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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(6)

By:Jessica Hawkins

My chest tightened just thinking about. Having Lake on my mind again, I already needed another cigarette. If I could smoke two at a time, I probably would. Nothing brought me pure pleasure like smoking. Tiff's visits were a highlight of my stay. Cigarettes, though, they made life in here worth living.

I turned in my seat to check the clock. Five more minutes.

I started when Tiffany touched the back of my neck, her finger slipping down my skin, under the edge of my collar. "Is this new?"

"Young lady," a voice came over the intercom. Ludwig. I hadn't even seen him come in. "You want to touch a man in this room, go right ahead-just make sure he ain't in orange. First and final warning."

Tiffany took her hand back as I sat forward again. Ludwig was the only man in the room not wearing prison scrubs. "Don't do that," I said under my breath. "They'll restrict us to non-contact visits."


"Sorry. What is it?"

I rubbed the back of my neck, the hairs on end where her fingers had been. "Tattoo."

"But of what? All I saw was a thin line."

I wasn't sure how she'd seen anything at all. It was simple, black tracings on the back of my right shoulder. "It's nothing. Dumb. One of the lifers used to be a tattoo artist and I was bored."

The ghost of her fingers lingered. It felt good to be touched. Tiffany wasn't scared, didn't hesitate, just reached out and did it. As if it were normal.

As if I wasn't a convicted felon.

"Don't go getting my name in ink or anything," she said, smiling a little. "A friend of mine's boyfriend did that inside. Now they're broken up."

"You breaking up with me?" I asked.

"No way."

"Who of your friends has a boyfriend inside?"

"You don't know her. Anyway, he's out now."

"Time's up," Jameson called.

Tiffany stood, tugging down her skirt in a way that was almost cute, a little self-conscious. To me, Tiffany and Lake were complete opposites, but they looked alike to the rest of the world. Sometimes, I'd catch glimpses of Lake in her sister. An expression she'd made before, a gesture, the way she pronounced a word. Blonde hair, blue eyes, smooth skin. It made forgetting Lake even harder and left me worrying about Tiffany driving up here alone, being around the facility when I was incapacitated.

"You really shouldn't wear that stuff around here," I told her.

"I want to look good for you."

"Yeah, well, you look good to the other guys, too." I stood. "They see you in that skirt and I get shit for it."

She cocked a hip, leaning her thigh against the edge of the metal table. "Really?" she asked excitedly. "I heard it gives you street cred to have a hot girlfriend."

"Where'd you hear that?"

"I've been asking around. Reading some stuff."

Truth was, at some point, I'd started to look forward to seeing what she'd wear-it was a sweet kind of torture-but the guys baited me with it all the time. "I've got the best-looking girl in the joint," I said. "They go crazy over you."

She tucked her chin into her shoulder, her cheeks reddening. "That's so sweet-"

"It's not a good thing." I shook my head. "If you heard what these guys said . . . what they called women . . . there's nothing sweet about it."

"You sound like my dad. He hates that I come here. He thinks it's dangerous. I told him-it's a prison. Everyone's already locked up. It's probably the safest place I could be." 

Charles was right to be concerned. They'd called Tiffany and other women lots of things. Bitch, sexy, walking pussy. It was true what I'd said-I got it worse than most because Tiffany was ten times better looking than their visitors, but that wasn't the only reason. The guys knew it was the only thing that got to me. After Tiffany's first visit, a few weeks following the arraignment, one of the guys had gone as far as to mimic bending her over the cafeteria table. Stressed from getting shoved into this new life, I'd flown off the handle and sent him to the infirmary. I'd almost caught more charges. Rumor had spread about how fast I'd put him down, but I'd also shown them exactly how to get to me.

Now, I kept it inside. It was counterintuitive to take a calming breath when they called her names, but it wouldn't do anybody any good if I got myself in more trouble. I stopped giving a fuck. In here, women were bitches, even though we'd give our left nuts for a few hours alone with one. In here, justification was a rampant disease. Men killed and stole for their families. For their brothers. For their bitches. Out of respect. Or a debt to pay. Everyone was guilty of something.