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Every day was the same routine. I would wake up not when I wanted to but when the guards said I should. I showered, in front of everyone because in prison there’s no privacy. Breakfast was always some kind of nasty, greasy slop. Then I would spend time in the recreation area before I began on my designated chores and duties. Then lunch and back to work. Afterwards, I had dinner and then back to my cell where the lights go off at 8 pm sharp. That was my life. And it sucked hard!

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My only solace was in reading books. It was a good way to pass the time. I was only allowed to have six at a time and because I was so starved for entertainment I would finish one in a day which meant I had to read each one cover to cover three or four times until the next month when Zachary would bring me more.

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He was my only visitor and I wanted it that way. Not that anyone else showed interest in coming to see me. My so-called best friend Anastasia, Ayden’s sister, completely cut me off because Ayden and Leni told her what I did to them. My Uncle Felix passed away while I was in here and my cousin Jackson practically disowned me not that it was a surprise since he and Leni were always so close. My Goth cousins never visited either but once a year around the holidays, I would get a call from Adalyn. Zachary was the only one who really cared about me. Each month he would come to visit and each time he would look at me pretty much the same way – tired and resentful.

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I’m sure raising three girls all by himself and then having to come all the way out here once a month to visit his wife in prison wasn’t easy but he tried and I was grateful. He offered to bring the girls to see me but I refused. Prison is no place for little girls. They knew why I was in here, though. Blame the stupid kids at school for blabbing. When the great-granddaughter of a renowned painter, granddaughter of a famous astronaut, and daughter of the late chief of police gets convicted of a federal crime it becomes headlining news.

I think about my place in this legacy sometimes. The women before me have all accomplished something great. I thought I would be known for leaving behind a business empire but instead, it looks like I’ll just be known for being the one dumb enough to become a convicted felon. Maybe Leni really would have been a better choice than me. She went on to become a songwriter, traveling the world with an equally talented husband while I was stuck in prison with my loopy cell mate, Margot.

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She was a total psycho! One minute she would be sweet and innocent, won’t even know sarcasm if it slapped her in the face. The next, she’d become angry, a big bully throwing insults and threats at anyone who looked at her the wrong way.

“Get off that bed, this is my bed!”

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“Margot you don’t want to mess with me right now, I’m not in a good mood.” I really wasn’t in a good mood. Zachary visited me that day to show me pictures of Johanna’s birthday. She had grown up to be such a beautiful little girl and I missed it. I couldn’t buy her gifts, or remodel her bedroom, or take her shopping for new clothes and toys, or even give her a birthday hug because I was here, with people like Margot!

“I mean it. Get off my bed before I kick your butt!”

“Kick my butt! I’ll rip your spine out of your throat if this personality of yours doesn’t back off!”

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She didn’t back off and usually, I’d have patience for Big Myrtle – that’s her angry personality’s name – but that day was not the day. There was more yelling and then she got in my face so I smacked her. Then she tried to hit me but I blocked it and then she managed to grab hold of some of my hair and that was it! We were on the floor kicking, punching, scratching – it was brutal…for her!

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Other than a few scratches on my arms and a small bump on my head I was fine. She, on the other hand, had to go to the infirmary. The warden decided that she was too unstable to share a cell with someone else so she got a cell by herself – lucky her! I don’t even understand why she was in this prison to being with.

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Margot should have been in a mental asylum due to her issues but the judge who sentenced her felt like she deserved to be in prison after both personalities confessed to killing her mother and stepfather in cold blood. Yup, that’s the kind of prison I was in. Perhaps I should have chosen which prison I would stay in as part of me plea deal. I mean this place was just filthy. Graffiti and weird scents everywhere! Anyway, I soon got another roommate and we actually got along better than Margot and I did. We never talked and we each kept to our space. I don’t even remember her name since we hardly spoke other than a ‘you dropped this’ or a ‘good night’ and we always stayed out of each other’s way… the perfect cellmate!

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She only lasted about 5 years before she was released. After that, I was on my own for a while and I think I enjoyed her quiet company more than I originally thought because when she was gone, the silence in the cell was deafening. Some nights I felt like I was going crazy. I missed my life. I missed my home and my freedom. But most of all I missed my girls.

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They were growing up so fast and I was missing out. I knew how much they wanted to see me but I couldn’t let them see me like this. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. I wanted them to remember me as poised and graceful, well-dressed and always well kept. I would hate for them to have any memories of me looking like this while standing in this place. But still I longed to hug them and kiss their cheeks and chat with my little chatterbox Isabel or play chess with Ivy, and Johanna who I learned loved to read. I wish I could read her the same stories Granddad read to me as a little girl. I hate to admit this, but on those nights, while I was alone, I curled up with the photos I had of them… and cried myself to sleep.

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So I found ways to pass my time. I became very skilled at playing card games. Soon I was the top ranking player of 3-card llama-slap. Technically we weren’t supposed to be gambling but as long as we hid the matchsticks we used as chips whenever the guards passed by us then we were fine. The bets were small because no one has access to huge amounts of cash in prison but I made enough where I could bribe people to do stuff for me, like my chores or cleaning my cell.

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Of course, there would be some women, jealous ones, who didn’t like my innovative ideas.

“Yo twigs, what’s this I hear about you paying my girls to do your chores?” Her name was Tamika. She first landed in prison when she was 19 years old for dealing drugs and possession of an illegal firearm and then two years after she was released she came back in for beating a man to death with a baseball bat. Now she thinks she runs things because she’s been in here the longest like she’s some kind of queen and I’m supposed to drop to my feet and worship her. Just because she’s bigger than me doesn’t mean she’s more intimidating. Obviously, this clown had no idea who she was messing with.

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“How about this?” Tamika continued. “You give me all your money, do your work yourself, and I promise not to ruin that pretty little face of yours with my fists.”

I started laughing.

“What’s your problem? Why you laughing? You crazy or something?”

“No, but you must be!” I continued laughing. “You honestly think you can threaten me?”

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“Listen twigs…!”

“No you listen, Tamika Ann Boulder, granddaughter of Claire Sampson and mother of Sean and Zara Boulder, your twins right? If you don’t get out of my face and stay the hell away from me altogether I’ll have some of my friends on the outside pay a visit to your grandmother. Little old ladies like her need company right? I mean, Watcher forbid something happens to her because then what will happen to your children? They might end up in foster care or worse, on the streets! Wouldn’t that be hilarious! And it will be so easy too, since I’m rich and I can hire any sloppy hitman who might be lacking in skill and end up making poor granny’s death slow and painful!” I continued laughing. I learned a thing or two from my time with Margot. Sometimes you need to ramp up the crazy to make others get the point.

“S-sorry okay… my bad. I’ll leave you alone Gemma.”

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Ah, she knew my name after all. Huh.

I lied. I don’t have access to any of the money from the estate because it’s all in my daughter’s name now with Zachary as the custodian and he would never let me have money to hire a hitman to take out a little old lady. But I was happy that Tamika believed my threats because now I don’t have to worry about her or anyone else trying to mess with me. If Tamika was scared of Gemma Sloane then everyone else would be as well.

My birthday arrived and I spent the better part of the morning on the toilet because of some bad corned beef they served for dinner the night before. If you had told me at my last birthday party that I would be spending my mature adult birthday purging in a cell, I’d smack you and tell you to get out of my sight!

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Antonio, my lawyer, came to visit me that day to give me the best birthday present I could have ever received. He told me he would be able to get me out of prison early on good behaviour. He was going to set up a meeting with the warden and the judge on my case and if all went well I could go home.

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“Are you sure about this Antonio? Don’t make me get my hopes up.”

“Nothing is guaranteed but I’m very optimistic. You served your time well and did all your assignments properly. There should be no problem in getting you out of here.”

“Will I be out by the twins’ birthday?”

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“I can’t say for sure but I’ll try.”

He did work hard but it wasn’t enough to get me out in time for Isabel and Ivy’s birthday. As usual, Zachary brought me pictures of the party. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were and that I missed such an important moment in their lives and that was enough for me to realise the error of my ways. Getting involved in gangs and laundering cost me time with my girls, time I could never get back. But my past was behind me and I was completely done with that world. Once I got out I would spend as much time with them as I can.

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And not only them but Zachary as well. In all the time I was locked up he never once gave up on me. Even though I could tell he was still angry with me, we never argued again about why I was in here but instead he talked about our children and always asked how I was doing. Another man would have divorced me and probably remarry some heifer by now but Zachary stood by me through it all. I knew I would have some making up to do with him as well.

And then finally, the day came for me to get my chance at redemption. I was free, released on probation, but finally free! The air on the outside was different than I remembered – it was sweet and calming. I stood outside the gates waiting for Zachary to come pick me up.

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He was always punctual so when ten minutes passed and there was no sign of him I became worried that he might not show up. What if he didn’t really want me back? What if he gave up on us? But then my worries disappeared when I saw him walking towards me. I still needed to get used to the salt and pepper look of his hair – a sign of his age and a reminder of much time  passed since I was able to see him under natural light as opposed to the dim florescent glow of the prison visiting room.

“Hello,” He said.

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“Hello,” I responded awkwardly.

We stood in silence neither one of us knowing what to do or what to say next until I realised that I was in my prison jumpsuit and had nothing else to wear.

“Did you bring any clothes for me?”

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“Sorry, I forgot about that but I actually planned on taking you shopping anyway. Some new shops opened in Magnolia Promenade that I think you’d like. I figured you’d want a whole new wardrobe. We can go there before heading home.”

“Really? That sounds wonderful!”

“Well, I can’t let you meet the girls looking like this. They’re really excited to finally get to see you, Johanna especially.”

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“What about you? Are you excited to see me get out of here?”

“I am.” He simply said. I wished he would have said more to reassure me but I guess it was a start.

My feelings overwhelmed me. I threw my arms around him and pulled him close hoping he wouldn’t push me away. I needed to feel his touch as I did not have it in so long. My heart raced when I felt his arms encircle my back as he returned my embrace. I knew right then and there that we were going to be alright. All I needed was some time to prove that I was a changed woman and then we could have the solid relationship we had before and my life could finally go back to normal!

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