Eight years of my life gone. Wasted away in a jail cell, the beatings, the occasional rapes, the hive of villainy focused on the horrible deeds I performed. I was dirt to them and they abused me every chance they got. PC, protective custody, only worked so well, there were opportunities afterwards, after the first year where I endured brutal beatings and feared for my life, when they still got to me.
My mistake? Hormones, love and trust.
It's been six months since I got out. No one greeted me at the gate. I rode the bus back into town and from there I caught my connection back to home. Home. Well it wasn't home anymore. I set myself up in a town about forty miles away from where I once lived. Found a crummy job. Lived in a shitty studio apartment and relegated myself to existing there. Once a week I reported to my PO, same shit, same story. I worked, and kept my mind off the future, or the past. It was a step up for me. I still worried about getting jumped. I was cagey. Everyone is once they get out. More so for me. I kept my head down and didn't draw attention to myself, worried that my crimes were tattooed on my forehead for all to see. I had served my time, but I still felt guilty, the walls had changed but my mindset hadn't.
I kept to myself. Working in the warehouse stocking shelves, my body ached as I was thin and not strong. The others tried to engage me, but I kept quiet and soon they gave up. I wasn't interested in making friends. Before them worked a broken man. The system had chewed me up and if any one of them would be so lucky as to meet my eyes, deep within them they would see that my fire had burned out long ago.
The knocking on my door confused me. I had no friends and my rent was paid up. Maybe the cops? Crap, what did I do now? I opened the door slowly, worried who might be on the other side. Maybe a gang, come to beat the crap out of me.
"Hi," she said.
My stomach rolled. She was older now. I said nothing. I couldn't speak. I didn't meet her eyes. She couldn't meet mine. For how long we stood there I don't know. Finally I spoke.
"What are you doing here? How did you find me?"
She looked past me into my room. "Can I come in?"
Before I knew it she was inside my studio apartment sitting on my ratty torn couch. There was room for me to sit. I stood and leaned against the wall.
"The internet," she said.
"There's a site listing people like you."
"Oh," I was ever the wit.
"You want something to drink?"
She nodded. I gave her a glass of water. She drank it down quickly and fidgeted with the empty glass. I took it from her, being careful not to touch her.
"You've grown," I said.
"It's been eight years."
She sat there. I stood. We waited again in the quiet. The sun had gone down and the room grew dark. In the shadows she spoke.
"I'm sorry." She said. There was a hitch in her voice.
"Don't be, it wasn't your fault. I'm the one who is sorry."
"No. I'm not sorry for that. I'm sorry for what happened afterwards. If it wasn't for me..."
"Like I said. It wasn't your fault. I was the adult. I should have been stronger. Don't be sorry. There was nothing you could have done."
"We don't get along now. I don't speak with her much."
"She did what she had to do. It was all my fault, no one else's."
She changed topics.
"Was it rough in jail?"
I was glad that it was dark in the apartment now. I knew my face had changed and the cold bitterness would be ugly to her.
"Pretty rough. They beat me many times. I was in the infirmary pretty much the entire first year."
She was quiet.
She turned on a table lamp and the room was filled with warmth.
"I've missed you," she finally said.