I push through the doors of the tattoo shop with my heart in my throat. Paul Reed looks up, and I’m stunned, just like every other woman who looks at him is immediately taken aback by all his ink, the piercings over his eyebrows, the metal in his ears, and the blue of his eyes. Startling. There’s no other word to describe him. Except for kind. Kindness seeps from Paul Reed’s pores. You just have to be willing to look past the gruff exterior to see it.
His back is bent over a client as he works on a tattoo for a man who has almost as much metal on his face as I have on my car.
Paul smiles at me. “Hey, Wren,” he says. “What’s up?” He lifts his tattoo machine for no more than a moment, and then he looks back down and keeps working.
“Hey, Paul,” I reply. I swallow hard.
“What can I do for you?” Paul asks. He’s the only one in the shop today, since it’s early in the morning.
“I was hoping Friday might be here,” I say tentatively.
He tilts his head toward the back of the shop. “She’s cursing in the office right now, trying to balance the bank account.”
I hear a filthy curse come from the back room, and I bite back a grin. “Is it okay if I go back to talk to her?”
He nods. “If you’re brave enough.” Then he lets out a heavy sigh. “She threatened to chop my dick off when I took her a cup of coffee. So proceed at your own risk.”
“Thanks.” I walk toward the office and stop when I see the door is cracked. I rap my knuckles lightly and call out her name. “Friday?”
She looks up and blows a lock of dark hair from her eyes as the door opens just a little. I’m always startled when I see her looking like this. She doesn’t have a swipe of makeup on and she’s in jeans and a t-shirt. There are no high heels, no short skirts, no fishnet stockings, and no kissable red lips. She’s just Friday.
“Hey,” she says. She smiles at me. “Come on in.”
“Are you sure I’m not interrupting?” I step into the room and drop hesitantly into a chair across from her desk.
“I needed a break anyway.” She puts her pencil down and crosses her hands on her desk. “You doing okay?” she asks, her voice soft.
“Oh, yeah,” I say with a breezy wave. “I’m fine.”
“Good,” she says with a nod. “I’ve been worried about you.”
I bite my lips together.
“So, I’m guessing you didn’t just come here to shoot the shit.”
I scratch the tip of my nose. “I was wondering…” I heave in a breath. “I was hoping you might draw a tattoo for me.
Her brow rises. “What did you have in mind?”
“Just something simple to remember the…you know.”
“The baby?” she clarifies, her voice a lot stronger than mine.
“The miscarriage,” I say, clearing the lump that’s suddenly clogging my throat.
“The baby,” she says again, staring hard at me.
“Yeah, that.” I lift my thumbnail to my teeth and rip a piece of it off. I was almost three months pregnant when I miscarried. That was two months ago.
“Did you have something in mind?”
“Well, there’s no marker, no grave…no baby. Not really. So I want something simple. Just something to mark that he was here. It was an early miscarriage, so some people might even argue that he never existed. Since he never took a breath and all that.”
Her eyes narrow. “He may have never taken a breath, but he existed, and you were one hundred percent pregnant. You’re allowed to feel one hundred percent of the grief.”
Tears sting my eyes and I blink them back.
“I’ll draw something up for you and let you take a look. Want me to text it to you?”
I nod. “That would be great.” I get up and start for the door.
“Hey, Wren,” Friday calls out.
I turn back and look at her, waiting for her to speak. “Yeah?”
“Why didn’t you ask one of the guys to draw something up for you?”
I look everywhere but at her. “Well,” I start. But then I stop and bite my lips together.
“Well?” she prompts. But her face is all kindness and affection.
“You’re a mom,” I say.
She nods, her head going up and down slowly. “I am.”
“And I thought you might, you know, know a little something about loss.” I play with the corner of a poster on the door.
“I do,” she says with another nod. She heaves out a sigh. “I’ll draw something up for you, okay? If you don’t like it, we can go back and forth until we find the right memorial tattoo for you.”
“Do you think it’s stupid?” I ask quickly. I want to bite the words back as soon as they leave my lips. “Never mind.”
She gets up and comes to stand in front of me. She’s about six inches shorter than I am, but she looks dead into my eyes. “Some tattoos are about the past, and some are about the future. Some are about healing, and some just let the pain out. Some mark happy moments, and others commemorate the sadness. No tattoos are stupid. Well, except for ones people put on their dicks. I never did understand those. And since you don’t have a dick…” She finally grins and squeezes my shoulder. “I’m glad you’re doing okay.”
“It was good to see you.” I turn to walk out.
“Hey,” Friday calls out to me again. “Give your sisters a call. I know they’re worried about you too, okay?”
I nod and leave the shop, the bells over the door tinkling as the door closes behind me.
I step out onto the busy street and take in the hustle and bustle of morning in the city. I pull my phone out of my pocket and text my four sisters all at once.
Me: You guys want to go to karaoke tonight?
Finny: Bitch, it’s about time you texted us. And yes. I’m in.
Star: I’m in, if Marta can watch the baby.
Peck: Sam says we’re in.
Finny: Are we bringing men?
Peck: Sam says we are. LOL
Lark: We’ll meet you there at 7
Me: See you then!
Lark: Umm…Ryan wants to know if Mick can come.
Star: That’s up to Wren. Wren?
Me: It’s fine.
Star: It won’t be too weird for you?
Me: No. It’s fine.
It’s not fine. Not fine at all. But he’s Ryan’s brother. I can’t avoid him forever, can I?
I have four sisters. They are all blissfully happy.
Sam, one of the Reed brothers, met my sister Peck and they have a son and another baby on the way.
Josh, who works at the Reed brothers’ tattoo parlor, married my sister Star and they have a new baby, a little girl.
Tag is living with my sister Finny, and she’s pregnant. Tag already has a little boy, Benji. Tag wants to marry Finny, but she swears she doesn’t need a piece of paper.
Ryan, who also works as a tattoo artist at Reeds’, married my sister Lark. She’s not pregnant yet, but they’re trying. Lots.
And then there’s me.
And then there’s Mick.
And he was with me the day I lost my baby. And I haven’t seen him since.
And he’ll be at karaoke tonight. Shit.