Roberta hung up and went outside. Roberto looked at her and smiled, but the smile disappeared when she 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 she said. How could you? She said it has been going on for about ten years. Is that true? She didn’t make it sound like it had ended. Has it?”
Roberto looked at her and said, “it hasn’t ended, but not because we’re still involved or because I’m in love with her. It was just a tryst that got out of hand. You know I love you. I always have and I always will.”
Ignoring his protestation of love, she said, “what does that mean? It was just a tryst that got out of hand?”
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, ignoring Robertos’ desperate pleas for forgiveness. 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.
After telling April her story, Roberta waited for questions or at least some kind of reaction, but got nothing. She knew that Aprils’ parole hearing was scheduled for 10 o’clock that morning, and asked if she wanted to be alone for a few minutes, but April just shook her head. She sat in her cell, stared at the wall and waited until the guards came for her.
Roberta tried to lighten the mood by saying, “you know it’s not called a parole hearing around here. It’s called a ‘hopeful denial’ inquisition.”
April knew her consideration for release hinged on “the question.” It always did. She would be sitting motionless in a chair in front of a panel of people who thought they knew what reform and readiness to rejoin society really meant, and she resented being judged by their rules.
Rules that were written years ago onto a now obsolete pile of papers, and adopted as absolute law, constructed to make the “expert specialists” feel good about giving a lowly convict a second chance.
Say the right thing…beg…cry and plead. Boast about starting a class for the inmates who could barely read. Tell them you were growing your hair to be donated to children with cancer. Tell them you got a degree in something…and the one that would get the most attention…tell them that you had found your God. Anything convincing enough to make the “powers that be” believe that you had been reformed…worked.
She knew the spiel. She knew what she had to say, and she knew what they wanted to hear.
The first to speak was Mr. Taylor, a stout, sweaty, bespectacled man, who began the usual inquisition with his pseudo, soft-spoken benevolence, as if talking to a child. He had been on the panel before and hadn’t changed, other than being a few years older, as was April.
At some point during the hearing, he said, “Ms. Drummond. We understand the immense grief you have suffered…”
Before he could finish, April looked at him and said, “do you? Do you really? How many of you have suffered immense grief?”
The panel looked back and forth at each other as if somewhat embarrassed. Mr. Taylor said, “despite the horrific events you endured, you cannot take the law into your own hands. That is why we have a judicial system. If everyone took the law into their own hands, there would be utter chaos. Don’t you agree?”
April looked at him and said, “no. There would be justice.”
Mr. Taylor sighed and asked “the question.” April sat in the chair, still motionless and silent.
“Ms. Drummond,” he said. “The only reason you have been considered for parole is due to certain extenuating circumstances. There is, and always has been a certain amount of sympathy for you but, you must answer the question.”
Two full minutes of silence was interrupted only by the sound of “DENIED” being stamped on the application.
April returned to her cell, and Roberta was waiting. She looked at her, but said nothing. April had never spoken about her crime, and although Roberta had told her all the gory details of her own, she knew that April would tell her in her own good time, or maybe she wouldn’t.
April had stopped going to the visitation room years ago. Roberta never went. She knew, like April, that no one would ever come to see her. She was a disgrace. All of her fair-weather friends as well as the ones she considered to be loyal, had abandoned her.
She mused that it was always about what she had done to her husband. It was never about what he had done to her. He had lied to her for years. He had cheated on her. He had a child with another woman.
She had devoted her life to him, had been a dutiful wife, and had taken care of him when he was seriously ill. “That’s the way it is,” she once said. “The ones who destroy everything, suddenly become the victim.”
True, Roberto was indeed a victim, but no one tried to understand what it must have been like for her. What was it like, finding out that her entire life had been a lie? Why did no one see her as the victim of a lowlife, deceptive Lothario? She didn’t know and she had long since stopped caring.
Two more years went by and once again, April was being considered for parole. The board consisted of the same tired quorum of special commissioners, with the exception of a new, young man named Roger Carson, who all but announced that he was going to flex his muscles.
He looked at April and took the lead. “I see that you have been somewhat uncooperative through the years. Let me ask you something. You do understand that there’s still time for you to have a life, don’t you? Or do you want to die in prison?”
April reacted with the same blank expression the others had been seeing for years as she asked, “you say there’s still time for me to have a life? What kind of life? A solitary life? That’s what I have here, and I don’t know if your records reflect anything other than my refusal to answer the question, but I have never had one visitor since I entered this steel and concrete purgatory. Tell me, Mr. Carson. What would be different? Might I smell the flowers and hear the birds singing?”
Mr. Taylor said, “very well Ms. Drummond. As I have stated numerous times, we have a certain amount of sympathy, but the fact is, you committed murder. You took revenge and…” Before he could finish, Roger inserted with a smirk, “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. He smiled and said, I think Niche said that.”
April looked at him and said, “that was said by Confucius, you mook. Dig two graves? I did, and he’s the one in the ground, isn’t he?”
Mr. Taylor smiled slightly and said, “Okay, Ms. Drummond.”
She sat and waited for the question.
“If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?”
“Again,” asked Mr. Taylor asked. “If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?”
Through gritted teeth, April said, “YES. I WOULD HAVE MADE HIM SUFFER. I would have made him beg for mercy. I would have made him beg for his life. And then, I would have made him beg for death.”
Silence filled the room, until the familiar sound of “DENIED” being stamped on the application was heard.