My friends giggle as I lay back in the chair. I can’t quiet smile, even though I want to look like this is totally ok with me. The ceiling tiles are peeling in sections and I wonder whether any of it has ever fallen on someone before.
The man comes around to the side of the chair and looks at me over his moustache and beard.
I nod and bite my lip, not trusting myself to say anything right now. I want to back out. I hated the idea to start with. But then I remind myself why I agreed to do it. I need attention from some of the guys at school. Well, one of them anyway. And the social dance is tomorrow. It’s my chance to wear a midriff.
The man pulls on a pair of gloves and picks up a pair of long scissor type things.
I take a deep breath and look back up at the flaking ceiling, begging myself to be brave and hold still.
I flinch when the alcohol wipe touches my belly.
Then his fingers start pulling at the skin and he starts working with the tool. My breath comes in sharp pulls as I hold the straps of my bra, determined not to pull out now that he has started. After a minute, he pauses to pick up the silver piece with the sapphire. I wanted to look like a gypsy princess when I picked it out. As he holds it, the sapphire catches the light and I look at it again before it goes into my belly button.
He pushes the bar through the small hole he made and I know there is a small tear running down my face. Thank God it’s on the side away from my friends. They are still standing there, giggling away like I’m just buying a chocolate bar. Don’t they know this is permanent?
After another tug on my skin, the piercing is complete and my belly button has a bright blue jewel sitting in it.
I look down and then relax back, relieved that it’s over.
As I dress for the dance, I pull out the white halter neck I had set aside. It’s an old one that was too short so I trimmed the bottom and decided to embrace its new length and call it a midriff. I stand in front of my mirror, staring at my reflection. White halter, denim shorts and ballet flats. It’s a lot of skin, but that was the point. I flick my new belly button ring and watch the sparkles catch the light.
Then I look up and notice my Dad standing in the doorway. By his expression, I know he’s seen the belly ring I was going to hide from him.
He turns around, ready to walk away from me. But I need the confrontation. I need him to get angry at me and tell me how disappointed he is. I need to know he cares.
‘Dad, wait,’ I don’t know what to say after that so I just look at him.
His heads bows as his hand rises. I know what he is doing. He always rubs his eyes when he doesn’t know what to do.
‘I’m sorry, I really wanted it. It’s not like I got a tattoo.’
I want so much for him to care about me. But he’s always thought I was a lost cause. I guess I’m just proving his point.
‘Turn around, please.’