“So how’d the dinner go? You did go, right?” Steph asked, as soon as Jax walked through the door the following morning.
He just chuckled at her enthusiasm as he pulled off his jacket and motorcycle helmet, before shaking out his long brown hair.
“Can I at least get through the door, sis?” he asked as he stored his things in the closet.
She pointed at the door, then at him. “Pretty sure you’re already through the door, so spill.”
“Damn, okay. I’d tell you that you didn’t have to be so pushy, or nosy, but I know by now that wouldn’t do me any good.”
“Exactly, so stop stalling and spill.”
“The food was amazing, Danny is an awesome cook. He’s also a playwright and I kinda ended up volunteering to help build sets when he gets his next play off the ground.”
“You…are going to build sets at a theater?”
“Don’t look so skeptical sis. I’ve already warned him that I know nothing about the theater. Apparently I don’t have to know anything other than my way around a saw, a hammer, a blowtorch, nails and a drill.”
“Well, in that case, maybe you’re overqualified,” she laughed.
“So it sounds like you had fun.”
Jax nodded as he set up his station, rearranging some of the body jewelry into a more appealing display. “Yeah, I did, and I think Max and Callum will really hit it off with him when they get here. Max left a message on my phone last night, saying they’d just reached the edge of Colorado and were almost in Nebraska. They were supposed to be getting a hotel, then continuing on in the morning. So they should be there by the time I get home.”
“I hope you left them a key so they could start unloading?”
“Yeah, manager has the keys to their place and mine, so he can let them in. Hope they like pale blue.”
“Knowing them, they’ll just hang a ton of prints all over the place and cover almost every inch of it.”
“True.” Jax laughed. “And argue the entire time about which pieces do and don’t belong together.”
“You’d think they’d have figured it out by now.”
Jax glanced over at his sister, confusion written all over his face. “Huh? What? Where to put everything? I guess, I mean, they’ve been roommates long enough.”
“That too, but what I meant was, their relationship, or lack thereof. They’re perfect for one another. You can’t tell me you’ve never noticed? It didn’t take but a few days with those two to see that they should be dating.”
“Huh? You’re kidding right?”
Steph facepalmed and just shook her head. “You can’t be that blind.”
“Sorry, sis, unlike you, I don't stick my nose places it don't belong."
“Well then it’s a good thing I’m nosy enough for the both of us,” she laughed as she flipped the sign to open. “I think I’ll make it my personal mission to see those two hook up, and while I’m at it, maybe I can meet this Danny of yours. Something tells me you two would get along wonderfully together.”
“Oh no, sis, no, I’m serious, no meddling, not even a little bit. I’m not looking for a boyfriend, or a relationship, or even a hook up right now. All I want is to get my apartment set up, keep those appointment books in order, and get some groceries for the fridge.”
“And after that?”
“Sleep, in a proper bed, and porn, ‘cause it’s been days since I got off and I…”
“TMI, Jax!” She yelled, clasping her hands over her ears. “Seriously bro, TMI!”
He laughed at that, grateful when she retreated across the room and busied herself setting up for her first appointment. The sudden jingle of bells drew both of their attention towards a trio of girls in calf high boots and super tight blue jeans. Too much makeup was his first thought as they made their way towards him, one of the girls shoving the girl in the middle forward as she eyed him up and down and blushed.
“She wants to get her nose pierced,” the girl on the left announced, a little louder than necessary. Her blond hair was streaked with black, and she had so much makeup around her eyes she looked like a demented raccoon. She also looked like she’d put way too much effort in looking older, all of them did, and he crossed his arms as he stared down at all three of them.
“Is that so. Well, then I need to see her ID.” He told them sternly. “Because in this shop, we don’t do piercings for anyone under the age of 18 without a parent's permission.”
The girl in the middle’s face fell, a sure sign that she wasn’t legal. Still, it didn’t stop the loud blond from trying to persuade him to do it.
The blond fixed him with a glare and mimicked his stance, one hip cocked out, arms crossed. “She’s 19, so there, you can do it.”
“Then if that’s the case, she can show me her ID and we can get started,” he said, smirking a bit at her nerve.
The blond sputtered and stomped her foot, clearly unused to anyone denying her anything.
“Come on, Shannon, let’s just go, okay,” the girl in the middle said, yanking on her friends arm. “I told you it was a bad idea. My parents would have gone through the roof, anyway.”
As she ushered her friends out the door, the girl in the middle glanced back and shot him a shy, grateful smile. Poor kid, he had to wonder how many other dumb things her friends were going to push her to do before she found a backbone.
“Good job,” Steph said from where she’d been watching across the room. “I’m sure they’ll find someone to do the piercing before the day is through, which sucks, but, until Iowa mandates an age for piercing the way they have for tattoos, they’ll always be places willing to pierce whoever has the money.”
“She didn’t even want it, not really.”
“Nope. Happens all the time though. Part of the reason I decided on just a blanket eighteen for the shop. Last thing I need is some irate parent coming in here pitching a fit because their kid decided to let his or her friends talk them into doing something stupid.”
She studied him, a sly smile on her face.
Laughing, she put a bowl full of lollipops on her table and dropped into a chair. “I was just thinking of how much they reminded me of someone else I know.”
“Hey, I never did that shit.”
“No, you were the one pushing others into doing it. I will never forget the day Mrs. Ryan came by, yelling at mom because you’d convinced Trace that it would be a good idea to brand his arm with that comic book logo you’d made in welding class.”
“Hey, in my defense, it looked really cool once it healed. Branding was really in back then.”
“For about a minute,” Steph laughed. “I just hope Patricia McAdams is as big of a fan as he is, ‘cause I heard those two actually got married. I know if it was me, I wouldn’t want to look at that on my husband’s arm every day.”
“Trace got married? Shit. That’s messed up.”
“The guy was a fuckin’ genius, kinda figured he’d have gotten out of that place and gone off to college.”
She just shrugged.
“Don’t ask me, that’s just what I heard. You should write him, I’m sure he’d love to hear from you. Bet some of your others friends would too. Leaving home didn’t have to mean leaving behind everyone you used to know.”
“Yeah, well, guess maybe it was easier that way.”
“For who,” She muttered, but whatever she might have added was cut off by the arrival of her client. For the rest of the afternoon, it was all work, hard rock music, and little conversation.