"I thought getting a tattoo is supposed to hurt," Angel said.
The artist, a dark-skinned woman with white teeth and hair like a cavewoman, grinned and asked, "Doesn't it?"
"It hasn't so far."
Of course Angel did have a little buzz. She'd just come from a neighbor's Christmas party at her apartment house across the street, where she'd had too much eggnog. The party had been just another night of watching happy couples grope each other and ask if Angel had met anyone special yet.
She'd spent most of the evening sitting in the kitchen instead of joining the rest of the party. Alone with her eggnog, she'd thought about what her life was missing. It had been a couple of years since her breakup with Brad. Not that she missed him. They'd grown so far apart that she'd been glad when the relationship ended.
Lately she'd considered trying to find someone new. Nothing serious, just someone who wanted to enjoy a few evenings out and maybe indulge in occasional no-strings sex. Then she recalled that it had started that way with Brad and had quickly turned into a smothering relationship, with everything going his way. Even now when she thought about their time together, she still felt like she'd just made parole. That put a damper on the idea of dating again.
After finishing her eggnog and saying good night to her neighbors, she had walked outside for some fresh air. Her gaze had riveted to the purple lights on the sign from the new tattoo studio across the street.
It was rumored that the artist who owned the place incorporated magic into her work. Angel didn't believe a word of it, but she'd always wanted a tattoo. She'd just never had the nerve to get one. Well tonight, was the night. Three times on the way across the street she'd nearly changed her mind, but when she'd stepped into the purple room, empty except for a counter and the many designs on the walls, a strange feeling had come over her. Though part of her wanted to run, something compelled her to stay.
Now she sat while the artist worked on her right arm. Angel hadn't been sure what she wanted, except that it should be everything she wasn't, yet wished to be. Wild. Passionate. Rebellious.
The artist said she knew exactly what to do.
"Don't look until it's finished," the artist said when Angel tried to steal a peek.
"It's my arm," Angel muttered, still too tipsy to think clearly. Her eyes closed and her breathing deepened. Was it possible for her to fall asleep?
Before drifting off, she thought she heard the artist whisper, "Don't worry, Angel. The pain will come later."