I shove the needle through her navel and ignore her painful cry.
“Ow, ow, owowowow oh shit that hurts!” Melissa’s voice, loud and shrill, is doing more damage to my eardrum than the needle is to her skin.
“Well hold still then and it won’t hurt as much.” I feel bad when I notice the diamonds squeezing out of the corners of her eyes and try for a more soothing tone. “Just relax, it’s almost over.” I pluck the lip of her belly button with my thumb and index finger and press the needle’s tip further into her flesh. Blood begins to flow, but I don’t ease my grip.
The needle stops moving. I give it a jerky shove and Melissa lets out another breathless shriek. Something’s wrong.
“What did you do?” She tenses as I try and wedge the needle deeper into her skin, but it’s stubborn and won’t budge.
“Ah man, it’s stuck. I think it’s caught on something.”
“Caught on what!?”
I shush her at the same time as I pinch the other end of the needle and slowly, very slowly, pull it out completely.
This process goes much more smoothly, possibly due to the slick path the created by the still leaking blood. When I finally have the entire needle in my hand, she heaves a sigh of relief.
“Okay,” I start, “I think I put it in wrong from the beginning, so I’ll just try it again at a different angle.”
“Uh-uh, no way,” she says, slapping both palms onto her bloody belly button. She starts to sit up on the bed and looks down at her tummy, stained red and sticky. “Jeez, Alea, it looks like you gutted me.”
“If you didn’t move like I told you to it probably wouldn’t look as bad. And I can fix this,” I add, “if you’ll let me.” I wipe down the needle with a sterilized cloth, waiting for Melissa’s answer. She’s started mapping out trails through the dried blood with her finger. She looks up at me and her expression is a cross between defeat and murder. Lying back down on the bed, she reaches up and grasps the bars of the bedpost with both hands.
“Okay,” she sighs and shuts her eyes, “Go for it.”
I reposition myself back on top of her, my legs pinning her thighs together. I re-swab the battered area with a cotton ball, reposition the needle at a different part of her belly button, and, with a quick glance at her face, stick it in.
This time, she doesn’t make a sound, and her trembling body makes it hard to keep a steady hold on her, but I soon find the right spot and the needle starts to push through, sliding in while more blood oozes out at a sluggish pace. When the needle is almost out the other side, I remove one hand to pick up the silver ring sitting on the nightstand and push one end into the puncture hole, then snap it closed. I press my thumb down hard on the open wound in an attempt to stem the flow.
“See?” I say, slightly out of breath, “I told you I could fix it.” I place a quick bandage with gauze on her cut before maneuvering off of her. She sits up and look down at her newly pierced navel. Her eyes are pink and glassy, but there’s a curl to her lips as she flicks at the ring in her belly, the surrounding area stress-red and inflamed. She brings her head up and the smile splits her face into a sharky grin.
“Let’s do my eyebrows next.”
Allison Sobczak is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago where she earned a BA in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in the Story Week Reader and Rollick Magazine. She grew up in a small suburban town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but the Windy City has become her second home. You can usually find her in Starbucks enjoying a chai tea latte. Learn more about her at allisonsobczak.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alliesob.
= = = = = = > Read Allison's Sixer