This one coming to you from Changeling Press, its a little tidbit I like to call, Snake! *g*
“Finish your cup and go see Snake,” she said over hershoulder as she made her way to some new customers bellying up to the bar, as it were. “She is way better than the historical society… and more entertaining.”
So a few moments later, Ethan found himself walking down Main Street, past a clothing store and a honest-to-God soda fountain pharmacy, to the building that said, in bright blue and pink letters, Snake’s Tattoo, Scarification, and Piercing Emporium. It looked like something PT Barnum would have endorsed with its sign painted with oversized and outlined fonts.
He checked to see that the Open sign was facing out and entered, noting the tinkling bells on the door as he stepped inside.
The décor was as outrageous as he’d suspected. The walls were covered in hundreds of brilliant tattoo flashes and old photos.
There was a waiting room to his left that sported a couch and coffee table that reminded him of something out of the sixties’ atomic family poster. To the right was a glass display showcasing some of the most outrageous body jewelry and piercing equipment he had ever seen. Ahead of him was a long, beaded curtain that obscured the view to the back. It was from here that a voice called out, “Hold your horses. I’m coming. And you better have some cash on you or a really interesting piece in mind to get me away from my soaps.” The voice sounded amused and aged, but still strident.
He was a bit tired and lethargic from his trip, despite the caffeine at the café, but wanted to at least make an introduction and schedule a time to come back and ask questions later. But as he turned to explain himself, something on a far wall of old photographs grabbed his attention.
Almost as if he were being pulled, Ethan found himself walking the few feet that separated him from this fascination, drawn to one photograph in particular. It was a headshot, in a rosy color that told of its age. But, this photo — the image it captured — was sheer perfection.
There was a young woman, and even with the pink tint that threatened to overtake every other color, he could tell she was dusky-skinned and possessed of a river of flowing black hair. She was lying on her back, her hair a waterfall that flowed over the pillows and the platform on which she lay. Her head was tilted back, staring defiantly into the camera, a seductive and amused smile curving her lips.
But there was something about her eyes… They fairly glinted in the flat, two-dimensional photo, almost daring him to peer into their dark depths and learn all her secrets.
“Well, hello.” The soft voice pulled him from his contemplation of the photo that had so captured his imagination, yet still he couldn’t pull his eyes away.
“Hello,” he responded, as if in a trance. The absolute beauty of the woman still called to him.
A throat clearing made him jump and flush in embarrassment. Ethan spun around, apologies on his lips when he froze again. Those eyes, those lips —
He looked from the old woman standing before him and then back to the photograph. They were the same. He turned back to the woman, this time giving her more than a quick once-over, and couldn’t hold back his smile. “That’s you.”
Those lush, pouty lips smiled in a face that was careworn with age but still absolutely gorgeous. Her hair was snowy white with a slight blue tint, and her golden-brown skin glowed with health, despite the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and lips. And her bright, black eyes glowed with vitality and good humor.
“Of course.” She snickered, adjusting the loose leather pants she wore on her tall frame. She patted the liberty rolls in her hair, the old fifties pinup hairstyle fitting her perfectly. She wore a long sleeved T-shirt that proclaimed, It’s all about the pain. The body jewelry is a souvenir, and stood proudly before him, staring him straight in the eyes. “Why would I have photos of anyone else surrounding me, young man?”
“I’m not that young –”
“Long hair pulled back into a rough pony tail.” She walked around him. “I would say it’s a matter of style or that you’re rebelling, but that’s not the case. You were probably too busy to get it cut so you let it grow…” She trailed off as she stood before him again, resting one hand under an ample bust line, the other bent and tapping on her lip. He could feel himself flush bright red.
“That dark skin is a matter of genetics,” she decided. “You’re much too wrapped up in your work to get out much, though it looks like you can manage in the wilderness. The evenness of your skin tone gives you away, my dear.”
“Shh,” she admonished. “I’m reading you like a library, and I find myself fascinated.”
He reached up to press his glasses back against his nose but after tapping the bridge of his bare nose realized he wasn’t wearing them.
“You wear glasses — probably nearsighted from how close your nose was to my pin-up pose. And that suit is cute, but off the rack and cheap. But you’re comfortable wearing it, so you must spend a lot of time in one. Your shoes are by Penney’s, probably like the suit because you look like the type for convenience. So that makes you a student or a professional student.”
“That’s… right.” Was he that easy to read?
“No relationship because no woman would let you hide that body under unnecessary clothes.” She pursed her lips, looking very amused as he flushed further. “So that means you’re after either a tattoo or a piercing because you feel the need to change yourself — though I suspect you already have some ink buried under all that.” She waved her hands at his jacket. “There’s a wild streak in you, and I mean other than that curly hair. You’re too relaxed to be a reporter, and our small town doesn’t take too well to the media after the last sordid event, so that leaves historian or someone researching our history or our falls. I’m betting falls.”
She turned away, leaving him standing there with his mouth hanging open as he watched her move beyond the beaded curtain.
“Well, come on. I don’t have all day. I have some beads to install on a forehead in about an hour. Angel and Klintic may be our newest celebrity recluses and hiding from the public at large, but the pair of them are good for business. People want eye tattoos and metallic ink and all sorts of crap from those damn books. Everyone wants to be a fairy now, or at least look like one. I hear blue hair dye is going for a premium.”
Shaking off his stupor, Ethan silently followed the canny old woman who was swiftly moving away from him.