Weeks before the lioness known as Inmate Kat was sentenced to life in prison, another lioness in that very same prison was preparing for her trial. Shupaa had been arrested and sent to Gereza Kilima many months ago while an investigation into the death of her twin sister had been taking place. Now, the time for Shupaa's trial was approaching fast - she would be found guilty or not guilty, and her friends inside were trying to give her the best chance of walking free as possible.
"Why can't ya'll just leave me alone, man?" She would snap aggressively whenever anyone, inmate or officer, reminded her of the trial. "I don't give a damn, do I?"
"Well you should give a damn," Governor Damisi warned her. "We're talking about your freedom here, so it's important for you to tell us ANYTHING you think may help you in your defense!"
"But I ain't saying I never did it, am I?" Shupaa snarled at her. "What's left to prove?"
Damisi sighed and took a step towards her.
"Shupaa, listen. Yes, you've made it clear that you committed the crime, but what I want to find out is if there are any reasons for what you did. Not once have you ever mentioned your family or your past - if we can get to the root of your behaviour and your actions, then maybe-"
"NO!" Shupaa roared, standing up suddenly. "That's complete and utter crap! I don't have a reason, do I? I did because I felt like it! So keep your nose outta my business!"
Shupaa turned and ran from Damisi's cave. Damisi was too stunned to stop her. She knew she couldn't make Shupaa talk, so it was pointless to keep her there.
Shupaa remained in a bad mood for the rest of the day. She spoke to nobody and sat alone in her cell. It was only when Tumai wandered in that she finally spoke.
"All right Shupaa?" Tumai said cheerily, skipping over to her. "What you looking so down in the dumps for? You ain't still stressing about your trial are ya?"
Shupaa sighed and hung her head. Tumai was her best friend, but it hadn't always been that way - not when Hyla was around at least. It was only when the unhinged Top Dog was transferred to another prison that Shupaa softened up slightly and found a friend in Tumai.
"How do you do it, Tumai?" She asked her quietly.
"Do what?" Tumai sat down in front of Shupaa and watched her steadily.
"How do you get on with it? How do you keep smiling?"
"Smiling's all you can do," Tumai answered. "No point in moping around, is there? You just gotta pick yourself back up again when things get tough. Make the most of what you got, ya know?"
"You got more guts than me, man," she admitted. "Dunno how you can be so brave."
"Brave?" Tumai repeated. "You saying you ain't brave? A tough girl like you?"
"Tough? No, not me...honest to God...I'm scared of the dark," Shupaa responded. She turned away from Tumai slightly and gazed up into the hole in the wall that passed for a window. "Can I tell you something...something I've never told anyone in this place?"
"Yeah...course ya can," Tumai told her.
Shupaa had been half hoping Tumai would say no...but she had to be brave just this once. She took a deep breath before telling her story.
"My Ma and Pa...they were horrible parents. Used to kick the crap outta me. Both of 'em. And when they weren't picking on me, they were ignoring me...you know...left me to fend for myself most of the time."
"That's horrible!" Tumai squeaked.
"Aye...but my sister...she suffered the same crap n'all. Sometimes when my Ma was out hunting or doing whatever, my Pa...well...he would have his buddies over, ya know? Big, ugly aggressive rogue males...and...sometimes they would..."
Shupaa stopped talking and screwed up her face, unable to continue. Tumai didn't need her to finish...and in any case, she didn't want to hear Shupaa say out loud what those lions did to her. It was too horrific, and too unspeakable to mention.
Tumai remained quiet while Shupaa composed herself.
"As we got older, my sis started to change. Reckon she thought turning into a bully like our Ma and Pa would make her stronger. It worked. She became one right nasty bitch and for years I let her treat me like dirt. Soon enough she was too big and strong for even Ma and Pa to handle, and they both ran away. Never saw either of 'em again."
"Good!" Tumai yelled. "I'm glad! Sounds like you were better off without them scumbags in your life!"
"Aye...you're right about that," Shupaa said quietly.
"So...your sister...why did you-?" Tumai began, but Shupaa held up her paw for silence.
"Because I was tired of being the victim. Didn't wanna be the weak pathetic little runt my family always saw me as. She deserved what she got and ain't no way I'm changing my mind about that, Tumai. I don't feel guilty for what I done."
"But if you tell King Shaha that, he'll lock you up for LIFE!" Tumai said desperately. "You gotta tell him what happened to you as a kid! He might at least give you a lighter sentence if he feels sorry for you!"
But sympathy was something Shupaa didn't want. Sympathy was for the weak, and weak was something she didn't want to be anymore. She had never told anyone on Saba-Wing that story, and she never would again. She would never admit to anyone, not even to herself, that she regretted taking the life of her own sister - and on the night before her trial, she awoke in a cold sweat with tears streaming down her face.
"What the?" Kicho groaned as she lifted her head and opened one eye. "Shupaa - what-?"
"I c-can't!" Shupaa muttered to herself, sobbing loudly. "I can't do it! I can't say it!"
"Say what, mate?" Kicho asked. She got up and padded over to her. Tumai awoke too and also attempted to comfort her friend.
"I can't say it to the King! I just...I can't!"
"Shupaa?" Tumai said gently. "Calm down..."
"What can't you say to the King, Shupaa?" Kicho asked again.
"I can't say things that happened t-to me...things nobody ever believed anyway!"
Shupaa was found guilty of murder the next day. She was sentenced to life in prison.
Her friends were gutted that she confessed to the King she had murdered her sister in cold blood, and she didn't feel a shred of guilt for what she had done. She had gone to the trial wearing her usual smug, thuggish look, and had acted as aggressively as ever towards anyone who spoke to her. Only Tumai knew the truth - Shupaa would rather be known as a nasty bully and a vicious killer, than an abused and lonely girl who so desperately needed help - because in Shupaa's eyes, because of the way she was raised, needing help was a sign of weakness - and Shupaa would not be viewed as weak by anybody. It made Tumai sad - but she would do her best to be that friend Shupaa needed as long as they were together.
The following day, Officer Ayo demanded that Shupaa be moved from her shared cell with Tumai and Kicho. Now she was a lifer, she should be given her own cell on row three - but Shupaa didn't take it so well. After exploding with rage at Ayo, who waddled off to complain about her hard life as an Officer to her peers, Shupaa turned to her best friend.
"I can't go and be in a cell on my own, man!" She whispered to Tumai frantically. "I'll lose my friggen mind!"
"Well you gotta stop lashing out whenever you get scared!" Tumai told her. "How about being really brave? Go and tell Governor Damisi you'd rather stay in a shared cell!"
So Shupaa did just that. It was a tough thing for her to do, but it was better than being forced into a lonely cell with nobody to talk to.
Kat soon arrived on Saba-Wing. Kicho, Shupaa and Tumai were quick to approach her and introduce themselves.
"What'cya in for?" Tumai asked the new inmate.
"Murder," Kat stated simply.
"Aye?" Shupaa said before she could stop herself. "Same here."
"Anyone you knew?" Kat asked her.
Shupaa hesitated. Then, eyes narrowed, and determined to appear unfazed, she answered.
"My twin sister."
"Bad times..." Kat responded.
Bad times...bad times indeed. The bad times were all Shupaa had ever known and she doubted things would improve now she was serving a life sentence. Kicho seemed to understand the look on Shupaa's face. As Kat was taken away by Officer Sayde, Kicho turned to Shupaa and sighed.
"You got a long stretch ahead of you now," she told her. She began to make her way to the waterhole cave with Tumai, beckoning Shupaa to follow them. "Don't shut your mates out. You're gonna need 'em."
Shupaa watched them walk for a few moments. Whether she had mates or not, she wasn't about to let her guard down again - not for a second.
Picture challenge piece! It's been way too long since I did one of these. I think I've been trying to complete this challenge for around a year now! I doubt I'll finish it any time soon. >.>
I asked my friends on Skype which character they would like to learn more about, and Shupaa was chosen. She really doesn't get much attention at all in the comics, so it was refreshing to focus on someone so different.
I'll edit any typos/mistakes in this tomorrow.
Paint Shop Pro work