As a tattoo artist, Jilly had met many “unusual” people, but this particular repeat customer was the most unique.
Jilly shivered as the tall lean woman floated through the parlor door and sank immediately into Jilly’s “design” chair.
“Hi!” Jilly greeted with a nervous wave of her hand. Usually blunt and confident, Jilly’s demeanor changed when this client appeared weekly.
Jilly began again: “This is your 13th appointment.”
“Yes,” the lady agreed with a gentle lilt to her voice. Her face was etched with soft wrinkles, accentuated with wide pale blue eyes.
Jilly continued: “You paid me up front for a deluxe tattoo 3 months ago, but I think I owe you. Each week all you’ve asked for is one letter in a circle. Nothing deluxe about that.”
The woman rolled up the right sleeve of her gossamer-like white blouse and surveyed the almost closed circle on her upper arm. “This is exactly what I want,” she whispered.
“Begin a circle with the letter “n” in lower case,” the woman had requested in a voice so soft Jilly had to lean in to hear while also inhaling the scent of lavender and lemon.
“How large a circle?” Jilly asked.
“Big enough for 13 visits, one letter each time,” the woman answered. She crossed her legs and added, “He’s here, you know.”
Jilly looked around. No one else was in her little space except for a rather large spider weaving a web on the pole lamp.
The woman was quiet on every other visit, which suited Jilly fine. She preferred her own company, particularly after Lars died a year ago from a horrific motorcycle accident. Jilly didn’t need to tattoo her skin with grief – a scar was already formed in her heart.
On the ninth visit, as Jilly colored in the requested “f,” Jilly broke their mutual silence by asking, “If I may, what is your name?” She’d hoped to figure it out as the circle lengthened, but she could get nothing out of: “noyebmorf.”
“Iam,” the woman said.
“Ian?” Jilly asked.
The woman paused as if seeking patience, then said, “No. Iam.”
Now, four visits later, Jilly pricked and painted in the final letter – “d.” When she was finished, she opened her cash register to return part of the payment, but Iam’s eyes sunk deeper as she shook her finger back and forth and turned to leave. “No. Your work is superb. But when you’re ready, he is here.”
When the door closed, Jilly raced back to her notebook, where she’d written each letter from the tattooed circle.
n o y e b m o r f m a i d
And then Jilly shouted out with disbelief yet hope – “LARS!”
What did Jilly decipher from Iam’s tattoo?