Encouraged by Hector’s apparent change of heart — and in spite of any reservations concerning Martin Luther’s message– February continued to see, and share her bed, with Hector while juggling her toddler and her career. In the meantime, Hector himself never offered any clarification as to his relationship — or lack thereof — with Kurt.
Time passed. Both Martin Luther and February remained in something of a state of stasis; only March seemed to grow at all.
Martin Luther continued to climb the stylist ladder and see Tam from time to time, but he was beginning to feel like the relationship he’d had with his high school sweetheart had staled. Although they had been together for years, Martin Luther felt as though he barely knew his own boyfriend. Their relationship seemed more physical than anything else, and Martin Luther was starting to wonder if he wanted something more. February, on the other hand, remained completely enamored — and entirely unwilling to commit — to Hector. Eventually, it became clear that Hector had begun seeing a gentleman named Jamal, but he continued to visit the Callender household regularly. His relationship with February remained steamy, although he had a harder time bonding with March. In what seemed like mere days, March grew from a giggly little baby that loved nothing more than finger painting into a moody, occasionally even petulant, little girl. If Hector had taken his time trying to get to know his daughter as an infant and toddler, he appeared to flat out avoid March as a child altogether, a fact that didn’t go entirely unnoticed by February.
“You know, Hector,” February began one day as the pair strolled idly about downtown one evening. “You really ought to spend more time with March. I know she knows you’re her father, but I think it’s hard on her to see how much all the other dads in her school interact with their kids while you barely seem able to spare her a word every now and then.” Hector was quiet for so long that February was afraid she’d made him angry. She was just beginning an apology when finally Hector sighed.
“I know. You’re so right. I love her. I do. But I just don’t know what to do with her. She’s so different from the way she was as a baby. Back then, it was easy to make her laugh…now any little thing seems to set her off.” February nodded silently, reflecting on the massive meltdown March had had just that morning after February had casually remarked that her pink striped shirt clashed just a bit with her aqua plaid shorts. “Yeah,” February agreed ruefully, “she has become quite a handful in that way.”
“Well…” Hector began hesitantly, “I think it might help if I spent more time with her…”
“That’s a great idea!” February broke in excitedly, “Maybe you can come over more often, or even have her at your place from time to time!”
“Actually…well, actually I was thinking more along the lines of perhaps having the three of us live together. You know, like a family.” February froze, her heart lodged in her throat. Hector stopped as well, grazing February’s cheek gently with the tips of his fingers. “My house has always been a bit lonely since Mom died,” he continued softly, “You girls would be more than welcome there with me.” February felt certain she was having a panic attack; her pulse was racing madly in her throat, and a fine sheet of sweat had coated her brow in spite of the relative coolness of the evening. She knew that she should be thrilled by Hector’s proposal, but the idea of leaving her house to move in with him terrified her. Reluctant to reject Hector’s offer outright, February cast her eyes about desperately for a source of distraction; they landed on Martin Luther’s salon just across the street.
“Hey!” she gasped eagerly, “Look! There’s the salon…you think my brother’s still at work?”
“Uh…I don’t know…why would it matter…?” Hector stammered, confused by the sudden change in subject.
“Oh! Well, I was thinking, having March was such a…novel…experience that I might want to commemorate it…like with a tattoo!” February explained, beaming exuberantly. Actually, the idea of getting a tattoo hadn’t ever crossed February’s mind, but if the acquisition of one would take Hector’s mind off of moving in together, she was more than willing to subject herself to a little ink.
“A tattoo?” Hector repeated dubiously. “You’ve never mentioned getting a tattoo before…”
“I know,” February said, dragging Hector into the salon. “But I really want one.”
“Well, it kind of looks like they’re closed now. Maybe we should come back later,” Hector suggested, surveying the dimly lit, deserted space. “Why don’t we go back to my place for tonight? Maybe we can talk about converting an area into an office space so that you can work on your writing — ”
“Oh look!” February interrupted, brandishing an intimidating-looking apparatus, “Here’s the tattoo gun! Hey! I have a great idea…why don’t YOU give me a tattoo?”
“Uhm. What?” Hector stared in disbelief as February thrust the tool into his hand and settled herself into the tattoo chair. “February…you’ve got to be joking. I am certainly not qualified to give anyone a tattoo.”
“Oh, Hector, it’s easy! Martin Luther showed me how to do it, you just push that pedal there, and try to keep your hand steady. They’ve even got stencils and stuff ready; I’ve already drawn on what I want…you just follow the lines.” Hector edged forward uncertainly, incredulous that he was even considering such a foolhardy project. February, already stripped down to the bathing suit she’d been wearing underneath her street clothes, eyed Hector warily as the first inklings of doubt began to invade her nerves.
Hector raised his eyes to meet her’s. “February…are you really certain you want to go through with this?” February gazed unsteadily at the tattoo gun, noting uneasily how the dim light glinted off of the sharp edge of the needle. Hector was right. How could she possibly think that allowing an untrained individual to put a permanent mark on her body was a GOOD thing?
On the other hand…she’d already come this far; she would just seem neurotic if she backed out now. Besides, getting tattooed by the father of her child was sort of romantic, she supposed…
“Of course I’m sure,” February said out loud. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Tetanus. Permanent scarring. Possibly an infection that leads to loss of limb,” thought Hector to himself as he studied the simple dolphin design that February had inscribed on her arm. Nevertheless, he would do it, he knew, no matter how foolish the enterprise proved to be. February seemed to have that sort of effect on him; she always seemed to break through his stodgy shell and get him to really live life instead of merely existing from day to day.
“Okay then,” Hector gulped, steadying his hand. “On the count of three….one….two….” February squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away.
A few seconds later, she heard the ominous buzzing of the tattoo gun, shortly followed by a sharp prickling, burning sensation in her upper arm. Gritting her teeth, February clenched her fists in her lap and tried hard not to squirm.
Although uncomfortable, the feel of the needles wasn’t nearly as unbearable as February had feared; however, she couldn’t summon the nerve to actually look at Hector’s work until he was preparing to add color to the completed outline.
“You all right?” Hector asked, his forehead beaded with perspiration.
“Sure,” February responded gamely, inspecting the reddened flesh of her arm. Though noticeably swollen, the area just below her shoulder now clearly bore the image of a dolphin. She smiled thinly and turned away again as Hector began filling in the shape. In what seemed like no time at all, Hector was turning the machine off and carefully wiping away the excess ink and gore that coated February’s skin.
“Okay,” Hector murmured shakily, “That seems to just about do it. I think we should get you straight home so that Martin Luther can instruct you on how to care for it so as to prevent infection.”
“Okay,” February agreed, admiring her new body art in the shop’s mirror. To her’s — and Hector’s — relief, Hector had done a very good job; the average observer would never be able to tell that the tattoo was the first work of a complete amateur. From the doorway, Hector watched February, marvelling at how quickly she balked at the mention of any sort of commitment, yet would accept a permanent mark on her body from him without question.
“Shall we?” he invited, gallantly opening the door. Linking arms, the couple left the shop and turned towards home.