November 12, 2018
“I’ve listened to your side and you trying to justify the attempt on Mr. Michael’s life and given the evidence, I believe had you came forth sooner, much of this could have been avoided. With that being said, Ms. Drew, I hereby declare you remain in prison and carry out your life sentence.” The judges words rang in my ears.
I felt a hand on grab me. “No!” I cried trying to break free. The hand suddenly pulled me in for a hug. I knew it was Coretta.
“I’m sorry.” she whispered.
I could tell she was crying too.
“We have to take her now.” one of four cops spoke.
“I’ll come visit you as soon as possible.” Coretta said.
As they escorted me out of the hospital, I passed Mama who was bawling her eyes out.
“It’s all over now.” I kept repeating to myself on the bus ride back to the prison. I’m locked away for life and Aaron, he’s free. My head was banging from how hard I was crying.
That night I learned a guard, Rita, who’d taken me to several of my visits with Coretta had also been one of Aaron’s victims.
“I was 11-years-old.” she told me.
Although she wasn’t supposed to, she sat in my cell with me and talked for awhile. She told me her mom and Aaron were in a relationship for years and that her mom knew. It explained why she’d been so careful wit me. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. I felt even worse knowing I let him get away. Did I not fight hard enough? Coretta and I worked so hard to get the case reopened and still lost. Sure, I should have lowered my expectations but in my case, things were looking up. I was beginning to believe in myself and believe in a second chance at life.
November 15, 2018
It was lunch time and I had just grabbed my tray when the news came on the T.V. hanging in the cafeteria.
I saw Breaking News and turned my attention to the news anchor.
“This is Melissa Chestnut, it’s 12 o’clock and I’m out here in front of the 1600 block of Moreville Ave where police say Aaron Michael’s was shot to death. If this name sounds familiar that’s because back in December of 2014, Michael’s was stabbed over 50 times by his step-daughter, Sunitha Drew. Drew’s case was recently reopened and she appeared in court this week where the judge demanded she remain in prison, doing her life sentence. Police say they have the suspect in custody and sources tell us Sandra Drew, Sunitha Drew’s mother is the suspect.”
I dropped my tray and all eyes were on me. Suddenly, everyone began clapping and I pinched myself just to make sure I was awake. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Mama finished what I started so long ago. Tears swam down my cheeks. Part of me was grateful that Aaron was gone and Mama finally had my back. While the other was sad for Mama. She didn’t deserve to go to jail and if her judge and jury were anything like mine, she’d be going away for a long, long time. I turned my attention back to the news just in time to see a picture of the place I once considered home.
The news lady repeated the story once more, each word filling my ears like a favorite song. Every time she spoke of Aaron being dead, I smirked.
“He’s gone!” I yelled.
“He’s gone!” the cafeteria yelled back. Women I’d never spoken to were suddenly coming up to me, hugging me.
Finally a guard yelled out, “Settle down ladies!”
I no longer had an appetite and quickly sped across the lunch room back to my cell. I needed to call Coretta. She was supposed to visit me today at 2:00 but I wasn’t sure I could wait two more hours to speak with her.
Rita knocked on the wall, “You alright in here?”
“Yes. Can you take me to the phones?”
I sat down, punching in Coretta’s number.
“Please answer. Please answer.” I tapped my feet.
I gave up after three calls with no answer.
November 15, 2018
“You heard, didn’t you?” Coretta asked as soon as I sat down for our visit.
“Yes.” I responded staring at her. I could tell she was trying to read my face.
“How are you?” she questioned.
“How are you?” she asked again.
“Bad. I can’t believe this shit. I can’t believe we did all that work and I’m still stuck in here. I can’t believe they were going to let him walk away. I can’t believe Mama shot him!” I cried.
“Let it out.” she tried soothing me.
“I don’t know if I should be relieved or sad Coretta.”
“Whatever you’re feeling is ok.”
“I’m happy he’s gone but it doesn’t change my situation. I’d rather him in here and me free.”
“That’s understandable. To tell you the truth, I was expecting a different outcome that day in court. We talked so much about not getting our hopes up, but I was certain we’d convince them to revoke your sentence.”
I was quiet so she continued, “I’m happy he’s gone too. He can’t hurt anyone else. I’m sorry this didn’t turn out how we were secretly wishing, but I promise you I’ll come visit you as much as permitted. You’ve got a friend in me, Sunitha.”
“If you’d like, I can update you periodically on what happens with your mother.”
“Thank you.” I smiled, hanging up the phone.
I started to cry, again. I’d learned so much over the past months from working with Coretta. In a way, she’d given me a new perspective on life.
I walked away from my phone call with Coretta feeling a weight lifted from my shoulder. While I wanted to be free from prison, I realize freedom is a state of mind. I got to share my truth which set me free from certain demons. The pain and memories of my childhood will always be with me. I’ll be in prison for the rest of my life, but today feels like a new beginning.
It’s not the second chance I wanted, but it’s better than no second chance at all.
- After reading the other five letters, did the story end how you expected it to?
- If you could choose an alternate ending, what would it be?
- Do you believe Sunitha’s mom will face the same sentence as her?