A New Leaf (Semifinal Entry for Quibblo Allstars)

My second-last (potentially last) entry in the Quibblo Allstars.

(X) Fingers crossed.

P.S. I am here on behalf of my gender, who have all been wiped out. I will try not to let you down.

P.P.S. (Try.)

P.P.P.S. I need to do amazing on this, because I got 0% in the quiz section, so all the points I get in my story entry are going to determine if I make it or not. Time to do what I do. :/

Chapter 1

Leaving Prison

"Are you excited?" Gavyn asked Roman.

Roman sat on the edge of his seat. The two cellmates were sitting at a table in the prison cafeteria, among the others.

"I'm mostly nervous," Roman muttered to Gavyn. "It's been just long enough that I've forgotten how the real world works."

"Ten years," Gavyn murmured, shaking his head in awe. "Ten years you've been here, Roman. Damn. What will you do once you're released from prison tomorrow?"

"Try and get my life back together, hopefully," Roman said. "I don't have any plans after that."

"You sure? Aren't you going to try and reconcile with her?" Gavyn asked, eyebrows raised.

Gavyn was Roman's only friend in the entire prison. He remembered the first day Gavyn had been brought here, lonely and friendless. Roman, acknowledging the feeling, had been the only one to have approached Gavyn with a friendly notion. Roman liked Gavyn and appreciated Gavyn's friendship, but the man was too nosy for his own good.

"That's my own business," Roman warned. "Worry more about yourself, Gavyn. Your jail sentence is ending soon too."

Gavyn had been convicted of se%ually assaulting a woman. His jail sentence was almost up, there were a couple months more to go for him.

As for Roman, he would be free in 24 hours.

"Yes, but I'm not the one who's leaving this hellhole tomorrow. Will anyone be waiting to celebrate your return? Will she be there to see you?" Gavyn asked.

Roman hesitated. "Scarlett doesn't even know I'll be free tomorrow. She hasn't come to visit me in years."

"Sorry, man," Gavyn said. "I know how it feels to be abandoned. No one's come to see me in forever too."

"Well, that's different. You don't have anyone," Roman pointed out.

Gavyn's eyes narrowed. "Watch it, Roman. I don't like that you're acting all high and mighty now that your sentence is close to its finish."

He paused, and dropped his cold mask, replacing it with a warm smile. "So what are you going to do first once you get out? If Scarlett's not going to let you stay with her, where are you going to live?"

"My sister, Terri, visited me last week to tell me she'd left me her old apartment for me to put up at. I guess I'll put up there for a while until I get back on my feet and can buy my own apartment," Roman said.

"Is Terri taking care of you?" Gavyn asked.

"I wish," Roman muttered. "No, she's taking off as soon as I'm in the apartment. She's migrating to the States. The apartment will be in my name."

Roman drained his cup in one gulp and looked around the cafeteria. The other faceless inmates milled around the room in their own little groups and cliques. Sometimes, Roman likened the life in prison to the life of high school, only tougher, with people who were capable of punishments much worse than wedgies and spitballs, just like the officers were more severe than teachers would be.

Gavyn's eyes twinkled as he stared out a nearby window, looking wistfully at the clear sky beyond. "Well, anyway, good luck with your adventures when you get out of here, mate."

"Thanks Gavyn," Roman said as Gavyn clapped Roman on the shoulder and took his leave, returning to his cell.

Roman bit his fingernails. It was a bad habit of his. Back then, when it was still hard for him to deal with his addiction to alcohol, Roman had bit his fingernails off until his skin was raw and bleeding. It had been the only thing that had kept him sane as he suffered the symptoms of his alcohol withdrawal.

After ten years, the withdrawal symptoms had faded, but the habit hadn't. Still, it was better than suffering from alcoholism.

It had been alcoholism that had started all this anyway.

Roman remembered during his first meeting with Gavyn. Gavyn had asked him what crime he'd been put into jail for. Roman had merely replied that it had started with alcohol. Gavyn had assumed Roman was in here for drunk driving.

Eventually, as Roman got to know Gavyn a little more, he told Gavyn the truth as to why he really was in jail. Gavyn was, up to date, the only person in the entirety of the prison, apart from the prison warden, who knew Roman's convicted crime.

It was something Roman was ashamed of.

*

Roman stepped out, for the first time in ten long years, outside the prison compound, having finally said his goodbyes to Gavyn and being led out by the officers.

He slung his bag over his shoulder and took a deep breath as he walked out the gates, moving down the pavement.

Beyond that, Roman could see the streets, packed full of vehicles driving by. Citizens and passers-by moved along, doing their own business. It had been such a long time since Roman had seen someone not dressed as an inmate or an officer, so the display of colorful everyday clothes stunned him speechless.

Roman turned and began making his way towards the nearest taxi stand when something stopped him right in his tracks. He caught sight of someone staggering over towards him. It wasn't someone he knew, it was just some vagrant with a rat's nest of matted white hair and a wild, filthy clump of facial hair.

The vagrant clutched an empty bottle of alcohol, staggering and stumbling down the sidewalk. Roman swallowed and forced himself to move, walking past the drunkard without giving him a second glance. The very sight of him had brought back so many sorrowful, repressed memories; memories Roman had tried to block out, to try and dull the regret and guilt of his actions and their consequences.

*

Roman climbed the stairs and pushed open the creaky, termite-ridden door into his new apartment.

The place Terri had left him was relatively spacious, by Roman's standards. The living room consisted of a soft blue couch, one small television mounted on the wall, a dusty coffee table and a potted plant. The kitchen and dining room were one, with cabinets piled high with dirty dishes from when Terri was last here. The refrigerator was empty, and not even powered by electricity.

The only other room was the bedroom, connected to a small bathroom. The bed was moldy and smelled of sweat and sour milk. The toilet in the bathroom worked, miraculously, and so did the shower and sink. But the mirror was cracked and there wasn't any soap, or towels, or toilet paper, or even any toothbrushes or toothpaste.

Roman sank down onto the couch in the living room, switching the television on. It flickered for a moment and crackled to life. Sighing, Roman got up and reached for a newspaper on the coffee table, which Terri must have left out for him.

There was one section of the newspaper, circle in blue felt tip.

CASHIER WANTED
BIG SAL'S CONVENIENCE STORE
HANCOCK AVENUE #01-53
$40 PER HOUR

Roman knew what he was going to do tomorrow.

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