end-of-summer writing contest entry!
“I need a tattoo covered up!” Sam shouted as she stepped into the Wish Granted tattoo parlor, bells jangling behind her in announcement of her arrival.
Tattered artwork plastered the walls. A solitary black chair loomed at the back of the shop. A heavy-set man with a scruffy beard sat cleaning a tattoo gun and studying Sam curiously. He patted the empty seat. “I can do exactly what you need. Come. Sit.”
She made her way across the room and sank into the dark leather, the harsh scent of ink and rubbing alcohol wafting up from the work-station beside her.
“I’m Eugene.” The man introduced himself. “But they call me Genie.”
“Sam.” Sam reciprocated, a dark curl falling into her eyes. She extended her hand to shake his. He spread her slender fingers to reveal the reason she was there. On her pinkie finger, in thin black letters, was the name Patrick. Just looking at it sent a sad, angry thrill through Sam’s heart. She told Genie how she and Patrick had been together since high school. Last year, as college freshman, drunk on love and beer – mostly beer – they’d decided to get finger tattoos of the other’s name to pinkie promise that they’d always love each other.
A few nights ago, Sam had found Patrick cheating on her…with her roommate, Veronica. Then he’d tried to deny it.
Pro tip: Never get someone else’s name tattooed on your body. It’s more permanent than they are.
“I don’t understand why he would do this.” Sam sniffed. “He was my world.”
“And now?” Genie asked.
Sam thought for a moment, betrayal burning in her chest. Unable to shake the image of Patrick and Veronica from her mind, the sadness and anger overshadowed everything else…midnight diner trips, certain-boy-wizard movie marathons, picturesque afternoon picnics and kisses in the rain.
“Patrick is dead to me.” Sam answered, no uncertainty in her voice.
“You’re sure?” Genie asked, eyes glinting, tattoo gun buzzing above her finger.
“Absolutely.” Sam replied stonily.
Genie had insisted it be on the house, which Sam figured was from pity. She didn’t want his pity, but as a broke college student, a free tattoo was like winning the lottery. So, she’d half-heartedly tried to refuse as she stuffed her wallet back into her purse. He’d sent her on her way with the life lesson be careful what you wish for – whatever that meant – and a straight, black line through the name Patrick. She was going to come back another day to pick a design that was more intentional, but already felt freer knowing the name was defaced.
Outside, the air was cold. Sam started towards the nearest bus station, the one on the outskirts of her favorite park. She’d hardly walked ten steps before she got the call.
“Sam, sweetie, are you okay?” Her mother asked frantically.
“I’m fine. Why?” Sam responded, confused and worried by her mother’s tone. A moment of silence stretched too long for comfort. “Mom? What’s wrong?”
“Patrick’s…dead.” Those were the last words Sam heard before her phone slipped through her fingers and shattered on the pavement, which felt suddenly unsteady.
All Sam could hear was her heartbeat as she stumbled forward, unsure of where she was going.
“Sam?” A voice asked tentatively from behind her. She spun to find herself facing…
“You can see me?” Patrick sighed, relieved. “Because nobody else seems to be able to.”
“But you’re…dead.” Sam breathed, taking in Patrick’s transparent sheen and ghostly glow.
“I’m right here.” Patrick observed, patting his chest.
“How? My mom just called and said you were dead!” Sam sputtered.
“Sooooo…I died and turned into a ghost?” He mused. A beat of silence. His eyes widened. “Oh god, I died and turned into a ghost! I remember now…I was in the back of a taxi and then-“ He smashed his hands together.
Sam reached out to touch Patrick, but her fingers went through him as if he wasn’t there at all. They both screamed.
Just then, Sam’s tattoo burned sharply. The pieces fell into place as her eyes widened. Wish Granted tattoo parlor, Sam declaring Patrick was dead to her, Genie’s warning to be careful what she wished for. Her stomach churned with the understanding of what she’d done.
“What’s going on?” Patrick asked.
“I think I killed you.” Sam answered. “And I think my new tattoo is haunted.”
“What new tattoo?”
Sam held up her pinkie and Patrick’s face fell at the sight of his name crossed out in permanent ink.
“For the last time, Sam,” Patrick rumbled. “I didn’t cheat on you.”
“I know what I saw!” Sam shouted back.
“What you saw,” Patrick informed coldly. “Was me waiting for you, your roommate falling off a step-stool, and me catching her so she didn’t rebreak her wrist.”
“You were embracing each other.” Sam huffed, recalling the memory that had sent her heart crashing through the floor.
“We weren’t embracing!” Patrick defended. “I’d just caught her from falling! And frankly, I’m hurt that you trust in me so little. I love you, Sam.” His eyes were on fire. “Besides, Veronica has that snaggletooth right in the front. I wouldn’t throw away everything we have for a snaggletooth.”
Sam laughed, which turned to tears. She realized how very stupid she’d been. Because of her, Patrick was dead – was a ghost. She should’ve trusted him.
“Something’s changing.” Patrick’s eyes were looking past her now, his image growing fainter. “What’s different?”
“I forgave you.” Sam answered.
Patrick extended his pinkie, the word Sam written in a delicate script along it. Though neither of them could feel the other’s touch, Sam wrapped her pinkie around his. Staring at her tattoo of his name, she suddenly hated the line striking it through.
“I love you.” She said. But she said it like “I’m sorry.”
“I love you, too.” He said. But he said it like “Goodbye.”