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Navidad en el Camino

Toxic Bad Boy

By: April Brookshire

CHAPTER ONE





“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.”

-Keri Russell

NOVEMBER

one month down, nine to go…

CALEB

Three cracks in the ceiling of my cell reminded me of the fractures in my own life. The shortest crack represented the rift between who I was before being incarcerated and who I was forced to be in this place. The next crack illustrated my loss of freedom, the right to do as I chose. The largest crack symbolized the loss of my heart, the loss of her.

Tilting my head, I gazed at the pictures taped on the underside of the bunk above mine. The same set of blue eyes stared back at me in each of them, projecting amusement, irritation and even embarrassment.

My chest tightened with longing and need. Being apart from her was killing me. Did she feel the same ache?

The guy on the bunk above mine sang off-key about being locked in a cage. My head pounded at the grating timbre until I couldn’t take it anymore. “Shut the hell up, Ian!” I shouted, kicking at the mattress above mine. “How the hell did your lawyer get us in the same cell, anyways?”

“Money talks,” he answered in the smug voice of someone who’d often taken advantage of its persuasive properties. “A hefty donation from one of my father’s charity foundations to the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections. Don’t forget it was my lawyer who argued with the judge so we wouldn’t be stuck down in Pueblo. You don’t have to thank me, roomie, but I’ll take your dessert at dinnertime.”

“I’d pay not to share a cell with you.” On edge, I sprung off my bed and paced back and forth in the narrow space. The enclosed area contained a desk built into the wall with shelving above it, a stool bolted to the floor, a sink and a toilet. The metal fixtures reminded me of living quarters on a spaceship. The cold concrete floor never let me forget it was a prison. Even if we were in a Denver facility, we might as well be down south in Pueblo.

A barred, plexiglass window looked down onto the basketball court outside. It snowed the night before and a couple inches of powder covered the turf and grass. The sun had just risen and was still low in the sky. That little bit of snow would likely melt by afternoon.

Moving to the door of our cage, I peered out the small rectangle window to view the middle common area of the male residents’ cell block. Armchairs and desks were scattered, along with ping pong and checkers tables.

The facility was named Peak View Youth Services Center, but that was just a nice way of saying prison for teenagers. I’d been in juvenile detention centers before, but only for short periods of holding. My extended stay at this juvie was like being locked in school with extremely suspicious teachers and mandatory visits with the counselors.

Ian sat up, running a hand over his mussed blonde hair as he hung his legs over the side of the top bunk. “She’ll write.”

“It’s been a month,” I pointed out, rubbing a hand over my chest in a pointless effort to soothe the ache.

After an entire month, Gianna still hadn’t replied to any of my letters. My first letter to her posted the second day of my imprisonment. I’d mailed every one of them to Dante’s address so he’d get them to her through Cece.

“It’s only been a month. Give her time. She’s had a lot to adjust to.” Ian’s advice was unwanted, like most of what came out of his mouth.

He had no idea what her silence did to me. I’d compare it to a dark void where color and light had previously thrived, leaving their absence all the more stark. I threw out an arm, indicating the walls around us. “As if I don’t have plenty to adjust to?”

His head shook lazily, lips quirking in amusement. “Just be grateful the judge didn’t send us to one of those private youth corrections places where they’d make us live on a farm, milking cows and shoveling shit.”

“Or the place they sent Josh,” I added, thinking about the sick bastard who’d hurt Gianna.

After being released from the hospital, Josh had been sent to a facility north of Denver for high-risk juvenile offenders. Unlike our co-ed facility, there were only male inmates where Josh was locked up. Same as Ian and me, his sentence was mandatory, but he’d be detained there until he turned eighteen. So much for a football scholarship or going to prom. I enjoyed immense satisfaction from knowing his popular high school life was over.

Ian’s stomach growled and on cue our cell door opened. The staff referred to the cells as our rooms. Solitary was called a time out and fights or riots were called group disturbances. The guard moved to the next cell, going down the line. We left the room, standing just outside it until we had the okay to move in a single file to the cafeteria.

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