As convenient as the hours and pay of this was for me, college was officially over and I no longer needed to work here. Not when I had a Junior Associate position at a highly esteemed real estate agency set up for me in LA, thanks to a recommendation from an internship I did last year.
While I was mostly relieved to finally be free of this place, not exactly the most ideal work environment, I couldn’t deny that I would miss a few things about the place. Mainly the fish bowel – my office, to a certain extent.
I may only have worked at the prison two entire days and an evening a week due to my demanding college schedule; but it was a job nonetheless and the fish bowl was nothing short of my sanctuary. As strange as it sounded, the moment I closed the door behind me at the beginning of my shift, I was cut off from the rest of the world. Other than the occasional bathroom break where one of the guards kept watch for those few moments, I remained in the large glass container from the beginning of the shift till the very end.
Separated from the prisoners, I sat high up in the air in a large glass container that kept watch over everything, including the cells and communal areas. If something or someone looked strange or out of place, it was job to press the buzzer to alert the guards patrolling the floor. When the guards indicated for me to do, I pressed one of the other relevant buttons to open up the row of cells.
The job itself was quite low maintenance and fit in with the demands of my schedule quite well, allowing me to revise and get my work done from the see through sanctuary. As long as I kept an eye on the happenings of everyone and everything below, all was well on my end.
As unconventional as this job appeared to some, especially when I mentioned it in passing that I worked part-time at Riker’s, it had become somewhat of a norm for me these past four years and now, it felt oddly strange to say goodbye to the place.
Bittersweet, I believe would be the best word to describe how I was feeling right now.
With less than half an hour left of my shift, I was feeling very bittersweet regarding the whole ordeal.
With no college work, exams to revise for or other tasks to divide my attention, today was one of those rare shifts that I had nothing to do. With my arms crossed over my chest, I approached the glass wall in front of me, peering down onto the floor, catching the eye of a few of the cell mates as they were all out on their break right now. It wasn’t foreign for one of the prisons – or guards, even – to glance up at me every now and again, curious as to the happenings inside the infamous fish bowl. Neither was it foreign for me to procrastinate and allow my mind to wander as to what some of these men had done to land themselves in prison.
There were a lot of familiar faces – not names as I had virtually no interaction with any of the cellmates. That was probably best as they struggled to control themselves when I turned up in anything but oversized, unflattering jogging bottoms and sweatshirts, something which I had learnt the hard way when I wore a skirt the first day.
I hadn’t put too much thought into it and when all the inmates seemed to be staring up at me with large grins on their faces, half of them gesturing lewdly with their hands and other body parts, I had been naïve enough to believe that I was probably the first female that they had seen in all of their time locked away. It was only when one of the guards on the floor caught my eye and gestured to his thighs, making a show of tugging his trousers down slightly that my face grew red in embarrassment and I realised they could all see up my skirt. I had passed the rest of the shift refusing to get up from the chair despite many of the inmates still watching me.
That was the last time I had worn anything but long bottoms to the prison. That was also four years ago and in all that time, I had seen a lot of people come into the prison, yet very few faces left these four, highly secure walls.
It was rather depressing seeing the same faces each and every week, even more so when I thought of the happenings and misdeeds that they must have carried out to land themselves in here.
There were always the classis thieves, rapist, murderers and other more common types of criminals but it was those that I couldn’t put into one of those bigger categories that called for my attention. The ones that had been locked up for a slight unconventional reason, perhaps one that didn’t warrant such time but what did I know?
Regardless of my interest, there was no way of me knowing the truth from all the way up here.
When the long hand on the clock hit the hour, a knock sounded on the door as it always did at the end of my shift. With a large grin on my face, I greeted the familiar woman as we swapped positions; the end of my shift indicating the beginning of hers.
With an added hop and skip in my step, I bound down the corridor and toward the staffroom; the only way in and out of the prison, including for shipments.
“Maricela.” One of the guards, Christian, called after me just as I had walked past the security sensor to let myself out of the prison building for the last time ever.
“Hey.” I offered him a small smile, not quite sure he wanted.
“Sorry, I see that you were about to leave.” He chuckled, scratching the back of his neck nervously. “Before you do, I have someone that wants to have a quick word with you.”
“Who?” I asked, my eyebrows furrowing together in the middle as I tried to figure out who it was. As far as I was concerned, I had seen everyone I usually spoke to, which included most of the guards which worked up front.
“One of the inmates.” Christian shrugged casually as he grabbed my arm and led me back down the hallway. Instead of heading forward for the fish bowl like I usually would have, we turned left and then right until we were in the visitation centre, the room separated by a large glass wall partitioned by several booths for privacy.
“One of the inmates?” I scoffed, believing this to be a joke but I was proven sorely mistake when he shook his head, a grim expression on his face. “What’s going on here, Christian? Why does this inmate want to speak to me?”
“Just speak to him for two minutes. Please.” Christian pleaded as he pushed me into one of the chairs, the only person in the room right now as visiting hours were already over for the day.
“Speak to who?” I asked but when I glanced over my shoulder, Christian was already gone.
Turning around to face the front, staring through the glass wall, I saw nothing but a chair identical to mine, currently empty on the other side. I blinked once and twice, allowing several moments to pass but there was still nothing. Crossing my arms over my chest, I tapped my feet impatiently on the ground, wondering how long I was supposed to sit here because there was still some packing that I needed to do back in my dorm before I got on the flight to LA tomorrow. Not to mention that I was supposed to have one last dinner with my dormmates in an hour but if this continued, it appeared that I would be late.
When I uncrossed and then crossed my legs the other way, I spied a door opening on the other side. Perking up at the sight, I didn’t bother hiding my frustrated when Christian came into sight, but it was quickly covered up by a mix of curiosity and confusion as a tall man walked in behind him, decked head to joe in an orange jumpsuit which had dulled in colour; no doubt having seen far better days.
The inmate grinned at the sight of me and he wasted no time in taking the seat in front of me.
Christian’s mouth moved as he said something. While I couldn’t hear through the wall, the man in front of me nodded nonchalantly and it was only then that he reached for the phone, a hopeful smile on his face that I would do the same.
“Hello, fishy.” He addressed me in a gruff voice, not quite matching the grin on his face that wasn’t all that visible through the overgrown beard. “How are you?”
“Fishy.” I frowned and hummed, echoing the question as I held the phone to my ear. “My name isn’t fishy. I think you might have the wrong person.”
“I know it isn’t fishy, but that’s what I call you.” He shrugged which only made me think that he was delusional. “My name is Gabriele. It’s nice to officially meet you, fishy.”
I was tempted to say likewise out of habit, but I didn’t appreciate being called fishy as I was far from a fan of seafood. Not to mention neither Christian or the inmate, Gabriele, had explained to me what was going on.
“What’s going on here?” I questioned, choosing to avoid beating around the bush house. “How did you get Christian to agree to this?”
“Just some good old-fashioned bribery works like a charm.” Gabriele chuckled, shooting a smirk over his shoulder at Christian who was clearly uncomfortable, checking his watch every few seconds. “But I’d rather not talk about that right now.”
“Why did you want to speak to me?” I decided to entertain him for a few moments before I would leave.
“I know today is your last day.” He stated the fact. “I wanted to get a chance to speak to you before you left.”
“How do you know today is my last day?”
Again, he spared a brief smirk over his shoulder at Christian whose ashamed expression was answer enough for me. Pursing my lips, I shot the guard a dark glare before turning my attention to the man in front of me.
“You wanted to speak to me. Well, you’ve done that.” I pursed my lips, gesturing to the phone which we were both holding to our ears. “As much as I’d love to stay and chat with you, I need to go.” I tried my best to hold back the sarcasm from dripping into my tone, but I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I wasn’t very good at the job.
“I understand that you’re busy.” He sighed and for the first time since he was sat in front of me – not very long, might I add – his lips turned down into a small frown. “But I just wanted to ask you one thing.”
Just by looking at him, I could only assume that this man was in his early thirties or not far off from here but with all the unkempt facial hair, I was sure shaving a few years off the top would be closer to his real age.
“What did you want to ask me?” I asked in a quiet voice, ignorant and unaware of what exactly I was getting myself into.
“Will you stay in touch? Write to me? Call me sometimes, even?” Gabriel asked, a hopeful expression on his face as he stared at me through the glass.
At first, I was tempted to throw back my head and laugh, to accus both him and Christian of pulling a practical joke on me on my last day of work. If it wasn’t for the fact that I caught him holding his breath, I probably would have done just that.
“Sure.” I faked a smile and nodded before putting down the phone.
While I had absolutely no intention of following through with that promise – a completely bizarre and strange thing to ask from a total stranger – he didn’t need to know that. After all, I was smart enough to know that you didn’t say no to a man in prison.
Please remember to like, comment, review and follow me if you haven’t already! Also, support me on Patreon to get read the get EARLY ACCESS to all my books, including this book!