Wounds New Beginnings
By Kim (KP) Pritekel
Disclaimers: These two lovely ladies may seem a bit familiar, but that's about it. You don't know 'em, honest.
Subtext: Yes, this story is of an alternative nature, what else would come from me? So, basically if you aren't old enough to buy me a beer, wouldn't buy me a beer, or live some place where they don't sell beer, go away. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and let me entertain you.
Violence: Well, folks. I'm going to be honest here. I'm not real sure how far I'll take this, but know that part of this takes place in a prison, and it's not a pretty world. There will be violence, including murder, and also some scenes dealing with rape. If this bothers you, then please move on, or cover your eyes during the scary stuff. I think it'll be more disturbing than graphic, though.
Language: Yup. Be warned.
Note: The depiction of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) is accurate in this story, however some names and possibly some aspects have been changed to protect the innocent, and also my butt. Hey, I wanna keep my job, okay?
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Jamie sat in her six and a half by twelve foot cell, the place that had been her home for the last seven years. She sat on her bunk, steel with a three inch padded mattress, and stared at the cement floor, painted a light gray, and the walls around her, cinder block, painted beige. She hated those colors, and it would be just fine by her if she were to never see them again. And green. She glanced down at the yellow t-shirt she wore, her five number I.D. sewn onto the left side, just above her breast. That had been her new social security number for her stay at the Colorado Women's Prison. And her "greens" as they were called; basically just a pair of loose fitting green cotton pants and shirt that looked more like medical scrubs than anything else, again DOC issued number sewn or ironed onto the top left hand corner.
Jamie sighed, and closed her eyes, her knees drawn up to her chest, hands dangling over them, head back against the wall. The last day she'd be in prison was slowly trickling into night. As of midnight she would be legally discharged from the system, and then at 10am the next morning she would be heading out, and put onto a bus, and given a hundred bucks for her to try and survive and make a new life on.
She grinned, and ran a hand through nearly black hair that had gotten too long. The first thing she wanted to do on the streets was get a haircut, trim. Sure, she could get one there at the prison. Women were trained in the art of haircutting, but Jamie didn't associate much with the "girls". She was a loner, always had been, and always would be.
She unfolded herself and reached over to the little three by two stainless steel desk that was bolted to the wall, and grabbed the newspaper clipping, reading it again:
Wanted: Help on Texas ranch. Must be able to handle hard, physical labor, hot temperatures. No experience necessary. Will provide wage, shelter. Get a hold of Tyg.
She remembered the voice on the phone, gruff, hardened, the voice of an old man. He had been kind, and said that he was looking forward to meeting her in person once she got to LaGrange, Texas.
Jamie tossed the folded ad on her bunk and looked around again. It was time to pack up. Her three sets of issued greens were folded neatly on the shelf above the sink, and her state issued black boots were placed on top. The blankets and sheets that had seen her through countless nights of crying, anger, self-induced pleasure, were folded at one end of the bunk. Anything that she was planning to take with her was still in her foot locker against the wall. Lt. Crowe had brought her two big, military green duffels an hour ago. One to stuff all the state issued crap in, the other for her own stuff. She was allowed to take that one with her.
Jamie stood from the bunk and walked the few short paces to the five by two bulletin board anchored to the wall where they could hang any personal stuff. She only had some of her drawings hung up, but most of that was stowed away. They'd have a shit fit if they found all the drawings she'd done of Stormy from memory. Most were in poses that she'd actually seen her in during their stolen time together during movement just before chow.
Jamie smiled as she thought of Stormy, not her real name of course. Very few of the girls actually went by their real names. Here an inner community was created replete with new names, chosen by the woman who bitched you, or punked you. From that time on she became your master, your mother, your everything until you could stand on your own two feet, and make your own name. Stormy had been that to Jamie, who around these parts was known as Stone Warrior because of her quiet, yet strong demeanor, Stone for short. It would be strange being called Jamie again.
With a sigh, Jamie began to carefully take down her drawings. She stared at the one in her hand; it was of her baby, her Harley that Carlos had stored for her all these years. She had called him yesterday, and sure enough, her baby was well, and waiting to be picked up. It had been way too long. She grabbed her copy of Gauguin: A Retrospective, the only book she had had sent in from the streets, and placed the single sheet drawing between its pages, knowing that the large, heavy book would keep it from being damaged. The other drawing she had hanging on the board was of her brother, Johnny. She had not seen him since that night. She would not allow him to visit her, always refusing to have him put on her okayed list no matter how he begged. She did not want him to see her there, see what she went through. He was close enough to following her in his own right as it was. Shoot, now he'd be twenty two. A man. When Jamie first come here She had been that age. Now she was just shy of her thirtieth birthday. So much time gone. Wasted.
Jamie shoved the book into the duffel that was already filled with some pictures, and a few letters she'd allowed Johnny to send. Christmas and birthday cards, stuff like that. She had a few pairs of socks and underwear that she had bought from canteen that she could take. It was a start. She had had Carlos send her in some street clothes for her to wear tomorrow. She wasn't about to be seen in the psychedelic throw back clothes the state gave you. Hell no. They'd taken part of her life, she wasn't going to let them take any more of her dignity. She wanted to start the rest of her life in style.
With everything packed, and ready to go, Jamie stripped out of her greens for the last time, and threw them in the bag with the other stuff the state could have back. Dressed in a pair of sweat shorts, and white t-shirt, Jamie laid down on the bare mattress. It was summer, and hotter than hell. This place had zilch for air circulation, so she knew she would not need a blanket. The small window that was above, and just to the right of center, her bed, didn't do much for cool air, either. God, she couldn't wait to get out of this place.
Jamie placed her hands behind her head, and stared up at the dark ceiling, knowing that a cell identical to this one was right above her on the second tier. She knew Lady Bug was already asleep, and could picture the large black woman with her incredible long dread locks, her boisterous laugh heard throughout the pod. Maybe she would miss some of these girls. Even though she was not the social butterfly of the unit, these women had become her family, her source, especially after Stormy had been killed by that bitch with the shank made from a melted toothbrush handle and razorblade. She could still see Stormy's eyes, where she had gotten the name. They had been an intense blue/green/gray. Depending on her mood. Her thoughts began to wonder to her future. What was Texas like? She's never been. She just knew that she had to get out of Colorado, even though it was the place of her birth. Denver. It had been harsh to her, never once giving her a break until it had had her literally under its thumb, stuck to rot for seven long years in prison. She had actually been luckier than most in the joint because of her size. At just under six foot, and a muscular build, most were intimidated long before she spoke, or gave them the steely gaze that she had been known for on the street. Jamie glanced down at her lounging body, and realized just how much bulk she had lost. In the movies you see all those bad asses bulked up, and ready to beat the shit out of you. Well, in real life, well, that in the Colorado Department of Corrections, it just ain't so. Most of the free weights were taken out a few years back. Too many inmates, or offenders as their called now, were using them as weapons, so they were pulled. Sure, there was still the machines, and the yard and all that. Jamie took advantage of a lot of the equipment, but mostly she just wanted to be alone, and using the weight machines was not the way to do that. There were always women crawling all over that stuff. Not worth it.
Feeling sleep trying to creep in around the edges, Jamie reached up, and killed the light above the bed, and laid back down, resting one hand on her chest, the other remained behind her head. She sighed deeply as the night noises of the cement world around her settled down. The crying, quiet fighting, or the low moans and grunts of the double bunked. The occasional yelling. Though when that happened, that chick was dealt with promptly the next day.
Jamie was about to shut her eyes, when the thin beam of light snaked through the small glassless window in the door to her cell. Officer Penny.
"Yeah, I'm here." Jamie mumbled, closing her eyes, and finally giving in to sleep.
"What?" she growled.
"Rise and shine. Time to get ready to go. You're out of here in an hour." Officer Donaldson walked away, leaving Jamie to sit up, grinding the heels of her hands into her eyes, and then ran them through her mane of dark hair, and stood. She quickly pulled the hair into a tail, and plopped down on the hard floor, beginning her morning push-ups. This was her time to relax, to think. She realized that she was scared. She hadn't set foot on a sidewalk in seven years, hadn't driven a car, or her beloved motorcycle. Nearly a decade. She wondered what things were like now. The millennium had come and gone, seen her behind these walls, wondering just what she could have done with her life, what kind of difference could she have made in Johnny's life. She watched the familiar gray floor get closer, then farther away, closer, then farther away with each bending and straightening of her arms. No need thinking about that now. It's all in the past.
Jamie showered, and dressed in a pair of black jeans, white tank, and black boots. Thank god for Carlos. For the first time in too long she felt human, like she belonged in the real world. Like she was worthy. She slung her duffel over her shoulder, took one last look around the cell that had been home, now empty, looking much like it had when she had been escorted to it for the first time. She had spent that entire night terrified, every prison movie she had seen running through her mind. She had held strong, not allowing herself to cry. She would not show such weakness in here. It had been only four days later when Jamie had found out just what real fear was.
"You ready, Madden?" Jamie was jerked to the present as Lt. Randall asked, standing just outside her cell door. She nodded. "C-1, Charley." the LT called up to control, and the thick, steel gray door slid slowly open. Jamie took a deep breath, and walked out onto the main floor of the pod, and followed Randall down the narrow space between the doors to the cells, and the railing that separated them from the living unit where round tables bolted to the floor surrounded by round stools, also bolted, were scattered. The television that was bolted to the wall was playing, a group of women watching some show on remodeling your house. She grinned, and glanced around to see who was out. Most of the girls were at work or at school.
"Yo, Stone!" a voice boomed from above. Jamie glanced over her shoulder and saw Lady Bug standing on the second tier, leaning against the rail. Jamie smiled up at her. "You go, girlfriend!" Lady Bug yelled. Jamie raised her hand in salute, and continued on. The group that had been watching television turned around and studied them as they made their way toward the door to the living unit. Their faces held mixed emotions. Some apathy, others envy. Jamie was filled with her own mixed emotions. Could she make it now? On her own? She knew that the return rate was high, and just prayed to god that she would not end up in that number of repeat offenders. She never wanted to come back. Ever.
The white van drove through the small town of Canon City headed toward the nearest bank. Her hundred bucks was tied up in a check, so the van pulled into the drive-up window of a bank just off Macon St. As the officer took care of that, Jamie looked around the small town that was host to many of Colorado's prisons. It was just after ten-thirty, and the small town was already buzzing with activity; cars going here and there, people walking down the streets, oblivious to the fact that a former burden to their state was about to be released, to be re-merged into their number. She took a deep breath, and turned her gaze back to the officer. He took the clear plastic container from the silver machine, and opened it up, grabbing the white bank envelope from inside, and returning the bank thingy to the machine. Jamie raised a brow. Neat.
"So, where you headed, Madden?" the officer asked, glancing at her through the rear-view mirror. Jamie met his gaze through the steel netting that separated him from herself, as he pulled the large van out of the bank parking lot, and headed back into the traffic.
"Denver." she mumbled.
"Is that where you're from? Or do you have family there?"
The young officer grinned. Jamie was known for not being much of a talker. Most respected her for it.
"Yeah, my wife's family is from there." Jamie nodded acknowledgment to his comment as she gazed out the window again. She could see the bus stop looming up ahead, an older woman sitting on the bench, a small bad on her lap, clasped between small, age gnarled hands. "Okay. Here we go, Madden." the van was pulled into the parking lot behind the bench, and stopped. The officer jumped out of the driver's side, and walked around to the right side of the van, and unlocked, and slid open the door. He smiled as he beckoned for Jamie to get out. She grabbed the green duffel from the floor, and wrapped her hands tightly around the handles, trying to make her hands stop shaking. She stepped down from the van, and glanced at the officer. "Good luck, Madden." he smiled, and slammed the door shut. Jamie looked back down the street, and saw the bus coming, it's lights already beginning to blink notifying traffic of its upcoming stop. The officer waited until the bus stopped with a whoosh, and Jamie to climb aboard, then got back into the van, and started the engine.
The bus was half full of weary looking passengers. Jamie found a seat at the rear of the bus where there were few people. She set her bag on the seat next to her, her hand resting on top of it, her other hand in her lap. As she looked out the window of the bus, the scenery began to slowly move by, gradually getting faster and faster until it was all a blur. She laid her head back against the headrest, wondering how many others before her had sat in this very same seat, watching their past get farther and farther away from them with every passing mile. As those miles passed, Jamie thought back to her early days of freedom. How many years had she squandered on drugs, stealing, and trouble? Too many. And just when she had gotten her head somewhat straight on her shoulders, Carson Lincoln came into her life, and the moment his ended, so had hers. Johnny flashed through her mind again. The fear in his blue eyes, the exact same color as her own.
"It just happened, Jai." he sputtered, his bottom lip quivering, his face pale, ashen, almost more so than Carson's. Jamie stared down at the man on the floor of their tiny living room. Carson's eyes remained open, shock forever embossed on his once handsome face. Blood continued to pour from his chest, soaking the blue shirt he'd been wearing an ugly maroon color. Jamie looked down when she heard a rattling, and saw the gun in Johnny's hand shaking violently.
"Give me that before you shoot someone else." she had said gently, using both hands, one to unwrap her younger brother's frozen fingers from around the small .38, and the other to grab the still smoking gun.
"I'm sorry, Jai. It just-"
"Get out." Jamie said, her voice low, filled with finality and meaning as she stared down at the body. When Johnny didn't move, she glared at him, and hissed through clenched teeth. "Get out, I said. You were never here. Go!"
Jamie glanced across the aisle when she heard a child begin to cry. The little girl looked to only be about three or four at the most. She had a head full of curly blonde hair. Jamie smiled at the red face, and protruding lip. The child's mother held her in her lap, gently rocking her from side to side, one hand against the side of the girl's head, the girl leaning into her mother's chest. The young mother looked over at Jamie.
"I'm sorry if she's bothering you." she said, her voice soft. Jamie stared into the tired eyes of the woman.
"No problem." she grinned. "What's wrong?"
"She's been sick. We're from Florence. There aren't any doctors there that can help her, so we're heading up to Denver. My parents live there. Maybe they'd be willing to help out, you know?" she kissed the top of the girl's unruly hair, and laid her cheek down where her lips had just been. "April is their only grandchild." Jamie nodded her understanding. "So what about you?"
Jamie thought for a moment, not sure what to tell this young woman. She didn't want to scare her to death with the knowledge that she was sitting next to a convicted murderer.
"Well, uh, I'm heading to Denver, too. Came from Canon City." she said simply, hoping that her duffel on the seat next to her mentioned nothing about belonging to the DOC.
"Oh, really? It's such a pretty little town. I shouldn't say little. I mean, it's bigger than Florence, isn't it?" the woman raised her head, and drew her brows in thought.
"Not sure. Never been there."
"So why are you leaving?" Jamie had to fight the urge to smile at that one.
"New start." she finally managed. The woman smiled.
"I understand that one. I'm Karey, by the way."
Jamie listened as the young woman prattled on about how she had gotten pregnant young, and the father had taken off. Her parents, who are somewhat wealthy, and live in the affluent area of Denver known as Cherry Hills, had disowned her, and had never even seen their granddaughter, only the baby picture that she had sent when April had been born. She had worked in a small antiques store, one of many in Florence, and had been laid off when business had been slow last spring.
Jamie was amazed and moved by Karey's obvious strength against insurmountable odds. She marveled at how much the human spirit could take, and still not break. She remembered her mother telling her, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. How true. Jamie thought of her parents. Her father, John Sr., or Mad Dog Madden to the gang, had ridden with the Hell's Angels for fifteen years. During that time he had met the future mother of two of his thirteen children, Candy Hensen, a freshman in college at UNC in Greeley, Colorado. John had never married Candy, but soon they had become common law, and Candy had turned into a biker chick. She had not been happy with the life, the violence, and the slew of different women that John had brought not only to his own bed, but had insisted join their bed, as well as the constant traveling. She had been instructed to not question, or fight it. It had all been too much for her, and she had eventually left, taking Jamie, then ten, and a three year old Johnny with her back to Colorado, settling in Arvada for six years before she had been struck with cancer, and died shortly after. Jamie had had to learn the hard and fast way how to survive, and raise her brother without being caught by social services. She was not about to live in a foster home, or subject Johnny to that horror. So soon she had found ways to make money, and keep them under a roof. Candy had always said that Jamie had too much of her father's blood in her. Within two years she had started her street gang with her looks, good head, and persuasive nature, she had the weak and lost souls of Arvada eating out of the palm of her hand.
She had done her best to keep Johnny out of it. She wanted him to have as normal a life as circumstances would allow, but as he hit his teen years his eyes began to open up to all the possibilities, and the world of sex, money, drugs, and violence that his big sister, whom he adored above any other, had built for herself. By that time Jamie had had enough, and wanted out. She was on the verge of twenty, and had managed to elude the police for four years, and had stowed away money for her and Johnny to get away with. Start again somewhere else. And then that night had happened.
"Jamie?" Jamie's head snapped up to meet the smiling brown eyes of Karey. "Are you coming?" Jamie looked around and realized that the bus was stopped, and people were moving into the aisle, and walking toward the door in front. "Potty break time. And none too soon."
Jamie stood and stretched her arms high above her head, her body sore from sitting so long. Karey, with a sleeping April in her arms, maneuvered out of the seat, and joined the others. Jamie took the hundred dollars from her pocket, and flipped through until she found some ones. Her brows drew as she looked at some of the bills. They looked different. She flipped through the wad again until she found some bills that looked familiar, that she remembered.
"I never understood why they redid those." Karey, said, nodding toward the money. Jamie glanced at her, brows still drawn. "I thought they were just fine the old way."
"They're all like this?" Karey grinned.
"Where have you been? Mars? Yeah, all except the one dollar bills. Those are coming, too, though."
Jamie raised both brows, and shook her head, pocketing the money except for a couple bucks. She was thirsty, and hungry, and figured the rest stop would have some kind of vending machine.
The red and black Coke machine stood against the wall between the men's and women's restrooms. There was a picture of an ice covered Coke bottle surrounded by ice cubes. Her mouth watered, and she looked at the amount the machine required, and just about swallowed her tongue. A buck fifty for a twenty ounce bottle of soda? Good god. Inflation. Gotta love it. Jamie had to get another dollar out of her pocket so she could get a tiny bag of Doritos for another buck fifty.
"Highway robbery, isn't it?" Karey asked as she walked out of the women's restroom, April walking beside her, clutching her mother's hand, her thumb in her mouth. Jamie glanced at her and nodded. "Come on, baby." Karey said, leading her young daughter back toward the bus. Jamie noticed her give the machine a short, but longing glance before she turned away. Jamie turned back to the machine, and pulled another two dollars from her pocket.
Jamie washed her hands, and dried them with a paper towel. She had almost felt claustrophobic in that small toilet stall. Inside their toilets had been right there in their cells, and anyone who happened to be walking by when you decided to go got a front row seat. At first it had been extremely difficult to get used to, but after awhile, modesty no longer had any meaning. Sometimes on the inside, secluded privacy meant dead.
Jamie was one of the last on the bus. As she made her way toward the back, she glanced at some of the faces of the people she passed. Many were glancing out the window, or had buried their noses back into the book or magazine they had been reading before. She was kicking herself now for not asking Miss. L in the library for any back issues she had of newspapers or magazines for her trip. She knew the older woman would have given them to her. Hindsight. She passed by one guy with short cropped, blonde hair, and an earring in his eyebrow. He looked young, maybe twenty. He grinned up at her, raising an eyebrow in question. She glared back, making him promptly find his lap rather interesting. God, not this again. Inside she had been considered an old timer because of the amount of years she'd done. Once you reached a certain status, people left you alone, and the girls knew better than to flirt with her. More likely than not they'd end up on the floor with blood on their faces.
Jamie neared her seat, and saw Karey quietly reading a story to April. She flicked her wrist, and sent the package of gem donuts flying through the air to land in the seat next to the young mother. Jamie sat down, and glanced out the window.
"Oh, Jamie." Karey breathed. "You didn't have to do that." Jamie raised a hand to stop her. "Thank you. We haven't eaten all day." Jamie turned to face her, and smiled.
"Well, Jamie, I wish you luck on your new start." Karey smiled as she stared down at her. Jamie smiled up at her.
"You, too. Bye little one." she said to April who was once again sucking her thumb.
Jamie once again found herself staring out the window as the streets started to become familiar. She stared up at the huge buildings of downtown Denver as they passed, and she felt a slight twitch in her stomach; part of her was excited to be back here, even though it would just be for the day. She planned to start out for LaGrange by early evening. She was craving the missed feeling of the wind in her hair, the freedom and speed of her Harley.
Carlos Vega's house was only a fifteen minute walk from the bus stop, so Jamie opted to walk it. She slung the large duffel over her shoulder and glanced around the street as she stood next to the bench that was the bus stop. The busy streets buzzed with mid-day traffic, and a smile spread across her face. Home. She was finally home. Jamie took a deep breath, and began to walk in the direction that she knew would take her to her old friend. Carlos had been one of the original members of her street gang, and in many ways her second in command. He had been strong, smart, and had a stomach made of iron, which was good considering what many of his duties had been. Carlos was a few years older then Jamie, but he'd always treated her with the utmost respect. He had been one of the few in her life who had actually tried to get her to turn away from the life she was leading. Carlos had been her confidante, and trusted friend since she had been seventeen.
She turned down Egger street and saw Carlos' small two bedroom perched on the hill just as she remembered. The small stucco house was white with peeling brown trim. One of Carlos' low riders was in the driveway, and a pair of legs was sticking out from under the purple car.
"You know, I hope you drag your ass on a speed bump." she drawled. She saw the legs twitch, and then heard a loud thump as a head met an undercarriage, and a barrage of cuss words spewed out from under the car.
"What the hell! You lookin' to die, punk?" Carlos shoved himself out from under the car, his near black eyes like coals on fire, but the fire immediately faded as he took in his long lost friend. "Chica!" he exclaimed, jumping to his feet, and grabbing her in a fierce hug.
"Hey." she smiled as she hugged him back. Carlos stepped back from her and looked her over with drawn brows.
"Jai, you got so thin!" he exclaimed, his thick accent made her smile. She had missed it. "I don't think I ever seen you so skinny."
"I am not that skinny." Jamie grinned, swatting his hand off her shoulder good- naturedly. "So what car are you ruining now?" she smirked, changing the subject away from possible questions, indicating the low rider sitting in the driveway, the sun glinting off the flawless paint job.
"Hey, you're not too big for me to kick your culo, you know!"
"You know, I think if it came to feeding yourself or putting in new woofers, you'd starve" she ran her hand down the sleek hood.
"Not no more. I got more to feed than just me, now." he put his arm around Jamie's shoulder, and led her toward the small house. She glanced down at him, watching as he adjusted the black baseball cap that sat backwards on his head, covering that thick mane of black hair he had. His black basketball jersey hung from his narrow shoulders, leading to long, baggy white shorts and high top, white Nikes. Jamie looked down at him in confusion. He grinned, his dark eyes twinkling. "'Member Luna?" Jamie nodded. How could she forget that beautiful angel of a woman. She had come over to the U.S. with her father from Cuba when she had been eight. Her long, curly black hair, dusky skin, and steel blue eyes. She had been a turning point in Carlos' life, and subsequently, Jamie's.
"She still putting up with your ass?" Jamie grinned.
"Now, what kind a thing is that to say to your homey? Damn straight she put up with my ass." Carlos grinned, his deep dimples teasing. "Speak of the devil, and she appears." Carlos smiled as a Subaru station wagon pulled into the driveway and parked behind the low rider. Jamie watched as Luna's face broke out into a huge grin when she realized who was talking to her man. She threw the seatbelt off of her, and jumped out of the car, running at breakneck speed toward them
"Jai!" she squealed, flinging herself into Jamie's waiting arms, almost completely bowling her over. Luna sobbed as she clung to her, her face buried in the neck of the taller woman. Jamie could feel her own throat constrict, and swallowed her own emotion. "Honey, we missed you." she cried. "I'm so happy you're finally out."
"Shh." Jamie cooed, stroking the long, thick hair that she remembered so well. It was amazing the little details of your life that stick with you when it's taken away from you. Luna pulled away from her, and kissed her soundly on the cheek.
"You look thin." Luna said, her blue/gray eyes turned dark from crying. "We need to fatten you up, amar." she studied Jamie's face, her delicate brows drawn. "Oh, honey." she whispered, running her thumb gently over the skin under Jamie's blue eyes that she knew was puffy, and ringed.. "What happened to you, mija? That fire in you is gone, You look so sad." she whispered. Jamie grabbed Luna's hand in her own larger one, and kissed her knuckles.
"I'm fine." she said with a small smile. "Just glad it's over." Luna stared into her eyes for a moment, then deciding to take Jamie at her word, took her arm and led her to the station wagon where Carlos was helping a little one step down from the car that was too high for such little legs. "Yours?" Jamie asked, her voice full of wonder as she stared at the little one, then the other two older ones that stood by the car.
"Jai, I want you to meet our three monsters." Carlos said proudly. "This one here is Ricardo." he patted a young boy on the head. "He's our oldest at almost seven. This little demon is Angela." Jamie smiled at the small girl who appeared to be about five. She had her mother's hair, and her father's dark eyes. She held a stuffed rabbit in small hands, and stared at Jamie shyly through long bangs. "And finally little Carla." Luna took the tiny girl in her arms and walked over to her. "She just turned two last week." Jamie stared at the happy family as Luna and Carlos, each with a little girl in their arms, and little Ricardo standing in front of his father, proudly looking back at her, she felt out of place, like she was a stranger on a strange planet. Suddenly she felt like she would scream, or cry, or both, and wanted to do neither. Flee. That would work.
"Carlos, where is my bike?" she asked, her voice suddenly turning hard, indifferent. Luna looked at Carlos, questions in her eyes. They exchanged a glance, and Carlos set Angela down, and walked over to Jamie.
"Baby, would you make us some food, please?" Luna nodded, and smiled sadly at Jamie, and led the children into the house. "Come on, Jai. Let's go see your baby." Carlos smiled as he led her around the house to the back fence, opened it, and held the gate for her, then closed it behind them. The backyard was barren with one small plot of grass near the back door, and a sandbox. The rest of the large yard was full of dirt and weeds. A small wooden garage was in the back right corner of the yard, and Carlos led her to it. He lifted the heavy door with a grunt, and heavy, hot air blew out to meet them. Off to the side was something covered by a gray tarp. Jamie's heart began to pound as she helped her friend remove the dust covered covering. "No one has touched her since the day you left her here, Jai." he said, his voice quiet. Jamie ran her hands over the familiar, smooth surface of the tank, painted black with a single word painted in silver, saoire, a Gaelic word meaning freedom. The chrome of the handlebars and underneath shone in the bright sunlight that infiltrated the small space. Jamie smiled, and looked up at her friend.
"Thank you, Carlos. You have no idea how much I appreciate this." Carlos beamed. Jamie's smiled faltered, and she looked back to the bike, absently running her fingers over the smoothness of the leather covering the seat. "I'm sorry about before, my friend. Out there." she nodded toward the house. "It's just that, well, I've missed so much. I had no idea you guys had had any kids, let alone three. I should have been there. For you guys." she finished softly.
"Hey, mija. Don't you think I know you would have if you could have? Jai, you have got to learn to forgive yourself. None of us have anything to forgive." Jamie nodded, still unable to look him in the eye.
"Have you seen Johnny?"
Carlos shook his head sadly and crossed his arms over his chest. "Not for a month or so. He don't come around like he used to."
"Is he happy, Carlos?"
The darker man shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, Jai. He keeps to himself mostly. Don't have nothing to do with any of us from the old days, really. He is the godfather to Ricardo, but he don't even come around to see him."
"I'm sorry." Jamie said with a sigh. Carlos turned to her, suddenly grabbing her by the shoulders.
"Jai, you have got to stop apologizing for what Johnny does! I thought you would have learned that by now for sure. it's not worth it. He's a not a boy no more."
"I should have done more, given him more all this time, man! I should have helped him out."
"You gave him seven years of your life." Carlos said, his voice grave. "You always lived for him. Now it's time to live for you."
"Lunch!" Luna called from the back door.
"Come on, hita." Carlos said, heading out of the garage.
"I'll be right there." Jamie watched her friend walk out into the hot afternoon sun, then turned back to her bike. She unscrewed the gas cap, and smiled when she saw the string. Pulling gently, it began to give, and slowly the smallish black plastic bag came into view. She pulled until the top of the bag came up out of the darkness of the half emptied tank, and grabbed it, pulling it free. She put the cap back in place, and screwed it on, then turned the small package over in her hands, and untied the string around it. The bag fell open, and the edge of a block of green/gray came into view. She ran her thumb across it, and the bills fanned through the hot summer day. It was still here. After all this time.
"Carlos, I could kiss you." she whispered, and shoved the pack of money into her green duffel, and zipped it back up, headed toward the house.
Carlos had a can of gas, and eagerly agreed to fill Jamie's tank. He and Luna had been surprised when she had told them of her plans to head to LaGrange, Texas, and even more surprised to hear that she would be leaving that day. But both were happy that she had a plan, and wished her well.
"Try this bitch out!" Carlos grinned as he replaced the cap onto the gas tank, the hog full.
Jamie straddled the bike, relishing the feel of the large machine balanced between her denim clad thighs. She brought her booted foot up, and brought it down on the kick start, and the machine rumbled to life, the vibration running through her body, making her cheeks feel numb for just a moment. She smiled, her first genuine smile in seven years.
"That's right." she cooed, stroking the wide handlebar. She flicked the bike's kickstand, and slowly walked the monster out of the garage, the loud roar of the idle echoing through the neighborhood. She steered the bike through the gate, and out onto the drive. Luna and the kids were already there.
"Good luck, Jai." Carlos said, slapping her arm. "Keep in touch, uh?" she smiled up at him, and nodded.
"Mija, I'm going to miss you all over again." Luna said, hugging Jamie tightly. "You take care of yourself, and gain some weight!"
"Okay." Jamie smiled, hugging the woman close. Now that she had been reunited with the ones who had been her family in a time when she had none, she had to leave them again. Seemed to be the way things went with her. Luna stepped back, and placed her hands on Ricardo's narrow shoulders, little Angela hugging her thigh, and peeking at the loud motorcycle from behind her legs. Carlos held Carla in one arm, waving with the other.
Jamie took a long look at the family of five, and tried to emblazon the image into her brain so she'd never forget. She smiled one last time, and eased the bike down the driveway, and sped down the street.
The ride down the highway was just as Jamie had remembered it. Her hair flowing back over her shoulder. She reminded herself that she had to stop and buy a helmet before she got out on the open road. Too long of a drive without one. Now that she had her freedom, she was not about to get herself killed.
She stopped at the light on Montgomery Avenue, and put one booted foot down to balance the bike on, and revved the engine, waiting for the green. She thought about Johnny for a moment. Part of her wanted so badly to see her little brother, but another part of her told her to stay away. He had his own life now, and she could only be cumbersome to him now. She sighed deeply, and turned her thoughts to Texas. She hoped that maybe, just maybe she'd be able to find some sort of happiness there. Some sort of peace.
The road stretched on as Jamie cruised I-25 headed toward Raton, New Mexico. The mirrored visor of the black helmet she wore reflected the bright rays of the setting sun, it's brilliance blinding at eye level. She leaned back against the duffel that she had strapped to the seat behind her, her hands resting lightly on the handlebars, booted feet pointed slightly up on the foot rests on either side of the massive bike. She reached down and adjusted the dial on the portable radio that she had also bought in Arvada. The ear plug-type headphones in only one ear so she could hear anything dealing with traffic. The local station for Trinidad that she had been listening to was beginning to fade fast the farther away she got from the city. She smiled as she managed to get one in, then smiled even wider when she heard the song playing; "I Ran (So Far Away)" by A Flock of Seagulls, a great old song from the early eighties; the best music. Going in in the early nineties, Jamie held on to the music that she knew well. She didn't know much about today's music, and from what she heard, didn't want to. She tapped her hand against a handlebar to the beat, bobbing her head slightly. The song brought back memories.
She had been ten years old when the song was released. That had been the year her mother had taken off from the gang. Jamie remembered the days well traveling with a bunch of smelly, leather clad bikers, though Jamie could remember being treated well by most of the big, burly, generally hairy men. Many of the women, or "bitches" had gotten together in a big group to protect and help raise the many children. Jamie grinned as she thought about Little Tut. Some of those kids had the strangest names. Jamie had always been grateful that she and Johnny both received average names, though as a child she had been known as Pup. That name had been started by a rider named Cruise because Jamie had been the spitting image of her father, and old Mad Dog Madden had his little shadow.
Little Tut had been a fire headed girl with a temper to match, and bright blue eyes. Tut was a few years older than Jamie, but had been a decade older in experience and ideas. It had been with Tut that Jamie learned all about what one girl could do with another. She often wondered what had become of Tut. The day Candy had taken her kids had been a surprised to everyone, including Jamie and Johnny, so she had never had a chance to say goodbye to Tut. She had always regretted that.
The miles passed by, marked by the flying white dotted line, speed blurring it into a singe unit as night fell over the flat, barren landscape that Jamie knew in the light of day was brown, with green and yellow scattering of wild buses and weeds. As she continued thought, large hills began to pop up on wither side of the road, the single beam of her headlight like a spotlight illuminating the rocky faces with lines and knooks carved by history giving them character and depth. The occasional whoosh of a passing car on the other side of that double yellow line her only company as she had lost her radio station miles back, and did not feel like loading in a cassette. Right now she only wanted the stillness of the night engulfed by the roar of her bike. Soon she would hit Raton Pass, and then would settle in the town for the night, finishing the other twelve hour leg of the trip the next day. She was tired; that day had been full of excitement, and she was physically, and emotionally drained.
The Harley pulled into the lot of the small motel, and pulled up in front of the office. Jamie got herself a room, and lugged her duffel into the small room which consisted of a double bed, night stand, small dresser, and a bathroom. The basics. She threw the duffel onto the bed, and began to strip out of dust covered clothes, leaving a trail to the bathroom. She turned on the shower, and stepped under the cool spray. The night was still hot from the left over temperatures of the hot New Mexico day. She closed her eyes, and slicked her hair back, raising her face to the water. A moan escaped from deep in her throat. Bliss. Utter bliss. She almost felt nervous as she opened her eyes and stared at the small bathtub and stall of the shower. She was used to having two women flaking her on either side washing their own bodies. This privacy thing was going to take some time to get used to again, she mused.
Jamie began to wash her skin with the tiny bar of wrapped soap that was provided by the motel. She lathered her hands, and ran them over the smooth skin of her shoulders, and winced as the water splashed upon the slightly sunburned skin of her arms. Her skin had not met the rays of the sun for long enough periods at a time to color since she had never been on any of the work crews, so now she was very pale, and her once year round tan skin had lost its tolerance. She carefully ran the soap down each arm.
Jamie finished her shower, and stepped out, rubbing her long hair in the thin white motel towel, and stared at her reflection. Luna was right; the light that used to radiate from those blue eyes, making them glow, was gone. But she smiled as a huge wave of relief, elation washed through her. She was out. She was free. A crooked grin spread across her full lips, and she couldn't keep the laughter that bubbled up from deep within from erupting. She had won.
Jamie sat on the bed in just a plain white t-shirt and panties, and brushed out her long, raven hair. She brushed its length over her shoulder so it rested down her chest, ending between her breasts and navel. Tomorrow before she left Raton she would get it cut a bit. Maybe just to her shoulders or a bit below. When she had gone inside it had been short, close to her head. Year after year it had grown; one of the few things that she had had any control over.
She laid down the brush, and grabbed the bottle of lotion she had also picked up, and hiked up one of her shirt sleeves, revealing not only a toned arm, but also the tat she had had done in secret, careful to keep the ever watchful eye of the cops away from her cell. Tats were a big no-no inside. Could get you thrown into the hole if you weren't careful. She studied the intricate lines of the Celtic design that made up the arm band, in honor of her warrior spirit, skillfully done by a very talented artist using the motor from an electric typewriter, and the tip of a metal writing pen that was contraband, but one of the girls had been able to snag it from a cop anyway. It had hurt like hell because of the crude nature of the gun, but had ultimately worked. Jamie had created the design herself, and Pippo, short, skinny husband killer, had recreated it on her skin. She thought of one of their conversations while Pippo had been hard at work, the quiet buzzing of the small motor filling Jamie's cell.
"Why'd you do it, Pippo?" Jamie had asked, teeth bared as she tolerated the endless poking.
"'Cause." Pippo answered, never looking away from her task, her short, wild red hair in every direction as usual. "If he didn't know crazy when he met me, then he deserved what he got." Jamie had not understood what she had meant, but never asked again.
Jamie ran her fingers over the smooth skin, tracing one of the dark lines with a fingertip before she squirted some lotion into the palm of her hand, and dipped a finger into the creamy substance, smearing it over the tat with a loving touch. She wanted to get some work down on it on the streets, but would have to wait. Tat work was not cheap.
Jamie laid back on the bed, turned out the bedside lamp. She rested her head back on her arms, and stared up at the ceiling with the shadows crawling across, hiding in corners at the lights from a passing car, only to reappear once the sight was gone. She sighed deeply, and drew a knee up, her foot tapping an unheard beat onto the cool sheet beneath her heated skin. The room had no type of fan, nor air conditioning. She was glad that she was only staying for a night. Sleep eluded her, though she was tired. She felt like a child, not wanting to go to sleep for fear that if she did, she would wake up back in her cell, and this would all have been just a dream. So instead she let her thoughts drift to Stormy. The blonde had been killed just under a year ago. Jamie closed her blue eyes as she saw it all happen again.
Jamie, Stormy and Lady Bug had all been walking back to their housing unit from the library. Heading down the programs hall, library and classrooms on one side, the gym on the other. They had been talking, she and Stormy had been fighting on and off for a few days. A woman named Culder, or Cult, had been after Jamie for two weeks. The tall woman, nearly as tall as Jamie, had been powerfully built, and had short brown hair and cruel brown eyes. She would not quit, even when Jamie herself had told her to back off; she belonged to Stormy. Except now it wasn't because of the "bitched" factor, then she felt like she did belong to the smaller blonde woman. She would almost go far enough to say that she had loved Stormy, though she had never said those words. Only Johnny had heard those words from her hesitant lips.
"Stone, honey that bitch is trying to punk you." Stormy had said, her words quiet in a place where every wall had an eye and an ear.
"Who cares, Storm? You already did." Jamie had grinned. Stormy punched her lightly in the arm, her short, shaggy hair in her eyes as usual as she looked up at her woman.
"Let me stick that bitch, Stone. She ain't worth my spit." to emphasize her point, Stormy had hawked up a logy, and spit it on the highly polished tile floor. Jamie glanced down at it splattered on the floor.
"That was disgusting." she grumbled.
"Yeah. So?" Stormy had sped up, and turned to face Jamie, walking backwards down the hall, Lady Bug watching with a smirk as her friends conversation. "Let that bitch Cult, or should I say, Cunt clean it up."
"Speak of the devil, and she shall appear." Lady Bug mumbled, her dark eyes fixed further down the hall. Jamie raised her eyes from her feisty partner, and saw Cult followed by her "niece" and "grandmother" in their little family that they had created. Each woman played a different role which they took very , very seriously.
"Shit." she breathed. She could feel it. Something was about to happen. She stopped, and put a hand on Stormy's shoulder to stop her.
"Get your hands off me, fool." Stormy had said, swatting at Jamie, her brows drawn in irritation. Stormy had always reminded Jamie of a cat. Only touch when she wanted to be touched, otherwise her claws came into full view. Seeing the look of concern on her lover's face, Stormy turned to see Cult standing no more than fifteen feet away. "What are you staring at, you bitch?" she asked the large woman. Jamie groaned quietly. Also like a cat, she tried to be bigger than she actually was. Cult did nothing but grin, but Jamie knew. She wasn't there by accident. Jamie and Stormy and Lady Bug took the same route every Wednesday and Saturday; go to the library, stay for an hour, then head back through the programs hall headed out to the yard.
"Hey, Stone." Cult said, raising her eyes above Stormy's head to look into expressionless blue. Jamie only nodded, her eyes never leaving Cult, scanning her hands, her body language, trying to gauge how the attack would come. She could hear Lady Bug breathing heavily beside her. She knew, too. It seemed that they all did; all except Stormy.
"Don't you be talking to my woman, you hag." Stormy placed her hands on her hips, and took a step forward. Cult moved slowly forward, her group staying back. Jamie glanced briefly to the side, and saw faces peering out at them from the classroom to their left. Shit. They were expecting a show, and she knew that both Stormy and Cult were the type to give it to them.
"Stormy." Jamie hissed, "Don't."
"Why? I ain't afraid of that bitch." Stormy raged, her voice filling the hall. She had had enough of that slick bitch trying to get Stone away from her. It was time to take care of her for good. Jamie glanced over at Lady Bug only to meet near black eyes that probably mirrored her own; fear, worry, and irritation. "Come on, bitch. Bring it on!"
It was as if something inside Cult had snapped. Her eyes grew dark, like twin coals, and her brows drew, her nostrils flaring as she clenched her fists, only one hand opening fully. Jamie noticed the hand that still stayed partially balled. Oh, shit! She's got a shank... Her heart began to pound, her own breathing coming dangerously fast. She knew there was no way to calm her partner who was not only feisty, but also a little on the crazy side herself. But she had to try. She pushed Stormy to the side, and a bit behind her. Small fists began to beat against her back.
"Get outta my way, Stone!"
Jamie ignored her lover's rage, and the sharp pain of her fists against her skin.
"Knock this off, Cult. It's not going to get you anywhere. Especially not with me." A slow smile spread across Cult's lips.
"Shit, baby, this ain't got a thing to do with you. I don't need to kill your whore to get you. Shit no!" a cackle of laughter peeled through the hall. Jamie looked around beginning to get a bit nervous. Shit. That had been the only card she had had to play against her. Where the hell were the cops? Usually they decided to show their asses when nothing was brewing. Now that the pot was about to boil over, nothing. "That bitch has it comin', Stone." Jamie's eyes darted back to Cult at the sound of her voice.
"Move!" Jamie felt herself violently pushed, her shoulder hitting the wall with a solid slap, the cold of the cinderblocks chilling her at contact. Stormy rushed past her.
"No!" someone had yelled, and Jamie was surprised to realize that it had been her.
Stormy threw that small body of hers at the larger woman with an inhuman scream, her fingers bent into claws, ready to remove any flesh that she could. Cult caught the smaller woman in one arm to stop from being knocked off her feet, the other hand disappearing. Stormy's scream was cut short, a loud whimper edged gasp filled the deathly silent space. One of Stormy's hands grasped Cult's shoulder, the fingers digging into the yellow t-shirt until the larger woman pushed her off of her, and Stormy's body began to slide. Jamie realized what was about to happen, and ran forward, catching her lover under the arms, and helped her to the ground. When the small woman's chest was exposed to her concerned blue eyes, she saw that the yellow of her shirt was disrupted by a quickly spreading red spot, the green plastic handle of a toothbrush sticking out of her chest near her heart. Stormy looked up, wide eyed at her, her mouth in a silent "o", blood dribbling down her chin to gather in the material of the jersey collar of her shirt. Her mouth opened and closed, but nothing came out, reminding Jamie of a fish out of water. One hand reached out and grabbed a handful of Jamie's own shirt, then the hand released its grasp, and stormy eyes closed. Jamie looked up at Cult who stood just in front of her on the other side of Stormy's body, some splatters of blood on her chin and shirt. Jamie glared, shocked.
"She shouldn't have fucked with me." Cult said simply.
Jamie stared, unblinking as she heard the sound of running feet, and the squawk of a handset getting closer.
Jamie let out a long breath, and covered her eyes that were beginning to get heavy from such a long day of travel. She remembered walking back to her cell, looking into Stormy's as she passed, just three doors down from her own. Later that night some cops had come in, and had boxed up all of her stuff. Just like that. It was as if Stormy had never existed at all. Life went on as it had before.
With a sigh, Jamie turned her head to the side, smelling the clean scent of the pillow, and sheets, and closed her eyes as sleep enveloped her in its shroud, once again protecting her from the light.