Chapter 1 (February 8th, 2011)

Today I got my tattoo.

Raju came with me to the parlour; I didn't let him stick around for the actual process.

There are two tattoos on my skin now. One is a thing of beauty on my ankle. It smiles. It protects me.

The other is the scar between my shoulder blades. Raju told me to get skin reconstruction done, if it bothered me so much, but it doesn't. The scar doesn't bother me at all.

The story behind it does.

The old man who did my tattoo smiled toothily at me. One incisor and one premolar were missing from his complement, and the rest were stained a familiar orange by the tobacco he chewed. Not the most sanitary of places, but it is the best, said Raju.

I was overwhelmed. "Shukriya," I told him in Hindi. Then I said it again in Bengali, because after all, this is Calcutta. "Dhonnobad." And then, because I couldn't fully express my gratitude with my limited Indian language skills, I reverted back to English. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

Repeated it over and over until I felt his hand on my forehead as I bent to touch his feet in respect. "You are welcome, child," he said in Bengali.

He touched my cheek with fingers calloused from working the tattoo machine for decades. Then he pointed at the door in a clear dismissal.

I was not offended. On the very first day, he had told me that he only ever did one tattoo for a person. No exceptions.

Raju said I look better. The word he used was 'healed'.

A/N: First chapter story on here - got a bunch of chapters written already so updates will be quick!

NO COMPLAINTS about chapter lengths, please, they WILL BE SHORT.

Pay attention to the dates at the beginning of chapters, else you'll get confused.