“Damn,” Hazel said. “I kinda liked you two together.”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” I said, straightening the stack in my hands before returning them to their bin.
The door chimed, and a group of four girls walked in: all blond, all tan, and all showcasing their double-D-cup br**sts in tight shirts that were in various shades of pink.
I began to welcome them, but Hazel pointed to the door. The girls stopped in their tracks.
“C’mon, Hazel. We told him we’d stop by,” one of them whined.
“Out,” she said, still pointing with one finger, then looking down to turn a page of Cosmopolitan magazine with the other. When she didn’t hear the chime again, she looked up. “Are you f**king deaf? I said out!”
The girls frowned, and pouted for a few seconds before filing out the way they came in.
She shook her head and sighed. “Trent groupies. Bishop has them, too. Women who hang out at the shop, hoping to score free tattoos, or . . . I don’t know . . . that the guys score.” She rolled her eyes. “Quite frankly they annoy me, but up until recently they were allowed in.”
Hazel shrugged. “Bishop stopped coming in as much, and Trenton told me to send them away not long after you started here. See? You’re not a total disappointment.” She elbowed me.
“I suppose I haven’t really been worth the paycheck. I can’t even mix the MadaCide right. Disinfectant is kind of important around here.”
“Shut the f**k up!” she said with a wry smile. “No one else could have talked Calvin into getting rid of the cheap Asian décor and restructuring the files. You’ve been here less than a month and we’re already more organized, and customers don’t wonder if they’ll get a free fortune cookie with their tattoo.”
“I appreciate you,” Trenton said, walking into the lobby. “I appreciate that you’re finally going to watch Spaceballs with me tonight. I’m bringing it over.”
“I don’t know yet, but definitely not you.”
Trenton put his entire palm on Hazel’s tiny face and playfully pushed her away, keeping his hand on her as he spoke. “That’s not nice. I thought you said we’re friends.”
Hazel finally struggled away from Trenton, and began slapping the shit out of his arm. Barely noticing, and only holding up one hand to fend her off, he continued, “Friends watch Spaceballs together.”
“We’re not that good of friends,” I said, concentrating on lining up the paper clips just right in their new organizer.
The door chimed, and two customers walked in: a couple. They were neck-deep in tattoos already.
“Hi,” I said with a smile. “How can I help you?”
“Rachel!” Hazel said, tackle-hugging the girl. She had an eyebrow piercing, a diamond for a beauty mark, and nose and lip rings. Her rocket-fire-red pixie cut almost glowed, it was so intense. Even with a head full of holes and arms covered in skulls and fairies, she was breathtaking. I sat back and watched them chat. Her boyfriend was tall and skinny, and just as glad to see Hazel. I couldn’t imagine either of them wanted more piercings or tattoos. Unless they wanted face tattoos, they had run out of blank skin to ink.
Hazel escorted them back to her room, and laughter and chatting ensued.
“It’s going to be a slow day.” Trenton sighed.
“You don’t know that. It just started.”
“I can always call it, though,” he said.
“Who are they?” I asked, nodding toward the hall.
I raised an eyebrow, dubious. “Maybe this is ignorant, but Rachel isn’t Asian. Not even a little bit.”
“They’re both adopted. They were foster kids. There’s like a dozen of them or more. They’re spread all over the country now, and they all love each other like crazy. It’s awesome.”
“So you really won’t watch Spaceballs with me tonight?”
“Why not?” he said, crossing his arms and shifting his weight.
“Answer the question, Camlin. What do you have against Spaceballs? I need to know before we go any further.”
I sighed. “Between work and the Red, and . . . we’re seeing a lot of each other.”
He watched me for a moment, a hundred thoughts scrolling behind his warm russet eyes. He walked the few steps to stand next to me, putting the heel of his hand on the counter beside my hip, his chest touching my left arm. He leaned down, his mouth almost touching my hair. “And that’s a bad thing?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” I said, my face compressing. He was confusing me, and way too close for me to think straight. I turned to tell him to back away, but when I looked up, I paused. He was right there. Inches away. Looking down at me with a look in his eyes I couldn’t decipher.
He looked down at my bare shoulder. “That’s a perfect spot for me to ink.”
“Come on. You’ve seen my work.”
I looked back up at him, trying to interpret his expression. “I don’t trust you. I’d probably end up with MAY THE SCHWARTZ BE WITH YOU.”
“See? I’ve already seen it. A lot.”
“You can never see Spaceballs too much.”
Hazel, Rachel, and Rachel’s boyfriend returned to the lobby. Hazel gave Rachel a big hug, and then they said tearful goodbyes.
“Christmas is right around the corner,” Trenton said.
When Rachel left, Hazel was smiling, but a little sad. “Damn it. I love her.”
“You love all of them,” Trenton said. “If you get them on a monthly cycle, you could see one of them every day.”
Hazel elbowed Trenton, and he elbowed her back. They fought like brother and sister.
“So,” Hazel said, chomping on a piece of gum. “I heard you guys talking. I can’t believe you’re scared to get a tattoo.”
Calvin walked to the vestibule. “Has Bishop been in?” he asked.
Hazel shook her head. “No, Cal. You’ve already asked me that today. We were just discussing Cami’s first tattoo.”
Calvin’s scanned me from head to toe. “That’s bad for business, a receptionist that doesn’t have any tats. You can make it up to me by picking up some hours on Sunday.”
“Only if you let me start working on papers and homework when we’re not busy.”