Freedom isn’t free
But it should be
Freedom isn’t free
Who holds my key
Is deaf to my plea
Freedom isn’t free

There’s a price to pay
To see the light of day…

“Manny,” the voice snaps my eyes open and drags me back from the edge of sleep. With the way my dreams have been going lately I'm not the least bit tempted to complain. “Are you awake?”

“Only for you,” I say as my head lolls towards the cell door. I can feel Kate’s smile, I don’t need to see it. Although seeing that pretty, off-kilter grin of hers would do me some good right now. “I trust this fine evening finds you well?”

A brief expulsion of air from her nostrils is all the reply that question earns. I gently swing my legs over the edge of my cot and sit up, doing a pretty decent job of not disturbing Terry’s restless sleep. As I drop down to the floor, my bare feet giving the concrete a gentle slap, I pause briefly to listen to his mumbled somniloquy.

“He chatting with his victims again?” Kate asks when I come to stand in front of her, separated by steel bars and the unbridgeable gulf of freedom. “Has he managed to get around to apologizing to them for biting off their noses before he pulled the trigger?”

“You don’t really believe that nonsense, do you? Lord, the stories they tell in this place - it’s like we’re all allergic to the truth.” I turn and rest my back against the wall before looking at her sideways. “And no, that sounded more like he was asking his mother for forgiveness. Again.”

Kate purses her lips and looks away. If the lights were still on I might have been treated to a darkening of her cheeks as well, but they’re not so I’m left to imagine it. Guard Katherine Small has to be the least typical guard that has ever entered these less than hallowed halls. The fact that she’s a woman is not even the half of it.

“You holding up okay, Manny? You look like you’ve lost some weight,“ she says when she brings her gaze back to me. “I would have thought your taste buds would have shrivelled up and passed on to the other side a long time ago, so it can’t have anything to do with the food Cook Waters serves up.”

“Have they expanded the definition of food again?” I say with a shake of my head, my hair swishing across my cheeks like dirty windshield wipers. “Because that’s the only way that slop could be called that. Don’t you waste a moment of your time worrying about little old me though, I’m doing fine. This lighting just isn’t too flattering, that’s all.”

She opens her mouth to reply but a noise from a cell further along the way stops her short. Her lips press together and her eyes narrow briefly before she pulls out her baton. “Just take care of yourself, alright? You’re one of the good ones in here and I’d like to see you walk free one day.”

I say nothing as I watch her stroll towards the source of the disturbance, her bludgeon resting lightly on her right shoulder. I press my head against the cell door until her slender frame disappears from view, the corrugated bars leaving their temporary tattoo on my cheek when I pull away to make another attempt at sleep.

“I don’t think walking free is going to happen Kate,” I mutter as I climb back into bed. “Running free though… that might be another story.”

As my head comes to rest on my rock hard pillow I can’t stop myself from wondering if Guard Small would be willing to look the other way at just the right moment, for just enough time…

Freedom isn’t free…

The End

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