SUBJECT TO EDITING
MARIE COULSON 2014
The Sting Of Love
Squirming, I closed my eyes and gripped my fingernails into the soft leather of the chair. My teeth were biting down on my bottom lip so hard that as my tongue quickly darted out to sooth it, I recognized the metallic and unwelcome taste of blood.
“I cannot believe you are doing this. You’re crazy. Amy, tell her she’s nuts.”
Opening my eyes, I rolled them at Mel, who was hovering over me looking anxious and slightly nauseated. Amy glanced up from her magazine as she pushed herself further back on the chair opposite me.
“Baby, calm down. I think it’s romantic.”
Mel stomped her foot, apparently irritated that Amy wasn’t sharing the same philosophy as she did.
“Romantic? It’s insane. Layla, once you do this, you can never go back. It’s life changing.”
Amy let out a loud snort and laughed. “Mel, for the love of god, relax!”
Holding my breath, I let out a slight yelp as the needle scratched and scraped across my skin. The thick, black line was mesmerizing as it gradually penetrated my perfectly clear and, until about ten minutes ago, unmarked flesh.
“Well, you won’t find me being branded for some guy,” Mel spat with a distinct snootiness.
Amy raised an eyebrow at her. “I should fucking hope not, sweetie pie.”
A hiss left my lips as the needle dragged across my flesh. The design itself was sweet yet striking. I wanted something that was special, unique and reflective of exactly how I felt.
“He will freak, Layla!” Amy squeaked excitedly as she bounced on her heels. Mel shook her head in response.
“Oh yes, it screams rock chick and I’m confident he’ll fucking love it. That piece of metal in your tongue…maybe not.”
I let out a small chuckle before biting down on my lip as the artist continued his work.
“It’s just a tongue stud, Mel. I always wanted one but never had the guts! I’ve discovered there’s a wild side to Layla Jennings, and I’m willing to let her out to have some fun. You know, just now and then. Besides, I can always just take it out and let it heal. Anyway, what are you complaining about? The past few months have been awesome, and you can’t deny that since the guys have been gone, we girls have had more fun than ever.”
Mel nodded in agreement. “Or maybe, it’s since a certain business tycoon left? You know; when you found your freedom?”
Trying to stay still, I glared at her. “It has nothing to do with Jared. And will you please stop poking at him? He’s thousands of miles away.”
Amy squirmed and quickly tried to lighten the mood. “Distance is no object when it comes to Mel and her snarkiness. Anyway, have you heard from him at all? I bet he’s seen some amazing sights so far.”
I shook my head. It was a lie of course. I’d been receiving emails at least three times a week since he’d left. Each was packed with pictures and details of Jared’s travels so far. I’d also sent him updates on what I was doing. It seemed silly to just cast aside what we had. I mean, we didn’t have a gory and heart-wrenching break up. No one was to blame. If anything, we both were. Sometimes in life I guess you meet people who will change your world and tip it on its head and make you a little more…whole. Some relationships were supposed to teach you, not break you or complete you. That’s what Jared had given me. I’d lived through so much in such a small space of time. That kind of emotional, mental and physical upheaval…changes a person. We’d been through so much and learned so much from each other too. One day, Jared Garret will find the girl of his dreams. But she isn’t me. I was lucky enough to call him a friend and considering he was not the type to make or maintain friendships; this was a significant achievement. There was almost no one in the world who knew me quite as well as he did. Of course, the others being Amy, Mel and Ollie.
His emails always made me smile. I could see every week just how much he was growing and changing. And yet, in other ways, he remained exactly the same. He almost blew a gasket when I sent him a picture of my tongue stud. What followed was an hour and a half conversation via my webcam. But after the expected lecture on how unsanitary and dangerous piercings are, even he had to agree that it was still pretty hot, and I was damn sure he’d have no place to comment on my new ink. Mr. ‘I’ll label my ass with your name on it.’ Never get a partner’s name permanently etched into your skin. That’s one rule I always live by. It’s sweet and adorable, yes, but it can be a little awkward and infuriating should you both part on bad terms. Luckily, for Jared, that wasn’t the case with us, and I was happy to be on his ass all the time!
But my email account hadn’t pinged with a single message from him for almost two weeks and honestly, I missed him.
The loud and excitable sound that suddenly came from Amy’s direction caught me by surprise and staring at her in bewilderment, I wondered what the hell had gotten her all riled up. Tapping me on the shoulder, Mel quickly and silently pointed up to the t.v that was mounted on the far wall of the shop.
Sitting on a metal stool, surrounded by screaming girls and his band mates, was my gorgeous and incredibly talented boyfriend. His hair was beginning to get some length back and I could just make out the end of his puzzle tattoo as it peeked out from beneath the sleeve of his t-shirt. Hearing his songs on the radio and his name on the list of acts at a gig was one thing. Seeing him right there, on MTV, talking about his music…was something else entirely.
“Turn it up! Turn it up!” Amy squealed.
Picking up the remote from the coffee table in front of her, Mel cranked up the volume.
“It’s incredible. Millions of albums sold all over the country and a tour that has completely sold out in just a few days! How do you guys keep yourselves grounded? I mean, it must be hard not to get swept up in the craziness of success.”
Smiling, Ollie shrugged.
“When you’ve been a band as long as we have, it’s not really like we’ve hit the big time. To us, we’re just the same three guys, playing our music on a stage back home in the local bar.”
“Or in Eric’s garage!” Nick interrupted.
Ollie and Eric chuckled.
“We’re also lucky to have such great friends and support back home,” Eric said with a small smile at the camera.
“Groupies,” Nick quipped with a grin that could rival the Cheshire cat.
“What about romance?” the interviewer asked as she looked around at the hordes of girls whistling and cheering beside the stage.
“It’s difficult. I mean, with a schedule as busy as ours, we hardly get time to visit our families and friends. Then there’s all the media attention and the fans can get a little crazy too. I’ve had about four thousand sets of panties mailed to me so far. It would take a hell of a girl to put up with all of that and still be there waiting for me when I kicked off my shoes and walked in the door. She’d be one of a kind and a real keeper.”
Ollie glanced quickly at the camera and a ghost of a smile spread across his lips. My insides instantly heated and my heart thundered.
“Wow, well I think there’s a big line for that position so I’ll just join the queue”
Turning the volume back down, Mel smiled at me and chuckled.
“See. And there you were worried he’d forgotten you even existed.”
I rolled my eyes. “No, I said it felt that way some times. Did either of you notice that Shaye wasn’t with them?”
Amy shrugged. “Maybe it was a boy’s only kind of interview. I mean, they’re the founding members after all. She does solo shit all the time.”
Trying not to dwell on the fact that my boyfriend was currently surrounded by lustful women, I let out a long sigh but caught my breath midway as the sharpness of the needle scraped my skin. I flinched and glancing up at me, Sam, the artist, rolled his eyes.
“I take it this is your first time.”
I nodded in response. “I’m not accustomed to pain.”
Not accustomed to pain…now that really was a lie. Jared had introduced me to a world of pleasure and pain. The truth was; I kind of enjoyed the sharp scratching followed by the warm and tingling sensation that followed. But Sam didn’t need to know that.
I smiled at him gently and tried to hide the fact that I was currently re-living hundreds of nights of hot, kinky sex in my head.
“You should have seen me squirm when I had my tongue pierced,” I quipped.
He shook his head. “Some girls can take it, some can’t. What about you ladies? Who’s going next?”
He nodded toward Amy and Mel, who stared at him mortified. Crossing her arms, Mel scoffed. “Not a chance in hell. I wouldn’t get a tattoo if you paid me a thousand dollars.”
Amy bit her lip and smiled. “Oh, I don’t know, I’ve always wanted a little colour on my poor pale flesh. Maybe a flower or something.”
Mel gawped at her. “A tramp stamp? Seriously?”
Getting up off of the black leather couch where she had been perched for the past two hours, Amy began browsing through one of the artists portfolios. It was impressive work. I had done my research and found one of the best artists in L.A. I was pretty lucky to even get an appointment. The shop itself had been on T.V, so it was very popular without taking into account the stunning art done by the people that worked there.
Mel hurriedly attempted to snatch the book from Amy’s hands, but clutching it firmly, Amy tugged it away from her.
“My body, my choice, Kitten.”
Mel raised an eyebrow. “You might own that hot piece of ass but I’m renting it for the foreseeable future. I’m just trying to protect my investment.”
I stifled a laugh. “I don’t think you’re going to win this one, Mel.”
I nodded toward Amy as she bounced up and down excitedly, pointing at a page in the book.
“Oh! Oh! This one! I am getting this one!”
Holding it up in front of herself, Amy showed Mel and me the art she intended to have branded on her skin forever. I gave her a small smile as I saw the image of a beautiful rose entwined in a vine of thorns. It was stunning. Mel shook her head in bewilderment.
“Over my dead body, baby.”
Getting up from the couch, Amy poked her tongue out at Mel and shrugged.
“I like it and I’m getting it inked right here on my shoulder.”
She pointed at the back of her right shoulder. “Why is it that when guys get inked, you think it’s hot but when a girl does it, it’s a tramp stamp? I don’t hear you complaining about Layla’s art.”
Mel rolled her eyes and glanced at me. “I’m not the one staring at her body for the rest of my life.”
Amy held her palm to her chest and grinned. “Rest of your life? Oh, Mel, I think that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever almost said to me.”
I chuckled a little as she threw her arms around my best friend and swung there a little; lifting her feet from the floor. The sting of the needle once again drew my attention to my own tattoo currently in progress.
“Almost done,” the artist murmured as he added the final touches of colour. I couldn’t wait to see it properly. At this angle, it was particularly difficult to make it out at all. Switching off the machine and quickly cleaning up the excess ink from my flesh, Sam smiled.
“You’re done. It looks hot. Check it out.”
He gestured at the long mirror hanging on the far wall and getting quickly to my feet, I walked over and stared in awe at the incredible artwork he had now permanently etched onto my skin.
The image of written music wound loosely around a stunning white and black guitar stood out vividly against the pale flesh of my hip.
“Wow,” Amy muttered as she stood beside me. Even Mel seemed a little impressed.
“Okay, even I can admit it’s kind of hot. What’s with the notes?”
I smiled and bit my lip. “It’s the first few bars of my song. You know, the one Ollie wrote for me?”
Amy bounced on her heels and beamed. “Awesome! Ollie is going to love it! When are you going to tell him?”
I shook my head as I continued to smile and stare at the reflection in the mirror.
“I’m not going to tell him. I’m going to show him.”