Read an excerpt from WITH LOVE FROM THE INSIDE
Who they say I am. I’d hoped the jury could see me as I was, sift through the fabrications and one misrepresented event. Instead… How could twelve out of twelve people vote to have me killed? That thought still caused me panic.
“Five minutes.” The officer held up his spread hand.
“Grace,” Ben said softly, “I’m still trying to find her.”
“I know you are, but it is hard to find someone who doesn’t want to be found. I think I’m already dead to her.”
“I have someone searching university records, past addresses, things of that sort. Is it possible she might have changed her name?”
I had thought of all these possibilities, a thousand times, and still did not have an answer to give him. I shrugged.
“Promise me you’ll do one thing for me.” I tried to control the shake in my voice. “Give her my journal when I’m gone.”
“I’ll escort Bradshaw,” a familiar pleasant voice whispered to the other officer. I sat in a metal chair with my hands cuffed and now shackled to a leather belt buckled around my waist. The restraints limited my physical movements, but my thoughts ran all over the place, trying to process the news I’d received from my attorney.
I looked up into kind green eyes and the face of Officer Jones. “I’m sorry,” Officer Jones said, a crease forming between her brows. “I know that wasn’t the news you were hoping to hear.”
In a more normal situation—and no, the irony isn’t lost on me. In a more normal situation, like being told I could live twelve to fourteen months if the chemo worked, or finding out my husband of thirty-three years had died in a car accident, I would’ve fallen on her shoulder and sobbed until I had no tears left. Instead, I said nothing and gave her a small nod.
I thought Officer Jones liked me, or at least believed something good lived within me. We never talked about my conviction because she already knew what I’d been accused of. Everyone did. My face, to hear some of the staff talk, used to be on every TV and radio station in the US and in Canada, until finally the coverage died down and moved on to some serial killer murdering prostitutes in Nevada.
If Officer Jones had judged me and found me guilty like the rest, she at least hid it and didn’t make snide remarks. She was one of the few female officers who worked on the row and had been here long before I arrived. I assumed she was in her late fifties, based on her seven grandkids, but I never dared to ask her personal questions. Instead, we covered generic carpool topics, like her plans for retirement: “Just 23 months and 15 days until this lady”—she would use both thumbs to point to herself—“is out of here.”
I never thought I’d be the one leaving first.
“This isn’t over yet. The governor can still stop this.” She helped me stand and steady myself, a task that proved harder than I’d thought. My legs wobbled.
The newly elected governor was the one who’d run on the promise of swift justice. I wasn’t sure it was wise to hope for his help.
I attempted to look on the bright side: Wasn’t there some comfort in knowing the end of my story? A sense of control, perhaps, over writing my own obituary, filling in the exact date that comes after the hyphen. I could ballpark a pretty close time of death and maybe let people know about my state-run, graveside funeral. The problem with the latter was, I wasn’t sure who would come.
“Come on,” Officer Jones said, “keep your chin up. You’ve never been one to give up on anything. Fight for that daughter you’ve been telling me about. Sophie, right? Fight for Sophie.”
Hearing my daughter’s name spoken in a kind way by someone other than my attorney was more than I could handle. I dropped my head into my shackled hands and began to cry.
I didn’t speak with Officer Jones as she escorted me back. Instead, I did the only thing that calmed me when I couldn’t stand this place anymore. I let my mind go to a place I knew well. Six-year-old Sophie in high pigtails, front tooth missing and a Christmas morning smile, handing me a bottle of Sally Hansen’s Hard as Enamel purple glitter nail polish. Please, Mommy, can we use this sparkly color?
All the way back to my cell, I painted Sophie’s fingernails one by one, with perfect strokes, blowing each nail between the coats until they were dry and my little girl’s hands looked perfect.