“So, what do you think of the place?”
Jax looked from his sister to the clean, well lit shop. The walls were covered in tattoo designs, awards, and photographs of customers tattoos. She was an amazing artist, his sister, and she’d brought him in to do piercings, something he’d been certified in for years.
“Love it sis, holy shit, you’ve put a lot of work into it.”
She laughed and swatted him on the arm. “You think! This has been the only thing I’ve thought about for the last two years.”
“Yeah, I noticed when your letters went from weekly, to monthly, to every now and again. Figured if I didn’t take you up on your offer, it might be Feezle Day before I heard from you again.”
“I wasn’t that bad,” she scoffed as she led him to the cabinets and began showing him where the supplies were kept.
“Yeah, you kinda were, but I forgive you. Honestly, this place rocks. You did an amazing job, sis.”
She stood up, smiling brightly and wrapping him in a tight hug. “Thanks. When Karl died, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself. I mean we didn’t have any kids, or pets, all we had was this dream of opening a shop and working side by side creating sick ass tattoos. It sucks that I’m here each day without him, but I know he’d be proud that I was able to get it off the ground.”
“He was a good guy, sis, a good friend. I miss him too. At times he was like the big brother I never had.”
“He thought of you as a brother too,” she said, her eyes misting up a bit.
He hugged her again, resting his chin against the top of her head for a minute while she pulled himself together.
“So how do you like your new apartment?” She asked as she stepped back, wiped her eyes and checked the time.
He burst out laughing, he just couldn’t help it, thinking about the night before, the two crazy, fighting neighbors, getting handcuffed and the conversations this morning, you couldn’t make that kind of stuff up if you tried.
“What? What’s so funny?” his sister asked as she bustled around behind the counter, setting the appointment book out alongside a notepad for messages.
“Steph, I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you.” Jax managed once he’d stopped laughing.
“Try me, we’ve got almost a half hour before we open.”
Jax shrugged and told her the whole thing, from the noisy disturbance down to the invite to dinner.
“Oh, please tell me you accepted? Is he hot? He’s smokin’ right? You always seem to attract the hotties.”
“Yeah, I accepted. But sis, it’s just dinner, seriously, he’s…different.”
Steph leaned forward in her chair, elbows on knees, the ends of her black and blue streaked hair brushing against the backs of her hands. “Ohhh, different huh, different how?”
“Aren’t we supposed to be opening like,” Jax checked his watch and raised an eyebrow at her. “Five minutes ago?”
“Perks of being the owner, little brother,” she laughed, as she got up and opened the door. A quick flip of the sign announced that they were ready for business, and a quick glance at the appointment book told her that she had about two hours for walks ins.
“Alright, so we’ve got time, talk, at least until someone wanders in here,” she demanded.
“Always, you should know that by now. Might as well spill it and get it over with.”
“He was getting his ass kicked,” Jax blurted. “I mean seriously, his face is a mess of bruises and all he would do was cower away from the guy. There wasn’t a mark on his hands, not from defending and not from trying to fight back. I just, that fuckin’ pissed me off.”
“Thus you going off on him and having to apologize. Yeah, wasn’t your finest moment but at least you were willing to admit that you fucked up.”
Jax shrugged. “Did I? I’m not even sure. I mean I shouldn’t have blasted him like that, but I feel like I have a right to be pissed off about it. I could have gotten arrested.”
“And how would that have been his fault?” She asked, the faintest hint of a grin pulling at the corners of her mouth. “Did he ask you to come over there and save him? Was he screaming for help?”
“No, they were just screamin’ and cussin’ at each other. Kinda reminded me of mom and Tony back in the day.”
She grimaced, her nose scrunching up like she’d smelled something awful. “That bad huh?”
“Yeah, it was pretty intense.”
“Mom’s changed you know,” Steph began.
Jax snorted and shot her a scathing glance. “Yeah, right.”
“I’m serious, Jax, ever since she got herself into counseling and learned how to make it on her own without a man in the house, she’s been different. She knows what she let Tony put her through was wrong, but Jax, she never let him lay a hand on us. It could have been much worse and you know it.”
“That doesn’t make it better, seeing her crying all the time and shit.”
“No, it doesn’t, but it was all she knew back then. We got out of there and we’ve done good for ourselves little brother, so why can’t you just leave the past in the past.”
“Thought I had, but shit like what happened last night just brings it back.”
“Then maybe it’s time you talk to someone about it. Maybe…Look, you’ve met some great guys but you always seem to pick them apart until you find something wrong with them. I’m not even going to try and analyze why, but I’m willing to bet it goes back to Tony and mom."
“Thought your specialty was tattooing, not making referrals to a shrink. Stick to what you know, sis.”
“I know you, Jax, and I just want to see you happy.”
“Happiness is an illusion.”
“Look around you Jax, this place is happiness, and it’s no illusion.” She pointed out as the bells on the door began to jingle, announcing they had a customer. Time to get to work, though something told Jax the conversation was far from over.