Fuck, I’m hard again.
“What’s happening to you, young blood? I thought you had better sense than these knuckleheads in here,” Rufus, the older inmate from this morning, gruffly scolded as he sat down with his tray next to me.
It had been a few hours since the incident this morning, and surprisingly, I escaped it unscathed minus the tazing. Now I was enduring lunch chow, which was food I wouldn’t even insult my dog with if I had a dog.
“Your faith in me is misplaced and unwanted,” I responded. No matter how much I was a dick to the guy, he always came back for more. It reminded me a lot of how Dash and I became friends. I didn’t want friends, but he was intent on showing me he wasn’t afraid of me, which was kind of fucking funny.
The older inmate chuckled, forcing my attention back to him. He rubbed his fingers across his lips, and I took in the markings above his knuckles. I couldn’t really make out whatever the hell it was supposed to mean, but I knew instantly he was a member of a gang. I had run across plenty of them and was even made to kill a few in training. It seemed like a whole lifetime ago. I also knew this guy wasn’t from around here so he must have gotten caught up.
“I’m not your enemy, and I’m not trying to be, but I imagine you had someone on the outside who kept you levelheaded.”
“Yeah, he had a problem getting lost, too.”
“Well, consider me your guardian angel.”
“Why?” I asked. My suspicion and ire rose simultaneously.
“Because you need one, and I hate to see kids fall because they’re too stupid to know when they need to stand down.”
“Is that why you’re in here?” I asked sarcastically.
“You can say that. But I’m not a kid anymore either. It’s too late for me, but not for you.” I turned back to my tray of untouched food and dug in. “Why are you in here,” he asked after a few moments of silent eating.
“Suspicion of murder.”
“So if you made it past the holding cell, I imagine they have some kind of evidence on you.”
“A witness,” I answered, and immediately wondered why I was confiding in him.
“That can be eradicated.” He shrugged.
“Not this one,” I said, hearing the dangerous tone of my own voice. The thought of someone hurting Monroe brought out a protective instinct in me that I hadn’t been able to feel since Lily. The irony of it did not escape me.
“Family?” he asked with raised brows.
“No, she’s—” I hesitated because it wasn’t easy describing Monroe and what she was to me. “I go to school with her,” I finished.
“Girl, huh? She important to you?”
“No.” I reached for my water and chugged it down. I knew what a lie tasted like. I washed the bitter taste down and then shoved a fork full of… I don’t even know what it is.
“Son, you mean to tell me you’re willing to go to prison for a girl you don’t care for?”
“It’s complicated,” I barked, taking a bite of my food to keep from saying more.
“Love always is, young blood.” Reflex, or whatever the fuck you call it, made me swallow down my food a little too quickly, causing me to choke. Rufus’s heavy hand slammed down on my back repeatedly until I was no longer being assaulted by my own fucking food. “So I guess that means it is serious?” he laughed outrageously.
I clutched my tray and considered hitting him across the face with it. I let go after a few deep breaths because it wasn’t exactly wise to insult what could be my only ally until I got out of here. If I get out here.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t able to trust people—I wasn’t willing. Why let anyone in when the majority of the people I met I would be likely to kill just because it suited me?
Maybe Monroe was right and I was sick. I could tell she wanted to fix me. I could see it in her eyes. She looked at me with hope and… something else. I didn’t bother to tell her my sickness couldn’t be fixed. There wasn’t a cure other than death, and I don’t plan to die anytime soon.
One thing was certain though—I do not love Lake Monroe.
“So what’s your story, kid?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because you never know what can come of telling someone your story. Could be good. It could be bad. It all comes around anyway.”
“I’m not interested.”
“Try me, anyway.”
Twelve Years Ago
“You,” the burly man with an enormous amount of facial hair pointed at me with a chubby finger, “get dressed. Your training starts today.”
“Training?” I asked while trying to hide the fear I felt. I saw what happened to the others who showed fear. They were beaten, starved, or just disappeared.
“It’s your lucky day. You get to start earning your keep and maybe we’ll even feed you more.” He laughed hard causing his belly to shake.
“Wha—what do I have to do?” The man’s eyes narrowed as he peered down at me cowering on my hard, stained cot. It wouldn’t be so bad if they let us have sheets or a blanket, but they said we didn’t deserve it yet.
“Are you scared, little boy?” he snarled.
“No, sir,” I quickly answered and jumped to my feet.
“Good.” He grinned. “Because today you get to learn how precious life is and how fun it is to take it.”