Too Late for Regrets

This story is the scene where Ezra and Josiah meet for the first time.  Yes, they’re in prison.  Given what happened in the previous story, that was inevitable with Ezra.  Josiah’s already there…

Ezra’s going to grow a backbone, eventually.  He just has to get over the whole shock of what I’ve put him through.

For the first time in his life, Ezra was regretting the path he’d chosen.  He was fairly certain, now, that he never should have listened to his mother.  He should have gone into law or accounting and stayed as far as humanly possible from the woman who professed to have his best interests at heart.  Now, though, it was too late for regrets.

He struggled to hide his trembling as the guard conducted him to his cell.  It wasn’t a maximum security facility.  Most of the inmates were there for theft or drug offenses.  However, there were a few that were in for assault and other violent crimes where their victims weren’t injured badly enough for them to rate a maximum security facility.

His eyes widened as the guard pushed him into a cell and then shut the door.  “New friend for you, Sanchez,” the guard said.  Then, he chuckled softly and left.

Ezra swallowed thickly, his eyes on the man.  He wasn’t overly tall, but he was broadly built enough to intimidate Ezra.  He took a step back as the grizzled inmate turned to face him.  “H-hello,” he said, giving his cellmate a weak smile.

Sanchez frowned at him and then nodded.  “You get the top bunk,” he said, pointing.  “Lights out soon, so get into bed now.”

Nodding, Ezra clambered onto the upper bunk.  Then, he tugged off his shoes and set them beside his pillow, soles up.  He leaned back against the wall, then, and drew his knees up to his chest.

“What’s your name, Friend?” Sanchez said, still frowning deeply.

“Ezra Montgomery,” he said, his voice faint.  He swallowed thickly and glanced towards the doorway.  “Guard called you Sanchez?”

“Josiah Sanchez,” the man said, nodding.  He settled down on the lower bunk, then.

As the lights dimmed, Ezra heaved a sigh.  He knew that he should lie down and try to sleep.  However, he was far too keyed up.  He drew his cards out of the pocket in his jumpsuit and began shuffling them as quietly as possible.  Then, in as soft a voice as he could manage, he began singing.

As he finished the song, he opened his eyes and noticed that Sanchez was staring at him.  The older man’s expression was softer now and… Were those tears in his eyes?  “You have a voice like an angel, Ezra Montgomery,” he said, his voice soft.

“Th-thank you,” Ezra said, nodding his head.  “I’m sorry if… I’m keeping you awake.  I was too… keyed up to sleep.”

Sanchez smiled warmly.  “You can sing whenever you please, Ezra,” he said.  “I like your voice just fine.  There’s no reason to be… keyed up.  No one is going to do you any harm.  Now, try and sleep.  We’ve got an early day tomorrow, after all.”

Ezra nodded.  Feeling just a little bit better, he lay down on his side.  He drew his knees up to his chest and, hugging his pillow close, he was soon fast asleep.  He woke to the normal alarm and then the sound of the cells opening.

He sat up and ruffled a hand through his hair.  Then, he tugged on his shoes and hopped down to the floor.  He nearly fell when Sanchez appeared at his side.  “G-good morning, Mr. Sanchez,” he said, blinking.

Sanchez smiled at him and nodded.  “Let’s go and get some breakfast, Ezra,” he said.  He set out at a brisk walk and Ezra hurried to keep up with him.  He’d spent his first two weeks being kept out of the general population.  Now, he knew he would need to quickly learn the routine that all the inmates followed.

Ezra followed Sanchez as they joined the steady stream of prisoners that moved into the cafeteria area.  He mirrored the larger man’s actions, taking a tray and stepping into the line behind him.  Breakfast was simple fare, but Ezra didn’t care.  At least it would be filling.  That was all that mattered.

He followed after the large man as they headed for a table near the far wall of the room.  When Sanchez sat at a round table with four chairs, Ezra started to sit in a chair beside his.

“This is our table,” a low voice said.  He looked up to see four tough-looking characters.  All of them were far larger than he was.

Ezra flinched and started to back off, but Sanchez caught his wrist gently and drew him back to the table.  “Sit down, Ezra,” he said, his tone gentle.  As Ezra sat down, he released his hold and smiled up at the men.  “You’re not going to trouble my friend, are you?  Because… I might take offense to that.”

From the tone of his voice and the stress of the words, it was clear that no one wanted to offend Sanchez.  The four men frowned at him.  Then, one chuckled and shook his head.  “No trouble,” he said.  Then, he nodded and they moved to an empty table.

“First rule,” Sanchez said, looking at Ezra.  “Don’t give ground, or they’ll walk all over you.  Don’t start trouble, but you can’t let them realize that they frighten you either.”

Ezra blinked at him and nodded.  “I’ll remember that,” he said.  Of course, remembering it and actually doing it were two different things.  He shivered and began poking at his eggs.  “I’ve got a lot to learn about… being in a place like this.”

“You’re too soft for a place like this,” Sanchez said, shaking his head.  When Ezra looked up at him, he found that the man was smiling.  “I’ll protect you from the others,” he said, “you… seem like the type who can get things.  You get me what I want and we’ll call it even.”

Blinking, Ezra nodded.  “Cigarettes,” he said, his voice soft, “gum, candy, playing cards… that’s the kind of stuff you mean?”

“Toiletries too, if you can manage it,” Sanchez said.  He smiled.  “Can you get those sorts of things?”

Ezra gave him a weak smile.  “Easily,” he admitted.  When Sanchez chuckled, he heaved a sigh of relief.  He could get through this now, he was certain.  The others seemed to keep away from Sanchez.  That meant they’d keep away from him as well.

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