fish pot pie

Chrianna Short: Freedom

“Christopher Brown,” a voice exclaimed as keys banged together ringing throughout the solitary section of the jail. Having been on a strict schedule for the past few months, he was already awake and dressed when an officer stopped at his cell. The door was unlocked and slid open to reveal a face he had become accustomed to seeing for his short stay at this particular facility.

“Mr. Brown, it’s time for your release. Turn and cuff up.”

Chris inwardly sighed as he stood up, stretching his six foot, two inch body to loosen his muscles and bones, he turned to face the back wall of his cell. Hearing the familiar sound of metal locking around his wrists, Chris was turned around and led down the hallway of metal doors leading to 8x10 cells. The last time he’d have to take this walk of shame. The last time he’d have to smell this scent of despair, anger and regret. An officer walked beside him, holding his collection of things. All he wanted was his paperwork and artwork. He had passed the time singing, writing, drawing and thinking. Thinking about what needed to be changed and how he was going to move forward and be different. He knew he needed to mature and get his life in order. He was 25 years old; the time for childish games had passed.

 

Rihanna wrung her hands together and paced in her living room. Mel shook her head and chuckled at her friend, you’d think she was the one getting out of jail today.

“Robs, can you sit down please? Shit, you making me nervous,” Mel said.

“Mel, I can’t. God, I’m so nervous. What if they change their minds again? What if they keep him longer?”

“Robyn Fenty, have a little faith and calm down. Everything will be fine.”

“Melissa, I don’t know.”

“I’m gonna call both of your mamas on you if you don’t sit down somewhere.”

Robyn paused in her pacing and glared at Melissa, “that’s not funny.”

“I’m not laughing. I’m dead serious.”

“Mel, I’m serious. What if they don’t release on time?”

“Robyn, he will be fine. Are you going to pick him up?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“And why not?”

“I don’t know if it’s a good idea. Nobody outside of family knows his release date but I don’t know if the information may have leaked and the paps might show up. I don’t wanna cause more chaos than what might already happen just because of his release.”

“Did he say anything about you coming?”

“He left it up to me. I told him I’ll for sure see him after his release but I don’t know about being at the jail though.”

“His family is gonna be there, right?”

“Yea Mama J and all them flew here and they’re gonna meet him. I’m thinking I’ll just see him once he gets settled in. You know change clothes and eat and everything.”

“Robs, I think you’re definitely one of the faces he wants to see the most.”

“Now you sound like Chris.”

“That’s how you know I’m telling the truth. How about we stay and cook up some stuff then drop by the house once he’s out?”

Robyn perked up immediately at that suggestion before running into her kitchen. Flinging open the freezer and refrigerator at the same time, she began pulling out ingredients for common Bajan fare. Deciding on pepper pot, flying fish, macaroni pie, black eyed peas and rice and rum cake, Robyn organized the ingredients into the appropriate groupings on her massive kitchen counter before heading upstairs to change clothes. She needed to start cooking immediately.

 

 

Chris was nervous but elated as he finally changed out of his jailhouse orange into his regular clothes. The material felt more luxurious than he would’ve ever imagined. Raking his fingers through his growing black curls, he reasoned he could keep the hair on his head but the facial hair had to go as soon as possible. Glancing through the bars of the release/intake cell, he was very ready to go especially being this close to the outside. Another officer came by and stopped by the cell and Chris’s breath caught as he was pronounced free to go. Free? He hadn’t felt like that in a long time, way before he ever came to jail. Time to face the music. Taking a deep breath, he spoke to the releasing officer, stating his name and county ID number for the last time. Upon verification, Chris sighed deeply and walked into the front lobby. Before he even made to the front doors, he saw his mother and other family members waiting for him. He pushed open the doors and was immediately bum-rushed with hugs and loud sounds of celebration. He was going home.

 

His mom being the last to embrace him, he squeezed her as tight as he could before setting her on her feet. Joyce wiped tears from her eyes as she smiled at her son. As much as she hated where he was, something had to stop the downward spiral he called a life. He needed tough love in ways she couldn’t give him and he was different. His walk was different. His stature. His vibe. He was Chris but Chris in a way he hadn’t been before. His brow furrowed as he looked behind her searching for someone. He frowned in realization that she wasn’t there. He had given her the choice to come and she obviously decided not to.

“Angel, she thought it was best to let you settle in first,” Joyce said softly.

“Oh,” Chris replied in a disappointed tone.

“She was hoping you’d understand. She didn’t want to cause any unnecessary chaos with your release, you know?”

“I understand.”

“You ready to go?”

“Uh huh.”

Chris wrapped his arm around his mother as they left to their car. She knew he was happy but the disappointment of Rihanna’s absence could be felt in the loose form of his body.

 

“Robs, who are you feeding? The whole state of California,” Melissa joked as she gathered a few aluminum pans in her arms.

“Melissa, don’t start with me. I just wanna make sure he had enough food,” Rihanna replied.

“For what? Until the next lifetime? He ain’t but one person.”

“Shut up and come on.”

Rihanna’s driver grabbed the covered pans out of the ladies’ hands and placed them in the car. Climbing into the backseat, Rihanna and Melissa got ready to leave to Chris’s house. Being that his old property had sold, they were heading to his other place that he would be using to keep a low profile. Mama J had called and informed her that just family was there and Chris was in a good mood but a little disappointed she wasn’t there to meet him at the jail. Mama J had of course explained her reasoning to him but Rihanna still felt a little bad that he had been disappointed. A while later, they pulled into a driveway filled with cars. Grabbing the food, Rihanna and Melissa went and knocked on the door. Mama J answered and hugged them tightly, “Angel, you didn’t have to cook or bring anything.”

“I know Mama but I figured he could never have too much food. I made a couple of his favorite Bajan dishes.”

“That’s very sweet. I’m sure he’ll really appreciate it. Everyone is in the backyard, follow me to the kitchen to put this up.”

Joyce hugged Melissa as well before they headed into the kitchen.

“Robyn, I’m gonna get the man of the hour while y’all set up whatever you need, ok?”

“Yes, Mama,” Rihanna replied.

Mel set her pans on the counters and sat down at the dining table and peeked into the backyard, “Girl, all of Virginia is here.”

Rihanna chuckled and started uncovering some of the food to place into the oven to keep warm, “Now you know all of Virginia is his damn family. He got more cousins than we got family members.”

“Well Damn, just call me out,” a deep voice said from the back door. Rihanna froze in her movements, closing the oven door before turning around, “hey.”

“Hey,” Chris said softly.

Mel smiled as she hugged her unofficial brother, “Welcome home, Yellow Nigga.”

“Thanks Mel.”

“I’ma give y’all some space,” Mel said as she left into the backyard, closing the sliding door behind her. Rihanna began to nibble on her bottom lip in nervousness as Chris stood by the dining table, smiling at her.

“So…you just gonna stand there or come greet me?” Chris asked. Rihanna smiled and moved around the counter to jump in his arms, “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too, Baby Girl. I’ve missed you too.”

Chris tucked his face into the crook of her neck and breathed in her scent, “you smell just like I remember.”

“Been a long time, huh?”

“Too long.”

Chris set Rihanna on her feet but kept a hold on her hand, “you look beautiful.”

“Thank you. You look good yourself.”

“Robyn…” Chris said with a look. Rihanna chuckled, “what Chris, you do look good. A little pale but good.”

“Uh huh.”

“Especially these curls. They’re just so grippable,” Rihanna stressed as she rubbed her free hand over his head, “I love your hair like this.”

“Thank you. How you been?”

“I’ve been alright. How about you?”

“Good. Just glad to be out.”

“I’m glad you’re out too. I know we aren’t together or anything but I really missed seeing you.”

“Same here. How is everything going?”

“Pretty good. Just working and hanging with family.”

“Cool.”

“what you got planned next?”

“Just work, court and therapy.”

“You still gotta go back to DC, right?”

“Yea, they postponed my trial until the summer.”

“Ugh…that sucks.”

“Tell me about it. I had to meet with my parole officer today too.”

“How’d that go?”

“Not too bad. Same rules as last time.”

“Will anything change after DC?”

“Nah, that was the final ruling. That’s whole other issue in itself.”

“Oh ok.”

Chris caressed the back of her hand and smiled as they both fell silent. Rihanna blushed under his gaze before folding into his arms again. Chris kissed the top of her head as he hugged her to him. No matter where their romantic relationship stood, she’d always  be family and his best friend. Rihanna squeezed him as tight as she could as they stood in the middle of the kitchen.

Brushing his hand over her shoulder, Chris chuckled, “so…I saw you putting food away.”

“Yes, it’s for you, greedy butt.”

“You cooked?”

“Yes I did. All your favorites.”

“See, this is why you’re my best friend.”

“Besides the fact I’m just amazing.”

“Besides the fact you’re just amazing, yes.”

Rihanna chuckled and kissed his cheek, “you wanna see what I made?”

“Yes.”

Rihanna laughed again at his enthusiasm, “you are so greedy.”

“Baby Girl, that food in there was fucking disgusting. I need all the home-cooked food I can get to erase the taste out of my mouth.”

“Chris, you are something else. You want me to make you a plate now or you wanna wait for everybody else?”

“Make me a plate, please” Chris replied with a pout. Rihanna poked at his dimple before moving out of his arms and into the kitchen. Quickly making a plate with all the food she cooked, she heated it up and set it in front of Chris. She turned to find something for him to drink in the fridge and set a glass of ice water next to his plate, “you need anything else?”

Chris glanced down at his plate then smiled up at her, “Nah Baby Girl, I’m good. Thank you.”

“You are very welcome.”

Following his instincts, he leaned over and pecked her lips causing her to smile. Softly caressing his cheek, Rihanna pecked his lips several more times before letting him sit back down in his seat. With a quick prayer, Chris began eating. Rihanna chuckled at his glowing face as he ate. He looked like a little kid at their first Thanksgiving, just excited to be in the presence of an abundance of food.

“You want some, Baby Girl?”

“Nah Babe, I’m good. You just keep eating. You want some more?”

“No, I’ll save some for later. You know Mama cooked too?”

“I saw. Need any more water or something?”

“No, I’m good.”

Rihanna wet a piece of paper towel and wiped his face, “you still eat like a five year old, huh?”

Chris gave her a goofy smile and she laughed, “Chris, you are so silly.”

She couldn’t keep back the amount of happiness she felt watching him enjoy himself. She sensed the difference in him as soon as he came into the kitchen but she was delighted he was still himself in the best ways possible.

Who cares what the future held for them as a couple? In this moment, his happiness, his freedom was all that mattered. The glow he had just illuminated the entire kitchen as they sat together, joking and talking as usual. She loved him and as long as he was ok, she knew she would be too.