“Officer Miles, bring me Bea Smith.”
Governor Joan Ferguson does not look up from her desk. She needn't for she can already picture the coy smile on Linda Miles' lips. That Cheshire grin tells a story all its own with eyes that have read a thousand prison stories and pale hands that have been bought over to feed a gambling addiction. Miles is a wild card, Joan knows, and there's no amount of trust she can pour into the woman who saunters away.
She hides her mouth with a gloved hand, the leather shining underneath these fluorescent lights that assault vulnerable eyes. She imagines Spiteri's now, shining with tears, begging for mercy. Her eyes, dark and glittering, flick to the CCTV. Her monitor reveals a few different angles of different halls and different locations until Smith comes into focus.
Bea Smith thinks herself Top Dog or so the women declare with their hyena-esque cackling. Joan compares Bea more so to a caged bird in teal. She moves her head with a heightened sense of self-awareness that few possess. It's trauma that hardens you and trauma that makes you lash out.
Miles returns, only to disappear once more after delivering Smith as though she's precious cargo. Bea's sleeves are rolled up, undoubtedly prepared to do some dirty deed. It's the Governor's uncanny silence that conveys a thousand words and invokes a dozen images.
“You called me, Ferguson. Now you have me.”
How strange it is for Smith to indulge her with a double entendre. Joan expects these things from her precious deputy, not the calloused woman who has an armful of charges pinned to her chest like shiny medals. A ghost of a smile upturns a corner of Joan's pink mouth. The nude lipstick she wears serves as a practical moisturizer. Red isn't her color though she supposes it's Bea's.
“Do have a seat, Smith. Make yourself comfortable.”
“I'd rather stand.”
Joan's office embodies sterility. It reminds Bea of her home. How she spent hours after working in the salon making things presentable for Harry. How she scrubbed with bleach. How she used numerous air fresheners. How she washed the dishes by hand once Harry insisted the machine hadn't been enough. Nothing had been enough for him. Despite the clenching of her jaw, Bea holds her head high.
Arms fold across her chest, as though she's protecting herself. Hands spread across her ribcage, reminiscent of a battered woman. In countless prisons, Joan has seen it before. She says nothing. Chooses to tuck it away for a later time.
“As you wish,” Joan replies, impressed by the ongoing bravado.
The mass of red curls that's wild and untamed fall into her face. Her roots are beginning to show, akin to the grey that runs through Joan's temples. Color fades. The lives they lead take a toll, but Joan prefers to age with grace. She will not cover up this beautiful flaw unlike Smith who plucks a black band from her wrist to pull it all back into a tight pony tail. A woman's hair is her pride and joy, her identity. Joan contemplates how she can take that way from Smith. The Governor, should she choose, could place a band on dye and call it contraband.
At the thought, she moves to adjust her nameplate, ensuring that it's at the right angle.
“This what gets you off, Ferguson? Playing God with all us prisoners your pawn?”
The husky tenor of Bea's voice doesn't waver. Doesn't shake. There's a fire in her eyes that matches Joan's quest for retribution. She does not like to see herself in her inmates. Once, she had made that beautiful mistake with her Jianna.
“I do advise you abide by the rules here, Smith.”
Ferguson's smile lessens. Abruptly, she stands. Swipes her right hand over the front of her blazer. Her full height casts a shadow over the Top Dog. Still, Bea does not cower. For her entire life, she has done that. Enough was enough.
“Rules?” A scoff. “You mean the ones you constantly bend?”
Sometimes, you cannot tell the guards from the criminals. The power to control drives these women though they stand on opposite sides of the playing field. Neither knew how to play a fair game anymore.
Going for the jugular, Bea speaks with her lips parted, her teeth on display. It's similar to a snarling bitch. Joan stiffens, but it's not enough to knock her down. She remains on guard, moving her steadfast hands to adjust her lapels. Time seems to slow to a crawl when she meanders around her desk. Without a rapier, she steps into the metaphorical ring. She has her wits about her.
“You misunderstand. I bend no rules. I aim to achieve a higher purpose. What I do is for the sake of the greater good. For my work, you should be thankful.”
Smoothly, the words come out. She cranes her neck, peering down at the woman who furrows her brows incredulously.
Hardened by this life, Bea thinks herself a soldier now, standing tall with her eyes locked onto Ferguson's and her nostrils flared. Up close, every pore is visible. Every wrinkle, every fine line stands out.
“Thankful? And what have we to be thankful for, Ferguson? You're cruel. You're frigid. You don't run this prison. You don't call the shots. I do.”
This heated debate causes Bea to puff out her chest. It's not from arrogance, but a defense tactic. She's learned to adapt though not in the same way as Joan.
They size one another up with their cool, challenging gazes.
Since when did they become such a pack of dogs?
“For how the women commend you, there remains a touch of green behind your ears, Smith. This is a correctional facility. Certain rules and regulations apply. You will always be an inmate.”
Joan's pronunciation becomes harsher, the T's stressed, as though the single letter resembles a parle with a blade. A jab here, a jab there. A glimpse into the accent she buried, Russia forgotten beneath her icy layers, never to be thawed.
In here, you cannot tell the pigs from the women.
Bea bristles, wetting her lips. Her cheeks hollow, the bones pressing against her taut skin even more apparent. There's a haggardness that marks her pretty face, that hangs beneath her crisp, blue eyes. It signifies the end of a reign, Joan knows.
This will kill one of them.
Joan refuses to let an inmate get the best of her. Not again. Never again.
The Governor's heels click across the waxed floor. Wentworth's beloved Queen Bea doesn't move. There's a marble stillness to her, a poise to a woman with skilled hands. A part of her craves that simple, quiet life back in her studio, back where all she had to do was cut hair and endure suffering. The pain here operates on a different measure. A measure where you are forced to turn yourself to stone. To be impervious to fault. To emotion.
I'm not that woman anymore.
She bites on her cheek and swear she tastes her blood, iron painting her tongue.
“I am not your toy,” she speaks though it's accompanied by a viper hiss.
Bea braces herself, as though this is yet another bashing, her hands moving towards the cool brick wall that's been painted over. After she swallows, she says, “Go on. Do it.”
Who runs this prison: the woman with the steam press or the woman with the pencils?
Ferguson's hand delicately raises, a tactful grace to her actions. She cups that soft, cool cheek though she cannot feel the temperature. The gloves create a clever barrier. They keep her safe. Despite herself, Red flinches. Old habits die hard; old trauma dies harder.
“Touch conveys a great deal. Love, hate, disgust...” Joan croons. It's a masterful speech. One she invented when she first held Jianna. How innocent they had been then. Now, she confronts a barbed wire woman that craved a violent retribution.
“Fuck you, Ferguson.”
Bea's breathing becomes ragged. She expects pain. She expects betrayal, but Joan does not betray her allies no matter how... resilient they may be.
“You would like that. Wouldn't you, Smith? To witness me at my most... vulnerable.”
There's a sneer, but which woman is sneering? Their purposes and motives bleed together. A gloved thumb pushes into the soft, pliant underside of Bea's jaw. Joan pauses to stroked the rigid cheekbone. With her dyed hair reminiscent of wilted red roses, Bea Smith is another stolen relic holed up for an ulterior motive.
She moves to stop Ferguson. To lay a hand upon the Governor is sacrilege. Surely, that would warrant time in the slot or a much worse, inconceivable fate. Her fingers wrap around Joan's wrist, skirting beneath the sleeve to touch the veins that protrude against the underside.
Smith wants to say it. Needs to say it. Somehow, it doesn't come out. She's quiet, her eyes upon Joan's. The touch is too gentle and Bea knows that the softest touches betray the most.