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History of Bleeding

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‘Registrants or operators shall not perform tattooing and body piercing: On a person who is inebriated or appears to be incapacitated by the use of alcohol or drugs’

 

If looks could kill then Jimmy should have been on his way to the grave right now.  The bartender was eyeing him off from the other end of the counter, and despite the fact that this place was doing next to no trade on a street where every other bar couldn’t serve people fast enough, his custom was apparently something to begrudge.  Yeah, I get it.  Jimmy eyed him back stonily.  You don’t want me here with my own whiskey and my gangster scars.  But you took my ill-gotten money fast enough when I offered it, right?  So you can put up with me.  He poured himself a shot of Bulleit and tipped the glass a little in the tender’s direction before he drank from it.  Cheers to you, asshole.

The bourbon tasted as bitter as he felt, and that suited him fine tonight.  He was here to drink a lot of it, and maybe to make some trouble on the way home if he could find some young punk foolhardy enough to take the first swing.  Fuck it.  He felt like he was that young punk.

So it had taken a little while, but maybe he was finally processing everything that had happened.  Lisa was safe now, thank god, but Louis was gone and there was no do-over on that.  What was worse, the guy who’d shot dead Lisa’s kidnapper - the ‘hero’ who’d taken out Lou’s killer…  It wasn’t him, and there was no do-over on that either.  Kwon had finally fucking manned-up enough to shoot someone, and it just had to be the one guy Jimmy needed to be personally responsible for sending to hell.  That dumb little shit must have thought he was doing Jimmy a favour; paying him back for spraying the brains of that crooked cop all over the interior of his car, but all he was doing was taking a kill that was rightfully his!  It made Jimmy want to punch right through the fancy polished wood he was leaning on.  Damn kid probably graduated top of his class, but he didn’t know shit about how things worked for the guys he was trying to bust every day.  The way this played out was a joke, and Jimmy wanted everyone involved to know that, instead of just letting everything slide into silence and resentment and ‘happy fucking families’ or whatever the hell they were all supposed to be now.

He took another swallow of the bourbon and grimaced.  In that second when he’d pulled the trigger on Kwon back in the old power plant, yeah he’d aimed non-fatal, giving the kid his cover story, but it was some unconscious better part of him that had sent those shots a few inches to the left of where he’d instinctively wanted them to go.  The fucking angel on his shoulder, whispering in his ear…  He shook his head and stared at the bottom of his now empty glass.  He knew exactly who that angel was, as well.

It was the same one that appeared when he’d raised the gun to shoot the hooker in the shower.  He’d seen that fucking tattoo and a million thoughts had flooded his mind in a split-second: a vision of the art on Lisa’s back, so eerily similar; followed by a memory of her mother – another hooker in another bathroom – only in that one he’d been undressed in there too, and the water couldn’t wash either of them clean.  Then he’d thought of the cat he’d swerved for on the road earlier.  It’s bad luck, his own words echoed back to him.  That girl in the shower could’ve been Lisa; she could’ve so easily ended up in the life like her mother… like him.  She could’ve been the girl dying as some cheap collateral damage for a hitman with a phoney police badge, a silenced Browning and a paycheck to collect.  So Jimmy had shot at the screen instead, and lied to Louis, and that was only his first mistake.

He spun the lid off the whiskey and filled his glass again, drinking it down before the liquid had even settled.  He wanted to get drunk tonight.  Maybe it would let him forget for a moment just how far he’d fucked this whole thing up.  Walking through that shitty tourist trap after the hit, he’d let himself get distracted again; he hadn’t seen Keegan watching him and Louis because he was caught up by that dark-haired girl dancing instead.  She moved like she didn’t have a care in the world, and all he could see was Lisa dancing and smiling, all the guys captivated by her like she had seven veils.

He could see Lisa in every girl her age.  She could have grown up to be in any of these places, and he couldn’t have influenced a damn thing about it, because he had never been around.  It was pure luck that she’d turned out okay, no thanks to him at all.  Now he couldn’t even throw money at her to pursue her dreams because she wouldn’t take it.  She knew too well where it all came from, he supposed.  She’d rather get supported by a cop than a criminal and who could fucking blame her, after what had happened with Keegan?

Shit, maybe she was just making the sane choice.  Jimmy shook his head.  She didn’t realise what the implications were; Kwon’s bosses couldn’t all be idiots, and the minute the name Jimmy Bobo came into the frame for something, they’d be planning ten ways to get the kid to bring their case together for them.  That was the way they operated, and Kwon had already made his feelings toward Jimmy pretty clear: he wasn’t going to lose too much sleep over it if he had to put him away.  Maybe that was Jimmy’s real mistake?  Maybe he should have been a little friendlier throughout this whole thing; laid the groundwork for a better relationship between them.  Instead he’d probably ended up laying the groundwork for Lisa’s relationship with him…  How about that!

He turned the heavy shot glass over in his hands, before dropping it on the bar and reaching for the bottle again.  Who the fuck was he to judge, though?  When it came down to it, if she was happy, that should be enough, right?  And if she was healthy, and safe, and supported by someone who cared for her, then that should be even more than enough.  Given everything that had happened, and the check in her name still sitting rejected in his wallet, those things were apparently so much more than he could give her himself.

Three shots later and he still wasn’t feeling any better about it, but Mr ‘disapproving stare’ bartender was apparently taking more of an interest.  He’d looked at him more intently for a moment and then left into the back, so Jimmy supposed he was either about to get thrown out, or shaken down by the cops.  Well, let ‘em try, he thought moodily.  He wasn’t carrying anything illegal and he wasn’t doing anything wrong, unless being in a sour funk in a public place was somehow a crime now.

There were about two shots worth of whiskey left, so he helped himself to the double and then sipped the final few dregs of it slow.  He may as well savour it.  The barman had reappeared looking less wound up, and Jimmy figured that maybe it was a sign that he wasn’t siccing cops to the bar; he’d have been a lot more on edge if he was waiting for that to go down.  Hey, just as well the guy had stepped out to smoke something or whatever-the-fuck he’d been doing to mellow out, since Jimmy was about to have to start ordering drinks from him now rather than supplying his own.

He stared impassively into the mirror behind the shelves on the back wall of the bar as he finished the last drops.  Here’s to you, Jailhouse Jimmy B.  The cuts on his face from the fight with Keegan were fading down, but all the rest of the lines and scars he’d accumulated over the years added up to a costume mask that warned ‘stay away’.  Then he lay the empty bottle down on its side and spun it randomly on the bar top until it landed with the neck facing him.  “Truth,” he muttered to himself, “how much of the shit that happens to everyone I care about is eventually down to me?”  He paused and closed his eyes, pretty confident about the answer.  “Dare,” he carried on.  “Fuckin’ do something about that.”

“Hey, Jimmy!”

He jerked up with surprise at the voice behind him.  “Lisa?”  Her hand was on his shoulder.  Where the hell did she come from?

“Come on, you can’t be talking to yourself at a bar like this.  You’ll end up getting thrown in the drunk tank.”

“What are you doing here?”  He made the effort to straighten up properly and right the bottle on the counter.

“My friend called me; said you were in here spoiling for something and I should look out for you if I was nearby.”

“Really?”  He shook his head, half in disbelief and half to clear it.  That was the last thing he expected.

“Really.”  She leant against the bar and pushed her hair back, taking in the empty bottle and glass in front of him.  “You’ve been having a good time!  Where’s your car?”

“In a side street.  And yeah, I read the sign, before you ask.  It’s in a legal spot.”

She grinned.  “That’s good, ‘cause I’ll give you a ride tonight.  You can pick it up in the morning.”

“Lisa, come on…”

“Uh uh.  You just drank however the fuck much of that bourbon, and your car is like a flashing sign for ‘pull me over and see who’s driving’ before you even factor in the DUI-bait you made yourself.”

“I wasn’t going to drive now.”  He didn’t exactly know what he had been planning to do, but it wasn’t get in the car.

“Good, ‘cause you got your long-standing reputation as a responsible citizen to keep up.”

“Yeah, yeah.  That’s funny,” he told her.  But he smiled because she was.  “I can’t believe you came in here to get me!  It’s…”

“…nice to know I care, right?” she finished for him.  He was going to say ‘crazy’, although her answer did also seem sort of right, when he thought about it.

“Come on, time to get out of here.”  Lisa stepped away from the bar expectantly, and Jimmy let her put her arm around his back when he got up from the stool.  She must’ve thought he was more drunk than he was.

The bartender was still keeping his distance, even though he presumably knew Lisa well enough.  “Your friend’s not too keen on me, huh?” Jimmy remarked, fumbling for his wallet and pointedly flicking another $20 on the bar as an ironic tip for the guy.  “How’d he know we’re connected?”

“Steve?  He’s partied at my house before, and he’s been into the shop; he’s probably seen the photos I have up.  Plus, people who know me generally know who you are, Jimmy.”  She pulled on his side and steered him around to head to the door.  Again, he let her; why not?

“I was the kid in class whose father had just got out of jail.  The girl in school you didn’t date in case you woke up with a horse’s head in bed beside you.”

“Huh.  Well, okay.”  Yeah, he’d thought about the ways his life could impact on her; of course he had – what had happened with Keegan was a prime example of why – but he was always thinking about risks and about how to protect her from the things he did.  He hadn’t really considered more everyday stuff that being associated with him might have affected.

“Were you going to stay in town tonight, then?” she asked him as they stepped onto the street, both wobbling as he stumbled a little on the cobbles.  Shit, so maybe he was kinda drunk…

“No, I’ve been staying at Bayou Vista for a while.”

Lisa did a double take.  “Bayou Vista – Louis’s place?”

“Uh, yeah.”  Okay, he was drunk, because he probably wouldn’t have said that straight out sober.

All she replied with was, “Jeez, that’s miles away.”  Perhaps that answer hadn’t sounded so strange to her?

“Look, you don’t have to drive me, Lisa.  Just… let me get some coffee somewhere or something.  I’ll sober up and you can go home to bed, and we can forget that you ever had to get called to drag me out of an upscale bar at 2AM.”

He felt her shrug underneath his arm.

“If you want.  But I would have been up anyway, so don’t be concerned about the time.” 

“I wasn’t concerned.”

She laughed again.  “Embarrassed, then.  Seriously though, you probably owe Steve more than that $20 you left on the counter.  What were you going to do?  Crash into a corner?  Get in a fight with some college kid and be arrested?  You should’ve come somewhere else to drink your feelings tonight.”

It was that obvious, then.  Jimmy sighed.  She was probably right as well.  The cool air on his face was freshening him up with every step they took down the street, so he went to pull away from her arm, the support unnecessary now.  Lisa held him there, though.  “Let’s just walk like this for a while.  My truck’s outside the shop; when we get there I’ll give you a ride to wherever you want to go – all the way to Bayou Vista, if that’s where you’re living now.”

 

***

 

‘Registrants or operators shall not perform tattooing and body piercing: On persons with sunburn or other skin diseases or disorders such as open lesions, rashes, wounds, puncture marks in areas of treatment’

 

Somehow Jimmy found his way to Tattoo Baba’s.

He pushed through the door with his good shoulder, relieved that it was open but simultaneously cautious that it meant there was still a customer in, getting work.  The doorframe had some kind of noise-maker on it; he could hear it buzz in the back of the shop, and he glanced down quickly at his jacket sleeve to see what sort of a sight he was going to be meeting Lisa with.  When he moved his hand from where it was clamped around his bleeding arm, his fingers showed up horribly red, but the black canvas material of the coat was soaking and hiding the worst of the mess.  Okay, not too bad…  He closed his hand back over it, wincing a little at the sting.  “Lisa?” he called.

He heard her light steps, and then she was pushing through the beaded curtain separating the entryway from the back.  “I’m just closing u—”

“Hey.”  He covered the abrupt halt she’d come to with a greeting that was just a shade too quiet to sound normal, and watched her eyes find and follow the awkward line of his arm all the way up to the blood coming through his fingers.

“Oh my god, Jimmy!”

“Lisa, Lisa, look, don’t panic, just stay calm.  I need you to help me a little.  Are you here alone?”

“You’re bleeding – what happened?  Tell me that isn’t a bullet wound!”

“It’s a bullet wound.  But it’s okay, it’s okay – I just need your help for a minute.  You know what you’re doing and you have the right stuff here.”

“You have to go to the Emergency Room!”

“No, I can’t do that, honey.  They’ll call the police for a gunshot.”

“But we need the police – who did this?”

“The last thing I need is the police.  You know that.  We both know you know that.  Is anyone else here?”

She shook her head, and her expression visibly passed from worried, through what looked like a flash of anger, to sudden businesslike resignation and a forced neutral face.  Even if she was just faking the calm, it was what he needed at that moment.  Yes, they did both know how this situation had to play out now he’d gone there and put them in it.

“I can’t believe you came here to me again, Jimmy.  Don’t you have… other people who can do this kind of thing for you?”

“I’m sorry.  You were close.  I know it’s bad of me, but I couldn’t drive any more.”  He was still holding his arm across his body, palm pressed around the wound on the outside of his opposite shoulder, and he was pretty sure what he was saying was self-evident.  It hurt like a sonofabitch, and the combination of the grimace on his face and the blood leaking from between his fingers must have galvanised her into action, because she suddenly reached out to lead him through the beads and to the back room.

“You’d better get up here on the couch – I’ll need the light.”

He listened to her and did as he was told for the next few moments, while she got his jacket off and started cleaning up the nasty clip he’d taken from some bozo’s shit-shot.  Her hands were shaking and he wanted to say something reassuring or encouraging, but now the adrenalin from the shootout was wearing off, his muscles were starting to tremble as well and he didn’t think it was particularly reassuring for your patient to be telling you everything was fine just as the blood loss really kicked in…

“Hold still while I disinfect this,” she told him, voice tight, and he made the effort not to recoil or twist as she held the soaked material against his arm.  

“I guess I’m not quite your usual clientele, huh?” he commented, more to distract himself from the discomfort than to elicit a reply, which was just as well because she didn’t answer.  She’s concentrating, that’s all, he told himself.  So he lay back and stared at the ceiling instead, painted with stars and flying angels, until his eyes ached more than his arm and he could swear that some of them had started staring back.  “Not this time,” he murmured.  They weren’t gonna get him yet.

“Jimmy?”  He blinked hard and refocused his attention on Lisa.  “I can’t stitch this for you; I don’t have the surgical thread, but I’ve patched it up enough to hold until you can get to see someone who does.”

“Okay.”  He nodded.

“And you have to do that, so it doesn’t get infected.  Promise me.”

“I’ll find someone tomorrow, I promise.  Thank you.”

“Stay there for a minute.  I have to dispose of this properly.”  She gathered up the stained towel and cotton pads she'd been using, balling them together in her hands; it wasn’t a pretty sight, and Jimmy winced at seeing her gloved fingertips and palms painted red like a Hallowe’en costume.  She’d had a lot worse in her hands in anatomy class, he supposed, but it must feel kind of different when it’s your father you’ve been swabbing up.

“Hey,” something suddenly occurred to him.  “Is anyone gonna see that stuff?  I don’t want to bring down any heat on you.”

Lisa shook her head.  “It’s going in a red bag – it’ll be incinerated without anyone giving it a second thought.  Perks of biohazard: no one wants to look too closely…  Don’t let that give you any ideas!”

“What?  You think I’m gonna ask you to toss a body away for me or something?”  He would’ve laughed if she didn’t look so serious about it.  “I wouldn’t.  Didn’t I just say I don’t want to bring any heat anywhere near you?”

“You came here tonight.”

He shifted uncomfortably.  “So does that mean you don’t want me coming around you?  I can stay out of your way if that’s what… if that’s better for you.”

“Jimmy, I don’t want to not see you ever.  I just want to see you in more normal circumstances, okay?  I know we’ve pretty much skipped out on the whole ‘normal’ family relationship thing, but we can still do normal things together.  Like, call me sometime to meet up – come by the shop when you’re not bleeding everywhere!  Let’s not have every time we see each other be something crazy.”

She was right – it wasn’t fair to only show up to her at times like this, or when he had to warn her she was probably gonna get a shake down from whichever cops were trying to pin him for some half-assed speculative charge at that particular moment.  He swung his legs off the tattoo couch and let his blood pressure find itself with the movement.  His arm felt clean and tight; Lisa had obviously done a good job.  She would’ve been a great doctor.  Hell, she would be great at whatever she did.  He put his hand on her shoulder and hoped she believed him when he told her, “Next time I come around, it’ll be for something normal.  You got my word on that.”

 

***

 

‘There may be risks associated with the procedures of commercial body art […] that may adversely affect the healing process if you have, or have had, any of the following conditions: Scarring’

 

“What?” she asked, catching him smiling as she leant in to start on his arm.

“Just thinking about how fucking weird it is my daughter’s pointing a gun at me right now.”

“You’d better be a good client, then.  Who knows how careless I could get with this thing?”

“Really?  Well, fuck it – go crazy.  I trust you ‘cause you got real talent.  And if you’d actually take that college fund and go to art school like…”

“Jimmy, don’t go there now,” she cut him off.  “This is where I want to be at the moment, and you know that.”

“Okay, we had this conversation before.  Whatever.  But the offer always stands, right; I ain’t tearing up that check.”

“I don’t want to owe you.”  Lisa pursed her lips as she looked more closely at the faded outlines and shades on his shoulder.  “Who did this?  It’s pretty shitty work.  No wonder you need it tidied up.”

Nice subject change.  “Give a guy a break,” he answered.  “Half of what’s underneath all that was done in a jail cell with equipment made from fuck knows what, and some of those lines are older than you.”

“Yeah?”  She gave him a ‘look’.  “You’re lucky your skin is in as good shape as it is.”

“My blood runs with Biro ink, baby.  I traded a lot of cigarettes for that shit, so it's gotta balance out for something in the end.  Maybe I reduced my risk of cancer?”

“Could’ve got Hep B instead…”

“Could get shot in the heart tomorrow.”

She drew back sharply.  “Don’t joke about dying.”

“It’s not gonna happen any time soon,” he told her.  And anyone who wanted to kill me would have to aim for the head.

“Happened to Louis.”

Now it was his turn to flinch, leaving her hovering with the needle in the air a little off his skin.

“Sorry,” she murmured under her breath.

He didn’t say anything back to that, because it would be opening up a whole other conversation he didn’t think either of them wanted to have.  Instead they both settled down again and he closed his eyes and let her work on his arm in silence, focusing on how the pain started sharp, then slowly numbed until it was just background to his half-formed thoughts.

 

Lisa bit her lip and concentrated on free-handing the design.  It hadn’t been so long ago that they were in this position with her binding up his other shoulder instead, and she kept getting a strange sense of déjà vu, where the red rose petals morphed into bloody cuts under her fingers, and the dull white of the skull bordering them was like a glimpse at the meat below.

She knew in her heart that Jimmy probably wouldn’t have got into contact with her again if it weren’t for these kinds of things she could do for him.  Sometimes he really seemed genuine, but people were quick to warn her not to trust too easily; you didn’t get away with murder without being able to lie convincingly and use people.  Jimmy had been to jail, what… twice on over twenty arrests?  So somewhere along the line a lot of people had been willing to help him.

She pushed back a strand of hair that had slipped down beside her face, and the sight of its dark black and her own tattoos on her bare arm were a reminder of the similarities between them.  She’d spent over half her life not knowing him at all, but there was no doubting that she was her father’s daughter.

We both pierce skin, puncture it, draw blood and leave our scarring… the marks of our profession.  We cause pain, unavoidably.  We trained hard to do what we do, we practiced for hours and days and years so we can do it as efficiently as possible.  You've got your guns.  I have mine.  We can both get creative with it; improvise if we need to.  The results of our work?  They’re permanent.

I guess we aren’t so different.

 

Later, when Jimmy looked properly at the additions she’d made to the design on his bicep, he realised she’d hidden the letter ‘L’ in amongst the roses, and he wondered who she’d meant it to stand for.

 

***

 

‘There may be risks associated with the procedures of commercial body art […] that may adversely affect the healing process if you have, or have had, any of the following conditions: History of hemophilia (bleeding)’

 

Lisa unfolded and refolded the linen napkin in front of her a couple of times and hoped that Jimmy wasn’t going to be much longer.  He was normally very punctual, so it was a little unnerving that he was running late now.  The waiters were politely leaving her alone though, which was good, considering lunch there was popular and they presumably wanted each table through and free as efficiently as possible.  Damn.  Maybe she and Jimmy just weren’t very good at meeting up in ‘normal’ ways after all.  Next time she’d offer to cook at home or something…

To her relief, he suddenly appeared in the entrance and she waved to attract his attention.

“Sorry sweetheart, I had to charm the asshole running the parking at that hotel over there to let me use their lot.  I guess they like to keep it ‘residents only’ right up until you offer enough cash.  Did you order?”

“Not yet.”

“Drinks, then.  Do you want some wine or something?  I’m going with coffee, though.”  He picked up the menu and simultaneously managed to lean over and give her a brief hug around the shoulders.  “Are you okay?  You’re looking great.”

She’d forgotten that he could be quite the gentleman when he wasn’t working, and she wondered where he’d learned that from, because it sure as hell wasn’t in the Navy or in jail.

“Jimmy, before we start, I have to say that part of the reason I asked you here is because I wanted tell you myself that Taylor and I… we are seeing each other, and we are getting serious about it.”

“Okay, congratulations.  But Lisa—”  Jimmy held his hands up.  “It’s not so much of my business that you have to plan a lunch to tell me that, right?  I’m happy for you.  Have you looked at the menu yet?”

“Please don’t gloss over this; I know it’s a difficult situation, but I want you two to be able to get on with each other without spending the whole time second-guessing what you’re both up to and whether someone’s doing something to fuck the other over.”

“I’m not interested in fucking him over at all, honey,” Jimmy replied, shortly.  “The reason I keep my distance is because he’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to know what I do.  If his bosses find out we’re in contact with each other, his life and mine will become that much more difficult; they will ask him to keep an eye out on me, maybe even to fucking entrap me, and his only way to stop them holding that over him is to put me away.  So that’s that.  Like I said, I’m happy you’re happy, but I can’t come around for family dinner and watch the game with your cop boyfriend.”

Lisa bit her lip.  That wasn’t the response she’d been hoping for.  If Jimmy was implying that she had made a choice between Taylor and him, then that was bullshit and she wasn't going to hold back on letting him know it.  “That’s pretty shitty of you.”

Jimmy looked genuinely perturbed.  “Lisa, it’s realistic of me.”

“How about this for realistic, then?  You aren’t gonna be able to stay in your… line of work forever.  Sure, you’re fit enough at the moment, but you can’t go on and on getting shot up and stitched up and fucking ax-fighting with psychopaths.  Can’t you just retire now, and then there’s no heat on you anyway?”

“Aw, Lisa, it doesn’t work like that!”  Jimmy shook his head.  “It would be easier if it did but it doesn’t.”  He stopped, then continued more quietly.  “I was going to retire.  I will do – I’ll make a little bit more money and then I’ll cash out; go travelling again, maybe.  There are a lot of places I want to go back to, and friends to catch up with back East.”

“I just want to be able for us to all get together…” she trailed off, frustrated.

“But at the end of the day you guys are straight, I’m not.”

Jimmy looked like he’d realised the double meaning halfway through that sentence, and Lisa watched him cut off whatever he had been going to say next.  Oh fuck, maybe he had just given her the opening to the other thing she’d been working up to ask about.  She took a deep breath.  “Look, you can turn around and tell me that it’s none of my business – I don’t want to put you on the spot - but this is something else that I’d like to ask, because I think it might be an important part of your life and it would make what’s happened this year a lot more—” she paused, trying to think of the right words, “significant than I thought before.”

Jimmy was looking at a spot somewhere on the tablecloth by her hand, but she could still see that his expression had tensed.  She watched him visibly smooth it out and swallow before glancing up at her.

“You want to ask me about Lou, right?”

She nodded.  “You said you were partners for six years.  And I always took it as one meaning – that you worked together, because you did, and he was always joking about women and…”

“And now you realised that in that time you never actually saw him with someone.”

“Yes.  Except I was seeing him with someone; I just didn’t recognise it.  That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.  It is.”  Jimmy sat back and sighed.  “You didn’t recognise it because you weren’t meant to.  We kept it that way, for all sorts of reasons; business reasons.”

“Shit, Jimmy.”  She’d thought she was right, ever since that night when he was drunk in the bar, but hearing the confirmation of what he was really grieving about made her stomach twist for him.

“We did that thing you aren’t supposed to: met in jail and carried it on outside.  Wasn’t the smartest move, ‘cause he got stabbed when I fucked up a job.”  He shook his head.  “I probably should’ve been upfront with you about it.  I’m not ashamed of it – nothing like that – just used to being private.  I’m sorry if it was a shock when you realised.”

“No, actually it made sense of a lot of things.  About why you and Mom didn’t go anywhere in the end; about some things her sister said when I was a teenager.”

“Shireen spoke to you about me?”  Jimmy looked surprised by that.  “I didn’t think you had contact with anyone from your Mom’s side.”

“I don’t, now.  I think she stayed in touch long enough to make sure I wasn’t going to be on her conscience if she stopped taking an interest in how I was doing; when I seemed to be turning out okay, that side just drifted away.”  Lisa shrugged.  “But it’s not important.  I have a lot of friends, and I have you, and I still have David and Beverly if I want to go back and say ‘Hey’, and talk to them about anything…  They’re still fostering now.”

“They’re good people.”

“We’re all good people deep down, Jimmy.  And I’m so sorry about Louis, because neither of you – none of us – deserved what Keegan and those other assholes have done to our family.”

 

***

 

‘Tattooing: any method of placing ink or other pigment into or under the skin or mucosa by the aid of needles or any other instruments used to puncture the skin, resulting in permanent coloration’

 

Lisa stretched out in Taylor’s arms and traced over the wave pattern on the candlewick bedspread with the tips of her fingers.

“Are you awake?” she whispered.

“Yes, are you?”

She laughed.  “You are idiotic!  I was going to talk about something serious, too.”

“Sorry, what was it?”

“I was going to ask if you really think we’re all doing the right thing?”

“ ‘All’ as in me, you and—”

“Jimmy,” she finished off.

“Yes, I think we’re doing the right thing.  I know you had the same conversation with each of us, and I know we probably said near enough the same about it.  He knows what the score is.  The minute I transferred to Crescent City we lost the ability to be around each other without it looking bad for both of us.  Either I look crooked or he looks like he’s informing.  We can’t do it; one or other of us will end up inside or worse.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep up contact with him.”

“I know, I guess I just… wish we had a way to play properly at the whole ‘big happy family’ game that everyone else gets to do.”

Lisa could almost hear Taylor’s frown.  “Everyone plays the big happy family game differently; there isn't a 'proper' way to do it, like every family is the Waltons or whoever…  People have to do the best they can with whatever situation they’ve got.  Some people get disowned by their family; some people never know them at all; some people—”

“Okay, okay!”  She kicked his foot lightly under the covers.  “I get it, I’m being too ‘fairytale’ about it.  And I know what it’s like not to have your full family growing up, so you don’t have to remind me of how Jimmy and I being in touch and having a good relationship at all is better than the alternatives.”

Taylor yawned and brought his arm up over her to look at his watch.  “Are you thinking about this because he’s leaving this morning?”

She read the time too and sat up fast.  “Fuck, is that set right?  If it is I'm gonna have to fly!  I’m supposed to go and meet him beforehand – see him off.”

“Ooof!”  Taylor grabbed back the covers from where they were getting dragged off him in her wake.  “Make sure you don’t accidentally go along for the ride; Miami sounds pretty fucking tempting right now.  The beach, the shopping, the partying…”

“Shush, we couldn’t afford Miami anyway,” she mumbled from halfway into a t-shirt.  “Only reason he can is because he’s finally accepted that if I go back to school I’m going to pay my own way, and that fat check he’s had earmarked for so long isn’t ever going to get cashed on me.”  She looked around her in confusion.  “Where the fuck did you throw my pants last night?  I have to go!”

 

She made it to meet him in record time, but still ten minutes later than she should have been.

“Oh god, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she gasped out.  “Shit.  Have I held you up too long already?”

“Honey, you ran in here so late that I only got enough time to tell you this one thing before I go,” Jimmy said.  “I realised something really fuckin' crazy the other day.”

“What?” she asked, trying to catch her breath.

“You know that big piece I had done on my back?  I didn't think of it before, but it's my reminder of you.  You’re the dark-haired angel on my shoulders, keeping me from going too far, tempering all of the decisions I make.  I got that thing just after we started seeing each other regularly again, and I never put two and two together about what I’d asked for.”

Lisa started laughing, and he laughed as well before carrying on.  “So, yeah…  I figure that I must have subconsciously got an angel tattooed on me so I can remember not to do all the insane things you wouldn’t want me to do.”

“Well, you’d better keep listening to her, you hear me?  Because I want you to stay sane and safe, so that I can see you when you get back from your great reunion roadtrip and hear all about the normal things you did.  We’ve already got a lunch date at the Monteleone with ‘Bonomo’ written all over it.”

He took off his sunglasses to look at her properly, and they both leaned in to hug each other.

“And I'm gonna see you there, Lisa.  Hey,” he added, deadpan, “try and be on time.”

“You be on time, not too busy parking your supercar!”

“That happened once.”

“…every week.” 

“Lisa…”

“Come on, get out of here before the traffic goes bananas and you end up spending your whole vacation on Highway 90.”

“Okay, okay!”  He hugged her again.  “I'm hittin' the road.  See you soon.  I love you.” 

She smiled.  “I love you too, Dad.”

 

-End-