’t mind.”

She did mind a little bit. He had never said anything about her looking washed out before. In fact, he usually said she had such natural beauty that she didn’t need make-up. Still, he was working so hard to make it a really special evening, and she didn’t want to do anything to spoil it. “Sure, that would be okay, I guess. But I don’t have any make-up or anything.”

“That’s okay. I had her pick up some stuff when she bought the dress.”

Tatia felt another little twinge. She bought the dress? He had made her think he had picked out everything himself. She busied herself with straightening out the dress on the bed so he wouldn’t see the disappointment on her face. She heard him open the door to a connecting room.

“Hey, Cindy!” he yelled. “Get your butt in here with that make-up, and don’t be all day about it.”

Tatia couldn’t believe the harsh edge in his voice. She had never heard him speak any way other than gently – except when he found out she was going to camp. Before she could really think about it, she heard a female voice coming from the next room.

“Keep your shirt on. I’m coming.”

Eric met Cindy at the door and put his face down within inches of hers. “What did you say?” he hissed between clenched teeth.

Tatia glanced around and saw the fear in Cindy’s eyes. She looked down quickly before he looked in her direction.

“I-I-I said sure, Eric. Right away,” Cindy stammered.

“That’s what I thought you said.”

Cindy edged by Eric, keeping her eyes down to avoid his glare. She hurried over to Tatia and picked up the dress. “Come on, honey. Let’s go in the bathroom where there’s more light.”

Tatia picked up the shoes and followed Cindy. Just before she reached the bathroom, she looked back toward the connecting door where she caught a glimpse of Eric in the other room, pacing and smoking a cigarette. She had never seen him smoke before.

Cindy was a dark-haired girl in her late teens. She had olive skin, hazel eyes, and ample curves barely covered by a red silk kimono. She set to work with a small collection of tubes and bottles. The brush across her cheeks reminded Tatia of Jesse’s paint-filled brushes the week before, and for a few seconds, she almost wished she was back at camp. Then, she looked at the dress and thought of dinner with Eric. I need to chill out, she thought. After all, everybody has a bad moment now and then.

Cindy was putting the finishing touches on her lipstick when Eric approached the bathroom. “Hey, gorgeous. Are you almost ready?”

Tatia saw a flash of resentment in Cindy’s eyes, but she stifled it and answered with a smile in her voice. “Almost done. Give us a couple more minutes and we’ll call you in for the big reveal.”

“Okay, but don’t take too long. We don’t want to miss our reservations.”

Tatia was relieved to hear the gentleness back in his voice, and her heart skipped a beat as her excitement returned. “Do I look okay?” she asked shyly.

“Oh, honey, you look good enough to…Well, let’s just say you look beautiful. I think I’ll just sweep all those blonde curls up off your neck in a clip, and we’ll be ready for the dress.”

Within five minutes, Tatia was dressed, perfumed, and standing in front of Eric, waiting for his reaction. It was everything she had hoped for. He whistled appreciatively, took her hand and twirled her around before pulling her into his arms and dancing around the room with her – all this while telling her again and again how beautiful, gorgeous, and stunning she looked.

“The only thing missing is – this!” he said as he dramatically pulled a small velvet box out of his pocket. He opened it to reveal a silver heart-shaped locket with a tiny diamond in the center.

Tatia gasped, and reached out a shaking finger to touch the sparkling gem as if to reassure herself that it was real. “Oh, Eric. I can’t believe this is all for me.”

“Believe it,” he said, taking the locket out of the box. “Now turn around so I can put this on you, and let’s go eat dinner.”

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 8 Here!

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.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

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?”

“What?”

“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.”

“Thanks, Jesse.”

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Blessings,

Linda

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