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Man Made Prison
By Buttons



Sitting in the doctor's rooms is not one of my favourite pastimes. Really it isn't. But here I am with a heap of work waiting for me, not to mention that adjudication I have to attend to when I get back. God, that Dockley woman is a handful, and she just knows how to push everyone's buttons, including mine. It's infuriating working with her. I really don't know what to do with her anymore; I've tried everything. Just as you get close, she does the complete opposite of what you'd expect.

I snap back to my surroundings as the doctor sits down in front of us. He looks at me, then at Sean. 'Crap, this doesn't look good.' I know the news is bad … He looks at Sean the way I do when I have to give an inmate bad news.

'Fuck, I don't think Sean is ready to hear this.' I reach out for his hand and am surprised at how softly he holds it. I realise I'm the one who needs the comfort.

I hear the doctor say "cancer," and the rest fades for a minute. I guess both of us did as the doctor waits patiently … knowingly. I refocus on him with effort because I know I am the stronger one of the two of us; I always knew that. I gather all my strength to ask, "What kind?"

The doctor's words, "The terminal kind," still bounces around my head the first day we enter the clinic. I am immediately aware of the person across from us; her dark brooding stare makes it hard to fully look at her. Sean struggled hard that day; he whimpered and sulked, just about the same way he's always been. I want to slap him, hard, to snap him out of it, but my temper flared the moment I hear the disapproving grunt, "Prawn," from across the way.

I feel bad for laying into the dark and brooding woman, but I felt good for having had a chance to vent my anger. The snarky smile I get as a reward puts me off kilter for the rest of the day. 'She liked it,' I realise with a start in the evening.

I know she is in a foul mood the moment I walk through the door; her scowl confirms it. She looks drained, and I know her week was a rough one; the dark circles around her almost black eyes emphasizes it.

The pathetic sigh next to me from Sean draws her out of her wallowing, and she curses out loud. I have anticipated this response from her; I actually indulge in it. I wonder if the cynical beauty is ever aware of the radiant smile she has on her face when she thinks she's provoked me. It's a win-win situation, really; she gets her entertainment and I get mine... All to their own, I say.

I am lost for most of my days, as my favourite sparring partner is gone. I miss the brooding glare, the snarky comments and the taunting I got from her. I inquired from the nurse; she's been released. "Thank God," I say. I thought I'd lost her for good.

Sean is back in hospital; we've done all we can. I wonder how it would have been if we did end up marrying. It doesn't stop me from being his friend. He falls asleep and doesn't wake; my world breaks.

I am led to the cafeteria while I wait for the paperwork that comes with the aftermath of a death. The queue is long, and I let my thoughts drift; I'm on autopilot.

I feel warmth spill over my hands as I wake from my thoughts. I realise I had walked right into someone. "Sorry," I begin, but my words choke as I see it's her. I notice the flash of anger and I prepare for the comment and anger I have come to know, but then I see the compassion, and instantly my walls crumble.

I try to wipe the spill, but I know it's my want to touch her. I stop at the thought of wanting her. She points me to a chair, and I numbly comply. We sit in silence for a while, and we finally introduce ourselves properly. She owns a club, but I don't know the name. We talk about small stuff, and when she hears I am a Prison Governor, I can see her prepare for a snaky reply. I wait for it, but it never comes. I smile; I think she knew I was prepared. When she asks about Sean, the dam I built finally burst and I cry; I cry for all that is wrong in the world.

We must have sat there for a while, her hand in mine. I felt better, for she had done what I needed at the time. No words, no consolation, no empty promises. Just her sitting there, understanding. I should have realised she'd know just what I needed. I look up and find her eyes and I am lost in the chocolate brown. I know my eyes are teary, but I am not ashamed. Her gaze makes me feel better, her touch warms me up, and I know I am forever grateful to her, for just being there.

My phone rings to let me know that the paperwork is done. She looks so sad when I leave, and I am sorry for having to leave.

I am angry later, angry that I left without getting her number, or even the club's name. I am angry that it took me two years to finally find her again. Four months after the funeral, I volunteered at the Clinic where we had met. I had asked numerous times for information on her, but they refused; the records are sealed. I tried to track the files down myself once, but I didn't know her surname, so all I could do was wait, hope and pray that she'd be back one day.

I was busy at work the day I got the call, "She's back," and I moaned frustrated as I would be stuck for the rest of the day. I planned my days so that I could be there at the clinic when it was her time. I was waiting when she walked in, her swagger as prominent as ever, although she was totally bald.

I asked her what happened; she said she didn't want to wait for it to fall out this time around. "Pity. You have nice hair." I am shocked, but I realise I meant it, so I smile at her. I see the blush around her neck. 'She's cute when she blushes.'

I see that this round of chemo is taking its toll on my broody friend; when she falls asleep, I sit close to her and hold her hand. At first she was distant when she woke and realised I was holding her hand, but I soothed her by starting to read to her; my excuse was that I liked reading out loud and wondered if she'd mind listening. I wasn't prepared for her, "With that voice, you can read instruction labels and I wouldn't care." I smile and then giggle. I could see though that she meant it, and it warmed my heart just a little more.

I read to her every time she's there and I can see she's getting better. I can feel it; she's getting stronger. Her fight is becoming a victory. And my heart soars at the thought that maybe this is the last time she'd be here. I never told her that I was only there the days when she was.

"I am late" is the only mantra I have while trying desperately to get to the clinic, but it's a futile exercise. I know I am going to be late, so late that I run the risk of being too late. "Fuck!" I hope I at least make it in time to see her before she disappears again. I still haven't found out where the club is she owns nor any of her phone numbers, but our friendship is of a special kind and I want her to know it. I glance over to the flowers I have gotten for her. I want to tell her how I feel before she disappears again on me.

I reach the clinic and I know immediately she thought I had forgotten her by one look of her. She only sees me once I am in front of her; the transformation from dark and broody into light and friendly is amazing to witness, and I know it's right I have to tell her…Today.

I give her the flowers and her eyes close as she smells them; it's the most amazing sight I have seen. If I had any doubt, it left the instant I saw her reaction.

I know I am rambling a bit, but I realise she's not listening as carefully as she usually does, so I decide to casually drop in the question I've wanted to ask for a very long time… "Do you want to come out with me?" Yep, that did it; it's certainly caught her attention.

I nod my confirmations after she asked me if she'd heard right. I see her pale before she does, and I am ready to catch her. I put my hands on her waist to steady her, and I briefly wonder if it's the medicine or the fact that I had asked her out.

When I've successfully steered her to her seat, I take the seat opposite her and remember the last time we sat like this. I take her hand, and I feel the flinch before she turns her hand around in mine. I struggle to keep focussed on her as the warmth from our touch makes me slightly light-headed.

I see that brilliant mind of hers is in turmoil, so I prod softly again. I feel her thinking over a million things, but instead of telling me what she feels, she compliments me instead. "You're strong again" is all she says, but I know what it means and I blush. I try to cover it by smiling at her, but then there is that sadness that flickers over her features. I see her withdrawing from the world, and I feel the need to put a stop to it; she's done it so many times to me before, but not today.Today, I won't allow it.

I pull her into my arms and cradle her head in my neck; her stubbly hair tickles slightly and I can't stop the giggle, so I pull her head so make her face me. I ask her to tell me what happened; where did she run off to? Somehow, we've spun a cocoon around us, and it's only the two of us that exist in this moment.

"I am not wanted or worthy" rocks my inner self with such an intensity that the only thing I know to do is to show her how much she really is wanted and thought of as oh, so worthy. I cup her face with my hand and focus on my intended target.

I lean in and kiss her softly on her lips. I don't want to rush it; I am acutely aware that I have a very fragile blossom in my hands, and I treat her with the love and respect I have for her. I need her as much as I need oxygen, and I decide it's time I show her. So I kiss her softly again and again.

It's been two years since that day, the day I finally opened my heart and showed the dark, brooding beauty that stole my heart with that first snarky comment. Since then, she's not dark, or moody, sometimes still broody, but I love her for what she is and I wouldn't trade the world I have now for anything. I snuggle closer to her and I feel her relax. I make sure she knows how much she means to me; it took us a long time to get here, and I intend to go to great lengths to keep it this way. My thundercloud is a fluffy one now, a nice fluffy and snugly one. I know I am smiling; I always do when I hear her contented smile and feel her relax as she drifts off to sleep.



I find myself in my man made prison, once a week for six weeks and then we wait.... I always wonder why we wait … for a miracle? Sure, you say, miracles happen.

Yeah, right. And there's purple fairies flying above my head! I can tell you what is above my head: a poisonous snake, coiled and ready to strike; but alas, the quick and deathly bite never comes, no matter how much I will it to. Instead, its long tail is coiled around my arm, delivering its poison... drop for drop into my veins. Each drop thunderous and I feel it burn its way through my body, and I want to curse out loud at the absurdity of it all. I have to bite my tongue though; little Miss Prissy across the room from me will jump on her high horse and ride it wild into the west. Trust me, it's not very pretty. Some days I need the distraction so I do it anyway. Boy, she's reliable for entertainment. And I take it where I can get it!

You can generally figure out who has been in the game for a while and who the new ones are, poor sods. The newbies are wide-eyed, or rather red, bleary- eyed. And the old timers? They just get on with it, not waiting on any miracles anymore.

Miss Prissy is one of the newbies; she'd been bleary-eyed when he arrived here the first time, and boy the Prawn, as I call him, was milking it for all it was worth. He'd hardly sat down and he was a whimpering mess ... poor sod; he's good entertainment though. She's the strong one. You could see it in her bones, the set of her jaw, the determination in her eyes, the way she carried herself, not yet defeated. It was refreshing and impressive at first; later it was just damn annoying.

I'd done my time and was free and didn't see Miss Prissy again, until one day she walked right into me at the cafeteria, right into me, and spilt her coffee all over my suit. I was mad, livid more like. But then I realised who she was, and I noticed she'd been defeated, and my heart lurched.

She looked up and started to apologise for the mess when she recognised me. A flash of hazel, and I see the stubborn hardhead I so liked taunting ... and then in an instant it was gone. I felt inexplicably sad. A loss I couldn't describe even if I tried.

I finally say hi when she'd stopped fussing and point her to a chair ... we sit down, and finally I'm introduced properly. Little Miss Prissy turns out to be a prison governor; gah, just my luck I get to spar with the Gov. I keep my snarky remark to myself, but I sense she knows what I'm thinking; she looks so uncomfortable, or is it inconsolable? I ask about the Prawn. Oh boy, was it the wrong thing to do, and I want to bang my head against the wall ... I made the pretty lady cry.

I shift uncomfortably in my chair and I reach for her hand. I wait. There's nothing I can say, and heck, I don't even know what to say to myself. So when she finally looks up, I swim in those pools of hazel. She asks about me.'I've pretty much slain my demons,' I tell her. I find myself drowning. Pretty lady leaves after she gets a phone call; I feel sorry ... genuinely sorry... for her as I'd seen so many before the Prawn.

Two years pass and I am back in my prison, precaution they say. I say enough already. I am surprised by the pretty lady on my second visit; she'd volunteered after the Prawn, and apparently decided people like me shouldn't be alone. Her pretty eyes are drawn to my bald head; I'd shaved it the day before. "Pity," she says, "you had nice hair." I think she's flirting with me. God, I love that smile.

This round with the snake is taking its toll; its poison is strong and I have to fight harder. Pretty lady sees, and comes and sits with me every time I'm here. She says she likes to read; would I mind listening? 'With that voice, you can read instruction labels and I wouldn't care.' She smiles. She liked my joke. 'I meant it,' I want to say. I meant every word.

I close my eyes and her voice fills me. I can feel the battle inside. Like the good old Scottish fight, I feel like Braveheart, fighting this battle.

Today's my last, thank God! But I am filled with sadness; it means Pretty lady will find someone else. I mourn silently while the snake tries its best. Pretty lady's not here. A dark cloud surrounds me, and hangs over my heart.

Thunder clouds have gathered around and I am comforted by them, my good old friends, or they were until her. Suddenly, as if conjured up from my imagination, she stands in front of me as I leave the snake behind.

"I got stuck in traffic," she says a little breathlessly, but I hardly hear her words. I am swimming again in those eyes. I'm staring ... 'She's Beautiful' … finally, I see the flowers when she pushes them in my arms. They smell just like summer. I smell them again, let their scent fill my senses, and the clouds dissipate. I see a ray of sun; it falls just right on Pretty lady's head…


I drift into the air as if being carried … carried away on fluffy clouds. I realise I had drifted away, and pay attention again. Did she ask? I ask to make sure. "Yes," she nods. My stomach flips, and butterflies start flying, or is that just the snake's last revenge? She sees and holds my waist.

Why does she know these things? I didn't tell her ... or did I?

We sit, like last time, but the roles are reversed now. Her hand is warm and kind, something I am not used to, and it throws me.

She's confident again, like she was the first time. I smile and tell her my thoughts. I see the blush before it shows. And then she smiles, my smile, the one I love the most, the one that lights up my heart.

Oh God, did I just say love? I drift off into that place I go when I am afraid, where she can't see what I really am. Cynical and broken and not worthy.

Her hand stroking my head makes me open my eyes. I am tightly held, nose buried in her neck. I smell her; she's spring with a hint of vanilla, my favourite.

The stubble of my hair tickles and she giggles; she pulls me out of the cocoon and asks me what just happened. I am shocked that I tell her … 'I am not wanted.'

She smiles, takes my chin in her hand and I lean into it, glad for the warmth it brings. And then she rocks my world and makes it crumble at my feet when she kisses me softly on the lips.

Nothing. I feel nothing. Nothing but her lips brushing mine. She'd reached right into the darkest corners of my being and pulled me out into the sunlight.

I feel it before she moves, and she snuggles closer to me. And I feel warm and snug and wanted all over again. I vaguely remember that day two years ago now… the day she told me I was the reason she came back. Before, I knew nothing, felt nothing … today I own the world.

The End

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