With This Ring

Entry by: Sémaigho

13th April 2018
‘Should I say “cheer” or “cheers”, Madison?’ The young man was unsure since Portuguese was his first language.
‘ “Cheers, Paulo!” But it’s cheering up I need now.’
‘Cheers, Madison’ Paulo replies, and they clink the mugs of hot drinking chocolate.
Paulo laughed at Madison’s choice of farewell drink. However she received advice it was better not to eat before the long journey and the nourishing drink would keep hunger at bay. Besides, the July evenings were cooler in Rio de Janeiro and that evening she felt the cold more than usual. It was made worse by thoughts of the return flight to England.
They met three months previously in a nightclub in her native Wolverhampton. Paulo was visiting from Brazil, with a profile of his ideal girl. Girls with money did not appeal, and neither did he want a well-educated young lady. Before they finished the first drink together, he knew he had found just the right one. That night he did not ask her to his hotel but took her home by taxi. Back to the small terraced house she shared with her mother, Tracey, and three younger brothers. They parted with a farewell kiss and a promise to meet again.
Madison lost her job when the cleaning company she worked for went bust. Paulo was a godsend. He took her out of the smothering smallness of home and gave her a good time. When he visited he was the essence of charm with her mother and took her brothers out to teach them to play football ‘like a Brazilian’. Madison got the blessing of her mother to take a break from her work search for the duration of the visit. Tracey felt that Madison deserved a little light in her life. She could not give her a holiday or nice things since her husband walked out when Madison was fourteen.
Soon Paulo was talking about taking her on holiday to his home in Brazil. Madison was not too keen. In her twenty four years she never felt the urge to travel, despite her moans about the dreariness of life in her native city. Tracey had carried the excitement high and persevered in persuading her to take the opportunity that passed by her mother. Paulo bought an expensive designer suitcase and when she opened it she found the ticket inside for a return flight.
Madison Bailey arrived in Rio de Janeiro on her twenty fifth birthday. They hailed a taxi, and she hardly noticed the long journey to the city suburbs with a carnival of new sights and sounds to take in. He had talked about the favelas but nothing could have prepared her for that first sight. The buildings seemed to have helter skeltered up the steep hillside in a wild higgledy-piggledy rush to the top. Paulo reassured her she was safe there; security had improved since the government embedded police and military to keep the drug gangs in check.
Finally she arrived to where he lived, in a lower part of the favela with his mother and three younger sisters. The more accessible house with water and electricity was the reward for his work on behalf of his family. He explained it was now impossible to provide electric cables or water pipes; even roads to some higher level dwellings. It was easy for Madison to settle in; with Paulo’s mother and three younger siblings it felt like her own family. Except better because they could talk fashion and all the girl’s stuff she missed with her brothers.
He proudly walked his new English girl around the favela and took her to see the city sights. They returned from the tour and sat on a wall with a clear view of the favelas.
‘We once lived near the top of that hill,’ Paulo said pointing so high he might have been talking about the sky. ‘The house was not good, and we had no electricity or running water. I was like you, without a father to provide. But my mother, she made sure I learned English. I worked for the things we have, and now I will tell you how you can do the same.’
Gently Paulo introduced her to the story of the ring. It was the tale a drug ring with contacts in England. He explained how he had carried enough drugs inside his body to pay for his holiday, and to bring her to Brazil.
'You bastard, you brought me here to be your drug mule’ Madison exploded,
‘No, no it’s not like that. I love you Madison and I want us to have a life together’
His sweet talk smothered her anger, and he convinced her she could carry enough drugs inside her body to transform her family fortunes. He would also smuggle a stash to set them up in a nice home in England. Then they would get jobs and forget about drugs forever. He got down on one knee, took her hand and placed a sparkling ring on her finger.
Too soon the day arrived. Sitting there in the airport lounge a cold chill came over her making her shiver slightly as she sipped her hot chocolate. They told her not to eat as it might cause her to pass the precious packets too soon. Paulo snapped a selfie on his phone as their mugs chimed, and her ring sparkled in the light. It was the look they needed; another happy couple returning from a holiday in Brazil.

After the arrests the tabloids got hold of that selfie and red headlines screamed with delight. The caption beneath the photo read “Mugshots,” and in the body of the front page article they trumpeted the details.
“There is one mug in that picture contains more than hot chocolate. That mug is Madison Bailey. She was duped by her Brazilian ‘boyfriend’ into acting as his mule in attempting to smuggle 1kg of cocaine into Britain. He convinced her it was easy money. She swallowed. In total she swallowed 80 carefully sealed condoms but customs officers arrested her coming through the airport on their return. Recent arrests show that clever drug dealers have turned over more British mugs than an Oxford street gift shop, in their efforts to meet rising demand for the white powder…”