An excerpt to celebrate National Tattoo Day

Tattooed Lady

La Bella Rosita, the Painted Lady

From Chapter 4:
Sodom by the Sea

Piper steered the group to the next stage where her roommate Rosita was performing. Like Tharda, the Painted Lady was dressed in a provocative outfit.

“Where else can a man justify dropping a dime to gawk at a near-naked female body?” Rosita had once told her. “Tattooed men just aren’t that appealing. Nobody cares if a man was tattooed by savages against his will.”

Rosita had an “abduction” story that changed with each new group that Piper brought by. One time she was an island slave kidnapped by Mongolians and forcibly tattooed. Another time, savages had tied her to a tree for a year and compelled her to endure a new tattoo each day.

Piper’s favorite story was when Rosita was shipwrecked on an island with her father who tattooed her out of sheer boredom. Tribesmen later killed Rosita’s father and kidnapped her. But when they saw her tattoos, they grew terrified and let her go.

Rosita’s body was almost completely covered with ink, but her face was untouched. Piper guessed she was in her forties, but her skin was as soft as a teenager’s from all the lotion she used to keep the tattoos looking as crisp and vibrant as the day she had gotten them.

One night, when they were both having a hard time falling asleep, Rosita had told Piper that each tattoo told a different story. She had three hundred and sixty-five of them—a different story for each day of the year.

Many of Rosita’s tattoos were symbols that Piper didn’t understand. But the other images were easily recognizable. Her feet were tattooed with the talons of a hawk. A double-headed phoenix adorned her chest. There was a serpent on her right forearm, a dragon on the left, angel wings on her shoulder blades, thorny roses around her upper arm, an eagle on the back of her hand, the setting sun on her lower back, a spider, some sort of bat demon, a cherub with a bow, a tiger, and on her right shoulder a dancing blue bear.

The first tattoo Rosita ever received was the one she kept hidden from onlookers: the words My Immortals etched in cursive writing on the inside of her upper arm.

“I got it in honor of my mother and my baby girl. They died within a year of each other,” she had told Piper in confidence. “And these last two I got in your honor, the day you were brought to us,” Rosita said before Piper could express her sympathy. The Painted Lady pulled up her sleeves to reveal a star on the inside of each wrist, one red and one green.

“My freckles,” Piper said with a smile. “But why red and green?”

“Stop and go,” Rosita had replied, as though the answer required no further explanation.

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