*bounces* Yay! Hooray! I'm more than halfway there! Thank you so much, you guys, I'm starting to feel like all hope is not lost!
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(A description of what I'm doing is here.)
11021 / 33311 words. 33% done!
"So, uh, how do you know her?" he asked.
"We've gone to school together since we were babies."
He nodded. I could practically feel him wanting me to ask him how he knew Miriam, or at least pick up some of the conversational slack.
"Well, I mean, how do you know Miriam?" There. My good deed for the week.
Alec perked up at being asked a question about himself. "Oh, I know her because of Bret. He and I spin poi together."
I stared at him. "You do what?"
"Spin poi? It's like...these little balls on string, and you...spin them."
"Sounds fascinating," I nodded. All I could think of were koi fish, and someone tying little leashes to them and slinging them all over the place, water splashing everywhere. Leave it to Miriam to know fish slingers.
"It is, really, it takes a lot of practice and dexterity and..."
I felt my eyes starting to glaze over.
"I'm sorry, you don't care," Alec said.
I felt bad. It's a thing I'm good at, this feeling bad. "No, no, it's really interesting. I'm sorry. I'm just really into this...um...food."
"I don't mind, not everyone's as into poi as I am," he shrugged. "I'm used to it."
Poor guy. He was probably used to all kinds of people not giving a shit what he had to say. I sort of felt sorry for him in that moment.
"Okay, well, you know, enjoy the party!" Alec waved, then finally left to go find someone else to bother.
"Sure thing," I mumbled under my breath.
I decided to find a different corner to lurk in. This one clearly wasn't safe.
"Who are you hiding from, Mads?" I looked up to see Colleen had finally shown up.
"Hi! Oh, man, I'm glad you're here, I've already been accosted by a weird guy."
"Ooh, really? Was he cute?"
I punched her. "He was a dork. And I had nothing to say to him, much like my encounters with every other human being on this Earth. And if I didn't feel so bad about ditching Miriam last weekend, I'd totally ditch her now, because she's not even talking to me."
Colleen rolled her eyes. "Mads, are you even trying to talk to her?"
"Well, no, I mean, she's with all those people I don't even know." I pointed to where Miriam sat circled by a gaggle of heavily costumed beautiful people.
"Okay, well it doesn't matter anyway, because look who I brought with me." Colleen gestured to a woman who I guess had been standing with her the whole time, but I hadn't noticed until she pointed her out to me. The woman held out her hand for me to shake, and tattoos covered every available inch of exposed skin, save her hands and face. I knew instantly who she was, without even being introduced. But I held my hand out as well anyway.
She took my hand and squeezed. "Hey, I'm Lisa." She was skinny, with cropped brown hair and calm, serene eyes. I instantly liked her.
"Madeline," I introed myself.
"Colleen tells me you're looking to get a tattoo."
I couldn't really back out now, not while this woman stood right in front of me, waiting expectantly for me to agree with her. I briefly thought it odd how Colleen had initially laughed at my idea, and now was practically forcing it upon me. Anyway, I nodded that yes, I was looking to get a tattoo.
"Cool, cool. Listen, mine aren't cheap, but I've got the stuff to do it at my house, you just call any time and I'll hook you up, okay?" She handed me a business card. I stared at her. "I just don't believe they should put an age limit on self expression," she winked at me. Then she turned to Colleen. "Hey, girl, I've gotta jet. I'll see you at Mac's?" (Mac's is one of Colleen's favorite bars. They're primarily a restaurant, which is the only reason she's able to get in.)
Colleen nodded, giving Lisa a hug. Then she left.
"There you go, man, you've got no excuses now," she said to me. "Are you going to get one or not?"
"Get one what?" Miriam asked, appearing out of nowhere beside Colleen. I'll never know how she does that. Maybe it's a goth thing.
"Tattoo. Mads is thinking of getting one."
Miriam grinned at me. "No way. I want one so bad, but my parents won't let me. What are you going to get?"
I shrugged. "I haven't decided yet."
"She wants it to be her 'it' thing," Colleen explained further. I wanted to punch her.
"What do you mean?" Miriam asked.
"You know. So she can be cool."
I grimaced. "Colleen, I can explain my own ridiculous whims, thanks."
Miriam looked at me expectantly.
"I kind of feel like if I get one, it'll help me feel more confident."
She nodded, as if she got it. "Kind of like how I never really feel me until I've got my makeup on?
"Okay, so I saw you talking to Alec earlier," Miriam said, blessedly changing the subject, unfortunately to the only thing I wanted to talk about less than the tattoo. "What did you think?"
I shrugged. "He's...nice?"
Miriam nudged me. "I think he likes you."
"Okay, that's good."
"Oh, come on, Mads, you can't sit around and wait for Wake to realize he wants you. You know he's dating Janell now, right?"
"Thanks, Miri, for the self esteem boost. Much appreciated."
"She's right, Mads," Colleen said. Colleen, who had been my number one hook me up with Wake partner in crime. "I hate to say it, but it may be time to move on. There are plenty of other fish in the sea."
I thought of Alec and his koi. "Right, except that I'm still a socially defective spaz who has no 'it'. So give me a chance to deal with one traumatic ordeal before we move onto finding a boyfriend, hmm?"
"Oh, hang on, Bret's waving me over. They're playing truth or dare. Be back in a bit!" Miriam squeezed me and Colleen and ran off.
"She's not coming back," Colleen said, and I nodded in agreement. Miriam had her people, and we weren't really in the same group anymore.
** ** **
I stared at Lisa's business card. It was very pretty, really. Shiny, with lots of swirling color. I tried to put myself back in the state of mind I'd been in when I first considered getting a tattoo. The happy, exhilirated, this will fix everything state. It seemed far away, now. But I knew if I didn't do this thing, Colleen would never let me live it down, and I'd be hearing about it for ages, and she might just sneak in through my window at night and give me a tattoo in my sleep.
So I called Lisa.
"Hi, it's Madeline, I met you at Miriam's party?"
"Who's party?" she said.
"Miriam. Um, my friend Colleen introduced us."
"Oh, right, right, you're Colleen's friend! I'm glad you called, sweetie!"
She sounded so warm and inviting. I almost felt like I was making an appointment for a spiritual cleansing instead of a tattoo.
"Well, I was wondering if I could set up an appointment."
"Of course, hun, when were you thinking?"
School started again on Monday, and I feared that if I didn't do this now, I'd have a whole additional week to freak out and panic about it. Better to bite the bullet. "Um...today?"
Lisa laughed. "Okay, yeah, I've actually got a pretty free day today, it's just most people want a little more time to fret about their decision."
"I've gotten most of my fretting out of the way already, actually."
"Sure, well, if you'd like to come by and discuss your options, the address is on the card and I'll be around all day."
Discuss my options? "Will we be, uh, doing the actual tattooing today?"
"Well, if you want something special, you may have to give me a few days to work on the artwork and get my inks together. But if you can pick something out of my book and it's in your price range, we could probably get you taken care of today."
Taken care of. She said it so sweetly, even though that's usually something mobsters say about people they're trying to off. "Hey, Slim, looks like we've got a mole somewhere in the system. Why don't you...*knowing wink*...take care of it?"
"Okay, awesome, thanks! I'll, uh, see you soon!"
"Okay, sweetie. Bye!" She hung up the phone first, which I felt grateful for, because I'm that person who will stand around holding the phone to my ear until I'm sure the other person has hung up.
My nerves started racing. Should I just go straight over? Or would that look too pathetic? Should I wait around for a while so I seem like the sort of person who has Things To Do on the weekend, not a lame loser who sits around in her room waiting for her friends to call and invite her out?
I figured waiting thirty minutes would be acceptable. I could deal with letting that amount of time pass. Plus, it gave me more time to think about what I wanted to get.
Oh god, what was I getting myself into?
** ** **
My parents have given me an allowance ever since I was old enough to scrub a dish, but they've always taken half of it and put it in a savings account for when I move out of the house. They've made this big deal out of the fact that the money is actually mine, it's just for when I really need it. It's never bothered me, I don't have a lot of things I really want that cost money. I don't have Colleen's shoe addiction, or Miriam's need to wear a different outfit every single day. I guess I'm a pretty low key kid. But that day, I needed the money in the savings account. I needed all of it, probably. What if my dream tattoo ended up costing two thousand bucks or something? If it was going to be on my body forever, it needed to be the right thing. I needed to look at it and feel empowered, like I was SOMEBODY, that sort of thing. So even though I felt like a sneak rifling through my parents' closet for the card linked up to my savings account, I tried to calm myself down with assurances that I would pay it back, even if it meant not going to the movies or buying any cds for the next five years.
My hand closed around the card in my mom's underwear drawer. I grabbed it and snuck out of the house, even though my parents were out of town on business for the day and there was no real reason to sneak. I just felt so guilty and sneaky.
No! I shouted to myself. You do not feel guilty. You feel PROUD! You feel EXCITED! This is part of the New Madeline, the Madeline who knows where her 'it' is and isn't afraid to show it. After today, you'll be a new person, a more bold person, a stronger person! You'll be transformed!
Yes. I would think no more negative thoughts about this operation.
Lisa lived kind of far away, so I had to take the bus to her house. I've taken the bus maybe twice in my entire life, and it always freaks me out. What if today is the day the bus driver loses control of the vehicle and we go careening into the river? What if today is the day some local kid decides to go crazy and blow himself up? What if the person next to me is a huge, lumbering pedofile with an affinity for private school girls?
Luckily, the bus ride was uneventful, and it dropped me off on Lisa's street, where I easily found her house.
I stood in front of her door, wondering if I should ring the bell or knock. On the one hand, why would she have a door bell if she didn't want people to ring it? On the other hand, she had a door knocker, and the same logic followed. Plus, I always felt kind of weird ringing the bell, like I was annoying the occupant of the house or something, because some door bells are really loud.
I gave up and finally knocked. With my fist. I didn't even use the knocker.
I heard some shuffling, then Lisa opened the door, looking as sweet and welcoming as she had the other night.
"Madeline!" She said. "Glad you came. Did you find the place okay?"
"Sit down. You want anything to drink?"
I looked around the space as Lisa left to get me my water. The whole room felt like Lisa herself felt, as if it had a sort of energy and vibrance to it. There were dream catchers and small statues everywhere I looked. Lots of crystals, too. I felt my racing pulse begin to slow.