A little more than a week had past, with only four days left for me to deny or accept Ramon’s proposal. I wouldn’t be able to have contact with Yurika till the end of the month, long past my deadline, so I could expect no help from her. Peace kept telling me to find a husband, because if I was claimed, it would be like a moat before a castle. Protection was essential to survival in a place like this, and I couldn’t shadow Peace forever. Stryfe made no claim to me, and likewise, offered no protection beyond his defense of his beloved, me by extension, only when Peace and I were together.
There had to be a better way, there always was. I haven’t had any dreams in awhile, I thought that would comfort me, but it didn’t. The days blended together, with the monotonous routine interrupted by savage fights and the occasional death. I chided myself, as I knew that I was becoming acclimated to this environment filled with darkness, death, and despair. On this particular day, Peace and I killed time playing a few hands of ‘head to head’ spades, a game I’d always had the knack for, hence me winning eight out of ten games. The bell rang for us to get prepared for breakfast and shower escort, I was steadily getting used to the breadline rush that always seemed to postlude the signal for chow.
Unfortunately, this was a day when Peace participated in P-TEP, the prisons employment rehabilitation program. He spent that time assisting Warden Turner and his secretary Miss Saundra. That meant I would be spending my time at chow and in the yard, alone and vulnerable. I was pretty sure Stryfe would practice neutrality if I were to have a run in with ‘Corte dos Reis’, or anyone else for that matter. I’d be a fool to depend on him helping me, with such a lack of incentive and I couldn’t fault him for that at all, he owed me nothing, not even loyalty.
During escort, I did my best to stay in the line of site of Cerberus, because I trusted him to intervene on my behalf in a worst case scenario. As I passed Ramon’s banquet tables full of the delicious smelling food, I tried ardently to ignore the delectable aroma and kept my gaze straight ahead. I immediately could feel all the eyes on me at once, but I pretended to be oblivious. I waited on the long line to receive my bland meal of unseasoned clumpy yellow colored rice, a dry piece of cornbread, a juice box, and some type of crumbling mystery meatloaf covered in a watery gravy. With my only ally elsewhere, I had no one to sit next to, this only punctuated the dire predicament I found myself trapped in.
I saw an empty table off to the side that was a decent distance from Ramon and company, also providing a wall behind me to cover my rear, so I hastily made my way over to claim it. The food was absolutely disgusting, and I was only able to stomach a spoonful or two, before putting down the plastic spork they provided as an eating utensil. As I sipped from my sugary juice box, someone took it upon themselves to have a seat across from me.
It was the guy with the fiery amber burning gaze, he had garnered the alias ‘Wrath’ among the populous of Mythos penitentiary, even the guards used the moniker. He had a look in his eyes, almost daring me to protest his intrusion. He kept watching me, as he went to take his first bite of the slop on his plate. I watched as he spewed the food from his mouth, trying to cough up and expel the repugnant taste. He took the tray and launched it into the wall, painting it in splattered food. I had surprisingly gotten through his little fit, unscathed by the flying debris. somehow finding the whole display comical, going into hysterics, garnering queer looks from the surrounding inmates.
Wrath eyed me incredulously, before a smile broke out on his face, and he joined in the laughter. It was the first time since he’d been here that I saw anything other than a steely apathetic face or an imposing scowl from him. If I had thought he was gorgeous before, I was entirely mistaken. When all the aggression and anger was washed from his face, he was truly a sight to behold. He had a mouth full of straight ivory whites, encased in full succulent lips. His eyes shined bright, turn a hazy shimmering sunset hue I’d feel like I’d seen before, it was a breathtaking view to behold. When he returned to his seat, the smile thankfully remained. His juice box had also survived his rage so I grabbed it, holding it out for him to take.
“Na, shorty. You can have it, I don’t even want nothin no more. That shit right there ruin’d my whole appetite.” He said, ending with a chuckle, it was very masculine sounding almost like a growl.
“Thank you, the juice is about the only thing they serve that’s consumable.” I replied, shaking my head.
“Yo, where I know your face from? It’s so familiar but I can’t place it. Ever been a model or a actor? Something like that?”
“Umm…” I shifted in my seat nervously, I wasn’t prepared for him to be so talkative and curious. “My name is Jynx Joseph Ellison, you may have seen me plastered all over the news or in the papers in the last few months…”
“Shit, I been in the system since I was fifteen. So forgive me if I’m not up on current events from the papers, they did have a tv in the last joint I was at. It was in the guard’s office, but the only show those guards watched was that white bitch Nancy Grace…” He paused momentarily and his brows rode up high on his face, recognition finally setting in, as I was staple on that banshee bitch’s show. “Oh Fuck bro! You that rich kid that embezzled all that money for terrorists, they was calling you a traitor an shit. I guess money don’t get you out of everything, ain’t your pops like.. The richest man in America or something like that?”
“He’s the third.. but I’d prefer not to talk about him, he has everything to do with why I’m in here now.” I replied, just the thought of that conniving bastard killed my mood.
“Damn, that’s fucked up, sorry to hear it.”
“Don’t worry about it” I replied dismissively. “So tell me about yourself, I don’t even know your name.”
“They call me Wrath ’round these parts..”
“I don’t want to know what THEY call you, I want to know the REAL you.” I stared him in the eye as I said those words, and he took a moment to gage the sincerity of what I was saying.
“My name’s Castor, Castor Woodrow. It’s weird because in all my time in the pen, hardly anyone has asked me that. Maybe a Warden or two, but that’s probably it, everyone else just gave me a nickname. Most niggas are intimidated by me cause of my size and my so called violent reputation, but fuck that! This a whole ‘notha world in here. Only the strong survive and the rest either become a bitch, a snitch, or a mark. I ain’t going out like that, I’ll beat a nigga ass up in this mothafucker!” He gave that hearty infectious laugh, so infectious, I had no choice but to be coerced into joining him.
Suddenly, we were unceremoniously interrupted by some unexpected guests, it was Pandora and Cavaleiro. Why hadn’t I seen them sneak up? Too busy laughing it up with this guy, I had let my guard down, now I had no choice but to pay the consequences. I really should have expected this, Ramon was a jealous and possessive man, he’d probably been watching us the entire time. Pandora had that vindictive look I had become accustom to, I had already accepted the scowl as a permanent fixture. Cavaleiro, on the other hand, kept his gaze fixed upon Wrath, and they both stared each other down. He finally turned to me, and before he could start, I knew he was here delivering a message from Ramon.
“O Rei has requested you join him at his table for the remainder of chow, there is already a plate setup for you, where he awaits.” Turning to Wrath, with a smirk “The invitation is exclusive.”
“Sorry guys, but once again, I’ll try my hand at declining the offer.” I stated apprehensively, wondering how far would Ramon go to have his way.
“And AGAIN, that is not an option, are you intent on make this difficult?” The asperity in his voice was an unspoken warning, as he moved to grab me up out of my seat.
“Yo nigga, you see us having a conversation here righ’? Anyways, I coulda sworn I heard shawty say NO and ya straight tryin to disrespect!” Wrath cut in, as he rose from his seat, and he removed Cavaleiro’s arm from me forcefully.
He had that look I’d seen when he first arrived here at Mythos, it was also the same ire gaze he wore when he was masked in my premonition. Those pale burning orbs turning a furiously fiery sienna, giving him the look of a crazed beast in the wild. This was not missed by Cavaleiro, doubt readable in his eyes. It was clear Wrath’s reputation had even reached the ears of the high court, it was a wonder why he wasn’t vetted the way the other new arrivals were, it wasn’t for a lack of attractiveness either. Here he was thou, literally a stranger, defending me from the treacherous reaches of a tyrannical closet sadist.
The only problem was that it was clear that Wrath was a loose cannon, suffering from paroxysms of rage without regard for his own well being, or his opponents. Cavaleiro cut his eyes to me, I could sense a tinge of fear, but something told me it wasn’t caused by Wrath.
“You know he’s not gonna be happy with this.” He said to me ominously, before turning to Pandora. “Vamos.”
“Is that it?” He asked, looking at Cavaleiro in disbelief. “Why all’a ya letting this.. perra blanca malcriado get away with this, he ain’t nothing special. I don’t know why you motherfuckers let him have his way! He ain’t nothin but a punk ass fish.”
“Calar a boca! Let’s go, O Rei is not gonna be happy as is!” Cavaleiro screamed angril, in response to Pandora’s incessant whining.
I’m sure he had enough on his hands, as he was returning to Ramon empty handed. He hastily started to walk away, with Pandora trying to keep pace behind him. Wrath was still standing when they left, never taking his sight off of them. He finally turned to me, the fire in his eyes still simmering. I held his gaze, not knowing what to do, I almost wanted to run but I needed to show I had no fear of this beast.
“Thank you, you didn’t have to do that. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to get on Ramon’s bad side.” I said, breaking the tense silence between us.
“Don’t mention it, shawty.” He replied, just a hint of hardness tainting his velvety baritone. “Who’s this Ramon dude? And why that nigga trippin off you? ..You his girl?”
“First of all, I’m not a girl, I detest being referred to as such.. as for who he is, the people here refer to him as O Rei, but I know him as Ramon Carlo Jr., we knew each other as children and he seems to believe he has a claim to me. I haven’t seen him in years and I’m still trying to figure out if our chance meeting here, is merely serendipitous or carefully orchestrated..”
At that precise moment, we heard screaming and shouting coming from the center of the cafeteria, it was Ramon. He was screaming obscenities indiscriminately at the members of ‘O Tribunal’, he turned in our direction, his raging dark eyes falling on me. Even from this distance, I could see the seething fury held within them. He yelled, and flipped the whole banquet bench table, the contents falling to the floor with a crash. He turned back to me and put up four fingers, showing me he was counting the days left, I couldn’t suppress the chill that ran up my spine.
He immediately stomped off, exiting the cafeteria sans permission from the guard detail, though none of them moving to stop him. All eyes in the room turned to me, the white noise of murmuring gossip filled the air. To my utter relief, the bell signaling the end of chow rang, and the herd was on the move.
I lay in my cell, alone, the lingering effects of the breakfast hour dramatics plagued me. I had been in my cell for about two hours, unable to do anything other than simmer in my own manic jumbled thoughts. Peace wasn’t due back till after REC time in the yard, so I was surprised and oh so delighted to receive a visit from Stryfe. He had much to say about what happened earlier and the repercussions I would more than likely face.
I didn’t delude myself for a second to believe he was concerned for my safety, the only person whose welfare he had interest in was Peace. But I respected that, I just wish he didn’t act like I was Rosemary’s baby, the Antichrist, or some other equivalent. He once again advised me to keep my distance from Peace, to keep him out of the drama, and I was apt to agree with him. Seeing he got his point across, he left me alone to my vices. I didn’t get to sit idle for long, the bell announcing REC time resounded overhead. I almost didn’t want to go, Ramon would surely enact retaliatory actions against me.
“Miss Riches Bitches, What tha hell you still doing here? The yard bell rang like five mins ago!”
Peace’s saccharine voice interrupted my troubled thoughts, his mere presence soothing and reassuring, I voiced my confusion at his unexpected arrival.
“What are you doing back so soon? I thought you weren’t due to return till dinner..”
“I wasn’t, but the Warden released me early and Saundra didn’t need me to help her organize any paperwork yet. Anyways bitch.. let’s go hit the yard, I can’t keep my man waitin’ now!”
I couldn’t help but be entertained by that fabulous boisterous personality he possessed, his optimism and carefree attitude was always uplifting. On our way outside, I filled him in on my encounter with Wrath and the subsequent escalation of the Ramon problem. I even let him know about the heated colloquy shared between Stryfe and I, also confessing to my agreeing with Stryfe in regard to his safety being involved with me. He made it clear I wasn’t getting rid of him that easily.
“BFFs till death do us part, and after!” He decree with mirth, I smiled and promised to honor the request, pinky swearing to prove it.
We had finally made it to the yard, passing Cerberus along the way, he discreetly gave me a smile and a nod that I returned in kind, most of the guards were walking in the opposite direction of us. As we made our way to court side, where Stryfe was playing three on three with some guys I didn’t know, nor cared to. Peace waved to his man and played cheerleader for a bit, before settling down on the bench seat I saved him next to me.
We gabbed about a variety of topics, enjoying the sarcastic but harmless banter that flowed between us. This was also why I cherished the friendship we shared, I could always count on him to make me forget the dire and deplorable circumstances we were under.
“Peace, can you please sing for me again?
“Chile, you serious?”
“As Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit!” I joked, crossing my heart, to show I was being completely serious.
“Bitch you so stupid, HaHa, what you want me to sang darling?” He said, fanning himself dramatically. “Somethin’ Ol’skool or New skool?”
“Something Legendary!” I gleefully answered, clapping my hands like a child.
“Ok miss thing, I got chu!” He replied, pointing at me as he stood, he moved about three feet away before turning to face me, with a fabulous twirl.
Looking around nervously, he cleared his throat a couple times before he began, and the melodic sound that resonated from him never ceased to take my breath away.
“** I believe.. the children.. are our future, ya got to.. teach them well, let them lead the way.. Show them all, the beauty they possess inside… **”
I lost myself in his voice, every inflection, every riff, every run; they all pulled at an individual string within my heart. An effortless and magical rendition that Nippy would have hooted and hollered for, he was truly paying homage to ‘the Voice’. At some point, Wrath had occupied the seat next to me, taking in the impromptu show. There weren’t many escapes for the inmates here and the vocal instrument Peace was gifted with could provide just that. Before we knew it, a small gathering of inmates sat and stood around, also enjoying probably the second best rendition of ‘The Greatest Love of All’ anyone present had ever heard. Peace relished in the attention, turning the prison yard into his Madison Square Garden sold out performance.
I was so immersed in the performance, I didn’t notice Pandora, and about ten or fifteen of the harém, closing in around us. Peace was closing out the song, his vocal ability as otherworldly as Whitney’s herself, when he was suddenly grabbed from behind by Pandora. He had a lethally sharp piece of steel, wrapped in a torn cloth, held against Peace’s jugular. I wasted no time running to his aid, only to be grabbed by two men I’d recognized as members of ‘O Reis Harém’.
One had a russet complexion and a thick head of spiraling curls, the other was a light olive tan complexion with stark hazel eyes and a short cut with a goatee to match. They were really nice looking guys, yet they were garbed in, almost outlandish, overtly feminine clothing. Prison issue jumpsuits, cut and styled into the most trashiest salaciously lewd garments imaginable. Pandora was smiling sadistically, clearly enjoying my duress, and the power he possessed in the predicament we were in.
“This has nothing to do with him, let him go! Why don’t you try that shit with me!” I scream, trying to divert his illicit intentions toward me.
“HahahaHaha! But i’d rather play with this pequena ruisenor you have been hiding, she sounds lovely..”
“I still have four days left, is Ramon breaking his word? He said he’d leave me alone until the deadline.. doesn’t he also have a truce with the Blacks? Is he really willing to go to war over his childish fascination with me?!”
“No, unfortunately he’s not breaking his promise to leave you untouched, he never breaks a deal, BUT! Hehehe, su alteza has thought of another way to punish his nueva Reina.” It looked as if it pained him to spit the words out. “O Rei has decided to take away your little toy here..”
His voice was dripping thickly with malice, as he slid the shank slightly, drawing a cry from Peace and spilled a few trailing drops of blood from the slightly pierced flesh.
“You fucking worthless dog! If you don’t release him, I swear I’ll rip your fucking nuts off personally with my bare hands!” I screamed, struggling against the two bastard whores that restrained me, a discontent voice breathed words into my ear from behind, stopping me dead in my tracks.
“Now you see how it feels…”
“Please.. you don’t have to do this!” I pleaded, turning to find the King himself smiling with a casual smugness, I was trying to strengthen my nerve, but the incipient tears burned their way down my cheeks.
“Is this how I have to act out to get attention from you?” He asked, smelling a handful of my hair, I had only just loosened the braids to wash it the day before, I now wish I hadn’t.
“Yo, what tha fuck!! O Rei, what the hell is goin on here man? That’s mine right there!” Stryfe screamed, finally bursting his way on to the scene, Peace cried out to us, his falling tears mirrored my own.
“Stryfe, Jynx, please.. don’t let them hurt me.. Ahhhh!” He squealed in pain, as Pandora gave him a shot to the kidney with his fist.
“Na, fuck this shit dawg! Ya not gon’ do my shorty like that!” Stryfe raged, charging toward Pandora and his captive love.
“Stryfe LOOK OUT!!!” I warned, but it was too late, Torre and Cavaleiro appeared out of the crowd, knocking him to the ground, restraining his arms and legs.
“Doesn’t it hurt.. see what I can take away from you?” Ramon said to me, in an unaffected voice.
“You don’t have to do this!”
“Segura-lo.” He commanded of the two men, moving from behind me towards where they had Stryfe wrangled on the ground.
On the way, he was passed a shank from someone in the crowd, as well as, what looked appeared to be a garbage bag. He pulled the black plastic over his head, three craftily place rips turned it into a makeshift shirt or apron. My heart dropped, like that time I went skydiving for my twenty first birthday.
*Where the fuck are Cerberus and the other guards?! Somebody has to stop this!* I frantically thought to myself as I cycled through my ever dwindling options.
Ramon made his way closer to the still struggling Stryfe, he had almost escaped a few times but the hulking forms of Cavaleiro and Torre proved to be impermeable.
“Ramon, por favor, I’ll do whatever you say! Right now.. Not four days from now, but right now! Just stop all this, I swear..” I tried reasoning with him, ready to sell my soul to this devil, to save the life of these men.
“I was trying to play nice, but, voce confunda minha bondade com fraqueza… refusing my invite to break bread, para o que?.. to consort with trash. You thought you could continued to deny me, you thought you were above me! Even when I told you that I already was PROMISED you as my betrothed. You are to be Minha Rainha, it has all been pre arranged by them. You think your father didn’t know? There was an easier plan but I messed up before.. that won’t happen again. With plan B, there is no room for failure. As I told you before, you will belong to me.”
When he finished his proclamation, he stood over Stryfe looking down into his anxious face, still smiling. I shut my eyes for a moment, only to think for a second, when Peace let out a bloodcurdling scream, followed by a screeching wail from Stryfe. My eyes shot open and I watched in horror as Ramon repeatedly stabbed Stryfe all across his abdomen, in a vicious barrage of deadly blows. Blood splattered across Ramon’s plastic protected chest, the look on his face was not unlike a child burning an ant pile.
My eyes shot to Peace, to see him in a state of shock, he looked to be screaming but no sound escaped his lips. Ramon raised up off of Stryfe’s now prone body, his last gasping breaths barely audible, as he kicked and struggled to hold onto life, while his blood pooled out around him soaking the concrete. His arms reached once more towards his love, and the thick red liquid could be heard gurgling in his throat and lungs. He kept repeating something, so low that I had to strain to make it out.
“Peace… Peace…Peace…I love…y..*cough*…*cough*.. I’m sorr…”
“BABY! I love you. Baby, please! Don’t leave me, just hold on! Please!!!” Peace screamed to his love, the tears flowing like the Nile.
“Peace, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, it’s all my fault!” I called out to the only friend I had ever made outside of my inner circle, my heart pained for him.
“I know.. I know..” He mumbled, almost incoherently, overcome with grief and clearly in shock.
Ramon watched me with those indecipherable coal black orbs, before turning to Peace, then back to me. I shook my head ‘no’, silently pleading for mercy and compassion. He slowly made his way to where Pandora held Peace at knife point, he grabbed by the jaw with those bloodied hands, twisting his face left and right appraisingly.
“Is this what you like? This mesquinho carvao! Tell me this, Minha Rainha.. Do you love him?” He called out to me, and I was confused, where was he going with this.
“Ramon, he’s just a friend, strictly platonic. There is nothing sexual between us, he’s like my best friend.” I sputtered out nervously, his head shot in my direction, I cringed, apparently he didn’t like that last revelation.
“You want me to do it now, mi Rey? may I take my time?” Pandora asked, enjoying the carnage taking place.
He brought the sharp edge of the shank to Peace’s cheek, a bit of blood pooled around the blade, falling to join his river of tears upon his face. He was afraid, I was afraid, but what was I to do? Coming up with no other alternative, at least not any that would keep us BOTH alive, I summoned all the strength I could muster to accept my last and only option.
With a final struggle, I ripped my arms free from my handlers, dropped to my knees to lay my head to the ground. My pride was a bitter pill to swallow, but I ignored my every instinct of self preservation. I no longer cared what happened to me as long as this boy got to live, so I did what I’d never thought I’d do.
“Ramon, please, just let him go. If you so desire, I won’t speak to him ever again! Just..just spare his life. I’m begging you.. I, Jynx Joseph Ellison, am begging for your mercy, a merce do Rei. Please, meu Rei..” I look up to see had that indiscernible look on his face, it failed to reveal if my groveling had been enough.
He started to cross the few feet that separated us, blood dripped from the shank he still carried. He came to a stop right in front of me, while I remained in my kneeling position, looking up into those engulfing black holes he called eyes, they were filled with death and despair. He held his left hand out, it was adorned with a tattooed ring, it included a jeweled emblem and an inscripted band of sorts. Without being asked, I quickly grabbed his bloodied hand, placing a kiss upon the embellished finger.
He grabbed me under my arms, lifting me to my feet without a word spoken, he inverted his pocket, holding it out for me to take. I took it, assuming it was symbolic gesture of his new dominion over me. He led the way back towards where Pandora held Peace captive, and when we crossed the few feet to meet them, Ramon turned to me.
“Minha Rainha, let me ask you this.. do you LOVE this boy?” He inquired with a face, straight as a razor, causing that familiar chill to shoot up my spine.
“He is just a friend, meu Rei.” I answered, expressing as much humility as I could muster in my tone.
“That is NOT what I asked you..”
“I swear, our relationship, was and is, strictly platonic.” I replied again nervously, hopefully clarifying any misconceptions he may have had.
“ANSWER the question!” He responded irritably, his patience drawing thin.
“Ramon, I… Don’t..” I flustered, not knowing what to do, flashing images of the owl and the hawk from my dreams came to mind, and I feared this confrontation escalating further.
“I asked, do you love him?” He inquired again tensely, I knew I had come to the end of the rope.
“Meu Rei..” I started, unable to finish, that’s when he moved like lightning, grabbing Peace by the back of the neck.
He pulled him, back to chest, in a choke hold. Those eyes revealed the madness within, but that wasn’t what got to me. As my gaze fell on Peace, fresh tears streaked my face. Those once vibrant chocolate colored eyes, now vacant.. looked cold, empty, and dead.
I mouthed “I’m sorry”, receiving the slightest of nods in response. It was as if he wanted me to answer, when we both had an idea of the repercussions in store. Ramon sighed impatiently, before deciding to change his tactics.
“You can tell me, meu amor. Just tell me the truth, do you love him?” He asked again, his tone turning eerily saccharine, but he was tense like a coiled snake, preparing its deadly strike.
“RJ..” I saw a spark flicker in his eye, maybe there was a possibility I could reach him. “Peace is the brother I never had, closer to me in this short time, than my own half siblings. He is what makes this imprisonment sufferable, he’s my kindred spirit. The friend I’ve waited my whole life for..”
I looked into Peace’s eyes as my voice faltered off at the end, I wasn’t sure if I could continue. Time seemed to slow for a moment, I tried to smile through the tears that further betrayed me. And for a split second, I saw the glow I’d come to love, return to those Hershey hued eyes.
A smile that would tame the heart of the most savage of beasts, graced his face, it was a shame Ramon’s gaze was locked on me. I reluctantly brought my attention back to the tyrannical sovereign waiting for an answer.
“Yes, I love my brother, in this lifetime and the next.”
“And that, is where you’ll meet your love again..” He said, as he slid the sharp blade, like a hot knife through butter, across Peace’s jugular. “For in this lifetime, your love and devotion belongs only to me.”