It’s finally time.
I grab one of the dull pencils from the tray and a piece of paper from the stack and place it down in front of me. Biting my lip, I stare wistfully at the sheet, wondering what I should write. If I should even write anything.
There are so many things I want to say, so much I have to explain, but none of the words in my head will suffice. She’ll never understand. She’s too innocent to know the truth.
So I opt for something else instead. Something familiar and loving, so she’ll know how much I care.
“Are you gonna start or what?” the woman across the shoddy table says while glaring at me.
I look up from my paper and gaze blankly ahead. “As soon as I know what to write.”
“You don’t get much time, y’know,” she adds, shrugging. “Suit yourself.”
I nod a few times. Advice is best not taken for granted, so I pick up the pencil and rub my lips together.
You’ll probably never read this letter, but I want you to know that at least I tried. I’ve told your auntie Dana to hold onto the letters I send her until I get the chance to hand them to you myself. As much as I want to, I can’t be with you right now. But I promise it won’t be long. I’ll be with you again soon. Before you even know it.
I know you’ll be good. I know you’ll do great out there in the world.
And you know … I will find you again.
Smiling, I read over the words again before my letter and those of all the other women next to me are taken by the guard as she passes us.
They’ll read the contents and decide whether it’s suitable to send.
This is how it always goes … here in prison.
There’s no choice to make, no autonomy whatsoever. Nothing but sleep, eat, work, and wait.
Wait until your time is up.
Until you can see your baby again.
But I knew the consequence when I did what I did. That I’d end up sacrificing precious time I could’ve spent with her. But it was the only choice I could make, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I had to.
It’s no one’s fault. Not mine or his.
Circumstances brought me here, and I accept that wholeheartedly.
Love … is what brought me here.
I made the ultimate sacrifice for my little girl.
For a man I couldn’t stop loving even when that same love ripped her away from me.
For both … I’d willingly hang.
* * *
I park my green truck on the side of the road near the long, dry grass. Another truck is approaching not far up ahead, so I step out of the vehicle and shut my door. Tapping the top, I silently wait until it stops right in front of mine. The sun blocks the view as the guy steps out, but I can still make out a smile.
“It worked,” Brandon says as he whisks an envelope from his back pocket. “You were right.”
“They wouldn’t follow you from her sister’s place,” I say as he walks toward me.
“I didn’t even see her. She just left a key on her porch and sent me to a PO box to get this.” He holds it out to me.
As I reach out to grasp the envelope, he maintains his hold, looking me straight in the eyes. “I’m doing this for you because I’m your friend, but—”
“I know,” I say, nodding. “I know what she sacrificed.”
“Good,” he says, licking his lips. Then he releases the envelope and turns around.
“Thanks,” I say as he walks back to his truck.
All I get is a quick glance and a hand going up in the air before he climbs back inside and drives off. But it’s enough to know our friendship is still alive, even after everything that happened recently.
Besides, I have other things to worry about now. There’s a whole world out there begging me to explore it.
It’s what she would’ve wanted me to do.
I bear the burden now to live a fulfilled and happy life because I owe it to her. To the woman who gave me my freedom back … in exchange for her own imprisonment.