NAME OF THE BOOK: Magic Unveiled: An Anthology
AUTHORS: Alesha Escobar, Samantha LaFantasie, H.M.Jones, Devorah Fox, Raven Oak, Jayme Beddingfield, Alice Marks, Ronovan Hester and Keith Goodno
Gypsum Jane’s Inkscapes
Something glowed at the end of the alley. It was a flickering, ancient glow, dim and beckoning. It sent shivers up his arms. He was sure he was seeing the birth of an apparition. He shook the silly idea from his too hungry brain. Lack of sustenance caught up to him. He blinked slowly and stared down the alley again, but the light didn’t waver, which led him to believe he was looking at…he squinted…a lantern.
Weird. Would the city approve a lantern? Seems like a fire hazard.
He was transfixed by the light. When the line moved inside, he still ruminated over it, in a daze. He picked a doughnut without thought, without noticing the girls ahead of him taking selfies with him and the garish doughnut shop as the background. He pushed through the drunk and high crowd as if in a dream, out of the stained glass doors of the shop and down the short alley towards the light. Then it was before him, an old fashioned black iron lantern sending shadows dancing against the cobbled pavement outside the storefront.
No…not a store. A tattoo parlor. An open tattoo parlor.
“Gypsum Jane’s Inkscapes” was splashed in loopy script across a rough slab of wood hanging from iron hinges above a heavy oak door. A wood cut of a tattoo gun surrounded in inky flowers and leaves was stamped next to the gilded shop name. On the door hung a painted “open” sign, slung over an ornate black nob. It was classy and old world. He was immediately enamored. Whoever owned this shop had taste. He turned the nob and entered a world of fantasy.
The interior of Gypsum Jane’s was less like a traditional tattoo shop and more like a Romany wagon. The walls were a waxed cherry wood on bottom with an elegant dark green wallpaper on top. Gold leaf designs ran up and down the wallpaper. Half of the shop, probably where the owner kept the supplies and drawing table, was closed off with velvet curtains.
A very expensive looking carved chair with gold velvet cushions occupied the middle of the room. It was the most elaborate tattooing chair he’d ever seen. An iron lever stuck out from the side, probably for reclining. A sturdy stool with a leather top sat just next to the reclining chair, and a beautiful wooden tea table with a marble top sat just in front of the stool.
There were a few shelves in the shop, built into the wall in the same shiny wood that the walls and trim were made from. The shelves had carved embellishments on each corner in the shape of flowering plants. A shelf to the right held an assortment of teacups, saucers, spoons and canisters. The teacups looked very familiar. Justin searched the room for its owner before stepping towards the shelf and peering at the delicate hanging cups. His mouth fell open.
“Mom…” He breathed the word like a prayer.
“Never was a mom. A little too wild for that sort of life. But I’m guessing you weren’t addressing me?”
Justin turned quickly to face the woman who owned the silky, teasing voice. What he saw left him speechless. The woman he faced was about his age, had dark straight hair, bright almond eyes, and perfectly glowing skin. She wore a loose gauzy skirt sitting low on her waist. One of her tan legs peeked out from a slit in the gauze. She was intoxicating.
He tried not to stare. She wore a simple, modern tank tucked into the skirt. The cotton seemed out of place next to the velvets, gauze and silks decorating her shop and her legs. Her bare arms were snaked in the most beautifully detailed vines of flowers he’d ever seen. The shading, the vibrant colors, the use of contrast, made it look as though the vines were swinging in the breeze every time she moved her arms. Justin caught himself wondering if they actually were moving.
“Well, aren’t you charming, standing there with your mouth wide open and frosting on your upper lip?” She chuckled when he shut his mouth with a click and sheepishly ran his hand across his face.
The beautiful woman made him feel like he was a seven-year-old caught up past bedtime, snatching sweets from the cookie jar. “Oh, um, I…I was looking at your teacups. Sorry. They…well…”
Damnit, Justin, pull it together.
“They were painted by your mother, right?”
Justin’s voice had ceased to work. It was official. He’d gone from seven to infant in only seconds. So he nodded, a confused frown stuck to his face.
“You’re probably wondering how I know she was your mom?” The beautiful woman winked at him and he felt his throat close up.
“You look exactly like her, only male and much taller. The eyes especially. You have lovely eyes. The same blue, same curiosity and focus.” The woman sauntered over to him and stuck out a petite hand.
“The name’s Gypsum Jane, but you can call me Jane.”
Justin regained enough of his senses to take her small hand in his large palm. “Justin.”
“Yes, your mother mentioned you.” She gestured toward the teacup with a nod of her head. “She was a true artist. The flowers she painted on this set were specially designed for me. If you look closely, you can see they aren’t actually flowers at all, they’re bladed rosettes of gypsum.”
Justin turned back to the teacups and picked one up, cupping it delicately in his large hand. The rose colored strokes were airy and light. She’d splashed the edges with a darker shade of rose and done some gold flake work on the bottom of the cup. He turned the cup over and saw her familiar loose and fast L F there.
“Lora does beautiful work. She tells me you do, too. But, like me, your canvas is skin.”
Justin replaced his mother’s hand painted cup reluctantly. It felt like he was hanging her up, putting her away. “Yes, she did do beautiful work. I own a shop in Washington, but I’ve been with mom for the last two weeks, helping her feel comfortable. She passed away three days ago. The funeral was today, but we’ve been planning for it since she was diagnosed.”
“Cancer. So she said. You must be feeling very lost right now.” Jane’s voice was soft, empathetic but not sad.
“Yeah. That’s actually the perfect description of how I feel.” Justin felt like thanking her. Most people said the wrong thing. But she’d pinpointed how it felt to lose his mom—like he was lost to the world, too.
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