(Watch this mv for best effects before reading)
“Phoenix.” She cooed. Sitting by lawn, Grandma sipped on her teacup, her frame was pensive, but eyes so soft and distant. I spotted a little tattoo on the nook near her elbow. A really… obscure place for such an ink, I would think. I took her arm gently, and eased the wrinkly creases. It was indeed a Phoenix. Or rather, a hap hazard looking black botch of ink with a triangle for a beak.
Mum told me Grandma spouts nonsense most of the time but I was pretty sure it was because in-laws will never get along with the mothers.
“This is a cool tattoo Grammy.” I sat on the weathered sun deck, head cozy-ed on her lap. My cellphone was confiscated by mum and there was nothing to do. Grandma was really nice and would tuck dollars “for icecream” into my sweater after I greet her.
“Everyone has cool tattoos, child. But this tattoo bore the greatest, yet saddest memory of my life.” She replied, voice quavering but with this tinge of nostalgia so firm, and so bitter.
“Tell me.” I sat upright, eyes peaking with inquisition.
Grandma sat her tea down and re arranged her shawl. What was meant to be a casual “Show some love to Grammy” became the next best 30 minutes of my life.
It was a cold autumn night, weekend’s rolled out and pubs were lit. Back in those days, money was short but lives were happy. There were gangs, yes – but you could say some of em chaps are way more honest than the president; I’d be damned, that was the kind of life we were living.
Me and the girls, Lizzy, Betty and Mindy were dressed to the nines. Talk of the town you would say. I was new to the place. Daddy’s got a new job and we dropped everything to pursue his dream. A couple of beers in and we’ve got things good. Mindy was flamboyantly coy around some men at the bar.
We were young you know – thinking enrapturing of a few men was top of the bucket list. But things started getting heavy, a young lad had his tongue down Betty’s throat and I was just sitting around, hand clutching my beer, a tad unsure what to do. Another man then walked up, beer in hand. From his gait, I knew that fellow was drunk to the heavens but who am I, just a young girl, feet rooted, heart thumping like a rabbit in the heat of spring, to start a fight and risk getting my face smashed in.
His damn hand snaked around me, breath coated with liquor. I tried shrugging, trying to maintain a smile but I knew he had me good. I looked around and my girls were all wasted, looking like puppies in love, men in their arms.
He started kissing my neck and I could feel the stubs of his gingerly done morning shave piercing my skin. I clutched that bottle so tight that my knuckles turned white. I tried to move my legs but he grabbed em. So hard.
And then came along another man, taller, stronger and boy was he looking fine. He had tattoos all over and I could tell from a glance, he belonged to somewhere bad. It was almost out of a British telly episode. He had his grip tightened like a vice around the drunk man, with his free hand, clutching his black jacket.
The drunk man fought him off, movements askew.
Everything went past in a blur. The next thing I knew, chairs were projectiles across the bar and glass was shattered. I froze, what’s a girl to do??? I then felt his warm and steady hand grabbing mine, guiding me out of the hell hole.
“Get on.” He waved, cautioning me to a bike. I obediently followed as we rode away. Lights and noise were soon left behind, until the only sound I heard was the beating of my heart and the grunts from his super bike.
He stopped by a drive through, and got me some tea – English breakfast to be exact. Mind you, I was never a tea person. Could never get past a day without a cup of good old long black.
“You feeling ok? Drink it. sobers you up and I guess. It’s great for this chilly night.” That was the first time I actually heard him talk, like a normal person. Before that he was all yelling and cursing. His voice was deep but calming.
I took a long glance at him, face illuminated by the street light.
He had taut, tanned skin and impeccable frame. Am pretty sure he got so shapely from the fights every night but speculations my dear, some are better left unasked. He had these romantic eyes that could make a girl go weak in her knees. I was sure he knew that.
“Thank you.” I replied, hands wrapped around the warm Styrofoam cup.
“For the tea?” He quipped, giving a cheeky grin which I tried not to fall for.
But I did, anyway.
I then studied his arms, eruditely. Not for the biceps – Ok, maybe. But more for the ink.
“What’s the story?” I pointed to his right.
“That’s a tribal code. It’s the mark of the family.” He replied. And I did not ask more.
I stretched my hand towards him, and traced the lines with my finger.
“It’s nice, actually.” I glanced up and caught him looking right back. The distance between our faces narrowed. I could feel blood gushing to my cheek and I held my breath.
“I have many more, if you are really keen on seeing them, maam.” He whispered.
I took a step back, embarrassed and unsure of what I got myself into.
“Come on up, I’ll send you home.” He chuckled and handed me his black jacket. The smirk on his face was cheeky, but genuine. The jacket was soft, and it bore a phoenix in embroidered threads. Oh my god what was I thinking. I shook my thoughts away as though in fear he could read em.
“Hang tight princess.” He pulled my arms around his waist, much to my shock. What audacity this man! But I did anyway. And his back comforted me more than I expected.
It felt like mere seconds, before I arrived. I wished it lasted longer- As soon as my feet touched the sidewalk right by my house, he sped off into the dead of the night.
I was still wearing his jacket. It had this faint smell of cologne and cigarettes. I hid the jacket in my closet, afraid my mother would chance upon it. It was taboo for us to mix with people like him. But well that’s how all scripts were written right?
A few days passed, and my longing to see him grew bolder and stronger each day. I did not even know his name nor knew if I could see him again.
Then there he was, one night, exactly a week later. I had stayed home that weekend, down with a slight cold. Outside my gate. You’d think he’ll toss a rock or something like in movies but he didn’t. That man just stood, leaning against his bike, smoke in his hand. Like he knew I was hoping he’ll come by. Or maybe because no one could NOT hear his bike screaming down the alleyway.
I went out, robe covering my nightgown.
“Hi, did you enjoy staring at my jacket when you were thinking of me?” He flirted openly, without a single hiccup, smirking again.
“What? No???? It’s in my closet.” I was quick to deny. “Let me bring it for you now!” I added, making my way back through the gate. He grabbed my arm.
“No, you can keep it lest you miss me.” He pulled me towards his chest and locked me in an embrace.
I couldn’t react. What is this??? We barely met. I didn’t even get his damn name and there I was, body entangled with his.
I struggled a wee bit, but my body went flaccid, completely capitulated as he stroked my hair dreamily. I looked up and before I could speak, his lips were pressed against mine.
“I want to know more about you.” I finally freed myself from that captivating entrapment and demanded answers.
“Are you a bad guy? Are you in trouble?” I couldn’t contain myself anymore.
“No, I am not in trouble. But I am trouble.” He replied, hands still wrapped around my silken robe. “Will you still ride with me then?”
And just like how any girl in my shoes would, I replied “Yes. Why not?”
That yes prompted the best chapter of my life. I was a blessed woman, drunk on the happy dew of love’s most innocuous glory.
He had a phoenix tattooed on his right leg which I found out eventually. And his name on the left. I remember my fingers going over each tattoo, wanting to remember how exactly they look and wanting to imagine how he felt when he got em on.
But everywhere he went, chaos followed. He never used the name tattooed on his leg. It was his birth right, but something he had to bury deep within himself because he had a band of brothers to live for and die for. His pseudo name was kind of trashy if you’d ask me. Asher.
I have never met anyone like him. I was living and breathing a live soap opera in my own wake, and walked past his “men” with their heads bowed in deep respect. They would call me “Sister in law”.
He then tattooed my name right below his, on his thigh. That, according to him “was his canvas for all secrets he holds dear, and secrets that kept him going.”
“Was that calculated?” I asked him the day at the tattoo parlor when he got my name inked. I pointed to the small space so conveniently made right below his name.
“Yes, I knew you were coming along and thank god you aren’t Indian”
But ya know, that’s what God does. The best things in life never came for free and will never stay with thee. One day, my dad told me he went bust. Bankrupt with his neck up in debts. Of course Asher couldn’t just sit around while the loan sharks trashed my house and beat my old man up. He came to me one day, looking aghast, but his gaze was firm and steady.
It was a briefcase of notes. I knew right away it was blood money. I refused it.
He then went straight to the debtors and settled it. My dad walked a free man and wanted to move away, to get away from all these.
“I know your boy did this for us. And daddy’s grateful. But now we have to go. because now, they know his weakness. Its you, Abby.”
I begged and begged for him to just go away with us, we could run a diner and make things work. I begged, or not, for me to be by his side.
But before either of us could decide, fate got us first. The money that he took belonged to an Arms dealer from the west side, but tippers had him exposed. Men were sent out to look for him, and I, but he had speculated that and made sure I was kept safe, under the protection of his brothers. I know naught of the fight, but all that I could not forget, was me, holding the love of my life in my arms, ravaged like cotton in an open field, gun shot to his chest.
He rested, in the nook of my arm, still with the smirk on his face. “You must live on baby doll. Don’t forget to wear the jacket when you miss me.”
That very night, my heart died, along with him.
Grandma closed her eyes, and I could see a single tear going down her cheek. I could barely hold back myself.
“You are really strong Grammy.” that was all I could reply.
“I have something to live for. Something that was a part of him.”
“The jacket?” I asked naively.
“No..” She laughed softly.
“Your dad.” She took up her tea again. English breakfast, read the label.
And that was when I realized I knew what was written on the left leg of the Protagonist in the story.
( Listen to this after the story for best effects ❤ )
Hope you guys liked it. Abit cliche but Lana Del Rey’s songs inspire bad boys like that. YALL FEEL ME?