Six years and two parole hearings later, April Drummond, Inmate #11124721, now 44 years old, was notified of a third upcoming hearing. That’s when she would be asked…the question.
During that time, she acquired a cellmate, an unlikely sidekick named Roberta Nix. Roberta was 60 years old, and was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for accidentally shooting her husband…five times.
The day she arrived in her worn-out orange scrubs and matching flip-flops, carrying equally worn-out sheets and the paltry amount of toiletries provided, Roberta immediately recognized the hierarchy, as she listened to the cat-calls and heard the intimidation tactics used by BB and her family.
April didn’t participate in the usual initiation and barely glanced up as Roberta strolled into her new “home.” Like April, Roberta wasn’t interested in joining BB’s family, nor was she interested in having to service the other inmates. At her age, she felt as though she had already paid enough dues.
April seemed to be protected by some kind of invisible shield. Roberta wasn’t sure how or why, but noticed that the other inmates stayed clear of her. Being smart, she knew that April could by association, provide insurance for her own safety…if she played her cards right.
Their collaboration started slowly; each testing the other’s loyalty, each divulging only the minimum amount of information about their lives before, and neither ever discussing the details of their crimes.
It was a year before Roberta began talking. She married a man named Roberto when she was 16 years old. His real name was Robert, but he thought Roberto sounded a little more exotic. Everyone used to call them “the Robbies.”
Roberto, 10 years her senior, was a successful businessman who loved to make money, and loved to spend it even more. He found Roberta at the local cafe, serving “a meat and three” to the local blue collar workers; workers with names like Bubba, Cooter, Josephus, Homer and Rufus.
The delicious homemade cooking wooed Roberto into the cafe week after week, and week after week he arrived, accompanied by a different young woman who was easy on the eyes, and appeared overly eager to please their older companion with public displays of affection.
Roberta knew women like that, and she knew men like him. He had definitely caught her eye, but she played it cool. “The ones who don’t pay them no mind, will lure them in every time,” her daddy once said…and she paid attention. The more she ignored him, the hotter his pursuit became.
She let him chase her until she “caught” him, and entered into a lifestyle she never dreamed possible.
He shaped and molded her into a perfect lady. He showered her with luxury and she slowly emerged as the queen of the castle; the lady of the lounge; the consummate hostess and the personification of the ideal wife.
Their union produced no offspring, of which she was disappointed, but also almost equally grateful. Roberto was a selfish man, and through the years she had learned to be just as selfish.
When Roberto was 70, he was stricken with an undiagnosable illness that left him almost bed-bound. Having been the epitome of healthy living, his affliction was a mystery and left his doctor scratching his head.
Roberta was his angel of mercy, devoting all of her time to his care. She fed him, cleaned him, read to him, and tried everything to keep up his spirits. She didn’t want him to give up and made it clear to him that she hadn’t married a quitter.
He slowly began to recover, thanks in no small part to her dedicated steadfastness. His doctor was again, scratching his head. “I don’t know what you did for him, but whatever it was, it certainly worked. I expect him to make a full recovery.” Roberta smiled and said, “all I did was love him.” The doctor patted her on the back, smiled and said, “well, that was enough.”
A week later, Roberto was out on the veranda, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Roberta smiled, excused herself and went inside with the promise of a quick return. She had an idea.
She was going to look for old cards that she had given him through the years; birthday cards, anniversary cards, silly cards and of course, romantic, suggestive cards. She thought they might elicit smiles and laughter and bring back good memories.
What she found was not what she was looking for. There, among all the cards from her, were cards and letters from a woman named Lisa. Lisa? One of her dearest friends was named Lisa. As she was gathering them, she was shaking.
She picked up the telephone and called Lisa. When she answered, Roberta dispensed with the niceties and said, “how long have you been fucking my husband?” Lisa was silent for a few seconds and said, “I want you to know that we never meant to hurt you.” Roberta raised her voice and repeated, “HOW LONG?” Lisa quietly said, “for about ten years.”
Roberta hung up and went outside. Roberto looked at her and smiled, but the smile disappeared when Roberta threw the cards and letters on the table next to him. “What are these?” she demanded. Roberto looked down and said, “I want you to know that we never meant to hurt you.”
Roberta said, “you sound like a fucking parrot. That’s exactly what Lisa said. How could you? She said it had been going on for about ten years. Is that true? When did it end?”
Roberto looked at her and said, “it hasn’t ended, but not because we’re still involved or because I love her. It just a tryst that got out of hand. You know I love you. I always have and I always will.”
“What does that mean? It was just a tryst that got out of hand?” Roberta asked.
Roberto looked down and said, “we have a daughter together. That’s why I couldn’t completely end it with her.”
Roberta got up and walked back into the house, while Roberto was begging her to forgive him. She got her purse and pulled out the pink handled revolver he had given her for protection. She calmly walked back outside, pointed it at him and emptied the chamber.
To be continued_________