I'm really loving the response to this story.
After I'd gathered my student assistants and way more paperwork than I would have liked, we scoured over every detail of Edward Cullen's case that Saturday. It took all day, but when we were finished, we had an outline for what we would request to be re-examined and retested. The DNA sample was, to me, the clincher. If it was that poorly handled, I could not understand how it had been admissible in court. The only way to have his case reviewed by a judge was to uncover new evidence, or in this instance, refute the old evidence.
I planned to drive to the prison again tomorrow, to talk about our plans with the inmate. With Edward. I had a hard time using his first name, the way he'd treated me the last time. I was used to gratefulness, to tears and a feeling of making an extended family out of these people. I did it for them, to help those who had no hope left, but that didn't mean I didn't make any gains from it.
As was my habit, I nuked dinner and drank a glass of wine in front of the television. I was lonely sometimes, despite pretending that I had everything a smart, single girl could ever want. The odd part was, I had a great dad, two great brothers, and great friends. They knew how hard I worked, and were happy to fit me in when they could. But there was nobody to come home to, nobody waiting to ask me how my day went. No one to hold me at night when it was cold, or dark, or the apartment felt too small. Nobody to ward off the inexplicable fear that often had me sleeping on the sofa with my dad's old .45 tucked by my side, something I never told anyone.
Sunday came too early for me, having not slept well on the couch. I did some ungraceful yoga in an attempt to work the kinks out, drank a pot of coffee, and ate my weight in bacon and eggs. I dressed casually in a maxi dress and wedge heels, dragging my overstuffed briefcase with me.
I turned the radio up and rolled the windows down. The drive was tedious, and I stopped in Forks to have a light lunch in the diner. It was still another 45 minutes to weave in and around the mountain pass, and I tried to enjoy the scenery, but I had butterflies the size of pigeons in my stomach. I hate prisons; the walls are all industrial beige, with narrow hallways and tight little rooms. The drop ceilings were not going to win any design awards, either. Everything felt like you were going to suffocate; I had the irrational thought that I'd get stuck in there, that I'd be mistaken for an inmate and not let out.
I went through the routine of getting buzzed in, showing my identification, and handing over my personal effects. I only kept his fat file and a couple of pens, which I tucked into the pocket of my dress. I had on a light jacket, because the temperature controls were either set to boiling or freezing, with little variation in between.
He wasn't in the room this time; it was not unusual for me to arrive first, and I preferred it. It gave me a sense of control, which I was pretty sure I would need with this guy. I looked up as the door opposite me opened, winced as the C.O. led the inmate- Edward- in. He was shackled again, and he looked pissed. More pissed than the last meeting.
"Mr. Cullen," I said as he was seated, then waited for the guard to leave the room. "Everything we discuss in this room is confidential. I'm going to be blunt; the only reason I'm here is your mother. She emailed the Innocence Project's director after our last encounter, begging for our help." Something flashed in his eyes. Hurt, maybe? He continued to glower at me.
"I've reviewed your old case, and your appeals. The thing that we have that your over-priced lawyers didn't, is tenacity. We have a total of six people to work on your evidence. Two of them are full-time researchers that will investigate what they can, and request re-testing on other items. Two of them are college students that are graded on this." I paused. "I am aware that you are unhappy with my presence, but it would be so much easier if you would just cooperate."
I sat back, taking in deep breaths after that speech. He looked at me some more, his face drawn into a scowl. Just when I thought I'd wasted my trip with someone who was going to stonewall me, he spoke.
"It's not going to work. I just want you to know ahead of time, on record, that it will not work. Don't go getting your little girl hopes up, because I've been there and done that."
"So you're telling me that you've lost all hope," I said flatly. This, I could understand. This was an emotion I'd seen before, would expect, even.
"Hope is an evil entity, slipping inside your brain unbidden, with the ability to crush the most hardened man when it dies." He leaned toward me, but with no hostility this time. "I just want to make sure we are clear that I hold no more hope, that I believe you are wasting your time and everyone else's."
"So you're doing this for your mother's sense of hope?" His eyes snapped to mine. "Because it's still there inside of your mother. She is counting on me, so I'm going to make damn sure that my team and I get you exonerated. What will you do when that happens?"
"I don't know!" he exploded. The force of his anger seemed to punch me in the chest, and I grabbed it reflexively.
"I cannot bear one more second of my mother's agony, or the look on my father's face that says he thinks I did it. She has spent ten years of her life trying to fix this. She wants to move to Forks so she can visit more often, but my father won't allow it. She's considered leaving him over it, over me." He dug his fist into his chest, tears in his anguished eyes. "I cannot allow one more life to be ruined because of me!"
We sat there for several minutes while he regained control of his emotions. Again, this behavior was more of what I expected.
"Your mother and I can carry all the hope necessary, Edward," I said gently. He shook his head, but I smiled. "That's what women do, you know. We take on too much, it's just in our nature. I know I have a stubborn determination, and it seems so does your mother."
"I don't think I have anything left to give. Just nothing. I can't help you." I was saddened by the defeat in his voice.
"I'll need to go over the details with you, Edward. It's the only way this will work." I could see the denial on his face before he spoke.
"It's all in there, for God's sake. I've retold what I remember over and over."
I thought about it. "For now, I'll use that, but at some point I'm going to have questions."
"Fine," he muttered.
It was small progress, but I would take it. It was a much more productive visit, and I most definitely had hope.
A snippet of Edward's true nature shows through.
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