A/N: This is something I wrote seven years ago. I decided to polish it up and post it on here as one massive one-shot. For the most part, it is as I wrote it years ago. Now for the usual disclaimers. I do not own 'The Green Mile', nor do I own the song 'Dreams to Dream'. While you're reading this, just remember that I was 15 when I wrote it, lol. Enjoy!
After the fiasco with William 'Wild Bill' Wharton's arrival, the guards on E block of Cold Mountain Prison were ready to wait a long time for the next inmate. But while head guard Paul Edgecombe was reading Wild Bill's file, Hal Moores, the coordinator of the prison, knocked on Paul's office door. Taking the seat Paul offered to him, Hal set another file on Paul's desk.
"You've got a new inmate coming in tomorrow. Now I know you folks had a difficult time with Wild Bill today, but this one shouldn't be a problem." He passed the file to Paul, who flipped it open.
Reading the top page, he looked at Hal with surprise etched on his face. "Hal, a woman? That's near about unheard of."
Hal sighed. "She had her trial, and the jury was undecided. The jail that she was in caught fire day before yesterday. She was the only inmate that wasn't moved onto any other blocks here because there just isn't room, so I had to put her in E block."
Paul shook his head. "What's she accused of?" He knew it was faster to ask Hal while he was here, instead of reading through the file right then.
"Neighbors had called the sheriff because they'd heard screaming from their house. Her family had been stabbed to death, and she was kneeling beside her father, holding a knife and with blood on her clothes. The jury is deliberating because there had been reports of a suspicious character lurking around their property the night of the murders, as well as two nights before that."
"But why not transfer a man onto The Mile?" Paul asked, curious.
Hal stood. "The crime she's accused of is the most horrendous. It's a matter of security…more for her sake, really. Paul, Melinda has an appointment this afternoon, and I need to finish a bit of paperwork before I go. Just have the cell ready for her."
Once Hal had left The Mile, Paul continued reading the file on the young woman, Elizabeth Hartford. Flipping to the second page, he noticed across the top of the page, in capital letters, POSSIBILITY OF RELEASE. He was partway through the file when a shadow fell across his desk.
"What's that, Paul? Not another inmate already?" His fellow guard and friend Brutus 'Brutal' Howell's voice was wary.
Paul nodded. "Arrives tomorrow. How's Dean?" Dean Stanton had gotten the worst of the attack by Wild Bill. Brutal and another guard, Harry Terwilliger, had taken him to the infirmary.
"Harry's still with him, but he's doing better. Wild Bill's still out."
"Well, Brute, you popped him a good one," Paul said with a hint of a smile on his face. "Percy is writing the report for the warden; that should keep him out of our hair for a while. Let's get the cell across from John Coffey ready for the new inmate."
The next morning, while Wild Bill was in the padded room after the cornbread incident, nineteen year old Elizabeth Hartford was led into her cell by Harry, while Paul and guard Percy Wetmore looked on. Dean and Brutal were at the infirmary with another prisoner.
"This says your name is Elizabeth Hartford. Is that correct?" Paul stated in his official voice. Elizabeth nodded, her deep blue eyes wide as she took in her surroundings. "My name is Paul Edgecombe. You can call me Boss Paul. If I am not here, you can ask for Boss Percy, Boss Harry, Boss Dean, or Boss Brutal." The latter pair had just shown up. "Do you have any questions?" Paul finished.
Elizabeth shook her head. "No," she said in a low, clear voice, a voice that held a slight tremor.
Paul nodded to Harry, who stepped in to take the hand and ankle cuffs off Elizabeth. Paul walked back to his desk to start the necessary paperwork, and was soon joined by Dean and Brutal. "Yes, that is a woman. No, it wasn't my idea. Here's her file; the history is in it," Paul said before they could bombard him with questions.
Later in the morning, they were taking Wild Bill out of the padded room when he spotted Elizabeth. "Well well well, what do we got here?" he said, forcing his way over to the front of her cell. "Think I could move in here tonight, Boss?"
"Not a chance," Brutal said, his hand clamped on Wild Bill's bicep. He watched as Elizabeth got off her bunk to stand at the cell door, an odd look in her blue eyes.
Wild Bill laughed and turned to Elizabeth. "I'll make your night unforgettable."
"No, I'll make your night unforgettable," she replied, her voice soft and seductive. Brutal looked at Paul; the look of surprise on their faces were identical.
Wild Bill, however, was coy. "Oh yeah?" he asked, pressing against the bars of the cell door.
Elizabeth smiled. "Yes, unforgettable." Without warning she brought her knee up, hard and fast, into his groin. As he doubled over in pain, Brutal and Paul half carried, half dragged Wild Bill into his cell and removed the straightjacket. After putting the straightjacket away, they went back to talk to Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth, what was that all about?" Paul asked, his voice calm. Brutal watched the young woman, and noticed that her hand trembled slightly as she reached up to push a stray lock of wavy golden hair behind her ear.
"I knew that if I didn't do something now, he'd keep on harassing me. I know his kind; they don't give up," she said, a tremor in her voice.
Brutal leaned forward. "Paul, don't punish her. She's more frightened than a cat in a dog pound," he whispered close to Paul's ear, who nodded. "We'll keep Wild Bill away from you. Just ignore him the best you can," Brutal said kindly. The two guards walked back to the duty desk, quietly discussing what to do. "We have to watch Wild Bill close. We can't let him to that again, Paul."
Before Paul could respond, the other three guards walked onto The Mile carrying lunch trays containing a bowl of soup, two pieces of bread, a chunk of cheese, and three orange slices. Harry delivered one to John Coffey and one to Eduard 'Del' Delacroix, Dean delivered one to Wild Bill, who was still sprawled on his bunk. Percy took the tray he held down to Elizabeth's cell. After he set it down, he took a moment to just watch her still form, curled up on the bunk, facing the wall, before he went back to the desk and his own lunch.
After the guards had eaten and played a round of pinochle, Brutal went to collect the trays. After collecting the other three trays, he moved to Elizabeth's cell. He opened the door and paused while reaching for the tray, a sudden pang of sadness and concern washing over him. The soup and cheese had been untouched. The orange rinds had been neatly placed where the bread had been. Brutal glanced at Elizabeth. She was curled up on the bunk facing the wall. Quietly Brutal picked up the tray and left the cell. As he walked back to the duty desk, Paul glanced at the trays in his hand.
"Who didn't eat?" he asked as Brutal handed the trays to a peeved Percy to take back to the kitchen.
"Elizabeth. It looks like she ate the oranges and a bit of bread," Brutal responded, glancing down The Mile towards her cell.
"Well, we won't let her starve herself. If she doesn't eat tonight, we'll talk to her," Paul said. When Brutal turned back, Paul noticed something in his eyes. Gesturing towards the right, Paul got up and walked to the execution room as Brutal followed. Picking up a rag, he started to polish the arms of Old Sparky. Waiting until Brutal followed suit, Paul quietly said, "Brutal, remember to stay focused around Elizabeth. She's still a prisoner."
Brutal was silent for a moment as he polished an arm of the chair. Finally he spoke. "Paul, I don't think she did it. The timing isn't right. I've read the report, and I saw the statements of the witnesses. I may not be the smartest man on this earth, but I know there's just no way she could have done it."
"Unfortunately, that's not your decision. She could still be found guilty," Paul reminded him.
Silence once again hung in the air. "Paul, do you believe in love at first sight?" Brutal asked.
Paul pondered this for a moment. "I believe I do. When I first saw Janice, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. She was—and still is—the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. Why do you…" His voice trailed off as realization flitted across his face. "You love her."
"I think I do," Brutal said quietly. "I know I shouldn't, but I just can't help it."
"Tread carefully, Brute," Paul warned. "If Percy gets wind of this, or if word gets out somehow, it could mean your job." He would have said more, but they heard Percy come back onto the block and changed the subject.
That evening, after Dean collected the dinner trays, he showed Paul and Brutal the untouched tray from Elizabeth's cell. Leaving Harry at the desk, the two went down to Elizabeth's cell. Opening the door, Paul took a seat inside the cell on a folding chair he took from the padded room, while Brutal leaned against the cell wall. He finally got a good look at Elizabeth, who sat cross-legged on her bunk. Prisoners were allowed one set of clothes, and Elizabeth's consisted of a white undershirt, blue cotton pants, and prison-issue slippers. Her long wavy blonde hair cascaded down her back. "Elizabeth, you're going to have to eat something more soon. If you don't, state law says that the prison medical team will have to intervene," Paul said. "Now, I don't want to see that happen. Orange slices a bit of bread isn't going to sustain you for long."
Elizabeth smiled—a gentle, sweet smile—and replied, "I always lose my appetite when I'm in a new place, Boss Paul." Her smile faded as she continued. "Sometimes I wish I was killed along with my family."
Brutal frowned. "Don't say that. There's a reason you were spared."
Elizabeth looked at him, and for a moment her deep blue eyes locked with his light blue ones. "Spared? From death with my family, I was spared to die in the electric chair? Either way, it's sure death."
"Now hang on," Paul interjected. "There's a good chance you'll be found innocent. And then…"
"Then what?" Elizabeth interrupted. "I have nothing left. My family wasn't rich, not by a long shot. Going home, for me, is going back to the little two-bedroom house that we lived in on East Street. It wasn't even finished! My only real possessions are my clothes and a few books. That's all I would go back to."
Paul was about to speak when Dean walked up. "Hey fellas, ma'am," he said, nodding politely to Elizabeth. Only Brutal noticed something flash in Elizabeth's eyes.
"How's the throat?" Paul asked.
Dean shrugged. "It's doing better, but I'm still pretty raspy and sore. I haven't yet figured out something to help with that."
Paul shook his head. "Wish I could help, but I don't know of any."
"I don't either," Brutal said.
"Well, maybe Harry knows of something," Dean said.
As he turned away, a soft voice called out, "Boss Dean…I might have an idea." Elizabeth got up from the bunk and walked to the bars; Dean stood on the other side. "Before I tell you, will you promise to stop calling me 'ma'am' and just call me Elizabeth?"
Dean was about to disagree when Brutal cleared his throat and caught Dean's eyes. Dean understood the silent message and, turning back to Elizabeth, said, "Agreed."
She stuck her hand between the bars and Dean took it in his own, shaking it firmly. "Squeeze the juice and pulp of half a lemon into a mug of hot water and flavor it with honey. The heat and the honey help soothe the pain," Elizabeth said.
"Thank you. I'm off the clock, so I'll try it as soon as I get home. See you boys tomorrow," Dean said with a smile. As he walked away, Paul turned back to Elizabeth.
"The guard on duty tonight is Boss Harry, so if you need anything during the night, just holler."
As the two guards exited her cell and shut the door, Elizabeth said one word: "Coal."
Brutal turned back. "What?" he asked.
"I'd like a piece of coal, so I can draw and write, if that's okay," Elizabeth said.
Brutal glanced at Paul, who said, "Oh, I bet we can find you something to draw and write with."
Paul walked away, but Brutal stood by the cell. John Coffey watched him. "Boss, you like Miss Elizabeth. I can tell," he said. Moving towards his cell, Brutal motioned for him to keep it down. In a quieter voice, John said, "Boss, she likes you too. There's a sense in her that I can feel. She gonna get out soon. And you gonna marry her, Boss."
Brutal chuckled. "We'll see, John. We'll see. I've got papers to attend to." He glanced at Elizabeth, noticing the growing blush on her cheeks as she met his gaze. She quickly looked away, and Brutal felt a slight warmth on his own cheeks as he started back to the desk.
The next morning Del was frantic. "Where my mouse? Where Mr. Jingles?" he kept saying.
As the guards tried to calm Del, Dean heard Elizabeth calling his name. When he walked over to her cell, she said nothing and held out her hands, where Mr. Jingles calmly sat. Dean picked the mouse up and said, "Del, I have Mr. Jingles. He's just fine." He carried the little mouse back to Del's cell.
Del eagerly reached for his pet. "Where you find him? Where he been hiding?"
Wiping his hands on his kerchief, Dean replied, "he was over having a chat with Elizabeth."
Del smiled. "Well, he can go visit Miss Elizabeth anytime. Anytime."
Since Del was calm now, Paul went to fetch the basket that he and his wife had fixed for Elizabeth. He was about to take it to her cell when Brutal stopped him. "Put these in there," he said, holding a bag filled with fruit. Paul, bemused, looked at Brutal, who shrugged. "She liked fruit," he said simply.
Paul chuckled as he walked down to Elizabeth's cell. Opening the cell door, he said, "Elizabeth, my missus and I got you a little something. Brutal did too." He was sure to add that last part; his reward was to see her face flush red for a moment.
Elizabeth's eyes widened as she withdrew a pencil set, plain paper, two books, and personal hygiene items from the basket. "Boss Paul…I don't know what to say," she said, unable to look at the man.
He grinned. "How about you look in the bag?"
She did, and her face creased in a smile. "Fruit! I love fruit! Oh Boss Paul, thank you!"
Paul shook his head. "Don't thank me for the fruit. That was Brutal's idea." He wanted Brutal to get some credit.
"Boss Paul, I thank you and your missus for this. And when I see Brutal, I'll thank him too." Reaching into the bag, Elizabeth withdrew two apples and two oranges. "Will you please give these to John?" she asked, handing him one of each. As Paul delivered the fruit to John, Elizabeth found the slices of bread she had saved from one of her meals. She gave the remaining two pieces of fruit and the bread slices to Paul to give to Del.
As Paul walked back to the desk, Brutal glanced up from what he was working on. "Hal called," he said. "He needs to see you. Said to bring Elizabeth's file."
"Thanks, Brute. I'll head out to see him now…need to talk to him anyways," Paul said, picking Elizabeth's file up from the desk. As he was heading out the door he added, almost as an afterthought, "Oh, and Elizabeth says thank you for the fruit."
Later, Brutal, Dean, and Harry were preparing Old Sparky for Del's execution the next night. Quickly deciding to take advantage of the situation, Percy hurried to Elizabeth's cell and opened the door. Elizabeth was curled up on her bunk, asleep, a book nearby. Percy reached out and stroked her bare arm. Instantly Elizabeth was awake, scrambling to get away from him. In her haste to get away, she backed herself into the corner. Percy pressed himself against her, covering her mouth with his hand. "Be quiet," he hissed. "Don't bother fighting me." Suddenly he snatched his hand away from her mouth with a yell; she had bitten him. Shoving him away, Elizabeth darted for the open cell door. Percy lunged, grabbing her arm and pulling her off-balance. She fell, catching her head on the metal framework of the bunk as she went down.
The three other guards, who had dropped their cleaning rags when they heard Percy yell, came running. Reaching the cell first, Brutal found Percy standing over a motionless Elizabeth, who was lying on the floor, a small pool of blood forming at her head. "Percy, get out of here," Brutal growled.
"But…" Percy stammered.
"NOW!" Brutal roared. Percy scurried out, and Brutal started giving orders. "Dean, run to the infirmary and get some gauze. Harry, call Hal's office and get Paul back here, then find Toot and get him to clean this up." The two guards hurried off, and Brutal pulled his kerchief from his pocket. Sitting on the floor, he carefully pulled Elizabeth into his lap and held the kerchief to the cut on her head. "What happened, John?" he asked.
John cleared his throat. "Boss Percy, he came to Miss Elizabeth's cell when she was sleeping. He wakes her up, and when she tries to get away he pins her and puts his hand over her mouth. She bites him, and when she tries to run he grabs her arm. She falls and hit her head on the bunk, and she lay so still after that."
Footsteps sounded in the corridor as Paul appeared. "What happened here?" he asked. Brutal told him what John had said, and Paul was furious. "Tomorrow morning he is putting in his application to Briar Ridge! Where is he?" Before Brutal could answer the other man stormed off in search of Percy.
Dean appeared with gauze and bandages. "Can you get an incident form filled out?" Brutal asked. "John saw everything, so talk to him." Dean nodded and disappeared again. As Brutal placed a fresh bandage on top of his soiled kerchief and started wrapping gauze around Elizabeth's head, he heard a moan and felt her stir. As she tried to sit up, Brutal gently held her down. "Don't move, Elizabeth. Let me finish this."
As Elizabeth opened her eyes, Brutal's concerned face came into view. "What…oh, my head hurts! Where's Boss Percy? Make him stay away!"
Brutal chuckled lowly. "I'll make sure he doesn't come near you." As he finished wrapping Elizabeth's head, Toot appeared with a bucket of water and a mop. Brutal helped Elizabeth to her feet and as she sat down on her bunk, he picked up her book, which had fallen on the floor. "Don't forget about this," he said, handing it to her. He stayed with her until Toot finished cleaning the blood off the floor. As Brutal started to leave, Elizabeth said, "Boss Brutal…" He turned, and Elizabeth flushed bright red. "Thanks," was the only word she said, but her eyes said much more.
"You're welcome," Brutal said before he went back to the desk.
After Paul and Brutal put Wild Bill into the padded room, Brutal reached for his kerchief to wipe moonpie from his face. He cursed when he remembered, then sighed. It was still with Elizabeth.
"Boss Brutal, what's wrong?" Her gentle voice was a welcome to hear.
Brutal glanced at her. "I seem to be missing my kerchief. The last time I saw it was when I was holding it against your head to stop the blood," he replied.
Elizabeth nibbled on her lower lip, then she stood. "I know you don't want your kerchief as it is, but you can use this for now," she said as she pulled her shirt off.
Brutal tried hard not to stare, but it was impossible. Her stomach was smooth, firm, and flat, and her full breasts were held up proudly by her bra. Quickly Brutal averted his eyes. He took the shirt she offered with thanks, silently vowing that he'd wash it along with his suit.
Although he did get it washed, he didn't get it back to Elizabeth until late the next night. After Mr. Jingles' resurrection and Del's execution, Brutal was exhausted. However, he had night duty, so after the other guards had left he pulled out a deck of card and settled down for a night of solitaire. Suddenly he remembered Elizabeth's shirt. Grabbing it, he walked down to her cell. Brutal figured she'd be asleep, but as he opened the cell door he saw that she was stretched out on her bed, writing.
She glanced up. "Hello, Boss Brutal," she said, her voice tired. "What brings you here this time of night?"
Brutal held up her shirt. "I wanted to thank you again for letting me use this. I had it washed, so it's clean," he replied as he handed it to her. Elizabeth pulled it on, wincing slightly as it caught and tugged on the bandage on her head. Glancing at the small sink in her cell, Brutal shook his head. "I probably shouldn't do this, but we should get that cut cleaned properly, and cold water isn't going to do the trick. Come on." He led her out of the cell, down The Mile, and to the WC the guards used. Letting the water run to warm up, he unwrapped the gauze from her head; carefully he peeled the bandages and his bloody kerchief from the cut. Tossing them aside, he picked up a clean cloth and gently began cleaning the cut. Several moments later the cut was as clean as he could get it, and he had gotten most of the blood out of her hair. Quickly he rebandaged the cut and led her back to her cell.
As Elizabeth sat on her bunk, Brutal suddenly didn't want to leave. Pulling the chair over to the door, he sat as well. "Tell me about your family," he requested.
Elizabeth smiled. "I was the oldest of four," she began. "Mama was expecting when she…when she died. Before she met my papa, she was a teacher. Papa was a factory worker. They got married young, and I was born the next year. I grew up a tomboy, no matter how hard Mama tried to get me to wear dresses. Papa would always laugh and say that having me around was better than having a son." She chuckled. "He never explained that to me. He taught me how to fish, wrestle, climb trees, all sorts of boy stuff. Mama said that's why I wasn't married, because I acted too much like a boy. 'At least you've got a figure,' she'd say. She tried to teach me how to be a lady, and finally Papa told me I had to learn, 'To please your mama'." Swallowing hard, she continued. "The night they were killed, I was at the neighbor's, helping them with their children. The woman had just had a baby, so I was helping with household chores and keeping the children out from underfoot. After a while, I had this feeling that something was wrong at home, so I left as soon as I got the children to bed. When I got home, I found…" Elizabeth stopped as a tear traced down her cheek.
"You don't have to finish, Elizabeth," Brutal said softly.
She shook her head. "No, I need to finish. I found Janie first, in the kitchen. She was three years younger than me. Mama was in the hallway. She had tried to protect Bonnie and Judith, the twins. But they were all dead. Papa was barely alive when I found him. The knife…the knife was still in him, and he asked me to pull it out, so I did. He reached up to stroke my cheek…and then it fell when he died, landing in the blood and splattering my clothes with it. That's when the police came and arrested me. I just…I just want to find out who killed my family. It wasn't me." Her voice broke and more tears streaked down her face. Brutal moved to sit beside her on the bunk and pulled her close, holding her as she cried.
Finally Elizabeth was all cried out. "Best you get some sleep," Brutal said. She simply nodded as he slid the cell door shut and headed back to the desk to his long forgotten solitaire game.
A couple days later, after the men had decided to use John Coffey to help Melinda Moores, they were waiting for Wild Bill to fall asleep from the drugs they had slipped him in his drink. Suddenly the lights went out, and John started yelling, terrified. The guards were scrambling, trying to find a flashlight. "Someone calm John!" Paul called. Before anyone could get down to his cell, he stopped yelling; Brutal thought he heard someone singing. A few moments later the lights came back on, as if nothing had happened. Wild Bill was out like a light, and quickly the guards got Percy into the straight-jacket and locked him in the padded room.
Brutal turned to Paul. "What about Elizabeth?" he asked. "I really don't want to drug her, too." Paul cast a glance at Elizabeth, who was drawing.
"I'll keep her company," Dean offered. "I don't think she'll need anything like that."
Paul nodded, and the guards quickly got John out of the building. Dean brought a chair over to Elizabeth's cell and sat down. Elizabeth glanced up. "Hello, Boss Dean."
Dean sat in silence for a while as Elizabeth continued to draw. Finally curiosity overtook him. "Could I see your drawings?" he asked. Elizabeth passed the papers through the bars of the cell. Flipping through them, Dean was fascinated by how real they looked. He turned to one and saw Brutal and Paul shoving Wild Bill into the padded room. On the next was John sitting on his bunk. He turned another page and saw the five main guards looking back at him. Paul's face was in the top left corner; his own face was in the top right corner. Percy looked from the bottom right corner, and Harry was in the bottom left corner. In the center, larger than the rest, was Brutal's face. Dean smiled. "I just figured something out. You like…no, wait. You love Brutal, don't you?"
Elizabeth flushed crimson, and her eyes sparkled. With a soft sigh and a gentle smile, she nodded. "I do. I love him, but I can't tell him. I mean, what if the jury decides that I'm guilty, and give me the death penalty? I can't do that to Brutal. Besides, he probably doesn't even see me as anything besides a prisoner." Dean just smiled, because he knew she was wrong.
A few hours later the guards and John came back. After Wild Bill was shot and Percy's "cheese slid off his cracker", Hal showed up and beckoned Paul into the office. Dean cornered Brutal. "Elizabeth and I had a nice little chat while you were gone," he said softly. "She showed me the pictures she'd drawn, and she told me something interesting. I know you love her, Brutal. Anyone can see it when you look at her…and Paul let it slip to me and Harry. Anyway, she told me that she loves you, but she's afraid to tell you in case the jury finds her guilty."
Brutal was about to respond when Paul called him into the office. "Hal just gave this to me," he said, handing Brutal a folded piece of paper. "Said it came to his office late this afternoon."
Opening it, Brutal read, "By a jury of her peers, Elizabeth Hartford has been found innocent of five counts of murder in the first degree." Brutal looked at Paul. "She's innocent…Paul, she's been found innocent."
Paul nodded, chuckling. "I read it, Brute." Clapping a hand on his shoulder, he said, "You'd better do it."
Heading back onto The Mile, Brutal got waylaid by Dean. "What'd Paul want?" he asked, a knowing grin on his face. Brutal just handed him the paper. When Dean read it, his grin grew. "You've got to do it."
Down the way, John called across the corridor, "I'm tired, Miss Elizabeth. Dog tired. Sing me a song? Sing me the dream song."
After a moment, Elizabeth began to sing, and Brutal realized that was the singing he had heard when the lights had gone out. "Dreams to dream, in the dark of the night. When the world goes wrong, I can still make it right. I can see so far in my dreams, I'll follow my dreams, until they come true. Come with me, you will see what I mean. There's a world inside, no one else ever sees. You will go so far in my dreams, somewhere in my dreams, your dreams will come true. There is a star, waiting to guide us, shining inside us, when we close our eyes. Don't let go, if you stay close to me, in my dreams tonight, you will see what I see. Dreams to dream, as near as can be, inside you and me, they always come true."
As her voice faded, Brutal walked down to her cell, opened the door and walked in. "Elizabeth, I have to tell you something. I love you. I think I've loved you ever since I saw you, but I didn't realize it until you hit your head." He reached out to gently touch the bandage on her head, but she turned away.
"You don't want to love me," she said, her voice quavering. "Boss Brutal, I'm a prisoner. My life is in someone else's hands…"
"Do you love me?" Brutal asked boldly.
Elizabeth was taken aback. "What?"
"Do you love me?"
He could see the answer in her eyes before she said it. "Yes. I do love you. But…"
"Read this before you say anything else," Brutal interrupted, holding out the paper.
Elizabeth flipped it open. As she read it, her face went pale and her eyes grew large. Looking up, her eyes sparkled. "I must be dreaming," she said softly. Then Brutal knelt down on one knee. "I know I'm dreamed," Elizabeth continued, "because there's no way that you're down on one knee…" Her voice trailed off as Brutal took her hand in his.
"Elizabeth, will you marry me?" he asked simply.
She stared at him, her deep blue eyes wide. "Are you…are you serious?" she stammered.
Brutal nodded. "Will you?"
Elizabeth smiled. "Yes."
"Well, it's about time," Paul said from the hall. "I hate to break up the party, but Brute, I don't want to bring Toot over this early. Let's you, me, Dean, and Harry get this cleaned up."
Standing, Brutal kissed the back of Elizabeth's hand. "I'll come back," he said softly.
"I know you will," Elizabeth replied.
A couple of hours later in the early morning, the body of Wild Bill Wharton had been taken away. The blood was mopped up, and the report was filled out, ready to be filed in the morning. Brutal was back in Elizabeth's cell. He paced back and forth, talking while Elizabeth wrote down what he was saying. Eventually Paul showed up. Elizabeth was off the bunk in a flash. "When can I get out of here?" she asked.
Paul chuckled. "I wondered how long it would take you to ask. Your release time is eleven o'clock tomorrow morning."
Brutal stopped pacing and sat on the edge of the bunk. "Well, what if we have the wedding at one tomorrow?" Looking at Elizabeth, he smiled. "I don't want to wait longer than necessary to marry you."
She flushed and nodded, her eyes sparkling as she sat beside Brutal. "But where?" she asked, moving her notes aside and picking up a fresh sheet of paper. Tearing it neatly into four equal pieces, she continued, "I don't know what you want, Brutal, but I'm not really thrilled about getting married in a prison."
Paul snapped his fingers. "I'll be right back," he said as he disappeared down The Mile.
Shaking his head, Brutal read the notes Elizabeth had written while she drew up four wedding invitations. They were simple: an ivy border surrounding Elizabeth's elegant handwriting. Brutal paused in his reading and picked one up. "Beautiful," he said. "Like you."
Elizabeth smiled gently. Setting the last one down, she said, "Finished. One for Boss…sorry. One for Harry, Dean, Paul and Jan, and Hal and Melinda." She chuckled. "It's going to be hard to not call them 'Boss'."
Paul reappeared then, his eyes twinkling. "I just talked to Hal," he said. "He offered his place for the wedding tomorrow." Elizabeth looked at Brutal, who nodded. The place was set.
That night Paul decided to take John to a flick show, since his execution was scheduled for the next night and John had never seen a flick show. He had Toot set it up before telling the other guards about it. As they were taking John out of his cell, Brutal thought of something. He glanced at Elizabeth, who was sitting on her bunk with an apple and a book. Unlocking her cell, he said, "Want to go out?"
Elizabeth looked up, a look of complete bewilderment on her face. "Out? What do you mean, out?" Setting her book aside, she stood and stretched.
Brutal offered his arm with a grin. "No one can say I didn't take you out on a date." Elizabeth chuckled as she took his arm. Leading her into the prison's indoor recreation area, Brutal waved to Toot, who started the film. As the show progressed, Brutal put his arm around Elizabeth; after a slight hesitation she rested her head on his shoulder.
Paul was the night guard that evening. After John was asleep, Paul led Elizabeth to the desk. Unwrapping the gauze from her head, he inspected the cut. "It's healing faster than I've seen a cut heal. It's not going to need to be bandaged anymore, so you don't have to worry about it during your wedding. Speaking of which, you should get some sleep. It's a big day in two ways for you tomorrow. Come on." Leading her back to her cell, Paul continued, "The minister is coming to talk to you and Brutal tomorrow morning. When you are released, you'll have about an hour and a half to transfer things from your place to Brutal's, then get yourself dressed and ready."
As Elizabeth moved towards her bunk, she had a thought. "Paul…how will I get my things to Brutal's?"
Paul smiled. "Dean figured out exactly where you lived. He's been taking things over to Brutal's today. I don't believe there's much left. Good night."
"Good night," Elizabeth echoed, stretching out on her bunk as Paul walked away. As she drifted off to sleep, she thought about her parents.
The minister showed up the next morning after breakfast; it was five minutes to eleven. Elizabeth quickly gathered her few possessions and put them into a bag. Dean drove his car around to the rear exit, then peeked out front. Newspaper reporters were gathered, waiting to see Elizabeth's release. Going back inside, he grinned. "It's a mob out there. My car is out back, so we can leave quickly."
Glancing at his pocketwatch, Hal nodded. "It's time." Paul opened Elizabeth's cell, and Hal spoke. "Elizabeth Hartford, step forward." When she came out of her cell, Hal continued. "By a jury of your peers, you have been released from Cold Mountain Prison. We apologize for any wrongdoings we have caused you."
Paul stepped forward. "It's time for you to get ready for your wedding." Then, he did something unexpected. He unlocked John's cell. "Come on out, John."
John stepped out of his cell and offered his hand to Elizabeth. Instead of taking his hand, she wrapped her arms around him. "I can see my dream. It's coming true," she whispered in his ear.
"Don't let go, and don't lose that star," he whispered back. Gently Elizabeth kissed his cheek before stepping back.
"Dean, you'll bring her Hal's by one, right?" Brutal asked
Dean nodded. "Relax, Brute. She'll be there. Ready, Elizabeth?" The two hurried out the rear exit and drove away, completely avoiding the press.
When they pulled up to the house on East Street, Elizabeth felt a pang of sadness. Going inside, she found that everything had been packed and moved except for what was in her parents' room. Quickly she packed the few clothes remaining, placing them gently into a box before looking around the house for the final time. The stripped rooms held so many memories. As Dean carried final boxes out to his car, Elizabeth slipped into her old bedroom that she had shared with her sisters. Dean found her there moments later, simply staring out the window. "Elizabeth, I found a box in the back of your parents' closet that we missed," he said.
Elizabeth tore herself away from her memories and followed him into the room. Looking where he pointed in the closet, she withdrew a long flat box. "What in the world…" she whispered as she knelt and opened the box. A letter sat on top of the folded tissue paper. Picking it up, Elizabeth read it aloud. "My dearest Elizabeth, someday you'll be like me, a wife and mother. I wish I could be there to see when it happens. I haven't told your papa or your sisters yet, because Papa already has enough on his hands, and the girls are too young. I'm dying, sweetheart. The doctors say I might survive if I terminated this pregnancy, but you know I couldn't ever do that. This is something I bought for you, the day I found out that I didn't have long to live. Elizabeth, be strong for your papa and your sisters. Remember that I love you, very much. Mama." A tear rolled off her cheek and splashed on the letter.
Dean had his kerchief out, his eyes glistening. "She knew she was dying? How is that possible?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't know, Dean. I wish I did." Pushing the tissue aside, she pulled out a dress with shoes to match. Her eyes sparkled. "I can wear this for the wedding!"
Dean smiled, then looked at his watch. "It's quarter past twelve. I'd better get you over to Hal's before Brutal goes crazy. Putting the box in the car, they hurried over to the Moores' place; Hal and Melinda were the only ones there. Dean disappeared down the hall to talk to Hal while Elizabeth changed.
Within the half hour everyone had arrived at the house. Brutal was a bundle of nerves. "What if she's disappointed in me and changes her mind?" What if…"
Dean shook his head. "Brutal, calm down. Anyone can see she loves you too much to let you go." To keep his mind occupied, Dean and Harry kept Brutal busy moving the boxes from Dean's car to Brutal's.
Meanwhile, Paul knocked on the Moores' guest room, where Elizabeth was waiting, and entered when she bid him to. Elizabeth sat in a chair at the window, watching the ominous dark clouds rolling on the horizon. "Looks like it might rain," Paul observed.
Elizabeth propped her elbows on the windowsill and rested her chin on her hands. "We don't need any rain today," she said lightly.
Paul chuckled. "Let's have a look at you," he said. Elizabeth stood and twirled for him. Her cream colored dress was a tea-length, with short sleeves and a scooped neckline. The fabric gracefully draped over her, drawing in tightly at her slender waist with buttons down the front. The matching shoes, sitting on the nearby dresser, were open-toed heels. "Brutal's a lucky man," Paul said. "May I have the honor of giving you away?"
A gentle smile crossed Elizabeth's face. "That would be wonderful."
Outside, the guests were seated on folding chairs on Hal's lawn; Brutal and the minister stood under a tall oak tree. Wearing his best suit, Brutal glanced at the threatening gray clouds in the sky, silently pleading for the rain to hold off. Looking back towards the porch, his heart leapt into his throat. Elizabeth, on Paul's arm, was walking out to where he stood.
Melinda leaned over to Jan. "She sure is pretty. Brutus found a gem in her."
When Elizabeth was standing beside Brutal, the minister began the service. He skipped over the bit with the rings; Elizabeth and Brutal would be picking out their rings later. The service was short, and just as the minister pronounced them husband and wife, the sun broke through the clouds, splashing the newlyweds with its warm light.
The minister left after giving Brutal and Elizabeth his blessing and filling out the marriage certificate. Paul introduced Elizabeth to Jan and Melinda while Brutal thanked Hal for the use of his home. Elizabeth talked to each of the guards, thanking them before giving each a hug and a kiss on the cheek. When she got to Paul, she gave him an extra long hug. "Thank you, Paul," she whispered.
Brutal came over and gently touched her arm. "Elizabeth, want to see your new home?"
She smiled at him, her eyes radiating joy. "Yes, I would."
As she went to collect her clothing from the house, Paul and Brutal discussed John Coffey's execution that night. "I'll call you about an hour or so before the execution," Paul said. "We can clean Old Sparky up ourselves. You just take your wife home." Elizabeth came back out, and Brutal helped her into the car before hurrying to the driver's side. The guests waved as Brutal drove away.
When Brutal pulled the car to a stop in his driveway, Elizabeth's breath caught in her throat. The house wasn't huge, but it was big enough, with two floors. Several trees grew nearby, casting shade across the yard. "What do you think?" Brutal asked as he opened the door for her.
"It's wonderful," she said, taking his offered hand and stepping out.
Brutal smiled at her expression as she took in the property. "Go on in. I'll bring in these boxes."
Elizabeth hurried up the porch and through the front door. Exploring the house, she noted that the rooms, while definitely marked with the bachelor lifestyle, were spacious. Upstairs she found the guest room, which was full of the boxes that held everything from her old house. Turning, she almost ran into Brutal, who had brought in the last few boxes. Quickly she grabbed the top box before it slid to the floor.
"Thank you," Brutal said as he set the boxes on a chair. "Do you want to go through these now or later?"
Elizabeth set the box down with the others and shrugged. "It doesn't really matter right now," she said with a sigh.
He turned to look at her. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"Why does John have to die?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes filling with sadness. "He couldn't have done what he's been charged of. You know that."
Brutal sighed as well. "They say he murdered the Detterick twins, but we know better. Wild Bill killed them."
"But then, he's being killed for a crime he didn't commit! Why can't they open the case again?" By now she had tears rolling down her cheeks.
Brutal reached for his wife's arm and pulled her close. "Darling, if we thought we had a chance to save him, we'd take it. But there isn't a chance, and he wants to go. He wants to, Elizabeth. And to most people, it's just one more…well, one more nigger off the earth." Wrapping his arms tight around her, he kissed her forehead, then wiped her tears away with a thumb. "I will tell you this. This will be the last execution I'm taking part it. Tomorrow morning I'm putting in for Boy's Correctional."
Elizabeth smiled. "I suppose we should unpack some of these boxes now, or at least start on them," she said, finally answering his question. Slipping out of his embrace, she opened one of the boxes and peered into it. "This looks like it should go to the kitchen," she said.
Just then a pair of strong arms slipped around her waist, holding her tight. Brutal's voice whispered into her hair, "Do you know how much I love you?"
"Well, I bet you're going to tell me," she whispered back.
Brutal chuckled. "Yes I am." Turning her around, Brutal reached a hand up to caress her cheek before kissing her gently. Scooping Elizabeth up into his arms, Brutal carried her into the master bedroom, kicking the door shut behind him. Setting her down, he wasted no time unbuttoning her dress. In turn, Elizabeth pushed off his coat, unhooked his suspenders, then started unbuttoning his shirt. Pulling it off, she pulled his undershirt over his head as he pushed the dress off her shoulders. Brutal felt the need within him tighten, and he gave in to his body's desires. Within moments the rest of their clothes were strewn on the floor, and the newlyweds were consummating their marriage.
Hours later they lay wrapped in each others' arms. Elizabeth had her head on Brutal's chest, listening to his heartbeat. Brutal gently stroked her long blonde hair. "Elizabeth…I don't want you to go to the execution tonight."
"I'm not going. How could I watch an innocent man die? To see what could have happened to me?" She shuddered. "I wish you didn't have to go."
Brutal tightened his embrace around her. "I wish I didn't have to, either." The ringing of the kitchen phone echoed up the stairs. Getting up, Brutal threw on a robe and went to answer it. Elizabeth sighed, knowing without having to look at the clock that it was close to John's execution time. Getting out of bed, she ignored the clothes on the floor; rummaging through the closet, she pulled one of Brutal's shirts out and slid it on. She was buttoning it when Brutal came back into the room. "That was Paul," he said simply.
Elizabeth nodded. "It's time, isn't it?"
Brutal nodded as he started dressing. Standing before the mirror as he buttoned his shirt, he asked her, "So what are you going to do while I'm gone?"
She picked up his uniform coat, fingering the brass buttons on it. "I suppose I'll go through the boxes…sort through the clothes…wait for you." She held his coat as he slid his arms into it, and smoothed a stray wrinkle from the shoulders. Coming around to his front, Elizabeth straightened his tie before resting her hands on his chest. "Tell John I send my love."
Despite the upcoming event, Brutal smiled at his wife. "Of course I will. You know, you look good in my shirt." Picking up his hat, he kissed her goodbye and headed to the prison.
After clocking in, Brutal found that the other guards had everything as prepared as possible for the execution, so he took the time to fill out his resignation as E Block guard. He'd turn it in after he put in for Boy's Correctional, but he figured he might as well get it done. Dean, Paul, and Harry appeared at the desk as he finished filling in the last bit of information. "Hey, boys," Brutal said as he slid the paper into a folder and stuck it in the desk.
"Is Elizabeth all settled in?" Paul asked.
Brutal smiled. "She said she'd be going through boxes tonight." He caught Paul's eye, who nodded toward John's cell. Together the two men walked down the corridor to the cell. Paul sat on a chair in the cell while Brutal leaned against the cell door.
"Almost time, isn't it Boss?" John asked.
Paul nodded. "Yes, John. It's almost time."
John turned to Brutal. "Was the wedding nice?" he asked.
Brutal smiled as he recalled the event. "Yes, it was a nice wedding. And Elizabeth sends her love."
John smiled. "I knew you was gonna marry her, Boss. I knew. I ain't never been to a wedding before." Dean and Harry joined the men, and together the guards walked John Coffey down the Green Mile.
With taking the body through the tunnel to the waiting truck and helping clean up, it was after midnight when Brutal arrived home. The spare room light was still on, but Brutal took his time going inside; he didn't want Elizabeth to see his tears. After taking off his coat and hat, he climbed the stairs and stood in the doorway. Elizabeth had gone through a good number of the boxes, and was surrounded by piles of sorted clothing. She stood when she saw him. "It wasn't like Del's, was it?" she asked. "Tell me it wasn't like Del's."
Brutal shook his head. "It wasn't like Del's."
Elizabeth watched him. "Do you…do you want something to eat?" She knew he hadn't eaten anything before he left the house, and wasn't sure if he'd gotten anything at the prison.
"I'm not hungry," Brutal replied. Feeling tears prick at the back of his eyes, he turned and went to the master bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he finally released the tears he had been holding in since the execution, burying his face in his hands to muffle the noise. He didn't know how much time had passed before Elizabeth came into the room and sat next to him, wrapping her arms around him. "Let it out," she said simply.
Hastily he wiped his face. "I didn't want you to see me like this," he admitted.
Elizabeth slid her fingers under his chin and turned his head. Her own eyes were shining with tears. "It's okay. I understand." She wiped a tear off his face with her thumb. "Remember what you told me? He wanted to go. I'm just glad it wasn't like Del's." Gently she loosened his tie, tossing it aside before fiddling with the buttons on his shirt. "We should go to bed," she said softly.
Brutal nodded. "You're still wearing my shirt," he noted, wiping the last of the tears from his face.
She glanced down at it, smiling slightly. "I hope you don't mind. Somehow I felt closer to you."
Smiling for the first time since the execution, Brutal shook his head. "Of course I don't mind. It looks good on you." Leaning close, he gently kissed her lips. "But I think it would look better on the floor." To emphasize his point, he began unbuttoning it, sliding it off her shoulders and tossing it to the floor. Together they made quick work of removing Brutal's clothes.
As Elizabeth and Brutal made love again, a peace settled over the house. The two felt it, and the peace settled within them. With the peace came a gift. A gift of love, of hope, of tranquility, and of joy. Elizabeth and Brutal both knew instantly who the gift was from: John Coffey.