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"Your father does not have much time left Miss Nightingale"
"How long does he have?"
"I'd say less a month"
Bathsheba Nightingale peeked over the doctor's shoulder to see her sickly father in bed resting as the monitors beeped all around him. Sheba bit her lower lip nervously and found herself begging now.
"Dr. Green isn't there anything you can do?" she asked trying to hold back tears "Pop is the only family that I have"
"I'm sorry Miss Nightingale" he said sincerely "stage four prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men and it's fatal"
"We're doing everything we can to make your father comfortable"
"Yes I know" Sheba replied, "thank you Dr. Green"
Sheba placed a vase of flowers on her father's nightstand and sat beside him. This wasn't happening. It couldn't. Abraham Nightingale was only fifty-four years old average lifespan wise he still had at least fifteen to twenty years left to live; if it weren't for this cancer.
Sheba gently gripped her father's hand something she done since she was a little girl whenever she was scared or sad. Tears were at the corners of her eyes. She was twenty-four. A grown woman now but what was she going to do without her Pop?
"Is that my Sheba?"
Hearing the chuckle Sheba looked up to see her father had opened his eyes and was giving her a little smile.
"I'm here Pop it's me"
Abraham chuckled "I wish your mother could have lived to see you now you look just like her except those---"
"Eyes" Sheba said smiling
"Yup those are my eyes" he said with pride "Nightingale eyes"
The tears that were at Sheba's eyes now fell and rolled down her face and that made Abraham frown.
"Bathsheba?" he asked gently now wrapping his hand around his daughter's "what is it honey?"
"I don't want to lose you Pop" Sheba confessed, "Dr. Green said that you don't have a lot of time left"
"I know" Abraham said, "I'm at peace with that---"
"Well I'm not" Sheba cried, "I love you Pop I can't go on without you I don't want to"
"Shh" Abraham soothed "Sheba you know I'll always be with you"
"I'm at peace with this" her father repeated "hell as a former mortician I should know about death more than most people"
Sheba couldn't help but to chuckle at this along with Abraham if anything her father had a very unique sense of humor and she grew up with a sense of sarcasm most children didn't have.
Not everyone's father was a mortician Sheba knew that if Abraham hadn't gotten so sick the past two years he would still be practicing his profession.
"I know that I raised an independent young lady who knows how to stand on her own to feet"
"You're strong Bathsheba I know you are" Abraham went on to say "before your mother died we often joked that you'd be strong with the name we saddled you with"
He did have a point on that although Sheba loved her uncommon biblical name it was why she usually just went by Sheba as opposed to Bathsheba. She got called "Bathtub" by other kids and found it was much easier to apply for jobs with just Sheba.
None of that mattered because Abraham taught her to love herself and Sheba had no doubt in her mind that if her mother hadn't died shortly after her first birthday she would have taught her the same thing.
"I'll be with your mother again soon" he smiled "I can't wait to see my Deborah again and I'm going to tell her all about you Sheba how proud she would have been how talented you are"
"I know Pop" Sheba smiled "I know you will"
Sheba really didn't like Abraham talking that way if Dr. Green said that he had about a month left to live she wanted him to be comfortable and happy and not so somber.
In fact his birthday was just in two short weeks would be here and she wanted it to be special for him.
"Your birthday is coming up," Sheba pointed out "how about I make you some bread pudding?"
"Oh you know how much I love that sinful gooey stuff" Abraham smiled "I'd love that Sheba"
"Alright Pop" Sheba said "I have to get ready to go to the shop you call me if there's anything you need"
"I'll be fine" Abraham reassured "you're so young Sheba don't feel tied down to me"
"You could never make me feel tied down Pop I love you"
"I love you too Sheba"
Growing up in a funeral home was quite unique so Sheba wasn't unfamiliar with seeing dead bodies she supposed in a way she took after father. Being a tattoo artist Sheba also tended to people's bodies it wasn't that different from being a mortician.
The only difference was her clients were still alive and greatly appreciated her craftsmanship.
Sheba had been working at The Wounded Rose tattoo parlor for about four years now and had built quite the clientele. Sheba was quite popular despite not having the outgoing personality of a typical tattoo artist.
Despite it being a female owned tattoo parlor all of the tattoo artists were white or Asian except for Sheba; she was the only black female there.
Sheba was used to sticking out like a sore thumb with her given name but even more with her coworkers. Not that her coworkers weren't nice to her because they were it was just they were more vocal than she was.
Sheba always let her tattoo and artwork speak for herself the only person she felt comfortable around was her father.
Sheba quickly wiped away her tears reminding herself that she was at work now and she'd have to deal with her father later. Just as Sheba entered her studio space and was about get her needles and guns cleaned for the day there was a light tap on her door.
"Hey Sheba you okay?"
Sheba looked up to see her redhead friend Wendy Kraft enter her space. Yes her name was Wendy and yes she was a redhead just like the fast food burger chain mascot. Sheba supposed her parents also had a sense of humor as well.
"Hey Wendy I'm fine" she replied, "I'm sorry I was a little late today"
"C'mon Sheba you know it's Sunday we're pretty laid back today just getting ready for the week" Wendy replied "how's your dad doing?"
"Not so good physically" Sheba admitted "the doctor's telling me he only has a month left"
"Oh Sheba you know that we're sisters here you're not alone in this" Wendy said sincerely
"I know it's just that today was a wake up call for me Pop is taking the news better than I am then again I guess being a former mortician helps"
"Your dad is a sweetheart" Wendy added, "remember when we were ten and my grandpa passed away?"
Sheba managed to smile she remembered that. Wendy really loved her grandfather and it was a bit much for her and she ran out of the funeral parlor in the middle of the service. Sheba had run after her to comfort her to find her in tears. It wasn't long until before Abraham came out onto the porch to comfort the girls.
Abraham had pointed to a beautiful orange Monarch butterfly that went by and whispered to Wendy "That's your Grandpa dear"
Sheba remembered that Wendy's tears stopped and a smile slowly grew on her face in place of the tears.
"Yes I remember" Sheba said fondly and Wendy patted her shoulder
Just as Sheba was getting ready to say something else Ming Wu burst in with an excited expression all over her face.
"You guys have got to see who walked in the parlor right now!" she exclaimed, "even Rachel is freaking out!"
"It must be somebody hot" Wendy chuckled "Sundays are dead around here"
Roman Volkov admired the work that he saw on the walls and definitely liked what he saw so far. He was looking for the best of the best and so far the tattoo parlors he had been to were mediocre. Mediocre wasn't going to cut it for what he was looking to get done.
Roman intended on getting a full upper body tattoo that would cover his whole back, chest, and shoulder blades. A tattoo like that would of course cost a pretty penny, which was why he couldn't just let anybody do his tattoo. He needed someone talented. Extremely talented.
Roman had been fixated on a certain set of designs that caught his attention. Obviously all of the women of The Wounded Rose were very talented but there was one in particular who he strongly believed would be the one to successfully bring his design to life.
"How long has he been here?" Ming asked
"About an hour" Holly Adams replied "damn he's so fucking hot we don't have a lot of clients come in here that look like him"
"I know right" Wendy chuckled "how big do you think he is?"
"Eight point five inches curved like a banana," Holly guessed "nine inches when erect"
All of them giggled like they were a bunch of eighth grade girls.
"You guys come on" Sheba said feeling a bit weird as she and her friends were watching this potential client from their enclosed space "we've never leered at our clients before"
"You're right" Ming said, "let's go introduce ourselves"
All of them quickly went out to the lobby to introduce themselves to Mr. Handsome while Sheba hesitantly followed.
"Hi welcome to Wounded Rose!" Holly greeted in a perky voice "how can we be of service today?"
Sheba noticed that Mr. Handsome managed to sneak a glance at some of the cleavage that happened to be popping out of Holly's V-neck shirt. He didn't linger long so he must be used to having a lot of women.
"I'm looking to get a full upper body tattoo" he said "I was just window shopping some of your designs you ladies are very talented"
"Yes that us" Wendy said proudly "we are the top rated tattoo shop in the district on Yelp"
"Yes I can definitely see why"
Sheba noted the man's accent was he of German or Russian descent? Either way it sent chills down her spine.
Roman turned the page of the sketchbook he had been looking at for a while now. He ran his fingers across the page and to his amazement even the sketch even felt textured. It was of a Day of the Dead skull adorned with flowers but it was so thought out it didn't feel typical at all.
"I want to know whose work this is" Roman said, "it's amazing"
Sheba froze when she realized that he was that it her sketchbook he was looking at and it was her designs he was raving about
"That's my sketchbook Sir" Sheba said awkwardly as if he was going to take it from her so she wasn't sure why she said it like that.
Roman was surprised to see the young black female step forward. She did this? He didn't have a racist bone in his body however he never met a black female tattoo artist before. One thing he did know though he found his artist.
"This is brilliant"
"Thank you sir" Sheba replied she didn't know why she was being so bashful she just met the man.
"Roman" he introduced himself "Roman Volkov and you are?"
"Bathsheba Nightingale" she said quickly regretting say her mouthful of a full name "everybody calls me Sheba though"
"Nightingale huh?" he said giving her a smile "like the little bird?"
"Yes" Sheba said, "I guess you could say that"
Roman thought that was amusing since his last name was the Russian word for wolf. The big bad wolf seeking the talents of the little meek bird. Strange. Yet interesting.
"Well Miss Nightingale I would like to hire you to do my tattoo"
"Oh" Sheba said taken by that "well I don't know Mr. Volkov I've never done a full body tattoo before"
"You seem to have the skill to do so"
Sheba felt her face feet up and she knew that she was blushing. This client was really throwing her for a loop. Sheba had plenty of male clients in the past if not the same amount of female clients but Roman was really intriguing to her.
"My co-worker Wendy" Sheba tried to convince him "has done plenty of full body tattoos before did you see her sketchbook?"
Sheba quickly went to the coffee table to where they kept all of their sketchbooks for the clients to flip through but Roman took a hold of her hand.
"Miss Nightingale I was serious" he said sincerely "I want you to do my tattoo"
"Well you two can certainly go into more discussion about this in Sheba's studio space" Ming said teasing Sheba a little. In fact she, Wendy, and Holly were excited for Sheba because like she said usually a request like that would have been done by one of them.
"I would love to see your studio" Roman said, "I want to see where the magic happens"
"Well here it is" Sheba said, "it's not much but it's comfortable"
"I'll say" Roman replied closing the door behind him making the studio even cozier. The walls were dark red and black and pinned to those walls were more of Sheba's sketches, some drawings she did in high school, even some oil and watercolor paintings too.
"You paint too?" Roman asked impressed
"In my spare time yes" Sheba said getting her notebook ready to take some notes down about what kind of tattoo Roman wanted. At this point she supposed she didn't really have a choice but to do this since Roman seemed pretty persistent.
"Namesake painting?" Roman asked admiring the only framed painting in the room.
It was of Bathsheba bathing from the biblical story in 2 Samuel with David watching and admiring her from afar. A very private and intimate setting and one of the most sexual parts of the Bible aside from Song of Solomon.
"Yeah" Sheba said, "I do like my name I just wish that it wasn't associated with the woman who caused King David to stumble it even got her husband killed"
"A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman," Roman said simply "David was only human and couldn't resist no sin in that"
"I guess" Sheba replied getting a strange feeling that he wasn't just talking about the biblical Bathsheba anymore and quickly went back to the matter at hand.
"So what are you thinking of getting a tattoo of?"
Roman sat down across from her and said simply "Something aesthetically pleasing to the eye just like your other tattoo designs"
"Thanks" Sheba said "but could you be more specific? This is going on your body after all I want to make sure you have a design in mind"
"I need a design done that I believe only you have the talent to come up with Miss Nightingale" he said as he pulled out two glossy photos from a brown envelop he had been carrying.
Sheba felt her heart skip when Roman pushed the photos and they were pretty graphic. The photos showed Roman's back, chest, torso, and shoulder blades were all scarred up and some skin tissue tearing.
Even though in the photos the scars looked healed up Sheba could tell that when Roman had gone through this horrific incident it caused much pain.
"Mr. Volkov...I don't know what to say..." Sheba said she just met this man today and he was laying a lot on her did he really trust her this much with a task like this? Sheba never had a client with scarred skin before she didn't want to hurt him.
"I'm okay" Roman reassured "lucky to be alive really this is the injury that ended my military career happened about five or six years ago in Iraq"
"I'm not" he said simply "I've been looking to get past that chapter in my life I don't want to have the memory of that terrible day anymore"
"So you want me to cover them?"
"If you must" Roman said "or try to make the tattoo compliment my body which I have a feeling you can do"
"Mr. Volkov you still haven't told me what exactly you want the tattoo to be"
Roman smiled at her "I want you to decide"
"Mr. Volkov I usually let my clients decide on a design" Sheba said, "it's what they pay me for"
"Well Miss Nightingale I'm paying you to have full range" Roman said "think of my body as your canvas"
"I'd rather him think of my body as his canvas" Holly said "a canvas that he could do whatever he wanted with it"
The ladies chuckled as they were getting ready to close for the day and were cleaning up. They also closed early on Sunday and Roman Volkov had been their only client for the day so of course they were still raving about him.
"Of course you would" Wendy said, "he probably knew that which is why he chose Sheba instead"
"I don't know" Sheba said uncertainly "he probably should have picked one of you guys you all know that I've never did a full body tattoo"
"We also know that you still have your V-card too" Ming chuckled "so you've got two birds to kill with one stone"
"I'm just giving him his tattoo" Sheba said "that's all I'm keeping this professional"
"Like I said he's probably curved like a banana" Holly pointed out again "damn I'd kill to be a virgin again if I knew I'd be giving it to him you better hop on that Sheba"
"Alright girls let's stop teasing Sheba" Wendy said.
When Ming and Holly left for the afternoon it was just Sheba and Wendy left
"Yeah I'm fine" Sheba said "I know they were just teasing but I don't know if I can do this and I feel like it's distracting me from Pop he needs me right now"
"Sheba I'm pretty sure your father still wants to you to live your life too"
"Besides I think you're ready for this" Wendy added "okay okay maybe not the virgin part if you're not ready for that but this tattoo could be great for your portfolio and certainly have enough skill for it"
"Yeah but I've never been given full range before" Sheba said "I've got my work cut out for me with this one"
The average full body tattoo took about twenty hours to complete maybe even longer considering the inking, shading and application to color. It would be a lot of time spent with Roman Volkov in her very modest studio.