I looked up from the I heart bitches tattoo on her wrist that I’d done last week to her staring eyes behind smudged glasses. At first glance Wicked Wanda looked like an overweight teenage boy with that barbershop haircut and no makeup. Wanda wasn’t so wicked though. She was more sad than anything.
“I like that you look me directly in the eyes, Miss,” she said. “People don’t make eye contact anymore, you know?”
My heart jackhammered but I decided to ignore what she was doing. I pulled out the picture of the Virgin Mary I’d drawn up for her and turned the paper toward her, pushing it across my desk. She frowned like she might cry.
After a moment she said, “I really like what you’ve done with this, Miss. I like how you did the halo around her head and the cigarette is a nice touch. Could we make the high heels those strappy kind that go around the ankle though, Miss? I’ve always liked those.”
I never asked why she didn’t use my name even though I’d told it to her often enough. Wanda’s formality was endearing and disturbing.
I forced a smile. “Sure, that will look great.”
In my peripheral I saw someone walk passed the window and resisted the urge to look, to see if they noticed what was going on inside here. I didn’t know what would happen if someone actually came in, stumbled upon the scene. A part of me hoped they would and another part just wanted them to keep on walking.
In my head I examined the days schedule. I had a mother and daughter booked in thirty minutes. Mom was getting her dead dog’s paw print. And the kid was getting a feather breaking off into mosquito sized birds that all the seventeen-year-olds wanted, downloading a fuzzy picture from the first page of their Google search like three billion other teens.
The excitement of both of these designs was nearly overwhelming me. I usually tried to get creative with it but what can you do with horses and water? They’re too big to drown. But sometimes, every once in a while, it was possible to save one of them.
I watched as Wanda’s eyes filled with tears. She said, “People say she was a virgin, but she wasn’t a virgin. She couldn’t have been if she had Jesus.”
I nodded, smiled and looked at the monstrous collection of horizontal scars on the inside of her forearm; some long healed, some pink, others raw, seeping. I would have preferred fresh skin for this piece. It also sucked tattooing scar tissue. She would need to stop cutting that area and let the skin heal if she hoped to have it tattooed.
“I feel so close to you, Miss. You’re the only one I can talk to now. The only one who listens to me.”
“You must have some friends. You have brothers and sisters?”
“There’s no one. Just you.”
“Well, maybe if you got out once in a while, joined a church or a club or something.”
“I used to have a dog but he ran away.”
She looked tired. Her arm must be sore in that position for so long. I tried not to wince.
“I’d like you to come to my house for tea. I’ll do a Tarot card reading for you. Can you come tomorrow?” she said, brightening. A light shone in her eyes behind the greasy glasses.
I swallowed, gazed at her, but refused to say anything, afraid to commit. Afraid not to.
“Okay, Miss, tomorrow morning. Stop by before you come into work. Let’s say ten o’clock.” She smiled for the first time and lowered the knife from her neck, released a breath. A smear of blood visible on her pale skin.
She closed the knife, put it in the side pocket of her combat pants. On a sticky note she scrawled her address and placed it in front of me, then got to her feet.
“See you tomorrow, Miss. And thanks for everything.”
I sat there staring at the floor, taking deep breaths, picturing the arterial spray all over those new ceramic tiles. I suppose I was going to have to bake cookies now.