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Breathing Slow

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“She’s not a bad artist for a junkie,” Liz laughed, referring to an incident that had taken place in the exercise yard earlier that morning involving Skye and a can of spray paint.

“Oh, stop,” Bea groaned, rolling her eyes and throwing a bag into the trolley Liz was pushing.

“I mean, she did do a pretty accurate depiction of Ferguson,” Valeria chuckled.

“How old is she anyways?” Bea asked.

“Oh, shit,” Valeria heard Liz exclaim. Valeria looked up and felt her blood turn to ice in her veins.

Simone, “Simmo” Slater.

“What the fuck is she doing back?” Bea asked.

“I don’t even want to know,” Liz groaned.

“I’ll catch you guys later…” Valeria mumbled. “I’m gonna head back to the unit.”

“Righto,” Liz replied. Valeria noticed that Bea was eyeing her strangely, not realizing that her facial expression had given the secret away.


Valeria rushed back to H2, fully prepared to begin vomiting, when she spotted all her things, along with the rest of H2’s belongings, on the floor.

“What the fuck?” she heard Franky exclaim.

“Cell toss,” Liz replied, coming up behind her.

“I didn’t give Skye permission to fuckin’ graffiti,” Franky sighed.

“We need permission to fart, now do we?” Liz countered, and Valeria snorted, earning a look from Franky.

“So, where is she now?”

Valeria and Liz shrugged. Franky stopped Boomer on her way out of the unit.

“Where’s Skye?”

“Probably chasin’ the dragon, I’ll bet,” Boomer replied.

“How’s that? We’re in the middle of a fuckin’ drought!” Franky whispered.

“Yeah, well, Simmo’s back, isn’t she?” Boomer said.

“Simmo’s back?” Franky echoed, throwing her head back. “Fuck.”

Did everyone in Wentworthhave problems with Simmo?


Valeria knocked on Skye’s cell door several hours later.

“Fuck do you want?” Skye asked.

“That shiv you had, I need to borrow it,” Valeria said.

“For what?”

“For Simmo,” Valeria said, lowering her voice.

“Franky’s gonna be pissed if ya take a crack at her before she does,” Skye said.

“I don’t give a fuck if Franky’s gonna be pissed,” Valeria muttered.

“My ears are burnin’!”

Shit.

Franky waltzed into the unit, leaning on the doorframe.

“What’s happening here? You tryna score?” she asked Skye.

“Nah, she’s askin’ to borrow me shiv, aye,” Skye giggled.

“Who do you need a shiv for, Val?” Franky glared.

“Simmo,” Valeria grumbled. Franky raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“What’s your deal with her?” she asked. Valeria didn’t say anything but cut her eyes at Skye and looked back to Franky. “Skye, get out.”

“But this is my cell!”

“I said get out,” Franky snapped. Skye climbed off the bed and ambled out of the cell. “Spill it,” Franky said when she was gone.

“I’d appreciate if you keep what I’m about to tell you between the two of us,” Valeria said.

“Yeah, no problem, now tell me,” Franky demanded.

“I used to push drugs for the Holts,” Valeria began. “I haven’t been involved with them for years, but…” she trailed off, not sure how to explain to Franky what exactly Simmo had done to her.

“But?” Franky echoed. Valeria took a deep breath.

“It was three years ago. There was a party at Vinnie’s mansion. Everyone was drinking, snorting, smoking… Brayden slipped something into my drink…” she began. “He acted like he was helping me, like I’d just had too much to drink, but as soon as we got upstairs…” she trailed off, her voice breaking. She looked down at the floor, trying to blink the tears out of her eyes.

“He raped you?” Franky finished when Valeria found herself unable to continue. She nodded. “What does Simmo have to do with it?”

“She… She walked in on it. She came in, I guess to check on me. Before everything happened, we were friends. But when she saw what was happening, she shut the door and left. I thought she was going to get help, but no one ever came.”

“That’s fucked,” Franky growled. “I’m sorry that that happened to you, Val.”

Valeria was surprised at the sudden kindness the usually gruff, harsh woman was showing her.

“I want her to pay,” Valeria said.

“You want in on a little secret?” Franky asked. Valeria nodded. “Me, Skye and Boomer are gonna take her out. You wanna join?”

“Let’s do it,” Valeria nodded.

“So, here’s the plan…”


Valeria’s heart began to race when she heard the door to the Education Center creak open. From behind the shelves, she watched as Simmo made her way around the pool table, calling for her crew.

“Roz! Megan?”

“Simmo,” Franky said, stepping from the shadows. “Come to join my study group, have ya?”

Simmo looked panicked and attempted to make a quick exit, but she was blocked by Boomer, Skye and Valeria.

“Hi!” Boomer said, giving Simmo a wave.

“You set me up!” Simmo hissed at Skye.

“Yeah!” Skye laughed. The four stared at each other for several long seconds before Simmo pulled a shiv from her pocket, pointing it at Boomer.

“Come on, then,” Franky grinned. Simmo made a weak attempt to lunge at Franky with the shiv, but she was easily overpowered. Boomer grabbed her by both arms and Franky punched her hard in the stomach. Simmo began to struggle and shout until Boomer slammed her head against one of the metal shelves that lines the libraries. “Get her between the shelves.”

“Keep watch for screws,” Valeria commanded Skye.

They forced Simmo in between the shelves and Franky held up an 8-ball.

“You seem to like eight-ball, Simmo? You up for a game now?” she asked, grinning. “Val, I’ll let you do the honors.”

Valeria glared at Simmo.

“Val, don’t do this,” Simmo wheezed.

“Shut the fuck up,” Valeria snarled. She reeled back and slammed her fist into Simmo’s nose. There was a sickening, loud, crunch and Simmo doubled over, yelling in pain.

The beating continued for almost 30 minutes, with Boomer and Valeria taking turns pummeling Simmo, before the intercom blared through the room.

“Attention compound, attention compound, all prisoners return to their units. Count will commence in 15 minutes.”

“Come on, we gotta go,” Boomer heaved.

“Booms?” Franky said.

“Yeah?”

“I want you to finish the job,” Franky commanded.

“What?” Boomer asked, looking uncomfortable.

“Kneecap her. They’ll put her in protection, she won’t be back. She won’t be a pain in the arse,” Franky said.

“No… No… She… Well… Look, she… She’s almost out cold,” Boomer stammered. “It’d be a bit dirty...”

“I don’t care, Boomer, I’m not fucking around. I want her out of her, permanently,” Franky demanded. She pulled the 8-ball out of her pocket and slipped it into a sock. “I want you to use this.”

“Oh, fuck… That’s hardcore…” Boomer said, taking the sock-ball from Franky.

“Just do it quick. Get back before the count, hey?” Franky said. Boomer said nothing. “C’mon, Val.”

Valeria took one last look at Simmo, spit in her direction, and walked out.


The next morning, the woman Franky had framed for the graffiti, Roz, also known as Simmo’s right hand, was being made to paint over the wall.

“C’mon, Roz, it’s a big dick, it’s gonna take you a long time to cover it up,” Liz laughed, Valeria laughing with her. Franky came over, tapping Doreen on the leg and smiling.

“You’re off the hook!” she grinned. Doreen glared at her and remained silent. “Thanks, Franky, really appreciate it, Franky,” she joked.

“I’m glad the garden’s safe, but I’m not going to thank you for putting an innocent person in the slot.”

“An innocent person?” Franky scoffed. “Do we even have any of those?”

“Whatever,” Doreen muttered.

“Not whatever!” Franky countered. “I did you a favor, now it’s your turn. I want in on the garden detail, today. Me, Boomer and Valeria.”

“Since when is Val part of your crew?” Doreen snapped.

“Since I fuckin’ said so. Can you get us in or not?” Franky asked.

“Yeah, alright, whatever,” Doreen mumbled. Franky grinned at her and dropped an arm around Valeria, leading her to another part of the yard.

“So why exactly are we joining the garden detail?” Valeria asked.

“Because it’s the only way I’m gonna be able to get gear in here,” Franky said quietly. “It’s either this, or I’m fucked.”


Several days later, Valeria was sitting on the unit couch with Liz and Franky, arguing over some policital hoo-ha on the news when Mr. Jackson entered the unit.

“Valdez!” he called. Valeria looked up. “Come with me, please.”

Valeria stood and followed the corrections officer out of the unit.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“I didn’t want to air out your business in front of all of H2, but the police are here for you.”

“The police?” Valeria echoed, heart beginning to pound. “Why?”

“I don’t know, all they said was they needed to speak with you, urgently. Come on,” Mr. Jackson said. Reluctantly, Valeria followed him into the visitor’s center, where two cops sat waiting. “Whatever it is, good luck,” Mr. Jackson said, giving her a gentle smile. She nodded, and he opened the door.

“Valeria Valdez?” one of the cops asked. He was short and stocky with blue eyes and a cropped ginger crew-cut.

“That’s me... What is this about?” Valeria asked.

“Take a seat,” the other cop instructed. He was taller, brown eyes and short, spiky black hair. “The undercover cop you shot, Miriam Holbrook…”

“What about her?” Valeria said hesitantly.

“Unfortunately, she died from her injuries early this morning,” the ginger cop said. “Valeria Valdez, we hereby charge you with the first-degree murder of Miriam Holbrook. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to remain silent…”

Valeria’s pulse was hammering in her ears, so loud that she couldn’t hear the cops finishing reading her rights. The room shifted violently, and Valeria felt like she was going to be sick. The cops finished reading off her rights and she was dismissed. Forcing down tears of agony, frustration and anger, Valeria walked silently over to Mr. Jackson, who had stayed to wait for her.

“That was quick,” he remarked.

Valeria said nothing.

“You okay, Valdez?” he asked when he noticed her expression and her silent demeanor. She nodded.

“C-Can I go back to my u-unit?” she asked quietly, her voice cracking. The world was spinning around her and for a moment she worried that she would pass out before she made it back to H2.

“Yeah, of course,” Mr. Jackson said, eyeing her. He put a hand gently on her back, which brought her back to earth somewhat. As he guided her back to the unit, she began to feel more and more ill. Franky, Liz and Doreen were still sitting on the couch watching television and they looked up when she entered. “Take care of yourself,” he said to her before walking away.

“Hey, what’d Mr. Jackson pull ya for?” Liz asked. Valeria didn’t reply, she had nothing to say, she didn’t know what to say. She simply stood in the middle of the room, shaking violently and staring blankly at the floor with tears in her eyes that she was trying her best to keep contained. “Val, what happened?” Liz asked when she noticed Valeria’s glassy eyes.

“I…” Valeria began, breaking off into a sharp inhale. She began to hyperventilate violently, her breath coming in quick, loud gasps. Her chest was excruciatingly tight, and for a moment she felt as if she was choking. Franky, Liz and Doreen were at her side almost instantly. She began to sob heavily in-between gasping for air and trying to explain to the 3 women what had happened. Her eyes were wide and wild, and Liz guided her to the couch. She started to rock back and forth, still wheezing. The rocking continued to get faster and faster until she exploded into motion again, pacing about the room with her hands on her head.

“Love, you need to calm down,” Liz said.

“Telling her to calm down won’t help,” Franky snapped.

“I c-c-can’t b-br-breathe,” Valeria choked out.

“Give me a minute,” Franky said to Liz and Doreen. She took the near-hysterical Valeria by the arm and guided her into her cell. “Val, look at me.”

Valeria continued to hyperventilate until Franky kneeled down in front of her and took her face in her hands.

“You’re alright, you’re having a panic attack,” she said. 

“I want to die,” Valeria sobbed, falling forward onto Franky’s shoulder. Franky, in an entirely un-Franky-like move, began to rub her hand up and down Valeria’s back, shushing her quietly and holding her as she cried. “Franky, pleaselet me die.”

After thirty-five long, tearful minutes, Valeria composed herself enough to explain to Franky what had happened.

“The cop I shot died this morning in hospital. The cops charged me with first-degree murder,” Valeria whispered.

“Fuck…” Franky swore. “I’m sorry, Val.”

“Don’t be,” Valeria mumbled. They sat in silence for several minutes, Valeria staring at the floor and Franky thinking of something, anything, she could say to comfort her, but she came up with nothing. As Franky wracked her brain, Liz gently opened the cell door.

“Everything all right in here?” she asked.

“Yep, all good,” Franky said.

“Are you okay, Val?”

“Yeah…” Valeria said quietly. “If you guys don’t mind, I just want to be alone.”

“Yeah, of course,” Liz said. Franky stood and walked to Valeria’s cell door and paused at the doorway.

“You know we’re all here for you, right?” she asked. Valeria nodded. Franky gave her a sympathetic smile and gently shut the door. Valeria curled up on her bed and pulled her blankets up to her chin, tears dripping onto her pillow. She shut her eyes, images of the night she shot Miriam flooding her mind.


The next day, Valeria had feigned illness and skipped breakfast, work unit and lunch, and was in the process of deciding if she was going to attend dinner when the wail of the prison alarm began to echo through the unit.

“Code black, OT, Code Black.”

She swung her legs over the side of her bed and shuffled out of her cell.

“What happened now?” she asked Liz, who was sitting on the couch.

“No idea,” Liz shrugged. A few minutes later, Franky burst into the unit, heaving as if she’d just run a marathon.

“You guys are not going to fuckin’ believe what Red did!” she panted. Valeria and Liz looked at each other.

“Was Bea the reason for the Code Black?” Liz asked.

“She went after Brayden Holt with a shiv,” Franky explained.

“You mean the Brayden Holt?” Valeria gasped.

“Don’t tell me she killed him,” Liz groaned.

“Nah, she got him pretty good, though. Slashed him right across the face,” Franky laughed. “It was pretty badass.”

“I would have paid to see that,” Valeria said. “I’m assuming she’s in the slot now?”

“Yeah, I reckon,” Franky said. Valeria felt herself becoming nauseous and she excused herself to her cell. She knew she was being irrational, but the thought of even being in the same building as Brayden Holt made her physically ill. She laid down on her bed and closed her eyes and forced down the bile that was rising in her throat. Silently, she cursed and praised Bea at the same time. Cursing her for failing but praising her because her attempt on Brayden’s life had given her a plan.

She was going to take down the Holts, one back-stabbing son-of-a-bitch at a time.