Make A Wish
by Loki Renard
Loki leaned up against the grimy brick wall of the exercise yard, a cigarette hanging between her lips. She wasn’t actually smoking it, it was just an affectation, a way for her to look powerful. Cigarettes were currency in the Bucket. Smoking one when you weren’t even inhaling it – well that was the equivalent of standing on a street corner burning cold hard cash.
It wasn’t just the cigarette. Everything about her was calculated to impart a ‘not a single fuck was given that day’ message of casual detachment. The orange sleeves of her uniform were rolled up above her elbows, her hands shoved in her pockets. She’d even managed to score a pair of contraband sunglasses that sat jauntily on her head above the curls that had grown during her stay at the Bucket and were now tumbling into her eyes.
Smiling to herself, Callie passed Loki by and sat down at the weight bench. The fish certainly was cultivating an air of self-reliance these days. She’d always been cocky of course, but it had deepened of late into something more like genuine confidence. That pleased Callie a great deal because it had some useful knock on effects. For instance, Loki wasn’t picking fights anymore, she didn’t need to. Nobody messed with Loki and a few of the newer inmates, ones who’d never seen her with her pants around her ankles, legs flailing as she got her ass publicly spanked had started orbiting her with an eye for protection.
Laying back and wrapping her fingers around the familiar bar above her head, Callie was glad. Loki was starting to grow up and need her less. She hadn’t laid a finger on the fish in weeks in fact, and she didn’t think she was going to have to either. Velda had been right, Loki had just needed one good solid Callie-style beating to knock some sense into her.
Callie took a deep breath and lifted the bar off the struts that supported it. The familiar strain felt good as her muscles took the load and she began pumping iron, quite content with the world and her place in it. Yeah, she was behind bars and yeah, she might well not see the light of day until she was truly old, but she had friends and people she cared about that that was what you really needed in life.
Squinting into the sun as she hefted the heavy bar up and down, Callie mused inwardly about the meaning of life until she found herself unexpectedly able to see better as a shadow fell across her. It was a female guard, hands on hips, lips thin. Callie’s heart skipped a beat as it always did when she was caught unawares. There were a few new screws about the place lately and she didn’t quite trust them yet. You never knew what a new screw was going to be like until they’d broken up a few fights and had a couple of paper cups of pee tossed on them. An impromptu golden shower was always a good test of a person’s character.
“You’re going out, Lee,” the guard muttered.
“Out?” Callie frowned. She dropped the weight onto the rack with a loud clang and sat up on the bench. Having made her announcement, the guard was already moving back towards the cell block, and Callie had to rush to keep up with her. “Sorry, what did you say?” She finally caught up to the guard as the woman made her way into the interior of the building.
“Your application for leave was approved,” the guard said, mounting the metal staircase that lead up to Callie’s cell.
“Leave?” Callie shook her head, following her step for step. “I didn’t apply for leave. You don’t get leave in here.”
The guard stopped outside Callie and Loki’s cell, hands on her hips, thumbs tucked into her shiny belt. She jerked her head towards the interior. “Get changed and let’s go.”
Mystified, Callie did as she was told and got changed into the only civilian clothing she still owned, a pair of black jeans that fit her skin tight and a white blouse. It was the outfit she usually wore to get denied for parole.
Once she was dressed, the guard escorted her to the front yard. Callie had been there only once before – on the day she’d been incarcerated at the Bucket. Seeing the imposing high gates manned heavily by the guards sent a chill through to her very soul. A prison bus was waiting for her. It was a small bus, a six-seater, operated by two guards. She could remember what it had been like to stumble off a bus just like it, back when she was young and angry and stupid as hell.
“Where are we going?” Callie tried getting some answers. Were they transferring her to another prison? The woman guard had said she was getting leave, but that didn’t make sense. There was no ‘leave.’ There was only parole, and Callie knew she didn’t have that.
The guard at the steps of the bus, a man Callie also didn’t know, slammed the side of the vehicle with his baton in response to her stalling. “Get in!” The order was rough and Callie got the impression he wasn’t going to be answering any of her questions any time soon. Without trying to ask again, she got into the van and sat in the back, wondering at the fact that she wasn’t even being shackled.
The door of the van slammed shut, the prison gates drew slowly open and the world unfolded before her as the bus trundled out into the countryside. The Bucket was located in the middle of fucking nowhere. It was put there for a reason – to make it harder to successfully escape. Even if you did get over the wall you had a heck of a long way to go before you found a town or a city.
It was a long, long drive, but Callie didn’t mind. She drank in the scenery, gazing at the paddocks and fields with the awe of a woman who has not seen open spaces for a very long time indeed. She’d forgotten what it was to see the sky go on for ever and ever, to be bordered by the horizon, not by a cement wall.
She had her eyes on the skies when the van slowed to a halt. “Oh shit,” she swore softly under her breath when she saw where they’d taken her. The bus had pulled up alongside a cemetery. Long Cemetery, the graveyard where Josie lay beneath the soil. Callie remembered the name, remembered penning it on the application papers when Josie had died, the same papers that came back with the inevitable word: DENIED, stamped across the top of them in punitive red ink.
She’d eventually made her peace with not being able to attend the funeral. Josie was dead, but she hadn’t gone, not to Callie. Callie felt her presence every day in each soft gust of wind that brushed gently over her skin, and in the touch of the sun’s rays. As she stepped off the bus, a warm rushing breeze skipped towards her, bringing with it tumbling orange and red leaves.
“Row eleven, plot nine,” the male guard said solemnly.
Callie nodded, but her feet did not move. Sometimes, when it was too hard to face what had happened, jail made it easy to pretend that Josie was still alive on the outside. But in this place there couldn’t be any denial. Forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other, she began to move across the damp grass towards the spot where Josie lay.
Tears that had lain dormant for years prickled at Callie’s eyes as she passed by gravestones. Regret was welling. Josie had died alone and in pain. Had she known how fiercely she was loved? Callie’s hands curled into fists by her sides as the events leading to Josie’s death flashed through her mind. Josie had deserved so much better than what she had gotten.
Another step, she was drawing closer. She could feel it. This was row ten. A line of low stones set into the soil marked the graves. She shuffled along, her gaze skipping over unfamiliar names. Then, there it was. Plot nine. Almost indistinguishable from the others. Callie found herself looking down at the stone with a gaze that wavered like water. It was black granite embossed with gold letters that spelled out Josie’s name. Josephine. Josephine Smith. Born. Died. And now laying at rest somewhere beneath Callie’s black rubber trainers.
Sinking to her knees, Callie pressed her palm to the soil. If only she could touch Josie one more time. Hold her one more time. Tell her she was loved just one more time. Faced with the final futility of death, Callie bowed her head and wept, hot tears falling on indifferent earth.
The warm wind swept over her back like a caress as she cried, years of hurt and pain pouring out of her body with a force that left her trembling and weak. “I miss you, Josie,” she whispered, kissing her fingertips and pressing them to the warm stone.
If she could have melted into the earth and embraced Josie that way, she would have done. But she could not. She could only mourn Josie and live a life that honored the woman. As the sun warmed her back and the wind teased around her tear-stained cheeks, Callie began to feel better.
As her tears cleared, so too did some of the heaviness in her spirit. She hadn’t realized how much she had been holding onto all this time. She was grateful for the opportunity she’d been given to see what remained of Josie. If she spent the rest of her life behind bars, it would be okay. She would remember the way the grass felt beneath her hands, the way the smooth stone slid under her fingers. She would remember this visit to Josie’s resting place always.
Ready to go, Callie turned around, looking for the prison guard and the bus. But neither were there. The spot on the road where they had been was devoid of vehicles and she was entirely alone in the cemetery.
Almost alone anyway.
Frowning to herself and looking around, Callie spotted a figure leaning up against a tree across the other side of the cemetery. It was a woman dressed all in black. Black trench coat, black pants, black turtleneck, black fedora. She was dressed, in short, like a villain in a bad spy novel.
With few other options available to her, Callie made her way over to the woman. As Callie drew closer and the mysterious figure raised her head, and then her sunglasses, Callie recognized her immediately. Loki.
“What are you doing here?”
Loki smiled a wide, Cheshire cat smile. “Offering you your freedom.”
Callie frowned as her heart sank. Loki should have been tucked up safely in prison, not lurking around cemeteries. “What are you talking about, fish?”
Loki’s eyes shone brightly. “Remember the last time we, er, spoke?” She coughed slightly and made air quote signs as she said ‘spoke.’ “You said I was better than the other cons. Well so are you, Callie. You deserve a second chance.”
“I’m not getting any more chances,” Callie shook her head. “I’ve been denied parole more times than you’ve had a hot ass.”
Loki’s grin grew wider still, until Callie thought the top of the woman’s head might tip off. “Yes you are. You’re going to walk away right now. Start a new life. I got everything fixed for you.” Loki held out a yellow packet full of papers.
Glancing warily over the packet at Loki, Callie opened it and pulled out a passport, a driver’s license and a state ID. They all had her face on them, but they didn’t have her name. They had a new name. A horrid name. “Millicent Lemon?”
Loki was smirking. “Well I knew you wouldn’t like Ermentrude.”
“Fish,” Callie looked at Loki seriously. “I can’t take this.”
“Yes you can,” Loki said with supreme confidence. “You can take it and you can start over new wherever you want.”
“They’ll find me,” Callie shook her head. “I’ll go to jail for life.”
“They won’t,” Loki said certainly, then frowned as if she was second guessing herself. “Well, if they do I’ll get you out,” she promised.
Callie continued to shake her head. “You’re never going to change, are you fish? You’re never going to stop looking for ways to buck the system.”
“Fuck the system, Callie,” Loki spoke with a low certainty that seemed foreign to Callie. In jail the little fish had been vulnerable, even scared sometimes. Out in the world she was different. She stood straighter, she spoke more clearly and there was a hard look in her eye that Callie had seen before – it was the look of someone who had decided not to surrender. “I say you’ve paid your debt to society.”
Callie was tempted, strongly tempted to believe her. If what Loki was saying was right, then she was holding a ticket to a new life in her hands. A new life in which she would be known as Ms. Lemon, but a new life none the less. But what if Loki was wrong? What if Loki was going to get them both in more trouble than they’d ever been in?
Picking up on Callie’s uncertainty, Loki was quick to reassure her. “You can trust me, Callie. I don’t do much right, but this,” Loki nodded towards the packet Callie was holding. “This I do right.”
“Was doing it right how you got caught and thrown in jail?” Callie’s tone was laced with heavy skepticism.
“Naw,” Loki shook her head with a rueful grin. “Trusting the wrong person was how I got caught and thrown in jail. But I reckon I can trust you.”
Callie opened her mouth and shut it again. She didn’t know what to say. She was being offered an unparalleled opportunity, the sort of opportunity every convict dreams about. But now it was in front of her, the prospect of freedom, of a completely clean slate, she felt uncharacteristic fear. Where would she go? What would she do? In the Bucket she knew who she was. She was Callie. She was respected. She lifted weights and got double chocolate pudding on Thursdays. Out here in the world where the sky didn’t end in barbed wire, she was no-one. Scratch that, she was Millicent Lemon, which was possibly worse.
Callie wondered how Loki could stand there grinning like that. She watched, somewhat dumfounded as the fish reached for a cigarette and lit it, taking a deep drag. It was then that Callie understood why her bitch had been such a pain in the ass behind bars. The same characteristics that had made Loki such a danger to herself in prison were the ones that made her more free than most in the real world. Loki just didn’t understand that you couldn’t do these things.
Glancing around, Callie half expected to hear sirens and the cocking of guns in their direction, but there were no squealing tires, no slamming doors. Just the soft sound of the breeze through the leaves and a few chirruping insects. Was Loki right? Could you really get away with this sort of thing if you were just prepared to be brazen about it? “If I’m Millicent Lemon, who are you?” Callie asked, curious to see what Loki had up her sleeve.
Loki reached into her pocket and pulled out a card. “Charlize Brown, at your service.”
“Charlize Brown,” Callie snorted. “You are too much.”
“You don’t like Charlize Brown?” Loki reached into the other pocket and dug out another business card, glancing at it quickly. “How about Susan Brooks?”
The girl had more identities than a super spy. Callie didn’t like that. Didn’t trust it. “Just who are you, fish?”
Loki puffed at her cigarette and grinned rakishly. “You know who I am, Callie.”
“No I don’t,” Callie shook her head. “I don’t know the first thing about you.”
Leaning her forearm against the tree, Loki pointed the cigarette at Callie in a way Callie wished she wouldn’t. A few cinders caught on the breeze and flew away, glowing red for a few seconds before crumbling to ash. “You know plenty about me, Callie. You’ve been the one keeping me myself all these months. You think an identity is in a name?” Loki shook her head. “No. An identity is who you are. What you do. You know me well enough, Callie.”
“Then I know you’re an unpredictable brat who will get herself in trouble sooner rather than later,” Callie said, hefting the packet in her hand. “And you’ve just dragged me into a whole mess of it.”
Loki tilted her head to the side and shrugged. “You don’t seem very appreciative.”
“I am appreciative. I think. Maybe.” Callie ran her hand through her short cropped hair. “But you have to see what you’ve done. You didn’t tell me about this. You didn’t even ask me if I wanted out. You just had me dragged out.”
“Of course I didn’t tell you,” Loki said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “You would have fretted. Better to do it and surprise you,” she grinned unrepentantly.
Callie growled at the description of her as being fretful. “You still need your ass beat.”
“Well you can run protection for me if you want,” Loki said generously. “Same terms as the inside, a bread roll and a plate of chocolate pudding per week?”
The girl wasn’t taking this seriously at all. She’d just committed major fraud without so much as a second thought. “Fuck, fish!” Callie exploded in the face of Loki’s joke. “This is serious! You’ve just made me commit a felony.”
“Fuck off. I saved you!” Loki wasn’t backing down, but she did take a step back when Callie stepped to her.
Callie’s shoulders and arms were tight with anger. Truth be told, she was scared. Loki had ripped the carpet of her entire existence out from under her feet. Callie had woken up expecting that day to be a day like any other – but Loki had fucked that all up in one fell swoop and Callie had the feeling that it wasn’t going to be undone easily. Even if she walked her ass back to jail – which was a crazy enough idea in itself, she was still going to be in some deep shit. Nobody would believe that Loki had just busted her out without her consent. “I should kick your ass,” Callie growled, her voice low with menace.
“But… but I saved you.” Loki no longer looked quite as certain as she had done a moment before. Her shoulders sank under Callie’s ire, and the debonair appearance she’d been cultivating quite wilted away. She suddenly looked very much like a puppy who, expecting praise for being so clever as to have peed on the carpet, finds themselves quite unexpectedly chastised.
Callie took a deep breath, and then another, trying to calm herself. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s going to be okay, she told herself. She closed her eyes and turned away from Loki. She couldn’t even look at the younger woman in that moment. Of all the stunts Loki had pulled, this took the cake by far. Only this wasn’t a stunt. Loki had just ruined Callie’s life. She’d taken any chance Callie had ever had at actually getting parole and she’d poured gasoline on it and set it ablaze.
“Do you make everyone regret the day they met you?” Callie asked in a low growl.
“Ouch,” Loki noted in a hurt voice. “That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think? This is the thanks I get for busting you out of jail? Did you want to stay there? Are you that much of a jail bird, Callie?” The hurt became something else, a devious taunt. “Are you afraid to be free?”
With a howl of anger, Callie turned, grabbed Loki and wrestled her to the ground. She held the fish in the dirt, her left hand in the front of Loki’s collar, her right hand clenched into a fist, ready to pound it down against the little bitch’s smug face.
Loki’s eyes were wide with fear, and it was that fear that snapped Callie back to herself. She wasn’t going to do this. Not here. Not so close to Josie’s grave. With a sound of pure disgust, she let go of Loki’s collar and stumbled up and away from the younger woman whose face had crumpled in despair and dismay. Anger was still raging through her, searching for an outlet. She had to give it one before she hurt the fish badly.
“I was just trying to help,” Loki said softly.
“You never fucking help,” Callie said, slamming her fist against the tree with enough force to make her cry out loud. Her knuckles came away bloody and aching, but far from recoiling from the pain, Callie leaned into it, using it to channel her aggression away from the now quite terrified woman who was shuffling away from her as fast as she could on her hands and ass.
“I can help!” Loki whimpered. “If you’d just trust me.”
Callie rounded on her, eyes flashing, making Loki whimper with fear. “What is there to trust, fish? A few pieces of ID? You think that’s going to solve all our problems?”
“Rotting in jail won’t solve our problems either,” Loki pointed out in muted tones.
“Maybe not,” Callie conceded, resting her back against the tree and slowly sliding down the trunk. She crouched down, cradling her sore fist in her lap. She was already regretting having hit the tree. Her hand was going to hurt for a long time. Still, it was better than having beat the shit of out of Loki. She would need her little bitch in one piece if they were going to get out of this mess.