Eventually, she catches my gaze again and asks, “What does this tattoo mean?”
She’s placed her hand on the tattoo on my chest. Out of all the tattoos I have, this one has the most meaning and while I never hide anything from her, this one hurts to think about sometimes. I reach for her hand and take hold of it. Dipping my face to hers, I say, “It’s a reminder.”
“Of what?” She’s watching me closely, waiting for my reply.
I squeeze her hand softly. “Not to let life pass by while I’m dealing with shit. To dance in the rain during the storm.”
“Tell me about it. Why did you choose those images?” she asks, her voice breathy as if she’s holding her breath a little.
I try not to think about this time in my life too often. It might have been fourteen years ago, but the memories lie just beneath the surface and the pain is all too real.
My tattoo is a collage that consists of a dragonfly, a tree, a crown and a scroll that runs through the images that says ‘Dance In The Rain’. I take a breath and begin to tell the story, because she’s going to want it, not some superficial explanation to explain the design. “Dragonflies are a symbol of living in the moment. The adult dragonfly only lives a few months usually and lives those months to the max – like we should. The tree is the tree of life.” I abruptly stop talking. The pain is too much as the memories flood my mind, and I don’t want to go on. I don’t want to remember what we almost lost, but I know Presley is going to push me there.
Her eyes search mine. It’s like she’s hesitant to ask me more but it’s also clear she’s going to. I can see it written on her face. “What does the crown represent?” Her voice is wrapped in care and I let it help me press on.
I shift onto my back and take a moment. And then I let the words spill from my lips. “The crown is my sister, Claudia . . .”
My voice catches in my throat and I gulp back the painful memories.
This never gets any easier.
Presley rolls so she can lay her head against my chest and drapes her arm over my body. Her touch is comforting and I hold her, taking strength from her tenderness. “What happened to her?” She says the words so quietly I almost don’t hear them, perhaps because I’ve retreated into my thoughts.
Away from the world.
From the harshness of what it can sometimes serve up.
Her words draw me back and I’m surprised at her ability to read me so well. Or maybe it’s not that she’s able to read me so easily compared to other women I’ve been with. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never been with a woman who actually cared enough to ask.
I force out a breath. “It was fucking awful . . . she was so sick growing up . . . I thought we were going to lose her.”
“Leukaemia. She was diagnosed when she was eight and her treatment lasted for about three years.”
The memories assault me and I’m helpless; all I can do is let them come.
I might have to relive them, but fuck if I’ll let them bury me.
Snapping back to the moment, I roll, taking Presley with me and pinning her underneath me. I stare down at her, taking in her beauty and her concern. I think about how fucking amazing she is. Even though I’ve only known her a short time, I know she’s too good for me and I know that makes me a lucky asshole. “Life’s too short not to dance in the rain, sweetheart. It’s why I’m here with you, and it’s why I’ll always fight for what I want. Even when life throws shit at me, I refuse to shut down and stop living life to the fullest. Claudia taught me that.”
She blesses me with a beautiful smile. “She sounds amazing.”
“Yeah, she is. She was the one dealing with being sick, and yet she was the one who kept our family together when I thought for sure we weren’t going to make it. And she still goes out of her way to keep us close.”
A frown creases her face. “What do you mean?”
“The financial stress it put on my parents was enormous because Mum had to stop working so she could look after Claudia. They went through all their savings and we almost lost our home when they struggled to pay the mortgage. I don’t know for sure, but I think their marriage took a hit also, but they always kept that part away from us. Honestly, I don’t know how they survived it all, but I do know that Claudia helped a lot. She was always finding ways for our family to bond . . . you know, family dinners, picnics, trips to the movies and stuff like that . . . I really believe that kept us together in the end.”
She smiles. She’s so goddamn beautiful when she smiles. Hell, who am I kidding? She’d be fucking beautiful even if she was glaring at me and telling me what a fucking asshole I was. “She taught you guys to dance in the rain,” she murmurs, and I fucking love that she gets it. I’ve never told anyone the significance of my tattoo before. A lot of women have asked but I fobbed them off with some bullshit story, and the fact they bought that shit without a doubt speaks volumes about what they wanted from me. It sure as fuck wasn’t my heart and soul they were after.
I return her smile. “Yeah, she sure did.” My lips brush hers and I say, “How the fuck did we get onto that topic? That’s too deep for this time of morning.”