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