© Copyright Photograph by Patrik Nygren and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Locked within the small, bland prison cell, Dwayne sat on his bed clutching a photograph. He glanced around the beige walls where he’d hung various pencil drawings, drawings of her. Looking back at the picture he was filled with joy.  In the picture was a young girl, sitting on a bench, grass in the foreground, a pond in the background. She had beautiful black hair and a slim figure, she was sixteen when it was taken. She was the love of Dwayne’s life, and it devastated him when they were separated due to his prison sentence.

The waiting was finally over, his six month sentence had been served and this was the morning he was due to be released. Nothing bothered him now. The previous six months of being prey to prison bullies seemed completely surreal, he was going home.

The guards collected him and led him to reception, where he was placed in a man-holding room with other prisoners due for release. Dwayne had shaved that morning and combed his short brown hair. He was happy that he would be free a month before his twentieth birthday, but not as happy as he was about seeing his love. Sitting on a hard bench surrounded by walls and bars, a friendly voice spoke to him.

“Excited, huh?”

Dwayne looked to his left to find a shaggy-haired man, in his forties, smiling at him. He continued to hold the photograph, and nodded.

The man looked down at the picture and asked,

“What’s her name?”

“April.” Dwayne replied.

“She meeting you outside?” the man asked.

“Oh no.” Dwayne replied, “I think I’ll get settled back at home, then go meet her. It will be amazing, our love can conquer all.”

The man looked back at him and seemed to take a genuine interest.

“So it’s the real deal then?”

“Oh yeah.” Dwayne replied. “Sometimes at night when I got lonely I used to go round hers, sit outside and text her. I knew her dad wouldn’t let her out in the middle of the night but it was comforting.”

Again the man smiled as Dwayne reminisced but their attention was diverted by the clanging metal-on-metal sounds of the door unlocking. It was time for Dwayne to be set free.

For a few days, Dwayne wandered the streets he grew up on, in an attempt to find the right words for April. The freedom was a lot to take at first, but he soon got into his old habits of wandering at night, finding a nice quiet place to sit and clear his head. Dwayne liked the night-time, it was a time he could think things through and relax. He was the kind of lad who worried about the world, anxious. He wasn’t scared, but most of the time he found everything a threat, and when he felt threatened, his thoughts would run away with him, making mountains out of molehills and leaving him feeling paranoid. Dwayne was the type to let his thoughts control him.

The next day was an overcast and humid day. The sort of day you would expect a storm to follow, hot and clammy. Dwayne finally knew what he would say to April. He had been waiting half a year to tell April how much he loved her. She already knew of course, he’d told her so often before prison. Dwayne always thought of that song ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ and it made him realise that he needed to spend every day letting her know how much he meant to him. So he headed toward Manor Park to meet her. April could often be found in the tranquility of Manor Park.

Standing at the top of the park, Dwayne looked downwards towards the bottom where a pond stood. A long path wound around the edge of a large bright green grassy area, broken by mighty oak trees, few and far-between. Groups of people of all ages congregated around the trees, especially on a hot day like this. To the right of the pond was a large swing park, and at the top, where Dwayne stood, there was a skate park. Taking in the fresh, free air he walked down the path toward the pond, letting his thoughts encompass him. His mind took him back to a year before he was sentenced to serve six months in prison. Back to when he first met April.

It was a regular Friday night when Dwayne was working his evening shift at Blockbusters. Being a bit of a movie buff he liked working there, dealing with films all the time, taking him away from the troublesome world outside. He worked there full-time, and he always worked Friday nights. The shop consisted of a counter and about six racks filled with rental DVDs. DVDs of new films also lined the walls. The shop was fairly busy, with about ten people in at any one time, but one particular customer that stood out was a beautiful young girl with long black hair and ocean blue eyes. She was with a friend, a blond girl, slightly taller, but she didn’t interest him. As he worked, his eyes kept glancing over at her, and she glanced back. The girls approached the counter and put down two films, Halloween and Friday 13th.

“A horror night is it?” Dwayne asked with a smile. The black-haired girl’s green eyes met his hazel ones and she smiled back, then gave a nervous giggle. He found it cute how she was easily embarrassed. He watched as she looked through her bag for her Blockbuster card, all the time thinking that this was some sort of excuse to delay. Perhaps he should as for her number, he thought. But he didn’t, instead he clammed up a little in front of his work colleagues, and let her go. Later on he looked at her membership details and found our her name was April, a beautiful name, he thought. Dwayne thought for a while, and decided it would be romantic to text her, so he did, a week or so later. This was the beginning of his love for April, and from then on they texted.

Dwayne carried on walking through the park, and his thoughts returned to present day, and his present surroundings. From behind he could hear noises of skateboard wheels banging on the half-pipe and from around he could hear the general chitter-chatter of freedom. He liked this. About halfway through the park he saw April, sitting on the bench in front of the pond, just like in the picture he had. The smile on Dwayne’s face was uncontrollable, he was so happy to see her. She looked amazing, just amazing. Stopping for a second, he took out his mobile phone, an old battered Nokia. He stood still and decided this would be a good time to be romantic, and texted out a message saying,

‘You look beautiful today.’

Before he sent it he looked up to see her once more, but what he saw completely threw him off what he was doing. He cancelled the message and put his phone away. As he looked closer he could see April, in close and passionately kissing a boy with long blond hair. Dwayne was flooded with confusion – why was she doing this to him?

Dwayne turned back and headed home. He found himself pacing up and down the hallway while thoughts repeated in his head. Why was she doing this? Was she doing it on purpose?

As he asked himself these questions a rage built up inside him he didn’t like. All sorts of visions appeared before him. As he paced, he dreamed of tying up the blonde lad and taking a hammer to his hands and feet, working his way up the limbs so that his arms, legs, feet and hands were broken. He shook his head, shut his eyes and thrashed violently. Another vision came of the blonde boy hanging upside down from a tree, while Dwayne pummeled him with an iron bar. Again he shrugged these visions away and tried to maintain focus.

He knew what he needed to do. He needed to to be peaceful. He needed to be positive. Dwayne decided to confront April, let her explain her side, he thought. By the time this decision was made, it was night-time. Dwayne pulled on a dark hooded top and jeans, then marched his way to April’s house. She lived a good mile away, enough of a walk to clear his head.

As Dwayne left his house there was a clash of thunder, and rain was pouring down. He pulled his hood up to cover his head and began to walk. The rain was hard and the thunder was loud. When the lightning flashed, everything was illuminated, the puddles, the street, even the pouring rain. He could feel his temper rising with each step, but he ignored it, pushing it to the back of his mind.

Around twelve minutes later he arrived. He stood opposite April’s house, which lay in a cute little cul-de-sac, and took out his phone. Dwayne felt tense as he looked up to the sky, letting raindrops hit his face, but he knew this was the best way. He would let her speak, let her explain. Before he could begin to text, April’s door opened, and out stepped the blonde lad. Instantly he felt a jolt of anger surge from his gut, and in his mind he saw the blonde boy dead on the roadside. The rage was complemented by witnessing another passionate kiss. This was it, he thought, now or never. Dwayne approached the couple rapidly and spoke.

“April” he called out, “How? How could you do this?”

The young girl looked up, and her once blissful expression dropped immediately to one of fear. She looked as though she was struggling to breathe.

“And you are?” the blonde lad asked.

Dwayne tried not to look at him as he knew this would bring about the red mist. The rain was splashing down, and Dwayne was soaking wet.

“This is the guy…” April said nervously “…Dwayne.”

The blonde lad turned from April to Dwayne.

“Dwayne!? What do you want you sick fuck?” he shouted at him.

Once more Dwayne avoided meeting his gaze, instead he was fixed on April.

“April. No-one can love you like I do. I can forgive you for this. Just tell Blondie to leave.”

Tears rolled from April’s face, she looked petrified.

“How about you leave? Go on piss off.” the blonde lad looked angry and arrogant.

Dwayne’s fists clenched up and his teeth grinded together. Just keep cool, he thought, keep cool.

“Go on, leave her alone you fucking stalker!”

All of a sudden there was a flash of lightning and a clash of thunder. Dwayne’s eyes widened at the sound of that word. He hated that word with a passion. The very same word used by the prison bullies who picked on him. A rage flew up into his head and he turned and met the blonde boy’s gaze. He made a fist with his right hand and plunged it into the boy’s throat. The boy stumbled back, coughing and spluttering as April screamed. She ran into her house, slamming the door behind her. Dwayne grabbed the boy’s hair and launched him into the flooded road, and then jumped on his head. The boy screamed, and there was a sound of bones breaking.

As the boy struggled to his feet Dwayne could not think. He couldn’t feel. His whole body was buzzing with rage. He could see the boy raising his arms to defend himself but still Dwayne stamped and grunted, louder and louder. His grunts turned to angry screams as he kicked him in the stomach, screaming,

“No-one calls me that!”

Suddenly, just as quickly as he started, he stopped. It was as though someone had switched Dwayne’s off-switch. He stood still over the boy, who shivered in the foetal position. The flooded road ran red with his blood, and Dwayne just stood, breathing heavy and loud. Only a moment passed and the cul-de-sac was filled with light. This time, not from the storm, but a flashing blue light. The rain and thunder and the grunts of Dwayne’s rage had drowned out the sound of the sirens, in his head at least. Now though, he could hear them, and he watched as the patrol cars pulled up.

Seconds later he could feel hard metal cuffs around his wrists. He was thrown into a police van and taken off to the station. As he sat in the van, cuffed up, he seemed to relax. No-one understood him, he thought, and no-one understood his love for April.

By Jambo Stewart