Chapter 20

“Sit down, baby. Tell me what’s wrong,” my ma said, pulling out a chair for me.

She really was sweet and I felt shitty to throw this on her, but I needed her.

“I didn’t know who else to come to, Ma.” Sitting down, I rested my hands in my lap. I stared her straight in the eye as I leaned back and figured out how to break this to her.

“I’m always here for you. You look like shit, Michael.” She reached out and caressed my cheek with a small smile.

I smiled and leaned into her touch as she soothed me. “I don’t even know where to being with this clusterfuck,” I said scrubbing my hands across my face.

“Only because you’re so upset will I let that word slide in this house today.”

“Sorry, Ma.” I shrugged. “Alright, here it is.” I let out a breath before speaking. “About six weeks ago I started seeing this woman, Tammy.”

“Seeing as in dating or…” she looked at me with one eyebrow higher than the other.

I sighed, wishing I could avoid the entire conversation. “We weren’t dating. We hooked up a couple of times.”

“God, I hope you used protection.” She shook her head. “All these horrible diseases out there today.”

“Ma, can I tell you the story or are you going to interrupt me?”

She laughed, patting my hand. “You go ahead, son. Sorry. I’ll sit here and listen.” Resting her head in her hand, she stared at me.

Her facial expressions changed as I told her the story. Her eyes were as big as saucers and her mouth hung open by the time I finished. “Can I ask some questions now?” she asked.

Nodding, I motioned for her to ask.

“So you didn’t ask her to marry you?

“Nope.”

“And she’s not pregnant either?”

“Nope.”

“Are you sure she’s not pregnant?” she asked, tilting her head as she rubbed her chin.

“Fuck if I know, Ma. I wore a condom the couple times we did it. Not one busted and all came from my pocket.”

“You said she’s crazy, how crazy we talkin’ - Cathy Bates Misery crazy or what?”

“She could be Cathy Bates’ daughter.” I laughed.

“Jesus Christ, son. Didn’t we raise you boys right?” She rubbed the back of her neck. She shook her head, leaning back in her chair, and stared at me.

“You did, Ma. Sometimes we just kinda let our other head do the thinking.” I looked down at the table, flicking a crumb near my arm.

“We’re going to have to talk with your father about this. We may need to call George and get a restraining order against her. Maybe you can get a pregnancy test done and if necessary, an ultra sound to determine the date of conception.” Her cheeks puffed out before let the air escape slowly.

“I hoped she would just forget about me and move on. She ruined everything with Mia.”

I was miserable without Mia. I never felt lonely, ever, but I felt the emptiness when she walked away from me, from us, in the hospital a couple days ago. The longest two days of my fucking life.

“Is Mia the doctor from the hospital?”

“Yeah, you know about her?”

“Your siblings can’t keep a secret worth shit, son, except for Joe. He’s like a rock and it makes me nuts.” She laughed, her smile almost kissing her eyes.

“Well, Tammy confronted me when I was with Mia. Mia’s confused and doesn’t know what to believe. She hasn’t returned my phone calls or replied to a text in days, Ma. I have to fix this.”

Her smile fell. “Have to be crafty, son. Out think her. Fight fire with fire.” She paused and scrunched her lips. “Maybe you can get Tammy to go see a doctor and let you come.” She patted my hand. “You can verify the pregnancy or lack thereof and we’ll proceed from there. It would give you tangible proof sooner than waiting for the court system, but if she’s dangerous then you need to stay the hell away from her.”

“I got it, Ma. I can handle her. I’m not worried about her hurting me. She’s already done enough damage. I’ll do it. I’ll call her. I think she’ll go for it if she thinks there’s any chance of us getting back together.”

“It’s playing in dangerous territory, but I leave the decision up to you. Just be careful, Michael.”

I didn’t have a choice.

I had to risk it all to win back Mia.

I needed to show Tammy for who she really is – a liar.

“I don’t need this bullshit right now, Ma. My fight is in a week and I have too much going on to deal with this. I need it to end now.”

“You’ll do it, son. I’ll talk to your dad tonight and he can call George. He’ll get the paperwork ready to put the restraining order into action. You can call him and find out what to do next.”

As I stood from my chair, I bent over and kissed the top of her head. “Thanks, Ma. You always have great advice.” I inhaled the strawberry scent of her shampoo and was instantly brought back to my childhood.

Reaching up, she stroked my cheek as she said, “That’s what I’m here for.”

As I started walking to the door her voice stopped me.

“Michael,” she yelled.

“Yeah, Ma?” I paused, not wanting to miss her parting advice.

“Keep it in your pants, son. Got me?”

“Hear ya loud and clear, Ma.” Shaking my head, I opened the door and left to set the plan in motion.

Searching through my phone contacts, I couldn’t find her number.

Damn it.

Izzy had blocked her. I headed to the shop to find my sweet little sister and see if she’d be willing to help me smash Tammy once and for all.

Leading up to my match, my schedule at the shop had almost been non-existent. I tried to work out and practice as much as possible without having to worry about the day-to-day operations.

Piercings were by special appointment. I only had to go in twice in the last ten days. Joe wouldn’t be back for weeks. That left Anthony and Izzy to deal with running the business and tattooing.

Everything seemed to be in order as I walked through the front door of Inked. The waiting area looked tidy, just as I had left it and the familiar buzz filled the shop. Soft voices came from the tattooing area, Death Metal, Izzy’s choice I’m sure, played quietly so it blended in as background noise.

“Honey, I’m home,” I yelled, walking toward the work area.

“Michael?” Izzy’s voice echoed. “Get your ass back here, man.”

Her face lit up as soon as she saw me. She snapped off her gloves and kissed me on the cheek. “Hasn’t been the same without you here, driving us crazy and keeping our asses organized.” She squeezed me, smashing her face in my chest.

I loved my little sister. Why?

Because of moments like these, but definitely not her mouth.

“Thanks, Izzy. Sometimes you can be sweet… sometimes.”

“Don’t get too used to it,” she said sitting back down, putting on a new pair of gloves.

“Hey, how are ya?” I said to her client whom I’d seen before but couldn’t remember his name.

“Trying to survive your sister here. She’s not as smooth as Joe with the needle.” He winced, closing one eye.

“No one’s as smooth as he is. He’ll be back soon, though. You should’ve waited.”

“I can hear you both,” she said as she rubbed salve into his skin. “I can do this dry if you’d prefer.” She snickered.

“No, no,” he replied. “Please, you’re doing beautiful work.”

I laughed and turned my attention toward Anthony. “How you holding up being here with her by yourself, Anth?”

He smiled as he leaned back in his chair and stretc


hed. “She’s been pretty good without you and Joe here.” His bones cracked and he sighed.

I could never tattoo and sit in the same crippling position for hours. I didn’t have the patience to deal with customers for extended periods of time and I certainly couldn’t handle working on the same design for six hours like they sometimes did.

Piercing was quick with little time for chatting.

“They’re the ones that make me the way I am,” she shrugged, talking to the man in her chair. “Anthony is my partner in crime. Isn’t that right, Anth?” She laughed.

“Oh, how I know that shit. You two give me a headache most days,” I said, shaking my head.

“You speak the truth, Izzy.” Anthony laughed as he worked on the design. “What brings you by to visit us working people?” Anthony asked as he shaded in a rose.

I cringed because I knew her ass would be so ecstatic to hear the words. “Well, I need Izzy.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “What? Are you feeling okay?” She asked as she looked up.

I rolled my eyes, sitting down in Joe’s chair. “Yes, I need you to unblock that number you got rid of for me the other day.”

“That girl with the damn scrapbook?” Her eyebrows drew together and a small crease formed between them.

“Yes, Tammy. I need you to unblock her number.”

She sat back, tilting her head and leveled me with her stare. “Why in the fuck would I do that?”

“Please, I just need you to. For me, Izzy, please,” I said, pulling the phone

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