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Boundaries were established before tonight.

Joan was 'generous' to say that I could back out anytime. I didn’t bother to entertain her. Our meeting will be simple. The contract is purely conversational, a quid pro quo nonetheless. I’m a businesswoman, technically. “ Compensation justifies clientele ” I keep reminding myself of that. Joan made regulations: I am to arrive at her cell, presentable to my standards, no '' instruments'' or safety wear of sorts- and I mustn’t leave her waiting. The bitch still barks her orders. She dons the teal uniform just like all the other women in here. Joan has no authority over these women yet she still feels entitled to the prison being under her jurisdiction. Wentworth Correctional Centre may be property of Joan Ferguson, this cell her domain, but it’s my work space and I hold the upper hand.

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Lyon sits hunched at the foot of Joan’s bed. Elbows plated on stiff knees, hands clutch the sides of her head, as she carries the weighted blow of this mind fuck. One cannot simply negotiate with Joan Ferguson. Defiance can only hold her off for so long. She always finds the loopholes and barricades the escape routes. You surrender or suffer. Lyon knows this. She knew that by offering her services to Joan that she would be ‘offering herself’ to the woman. She knows she has the cat in the bag but is she desperate enough to rely on the beast.

Lyon blocks out Joan who is lying down behind her. The faint shuffling of the quilt causes an even bothersome stir within. The quiet aggravates her just as much as the bed she's laid herself in. '' I could've said no'' one hand releases her head. She balls it into a fist and rests her forehead against it. Biting her lip, fingers fumbling and eyes closed, she tries to change her mind. 

Was it Lyon's arrogance that brought her to Joan?

Or something else altogether?

 The light from the yard cascades, dimly illuminating Joan’s cell.

A wildly stubborn flower wilts before Joan. The ploughing was somewhat satisfactory to the Gardner, but the earth was stiff at first. Eventually, Joan groomed the rose to open into a blossoming of sorts. She’s been watching the young woman’s silent aftermath despite their somewhat shared afterglow. Joan still simmers with hers as she hungrily eyes the handiwork of Lyon’s peach silk Kimono. As smooth as it appears and felt, the lilac tassels of the sleeves were aggressively distracting. She willed its removal for the revelation of a modestly black silk number; much to her dismay.

Tonight’s composition played right into her orchestration. “She’ll come.” Joan thought as she watched Lyon storm off from their agreement in the showers. She did want to see that lacy red set again, tonight. The animosity from Lyon is disturbing to Joan’s ‘peace of mind’.

Joan tries to clear the air. ‘‘A Penny for your thoughts?'' Joan sarcastically asks, knowing Lyon most likely isn’t going to respond.

Lyon twists glaring scathingly at Joan-she knows how to rattle the cage to unleash the hound. Joan sits up from against the wall, folds the blanket towards Lyon, and turns facing her desk. She doesn’t take her eyes away from Lyon who looks back to the cell door. Charcoal and grey striped pajama pants are folded beside one another on Joan’s desk, her black robe cloaks her chair. Joan’s legs catch a chill. Goosebumps spotting her thighs, she stands and goes to put on the pants then hears the cell door slam shut.  

Lyon is clouded by a tornado of thoughts. Her cell is across from Joan's but she gets as far as the kitchenette. Holding onto the bench edge, she heaves backwards and forwards. Moments ago her hips were motioning just the same. She inhales and exhales deeply in an effort to expel whatever it is that might still possess her. The residual dampness in her most intimate space disgusts her. Turning on the tap she cups her hands underneath the running water. She craves a cleanliness of her own flesh. Tomorrow she'll spend extra time in the showers washing up, but for now a good dousing from the tap will suffice.

Joan comes out in her robe, pulling her hair back into a low ponytail. She’s perplexed by the sight of the mystifying bloom, drowning willfully in soundless despair. Lyon has a flare for theatrics. Joan recalls the unexpected event of Lyon stepping up and eventually becoming one of Blackmoore’s most memorable top dogs. So they say. Joan’s confronted with the evolved nature of toxicity she proudly influenced.

“I’m not sure if you were aware but I have bathroom facilities, which you’re welcome to use.’’ Joan offers some hospitality, again no reply from Lyon.

“I also have a spare flannel and some body wash if you’re in need of that…as well’’ Joan’s smirking ‘She came all right’

Lyon shuts off the tap, the water stops. She flips her head back, gathering her hair to one side she twists it all like a rope until the excess water drips into the basin.

Joan rolls her eyes and walks over to the nearest corner of the bench. ‘’ Silence is strength but it weakens, eventually ‘’ Reaching into the pocket of her robe, she brings out a miniature bottle of hand sanitizer. 

Closing her eyes, Lyon takes in the background noise of the prison. A group of women are laughing in one unit; someone’s howling as if death itself came to collect them in another. Feeling unsettled by her own thoughts, emotions and the presence of the shadow person in black.

But Joan owes her and Lyon’s comforted by the insurance of their ‘contract’. She begins discussing payment, but gets distracted by Joan rubbing sanitizer in her hands. Catching Lyon’s glance, she gestures towards her to take some. Generosity prevails. Without hesitation, or a word of reply, Lyon walks over to Joan who then pours some of the solution into her hands. A ritual they’re familiar with. This isn’t their first time, together.

Joan and Lyon have a history. It began with bold distinction between Governor Joan Ferguson, who was known then and there as ‘the fixer’, and a younger more vulnerable first time ‘’ offender’’ Lyon. Despite Lyon’s insubordination at times, Joan grew to trust her and vice versa. That was until Lyon realized Ferguson was pulling the strings and showcased a lack of empathy for whoever got cut from them. She was mistaken for bait by Joan, however it was Lyon who was the Lioness in lambs clothing.

 ‘’ I’ll have your cash in the morning. You can meet me in the courtyard.’’ If its business the woman wants, Joan will give it. She notices Lyon shivering from being cold and wet. 

‘’ Thank you, for tonight’’ Joan further extends her gratitude by fixing up the correct manner of wearing a kimono. She gets close enough that her bust is almost touching Lyon. Lyon doesn’t stop her, not even to protest. Joan smooths down the crinkles of the sleeves, circles the waist to full hips, then swipes up and down a muscular abdomen. Taking her time, she admonishes this bonus window of pleasure. In her bed before, she loved seeing the hardening of Lyon’s nipples through the black bra as she massaged the overlapping skin of breasts. The ‘cherries’ on top of an indulgent hour. She does the kimono up and makes one last pass.

‘’ Getting off yet?’’ Lyon hisses. The snake bites if the apple is not for the taking.

“Are you?” Joan quips.

Lyon scoffs in denial while shifting her weight on her feet she attempts changing the subject, “The money’s fine, when will I be getting the information?’’ Trusting Joan is like dangerously free falling; you know there’ll be something to settle on but the recovery is more punishable than the landing. 

“My informant is gathering all the data I’ve obtained and everything they know. You’re not the only one in need of dirt, so it’s going to take a few weeks.” Lyon knows Joan enough to understand that her tone is honest. She’s also familiar with the high demand that this ‘market’ has.

“Will I get it before my re-trial?’’

“Yes, you’ll have everything by then. You just need to keep your side of the agreement.” Joan stares coolly at Lyon.

“I think I’ve proven that I will. And, I think I’ve shown you what happens when I’m taken for a fool” Lyon’s almost snarling as she looks up at Joan. She knows that Joan witnessed her ferocious victory, winning the mantle of Blackmoore’s top dog, leaving the prison for the last time. Joan’s face can now be read as pissed or impressed at Lyon’s intimidation tactics. For Joan, Lyon’s nothing but a toothless cub pounding on the glass.

“Tomorrow. The courtyard.” Lyon turns away from Joan and forcibly slams her cell door closed. She doesn’t sleep at all. It’s a night of tosses and turns. By early morning she reaches the showers before Joan, before anybody else.

The courtyard is overcast by grey clouds with peaks of blue sky. Rain is to be expected. Lyon wears a motorcycle-style leather jacket over ‘her’ uniform of a long sleeved white top, dark blue high wast skinny jeans, black tradie boots. Her loose honey blonde hair moves with the breaths of wind, ends tangling over the words on the pages of her book as she sits in solitude. There’s an intense game of basketball behind her. She got money from Allie who, along with Franky, wanted the four one one of last night. She remembers herself and Allie scrutinizing clients together, but she needn’t explain any more than the furrowing her of brows.

 “That’s all you need to say” was Franky’s reply. “You know if you wanted I could pencil you in.” Lyon said trying to seduce Doyle who gave back a look of astonishment and mischief. “Is that right? I’m sure you could.’’ She thought she saw Doyle consider it for a second then decided not to. “Nah. You won’t be here long, neither will I”, they’d only met a couple of weeks ago. But they understood something that no one else seemed to get. Allie had let Lyon in onto Franky’s escape plans, trusting that Lyon could bring Joan where Allie needed her, as a distraction of sorts. Juice has been making advances that are permanently rejected. Even coming back from the showers Lyon had to slap the swine’s hooves away.

After Allie and Frankie go, Joan meets Lyon where she’s seated. “Here’s your cash, for last night.” Lyon notices more bank notes than estimated. Counting the cash she can’t help but feel insulted by the overcompensation. She subtracts six fifty and sticks it up to Joan “Here, take this. It’s too much. You paid me three times the amount I charge hourly.” She looks at Joan who looks bemused by her refusal of the extra pay. “I realized I may have misconstrued your terms last night, this is for that. Nonetheless, you gave me what I wanted.” Joan replied with her hand pushing the money back towards Lyon.

“And what was that? Orgasm responsive nostrils? ‘’ Lyon snipes. The nose breathing of Joan Ferguson when she was over the edge sounded like a snouted dog during heat.

 “As opposed to your cries of climaxing? You’re a sensitive girl, who would’ve thought that a breast massage and kneecap was all it took.” Joan could play with fire just as much as she could set it alight or extinguish it. Lyon was fuming; the centre of her face went red. Her hazel eyes inflamed. She turned her head to the side, “Hey Booms!” she shouts across the yard. Her eyes shooting daggers at Joan whose nostrils were flared. Boomer slowly made her way to Lyon. She tried not to look at Joan but couldn’t help but make a face at her. “Yeah, who the hell are you and what do you want?’’ Boomer asked.

“I know Allie, Kaz, and Franky. Look, I heard someone stole all your Monte Carlos? ’Joan eyes Lyon suspiciously. You can’t be serious.  

“Yeah some dickhead got into me stash, why? Do you know who did, was it you?” Boomer looked ready to Jump on the stranger if she was going to fess up or waste her time. “No, but some dickhead gave me a hundred dollars more than I need. It’s yours, if you want it?” Joan couldn’t believe what was happening. Was this girl so self-righteous that she needed to be seen as a friendly inmate? Boomer laughed in disbelief “Nah. You’re joking right?’’ Lyon closed her book, stood up, took Boomer’s hand and placed the two fifties in it. “I don’t want it” Boomer didn’t know what to say other than a confused ‘thanks’. Kaz and her crew were watching Joan and Lyon, carefully. She was happy to hear of Lyon’s re-trial. That girl deserves it, more than anyone.

Joan watched Boomer stuff the money into the back pocket of her trackies. Before she could say what’s on her mind, Kaz interrupted “What’s going on Lyon? Is someone bothering you?’’ Kaz’s crew stood beside her as they watched Joan who said nothing at all. “No, in fact, you’re just the person I wanted. Is the red right hand still affiliated with various women’s shelters and organizations?” Lyon knew that Joan wasn’t impressed by what she perceived to be ‘self-righteous self-service’. Lyon doesn’t care if Joan’s watching this. Kaz helped her a long time ago, she owes it to the red right hand and if any other girl abused by the system needs a hand, she wants to extend hers. “ Yeah. Always. We got women who are involved with many organizations all across Australia.”  Lyon extends the extra-remaining five fifty to Kaz. Her crew close in as their eyes widened at the amount of notes that she counts. “Where’d you get this?” Kaz is shocked by the generosity but cautious if there’s terms and conditions of any kind.

“I earned it, but I’d rather it go someplace where it’s actually needed. You can disperse it amongst the crew, or donate it all to one program…Just put it into something that’ll help take the bastards down, or lift the girls up.” By this point Joan’s back is turned to all of them. Kaz’s eyes water as she smiles gratefully at Lyon. “I will. If you need anything, from me, or the red right hand, we can help you.”

She knows that Kaz is referring to her trial. Lyon shakes her head, “That won’t be necessary. I’ve got something that’ll help me and maybe some others too.” every time Lyon makes a statement in reference to her court date she’s hoping that the gun isn’t pointed at her foot. Kaz and her crew leave. Lyon watches them go as flashes of the past strike her, frightening her back into the present.

Joan’s towering over Lyon, despite her being only a few inches taller. The younger woman could hit her, again, right here right now. They glare at each other until the light spitting of rain sends some of the other women back inside. Immediately, it begins to pour down a torrent of rain. The officer’s call everyone else in to return to the building. Lyon sees Joan’s expression of angst towards her become one of earnestness. Lyon softens her scowl as she looks up to the older, bigger, woman with such candor that Joan leans her head in closer and Lyon unknowingly mirrors the same notion.

Why must you always hold back? If you would apologize…

Officer Stewart screams out to the two women. “Ferguson, Lyov, inside now!” he screams from the entrance.

Lyon tries to clear away the moisture blurring her vision. Rubbing her eyes, she now sees the back of Joan walking from her.

“Remember, tonight. My unit. Don’t be late. “Joan calls out as she heads inside.

 Lyon follows after Joan.

Slowly.