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Made your mark on me

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It had to be right. 

She wasn’t sure what it had to be , but she knew it had to be right . And that somehow she would know it when she saw it. 

“Tattoos are distasteful on a woman, Danielle,” echoed through her mind as she scrolled deeper, through increasingly specific pathways on instagram.

That outdated belief (along with a few others she’d already shed) had permeated her home, and she could think of no more thrilling rebellion left for her than to get a tattoo. Like a big one.

Not that it truly mattered what her mother thought, she was an adult. It had been years since she let that woman’s opinion guide her compass. Yet something had always stood in her way of taking the plunge to make that tattoo appointment. Finding a shop, the money, fear of pain, and the whole deciding what should be inked into her skin for the rest of her life. 

Slowly, she’d ticked those boxes - she’d been recommended a tattooer, she had a full time job, she’d experienced more emotional pain than a needle could ever touch, and now she just needed to decide what .

Black and gray tattoos flew by in a blur as she searched for something to click. In the back of her mind she thought she could always get flowers, she liked flowers and they always looked good on people. She had screenshot many images of bouquets and soft petals. It was only with a slight wilt that she had decided maybe she should just go with one of those.

Then she saw it. It was beautiful. It was beautiful and dark and she felt an undeniable pull to it like gravity. She snapped a screenshot and zipped it over to the tattoo artist she had been talking to. She didn’t even care if it was unoriginal to want someone else’s idea, her mind was made and her heart was set.

---

“Rebecca said you were the best,” Dani stammered in front of the mustachioed man wearing an apron with Owen sewn in the top left corner.

“That’s quite generous of her. Might not be the best , but I do promise to not spell anything wrong.” Owen smiled and tucked away the paperwork she had signed along with the scan of her ID.

“Oh, but I’m not getting any words,” Dani nervously asserted. "Did...did you get that picture I sent or-"

“I know, sorry, bad joke. Let’s get ya back here, show you what I’ve drawn up.”

The tattooer led her back to his desk, cluttered neatly with strange knick knacks. If there was a theme, it was food. Antique advertisements and framed drawings of plated meals were hung or taped all over, crowding the walls like an overstuffed menu. 

“What do ya think?” Owen held up a thin sheet of paper crawling with inky, black lines.

“Oh, wow,” she gasped. It looked different, simpler than how it would look finished on her skin. She could imagine the smooth shading and highlights of her own pale skin poking through. What had really made her gasp was the size. When she had seen it online it had been fitted for someone’s forearm, but Owen had expanded it to fit the top of her thigh.

“It’s perfect.” She looked from the paper back to his face and smiled so wide her face hurt.

“Great, let’s have ya sit down and we can get a placement for this beauty.” He gestured towards the adjustable table next to his station.

Owen cleaned her leg and pressed the stencil paper to the center of her thigh. As he gently removed the paper, a world of indigo ink was revealed. She stood up and walked over to the mirror, sizing up the spot and imagining what it would look like. Imagining how she would feel after she finally had a tattoo.

She looked down at her leg and then back up at the mirror, taking it all in. A gothic manor, with trees twisted into the sky, surrounded by an intricate frame. Her favorite detail was the ghostly woman’s face in one of the windows. She had never been to a place like this, nothing was this old in Iowa. 

She always felt a bit like she had grown up in a haunted house nonetheless.

---

Owen had kindly asked her if she was ready and pressed the needle to her skin for the first tentative pull. It hurt , of course it hurt, but she quickly started to settle into the pain. By the size of it, she would be here for a few hours so she may as well try and get used to it.

“So, uh, you’ve been to this place?” Owen asked after a particularly noticeable flinch.

“What place?” Dani asked while taking a shaky exhale.

“This haunted house?”

“Oh no, I just found the picture. Is it a real place?”

“Yeah, someone told me about it once. Way out in the country. Pretty spooky stuff.”

Dani wasn’t sure if this was supposed to excite her, but it did.

“Do you know the name of it?”

“Can’t remember if I’m being honest with ya. I’ll try and ask my friend and let ya know.”

For the next couple hours Dani spilled details of her life to the ceiling of the tattoo shop. Periodically she had to pause to grit her teeth and close her eyes, but then Owen would ask her a well-timed question to distract her. He was focused while he listened to her share how she’d ended up living and working in England. She went on about her family, her ex-fiance, her new friends and new job, and by the end felt a bit more like she had gone to therapy than gotten a tattoo.

When it was finished she looked in the mirror and her jaw dropped. It was better than she had imagined, better than the one she had seen online. She bent forward to look at the small woman’s face peering out from behind the window, it gave her an eerie chill. Fuck yeah she thought.

She hugged Owen. She wasn’t sure of the etiquette, no one else in the shop seemed to be on the verge of tears and hugging, but no one else in the shop was Dani. The stinging burn on her leg did nothing to disparage the weightless feeling of euphoria she felt, and she couldn’t contain her joy.

Owen pulled back and gave her a pat on the shoulder. “You take care now, Dani Clayton.”

“I can’t thank you enough, thank you, thank you, thank you!” She chimed, practically giddy as she pushed open the door, feeling cool for the first time in her life.

---

“I knew you’d find a costume that showed off that tattoo,” Rebecca teased, stepping out of a rideshare to meet Dani on the street outside of a house heavily decorated for Halloween.

“What? Don’t vampires always wear something a little...revealing?” Dani looked down at her sparkling black mini dress. Sure, it was quite high and did feature her freshly healed tattoo, but it also did fit her theme. Undead but not unsexy.

“Yes, and you are quite the vamp tonight. Going to seduce some lucky woman in there,” Rebecca waggled her eyebrows.

Dani blushed and lightly slapped Rebecca with her purse.

They stepped up the stairs with a clip, Dani trailed behind Rebecca taking in her loose interpretation of a cat costume. After Rebecca rapped on the door, Dani turned to her in a panic, “How are my teeth!?”

Dani opened her mouth, showing as many teeth as humanly possible, though actually only concerned about the two false vampire teeth stuck onto her canines.

“Looks great babe, could’ve fooled me.”

The door swung open and a woman wearing a traditional witch hat and elaborate gown greeted them with a big smile.

“Hannah!” Rebecca exclaimed as she moved in for a hug.

“Rebecca, well don’t you make a lovely…” Hannah stepped back and looked Rebecca up and down, trying to figure out exactly what was the costume other than a black leotard.

“Black cat.” She pointed to the barely visible ears tucked away in her hair.

“Of course. And who’s this with you?”

“Hannah, this is Count Dani. Count Dani, this is Hannah.”

“Just Dani actually,” Dani stuck out her hand and felt a warm hand clasp it in return.

“Well come on in, the both of you. There’s drinks in the kitchen, otherwise help yourself to any tricks or treats you see. Owen’s out done himself.

If Dani was impressed by the decorations on the outside of the house, the inside was another level. Every nook and cranny held a skeleton or pumpkin or spiderweb. Black and orange streamers spun from each corner and the smell . Warm autumn spices wafted through the air inviting her further and further into this All Hallow’s Eve dream.

“I like your friends,” Dani whispered to Rebecca as they headed towards the kitchen.

“I knew you would. I’ve known Hannah forever and I’m excited to meet her new boyfriend if this smell is coming from what he’s made.”

---

When they entered the kitchen Dani was immediately met by a familiar face.

“Owen!” Rebecca and Dani both shouted in unison.

“Hello ladies!” He beamed, turning away from the oven to face them. His pirate sleeves pushed up to his elbows, hands covered in pumpkin guts. 

“You all know each other?” Hannah asked curiously.

“Gave this one a tattoo recently,” he nodded towards Dani, wiping his hands on a towel.

Rebecca wrapped her arm around Hannah, leaning in. “This is your Owen? I thought you said he was a cook?” Her voice dropped to a whisper for the last question.

Owen shook his head, “A man of many interests I’m afraid.”

“Small world,” Dani said, settling against a part of the counter that was not occupied by cooking supplies. 

“How’s the tattoo feeling?” Hannah asked Dani, looking at her leg.

“Great! Healed perfectly!” And it had. She’d already received multiple compliments on it, and in her eyes it looked better and more a part of her everyday.

“Glad to see my work on display. Maybe you can send a few more clients my way,” Owen teased.

Dani rolled her eyes. “Sure, yeah, that was my main concern for the night.”

Hannah clapped her hands together and looked at Rebecca and Dani animatedly. “You should try some of Owen’s mulled cider, it’s divine.”

---

After catching up while drinking their ciders, the four of them eventually ended up dispersing. Hannah ran to get the door, Owen had to check the pumpkin tarts, and Rebecca had caught the eye of a too-good looking man. Dani found herself alone, staring at the cobweb covered bookshelf trying to decipher what titles were on display. Alone that is until a voice interrupted her. 

“I like your tattoo.”

Dani spun to find a curly haired woman staring at her leg, her thigh to be exact. The woman tousled her hair back and looked up at her. Dani couldn’t hold back the tiny gasp that escaped when she locked eyes with the striking face.

“Uh, thanks,” Dani responded, trying to regain the confidence she had when she walked in this house. the woman had just complimented her for god’s sake, she had nothing to be shy about.

“I like it…’cause it’s mine,” she sneered.

The woman yanked up her black sleeve to reveal the same haunted house forearm tattoo that Dani had seen on instagram.

“Oh.” Dani was stunned. When she took that screenshot she never thought she’d actually run into the person sporting it.

“Yeah,” the woman stated and cleared her throat, waiting for Dani to say something else. 

Dani felt nervous, like she had done something wrong. But then she remembered that this was posted and tagged on instagram , a global social media platform. For all she knew, it could be a popular tattoo. Maybe a lot of people had it.

“Bullshit.” Dani said with a grin, turning the tables on this weirdly cranky woman.

“Bullshit? You can see my arm can’t ya?!” The woman pulled up her sleeve even further and jutted it out towards Dani’s leg.

As the woman’s warm skin brushed against her thigh she felt another feeling other than annoyance. She was quite good looking even though she was cranky, and she was physically very close to Dani.

“I see that,” Dani paused. “What’s your name?”

Dani had a point to the question, but also she wanted to know this beautiful stranger’s name.

“Jamie,” she said, taken off guard.

As Jamie said her name, Dani typed onto her phone screen. “Okay, well the person who posted the photo I found wasn’t named Jamie. They were named Leafli-”

Before Dani could finish, Jamie was holding up her phone showing the instagram page for “LeaflingLondon”.

“Oh.” Dani looked at the screen, seeing the same charming plant and art pictures she had scrolled through many times before.

“That word again,” Jamie shook her head, smiling.

Dani huffed and regained her composure. “But how do I know you didn’t also copy it from someone else?”

“Copy it? I-,” the woman looked exasperated. “This tattoo is of the manor where I worked my first job. Out in the country. Haunted to shit. Very English place, not very....” The woman looked at her curiously.

“Midwestern.”

“Right. Not very that. So explain to me how an American woman walks into my friend’s house with my tattoo?”

Dani ignored her jabs and redirected the conversation once again. “What’s your costume?”

“Oh my god you are infuriating. Ya ever goin’ to answer one of my questions?”

Dani shrugged. The cider must’ve had some sort of delicious brown liquor in it because she could feel her fear and anxiety slip away, fueled by a sassy indignation.

“A vampire.” Jamie said plainly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“I’m a vampire!” Dani spit out.

Jamie’s eyes went wide and she looked her up and down quickly. “You’re a - you are not a vampire!”

Dani looked back at Jamie, dressed all in black with pointy ears poorly applied.

“You don’t have vampire teeth and you’re wearing elf ears.” Dani tried to restrain a laugh.

“It’s like Nosferatu, a classic vampire.”

“Well, I have the teeth.” Dani smiled wide, demonstrating her points.

“And covered in glitter. Oh god, don’t tell me you’re one of those.”

“Yep.” Dani popped her “p” and rested against the bookshelf. 

Jamie rolled her eyes. “Did you come over here from America just to ruin my life?”

“What do you think?” Dani’s eyebrows raised and she leaned in a little closer to Jamie, unable to stay so far away any longer. 

Jamie stared at this odd woman long and hard. Something was building between them and Dani waited impatiently for Jamie’s next move. 

“I think you could get me another drink to make up for the pain you’ve caused me tonight,” Jamie offered coolly.

Dani smiled devilishly. “You can get your own drink, I should get back to my friend.”

Jamie’s jaw dropped, shocked. And that shock only continued when Dani reached out and trailed her finger down Jamie’s tattoo as she walked away, winking as she did so.

---

Dani bit her lip to try and contain her giggle as she walked away from Jamie towards Rebecca, who by the looks of it had decided the too-good looking guy wasn’t good enough for her.

She had figured the best way to make an impression on Jamie, someone who strutted up to a stranger and accused them of plagiarizing a tattoo, was to not play into her game. To be just as bold as she was walking up to her, by walking away from her.

And it worked. As Dani followed Rebecca to look for Hannah across the house, she could feel Jamie’s eyes on her the entire time. When she glanced over towards the book shelf, Jamie quickly turned around and started picking at the witch's broom on the wall. 

When Dani joined a group of people watching a horror movie in the living room, she kept noticing a certain pointy eared vampire casting looks while playing cards at a table nearby. Jamie had entered the kitchen as Dani left after getting another drink, grazing shoulders as they passed by. When enough drinks had been poured that music was being played and the dining room became a dance floor, Dani could swear she saw the curly head propped against the back wall talking to Owen as her eyes kept slipping towards where Dani was rigorously dancing with Rebecca. 

And maybe Dani was searching out that face just as much as it apparently searched for her. So much so that with the glint of the decorative candles reflecting in her eyes, Dani couldn’t keep away anymore. 

She marched up to Jamie and Owen, stopping too close to Jamie and interrupting them loudly. “So you knew you were giving me her tattoo?” 

The conversation starter caused both Jamie and Owen to stop still.

Owen, a little stunned, replied, “Well, it’s what you wanted. Not really my business what you get.”

“But you asked if I had been there. You knew that it was Jamie’s.” Dani pointed at Jamie’s arm, letting her fingers linger against her skin.

Owen looked between them, increasingly confused. “Of course, she’s my best mate.”

“And you gave us the same tattoo.”

Jamie cleared her throat. “To be fair, he didn’t give me this tattoo. Not sure I trust him yet with a needle to my skin.”

“Your loss,” he shot back at her, smiling. 

“Which one of us is a better vampire?” Dani demanded. 

His eyebrows jumped up. “You’re both dressed as vampires?”

“Oi, isn’t it obvious?” Jamie desperately gestured at herself.

Owen winced. “I think I hear Hannah calling me. Or the pizza is done. Or the cider is low. One of those things.” And shuffled quickly away from them.

Jamie watched her friend disappear and turned back to Dani. “Ya scared him away.”

Dani ignored her again. “Why’d you get a tattoo of your first employer?”

“Jesus, you don’t follow any thread of cohesive thought do ya?”

“You don’t like answering questions.”

“Not when they’re asked like that.”

Dani realized her fingers had gently wrapped around Jamie’s wrist. Jamie’s eyes flicked down to indicate she had noticed as well.

Dani stared at her, a smile in her eyes as she pushed forward. “Like what?”

“You know.”

“Just answer.”

“Fine.”

“Okay.”

“Alright.”

“Then go.” Dani squeezed the wrist she was holding.

“Fuck, okay. So it was my first job. Big manor in the village I grew up in. Came from a lower class family so it felt pretty special to be spendin’ my days landscaping this giant lawn. Got to eat lunch inside the big manor, never been in a place like that before. Like a museum. And one day I’m walking back from knickin’ a biscuit on my break and I catch somethin’ out of the corner of my eye. Think I imagined it. Then later I see something else in the window while I’m tendin’ the roses. Start seein’ things all the time then actually. Find out from my older brother that there’s loads of ghost stories about that place. Plague doctors and soldiers from the war trapped there. Scared the shit out of me. But didn’t make me love it any less. So I got a tattoo of it.”

Dani stared at her breathlessly then squinted, turning her head questioningly. “You got a tattoo of something because… it scared you?”

“All the best things do, love.”

Dani’s gaze was broken by the body that jostled into her. “Daniiiiiii. Let’s go,” Rebecca slurred, falling into her shoulder.

She released Jamie’s wrist and used both her hands to catch Rebecca, who was slowly headed for the floor. 

“Oh no,” Dani pulled Rebecca into her, supporting her weight. “Looks like it’s time to get you home. It was nice meeting you, Jamie.”

Jamie looked concerned for the drunken mess before her, but her mouth upturned into a shy smile. “You too.”

Dani steered a stumbling Rebecca towards the front door. Once outside Dani sat Rebecca down on the porch bench and pulled out her phone to call a ride. Even though she was busy typing in the address for her apartment, her mind was consumed with Jamie. Her eyes, her hair, her silly costume, and her words. She was trying to replay their conversation when suddenly the voice that was in her head appeared aloud.

“Care for one?”

Jamie was peeking out from around the side of the house with a cigarette extended. Dani looked at Rebecca, who was gently snoozing, and decided that she could spare a few minutes while she waited on their ride.

“Sure,” Dani answered as she hopped down the steps and joined Jamie around the side of the house.

“Looks like your friend had a good time.” Jamie smiled, handing Dani the lit cigarette from her mouth. It was chilly outside and the warmth as their hands brushed was welcome in more ways than one. 

“Oh yeah. I guess Owen’s cider was pretty potent.” Dani put the cigarette to her mouth and pretended to inhale, quickly blowing out the smoke that gathered in her mouth. She wanted to seem cool in front of this girl and hacking loudly was probably not the way.

“Hmm. It always is. Sneaky bugger.”

Dani laughed. Jamie seemed to have softened since their conversation inside. Earlier in the night she had been annoyed, combative even. Now, she seemed interested, open. It drew Dani in even more.

The smoke swirled around them, mixing with the mist that had settled in for the night. “So what else scares you?” Dani asked.

Jamie exhaled smoke towards the sky. “Loads of things,” she responded.

“Like what? Heights? Clowns? Vampires?”

Jamie chuckled, shaking her head, “No, yes of course, and I guess depends on the type. The sparkling ones…”

“You don’t think I’m scary?” Dani feigned offense, and used the opportunity to drop the cigarette and stamp it out. 

“Oh you’re terrifying, but not because of that.” Jamie also dropped her cigarette, staring intensely at Dani. 

“I am?”

Jamie cleared her throat. “Nothin’ scarier than you.”

Dani squeezed her hands together quickly in fists and then seemed to allow them to make their move, raising to grip Jamie’s collar. Jamie’s hands responded by wrapping instantly around Dani’s waist, threading together at the back.

“I’m scared,” Dani whispered, rubbing her thumbs over the fabric of Jamie’s shirt.

“Ya know what they say about things that scare you.”

Dani tugged on Jamie’s collar, bringing their lips closer together when a thrashing sound startled them from their lusty haze.

Jamie froze. “What the fuck was that?”

The sound again. Dani clung to Jamie’s shirt out of fear. Suddenly all the silly Halloween movies and decorations felt like a sick joke leading her to her doom. Were ghosts real? Had they tempted fate by getting this real ghost tattooed on them and she was here for her revenge?

The sound came again and this time a flash of movement caught her eye.

“Do you think it’s-” Dani started. 

Toilet paper streaked across the sky, illuminated by the crescent moon, and twisted into the next door neighbor’s tree. More rustling and giggling was heard from a nearby bush where another stream of toilet paper launched out from.

“Fuckin’ kids,” Jamie sighed, her whole body relaxing.

Dani let go of Jamie and marched a few steps closer to the yard where the toilet papering was taking place. “Hey! We see you! And if you don’t leave, I’m calling the police!” she shouted towards the rustling. 

Immediately three heads popped up and then took off running, darting in between the houses away from them. A trail of toilet paper rolled out in their wake.

“I think that was one of my students,” Dani said incredulously.

“You’re a teacher?”

Dani turned back to Jamie, a grin returning to her face. “Only to support my tattoo habit.”

Jamie smirked, reaching out her hand to Dani. “Was always scared of teachers growing up. Always gettin’ into trouble, ya know.”

“That sounds about right for you.” Dani linked both her hands with Jamie’s, swaying a bit to the sound of the music heard from the party inside. The Ghostbusters theme had never felt so romantic before.

“Ya sayin’ I’m in trouble now?” Jamie pulled on her hands, bringing her in closer. 

“Do you want to be?”

“Maybe.”

And with that their lips finally met. Dani pushed herself into Jamie against the side of the house. Without preamble she slipped her tongue in Jamie’s mouth, who reacted by reaching her hand into Dani’s hair and pulled her in closer.

“The teeth, the teeth,” Jamie muttered as they tore apart for a second.

“Sorry!” Dani ripped them out quickly, chucking them across the yard. 

Their bodies melted into one another in the inky darkness of the night. Moans and gasps haunted the air. Dani was sure this was the best kiss of her life. She slipped her thigh in between Jamie’s legs and leaned in, simultaneously sliding her hand up the back of her shirt.

Jamie broke the kiss, looking down between them and panted, “Can’t believe I’m making out with someone who has a fuckin’ matching tattoo,” before diving back in to keep kissing Dani.

Dani knew it was insane, but felt her libido taking her away, leaving her sanity in the dust. Her hands explored more of Jamie underneath her shirt, and her thigh was pressing into her and nothing could stop where this was going except - 

HONK.

Dani stopped her movements and pressed her forehead against Jamie’s.

“That your lift?” Jamie breathed.

“Yep,” Dani replied, dead inside.

HONK HONK.

“Should probably get goin’ then,” Jamie gave her a sad smile.

Dani pushed away from the house and Jamie adjusted her clothes, tugging down her shirt and fixing her ears. Dani smirked at the glitter now covering Jamie’s face and neck.

“It was uh… nice meeting you.”

“You too.” Dani leaned back in, kissing Jamie once more. 

A door slammed and Owen’s voice called out, “Hey Dani! I think your lift is here!”

“Be right out!” Dani yelled in the direction of the porch.

“Can I call you?” Jamie asked between quick kisses.

“Jamie? You out here too?” Owen shouted, peering around the corner of the house to try and see them in the dark. 

“Shit,” she breathed, trying to ignore her friend.

“Rebecca looks like she’s about to be sick, you should really get her home!” Owen scolded.

“Just a second!” Dani whined. She knew she had a long night ahead of her, sleeping on Rebecca’s couch to make sure she was okay. Who could blame her for wanting every second of Jamie before that. 

“Is Les feratu holding you up!?” The smile could be heard in Owen’s voice, proud of himself. 

“Oh my god, Owen!” Jamie finally responded, shouting at him in despair. 

Dani gave one final kiss and squeezed Jamie’s hand before stepping away. “Yes. The answer is yes, please, call me.”

“Goodnight,” Jamie smirked. She laid her head back against the side of the house and watched as Dani moved through the darkness into the glow of the jack o’lanterns lining the porch. “Happy Halloween.”

Dani blew a kiss before Jamie disappeared from view. “Happy Halloween.”