The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction. I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters. I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.
Chapter 18 is here.
Misty gazed up at the night sky. They had to make due with only a couple of binoculars set up in the small grassy area behind her dorm, but Misty was grateful to just be outside on a starry night. Of course, the stars weren’t as bright as they were at the beach. The high-power lights around the prison perimeter made sure of that. But with the binoculars, she could just make out Vega, one of the stars in the Summer Triangle. She wasn’t much of a star-gazer, but she always liked to see Vega. One of her mama’s friends had had binoculars like these when she was little and a few times he pointed Vega out to her. She remembered him telling her that it was also called the Heart Star. Her mama was always there too and she had seemed happy back in those days. Whenever Misty came upon a really dark sky, she’d look for Vega. It was the brightest of the three stars Counting on Vegas to always be there when she looked up was kind of reassuring, like when she was really little and the first thing she saw every morning was her mom’s smiling face, waiting for her to wake up. She wished she could see Vega every night, all year long, but she could only see it in summer. Like that man, she thought. For awhile, he only came around in summer.
Misty was grateful for the chance to see Vega, but what she didn’t like was all the correctional officers milling about, studying her and the other inmates while they swatted mosquitoes and waited their turn to look through the binoculars. A tall man with closely cropped gray hair was giving a lecture on what they could see if the prison lights weren’t so bright. The prison had only recently started this class in astronomy. It was kind of a test, since all other classes were held indoors. But the local astronomical society had volunteered to bring the equipment, provide the lectures, and even make certificates for the inmates who come to every class. And only inmates with clean records were allowed to sign up. And only ten of those at a time. And yet. Misty’s skin prickled as she felt another inmate come up behind her. And yet, they allowed Carol to be in this class.
The prison lights cast deep shadows across the green, washing out all the color from their prison clothes and the officers’ uniforms. Everyone looked pale like at the beach when there was a full moon. But, here the lights were harsh and bright and people looked like zombies. And it scared Misty though she kept her thoughts to herself. And it didn’t help that Carol had circled around as the women took turns looking through the binoculars, finding Misty on the periphery.
“I’ve got another message for you, Misty.”
“Leave me alone, Carol.” Misty started to move forward, but Carol had pinched the waist of Misty’s jacket and held her fast. She wanted to call out to CO Bradley, but she knew both of them would then get reprimanded. Lucas had said that she needed to keep her record clean, stay out of trouble, be a model prisoner, make people believe that she had self-control and could behave on the outside. “Please, Carol. I don’t want trouble.”
“Well, you said please. That’s nice. That’s what I like to hear from my girlfriends. Now, Misty, sweetheart … “ Carol’s cold fingers slipped up Misty’s jacket and down her pants. Misty clenched her buttocks. They were standing too close together. Surely someone would notice.
“Lighten up, sweetheart. Relax. I know how to make you feel good, better than any man could.”
Misty didn’t respond. She pretended she was a statute made of the hardest and coldest substance known to man. No one could penetrate this statute, and the statute felt nothing. They could take a hammer and chisel to her and never make a dent because she was made of the hardest material. She was pure white and beautiful and she never felt anything no matter how hard they tried to break her. This is what Misty thought about while Carol worked her hand further down her pants. This is what she used to think about when Jimmy had sex with her.
“Inmate Daniels! Inmate Jenkins!” CO Bradley’s deep voice boomed across the green, loud enough to make Carol pull her hand away and jump back several feet. Misty stayed still, a perfect white statute. Bradley was bearing down toward them, her hand at her hip, as if she readying herself to shoot. Misty stayed still. She was smart enough to know that you didn’t move when a CO was coming toward you. You stayed still and waited for permission to move. That too she had learned from Jimmy. So much she had learned from Jimmy was coming in handy here.
CO Bradley brushed by her and stopped within an inch of Carol’s face. Misty allowed herself to turn slightly, just enough to see the two women lock eyes. Her skin practically blistered from the heat of their hatred, and she struggled to keep from smiling.
“Back to your bunk, Jenkins. And you, too, Daniels.” Bradley suddenly turned toward Misty and the young woman’s heart sank. Oh, no, she thought. Don’t send us both back. “Now!”
Misty turned and followed Carol with Bradley herding them along to the dorm. She saw the slight swagger in Carol’s walk and slowed her pace to put more distance between them. The dorm was quiet when they entered. Most of the other inmates were sitting up on their bunks reading or writing. A few were in the back room watching TV. All of them stopped what they were doing to watch Misty and Carol walk to their respective bunks. Misty kept her eyes straight ahead and didn’t watch Carol walk down to the end of the aisle. She slipped onto her lower bunk and fixed her eyes on the bed above her.
It wasn’t five minutes before Misty saw Carol’s blue pants enter her peripheral vision. Carol dropped down and leaned in toward Misty.
“I’ll scream.” Misty’s voice was hollow. Even she knew she didn’t sound convincing. A scream wouldn’t stop anything really. Just raise pandemonium and get the COs all pissed off. Carol laughed softly and brushed her fingers across Misty’s cheek. Like a statute, Misty thought. I am a beautiful, white, hard statute and no one can interfere with me.
“I’m sorry I got carried away earlier. I do have another message to deliver, but I just couldn’t resist ….” Carol’s fingers traced down Misty’s arm, brushing slightly against her small breast as she did. Misty had kept her jacket on. She often went to bed fully clothed, even in summer.
“Just say it and leave me alone.” Misty clenched her fists and started to debate within herself the merits of being written up for slugging Carol versus tolerating Carol’s hands on her.
“This one is from some guy named Billy James. He wrote to me. I believe you killed his brother?” Carol gripped Misty’s wrist and brought her lips to Misty’s ear.
Misty imagined herself white and hard and pure. No one could penetrate her. No one could harm her.
“He said prison is a safe place. Safer than your own home.” Carol flicked her tongue at the inside of Misty’s ear. “He said he wanted to visit you—“
“He can’t. He tried to kill me. They won’t let him see me.”
“There’s other ways for him to get to you, sweetheart. He and I are friends now. And he’s being generous—“ Carol froze.
Heavy, booted footfalls were headed toward Misty’s bunk. The CO was making her rounds and Carol needed to get back to her own bunk. She slinked away and Misty turned on her side, hugging her knees to her chest. Billy was putting money into Carol’s account, that had to be what she meant. He’d pay her to keep interfering with Misty.
She was running out of time. Lucas had to get better and fast. He had to help her. Misty reached down and tugged at her tightly folded blanket. She was very cold, even with her jacket and shoes still on. She just wanted to sleep. Sleep and not wake up.