Cement walls make for poor companions. The days bled together like a load of whites with a single red sock. There were no windows to delineate night from day, sunrise from sunset. It was all the same washed out pink.
Sleep was a way to keep track of time at first, but when her sleeping patterns slipped, so did her grasp on things.
She turned to cigarettes as timekeepers, laying one down on the floor. Filter up for daytime, filter down for night. The temptation had been too much to handle though, although she'd genuinely tried to hold out. Old habits died hard. She lasted four cigarette flips before lighting up into a hazy abyss. Time muddled all over again.
Most days, she found it hard to care about anything. Time was meaningless when you had a life sentence. At other times, she cussed out the walls and the door and her bed alike. It was acceptable to scream in here. No one judged her (to her face), and in fact, her shrink encouraged it. Something about transferring her anger in a harmless way.
There was nothing else to do anyway. She’d tried all of the “hobbies” this cell had to offer (you couldn't say prison didn't offer extra-curriculars).
Counted the cracks in the ceiling.
Paced every square inch of the floor.
Screamed until her voice was a chalky imitation of itself.
For a while, she even tried making snow angels out of the dusty floors. That had gone poorly.
If a prisoner loses their mind in prison, does anyone care?
Love at First Sight #P140-3
Her one respite from the monotony and greyness of her world was him.
Since arriving at this veritable hell on earth and losing custody of her daughter, he had been the one good thing in her life. Tracing a heart with her thumb on the bedspread, she replayed the moment they’d met.
It had been nearly a year ago. She was being booked. He was politely remote and official, processing her paperwork. His uniform had been crisp and tucked in, highlighting her dishevelled clothes, her messy hair. She’d instinctively brushed wine red curls out of her face, stood a little taller.
She’d thought to herself he was too good looking to work here, and immediately wished she could take back the thought. It wasn’t helpful. Wasn’t relevant.
Tall, dark and handsome didn’t mean shit when it came to personality. She'd learned that from experience. And if he was a prison guard, there had to be something wrong with him. Who chose to work in a place full of murderers and crooks, powder keg people? Someone insane. It was better to stay away from those kinds of people.
But love does not listen. Love is not rational. She fell anyway.
The clatter of the key in the lock broke her out of her reverie, and she stood, smoothing the wrinkles out of her pants. She took the tray, her fingertips brushing his in the process.
She told herself there was no buzz of electricity.
Told herself that her heart was only beating faster because she was excited to see someone. Anyone would do. It hardly mattered that it was him.
She set the tray down heavily.
The best part of isolation was getting to see him. But he always left.
No More Drama #P140-7
He wasn’t capable of love when they met. His heart was too bruised, too raw.
She may have been a dying forest fire with her sultry red hair and her intense eyes, but he had been burned too many times.
He wasn't interested in girls with tornado names and incendiary temperaments.
She was barely a blip on his radar.
Heart's Desire #PPG1183-7
In those first few months, she showed him she loved him in a hundred small ways.
She’d touch his arm when he was upset.
Smile at him even when the days seemed too long to bear.
Listen to him. I mean really listen to him, not just pantomiming the gesture so that she could have something to say back.
A blind man would have been able to tell how much she loved him.
Heart Breaker #P120-4
He couldn’t see her smiles, he brushed off her touch.
Love Poem #M120-6
She sent signals.
Bit her lip when he talked.
She might as well have sent smoke signals to an empty sky.
He missed them. All of them.
And so it went, until she fell out of love. It had been too long, she had tried too hard.
She licked her wounds like a house cat, and curled up without a backwards glance.
She feigned indifference in him until it wasn’t an act.
It just was.
Maybe she didn’t love him anymore.
Maybe she had never loved him at all.
It still couldn’t stop the smile from spreading over her face when she saw the happy face he'd traced into her mashed potatoes. He cared enough to do this for her.
It had been so long since someone had cared.
The potatoes, however cheerful, stuck like glue in her mouth. She forced them down anyway. She didn't plan on wasting away in this cell.
Since landing on the inside, her baby fat and muffin top had been melted away into lean muscle, sinewy and taut. Her prison diet and personal exercise regimen had done more for her fitness than a string of overpaid trainers had ever done. Fear of getting jumped: better than steroids.
She did pushups after her meal. She might not have a Spotify playlist to exercise to, but she had the babbling screams of the lunatic next door.
If she tried humming and screwed her eyes shut with just the right intensity, she could almost believe she was working out at home. Almost. The only thing missing was a yoga mat and a healthy dose of self loathing.
The one perk of prison. She might be locked up, but at least she had some pride.
Tea Time #PPG1054-4
She'd walked on eggshells on the outside. Nothing she had done had been right. Not according to Ben. Her arms and face bore testament to his rages.
She'd become adept at camouflaging bruises underneath powder and foundation. The trick was to cover it with the right shade: yellows for purple bruises, greens for red ones. It was harder to conceal her shame.
Friends urged her to leave him. Her daughter's face seemed permanently tear streaked, silently begging her to flee so they could start a new life together. She couldn't. Years of crumpling like paper had turned her backbone into origami. Fragile. Pliable. She took his abuse and told herself it was love.
He had a hairpin trigger, erupting over everything.
Serving him tea when he wanted coffee?
Drifting off while he was talking about his day in bed?
Serving him a beer that was only chilled instead of ice-cold?
An open handed slap.
Tackling him, knife in hand when he'd turned his fists on her daughter for 'being mouthy'?
100 MPH #P170-7
In her dreams, she could escape the prison walls. She’d slip onto the back of his motorcycle and realize why wide eyed girls always fell for the bad boys in trashy movies and books. There was something exhilarating about it. That complete lack of sanity and inhibition was heady, intoxicating.
At red lights, he’d turn around to kiss her. They never wore helmets in her dreams. She’d feel the smile against her lips as cars behind them would honk.
Eventually though, her dreams evaporated like vapour and left her disoriented and disjointed.
Instead of looping her arms around his muscled torso, she would be left clutching the scratchy prison issue blanket and choking down a feeling of bitter disappointment.
He didn’t feel that way about her. No one would ever love her again. It was time to move on. If only her subconscious would catch up with her.
Carrying her breakfast tray down the hallway, he reminded himself for the hundredth time that it was wrong. Sick, probably. Falling in love with an inmate was a rookie mistake, and he was no new hand. He'd seen other guards, green as grass, who'd been canned and blacklisted for doing much less than what he envisioned in his fantasies.
But acting on it would land him in a cell much like hers. He'd never get another job working in a prison. He'd have a criminal record. His life would be over.
Still, he found it impossible not to shiver when her hand clasped his briefly.
Maybe it was worth it after all.
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Hey Courtney! I read your bio before commenting to make sure you were open to feedback! I liked your story- what a predicament, love in prison. I want to know what her tornado name is!! One line that was a little funny- “highlighting her dishevelled, her messy hair.” It seems like disheveled would be best in front of a noun, like attire. I was a little confused about the perk of prison part. She has pride, but before she said she needed a dose of self loathing? I might have read it wrong! Anyways, good story! I like reading your work!
Hey, thanks for commenting! Good catch on the dishevelled line, I had been doing some edits and cut too much. Whoops lol. With your second critique, I think that might have made more sense in my head. She has more self worth here in prison than she had on the outside, but when it says she needs a dose of self loathing, that's referring to replicating her home life. It would be the same as working out at home, except she loathed herself on the outside. I might need to revise it to be a bit clearer. Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it!
Okay, I get what you were going for now. I think just a line or two about how her self worth has changed would prevent any confusion. Minor issues, easily fixed! I love having time to tweak my stories until they’re approved, probably my favorite part besides brainstorming!
Such a unique romance! I like how you structured the story. The switching perspectives adds a level of complexity that nicely mirrors the situation your two characters find themselves in. One minor note, I think her dream about the motorcycle could be made a little clearer. I got a little lost cause it was her perspective with a lot of usage of 'him' as well.
A nut falling for forbidden fruit makes a delicious story. Short and sweet. Lizzy's right, you make a lot out of the little details. Not a word out of place. Just fyi those breaks show up as a line and a half on mobile
Thanks! Honestly, it always makes my day when you comment. I feel like that's the real litmus test for whether my writing is good or meh. Also, I appreciate the note about the formatting, I had no idea.
I really enjoyed the opening of the story and I have one suggestion which I thought would perhaps make sense. What if the sock put into the wash (cool metaphor, by the way) was black, so the entire load would have a slight grey tinge instead? I just thought it would help the picture you're painting with the concrete walls, which I'm guessing would be a boring shade of grey.
I know, its an imperfect metaphor because you don't expect prison walls to be pinkish ... I'll think about that, and thanks for the suggestion! Maybe I'm just bad at laundry, because I hadn't assumed mixing a black sock with whites would do that lol
It does less damage than a red one for sure, but it can really make your laundry change hue. One time, I put in a purple scarf into the machine and it even managed to get my jeans - they were this perfect, even, pope-like shade. So not even denim is safe from bleeding. Quite liked the result luckily!
I love how you do not write dialogue, yet so much is being said. This creates an atmosphere which is perfect for these kind of stories. This was my favourite sentence: "She licked her wounds like a house cat, and curled up without a backwards glance." But your prose throughout I found simply great. Somehow I was a little surprised at the end, I felt it didn't really fit the character but maybe I misinterpreted his earlier thoughts or I'm just not that keen on such endings. I assume its taste, but nonetheless, I liked your story very much. ...
Thanks for the great feedback! I was trying to go for the idea that over time, his feelings changed. But it's possible I didn't lay enough foundation to make that believable or readily apparent. Thanks again for reading and commenting :)
Hey great story. I love the perspectives of both the man and woman. The feeling of joy with a little touch, it’s all too real. You also have a beautiful way with metaphors. I love it.
Another lovely story. I enjoyed the ending, showing his perspective added a whole new dimension to everything that came before. Keep up the good work!
This is a fantastic story, I love your turn of phrase. "Cement walls make for poor companions" is a hell of an opening line. Wow. "She turned to cigarettes as timekeepers"/"But love does not listen. Love is not rational. She fell anyway."/"All she needed was a yoga mat and a healthy dose of self loathing. "--and far too many others to mention! All the way through the story you use such excellent phrases. I absolutely love it. I also really enjoyed the way you darted from one perspective to the other, and amplified such little things, the ...
Thanks so much for all of the positive feedback! I really appreciate it :)
Nice story! It was a pleasure to read.
Opening sentence is quite a hook to bring the reader in.