Tattooed Angel

by Sue Simpson
Illustration by Deathfish

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Tattooed AngelHelen had been looking forward to the meal for ages. It was all arranged that she would drive into Barrow and leave her battered little Nissan Cherry at Jeff's house. She would stay the night there and drive back the following morning in time to get ready for work. Normally they didn't stay at each other's houses mid-week, but this was an extra special occasion. They had been seeing each other for one year, and she was pretty sure that Jeff was going to ask her to marry him.

The night was everything she had hoped it would be. There had been candles and champagne, good food and sparkly tears to accompany a diamond ring. They had gone back to the house that would soon belong to both of them when she put hers on the market and they made love long into the night.

The next morning she was tired and didn't want to go to work. The champagne, although she hadn't drunk very much, had left its mark with a slight headache and Jeff looked far to good to leave as he lay tousled and grinning on the soft pillows.

He made them coffee and toast while she showered, and then as an after thought he decide to drive to her house with her as she'd asked him to look at some faulty wiring and he had the morning off that day. "No time like the present," he had joked, "if we want to get a quick sale on the house then we need to make sure it's in good working order." They argued over who was going to drive and it was decided that Helen would, because she usually managed to get her own way.

They were both laughing when she hit the little girl. All she saw was a pair of long honey blonde plaits flying through the air. She felt the way the child's body displaced the air beneath the tires and she heard screaming. She didn't know it was her own. She turned to Jeff and it looked as though he was still laughing with his head resting on the white bonnet surrounded by a shattered glass halo. He had stained the bonnet a gaudy red. She actually let the thought pass through her mind that she didn't like the colour, and would have preferred the car to be left white.

At the inquest it was said that she had been drunk driving. She'd only had three glasses of champagne the night before. They said she was only slightly over the limit, but that was just semantics. It didn't really make much difference how much over she had been. Those three glasses of expensive wine had taken her future husband and the life of the little girl.

~*~

She stood with her hand resting gently on the plinth of the white marble angel. A lone tear meandered down the smooth alabaster texture of her skin. The grave was well tended with fresh flowers and teddies placed with love all over its surface. The inscription read, "To our beautiful little angel. Gone but never forgotten."

Afterwards the one who had mowed Jenny down killed herself. It was said that she couldn't cope with the feelings of guilt over the death of her fiancé and the little girl. Jenny's family had celebrated when they heard the news. They sang and laughed and drank long into the night. Ironically they drove to work the next morning, but grace and God never entered their minds. They weren't bad people, just broken into little pieces by the loss of their only child. Grief had clouded their judgement and had taken their ability to forgive.

The town had been up in arms about her being buried in the same cemetery as Jenny. The two families fought bitterly, and eventually ended up in a fierce court battle to prevent the body of Helen Mason being buried at St Mary's church. It was said in court that the churchyard was there for the use of any person in any circumstance and that to prohibit the burial of Helen Mason would amount to a witch hunt. Permission was granted nine months after her death for Helen's body to be buried two rows down and seven plots across from Little Jenny Taylor.

She wiped at her tears as she leaned on the white angel erected in the memory of Jennifer, and then she moved slowly across to the tattooed angel.

The other angel was pretty much the same as the one over Jenny's grave. Same serene features chiselled with care out of cool white marble. She came to rest beside it.

The little girl was there now, standing by her angel and waving. Her long honey blonde plaits swayed with the movement of her arm. She skipped along to the end of the row where the perimeter wall stopped the path and then she turned once more and waved, she was smiling. She was always smiling. It seemed she was the only one who bore Helen no malice. Slowly she faded as she went once more to where little girl's souls belong.

Helen gave one last look at her tattooed angel before she too went on her way. The final resting-place was terribly overgrown. Her family had kept it so nice for a little while bringing fresh flowers daily that always ended up daubed with cans of paint or trampled under foot. Her parents were elderly and had never done anyone a day's harm in their lives, yet they were the victims of persecution and spite. They had long since sold the house and moved away.

The angel smiled down on her, its wings spread in a posture of grace and serenity. But the tattoo that ran all the way across the angel's body in black spray paint screamed.

"CHILD KILLER."

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