– I –
The new ink made her forearm throb. Looking down at the finished product, Tara smiled. “It’s perfect,” she told the tattoo artist. “Absolutely stunning.”
An astronaut with a semi-colon jetpack floated in the galaxy-filled lightning bolt taken from the cover of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album. Written along the top of the bolt was a lyric from 1974’s Diamond Dogs—“Living on the breath of a hope”—while along the bottom was a lyric off his 1969 self-titled album—“I think my spaceship knows which way to go”. It matched the semi-colon phoenix-winged butterfly on her left forearm. The slightly modified words belonged to a band she listened to frequently now, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and echoed pain she had experienced as a youth—“And my story goes on and on and on and on…” Three capital letters blazed brightly behind the exquisite creature—AKF, always keep fighting. This new tattoo spoke of the pain she lived in presently. Spun from Bowie’s genius, the astronaut and 1969 quote expressed her loneliness now, while the line about hope represented the ecstasy she’d barely begun to experience with Wilhemina Bennington.
They’d met by chance in a Starbucks the day she—
Tara looked up as the door to the famous coffee shop swung open and a tall, curvy brunette rushed inside, dropping her dripping, makeshift newspaper umbrella into the black trashcan by the door. Sighing heavily, she sat down in the chair nearest Tara’s table and finger-combed her hair, commenting, “It’s supposed to be sunny and dry today, right?”
“According to Channel 8,” Tara answered without thinking.
The woman faced her, an easy smile on her full lips, her brilliant blue-green eyes dancing as they lifted to meet Tara’s honey-brown gaze. “Well, I think the weatherman’s got some explaining to do.”
Tara smirked, nodding. “To lots of people, I’m sure.” She eyed the woman, eyes lighting on the roller-bag docked next to her. “Tell me you’ve got somewhere to stay and get dry!”
She shook her head. “Actually, I don’t. When I got here, my room had been double-booked. Since I arrived second, the hotel booted me with an apology, but they had no vacancies.”
Tara frowned, leaning forward. “Anyone you know here? I mean, anyone at all?”
She shook her head again. “Not a soul.” She sighed heavily. “I was supposed to meet with a client, but his flight was cancelled due to weather. Any last minute hotel recommendations for a girl?”
“Well, yeah… maybe?” Tara’s lips turned up at the corners. “You look about my size, so I could lend you something dry and put your wet clothes in to wash. If you like my home, you’re more than welcome to stay.”
“Because I would turn down the hospitality of a beautiful woman?” She chuckled, holding out a wet hand to Tara. “Mina Bennington, and you are?”
Blushing, Tara shook the proffered slender hand and shook, a trembling smile on her lips. “Tara. Tara Webster.”
A few hours later, Tara and Mina sat on the couch in Tara’s tiny apartment, eating drunken noodles from a nearby Thai place, and watching Elena Undone on Tara’s television. A knock came at the door and Tara set her plate down on the coffee table, murmuring, “I’ll be right back.”
Crossing to the door, she picked up a box and unlocked the deadbolt. Turning the handle, she gave a tiny polite smile to the woman on the other side of the portal before pushing the box into her arms. Five minutes later, she hugged her arms and suffered through a diatribe of accusations. Tara wondered if it would ever end as arms wrapped around her from behind and a warm cheek pressed against hers, a steely voice growling, “Leave. Her. Be. I will be caring for Tara from now on. If I see you near her again, you will regret it.”
The door shut firmly in the other woman’s surprised face, Tara turned in Mina’s arms to bury her face in the taller woman’s chest, whispering, “Why did you—”
“Because she’s a bitch who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. That’s why.” Mina pressed a kiss to Tara’s red hair. “Don’t think about her. Come finish dinner with me.”
Tara nodded. “I just need to wash my face first.” She didn’t wait for a reply, but hurried over to the bathroom and shut herself away from the world. Leaning against the door, she took a couple of deep breaths before taking the two steps to the sink. Lifting the metal handle to run the cold water, she used both hands to splash water on her face two or three times. Raising her gaze to her reflection in the mirror, she took a shaky breath, whispering, “Not alone. Keep… keep fighting. She’s—” hiccup “she’s gone. She’s—” hiccup “she’s wrong. She’s mean.”
Opening her mirrored medicine cabinet, she gave a slight smile, reaching in for the partial box of razor blades. Ready to feel the comforting bite, she slid it open, fingertips reaching in practiced movements to find the right weapon to mar the smooth skin of her forearm. Before she could take the steel from its cardboard home, her mind screamed at her to focus on the ink on her forearm.
AKF—Always Keep Fighting. My story goes on and on and on and on…
Tara tried to shake off learned guilt, but her reflection caught her attention: dark eyes, wide and red-rimmed.
A light knock jerked her out of introspection.
Tara focused on the girl in the mirror, her face crumpling as she gasped, “I don’t think my spaceship knows which way to go!”
“Tara, baby, let me in!”
Whirling on her heel in a split second, she opened the door, pushing the blades into Mina’s hands. “Mina, I’m broken! My spaceship doesn’t know which way to go anymore!”
Tears slipped down Mina’s cheeks even as her lips spread in a shaky smile. “It’s okay, my pretty Major Tom. I’ll help you pilot it. Promise.” Stepping in to wrap her arms around Tara, Mina whispered, “Thank you for trusting me with you, baby. We’ll get through this, and we’ll do it together.”
Tara realized for the thousandth time, she could have easily ended it then, after Allie had ripped her to pieces by telling her she wished she’d been successful in her attempt to end it all. Glancing down at her spaceman, she smiled, grabbing her phone to take a picture of the new ink as the artist rang up her total. Sending it to Mina, she pocketed the phone and opened her wallet to pay the artist. Shouldering her satchel seconds later, she pushed earbuds into her ears, setting her iPod to repeat David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” before tugging a grey slouch beanie onto her head as she left. Her phone vibrated, and Tara felt her heart lift a little. Digging the phone out to run her finger across the screen, Mina’s words were the sun breaking through the clouds—On my way, babe. Can’t wait to see it in the flesh! XOXO