Weekends were no different to weekdays inside prison, unless you followed the footy. Every day simply blurred into the next. However this Saturday held a special meaning to Mitch. It would be his first opportunity to have a contact visit with Alison since he was sent to prison. It would be the first time he could hold her, touch her and feel her up close.
This all came about because while Mitch recovered from his injuries, Alison’s background checks cleared her to attend for contact visits. Mitch’s excitement neared palpable when he called Alison to give her the news and to arrange a meeting for this Saturday.
By the time Saturday rolled around, Mitch couldn’t wait. He had a child-like excitement about him. He had a spring in his step during his escort to the contact visit room.
The contact visit room was a wide, open plan room with plenty of natural light bleeding in from the wall of windows down one side.
Three rows of six square white tables, similar in size to a portable picnic table, filled the room. Each table had four round uncomfortable metal seats, approximately thirty centimetres in diameter attached to it. Commissary vending machines were located against the wall near the entry door into the visit room.
When Mitch arrived at the visit room dressed in his prison jumpsuit, most tables were occupied. The Prison guard at the entry desk directed Mitch to visit table number sixteen. The Guard described it as row three, table four.
Mitch’s eyes followed the directions as he counted down the tables. His searching eyes found Alison sitting on her own looking back towards him. A smile illuminated his face as he hurried towards his wife.
Prison rules allowed for a hug and kiss on first meeting and again on leaving. Hands could be held throughout, but at no time could a visitor pass anything to an inmate.
Alison stood from her seat as Mitch approached. Mitch kissed her and hugged her tight. He didn’t want to let go. She smelt so good. This was the first time he had held her in weeks. Neither seemed to want to let go.
Mitch released his embrace and kissed her again. They sat in their seats holding hands like two love struck teenagers.
Alison frowned. ‘Oh my god, Mitch. What happened to your teeth…?’
Mitch instinctively sealed his lips before he responded. ‘I thought I told you…Didn’t I tell you during one of my calls? They were knocked out during the assault I told you about. The nurses in the hospital told me I can get them replaced with what they call a bridge, or there are other options such as implants.’
‘I hate to say it Hun…’ Alison began. ‘But you look like a red neck, or something…You know those people with poor dental hygiene who are happy to walk around with teeth missing.’
‘I often think something similar myself…every time I look in the mirror.’
‘You look so different with those gaps,’ Alison said. ‘It is hard to get used to.’
Mitch shrugged. His eyes fell to the table.
‘I’m sorry, Hun. I promise I won’t mention it again. Can I get you anything from the vending machine?’ Alison gestured towards the vending machines. ‘They allowed me to bring in twenty dollars, in case you wanted some snacks or a drink.’
‘Thanks. Maybe later.’
Alison regarded Mitch in silence before asking, ‘How are your injuries coming along? I’ve been so worried about you in here.’
‘Quite good actually.’ Mitch touched his cheek. ‘The fractures have healed. Still a little tender though. They’re moving me back to my cell tomorrow, so…that’s a good sign.’
Alison’s face tightened. ‘Aren’t you worried about going back to your cell…?’
‘Do you mean…worried in case I am attacked again?’
Mitch firmly shook his head. ‘Not at all. I’ll be fine…really. It’s a case of, fool me twice, shame on me…They will not get me a second time. Live and learn in here Hun.’
During moments of awkward silence Mitch glanced around the visit room. Alison did the same. Every table was occupied with an inmate and his female visitor. Some inmates had young children visiting them.
Mitch motioned with his head to a nearby table. ‘Not an ideal place to bring young children, is it?’ he said.
‘Not really,’ Alison said. ‘If he is their Dad and this is the only way they can see him because he serving a lengthy sentence…You have no choice but to bring them in here. It will obviously make the man’s day to see them,’ Alison said. Mitch nodded his understanding of her logic.
Mitch expected he would have so much to talk about with Alison. And he did. But short moments of silence kept occurring because he was happy to just sit and look at her and hold her hand. He didn’t have to talk.
The allotted time of one hour flew by. Before they knew it, the announcement came over the PA that visit time was over.
Mitch and Alison said their final good-byes, until next time. Their embrace was long and tight. When they parted Mitch noticed tears in Alison’s eyes. He hugged her close again.
‘Everything will work out, Hun. I promise. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.’
‘It’s hard not to, Mitch,’ Alison said.
‘The longer I stay in here, Al…the more I get used to things. I’ve got this…’ Mitch said staring reassuringly into her eyes.
Alison forced out a straight mouth smile.
Mitch checked over his shoulder to the Guard station. He took hold of her hands. ‘I gotta go Al…I love you and I miss you more than you can know. Take care on the drive home…I’ll call you tomorrow, OK.’
Alison again forced out a straight mouth smile as she tried to mask her sadness. Her welling eyes however revealed her true feelings. Mitch could see she was upset and he hated leaving her like this.
After one last hug Mitch had to leave. Prior to exiting to visit room, Mitch paused at the door. He turned back to Alison for one last look. She waved but she looked so sad. Mitch blew her a kiss and he was gone.
Once he was out of view, a guard searched Mitch to ensure nothing had been passed to him. He was then instructed to change out of the jumpsuit back into his greens before returning to the hospital ward.
On Sunday morning Mitch was discharged from the prison hospital ward to return to his cell.
He quickly dropped off his personal items in his cell before following the steady stream of inmates on their way to breakfast. He had an appetite for the first time in days.
As usual, the meal queue was long. Mitch stood about two-thirds along the slow moving line with his back to the wall. He had learned. His eyes were peeled for anyone looking in his direction.
With his breakfast tray filled, Mitch ambled over to the tea room. As he entered, he scanned the rows of tables in search of a suitable empty seat. There weren’t many.
Strolling through the middle of the room, Mitch heard a familiar voice off to the side. ‘Have a look at what the cat dragged in, will ya…’
Mitch smiled when he recognised Fitzy’s voice. Fitzy beckoned Mitch over to his table.
As Mitch placed his tray down Fitzy stood. His ripped physique filled his white t-shirt like it was three sizes too small. The sleeves cut into the top of his large biceps. They shook hands, followed by a fist bump.
‘It hasn’t been the same in here without you, mate,’ Fitzy said. ‘You know how it is…None of these drop kicks are intelligent enough to string two sentences together.’
Mitch nodded his agreement as he spooned some cereal into his mouth. He scanned the room. His quiet convalescence in hospital spoiled him. He forgot how noisy meal time was in there.
‘So, how are ya feeling, mate?’ Fitzy said.
‘Getting better each day. Still a little tender in places, but overall, I’m pretty good.’
‘Good stuff,’ Fitzy said. He tapped his teeth. ‘Missing a few in the grille…’ he said then shovelled some scrambled eggs into his mouth.
Mitch nodded. His missing teeth were a sensitive subject, one which he quickly deflected. ‘I was told that you were the one who found me on the floor in the toilets…’ Mitch said.
Fitzy gulped down his food. He nodded. ‘Yeah, I did. You were fucked Mitch. I shit myself when I saw you... I thought we’d lost ya, mate. I really did. Those fucken Africans really did a number on you.’
Mitch held his gaze on Fitzy. He checked over his shoulders. ‘How did you know it was the Africans…?’
Fitzy shook some pepper over his eggs. ‘I saw them running from the toilets,’ he said as he cut off a sizeable corner of eggs on toast. He paused. ‘I knew from their fucken grins something was up. When I went to check on you…I found you on the floor.’ He forked the food into his mouth.
‘Yeah, well, I don’t remember too much about it, actually.’
‘Well, they won’t be bothering you again,’ he mumbled through a full mouth.
Mitch scanned the tea room searching for the African inmates who attacked him. ‘Why’s that…?’
Fitzy checked over his shoulders. ‘I’ll fill you in later. Not here,’ he said. ‘So what was the diagnosis on your injuries?’
Mitch took a drink to wash down his mouth full. ‘Apparently I had swelling on the brain. They put me into a coma for about three or four days until the swelling subsided…’
Fitzy’s face distorted in an angry scowl. It was quite intimidating to look at.
‘Ah…I had a fractured cheek bone, fractured eye socket…broken nose…’ Mitch ran a finger down his nose. ‘Still a little crooked,’ he said.
‘And the teeth…’ Fitzy said as he lifted his chin to Mitch.
Mitch nodded. ‘Yeah, the teeth. I also had some broken ribs, bruised kidney and a bruised liver, apparently as well. And a shit load of body bruises.’
‘Fucken dogs must’ve kicked the shit out of you when you were unconscious on the ground.’ Fitzy said. He shook his disapproving head. He pointed his fork at Mitch. ‘You need a piss from now on… I’m taking a piss with you, mate. That’s not happening again.’
Mitch scoffed. ‘When you’ve got someone’s back, you’ve really got their back, don’t you…?’ Mitch said.
Fitzy cut through his eggs on toast with his elbows spread like wings. ‘It’s my training…’ he said. ’Never leave a man behind…You always…always look out for a mate…have his back no matter what and if someone wrongs you, or a mate…’ he pointed his plastic knife to Mitch. His eyes narrowed. ’You always make it right,’ he said then filled his mouth.
Mitch regarded Fitzy. He was quietly relieved Fitzy was an ally. He was a little intimidating and not a man you wanted to mess with, that was for sure.
Fitzy pushed his plate to the side and leaned on his elbows. He watched Mitch eating. After several beats passed, he said, ‘No appetite…?’
Mitch knew he was taking longer than usual to finish. He was still adjusting to eating solid foods. He had to take it slow due to his missing teeth. His gums were still tender and his jaw ached when he bit down too hard.
‘Yes…but sore mouth and less teeth…’ Mitch said. ‘I’m finished anyway…’ he pushed his plate to the side.
‘Grab your tray. Let’s take a walk,’ Fitzy said.