I rolled around on the bed, slowly stretching my arms and legs out. I had forgotten that I wasn't in my own room, so I had a mini heart attack when I felt a body next to me. I opened my eyes and sat up, my hand searching the night stand for my glasses.  I put them on and looked down at Noah, who was still snoozing peacefully on his left side, facing away from me. I looked down at his arm, the more heavily tatted of the two, and for the first time was able to clearly see the tattoo at the top of his shoulder that had been obstructed by the sleeve of his t-shirt when we met. It was a naked female jester sitting on top of a clock, smoking what could either be a cigarette or a joint. I silently thanked God that that hadn't been visible when he met my parents.

Oh, fuck! My parents.

I knew that if they found my bed empty they would both have an aneurysm, so it would probably be in my best interest to return home before they woke up.

 I looked around the room but didn't see a clock, and I hadn't brought my phone with me, so I got up carefully and put on my clothes quietly, making my way into the kitchen where the clock on the stove informed me that it was 9:40 AM.

Double fuck.

 I speed walked through the living room and climbed out the window, then ran up the rusty metal stairs like a bat out of hell. I opened my window as quietly as I could and practically fell into my bedroom.

The first thing I did was mess up my bed sheets to make it look like my bed had actually been slept in, then I tore off my clothes and put my pyjamas, which consisted of a pair of track pants and a shirt of a band who only released one album before breaking up. As I was pulling my shirt over my head, I could hear shouting coming from outside the door.

“Where the hell is he?!” I heard Tom explode, “This is unacceptable!”

Triple fuck.

“Honey, calm down,” I heard my mom say, “And don’t say hell, say heck instead.”

“I will not calm down, Tiff!” He shouted back, “You get that idiot on the phone and ask him where he is right now!”

I swallowed my pride and prepared to be at the mercy of Toms anger. I decided that I would much rather take whatever punishment he was about to give me then let my mom get screamed at for something that wasn't even her fault. I took a deep breath and walked outside into the living room where Tom was standing with his back to me. My mother stood in front of him, staring at the floor, shaking her head.

“Dad?” I said innocently, in an attempt to flatter him into not whooping my ass three ways from Sunday.

He turned to face me, with his cell phone pressed against his ear.

“Travis, whatever you have to say to me can wait!” He barked, turning his attention back to his phone call, “Yes, I'm still here! No, I told you, I don’t care about his flat tire!”

I swallowed my apologizes and stood there frozen while he continued,

“The moving truck was supposed to be here at 8:00, it is now 9:45, I don’t have time for this! You call him and you tell him that if he’s not here in by 10:00, I’m gonna sue someone!”

Tom hung up the phone and turned to face me.

“What is it?” he sneered. I stared back at him blankly, at a complete loss for words.

“Um…” I said, scratching the back of my neck. I crinkled my nose and looked around as I smelt something unpleasant in the air.

“Is something burning?” I asked. My mother looked up at the both of us, bug eyed.

“THE POP TARTS!” she exclaimed, running into the kitchen.

“Oh, and now I don’t even get to have a Pop-Tart!” Tom said dramatically, throwing his hands up, “Well, this is just GREAT!”

He followed her into the kitchen while continuing to complain. I stood in the doorway alone, silently basking in my victory. I couldn’t believe I had actually gotten away with it.

I made my way into the kitchen just as my mom was throwing two charcoal colored toaster pastries into the trash. She picked up the Pop-Tarts box on the counter, but it was empty. She sighed as she threw that away, too.

“Who’s in the mood for some peanut butter and toast?” She beamed, unfazed. Tom looked at his watch and shook his head.

“I can’t believe this…I can’t wait any longer, I have to go. I have to meet the superintendent to get the list of repairs…”

“Tom, it’s fine,” My mom sighed, opening a bag of bread, “Get going, it’ll be okay, I’ve got this.”

Tom mumbled a quiet admission of defeat as he leaned over and kissed my mom on the cheek.

“Make sure they don’t break anything, I’ll call you later,” He said, he grabbing his tool belt off the kitchen counter. He made his way past me without a word, quickly shouting a quick “I love you” to Tammy before leaving.

“Good morning,” my mother said, putting the bread in the toaster, “How was your first night in your new room?”

“Great,” I lied.

“That’s good,” she said, grabbing a jar of peanut butter from the cupboard, one of the few food items we had brought for the move, “I’m really glad that boy from downstairs helped you put your bed together, I don’t think Tom would have even had time to do it today.”

“So, is the moving truck going to be here soon?” I asked, eager to change the subject.

“That’s the rumour,” my mom sighed, grabbing a few plates, “Im gonna need some help setting everything up. You can help me move the furniture into my room.”

“Ah, the curse of being the first born male,” I griped.

“You say that as if there’s going to be a second born male,” she replied, grabbing a small ceramic plate with Tammys favorite obnoxious singing snowman on it.

“I wouldn’t mind that,” I shrugged, “It would give Tom someone else to yell at.”

“Oh, honey, he doesn’t yell he just…talks loudly,” My mother defended.

“Yeah, well, when he’s not ‘talking loudly’ he’s either ignoring or insulting me,” I said, “So, if there’s the possibility of me splitting that daily joy with someone else, I’m all for it.”

“Honey, he’s only critical of you because he wants you to be the best you can be,” she said, just as the toast popped up. She quickly pulled them and replaced them with two more pieces, “And it’s obviously working since your grades have gotten much better since we got married.”

My mother didn’t seem to realize that the only reason I got better grades upon entering adolescence  was because I couldn’t stand being around Tom and his constant bull shit so I would rather be at the library or a friend’s house studying then at be home.

“Besides,” she continued, spreading the no-name peanut butter over the toast, “We can’t afford to have another baby.”

She cut each piece in half handed me the plate.

“Bring this to your sister,” she instructed. I took the plate and walked into my sisters room where she was contently asleep under her tiny pink blanket.

“Tammy, food,” I said, shaking her by the shoulder. She rolled around and swatted me away.

“Fine, I’ll eat it,” I said taking a bite of her toast. Her eyes shot open.

“No! Mine!” She said, grabbing the plate.

 “Greedy,” I said, before sucking a bit of peanut butter off my thumb, “So, how’d you like sleeping in a room boy yourself?”

“Hmmm, it was okay I guess,” she shrugged, “But I think I like sleeping with you more.”

“Really?” I smiled. That was actually kind of sweet of her.

“Yeah, because if a killer comes in the room, he’d kill you first and that would give me time to escape,” she said, completely serious.

 “Gee. Thanks.”

I shook my head and walked back into the kitchen where my mom was peanut-buttering two more pieces of toast.

“Here ya go,” she said, handing me the plate.

“Thank you.”

I took my breakfast to my room and sat down on my bed, quickly thanking God as I had been taught to, before beginning to eat. I regretted not getting a drink while I was up. Then my phone buzzed.

“Hello?” I said, pressing my Samsung Galaxy to my ear.

“Did you leave, or are we playing the words hardest game of hide and seek?” Noah asked from the other end.

“Oh…yeah, hold on,” I said, getting up and closing my door, before moving back over to my bed, “Yeah, I had to go, I needed to get back before my parents realized I was gone. Why didn’t you wake me up after I fell asleep?”

“I tried to, you hit me,” Noah explained.

“Oh…shit, I’m sorry,” I apologized.

“It’s okay, it was more of a bitch slap then anything. So did you get caught?" He asked. 

"No, they had no clue,” I said proudly.

“Very nice.  Well, I guess I’m awake now, what are you up to today?”

“Moving more stuff in,” I said dropping a large chunk of peanut butter on my pillow, “Oh, fuck…”

“Do you want me to come help?” he offered.

“No, no,” I sighed, scooping up the peanut butter, attempting to rub the stain out, then giving up and flipping the pillow over, “You did enough yesterday, I don’t want you wasting your whole day helping us.”

“Nah, it’s cool, I don’t have anything to do until 5 anyways. I’m just gonna go grab a coffee and I’ll be right up.”

“But-” I tried to protest.

“But nothing,” he interrupted, “By the way, how do you take your coffee?”

“I don’t, coffee tastes like dog piss,” I scoffed.

“And how would you know what dog piss tastes like, Travis?” He inquired.

“Long story,” I sighed.

“You can tell it to me later. See ya,” he said, hanging up. I finished my toast, plugged my phone in to charge and walked back into the empty kitchen, putting my plate into the sink. I decided to brush my teeth and take a quick shower, but upon trying to open the bathroom door, I was met with the sound of Tammy screaming from inside.

“Occupied!” She declared.

“Ugh! Are you going to be long?”

“Occupied!” She repeated.

“Do you even know what ‘occupied’ means?” I questioned. There was a long silence.

“Occupied!” she shouted back. I rolled my eyes and made my way into the living room, sitting down on the floor and turning on the TV. My mom emerged from her bedroom in her favorite pink and white striped t-shirt and a pair denim shorts, her long copper colored hair tied into a tight ponytail.

“Is your sister still in the bathroom?” she asked, sliding on her ballerina style flats.

“Yep,” I sighed, as I began flipping through our 38 channels of basic cable.

“Tammy, hurry up!” My mom shouted.

When Tammy finally emerged from the bathroom, I used what little hot water there was left to take a shower and brush my teeth, before returning to my room and re-dressing in a navy blue t-shirt with the logo of an electrical company Tom used to work for on it and a pair of black shorts that may or may not have been purchased for the sole purpose of the one and only basket ball game I ever played.

I sat back down the living room and watched half an episode of ‘Friends’ before I heard a knock at the door.

“For goodness sake, they were supposed to call me before they got here…” my mother mumbled, walking through the living room.  She opened the door to find Noah standing there with a tray of Tim Hortons beverages.

“Mister Noah!” she chirped.

“Good morning, Mrs. Rhodes-Charles,” he grinned innocently, as if he hadn’t been balls deep in her son less than 12 hours ago.

“What can I do for you?” She asked, her eyes transfixed on the caffeinated beverage he held.

“Well, Travis texted me and said you might need some help moving the rest of your stuff in, so I decided to come by and lend a hand,” he smiled, handing her one of the cups, “Also, I didn’t know if you were a tea or a coffee person, so I got you a French Vanilla.”

“Oh my goodness, you are too sweet!” My mother said gratefully, “Come on in.”

Noah closed the door and followed her into the living room.

“Honey, you didn’t tell me Noah was coming over,” she said, taking the lid off her drink and blowing on her drink.  I suddenly realized I could just barely the sound of a phone ringing with the generic tone that was the default setting for it, which means it couldn’t be mine because mine was always on vibrate.

“Mom, I think your phone’s ringing,” I informed her.

“Oh, that must be the movers,” she said, running into her bedroom to answer the call.

 Noah walked over to me, putting the trey of drinks down on the table.

“Is one of those for me?” I asked, looking up at him.

 “Yeah, I got a couple of hot chocolates for the little kids who don’t drink coffee,” he taunted. I raised my middle finger to his face.

“Blow me,” I spat. He grabbed my finger and bent it backwards.

“AH!” I exclaimed.

“Blow what?” He asked, pulling it back further.

“Dude, stop!” I ordered. He rolled his eyes and reluctantly let go.

“Douche,” I said as I massaged my middle finger. He grabbed my hand and quickly kissed my knuckles, before virtually tossing me my arm back.

“Baby,” he scoffed, as if it that was really the best he could come up with. He handed one of the brown cups, “Here, this one is for you.”

 “Thank you,” I said before taking a sip. The bitter, black coffee barely touched my tongue before I cringed and shook my head in disgust.

“Oops,” Noah smiled, taking the cup back, “I guess that one was mine.”

“Fucking, eh,” I cursed as we switched cups. Even though it was a little too warm outside for me to really enjoy drinking a broiling beverage, I politely sipped my hot chocolate sister sauntered into the living room wearing a yellow shirt and pink shorts, her hair up in a ponytail just like my moms.

“Hi, Tammy,” Noah smiled, handing her the last of the cups, “This is for you. But be careful, it’s hot.”

“Thanks, pretty tattoo man,” she said, sitting down on the floor next to me. I think Noah’s vaguely poetic explanation of why he had his tattoos made Tammy a little less scared of him. She took the remote from me and flipped through the channels until she found some cartoon about rabbits that got to school for some reason.

“So, how’d you sleep?” Noah asked, sipping his coffee as we joined Tammy in watching the small rabbits take a class trip to the zoo, which was a little fucked up if you think about it.

“Good,” I said, taking a sip of my hot chocolate, “You did a great job on the bed.”

Noah smirked at me before turning his attention back to the TV.

“Glad you think so,” he said coyly. My mother emerged from her bedroom, her cell phone in one hand her French Vanilla in the other.

“All right kids, they’re here, let’s go,” my mother announced, walking through the living room. Noah raised an eye brow.

“Kids?” he muttered. I smiled down at him as I stood up.

“Come on, little buddy,” I teased, helping him up.

“Chill, you’ve still god 9 more fingers for me to break,” He shot back as we followed my mom and Tammy out the door.

To say that I spent the afternoon being a huge pile of dead weight would be a complete understatement. Everything that came off the truck was too heavy for me to even think about attempting to help someone carry. I basically held onto frames and tried my best to make it LOOK like I was helping, while Noah and 2 movers carried 90% of load. And each item had to be brought up very slowly up 8 flights of stairs because Tom hadn’t fixed the elevator yet and my mom was exceptionally paranoid about breaking/scratching anything

Despite being the only one of us who didn’t need to care about the welfare of the furniture, Noah was incredibly careful and warning everyone about the vengeful, neck-breaking, piece of matted carpet at the top of the stairs every time we approached it. And while everyone else was catching their breath, he was the first one back downstairs grabbing the next thing. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really impressed by that.

Every time I left the apartment, I prayed that we wouldn’t run into Tom one of the floors that we passed, since I really didn’t feel like watching him blowing a gasket over Noah doing a job that, technically, he should have been doing. He would have insisted that he would have done better and would probably imply something stupid, like that Noah was likely to steal or something. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

 I guess I could kind of understand Tom’s apprehension of Noah. Because, when Noah wasn’t smiling or laughing, he had this look of intense dissatisfaction and/or anger. I think the term best used to describe it would be “resting bitch face”, which I’ve only ever heard to describe women, but trust me, Noah had it. It didn’t help that he was at least 6 feet tall, 160 pounds of muscle and covered from his neck to his finger tips in tattoos, some of which could be interpreted as vulgar depending on who you asked.  To be perfectly honest, if he hadn’t talked to me first, I probably would have avoided him if I saw him around the building.

After 4 hot, sweaty, back breaking hours (for everyone except Tammy and I), I watched Noah push the last item, my parents dresser, up against the wall of their bedroom wall as he exasperatedly exclaimed,


He bent over and rested his hands on his knees, his chest heaving up and down as he tried to catch his breath. I handed him a bottle of water that he chugged in 20 seconds flat.

“Thank you,” he sighed, handing me the empty bottle. He pulled off his sweat soaked t-shirt and began wiping himself down.

“Dude, no, put that back on,” I urged, quickly looking behind me to make sure my no one was about to walk in the room.

“Why? I’m dying,” he said, wiping his face with his shirt.

“Because I don’t want my mom to see the naked chick on your arm,” I said, monotone.

“What? Oh,” he sighed, glancing down at the nude female jester, before putting his shirt back on, “I forget that’s there sometimes.”

 At the front door, my mother was bidding the movers a farewell, saying sincere thank yous before handing them each a toonie. Noah pulled his phone out of his pocket and looked at the time.

“I should probably get going to, I want to go put on a new shirt before I go to my appointment,” he said.

“Oh…are you going to the doctors?” I asked, ducking into the kitchen to throw the water bottle into the recycling bin. I walked over to the coffee table and picked up my hot chocolate, but it was cold chocolate now.

“No, I’m getting a new tattoo,” he said, picking up his half empty coffee cup, taking a sip, realizing it was cold, then proceeding to drink the rest of it. I stared at him in disbelief.

“You’re kidding,” I uttered. 

“Nope,” he shrugged, walking towards the kitchen to discard his empty cup, “You wanna come with?”

“Um…maybe…hold on.”

I dumped the rest of my hot chocolate in the sink, feeling somewhat guilty for wasting it, before throwing the cup into the recycling bin as well.

“Mom?” I called out as I re-entered the den.

“Yes, dear?” she called back, closing the front door.

“Do you still need our help or can we go hang out for a bit?” I asked.

“Um…No, I think we’re all done here,” she said, walking towards us, “Noah, thank you so much for your help.”

“My pleasure,” he smiled.

“I want you to have this,” she said, extending her hand, $2 in her palm, “I know it’s not a lot but-“

“I can’t accept that but thank you,” Noah declined.

“Well, okay,” my mom said humbly, putting it back in her pocket, “So, where you guys going?”

“Just for a little drive around the city,” Noah lied, politely, “I promise I’ll have him home by dark.”

“Oh, you don’t need to bring him home that early, just don’t be out all night!” My mom laughed, the concept of me being out of the house all night seemingly hilarious, “But honey, make sure you keep your phone on so I can text you.”

“I will,” I said as she kissed me on the cheek, before she retreated to her newly furnished bedroom. I quickly went into my room to grab my phone and put on my pair of knock-off Converse that I had gotten for my 16th birthday. They were snug, but miraculously, they still fit. I hoped that the uniform pants my new school would be providing me with would be long enough to cover the hole in the back of the right shoe.

My parents, especially Tom, hated wasting money on name brand apparel; since he knew that whatever was popular now would be out of style in 6 months and he could easily get something similar (albeit, lower quality) for ¼ the cost. So, sending me to a school where I had to wear a uniform for 5 days a week made perfect sense because, for just one easy payment of $130, he could avoid buying me new clothes for the rest of the year. I was not excited for the start of school on Monday, where I would get to find out exactly what that new uniform would look like, surrounded by a thousand other kids wearing the exact same fucking thing.

“I think I need to take a shower,” Noah sighed as we made it down to the 6th floor, “I don’t want to spend the rest of the day smelling like sweat.”

“You know, sweat doesn’t actually have a smell,” I informed him “Odor is caused by the perspiration reacting to the bacteria on the skin.”

 He stopped walking and stared at me like I had just landed on Earth for the first time.

“Just saying,” I concluded, as he shook his head and continued to follow me, "Believe it or not, some people use vinegar and baking soda instead of deodorant. Apparently it’s more cost effect.”

“Yeah, maybe, but then you just smell like fucking vinegar,” Noah laughed. I laughed too and decided not to tell him about the time in 9th grade where Tom made my entire family use this method so he could save an extra $6 month.

We entered his apartment and he immediately pulled his shirt off.

“Sweet Jesus, that’s better,” he sighed, throwing it at me. I caught it right before it hit me in the face.

“Thank you, just what I’ve always wanted it,” I said holding it at arm’s length. He pulled out his phone and looked at the time, biting lip in frustration.

“Shit, I’ve gotta make this fast. Give me like 10 minutes, don’t get too comfortable,” he said, disappearing into the bathroom. I considered offering to join him in the shower but he genuinely seemed to be in a rush so I sat down on the couch and waited. Almost exactly 10 minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom completely naked and calmly walked to his bedroom.

“Do you own a towel?!” I shouted after him.

“Nothing you haven’t seen before!” he shouted back. A few short minutes in the bedroom, he came out wearing a new white v-neck with black sunglasses hanging off of them and a pair of jeans. It was unfathomable to me how he could wear jeans on a day this hot, but to each their own.

 I followed him downstairs and out the front doors of the building, as the sun shined brightly into my eyes.

“Fuck,” I said, taking my glasses off and rubbing my eyes.

“You good?” He asked, taking his sunglasses off of his collar and trying to give them to me, “You wanna wear these?”

“No, I’m fine,” I sighed, putting my spectacles back on.

“You should get those glasses that become sunglasses when you go outside,” he said, putting his Ray Bans on, “You know the ones I mean?”

“Yeah but they’re too expensive,” I replied as we walked through the parking lot. We suddenly stopped in front of a white 2012 Audi A6 with tinted windows. He raised his keys and pressed a button, unlocking all the doors, before grabbing the passenger side door and swinging it open for me.

“Thanks,” I said hopping in. He quickly ran around to the other side, jumping in the driver’s seat.

“This is pretty nice,” I said, pulling my seat belt on.

“Yeah, I’m just lucky no one’s tried to break into it yet,” he sighed, inserting his key and putting the car in reverse, “You got your license?”

“G1,” I shrugged. He nodded as he backed out of his parking space and drove out of the parking lot, onto the street.

“Does Tom ever let you drive the van?” he asked. I responded with a hysterical bout of laughter.

“I’ll take that as a no,” he said as we drove around the corner, “If you want, I’ll let you drive my car sometime so you can practice.”

“I might have to take you up on that,” I said, staring out the window as we passed the other apartments. He turned the radio on the tapped his fingers against the steering wheel to the rhythm of a rap song I had never heard before.

“Since you’re new, I should probably give you the tour of the neighborhood,” Noah said, pointing out the window, “That’s a corner store, but don’t go there, they change the expiration dates. And over there’s a trap house, don’t go there either. And there’s the Timmies where I got the hot chocolate that you wasted. And that’s a trap house. There's a Wendys over there, they’re pretty good, just don't get a Frosty, cuz they never clean the machine. That’s the bus stop where a guy got shot last week. And that’s a trap house.”

“What the hell is a trap house?” I asked.

“No where you want to be,” he sighed, “Unless you absolutely need to bang a prostitute or smoke some crack. But even then, don’t risk it.”

 Suddenly, a car with a Columbian flag sticker on its bumper peeled out in front of Noahs Audi, with no turn-signal or even a courtesy wave, nearly causing us to slam right into him. Noah angrily drove up beside the car and rolled down his window.

“Hijo de puta estúpida!” (“Stupid motherfucker!") Noah exclaimed, flipping the guy off as we passed, “Is it ‘Piss-Off Noah’ day and everyone forgot to tell me?!”

I leaned my head back on the seat and stared at him, strangely turned on for some reason.

“You speak Spanish?” I asked.

 “Por supuesto , naci en España , después de todo,” he replied with no hesitation, as he turned on the A.C.

“I have no idea what you just said but it sounded hot,” I said, glancing over at him, catching him smiling.

“I said ‘ofcourse, I was born in Spain after all,’” he replied, “I can speak French too, but I’ve gotten a little rusty since I don’t know that many people who can actually hold an entire conversation in French. And in Canada, of all places!”

“You know, physically, I think you lean more towards the French side of your heritage then the Spanish side,” I said honestly, especially since his eyes were a soft, greenish-hazel color, not pure brown as one would expect a Spanish persons eyes to be.

“Hey, at least I can tan, whitey,” He said, turning another corner.

“I’m Irish, what do you want from me?” I defended.

“Aren’t Irish people supposed to be redheads?” He asked.

“Not always, sometimes we’re blonde,” I informed him.

“Not buying it. You’ve gotta have some Northern European mixed in there somewhere, where was your real dad from?” he asked.

“No clue,” I shrugged, “Never met the guy.”

“Oh,” Noah said, adjusting his sunglasses. There was a pretty long pause as he tried to think of something to change the subject to.

“So, where’d you live before you moved here?” he asked finally.

“ London,” I replied, staring out the window. As we drove, the area got semi-less graffiti ridden and shitty, but not by much.

“London?!” He exclaimed, “London, England?”

“No, dipshit, London Ontario,” I chuckled, “Do I sound like I’m from England?’

“Yep, it’s definitely Piss-Noah-Off-Day,” He sighed as we stopped at a red light.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized, rubbing his thigh.

“Mmm, better be,” he mumbled, looking down at my hand.  I continued rubbing his leg up and down, intentionally getting closer to this inner thigh until he picked my left hand up with his right and held it tightly.

“Don’t do that while I’m driving,” he warned, intertwining his fingers with mine, letting our hands rest on the centre console. I rubbed my thumb over the top of his hand as I stared out the window.

“Can I ask you a question?” I inquired as the light turned green.

“Go ahead,” he said. I took a deep breath.

“Do you regret what happened last night?” I said, not actually looking at him, but rather at my knees.

“Nope,” he answered without even thinking about it, “You?”

He looked at me worriedly when I didn’t answer immediately.

“No,” I said finally, “But I do kind of regret that we did it so…fast.”

“Oh, yeah, I know,” he exhaled, sounding somewhat relieved, “Don’t worry, next time I’ll last longer.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” I said, rolling my eyes, “I mean I regret doing it after only knowing you for a few hours.”

“Oh…” he said, continuing to drive with one hand.

 “I normally don’t hook up with guys that quickly,” I explained.

“Hmmm, I bet,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not.

“What’s your kill count?” he asked me.

“My what?” I questioned.

“Your kill count,” he repeated, staring out the front window, “The number of people you’ve been with.”

“Oh,” I answered, “Including you? Two.”

Noah nodded, seeming satisfied with this answer.

“What’s yours?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged.

“That’s not fair, you can’t make me say mine and then not say yours,” I said, crossing my arms.

“I honestly don’t know,” he insisted.

“Give me an approximate number,” I urged. He stared at the window, seemingly doing some sort of mental math.

“I don’t know…approximately…twenty-something?” he mumbled, barely audible.

“Wow,” I said, wide-eyed. I didn’t know what to say to that but I guess it was understandable number considering I slept with Noah the first day we met, so maybe that kind of thing wasn’t unusual for him.

We pulled into the parking lot of a rather sketchy looking strip mall in front of a tattoo shop called Graphic Ink, that was located between a shoe store and a nail salon.

“It’s nicer inside,” he assured me, turning the radio and A.C off and removing his keys.

The interior of the tattoo shop wasn’t necessarily decorated as much as it was graphitized, while multiple examples of the artists work in framed pictures on the walls. A large brown couch was placed ostentatiously in the lobby in front of a big fish tank and a table with several photo-albums full of different tattoo designs. A soft rock ballad played over the speakers placed on either side of the reception area. A chubby, gray haired man with a long beard who was covered in ink walked into the front of the store from the back room, that was separated from the general public by a black curtain.

“Loveless, what’s up man?” he said, reaching over the counter and giving Noah an un-necessarily complicated handshake.

“Same old shit,” Noah sighed, completing the handshake like it was choreographed. The man stared back at me, unsure of whether or not Noah had walked in together.

“Hello,” I said meekly.

“Hi?” The man said, looking at Noah instead of me.

“Oh, right,” Noah said, seemingly remembering that I was standing there, “Travis, this is Bill. Bill, this is my-“

He suddenly cut himself off, apparently realizing I wasn’t “his” anything.

“Friend, Travis,” he concluded.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, friend Travis,” Bill said, crossing something out of his client book, “So, you ready?”

“Let’s do it,” Noah said as he and Bill made their way behind the curtain and I followed them in. There behind the curtain there was already a young asian guy who more facial piercings then I had ever seen on a single person tattooing a picture of a cat on the leg of a young lady with a shaved head. Noah sat down in a black chair and the tattoo artist laid a sheet of wax paper over his forearm, pressing it down and pulling it off to reveal the stencil of an owl.

“Is the placement okay?” The man asked, turning around to grab a new tattoo needle. Noah glanced at the owl for about half a second.

“Looks great,” He nodded, looking over at me, “What do you think?”

I leaned over him and stared at the small, cute owl.

“It’s nice,” I said, “But, you know, that’s gonna be there for the rest of your life…”

“That’s kind of the point,” the girl with the shaved head butted in.

“Last chance to back out,” Bill said, revving his tattoo gun. Noah pulled his phone out and began texting someone.

“No one’s backing out of anything, I'm ready when you are,” he said. Bill leaned over and pressed the needle to Noahs arm as the gun made a loud, somewhat irritating, noise as it began to etch  the animal into his skin. I watched intently as he inked, wiped, re-inked and re-wiped Noahs arm over and over again while Noah nonchalantly made small talk and scrolled through his phone. After about 25 minutes, the girl with the shaved head had paid and left and the other tattoo guy was making sketches in a notebook, occasionally looking at Noah, then eventually at me.

“Do you have any tattoos?” He asked, obviously to me. It was only once they spoke that I realized that this person definitely did not have an adams apple.

“Nope,” I answered simply, trying not to look shocked by that voice coming out of that body.

“Do you want one?” They asked, closing their notebook, “I’ve gotta work on my straight lines, I’ll give you a good deal.”

“Oh. Um, no thank you,” I said nervously.

“Why not?” They asked, placing the book down on the counter.

“I don’t have any money,” I answered honestly.

“I’ll pay for it,” Noah chimed in.

“Dude,” I scoffed, “You’ve met my folks. You know that if I went home with a tattoo, Tom would shit Frisbees.”

“Are you seriously gonna let that ass hole dictate your entire life?” Noah asked.

“No,” I said quietly, as I looked around the shop. It wasn’t un-clean looking, per-say, but I’ve paid enough attention in health class to know the breeding grounds for Hepatitis when I see it.

“Maybe next time,” I negotiated. The heavily pierced tattoo artist shrugged and made their way into the front of the store to greet a new customer as Noah went back to tapping away at his phone.

 After more than 2 hours, Bill wiped down Noahs arm for the last time and instructed him to get up and look in the mirror. Noah did so and nodded approvingly.

“Looks great,” He said, turning to me, “You like it?”

“Yeah, it’s nice,” I nodded.

“Do you want to come back next week and get it filled in or just leave it like that?” Bill asked, putting on a new pair of gloves.

“I don’t know…” Noah said, staring down at the black outline of the owl, “I kind of like it just like that.”

“That’s fine, just let me know if you change your mind,” he said, pulling out a roll of plastic wrap. He wrapped up Noahs arm and secured it with tape before we went back out to the front of the shop so Bill could cash Noah out, with Noah handing over $300. He bid the two artists farewell and we walked out the front doors of the shop.

“Does it hurt?” I asked as we walked back out to the car.

“Yeah,” he sighed, pressing the button his keys to unlock the doors, “I think you need to make me feel better.”

“Excuse me?” I said, raising an eye brow. He grabbed the door and opened it for me.

“You heard me,” he said, gesturing for me to get in the car. I hopped in and he shut the door, making his way around to the other side of the car and getting into the driver’s seat.

“What kind of restorative treatment did you have in mind?” I asked, locking my seat belt into place. He grinned at me in the rear view mirror as he adjusted it before putting his Ray-Bans back on. He started the engine and put his arm around the back of my seat as we pulled out of the parking lot as he replied,

“I’m sure we’ll think of something.”


Alex C


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