More Miska: 1/27/2016

And so begins the chaotic finale.  Rough drafts, etc., you know the drill.  Have fun!

***

Nestor left and the family hunkered down in silence.

“This isn’t right.”  Miska was the first to speak.

No one else replied.  Natalia looked at her youngest daughter with weary eyes.

“We shouldn’t just let this happen to us.”

Alonso looked away.  Miska’s sisters looked at her, then at their parents.

“You know she’s right.”  Leonora said to their mother.  “We should do something—“

“Leonora.”  Natalia’s voice was cutting.  “We did do something.  We failed.  Now, having failed, we have to live with the consequences.”  Natalia’s face was set with regret and determination.

“Natalia…” Alonso leaned over and laid a hand on his wife’s shoulder.

“No!”  Natalia shook it off.  “We’ve had this discussion before.  We’re not going to teach our children to just break the law when it seems convenient.”  Her deep breath in seemed to fuel her rage.  “We made a mistake.”  She shook herself, then continued in a more caustic tone, “I made a mistake.  And now we all have to live with the consequences.”

***

The next morning was crisp and clear, but the scheduled meeting with the tattooist didn’t happen.  They waited, hour after hour, to be summoned for their meeting, but were only told that there had been some hold up and that they should be patient.  They were fed leftovers from the servants’ meals.  Miska’s stomach rumbled angrily, demanding more.

It was evening before they were finally brought out to the compound’s inner courtyard, lamps hung to cast light on a set of parallel tables.  An elderly man, with dark skin and large glasses, sat with a large selection of tools, needles, ink pots and other things that Miska couldn’t recognize.  Mistress Mariselle stood next to him, speaking quietly.  Several guards stood around the courtyard, including two next to Mistress Mariselle.  Miska recognized the Larmer brothers immediately.

“And you have all the paperwork for these?”  His voice was querulous.

Mistress Mariselle pointed to the papers which lay on his cases of tools.  “Those are all that you should need.”

He grumbled, looking at the papers through his glasses.  He waved at Miska and her sisters.  “Two of you first.  Bare your left shoulder down to the blade.”  He continued, going through his preparations, laying out the pigments and needles.  Miska, lying facedown on the table, turned her head to get a better look at the man and what he was doing.

“You might not want to do that.”  He sounded almost tender.  “Many people don’t like seeing the needles in or around their skin.”  She could feel him swabbing down her bared section of shoulder.  “This is going to hurt a good deal.”

Miska took a deep breath.  She kept facing towards the man, waiting and watching.  She didn’t like the idea of not seeing what was about to happen to her.  Somehow that made it worse.  It didn’t help that she knew that the Larmer brothers were standing nearby.

Even with her head turned, she still couldn’t hardly see what the tattooist was doing on her shoulder.  The first needle stung like a cold burn, with that extra feeling of weirdness at feeling something else move her body without being able to feel its presence.  She gritted her teeth and hissed, trying to do the breathing exercises she’d spent so much time practicing.

She gave up on seeing the needles and focused on their feel instead, closing her eyes as she breathed deeply, in and out.  The tearing sting moved around her shoulder with what felt like agonizing slowness; she couldn’t make any sense of the pattern even though she knew what an indentured servant’s tattoo looked like.  She wasn’t surprised, since she’d never tried repeatedly stabbing herself before.

As the tattooist kept working, she heard a gasp come from somewhere behind her.  “What are you doing?”  It was her mother’s voice, angry and shrill.  Heavy footsteps moved across the paving stones from beside her towards her mother.  One of the Larmer brothers.

“You keep to yourself if you don’t want any trouble.”  The deep voice was rough and quiet.  Maybe the brother she’d hit in the throat then.

“You, tattooist!  Stop!”  There was a pause as the needle pulled out of Miska’s skin in response to her mother’s voice.

“What?  Please don’t interrupt me.  This isn’t very pleasant for her, and I’m trying to do it quickly.”  The tattooist sounded tired already.

“I said—“ The Larmer brother tried again.

“We’re supposed to be indentured, not slaves!”

“SHUT UP!”  There was a heavy sound of flesh striking flesh.

Miska flinched.  “Mom?”

“She’s not supposed to be a slave!”  Her mother called out again, slightly muffled.

“Look, I’m just doing what the paperwork says to do—“

There was another heavy smack.  Miska’s father cried out, “Stop hitting her!”

The tattooist sighed.  “It’s always a mess when you get a family done at the same time.”

Miska’s mind felt like it was sliding off in too many directions.  Why would her mother be saying that she wasn’t supposed to be a slave?  Why were they hitting her?

“We’ve got trouble!”  One of the guards yelled into the house.

Miska rolled over, off the table and onto her feet.

“Oh, not you too?”  The tattooist leaned back against the other table, his face sad and tired.  “Please don’t bother hitting me, they’ll only get another tattooist and I don’t want to get involved.”

Miska whipped her head around, feeling that same clarity that she had in her street fight.  One Larmer brother stood near her, glowering at her.  He was stepping towards her.  He was going to move around the head of the table to her left.  The other brother was standing between her mother and father, one hand clamped on her mother’s shoulder, the other pulling back, getting ready for another blow.  Her father was tugging on him, trying to pull him away from Natalia.  Her mother looked dazed.  Leonora was sitting up from where she’d been lying on the table across from Miska’s, and Mirabelle looked like she was trying to find something with which to hit the Larmer brother.

Miska muttered, “Sorry.”  She scooped up a handful of needles from where they’d been laid out in a neat row, then turned and whipped them at the face of the brother nearest her.  He barely got a hand up in time, and only managed to cover one of his eyes.  He stumbled backwards, screaming, little bits of metal standing from his flesh.  Miska jumped up onto the table she’d been lying on, and then onto the injured brother. She drove her foot into his solar plexus as hard as she could.  He collapsed as she landed, wheezing and whimpering.

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