Until You

By: Penelope Douglas

I dug my keys out of my jeans pocket and slipped on my sunglasses. “Does it matter?”

“So what are you going to do with the money?” Madoc asked as he checked out his new ink.

We’d blown off school and tracked down tattoo artists that didn’t ask for I.D. We found a place called The Black Debs— “debs” being short for “debutantes” —which hadn’t really made sense to me until I’d looked around and noticed that the entire staff was female.

We were under eighteen, so not legally allowed to get tattooed without a parent’s consent, but they didn’t seem to care.

Some chick named Mary had just finished “Fallen” across Madoc’s back, except the “e” was inked to look like flames. Kind of looked like an “o” to me, but I didn’t say anything. He wasn’t asking questions about what my tattoo meant, so I wasn’t going to open a can of worms.

“Only so much I can do with the money right now,” I answered, grunting as the needle sliced through my skin over a rib. “My mother put most of it in a college fund. I can have it when I graduate. But I was able to get some of it now. I’m thinking of buying a new car and giving the GT to Jax.”

My maternal grandfather had passed away last year, leaving me some land and a cabin near Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. The cabin was falling apart, and it didn’t have any real sentimental value to the family, so my mother agreed to let some interested developers buy it. She put most of the money into the bank under lock and key.

I actually felt proud of her for insisting. It wasn’t normal for her to make such responsible, adult decisions.

But I wasn’t at all interested in going to college, either.

I didn’t want to think about how things were going to change when I finished high school.

My phone rang, and I silenced it.

I closed my eyes, while Crossfade’s Cold played in the background, and reveled in the sting of the needle carving into me. I hadn’t tensed up at all, and I hadn’t thought about much of anything since walking into the shop. My arms and legs felt weightless, and the ton of shit on my shoulders had faded away.

I could get addicted to this.

I smiled, picturing myself ten years from now covered in tattoos, simply because I liked the pain.

“You wanna take a look?” Aura, my tattoo artist adorned in dreadlocks, asked when she’d finished.

I stood up and walked to the wall mirror, eyeing the words on the side of my torso.

Yesterday Lasts Forever. Tomorrow Comes Never.

The words came out of nowhere in my head, but they felt right. The script was just illegible enough not to be easily read, and that’s what I wanted.

The tattoo was for me and no one else.

I squinted at the little droplets of blood spilling off the end of “Never”.

“I didn’t ask you for that,” I pointed out, scowling at Aura through the mirror.

She slipped on some sunglasses and stuck an unlit cigarette in her mouth. “I don’t explain my art, kid.” And she headed out the backdoor. To smoke, I would assume.

And for the first time in weeks, I laughed.

Gotta love a woman that can hand you your own ass.

We paid and picked up some food, taking it back to my house. My mother had texted and said she was going out with friends after work, so I knew I’d have the place to myself for a while. When she drank, she didn’t come home until she was numb.

And then—to dampen my mood further—there was a care package from France inside my front door.

It was addressed to Tate’s dad and must’ve been sent here accidentally. My mom had unknowingly opened it, thinking it was ours, when she was home for lunch. She left it for me with a note to take it next door when I got home.

But not before my fucking curiosity got the better of me.

After Madoc had gone into the garage, so we could eat while we worked, I peeled back the flaps to the cardboard box and immediately slammed them shut again. A fat, raging fire burned in my blood, and I was hungrier than I’d been in weeks. I didn’t know what was in that box, but Tate’s smell was all over it, and it was leveling me.

My brief high from the tattoo slowly seeped out and was instantly replaced with piss and vinegar.

I dumped it on her father’s front door step before charging back over into my garage to drown myself in car work.

“Hold up the flashlight,” I ordered Madoc.

He leaned further under the hood as I tried to unfasten the spark plugs from my car. “Stop struggling with it,” he complained. “Those things can snap easily if you’re not careful.”

I stopped and tightened my grip on the wrench, narrowing my eyes at him. “You don’t think I know that?”

He cleared his throat and looked away, and I could feel the judgment all over him.

Why was I barking at him?

Looking down, I shook my head and forced down more pressure on the plug. My hand immediately gave way, and my body lurched forward when I heard the snap.

“Shit,” I grunted and threw the wrench under the hood where it disappeared somewhere in the mess.


I gripped the edge of the car. “Get the extractor.”

Madoc leaned back to the tool bench behind him. “No ‘please’ with that request?” He echoed my own words as he grabbed the attachment so I could pry the spark plug out.