Steel grates against steel, as a gate slowly rolls open in the distance. The chilling sound causing a hollow pit to form in my stomach.
Is it him?
The gate slams shut, with a loud, unnerving clang. I jump a little, though I try not to. After all this time, I still can't tune out the jarring, metallic sounds of this uninviting place I now call home.
I hear footsteps approaching, two guards, judging by the hard soles on the squeaky laminate, and someone else. An inmate. Soft rubber soles for him. Quiet steps. Dangerous steps. The kind of steps you don't hear until he's right behind you. Until it's too late.
My heart lurches.
I glance around the cell quickly, making sure nothing is out of place. I grab my cigarettes and shove them under my pillow, out of sight.
The cell gate swings open, the guards push him in roughly. Slamming the gate shut, as he turns around, putting his cuffed wrists back, so one of the guards can unlock his handcuffs.
"Try to behave, Rodriguez," says one of the guards, sounding a little bored, "or next time, you'll be in the hole for a week."
"You're wasting your time," says the other guard, with a disparaging look, "this one doesn't know how to behave."
"Fuck you," says Rodriguez, his head low, eyes menacing, "you think you can break me..."
The guards turn, and head off without letting him finish. They're probably happy. Probably content that most of their work has been done for the day. It's nearly lights out.
"What the fuck are you looking at?" Rodriguez asks, looking down at me, as I sit on the bottom bunk.
"I, uh, I wasn't looking at you..." I stammer.
He stares me down, but I hold eye contact for a second, just long enough to assess his mood.
His deep-set eyes are dark and angry. His heavy brow, set. His face is covered in stubble from his recent trip to the hole.
If ever there's a man who got the face he deserved, I think, it's him.
A broad nose that's been broken too many times, causing it to flatten and to veer ever so slightly to one side. Dark hair and black eyes that seem to loudly and distinctly, announce to anyone unfortunate enough to look into them, "I cannot be controlled."
"I, um, I'm glad you made it out of the hole." I say, noting that my voice sounds a little flimsy and high-pitched.
He gives me a look.
"What did you hide under your pillow?"
"I, uh, it's nothing." I stutter, a little surprised that he saw me.
He takes two steps toward me. He's close now, up in my face. I can feel his hot breath as he growls, "I said, what the fuck is under your pillow?"
"It's just cigarettes." I say, my heart sinking a little.
"I thought you didn't have any money on your commissary account?" He says, making no mention of the fact that his flagrant abuse of my account is the very reason I ran out of money.
"My mother topped it up for me." I say quietly.
"Hmm," he says thoughtfully, "must be nice to have a momma who cares."
He eyes me up and down and I can tell by the way he looks at me, that he doesn't mean it as a compliment. Not even close.
He sniffs loudly.
"Hand them over." He commands, there's no doubt in his voice that I'll comply.
"No," I say, trying a new tactic. Everyone in here is terrified of him, and that includes most of the guards. Maybe it's time for someone to stand up to him. Maybe that's what he needs. Maybe that will help. Still, my insides quiver and I'm glad that I'm sitting down as I speak.
A slow, broad smiles spreads across his face. I can't help noticing that his dark eyes are just as black as before.
"What did you just say?" he says, with a small, disbelieving laugh.
"My mom sent the money for me." I say, unable to help noting again, how tinny my voice sounds. I take a deep breath, and lower my chin, trying to use my deep voice. "She wants me to have it."
He looks at me in utter disbelief. He laughs again, so amused at my idiocy, that this time, the smile damned nearly does reach his eyes.
"Well, well," he drawls, "looks like we've got ourselves a bona fide momma's boy here."
He leans back against the wall, eyeing me. "Is that what you are? Huh? A momma's boy?"
"No!" I say quickly, a little indignantly. In truth, if we're being completely honest, then yes, technically, I do fit the description quite aptly.
He chuckles a little before taking a few more steps, to the small metal sink in the corner. He splashes his face and cleans his teeth. He takes his time and is more thorough and careful than you might expect. He spits loudly and rinses the sink out. I can't help thinking that somehow, somewhere, probably a long, long time ago, someone did try to teach him how to behave.
He pats his face dry, with my towel, as a guard yells, "Light's out."
A few seconds later, with a dull 'doof', the lights are simultaneously switched off. It's dark in the cell now. The absence of the flickering, blue fluorescent light sends a terrible sense of foreboding through me. I lie down quickly, pulling the heavy, course blanket over me, right up to my chin. Hoping against hope that he's lost interest in the cigarettes hidden under my pillow.
Please, I think, let him be tired.
He paces up and down the length of the cell a few times, leaning his arms on the bars, as the others call out to him.
"You back, Rodriquez?" asks a guy from next door.
He calls in response, "Hell yeah, I'm baaaack."
Hoots and howls fill the halls.
They make small talk for a while, as I curl up on my side, closing my eyes. I try not to think of where I am, or who I'm with. Try not to think of how long I'll be here. Try not to think of home either. Or of my mom. Or of the look on her face when I was arrested.
Things came too easily for me before. I see that now. Before, I didn't appreciate what I had. Growing up, my mom was amazing. A single mom, working two jobs to make sure that I had everything I needed. But it was never enough for me. Whatever she gave me, I wanted more. I'm ashamed when I think of who I was before.
By the time I was sixteen, I'd stopped asking my mom for more, and had worked out a way to get things for myself. It started small, just selling a bit of weed, now and again, but before long, it grew. I liked having money a little too much. Even though I had plenty, I still wanted more. By the time I got to college, things started spiraling. I was selling harder stuff now, to more people and not always to people I knew.
I thought I was invincible. It's true. Looking back now, I can hardly believe how damned stupid I was. I didn't even feel things closing in. I just casually went about my business without a care in the world, until that night it all came crashing down.
The sound at the door. The cops rushing in. The look of horror and shock on my mother's face, followed by something even worse. The slow look of acceptance. She may not have known before, but the second they barged through the door, she pieced it together, and she knew. She knew.
That still didn't stop her. Didn't even give her pause. She just took another job, forgoing sleep almost completely to help me pay for the best defense we could afford. And what did it help? What good did it do? Now she's up to her eyeballs in debt, and I'm in here, with my tight ass and my neat face, 'too pretty for prison' as I've always been told.
What a fucking idiot I've been.
Gradually, it grows quiet. He's on the floor, doing push-ups, as is his custom, as men fall asleep around us. I try to still my mind and stop my self-loathing, relaxing a little, my breath coming easier, until he gets up.
"Vega," he whispers, nudging my side, "give me those fucking cigarettes."
Perhaps it's because I'm so tired, so worn down, or maybe it's because I've already taken as much as I can, but either way, I say, "No." This time, my voice is my own. Firm.
I can't see him clearly, but when he speaks, I can tell he's close. So close, a terrible chill goes through me.
"Did you just tell me what I can't have?" His voice is dripping with menace.
I realize my mistake immediately and back down at once, "Fine," I say grabbing the cigarettes and handing them to him quickly.
He takes the box from me and throws it down on the floor. My stomach contracts.
"By now, you should know, Vega," he snarls ominously, "there's not a single thing in this mother-fucking cell I can't have."
My heart is pounding so hard I can feel it in my face. I swallow hard and try not to breathe.
"Maybe you need a little reminder." He whispers, his voice so quiet, it almost sounds soft, as he grabs my arm and pulls me out of the bed. I struggle a little, but I'm no match for him. Not even close. He's as tall as me, but where I'm slight, he's everything but. Hard muscle from a hard life. Freakishly strong. The kind of strength usually associated with madness. My feet barely touch the ground, as he drags me to the wall at the back of the cell.
He pushes me roughly over the sink, pinning my arms behind me before I have time to struggle. He holds both my wrists in one massive hand, as he uses the other to yank down my pants.
Panic takes hold. Blind panic. I can't see straight, and not because of the dark. My breath is coming in great, wracking gasps, as I feel the cool night air on my bare ass.
"Please," I beg, "don't."
He pushes me forward, so the side of my face is pressed up against the small mirror above the sink.
"If you move, I'll make it worse." He promises, as he lets go of my wrists.
My arms fall to my sides, but I don't struggle, as a horrifying, frozen compliance takes over my body. He reaches down and pushes my pants down further, down each leg, so they're tightly bunched round each ankle. He strokes his hand up and down my inner thigh, before taking one ankle and pushing it out. Spreading my legs as wide as he can, with me still tangled in my pants.
I try to slow my breathing as he lifts my t-shirt, not taking it off, but raising it, so my back and my belly are exposed, making me feel even more naked. My legs quiver slightly, as he reaches down and takes one of my hands in each of his and places them, almost gently, on the sides of the sink.
"Brace yourself." He whispers. Though I couldn't possibly hate myself more, I do.
In his defense, he does use some sort of lotion or lube. I hear the click of a cap and the squelch of something disgusting as he makes himself slick.
"No," I whisper again, though I'm fully aware of the futility of it, "Please don't."
He murmurs something unintelligible in my ear, something that sounds a little like pleasure.
"No!" I say again, stronger this time, through gritted teeth. He takes this to mean quite the opposite, as he shoves a thick finger inside me. I lurch forward, though I don't have anywhere to go, things being what they are, I'm pretty securely pinned, right where he wants me. I clamp my lips together so tightly, I know they'll feel tender and bruised in the morning.
He opens me roughly, but I don't complain. He's told me plenty of times that if I squeal about this, he'll skip it next time. In seconds it's over. That's all the prep that I'll get. My breathing is erratic and I do what I can to slow it, though I'm not sure why I bother. I know, in a few moments, I'll be panting.
He spreads my cheeks crudely as he starts pressing himself into me.
"Please," I say, desperately, "No." The last word sounds like it's snatched from my throat, long and drawn out, as he penetrates me roughly, at the precise second the sound leaves my lips. Despite my best efforts, the word turns into a small strangled cry.
I can't avoid making that horrible sound. I never can.
He reaches around and grabs me in his hand, stroking roughly, as I try not to moan. I don't know if it makes it better, or worse, when he touches me like this. He keeps thrusting, a little bit back and then a little deeper each time, until he's in. Intruding. Invading. I can feel his body pressed up against me, as my body starts to rebel, desperately trying to expel him. This only serves to inflame him, so I try not to struggle and I keep my mouth shut, as he starts systematically turning me out.
His thrusts grow longer and deeper. Harder. I close my eyes tightly and try to think of something else. Anything else. My mind lands on my first day here, that first dinner, sitting at that long, metal table, telling the guy next to me who my cell mate was, the strange look on his face, as he said, "Rodriguez? Jeez, you're lucky. He'll keep you safe."
I don't feel lucky now.
He continues his assault. As each thrust grows harder, I'm less and less able to stop myself from crying out. He withdraws completely. I'm weak with relief. I have my body back to myself. My relief is short lived, as its only for a second, as he quickly thrusts all the way back in. This time, I lose the battle and let out a long, anguished cry.
A loud jeer echoes down the corridor.
"Get it, Rodriguez!" Somebody yells, followed by hollow whoops of laughter and sniggering.
Shame floods my body. Blood rises in my face, I feel hot and humiliated, but I can't stop a terrible, low groan from escaping as he starts to pound me. Sickening, slapping sounds, echoing through the cell as he slams into me repeatedly.
He takes my hand and pushes it forward. I know what he wants. I hate to give it to him, but I know it's worse when I don't. I reach down and take my dick in my hand, vaguely disturbed by the fact it's so hard. I stroke myself slowly, but it doesn't take much.
I come quickly and hard. Grunting my release for everyone to hear. He follows suite, discharging a massive three-day load deep in my ass.
He pulls out, leaving me wincing and limping to my bunk on unsteady, shaky legs. I climb in and pull my blanket up. A little shocked. A little stunned, as I try to steady my breath.
He washes up, and walks over. I hear his footsteps padding quietly toward me. He climbs into the bottom bunk with me, wrapping his arm around me, bending his knees, nestling them up against the curve of my body. His face so close to mine, his lips are almost touching the back of my neck.
A strange, terrible peace washes over me.
"Will you protect me?" I whisper, my voice soft and almost dreamy.
"Yes," he murmurs, "but only if you promise to keep saying, 'No' so sweetly." His voice is so deep, I feel it reverberating right through me.
A small smile creeps across my face, "I will," I say quietly, "I swear it." I turn my head to face him, seeing the dim outline of his rugged profile, "But only if you hurt me like that."
"Hmm." He sighs happily, resting his head close to mine. Lifting my t-shirt up my back, lifting his too and pulling my body closer, so the flesh of his belly presses against my back, his skin warming me, making me sigh.
"Sleep," he whispers, so quietly, no-one but us can hear, "you are safe."
I close my eyes and let sleep find me, knowing with every cell in my body, I am.