The sturdy seat jostled the young woman, tearing her eyes from the small screen enough for a quick glance. She was barely old enough for the other riders to call her a woman and not a girl. If it wasn't for her appearance, most probably would prefer to use the second. Especially the new grandmother sitting across from her. Clutching her large bag over her chest, she gripped it like a security blanket.
The young woman's eyes returned to the phone, unphased by the elder one's discomfort. Normally people on the subway kept to themselves and avoided eye contact. The two women were no exception. But it was hard to not take note of someone right across from you.
Firm, unwrinkled fingers, ran over a freshly shaved head, tracing the hairline from the widows peak down the left side of the thin face. Then back to rub over the collection of metal items sticking from her ear. Even on the hand, anyone was free to see the expansive sleeve the woman didn't bother to hide. It was mostly black ink, or essentially dark, like the rest of her clothes.
A rumble shook through the cars again, giving both women a reason to look around and bringing light to the lip ring on the bottom right of the younger's face. The older woman's glance darted away before she could be caught. Gripping the back tighter she crossed her legs with a deep breath. That poor girl had thrown her chance a successful life out the door with an appearance like that. No one would ever hire her like that. The fluorescence lights started flickering in the back car, drawing out a whole different type of person. A gentleman no older than the foolish child across from her. But his suit, clean skin, and bright eyes gave a different sort of feeling. His eyes were locked to the man shifting in front of him, fishing a business card out of his pocket. This man wasn't wasting his life. Life was precious.
The older woman sighed and curled herself up tighter. Equally subconscious, the younger woman saw her and let her legs spread just a bit from each other. From being squished against each other as politely dictated for her gender, she pressed in the thick leg of the man next to her. The firm plastic connected with her spine as she sat fully up. Gritting her teeth she focused her attention on the people of the subway. The woman across from her couldn't possibly pull her designer-clad body up any further. Once again the frail body was bounced and her diamond necklace shown in the dim light before slipping back behind her bag. Though the various rings on her finger were blatantly shining against the white leather she clutched.
A man to her right towered over the elderly lady and with a simple shift of his body, she pulled away towards the smaller man on her left. Then everything came to a stop for just a second and the doors opened. Jolting up, the lady started to leave the car. But she was left to shift from one foot to another, or take a step back or to the right, as she dodged touching anyone else on the train. All the while keeping her face down as much as possible. Slowly rising with a bemused smirk, the younger woman followed the lady off the subway. Then down the hall, up the stairs, and one block from her destination.
The older woman had looked up her destination's address and location several times before. Purposefully not checking her phone to double check, she repeatedly told herself she knew where she was going. The click of her heels grew faster and faster as she neared the shop. Till the sign came into view. Then they dramatically slowed.
It was a glorious day, a perfect warm temperature and absolutely zero clouds. People laughed as they passed, bounced balls, or talked on phones while they rode skateboards. A small child smiled up at the lady when she was within a few feet of the door. To go home now, to turn away from the shop mid step would draw even more attention to her. So, on she went. Then she considered just walking on, but someone inside had already seen her pause, had probably even recognized her. She would be known to have fled. The handle was chilled against her skin and lead her into a somber room. The walls tiled with black or darkly colored drawings. As one last chance to leave, the lady at the front desk looked away. Nerves dropping with a thud, she took a step away from the desk. The sudden pressure of a body followed by two hands gripping her arms forced her forward, further into the shop with a jolt. It was the foolish tattooed child. They eyed each other for a brief second. Different races, cultures, social classes, generations, sexual orientations and probably a lot of opinions. Attempting a smile, the woman swallowed a wish that this hadn't been the girl she was supposed to meet. The website had shown a woman with bright red hair.
Shrinking away, the woman pulled back before turning around. With a quick shake of her head the younger woman passed by the desk, walking through her second home. The colors warmed her, wrapping her in their private world away from everything else. Sweet perfume embraced her, pulling her into the back office. Kate lounged in her office chair, one leg folded up with her foot on the seat. As usual, she was skimming through her website. Wrapping her arms around her girlfriend’s shoulders, the young woman gave her a long kiss on her cheek. Both hands left the desk to hold the arms tightly against her body.
"I got an email today asking me to put an adult content warning on my site." She complained, pointing to the site. "That's absurd, it's ink not skin."
"That's just because you're work looks so real, babe." With another long kiss on her neck, the woman stood up before Wren walked in.
"Hey, you're next appointment is here." She rattled out, walking out just as fast as she had entered.
"Hmm, early. Nice." Kate unfolded herself and flipped through her phone for her schedule. Still looking down she stood, "Can you run through the email I have up and see if you read the same thing?"
"Yeah," the younger woman responded, watching the redhead disappear back to the storefront.
The curtains parted and the familiar face and red hair entered. Having only seen her face, the old woman was not expecting this woman to also be fully scarred with tattoos.
"Good Morning, Ms.Adams. It's nice to finally meet you. How are you doing?" The bright face matched the warmth she had extended in her emails. It was the only thing that had lead the woman here.
"Fine." The purse was on the cold tiled floor a few feet away, so instead, she just wrapped her arms around her body. When asked about undressing, she had hesitated long enough that the receptionist had offered she wait.
"I wanted to double check with you on the color pallet, okay?" Kate walked over and held out a drawing. A highly realistic drawing. Sweat began to bead under her arms.
"Looks fine," she murmured, watching the girl and waiting for that moment. But it didn't happen. She wasn't asked to remove a single thing in front of the girl.
"Alright, well I'm going to give you a few minutes to examine it. There's a mirror over there you can use. Maybe try it on, see what it would look like? This is just a copy so you can smoosh it right up against your skin. Get comfortable with it."
The woman gave a quick nod. Her chest tightened as she held her breath, waiting to be alone. Alone and very far from home.
The email seemed pretty straightforward and something they could easily deal with. Skimming it one last time, the younger woman held up a finger before she gave her girlfriend her full attention.
"I think it's an easy..." The beautiful redhead was staring at her, watching her with such fondness. "What?"
"I think I might need some backup."
"Some sympathy I can't give."
It had been five minutes before the jacket had come off. Then another five before the blouse and bra had managed to budge. Replaced by what looked to be hospital garb. It was only for those uncomfortable or cold as she had not properly dressed for the occasion. There hadn't seemed to be anything in her closet that said it was appropriate. For the last five, the paper finally found its way to her skin, moving this way and that, trying to find its home.
Tears began to brim at the edge of her vision.
"Ms.Adams? Can I come in?" Kate called from the other side. Her back found it's strength and with perfect control of someone used to hiding it, she wiped away her tears, masking her pain.
"Yes," She called, sitting down on the table as if nothing had happened.
"I have someone I want you to meet, is that alright?"
Pulling the gown tighter, she nodded. The foreign room shrunk as the tattooed girl from the subway walked in behind the artist. Now it was just her and these two punkish women.
"This is ..." Kate started. Before a name even exited her mouth, the woman in question had unzipped the front of her black corset top. "Jay." she finished with a smile.
Holding her shirt open, the woman watched the proper miss flinch and blush. Then, actually look. Even though she knew every inch of her skin, the temptation to look in the mirror was too strong. The black ink was the first thing she noticed. It wound up and down her skin, over her chest in the most gorgeous lace pattern she could have imagined. The large scars were still visible, but now only if she really sought them out. Not speaking, the woman's hands relaxed.
"You're so young," was all she managed to say. She was young but more so brave. Covered in piercings with no regard for her social standings, this young woman had done something to a stranger she wasn't even able to do with her husband. Slowly her hands crept to the break in the fabric.
"My husband swears he doesn't care one way or another. He's just happy I'm alive. But I can't stand to be naked in front of him. I just...I feel like it isn't me." It was the first time she had really cried in front of others like this. Sure she had cried when they said the cancer was gone. Her daughters had, her husband had, and she had out of joy. But this was different. There was only supposed to be joy. A woman she had met during her first screening hadn't made it. So she should be thankful for everything she had, not everything she was missing.
Guilt as much as loss fueled the tears. Kate scooped up a box of tissues before scooting on the bench beside the woman, not touching her till the woman gave her a small smile.
The younger girl had been exactly there, upset and broken, being comforted by Kate. It's how they met and what made her fall in love so easily. She hadn't cared so much about the missing anatomy but the damn scar that overtook her body. Her hands relaxed, letting the stiff fabric simply hang open.
"I couldn't control the cancer but I could control what I put on my body afterward. I wanted something that reflected how I really felt about myself. The two ugly scars weren't enough for me." By now the woman's eyes had relaxed from their wide stare to fully soaking in the skin in front of her.
"It's beautiful," she sniffed. Another flood of tears began to bubble up. But it wasn't the woman beside her that reached her first. It was the beautiful angel in front of her. Crying into the bare shoulder of this stranger, she let go of her anxieties and humiliations. Both stretching their arms out for a hug, neither of them were holding their shirts closed. Yet she could no longer find a reason to give a damn. Even as the girl stood fully back up, the woman didn't frantically grasp her gown closed, but let it hang where it wanted to.
"What do you think about the nipple tattoo?" Kate asked, rubbing her back. "There's no hard feelings if you changed your mind. This is your body. We could always go in a more lace fashion if you want?" Her smile was contagious. The red flowing hair and soft eyes contrasted against the steady heroine in front of her, giving her strength and comfort.
"No, I fed two children with those nipples. I want them back." It was possibly the first time she had used that word outside of a doctors office and both women smiled. Her confidence wavered for just a second.
"Can..." But it was too much to ask a stranger. And she quickly looked back to Kate. "So, when do we start?"
"Now if you want?"
She nodded, avoiding the girl's eyes now all together.
"Do you want me to stay?" She asked. And she did for the next few hours. Two women recovering from the same thing, together for each other.