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Marked for Life

I don’t know how she talked me into it. Yet, here I am, hand in hand with my best friend for years and clueless idiot Kayla, at a tattoo parlor.

I don't know what runs through her head sometimes. I told her, "This is ridiculous! Just because your parents said you couldn't date TJ, you're getting a tattoo to get back at them?! It's ridiculous! And dangerous!"

"Oh shut up!" She had said amiably. "You sound just like my mother! Don't worry, I'll be fine!"

"Have you ever heard of tetanus?" Oh clueless, clueless Kayla. Chuckling away like nothing's going to happen, yeah right.

I winced as the sound of the stupid piercing voice of a clearly male but female sounding voice as his decibels reached critical limits. It was a ranky-dank place, and yet we continued on inside, choking on the almost black cigarette encrusted smoke encircling the establishment. Seedy-looking men with overlapping sets of wrinkles with threatening and terrifying images sewn onto every available piece of skin looked at us with beady grim eyes. Pictures of headless horsemen, black stallions, and the occasionally skull and dagger glared at me from the wall and I felt myself shrinking back into Kayla's impenetrable bubble. Why was I doing this again?

Kayla strode past the suspicious looking men as though she were walking though the school hallway, alive with an air of beauty that I never could quite catch even in the seven years we've known each other. Her eyes sparkled as she walked over to the man who seemed to be the owner and said with pride, "My friend and I want a tattoo. Can you hook us up?”

The owner looked us over the brim of a smoky cigar. He blew a puff of smoke my way and while I coughed, replied with a nonchalant "How old ere ya kids?"

"Eighteen." She lied, still smiling.

"ID?"

Kayla winked at me grinning and handed over the slick papers that had been oh so very well copied this morning under a nerd's lamp and an Alexander under his nose. Ranky-Dank Owner nodded his approval and waved out his arms in every direction. "Wich one for ya, girlies?"

"This." Kayla slapped down a wonderfully talented artist's impression of a tattoo, if I do say so myself.

I had designed the blasted thing to look from far away as though they had cut oneself, but if one looked closely, it actually read: "YES, I CUT MYSELF."

Kayla had seen me draw it and was swayed by its sarcastic nature and gore. She wanted it. I didn't want her to have it. But that girl, she somehow always makes ME and other humans susceptible to her control. She always made a way.

Ranky-Dank looked at it with approval. "Ye draweed this yourself girlie?"

"Yup." She lied again, it coming off her tongue like waves.

"Aewright." He motioned to the back room. Kayla exited through it like a goddess, making me look like a peon compared to her. Ranky-Dank's eyes then fell on me. "An' you?" He slurred, probably the effect of a well known drug served at almost every damn dinner party my parents went to and would toast from frequently.

I backed away. "I...uh...I'm n-n..."

"Not ready?"

I shook my head feverently.

"Fine." He sighed as if I was a little child again. "Jus' look around and if ya see one, let Thunder know, OK?"

Thunder? I looked around and saw a strangely large man appear from what seemed to be the same back room I heard howls of pain come from. He grinned a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde grin at me over a buzzing needle.

I sat down quickly, rubbing my hands off with my sleeve. I looked around.

There were definitely tattoos for girls in this dump. Pictures of unicorns, undressed sexy men, and a sun tattoo I had definitely seen once before. My heart fell with longing when I recognized the same smiling sun and I felt a few tears slip off my face with my almost sister-in-law's face in my memory.

The only person in the world whom I actually had respect for had had an eyebrow ring, several piercings on one ear and dyed her hair black with blonde streaks. The sun tattoo often smiled at me from her neck, glistening with orange sunbeams over a set of bright blue ocean waves.

I loved Natalia.



My brother and his fiancée had not had the greatest of welcomes when they came home one day after being stranded in Harvard together. My brother Damien had quit Harvard to fall in love with Natalia. Her parents adored him in London, England and he planned to move there with her so that they could be closer to her ailing parents’ in their old age.

However short a period I knew her, Natalia was one of those girls who looked beautiful in anything. A little less makeup and a black diamond necklace and she would become the daughter my mother always wanted to have, instead of dowdy and tasteless. She could take off the ball gown dress and then replace her makeup with black eyeliner and black ripped t-shirts with jeans and still look incredibly sexy.

How come that gene wasn't passed to me? I would ask her sometimes, making her laugh and give me a warm hug that my own mother wouldn't bear to do.

She and I were like real sisters, always letting me try on her clothes and makeup playfully and being there for me like my work-obsessed father and debutant mother never did. As long as she lived, Natalia and my brother went to all my art competitions--of course I won most of them--and even went out to art conventions across town. We spent long hours at the zoo, the aquarium, the theater, all for me.

I loved them both and I never wanted them to go anywhere, and so I begged my brother to let me come to London with them. A long battle ensued between my brother who wanted me and my parents who didn’t.

But before any of that could be resolved, something happened.

My beloved sister died.

It happened so suddenly; one day she went out walking with me while my parents and brother continued to battle their marriage, the next moment clutching me to her chest as the truck slammed into her fragile body. A broken doll sat in the hospital bed, my brother crying by its side.

He never said it, but I knew: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT.

I knew it, no one needed to tell me. If I hadn't tripped off the sidewalk, if I hadn't begged my brother to fight for me, if I hadn't suggested that Natalia and I go out, nothing would have happened. It was my existence that was a burden. My brother would have been happy holding my sister-in-law's hand at the church, not seeing a shrink and working fourteen hour shifts at the local grocery store. And I would have my loving, playful, spunky sister back.

That I knew as I sliced my wrist for the first time after her funeral that night.



For weeks the scars stayed. And it helped. The heartache was cured by that canvas of red spilling onto my arm. It felt good.

Suddenly, there, in that parlor, I was going to cry. But I couldn't, not there! I looked around frantically, trying to make myself dizzy instead.

And then I saw it.

My release.

I grabbed the forlorn needle on a silver platter in front of me and slit the bare wrist. I shivered when the red liquid oozed slowly down my cool wrist, the warmth warming me to the core. I licked my lips, sighing with relief. It kept the salty water from my eyes and no one looked at me weird. I felt release.

My sign as a sinner, marked for life.

"Hey, Hannah, check it out! Look at it, isn't it great?!"





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