A black permanent marker in one hand, a thick padded coffee cup in the other, he waits for the woman on the other side of the counter to give him her name. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other before tapping her dark finger against her chin once again. The African woman with the brightly colored clothes is a regular at the café where he works, though he can never remember her name. Another quirk about the woman is that she never orders the same thing twice. Taking a deep breath Eriq waits, sinking his teeth into the flesh of his lower lip once again before setting the cup down. There is a line behind the woman, there is always a line. Bright morning light filters in through the large windows and paints the faces of the patrons sitting around. The coffee decorated room is supposed to be homey and warm, saturated in the smell of coffee and fresh baked goods.
Finally the woman orders an espresso, French vanilla with a shot of whipped cream. Quickly he jots down the woman’s name as instructed and then rushes off to fill her order. Behind him a dark-haired girl wearing a high ponytail and dark green apron helps the balding man next in line. His hand move deftly to the handle of the expresso machine before shaking the whipped cream canister. Ever since he graduated, Eriq has worked at this small Starbucks. The pay is decent and the hours flexible, though he doesn’t need them to be. The Starbucks sits in the middle of the main street splitting the small town into two districts. Tiny shops line and crowd each side of the street, many share brick walls and then compete for business.
Sliding the woman’s expresso across the counter to her, he smiles and bids her to have a good day. With a returned smile and nod, she promises she’ll be back the next day. He moves on to the next customer, taking their name and order quickly. This breakfast-time rush lasts until noon, just in time for Eriq to wash the tables, mop the floor, and restock the napkins. Tina, his coworker leans against the counter, watching him hover around the tables wiping up messes and picking up little bits of crumps.
“Happy birthday.” She giggles from behind him, he barely glances over his shoulder as he mutters a thank you. This makes her frown; Tina is part of the population that didn’t get a tattoo when they turned eighteen. In spite of Eriq’s comfort, she has never truly returned to her old self.
“It’s not really a big deal,” He murmurs, he keeps his eyes locked on a coffee colored table. With his hand wrapped in paper towel and a spray bottle in the other hand, he makes smooth circle motions to clean the table. He sprays the table a few more times and makes another wide circle, recleaning the same area as before. Behind him, Tina leans away from the counter and makes her way into the back of house. Once there, she starts to restock the biodegradable cups; pulling the plastic wrapping off of a large stack and then walking it to the front of house. She absently arranges the large stack into three medium stacks, taking her time to make sure every machine is in close range of a stack. They avoid the subject, neither one of them say anything more.
At three thirty, the small shop is filled again, this time with students. Plastering a grin on his face, Eriq greets the first girl. Her hair falls down her shoulders in golden tresses, strands of the golden silk are trapped under her baby blue backpack. She orders a simple hot chocolate and a snickerdoodle dozen to go with. Her order is simple and easy, allowing him to focus more on her long complicated name while Tina runs and gathers the snickerdoodles and shoves them in a bag. This next rush feels different, even as his paints their names on the side of the cups with each and then rings them up, he can’t stop his heart from racing in his chest; like he’s expecting something exciting to happen. The next girl steps up and he gives her an indifferent smile, ready for the end of his shift and questioning the anticipation crawling into his chest and throat. He clears his throat before asking how he can help the girl.
She had known about the tattoos before as her parents have told her about theirs but, holy crap she hadn't expected this sort of pain that came with getting the tattoo. It had started in the morning before her alarm had went and rung, a dull throbbing pain started becoming more apparent around the front area of her hip bone. Thinking it had somehow been because of her position in bed forgetting entirely about her eighteenth birthday newly arriving as of this morning she rubbed the spot the pain was flaring at the touch.laying a while longer before she could not bear the pain no longer she sat up and looked around suddenly realizing the tattoo was appearing. Her dad had told her it would be a painful thing she though to how he had said it takes about ten minutes total for it to fully complete itself. A sudden sharp pain urged her to stand up. Rolling literally out of bed she stood up leaning against her desk and raised her shirt. The skin on her right side of her stomach where her hipbone was was bright red and looked like someone took a hot knife to it. Another wave of pain made her knees weak and she bit her lip padding to the bathroom. Turning on the shower she undressed and stepped in holding the area were the pain kept pulsating from. Gasping as another pain hit her as she doubled over letting out a loud scream at the same time slipping her footing loosing her and she fell smacking her elbow on the wall of the shower on the way down. Cursing under her breath she gets up as she watches the skin scarring to form the words her so called "soul mate" would say to her when they finally met. Looking around held onto the shower curtain as wave after wave of pain prodded her side her hip now sore when she moved it. Finally the last stages of the pain were coming on and she moved her stiff hip and stepped out of the shower and looked at the mirror to see the words now permanently imprinted on her body forever.
"Wow that really hurt..." That statement was extremely ironic. The damn tattoo hadn't just hurt it was like being sliced with a knife then branded all at once. Sighing she delicately tried to touch the black words that adorned her hip but, the wound was too fresh and she pulled back quiet suddenly because of it. Heading stiffly back to her room she pulled on a pair of sweatpants that wouldn't bother the words much and a fitted long sleeved shirt. Slipping on her sneakers she pulled her hair into a bun and grabbed her bag and car keys.
"God could hear you screaming up there like a banshee." Her older brother josh teased as she came down for breakfast. A small gasp and eager voices were heard as her mom and dad came into the dining room both looking at her arms for the words.
"Were is it? Can I see it?" Her mother chided. Receiving a slight nod and a sigh from Carter she lifted the side of her shirt showing her mother the words who just smiled and giggled like a five year old.
"I'm so excited for you." Carter looked up and with a reply at her lips, stayed silent for the moment and just looked to her mom offering a small smile.
"Mom.. It's no big deal I just hope it's someone nice." She replied her bright green eyes swiveled to take in the time it was of now and her eyes widened hastily leaning down and taking hold of a piece of newly toasted bread and a cup of sweet smelling coffee before quickly saying goodbye.
"I'm gonna be late for school!" She gathering her things ran to the front door opening it and slamming it shut and ran to her jeep and threw her bag into the passenger seat before turning the jeep on throwing it in drive and quickly making her way to Ridgewood High School.
“Thanks…Wait, are you flirting with me?”
The burning and stinging woke him from his sleep. Tears well up in his eyes as he clutches his right arm close to his side. He rolls onto his right side, a fat thick tear streaming down his cheek landing on his pillow and soaking into the marron fabric. His fluffy comforter tangles around his feet and threatens to trap him. He kicks his feet slightly to free himself. Clenching his jaw together, he struggles to suffocate his agonized cry. Firm black veins are snaking their way from his chest to his shoulder, then down his arm and into his elbow. He knows that if he looks down, he will see the whole of his forearm turning red and the words starting to push up against his skin. His stomach churns as he chances a glance down. The once clear slightly freckled skin of his arm rises, turning first into a colorless scar in the shape of words. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tries to ignore the feeling; the feeling of his skin forming the lifelong tattoo that would point him to the love of his life. Bile sours his throat, making him writhe to the edge of the bed. At first, he only dry heaves, though his luck runs out by the second.
Hanging over the edge of his bed, his right arm pinned under his body, and his eyes shut tightly. His breath escapes his lips in harsh pants, sweat drips from his forehead. It’s over; his skin has been scarred and then painted by his blood. His blood dries slowly, slowly turning dark blood red and then black. Using his left arm, he pushes himself onto his back. Staring up at the ceiling, he tries to catch his breath. His heart swells a little; it finally happened.
This red rimmed eyes stare at the ceiling for a long time, memorizing the popcorn-like ripples in the plaster before his breathing returns to normal. Sleep eludes him until his light-yellow curtains are tainted by the sun’s morning glow. Just as the first long streaks split his carpet he falls asleep; exhausted and stiff.
“George,” his mother begins, she is wearing a light pink blouse that hangs offer her shoulders slightly. Her red-blonde hair pulled back into a low ponytail and laying over her left shoulder. She stands with her back to her soul mate, her long painted nails tapping against the side of a white mug. George, a round faced man of fifty sits with a cross-word puzzle to his right and a steaming coffee mug to his left. Across from him is his youngest child, her blond curls matted from sleep and her pink nail polish chipping. Each member of the four-person family look alike, a beaked nose with round almond eyes. George and his son share dark auburn hair that likes to curl at the edges. George fights the curls with a receding hairline and keeping the thinning locks trimmed close to his scalp. His son chooses to keep the curls, only letting them grow to his jawline.
“Hmm?” George murmurs, a black and silver pen in his left hand as he starts to write down more letters; working toward his goal of completing the week-old puzzle.
“Do you think [i it] happened?” Brenda worries. A smile pulls at George’s full lips. The tattoo, the defining moment of any young person’s life is known to be a painful process. The older man’s heart swells with pride, for some the process never happens. Lifting his cup of hot coco to his lips, his takes a heavily drink; letting the heat burn his throat before answering his beloved wife.
“Brenda, he’s eighteen now. Of course, it happened, it’s his birthday.” Brenda drums her fingers faster against her mug, she turns away from the counter. Hiding her shoulder tattoo from her husband and child. Their daughter pops another half-melted marshmallow into her mouth, chewing happily as her mother dabs at her mouth.
Both turn their attention to their exhausted son stumbling down the stairs. He, unlike many, graduated high school before the tattoo appeared on his skin. Thankfully, he did not have to go through the embarrassing time of girl’s faking their first words to him, or getting mad at him for not speaking them. He did not have to risk missing a test or school because of the process happening to him. Brenda sets a plate down for him, after setting down her own mug. Sluggishly, he sits at the table with the rest of them. He rests his right arm against the table, his t-shirt failing to hide the redness of his arm. The black script of his tattoo shimmers, still fresh as he lifts his fork to his mouth, shoving food into it. His mother beams wordlessly at his side, peering at the angry red words. At first he doesn’t notice his mother until she reaches out and touches the tender mark. He winces, pulling his arm away before apologizing to him. As she turns away, Brenda is unable to hide her smile from her husband.
“Congratulations, Bubby.” His little sister chirps. Her gapped smile making him laugh a little. Her bright blue eyes make the pain worth it. It was no guarantee that his sister would receive a tattoo in spite of both of her parents and brother getting one. The Tattoo is not an exact science.