Jenna sat in the tattoo parlor chair, wincing as the needle pricked the skin of her right bicep. The tattoo artist paused and referred to her compliance papers, making sure he had the design and colors exactly right: a three-inch broken heart with a dagger through it. A solitary drop of blood fell from the dagger, indicating a single victim.
He returned to his work, and Jenna bit her lip to keep from crying out. She had never had a tattoo before, even when it had been fashionable and voluntary. Normally, a crime such as hers would have required the tattoo to be positioned more visibly, on her wrist or around her neck. But there had been extenuating circumstances.
The tattoo artist was seasoned. Business had been brisk since the compliance laws went into effect. The design was simple, the broken heart common, and he finished in less than half an hour. He applied a bandage and gave her a paper entitled “Tattoo Care.”
He signed her compliance papers, handed her a copy and put the form in the envelope she had provided. He placed his seal on the back and promised to send it certified mail first thing in the morning. He tucked the envelope into an already bulging mail bag.
“I trust I won’t be seeing you back here, ma’am?” he said.
She shook her head as she gingerly rolled her sleeve down over her bandaged arm.
“No, I think I’ve learned my lesson.”
He nodded, and she turned to leave. The tinkling of a bell as the door opened signaled another customer.
Her ex-husband walked into the tattoo parlor, his six-foot frame blocking the door. Her eyes went up to his face, noticed the angry red scar that trailed from his left ear to the base of his throat. One half of his face was covered by a hideous tattoo of a horned monster, its mouth gaping wide and showing sharp, jagged teeth, its green flesh bumpy and oozing with pus, its red eyes burning with flames.
The tattoo was intended to warn children away, to keep them from allowing him get too close.
She noticed the other side of his face where there was the tattoo of a pink star representing their five-year-old daughter. She cringed to see that three more stars, two pink and one blue, had joined hers. He clutched a familiar envelope in his hand, compliance papers.
Apparently, the monster tattoo wasn’t working.
by Shelli Proffitt Howells
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Todays’ prompt is from Easy Street Prompts: