Home > Pricked(2)

Author: Winter Renshaw

“Oh.” I’m not sure why I expected him to walk me up. He’s not a hairstylist or aesthetician. People don’t come here because of the service.

Sliding off the client bed, I tug my shirt into place and locate my bag. My skin throbs from beneath the bandage, but it’s tolerable and not as bad as I expected.

“Thank you,” I say, turning to him before I make my way to the front. My gaze falls to his right hand for some reason—as if my subconscious was expecting a freaking handshake—and he definitely notices.


I can’t get out of there fast enough, and as I trot to the front in my pink Chanel flats, I’m not sure if all eyes are actually on me or if I’m imagining it. I’m sure to them, I’m an alien—a strange sight. I even heard one of them say, “They don’t make ‘em like that in Olwine,” when I first arrived.

If they only knew how much I’d rather be like them than like … me.

I envy their freedom more than they could ever know.

As soon as I pay—$150 cash plus a twenty-five percent tip—I step lightly toward the door and eye my little white Volvo parked on the corner, but the closer I get, the more I realize something looks … off.

“Oh, my God.” I clap my hand over my mouth when I see it—the boot. “No. No, no, no.”

A sign a few feet back says: NO PARKING 4-6 PM MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY, and I check the time on my phone.

4:07 PM.

“Seriously?” I talk under my breath, a habit my mother detests. But if she knew I drove to Olwine today to get a tattoo, she’d detest that even more.

I grab the ticket off the window and dial the number on back, which goes to voicemail after a few rings.


Taking a seat on the curb, I hold the ticket in one hand and my phone in the other and try, try again.

And again.

And again.

I just need the jerk who did this to take it off so I can get home before my mother marches down to the police station and tries to file a Missing Persons’ report—which she’s done before when I was forty minutes late coming home from the library once.

True story.

“You, uh, need help?”

Following the sound of a man’s voice, I twist around and shield my eyes from the afternoon sun.


Rising, I tug my shirt into place and exhale. “Seven minutes past and they put a boot on my car.”

“Probably just did it to be a dick.” He almost smiles. Almost. It’s more of a smirk.


“Probably thought you were some yuppie, suburban soccer mom with that Volvo.”

I wish I could tell him that I didn’t choose that car, that I didn’t even want it, but my parents insisted because they wanted the safest, most reliable car they could find for their “precious cargo.”

Digging into his pocket, he retrieves his phone and thumbs through his contacts. A moment later, he lifts it to his ear and paces a few steps away. The sound of traffic and revving motorcycles drowns out his words, but when he returns, he slides his phone away and rests his hands on his hips, studying me.

“He’s on his way,” Madden says.

“Who’s on their way?”

“Dusty. Works for the city. You’re lucky he owes me a huge fucking favor.” His gaze grazes over my shoulder before returning. “You can wait inside if you want.”

“Thank you,” I say, taking careful measures not to look at his hand this time. “I really appreciate this. This has never happened before. I don’t know what I’d have done if—”

Madden gives a nod before strutting off while I’m still mid-sentence, almost like a silent way of telling me to shut it.

No one’s ever done that to me—walked away while I was speaking to them.

I watch him stride down the block, stopping next to a black muscle car with two white racing stripes—I think my brother had a model of something like that many years ago—and when he climbs inside, I catch him glancing at me for a single fleeting second.

Fumbling with my keys, I get into my own car and crank the air. It was kind of him—at least I think he was being kind—to offer for me to hang out and wait in his shop, but I think I’m going to ride out the storm in my own little UFO, counting down the minutes until I’m en route to my home planet of Park Terrace.

I kill some time on my phone and pretend not to notice when Madden drives by, his engine rumbling with the kind of contradictory unruffled intensity that almost matches his personality perfectly.

Twenty-six minutes later, a white-and-yellow City of Olwine truck pulls up behind me and a little gold light on its roof begins to flash. A minute later, a man in a gray uniform steps out, grabbing an oversized wrench of some kind from the back and waddling toward me.

I roll my window down. “Thanks for coming. I tried calling the number on the ticket, but I couldn’t reach anyone.”

Dusty, as the name on his shirt reads, doesn’t look up from what he’s doing, crouched next to the front tire on my side.

“You’re lucky you’re friends with Ransom,” he says when he stands, his face red and his breaths shallow. The wrench hangs in one hand, the boot in the other.

Free at last.

“Ransom?” I ask before remembering that it’s Madden's last name.

“Madden,” he says. “I was on break. You’re lucky I answered for the bastard.”

An elaborate “piece” runs down his left arm, intricate and filled with bold greens and reds and purples, and barely hidden by the cuffed, long-sleeved button down the city forces him to wear even in June.

“Oh. Right. He was just helping me out. We’re not actually friends.”

Dusty snorts, his squinting eyes scanning the length of my car. “Yeah. Of course you’re not.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Right.” He begins to walk away.

Climbing out of the car, I yell for him to wait. “Do I need to pay the ticket?”

He hoists the wrench in the back of his truck, the metal hitting metal with a hard clunk, and then he waves his hand.

“So is that a ‘no’?” I ask, just to be sure.

Dusty gives me a thumb’s up before squeezing back into his truck.

I swear, it’s like I don’t even speak the language here.

The tattoo hidden beneath layers of bandages begins to throb just enough to grab my attention, and I return to my idling five-star-safety-rated princess carriage. Pressing the “home” button on my GPS, I head back to Park Terrace, back to Charles and Temple Karrington’s castle-like manse complete with iron gates, a staff of seven, and a million security cameras.

You can make a prison beautiful but at the end of the day, that doesn’t make it any less of a prison.

But I’m making plans to break out.

And this tattoo? It’s only the beginning.



"Who was that kid you were talking to?" I give my sister side eye before checking my rearview and pulling out of the Olwine Junior High pickup lane.

Devanie rolls her eyes as she situates her faded denim backpack between her dirty Converses before yanking at the seatbelt.

"You going to answer me or what?" I ask. I check my side mirrors. These little shits love to think they’re invincible around two-ton killing machines.

She releases a sigh from her overly-glossed lips and twirls her curly blonde hair around one finger. When I pull onto Whitehead Avenue, she spots a pack of middle school acne factories and sinks back into the seat.

I remember that feeling. Wanting to be invisible. Wanting to disappear into my own world the second the school bell rang.

"Who are those assholes?" I ask when I notice one of them staring in our direction.

"Nobody you'd know." She speaks. Finally. And then she reaches for the radio.

I swat her hand away and kill the volume completely. "Obviously, smart ass."

Dev almost breaks into a smile, but it’s gone before I get the chance to appreciate it. They’re far and few between these days.

"You should be lucky someone gives a shit about you." I say, turning onto Givens Road. Two more blocks. “And I say that with you know … nothing but …”

“Yeah, yeah.”

I know damn well that it's overkill, me insisting I take her to and from school every day, but someone needs to be there for her.

Someone needs to make sure she doesn't get yanked off the street by some pot-bellied man in a rusted minivan with out-of-state plates.

Someone needs to make sure she's actually going home after school and not climbing into the back of some sixteen-year-old pencil dick's Mazda and handed a joint and a bottle of stolen beer from their dad’s garage fridge.

Someone's got to make up for all the worrying, caring, and shit-giving our mother can't be bothered to do.

"So lucky." She mumbles under her breath as she picks at a thread on the hem of her cutoff shorts. They're way too tight on her, way too short. She's long-legged, like our mom, and I see the way the boys already stare, all gap-mouthed and bug-eyed, hiding their pathetic little boners with their Trapper Keepers.

"Hey, I need you to actually be on time tomorrow," I remind her. "I've got a client flying in from Seattle, so I need to prep the shop as soon as I drop you off."

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