Ashley stepped into the noisy and crowded visitation area. She went to her designated station where Sean was already seated with the telephone receiver unhooked and placed next to his ear. She placed her left hand on the bullet proof glass as she picked up her own receiver.
“Hiya, baby,” she whispered excitedly. Her smile seemed to reach from ear to ear.
“Hey, darlin’,” Sean replied as he put his own palm to the glass. His smile was grim and resigned.
Ashley stared deep into Sean’s eyes. The sadness there was almost more than she could bear. Tears began to well up and threatened to cascade down onto her cheeks. She wished she could take away the pain, especially because she was the cause.
“How are you doing?” she finally asked.
“Not so bad,” came the response. “Things have been improving over the last month.”
“That’s good.” Ashley began to look around behind Sean into the visitor’s section the room. She couldn’t immediately spy Tiffany and began to panic a little. “Where’s Tiff?”
Sean turned around to see where their daughter was. It only took a couple seconds to find her black and white giraffe print dress with pink trim. As usual she was with Malcolm in the children’s play section of the room. Since Ashley’s incarceration and their bi-monthly visits, Malcolm and Tiffany were constantly in each other’s company.
“She’s over with Malcolm in the toys,” Sean answered as he pointed out their daughter to Ashley.
“Could you bring her over. I miss her so much,” Ashley requested.
Sean let out a deep sigh, set the handset down on the desk and strode over to the children playing quietly. His daughter and her newfound friend made quite the pair. Tiffany with her alabaster skin and straight gold hair and Malcolm with his flawless milk chocolate skin and curly bronze locks. He was two years older than Tiffany, almost six, but was wise beyond those few years. He looked up when Sean approached.
“Hello, Mr. McAdams,” he greeted softly.
“Good Morning, Malcolm,” Sean returned. “How are you today?”
“I’m good, sir.”
“Do you mind if I take Tiffany to see her mom?”
Sean lifted the little girl into his arms. “Let’s go say ‘Hi’ to Mommy.” There was an exaggerated falseness in his voice. Tiffany stared back over her father’s shoulder and waived to her friend.
Back at the station, Sean placed Tiffany in his lap and held the receiver to her ear. Ashley’s voice cracked as she greeted her daughter. “Hi, princess.”
Tiffany looked up at her mother through her long pale lashes but said nothing. Sean could feel his daughter stiffening up in discomfort.
“I love you and miss you,” Ashley continued. The tears from earlier reformed and spilled down her face. “Aren’t you going to say ‘Hi’?”
Sean took the receiver away from Tiffany’s face and returned it to his own. “She’s still not talking a lot.”
“She really doesn’t know me anymore,” Ashley confessed as she wiped the tears from her cheek.
“She was only three when the trial began,” Sean said. They both understood what he really meant. The trial itself only lasted a week before she was found guilty of manslaughter. It was the crime itself and the long weeks of hiding that separated Ashley from her family.
“I’m not going to regret what I did,” she stated.
Tiffany, recognizing the growing tension between the two adults, began to quietly whimper. Sean set the handset on the desk and whispered into her ear, “Do you want to go back and play with Malcolm?”
The little girl’s face immediately brightened and she nodded her head ecstatically. Sean set her back on the linoleum floor and watched as she ran back to the play area and found Malcolm. The boy’s grandmother, at another visiting station, spotted the scene as the two children hugged each other and commenced to play again. She waived to Sean and he returned the gesture.
When he turned back in his seat to retrieve the receiver, Sean saw that Ashley had a hurt and angry expression on her face. He steeled himself for the next stage of the conversation.
“What did you say to her?” Ashley demanded.
“I just asked if she wanted to go back and play,” Sean replied. “She views these visits as more play dates with Malcolm than anything else.” Sean took a deep breath and continued on. “In fact, I really don’t think it’s in Tiff’s best interests if I keep bringing her here.”
Ashley stared at Sean for what seemed like an eternity. The hurt on her face was clearly visible as her eyes welled up. “But, who else could change my tears,” she cried. “Your visits are my lifeline. They’re my reason for living.”
“I have to think about what’s best for my daughter,” Sean countered.
Ashley’s face grew hardened. The tears that had just flowed freely were completely dried up as if by magic. “She’s my daughter, too, you know.” She slammed her receiver into it’s cradle. The sharp report of hard plastic onto metal caused the other inmates and guards to look in her direction. She stood up, mouthed something unflattering to Sean then headed to the door that lead back to the cell block. Sean didn’t read lips but there was no doubt what she had said. He returned his own telephone receiver to it’s proper place then went to retrieve his daughter.
Malcolm’s grandmother, Stella Youngblood, sat near the two children. She smiled when Tiffany’s father approached.
“I can’t bear to break these two up,” she stated. “This boy has completely fallen for your daughter.”
“The same with Tiffany,” Sean returned. “I was just telling Ashley that Tiff looks forward to seeing Malcolm. She didn’t take it too well.”
“So I saw” Stella admitted. She gathered her things, stood up and looked down at her grandson. “Well, mister, I think it’s time we moved on home.”
Malcolm and Tiffany looked up to his grandmother’s face. Both were clearly disappointed at the thought of leaving the other. Tiffany’s eyes even began to well up some. In that moment a decision came to Sean. These were tears he could change.
“Would you care to come home with Tiffany and I so they can continue to play?” he blurted out.
Both children turned their faces to the woman in unbearable hope. Then Tiffany did something that she hadn’t done in months. In the barest whisper that was like a lion’s roar she asked, “Please?”
Sean gasped at the long forgotten sound of his daughter’s voice. Even Stella understood the monumental meaning behind the girl uttering the one lone word. She looked upon their visages and could not deny their looks. “I suppose that would be alright.”
The children hugged each other, then hand in hand bolted towards the exit. Sean helped Stella with her things.
“Thank you,” he choked out.
Stella put a hand on his arm and smiled. “My pleasure.”
- – – – – -
It seems this prompt really got my creative juices going. Thanks to Jeremy’s Hello Wednesday Challenge. What comes to your mind when you read these lines? Come join the fun.
This week’s lines of poetry are:
- in the closet like failed actors – L’Avinir est Quelque Chose by Dobby Gibson
- There were twins in my cradle – Opus 181 by Arthur Davison Ficke
- But who else could change my tears – After You, Who? by Cole Porter
If you use this prompt please link back