Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Fork in The Road

Continued from "Battle Scars"

Two women alight from the city train and rise from the subway to greet a five story, triangular building. Victorian in design, it marks the divergence of Oxford and Pitt Streets. The city’s buzzing and they’re armed to shop.

Friends since 10th Grade, Annika Larsen and Melissa Greaves are proof that opposites attract. Although they mix in different worlds, different social circles they’re fast friends, one ying to the other’s yang and flatmates on a mission.

Annika hoicks a huge shoulder bag across her left shoulder, its wide strap is adjusted across her rather flat chest. She places two thumbs on each side of her low-rise jeans’ waistband and smooths around the belt line. Her hair is spiked and gelled stiff. She has piercings in her nose, eyebrow and ears, and the sliver of a black bar code tattoo across the back of her neck.  She’s heavily eyelined and pale-faced, with nails painted as dark as her hair.
“Right, this way….” The command is emphatic, there’s to be no negotiation.

Mel smooths her sun dress, as feminine as her companion is emo, and flips the strap to her sandals across the back of her heel. Shoestring straps bare bronzed shoulders just kissed by a cascade of blond curls. Glossed lips and a perfect complexion are all the accoutrement she needs to look, well, beautifully innocent.

“No this way….” Annika’s friend protests. 

They are quite literally at a fork in the road.

At 9am, bustling Pitt Street leads into the CBD with fashionable retail malls, cafĂ©’s and restaurants. Alive with buskers and hustlers and men in suits busying themselves with what is a normal work day. Mel’s on a mission to buy shoes.

By contrast, Oxford Street is a late starter and a late finisher. It’s a proverbial yellow brick road, leading to an eclectic blend of chop and fetish shops, tattoo parlours and brothels interspersed with recycled rags, stylish wine bars and seedy nightclubs. It’s the dark side of town where gay men and wild women feel at home, and nice girls from the suburbs feel uneasy.

“Nope…” Annika drags her friend reluctantly over to the dark side.

“I want to get another tattoo, just a small one on my shoulder and there’s an awesome guy up here.”

Mel, being the enabler type, pulls a face but acquiesces and the two women wander forward along Oxford Street.

“Fine, but after, we go get shoes! And have lunch.”

Mel’s mock pout dissolves. She’s no shrinking violet but this really isn’t her scene.

The Ink Shop opens early but rarely has many clients before midday.  Col and Hiko take a rare moment of respite before the rush, drink coffee and talk.

“You have girlfriend?” The quiet Japanese man has only just begun to probe into his apprentice's personal life.

“No, not recently.” 

Col stares into his coffee and gives it another stir with a plastic swizzle stick.

“I had one a while ago. Even thought she might be ‘the one’ but she had this thing about what I do and where I came from. She was embarrassed to introduce me to her family and friends. I didn’t have the right manners, didn’t speak properly.  I never met them. Weird huh? She left me for some Lacoste clad guy at the country club. Never much bothered since her. I figure there’s time, I’m only 28, it’ll happen when it happens."

“There are plenty women want you to do tattoo?”

Col raises a single eyebrow and elicits a groan. 

“Er, no. Frankly, I’m not attracted to the women who come in here. They’re all a bit weird or trampy or just over the top for me. I like the quiet ones, and ones with clean skin.”

“This is very strange for a man who inks skin everyday. Would you agree?”

Hiko’s conversations always end with a question whether requires an answer or not.

“I dunno…I haven’t got that many tatts myself apart from the ones I did for practice on my thighs and this one that I did after I started here.” 
Col twists his arm, admiring his own handiwork by baring a beautifully scripted word inscribed on his inner forearm. “Intuition”. He's always trusted his feelings, except when it comes to women.

“Fine work my friend, very fine work, but no colour?”

Hiko, normally a modest and quiet man unexpectedly stands and begins to remove his shirt. No sooner is the gesture begun and he hurriedly re-buttons, providing only a glimpse of blazing colour on his chest.

“What’s that?” Col’s interest is piqued and quashed in an instant as the flash of colour disappears behind swift fingers.

Hiko nods with raised eyebrows towards the opening door as he quickly buttons the shirt. “You have customers. I show you another time.”

Col swivels on his stool, spilling a coffee into his crotch and leaps to his feet, wiping the sodden patch hastily before looking up at two young women who begin to giggle at his clumsiness.

The girls compose themselves as the big man smiles embarrassment away. 

“How can I help you today ladies?”

“We want matching tattoos. Just something small, maybe on the shoulder blade.” Annika's excitement is palpable.

Melissa is horrified and turns towards the door, “No way Annika, no way…”

“Oh no you don’t!” her friend grasps her tight around a slim bicep. “We’re getting matching tattoos, a sign of friendship, a permanent symbol.”

Annika’s rhetoric is soon silenced by Col’s firmness. 

“Ladies, ladies…I won’t do a reluctant tattoo. Only willing customers here.”

Annika turns to her friend, “Fine, then you’ll just have to watch and try not to faint!”

She removes her singlet top and exposes pale alabaster skin. There’s already a small butterfly on her hip. She briefs the artist on position and style and he readies his equipment. Annika  takes up position leaning forward over the tattooist's chair, baring her back to him.

“This is Colin,” she introduces the Tattoo artist to her friend. Colin turns to Melissa and shakes her hand, his beaming smile and piercing blue eyes belie his otherwise tough exterior.

“Melissa,” she responds warmly. 

He finds her beyond attractive with hazel eyes and soft blonde curls that would feel so good between his fingers between his….He collects; lascivious thoughts aside, she is a pretty woman. Yes this lovely thing with her sweet face, flimsy dress and fresh complexion is sweeping him off his feet.   Lascivious thoughts return, he would fancy catching a glimpse beyond the filigree of her dress. He focuses on the task at hand.

“OK Melissa, you sure you don’t want matching tattoos?” He asks for the last time.

“No thanks, not for me. I like my skin the way it is.”

“So do I….” whispers Colin before the buzz of the needle distracts him and he focuses on inking Annika.

Annika bites her lip and suffers in silence while Melissa and Colin engage in small talk about how he got into tattooing, as she flicks through his design book.  She’s impressed with his artistic skills, some of his drawings are beautiful and even though a tattoo is not on her mind, she can’t help admire his handiwork.

“These are lovely. You really have an amazing eye.” 

She’s talking to the back of his head as he hones his craft on her best friend. She doesn’t see him smile at the compliment and mutter, “You have amazing eyes…”

The tattoo takes about 45 minutes to complete. A small bluebird, simple and a colourful contrast to the pale, black-clad girl, now decorates her right shoulder. The outline slightly reddened with the persistent puncturing is a little sore but bearable.

“I love it” Annika squeals and hands over her credit card. “You really are awesome Col.”

Her flirtations are wasted on the man processing her payment. He’s got a blonde on his mind and hands his business card to Melissa.

“Just in case you change your mind.”

“I doubt it, but I’ll think about it.”

She’s lying to herself and him, already arguing with the devil on her shoulder. Oh she’s thinking about a tattoo, despite her better judgement. Simply because it gives her the excuse to see him again. As she accepts his card that tell-tale stare and a slight stroke of the hand make it clear he’s interested in her and she in him.  She has a better idea and rummages in her purse to exchanges her own card with his.

“Perhaps we can do something for each other?”

The double entendre not missed by the smiling artist as the two girls disappear into the street.

"I think you have new girlfriend soon..." Hiko's voice emanates from the back room as Colin smiles and puts the card in the pocket of his cargo pants.

"Maybe...Maybe not."

 Posted for the Tenth Daughter of Memory, River of Mnemosyne Challenge, Counterintuitive


  1. Hmm... a bit clean. All of these parts are moving extremely fast. I have a critique, but I'll hold it until later.