Angel 41 (Lisa's)
During visiting hours, when Angel was downstairs, staff had taken Lisa away. Her cellmate seemed so happy when they had burgers and chips for lunch, proper burgers with mince, with buns, seeded baps, and burger sauce made from tomato ketchup and mayonnaise and something else, a secret ingredient, the kitchen staff added as if they were out of McDonalds. She liked that and scoffed the lot and half of Angel’s burger too. She wanted to be a godmother.
Church had come to the cell in the early hours that night, when all the other prisoners were supposed to be sleeping. But there was always a background racket of some kind. Angel had grown immune to it, but when she heard the keys in the door, she was sitting up in bed. She knew before Church spoke, the way she was standing at the door scrunched up, keys limp in her hand, a little old woman waiting to be invited in. She whispered, ‘Lisa’s dead’.
Angel had a hard knot in her chest and throat. Tears ran down her face and she brushed them away, but she didn’t sob or scream. Church locked her in with her thoughts.
She got up and stood by the window, a gibbous moon showed frost on the tiled roofs of the houses outside the fence, where the lucky few prisoners were allocated their own space and given a front door key as they trained for freedom. Lisa was supposed to be moving over there that week, but she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay with Angel.
Then she done it, finally done it. Killed herself. Angel chided herself, she was angry and sad at the same time. A heart for love and a heart for hate. Lisa and her hadn’t been that different and spoke the same language. Her dad had raped her, when she’d been a wain. Told her she wasn’t to tell. And that he loved her. And if she did tell they’d both end up in prison. Lisa ended up in prison anyhow, but she never told the psychiatrists, the child psychologists, the school teachers, the social workers, the police, not anyone that mattered. She’d told Angel and Angel had told her about Jaz.
There was a Thank-You card on the windowsill addressed to Angel. She picked it up and inside was Lisa’s childish scrawl: ‘Thanks for looking after me. Imlucki. Your wee button. Lisa xxxxxxxxxxx’.
Angel hadn’t understood, not really. Angel wasn’t used to presents or card. Her mum had more often than not, forgot not only her birthday but that she had a daughter to take care of and Angel had taken care of her instead. Taking lit cigarettes out of her hand when she fell asleep, doing a washing and tidying the house. Stealing money out of her pockets for food, which she cooked. Presents were for her make-believe as Father Christmas.
She clutched at the card, taking it with her and lying in bed looking at the ceiling, knowing she wouldn’t sleep, staring at it, waiting for dawn and the prison beginning to hum like a wasp’s nest. Patting her stomach she cooed at the twins inside her belly and told them stories of how great an Auntie, their Auntie Lisa would have been.
She must have nodded off, she heard a crow cawing and rattle like a car that wouldn’t start. There was a key in the lock and it was breakfast time. The start of another day, where prison routine rolled over and evened out every change big or small.
Carla made space for her at the breakfast table and told her how sorry she was. Her bottom lip quivered. ‘I’m gonnae get off the drugs and get my heid straight. ’
Val was beside her, her face red and blotchy, as if she had been crying. All the girls knew. She could see it on their faces.
By dinnertime Lisa had been forgotten and they bantered and chattered about the same stupid things and moved on.
Angel met her new cellmate the next day. An older woman was sitting on the bed and looked up. Her hair was tawny and fluffy as a chick around her lightly freckled forehead. Big brown eyes and a big nose, pink cheeks and her eyelashes were blackend like arches that framed her face.
An awkward silence developed as Angel stepped into the cell, but she couldn’t help glancing to see if she’d touched her stuff.
‘How’s it gaun?’ She squinted at Angel’s face. Stood up her big breasts pushing out of her prison T-shirt and made her seem fat, even though she wasn’t. ‘You’re quite pretty, but I could do something with your hair.’
‘My hair’s fine.’ Angel patted the rail of the top bunk. ‘And that’s my bed.’
She smiled, her eyes crinkling. ‘I already figured that and I’m Michaela, but most people call me Mickey.’
‘Aye, I’m Angel.’ She felt her face pinking and she stared by her at the telly. It was loud, some kind of gameshow with people cheering. She knew the presenter’s name but just couldn’t remember it.
Mickey took a step back towards the window and turned to look at the telly too. ‘Sorry, where you watching something?’
‘Nah,’ Angel blinked rapidly. ‘It’s just a bit loud, innit?’
Mickey reached for the remote on the wee table, already settled in. ‘Aye, I’ll turn it doon.’
‘I’ll make you a cuppa.’ Angel brushed by her to get to the kettle, reaching for the milk on the windowsill.
‘Cheers.’ Mickey sat back down on the bed. ‘You mind if I make a roll up?’ Her tin beneath the bottom bunk was fancy, covered in matchsticks, lacquered and painted, the shape of a red love heart in the centre. She bent over to get it, her breasts falling on her stomach as she felt about for it and the lighter. ‘You want one?’
‘Nah, no the noo.’ She waited for the kettle to boil. ‘Whit dae you take in your tea?’
She laughed, full throated and coughed with the lit cigarette in her hand. ‘Just black, need to watch my weight,’ She patted her stomach. ‘Not that I’d need to bother in here, right enough.’
Angel filled the mugs with boiling water from the kettle and used the same T-bag, lifting it with a plastic spoon from her mug to the one with a slight chip in it, the one that had been Lisa’s. She held the mug of tea out to Mickey and waited for her to take a sip before she asked, ‘Whit you in for anyway?’
Blowing smoke into the gap between them, her grimace turning into a cheeky smile. ‘Screwing the books. He was screwing me and I was screwing him.’
Her answer had that rehearsed quality Angel was familiar with, as was her response, ‘Shame.’
Slight pause, and sip of tea and Mickey asked her, ‘Whit you in for?’
She shrugged, ‘Sore yin, whit did you get?’
‘Eight year. Whit did you get?’
‘Sixteen month, should walk in six.’