Age of Edward Contest
Pen Names: Rosalynn and AGoodWitch
Title: Yearning to Breathe Free
Type of Edward: Alcatrazward
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this contest visit The Age of Edward 2010 C2 Community.
A huge thank you to my girl Rosalynn, for first dreaming this idea up, and secondly having the Faith in me to ask me to collab with her, truly humbled for that. And as always, to ACullenWannabe, for giving this the once over so it was beta'd by someone who hadn't lived in it. Thanks for reading this and voting should be in the beginning of October so check back with the contest then!
The boat rocked from side to side as we floated across the bay. The chains that connected our hands and feet clanked when a small wave would knock us farther to one side or another. My stomach was churning from the movement and my head was still pounding from the beating I had taken from the Corrections officers. In all fairness, I had swung at the twit before I knew who it was. You just don't sneak up on a man in the big house.
The boat came to an abrupt halt as it docked against The Rock. Alcatraz, the prison of all prisons, was in the middle of the San Francisco bay and was built on a large rock. It wasn't an island, it wasn't a patch of land that somehow managed not to get washed away, and it was solid rock. The CO came around and unchained us from our seats and instructed us to stand and walk out single file. Stepping from the boat to the ground, if you wanted to call a damn rock the ground, was disorienting. The first man to fall was snatched up quickly and threatened with the hole for disturbing the order of the prison.
Once the COs had us lined up, a big man came forward to speak with us. He walked up and down the line and looked us each in the eye, trying to size us up I suppose. I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes as I wanted to be considered reformed and sent back to my prison. I wanted to be able to see my wife, my Bella. Visitors are not permitted in Alcatraz, if I wanted to see her at all in my 15-20 year stint in the slammer, I had to be on my best behavior and get back to Washington State Penitentiary.
Alcatraz is the place where the trouble prisoners get sent. It's the prison for the screw ups who can't follow the rules in the rest of the prisons. It's a hard ride, a reformation, and the only way to get out before your time is served is to play by the rules.
The man cleared his throat to draw attention to himself at the front of the dock. I looked around and saw a sea of black and white stripes. Some being forced to pay attention, others scared out of their minds. I turned forward before I could be assisted to do so by the big burly man to my left in officer blues.
"My Name is Warden Aro Volturri. You may call me Warden or Warden Volturri. You may even keep your traps shut and don't call me a damn thing. You are all here for the same reason. You were arrested for being a piece of trash in society and got sent to prison. You were then a piece of trash at your prison. It takes a lot to be considered trash amongst the inmates, so we are here to fix you. You will do as we say every minute of every day and if you don't, you will be punished." He was an older man. Had longish hair and spat with every few words. He was vile.
"You will speak only in hushed tones. You will not yell, you will not create any loud noises, and you will not disrespect any of my Correctional officers. You will play by my rules or you will be punished. Do not think that I care about how little of a crime you committed to be sent to the big house to begin with. You are all equal in this house unless you break the rules. Do not think you will be an exception. You will be punished. I will stress that once more, and after that, if you question anything you are ordered to do, it will be considered disrespect. You will obey all rules, you will respect all personnel, you will do these things or you will be punished. Are we clear?" His eyes scanned the crowd and landed on mine.
"You, your name?" Warden asked me.
"Edward Masen, Warden, sir," I responded clearly and quickly.
"What will happen if you break the rules, Masen?" He walked close to me and stopped only a foot in front of my face. His breath was putrid and his face was greasy.
"I will be punished, Warden, sir." I wanted to step back; I wanted to close my eyes so I wouldn't have to see his face. He smiled slightly and his teeth were a mix of yellow and green. I hoped to god that they allowed toothbrushes here and he just chose not to use it.
"Good answer, Masen." He walked away from me and continued down the line, stopping every so often to question the other inmates. When he was satisfied, he returned to the front.
"You will each be in a single room. When you are in lock down, there is no talking. You will be escorted in groups to the facilities in the morning and monitored while you shower and shave. You will be given soap and a razor on your way in and you will return it on your way out. You will be assigned work orders and you will work Monday through Friday. Saturday you will be given recreation time, if you have earned it. Sunday is the Lord's Day. I don't care if you are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or if you even believe in God or not, in this facility you will be respectful and you will stay quiet in your cells while the others pray on their own, read their own bibles. Which, is the only book you are allowed. Breakfast is at eight, lunch at one and dinner at six. I surely hope I never have to speak with any of you again. DISMISSED!"
A whistle blew from behind and we were lead into the building. First stop was the delousing powder. We were told to strip and then they coated us in white powder that was to kill any bugs roaming around our bodies that we could have picked up from the last prison or the travel to The Rock. Then we were sprayed down with cold water coming out of a hose strong enough the firemen back home would kill to get their hands on it. We were handed clean clothing, a blanket, and a pillow and taken to our cells.
My cell was small. It had a single small cot, a toilet and a sink. It was all grey. It was cold and I was ready to leave. I climbed onto my cot, covered up and closed my eyes, willing sleep to come so I could see my beautiful Bella in my dreams.
The morning came sooner than I would have liked. A loud siren sounded and the guards were yelling back and forth. I jumped up and ran to the door of my cell and saw a man lying in the middle of the walkway bleeding from his stomach. I strained my ears to hear anyone talking specifics about what happened but it was so loud that it was impossible.
An hour later, the man had been taken away and we were allowed out of our cells. We headed to the mess hall for breakfast, speaking in hushed tones. We were handed a plate of grits and toast, with a glass of water. I sat at a table that had no one yet sitting. I didn't know the people and was not about to ask anyone to welcome me into the fold. Better to sit alone and let them come to you.
It didn't take long till a blonde bloke grabbed a chair with a quick, "Ya mind?" I shrugged and he sat.
"Mike." He held his hand out in greeting. I gripped it quickly then returned to my food. "You got a name?"
"Edward." I wasn't in the mood to meet and greet today. Today was about seeing who people were and what their connections were. Who I would and wouldn't speak to, this needed to be researched. Soon, a few more people showed up and sat. There were some I recognized from the boat, some I didn't.
"So, what's the story, Edward? What got you locked up in the first place?" Mike asked. Everyone stopped talking and looked to me. I sighed. I hated talking about it. I hated knowing what I did. But I would do it again and again without hesitation.
"I killed a man."
"You gotta give us more than that. What did ya ice him for?" Some random dark haired man asked. He was covered in faded ink and was older than my pop.
"He was after my wife, was stalkin her, threatened to kill her. So I took him out before he could harm one perfect hair on her." I stood and walked away from the table. I was done talking to anyone. I wanted to be left alone.
Some of the other prisoners were already being lined up as they finished their meals, so I decided to fall in and show I planned on being respectful. I didn't give a lick about their way of doing things, but if it got me to my cell and away from these twits until I got the lay of the land, I'd take it.
When the line was secured, they marched us back to our block. Work assignments hadn't been given to the new arrivals so they locked the heavy cell door before the CO moved down the line.
The remainder of my first day passed without incident, and the next morning dawned just like the previous. The alarm sounded and my feet hit the concrete floor. By the time the guard reached me, the cot was made and I was ready at the front of my cell.
"Masen, you were assigned to the tailor shop. When you finish breakfast, go to the east side of the room to line up."
"Yes, sir." The loud clang of metal on metal rang out and the behemoth of a man in front of me blocked my view. I hadn't remembered seeing him before, but the murmurs around me were clear. He wasn't a man to be trifled with. The walk to the mess was uneventful and soon I sat alone with my plate.
Once again, Mike and his little posse found me sitting alone and sat down. "Edward, did you hear anything about McCarty last night?"
"Who?" I asked, not caring to engage in conversation about someone who would be of no use to me.
"Him," the man next to Mike pointed to the guy I noticed this morning.
"Don't point him out, Tyler, want him to shank you?" Mike whispered as he shot his own daggers at his friend.
"No, I went out pretty early. Why, what's the big deal with him?" I immediately cursed myself for asking them, but it was too late now.
"No one knows. Some say he killed half of his town, others think he was involved in a big heist or something down South."
"Down South, I heard he was from Phoenix or somewhere in the desert." Tyler commented.
"I thought it was out East." The older man from yesterday added.
"Well, I didn't catch anything. And I won't be around this morning to find out because my work assignment came through."
"Really, I work in the wood shop and Tyler here works over in the metal shop. Where do they have you?"
"Tailor shop." A snort sounded down the table where the older guy sat with another man. I glared at him. I didn't like being the butt of his joke.
Yet again, I got up without finishing to line up on the opposite side of the mess, and waited for them to take us to the yard.
I noticed McCarty walking towards me, but tried my best not to react. He settled in behind me in line and soon we were being moved out. For the first time, I saw the outside facilities, but there wasn't much time to enjoy it. They called out the roll and divided us up into our assignments, with McCarty being assigned to the laundry, just down the hall from the tailor shop.
We were walked into the building by assignment, the tailor shop being first because it was on one of the upper levels. When I stepped foot in the door and saw the workstations with the piles of clothes and the sewing machines I knew I was in trouble. For as long as I could remember, I watched first my mother and then my Bella sit hunched over a sewing machine and wondered at their ability to move so fast. Many of the others found their stations and went to work, but I waited for the count to be done before asking what was expected of me.
"Come here, Masen." I nodded and settled in before the guard came up behind me. "These are the pants patterns. You lay them out on the fabric like so," he showed me the pattern that wasted as little fabric as possible and then continued, "then mark them with the chalk and cut them out. For now, you'll stay at the cutting table and the scissors will be checked before you leave so don't get any wild ideas."
I said my quick, "Yes, sir," and then got down to work. Without looking up, I plugged away until there was a tap of the guards hand on my table.
"Time for your break." I looked up and saw another inmate and a guard waiting by the door so I walked over and went with him to the front of the building. Not having any cigarettes on me I sat down, only to have one held out to me.
I took the cigarette from him and asked his name. "I'm Paul." Was all he said and I decided that if I was going to bum a cig, I might as well be polite about it.
"Thanks, I'm Edward."
That was all that was needed as we smoked and headed back inside. Soon lunch came, and with it, a new set of questions.
"Did he say anything?"
"I haven't seen him, really. He's silent though, so I have nothing of consequence. What do you know about Paul over there?"
I gestured with my head and Mike scoffed something about him being a grifter and then kept on with the former conversation. After lunch and a little bit of time in the yard, it was back to the tailor shop where I continued until we were lined up for dinner. Walking into dinner behind Paul, he motioned toward the table he sat at during lunch, and tired of the inane conversation from Mike, I agreed.
"So, you seem like a smart guy, what are you doing hanging around a simp like Newton?" I looked up and shook my head before I answered.
"He latched on yesterday and I can't seem to shake him. He is starting to tick me off. Always in other people's business."
"He's like a broad. You'd do better to stay clear of him."
Paul wasn't a man of wasted words, he spoke his peace and then went back to his business and I liked that about him. He had an in that got him plenty of tobacco, so he gave me a few smokes and a book of matches on the deal that I'd sit with him at meals, that way fools like Mike would keep clear of us both. I was fine with that because it gave me more time to think about my girl and how much I missed her.
The guards began to form the lines and Paul and I parted ways, as I walked over to the line for my section. Once they had us all settled for the night, I flopped on the bed and looked up at the ceiling only to hear a call from the next cell. "You got a light?"
"Yeah." I passed the book of matches through the bars at the front of the cell to McCarty and waited for them to come back.
"I'm Emmett McCarty, by the way."
"Edward Masen." I responded quietly.
"So, are you going to ask what I did?" The last thing I needed was another reason for Mike to hang around me, plus I didn't want to push.
"No offense, but I don't care much what you did. It isn't gonna get me back to my girl any sooner."
"You've got a kid too?"
I sat up and looked at the wall separating me and Emmett, who when you actually spoke to him, seemed to be an okay guy. "No, it's just me and my wife."
"I've got two boys out in Tennessee with Rosie, that's my wife's name. God, do I miss her."
"I bet. It's killing me being away from my Bella and it's only been two months. I've got a lot of time to go."
"It'll go by quicker if you keep your head down."
I heard the cot shift and saw Emmett settle in, so I did the same. Quicker I fell asleep tonight, the sooner tomorrow would come.
The next several weeks passed by quickly enough. I woke up, ate, went to the tailor shop, came back for dinner and then went to sleep. Emmett and I didn't talk too often, but I had found out what his story was. He'd been swiping food from the grocery store he worked for to feed his family and got caught. The thing that landed him on the Rock was other inmates using him to assert themselves, but who's going to side with a guy like McCarty at the end of a fight.
Paul and I had our arrangement until he got transferred back to his old facility for good behavior. That was now my goal. Get back to Washington where Bella could visit me. I hated the idea of her having to see me like this, but the thought of not seeing her at all for the next 20 years was unbearable.
Mike tried to get me back into his circle, but I'd been avoiding the whole thing as it was easier that way.
It was during one such evening spent chatting with Emmett through the wall that we heard the CO come around with mail. Emmett was on privileges again, but my mail hadn't been coming yet, so I didn't know if they were withholding it, or if Bella had been informed not to write to me.
The CO stopped in front of Emmett's cell, flipping the letter inside before he moved to stand in front of me. "Masen, you've got a letter."
I picked the envelope up off the floor and tore it open, pulling out a letter and a photo of Bella. Looking at my angel's face, I unfolded the letter and began to read.
It seems like it has been forever since I've seen you, when really it has only been a few weeks. I hope that this letter finds you well. I am fine. I visit your parents every weekend and it is a comfort to have them nearby while you are so far away.
There is news that I must share with you, but I don't want you to be too upset by it. With the expense of the trial, and the bills at home, I've been forced to take a job as a switchboard operator. I had hoped that the job at the Seattle library would have come through, but it's just as well, as I am making a little more here than I would have been sorting books. Your parents had offered to let me stay with them so I wouldn't have any more expenses, but I couldn't bear to leave our home. It's the one place I feel close to you, you're in every corner of this apartment.
I know this will hit you hard, but it is an honest job and I ride in with your father some days, so I am well looked after. I'm not sure how long before this letter reaches you, or if it will be returned to me as the last few I sent to you in Washington were, but I will know that soon enough. Stay strong my love, and try to earn your way back to the Penitentiary here. I don't like to think of you in such a dangerous place.
It's time for me to get ready for bed, so I will be seeing you soon.
All My Love,
I folded the letter and replaced it into the envelope, sliding it into my shirt pocket before I ran my finger over my wife's face in the photograph. "Oh Bella, I should be there taking care of you. I've really let you down now."
"What's wrong, did something happen?"
"Bella's had to find work." I hated saying it out loud, but I knew Emmett was a good man, even if we didn't socialize outside of our talks through the walls.
"That's rough; Rosalie is asking if I'd mind her moving down country with my folks. I hate to see her do it, but she can't find work because of what I did."
"She sent me a picture. It's amazing how little justice my memory does. Do you know anything about the prison holding letters?" I knew he'd been in the system longer, so he'd give me a straight answer.
"Yeah, when you lose privileges, they hold letters to see if you'll earn them back, if you keep acting up they return them to the sender. When I kept getting jumped at my old facility, Rosie's letters all got sent back."
I nodded. "What else did Rose say?"
I heard the muffled laugh before he shook his head at me. "Sorry, there are some things that are best kept between husband and wife."
I laughed at what he was implying and settled in to join Bella in my dreams.
The next morning I was in the mess before Newton and his crew so I settled in at a table and ate, pulling out the picture of Bella to look at while I said grace.
I was about to put the picture away when it was yanked from my hands. "Look at this kitten. Mrs. Masen's a real dish, though with eyes like that, I'm sure she's a real tiger in bed."
I saw red and was up and grabbing for the picture before he could anticipate my movement. But I didn't get a swing in before he shoved me. Hitting the ground, I bounced back up and was caught by one of the guards. Soon I was in the warden's office, waiting for him to come in. Nearly an hour later, the door flew open and Warden Volturri stood behind his desk.
"You just got privileges for your good behavior here yesterday and already you're in my office. What the hell happened this morning?"
"Warden, sir, I wasn't planning on breaking the rules. I was only eating breakfast and looking at a picture of my wife when Newton came up behind me and snatched it. He mouthed off and all I was trying to do was get it back. If I had wanted to hit him, sir, he'd be in the hospital ward, but that would be disrespecting you. And as you said I only just earned the right to write my wife. I'd hate for her to worry when she didn't get an answer back."
"You know, I'd think you were blowing smoke if it wasn't for the picture in his pocket and the positive words from your section guard and the ones over in the tailor shop. The fault seems to be with Newton this time, but if you land back in my office for fighting you will wind up in the hole, do you understand me?"
"Good, then take this picture back and write to your wife. You're going back to your cell for the day, but tomorrow you can resume work. Dismissed."
I walked to the door to see the guard waiting for me. When I got back to my cell, I pulled out a few sheets of paper and wrote a letter to Bella, telling her how much I loved and missed her, and how sorry I was to have failed her. I told her about the tailor shop, knowing she'd see the humor in it and that I'd made a few friends and was keeping my nose clean. No need for her to worry about me while I was here.
It had been two days since Mike's actions landed him in the hole, and I was starting to think I would never see him again. I had just gone out for my afternoon break and was passing by the laundry when I heard my name whispered. I stopped, the guard and another inmate still walking in front of me and I turned only to hear the clatter and a groan as Tyler dropped whatever it was in his hand under Emmett's strong grip.
"This isn't where you're supposed to be, boy." It was spoken in a hushed tone, but the venom was there and the look on his face fit in with exactly what everyone thought Emmett to be. When he released Tyler's hand, he scurried out to take his break and I finally looked down to see the crude weapon made from a tool from his shop. "You best get going before they realize you're missing."
Emmett kicked the small blade towards the open drain and it clattered on its way down as he returned to the hamper of laundry he was delivering. I ran to the stairs and took them two at a time only to exit and see one of the guards turn around. "Where'd you go Masen?"
"Laundry hamper was coming through the hall so I had to let them pass."
The guard looked at his watch and sighed, motioning for me to hurry up. "Get back to work." And that's what I did.
Weeks went by and the only way I kept my sanity and my cool amongst the other inmates was by counting the days till my next letter from Bella. She had written to me every week of her day to day life. She spoke of her new job, how tired she has been and even had told me she was falling ill. I had failed my wife while trying to protect her.
Finally mail arrived Monday morning and I waited patiently by the bars as the slow mail cart rolled down the hall. The CO announced the names as he went and as he reached McCarty, I began to get nervous. Each week I got a letter without fail, but each week I feared I wouldn't.
"MASEN!" he called as he thrust two letters out to me. I took them greedily and thanked him. I ripped open the envelope with my beautiful Bella's name on it and sat on my cot.
I write to you with joy in my heart but sorrow creeping in with each passing moment. I had told you how I feared I was getting ill, well, I have found out the reason. You are going to be a father. I have been so excited as we have always spoken of having a family. The doctor told me and all I could see was a little girl with your hair and eyes, with your coordination because I would never wish mine on anyone, but with my strong will and determination. A woman needs that in this world. But on my way home, thinking about writing this letter, I realized that he or she would not get to meet her father for a very long time.
I am having dinner with your parents tonight and I plan on telling them they will be grandparents. I hope they are excited. I wouldn't normally tell anyone this soon, as it is still early, but I feel I will rely on your mother in the coming months.
Darling, please do not fret. You just keep working at being transferred back so I, and soon your child, will be able to see you. I love you Edward. Never forget that.
All my love,
I was going to be a father. My child would never really know me; see me for who I am outside of prison until they were no longer a child. I wouldn't get to hold her, or take pictures with her and Bella as a family. I wouldn't be there to scare off the boys who try to come sniffing around. It was that moment that I broke down.
I felt the tears escape my eyes and I tried to muffle the sobs with the pillow. The last thing I needed was the others to hear me cry.
I heard a thumping on the wall of the cell before Emmett's hushed voice warned, "Dude, we've got company coming."
I willed the tears away and wiped at my eyes to hide any evidence of my weak moment. A moment later, a Corrections Officer I hadn't seen on the Rock before walked by escorting Mike Newton back to his old cell. It seemed he had earned his privileges back. But that wasn't what interested me. The new CO looked mighty familiar and on his walk back after placing Mike in his cell, I got a good look at his face.
He looked over and our eyes met. His eyes widened probably as much as mine did. Jasper Whitlock was our new CO and my wife's cousin. He had been at our wedding, had drinks with me at the Christmas holiday at Bella's parent's house and had taken a fishing trip with the men folk of the family last summer while the women took a day to pamper themselves. We knew each other well, and that was a problem.
A guard farther down called out for a surprise room check on a prisoner and then another followed suit.
"SURPRISE ROOM CHECK ON PRISONER MASEN!" Jasper called out taking advantage of the situation presented to him. He unlocked my door and stepped in. He began looking through the few things I had and in a hushed whisper began speaking to me.
"Edward, I hadn't been told you would be here! They can't know. Alice is expecting and this prison pays twice as much as any other. We need the money. Please, we don't know each other. We can't know each other for both our sakes. I'm sorry dear cousin but you know this is the way it has to be," he pleaded with me.
"I understand, Jasper. Could you do one thing for me though before we don't know each other, how is my Bella? I know she and Alice are close, you have to know something. I found out today she is with child."
He looked at me with sadness in his eyes. "She is with child. She is doing well and is taking to work just fine." With that he took a step back and closed the door to my cell.
"PRISONER MASEN ALL CLEAR!"
Lunch in the mess hall that day was filled with hushed gossip about the new CO. Emmett and I sat together like we had been doing for weeks, away from everyone else and we were perfectly content with that.
"You're going to be a father! That's great man!" Emmett declared with a mouth full of something they told us was meatloaf. I highly doubted it.
"If I was there, if I could help raise my child it would be. Bella and I have wanted a baby for a while now. Is it hard not seeing your boys?"
"Of course it is. They are still so young that they don't understand why I left. Rosie tells them that I will be home as soon as I can. I miss them something fierce. "
"How much longer you got, Em?"
"Another 3 years, that is if I can ever get off this damn rock." Emmett stood to take his tray to the trash and I watched as the guards changed shifts like clockwork.
"Hey, Emmett, ever think about bustin' outa this place?" I asked in an even quieter whisper than before.
"Man, every damn one of us has. We would find a way to get outa here, get to land, change our names and run. Go states and states away and just live. Hell, I might even take my Rose and my boys to a boat and just go all the way to England." He smiled at the fantasy and so did I.
It was over the next few weeks that I thought about the idea of escape. Each letter from Bella spurred me forward as the idea of leaving her alone to raise our child destroyed me.
It was one Saturday, when I sat watching a large tree branch on the water that an idea hit me…hard. I waited patiently for Emmett to join me at dinner that night and then leaned in close. "I think we may have a way."
He looked up from his chicken as his brow furrowed. "A way to what?"
"Bust out of here." I whispered and his eyes bugged out.
"Not here, after lights out." I nodded and then finished dinner, walking with Emmett to line up and waiting for Jasper to put us to bed. In all the time he'd been here, we hadn't spoken since that snap inspection, but just having him here was a comfort.
He spoke about his wife and cousin both being pregnant to the guards, passing information to me through them. But tonight was all business, tonight the plan began.
Lights went out and about an hour later I turned towards Emmett's cell. "So, what's the plan?"
"We just got told in the tailor shop that we're switching from jeans to raincoats. They brought in these big bolts of rubber, if I could get it back to the cells, we could make a raft from it."
"E, how would we put it together and what would we do about the water?" Emmett had valid points, but I wasn't going to give this up, not when it was the first piece of hope I'd had.
"I don't know, but if we can figure it out?"
"Then you'll meet that kid of yours. Look, I used to raft down the Mississippi. Give me a few days to figure everything out on that end. You just get yourself used to working with that rubber, because that'll be the difference between whether or not me make it."
I whispered my agreement and then rolled over, imagining that I might get the chance to be there with Bella and our child as I drifted to sleep.
The next week brought a letter from Bella, where she told me the doctor thought she was about five or so months along, which she knew to be right since that last night before I was sentenced had been sleepless in a very different way than the nights since had been.
She worried about me and told me that she feared something might happen to me, having awful dreams of me being harmed. I could tell from the things she told me in the letter that what she was conveying was much less than what was actually plaguing her, and that made me feel worse.
In my reply, I told her that I was well and had kept myself busy, earning praise from the guards and working my way back to her. I also told her that if anything were to happen to me that she should rely on our families to get her through it, that she would have to be strong for our child. I wanted to plant the seed in her mind in case the plan worked and she needed to play the part of a grieving widow, until I could get her and take her away to start anew.
It was at breakfast that Emmett asked to see my letter. We had never shared letters, but I trusted him, so I slid the letter across the table and he opened it, looking at it briefly before passing it again. "Don't open it till you're in the john in the workhouse."
I nodded to him and slipped the envelope into my pocket. When we arrived at the tailor shop I set to work and when my break time came, I asked to use the bathroom, walking into the door-less stall and pulling out the letter. Tucked in it was a small picture of a triangular raft and a note at the bottom, "About 50, 5 foot pieces."
With the folded letter back in my pocket, I flushed and ran out for a quick smoke. When I arrived back at my table, I started cutting the sections out as I normally did. The bolts of rubber were not uniform, so there was no way of knowing how many 5 foot sections a bolt would hold. The fact that the sizes the sections needed for the raincoats were the same as the ones we needed to make the raft was providence in my mind. The rubber, unlike the denim we'd been using to make jeans and inmate uniforms didn't have to be sectioned off, but the rubber was too cumbersome if cut while still attached to the roll. Everything was working in our favor it seemed.
That first day I was able to sneak two pieces of the sections off, sitting them under the bolt where they could easily be explained if they were found before I was able to sneak them out.
At lunch, I was able tell Emmett about the sections and he already had his answer. "You take your break at the same time every afternoon, when you come down tuck them into your jumpsuit and drop them in the hamper on your way past me."
"You think it'll work?" I couldn't believe it would be that simple.
"We're both thought of as reasonably good. Your guard always pays closer attention to the troublemaker on your break anyway. It'll be fine."
When the break came that afternoon, I did just what Emmett said and it went off without a hitch. Now we just had to figure out the next part.
Two evenings after we started our plan, we were realizing that we'd need somewhere to build this raft and soon. That came a little harder, but it was a furry visitor that brought an answer. Around 2am, the squeaking started and I was pissed at the loss of a night's sleep, but when it scurried out the front bars I looked around in shock. Sure enough, there was a tiny crack with another mouse squeezing through it as I looked over in the darkness. It was so simple, it just might work.
I brought up the possibility of chipping away at the cement around the vent, which was something that could be replaced after we made it through and Emmett confided that he'd been wondering the same thing. We knew there were more cells behind our own, as we could hear the other prisoners when they spoke or flushed their toilets, but when looking in the grate of the vent, it was total darkness. What lay between our cells and the next ones was what we needed to find out.
About 2 weeks and a total of 20 panels later, Emmett found me at lunch, a determined look on his face. "I know how to seal up the raft."
I looked up from my food with wide eyes. "How?"
"You know the all-purpose rubber cement they have in the different shops?"
He smiled at me and looked around before he continued. "It's waterproof. They use it to repair the washing machines and that's part of my job now as I'm handy and strong enough to move the machines. I have access to the supply room so I can swipe some. There are boxes of it; it's the kind of stuff they go through like crazy."
"Perfect. Did you take a spoon?" I asked. We decided it would be the best thing to try to chip at the cement with, that would get us in the least amount of trouble if we were caught with it.
"I did. Tonight, we begin the second phase." Emmett's eyes flashed behind me and I saw him eyeing Jasper. "He may cause us a problem. He's eyeing you a little too close. Until we are able to break through, I say we quit taking things with us. Don't want to get caught with a cell full of supplies if he orders a spot check."
"You don't worry about him." As I looked back at Jasper I realized that although Emmett shouldn't worry about it, I was not about to let my guard down, even if he was my cousin.
Each night for weeks we quietly scrapped away at the cement, all the while listening for the rounds made by the guards. We would poke the cement chips that fell away into the grate to hide any evidence of our plans.
Emmett and I would take our rec time and play chess quietly in a lone corner of the yard where the others wouldn't hear us; we would compare how far we had gotten. After two months, we were able to pull the grate from the wall. We didn't venture into the vents the night we cleared the last of the cement away, as it was getting extremely late and if we wanted to function well in our jobs the next day, we had to have some sleep. We had come too far to slip up by alerting anyone of our lack of sleep. The rounds would become more frequent and that was a chance neither of us were willing to take.
At lunch the following day, it was hard to keep our excitement under wraps. We were once step closer to being with our families. I took my seat and waited for Emmett to finish getting his food and join me. The other prisoners had left me alone since Emmett and I had become friends. I never had to worry about those blokes giving me a hard time, and as long as Emmett and I talked in the hushed tones that were expected of all prisoners, I didn't have to worry about anyone being a fink either.
Jasper walked by and looked at me long and hard before stopping to talk to another guard a few feet away.
"Whitlock! How is that wife of yours?" The CO asked him, patting him on the back. I tried to keep my eyes down, but my ears open.
"Alice is doing well; our little one is due to join us within the month. We are overjoyed at the moment though to welcome a new member to the family," Jasper said, and looked briefly in my direction. I heard Emmett sit down beside me, but I didn't acknowledge him. I needed to hear more and I hoped that Jasper would keep talking.
"That cousin of yours have her baby?" I felt my heart speed up and tears prick at my eyes. I quickly rubbed at my face as if I were merely tired.
"That she did. She had a beautiful baby boy late last night. He is happy and healthy and my cousin made it through everything just fine. It's a miracle of miracles that she had gone to visit her in-laws last night and simply was too tired to make it home after dinner. She has all the help she needs right now. Alice and I are going to go see her this weekend and meet the little man." There talk faded to the other CO's family and Emmett was looking at me like I had a third head. I had never explained to him that Jasper was my cousin. I knew I could trust Emmett; I just wasn't comfortable with anyone knowing.
"I have a son," I whispered to myself. "I have a son. I don't even know his name."
"What are you talking about, Edward?" Emmett looked confused for only a moment before his eyes widened and looked towards Jasper briefly before turning to look at me.
"That cousin he keeps talking about is Bella, isn't it?" He whispered even lower than our normal hushed voices. I just nodded. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I don't know, Emmett. He asked me not to. He didn't want to lose his job and I didn't want to be known as a relative of a CO."
"I get that, Man. Well, congrats then. He said they were both healthy. I'm sure she will write you soon. We will get out of here. You will see him. We open the grates tonight."
Knowing we were going to be opening the grates, and possibly leaving the cell if the space was big enough, I knew we needed something in our beds to look like they were occupied. While I was working, I quickly sewed together some scrap pieces of pillow cases into two round almost ball like pieces. We would have to take the case off our pillows and stuff them and fluff the covers enough to look like someone was under them, but it was dark at night and the guards didn't look too close.
The guards walked us all back to our cells and proceeded with lock down. Each name was called, each cell was checked and a loud clicking signifying each door was locked ended the routine. The guards walked away and I knew I had exactly 4 minutes before anyone would be coming by.
"Hey, Em," I whispered through the bars.
"Take this and stuff it." I quickly thrust my hand at an odd angle out of my cell, keeping it as close to the wall as possible, to where he could reach it. He took the sewn up cloth from me and we both quickly retreated to our beds.
The first guard came by on his check exactly 4 minutes after lock down. It was like clockwork. He made it through our cell block and then the next guard would take a walk through in 40 minutes. I heard the distinct tapping on the wall that adjoined my cell to Emmett's and I knew it was time.
I quickly and quietly removed the grate and peered in. It was dark, very dark. I reached my hands in and couldn't feel any walls except for the one holding the grate. I leaned further and further until I realized I could climb right in.
Emmett had realized the same thing but his size and the hole from the grate were not in harmony. I had to stifle a laugh as I watched his thrash around silently trying to make it through. He looked up at me with a glare and I went and pulled on his arms as he wiggled through.
I went back toward my hole and reached in to grab the grate and pull it against the hole to hide it. Emmett saw what I was doing and did the same.
Looking around was difficult as it was rather dark, but a few sparsely spread out lights allowed us to see the outlines of things in the space. It looked like an access tunnel. There were pipes and wires everywhere.
"Explore?" I whispered so low I leaned in toward him hoping he would hear. He nodded his head and we followed the path to the right of our cells. After about ten minutes, we came across a ladder leading up. Emmett didn't take the time to decide if we should or not, he simply started climbing. We were in this together so if one of us got caught, we both did. I followed him until we reached a heavy metal hatch door in the ceiling.
"Does it open?" I asked quietly.
Emmett slowly began to turn the handle and open the hatch just a crack. We stood on that ladder waiting to see the passing by of guard's feet or to be caught for 20 minutes. When there were still no signs of anyone moving about except for us, Emmett opened the door and we slinked through.
We were on the roof of the building but it seemed that this portion was out of view from the watch tower. We truly had found a way out.
Not wanting to push our luck for one night, I continued to whisper while talking to Emmett.
"This looks like the perfect place to work on the raft. From the looks of it, no one has been in those tunnels or this roof in a while."
"I think you're right. When we get the raft built, we can find a way to climb down from here, on the back side there so the tower doesn't spot us. Let's get back. Tomorrow we can put together the pieces we have and from there start collecting. This is going to take a while, man. We don't want to press our luck and get too cocky." I agreed and we made our way back to our cells. I helped shove Emmett through his first, and then entered mine.
"Hey Em?" I whispered.
"Lay off the meat loaf from now on," I said through concealed laughter.
"Shut it, ya cad!" He replied with his own laugh.
It took another 4 months to get all of the strips of rain coat we needed and get the raft built. Everything was set and ready to go. All we were waiting on was Emmett to declare he had studied the water enough on our rec time and time on the roof building that he could trust himself to guide the raft to land.
Letters from my Bella never stopped and she even sent pictures of our son. He had hair on his head at birth she said and it was the same color as mine. He had my eyes too. Bella told me she named him after me and I couldn't be happier to carry on the Masen name.
I sat at the lunch table slowly eating my meal and read the most recent letter telling me how Little Edward had finally slept through the night. I pulled the picture from my pocket and stared at it as Emmett sat down.
"We are ready." That was all he said. He ate his food, which was a significantly smaller portion than he used to consume and it had been all fresh fruit and vegetables. Emmett had slimmed down slightly, but I hadn't had to pull him through the grate in a few weeks.
I kissed the picture in my hand before putting it back in my pocket. Tonight was the night. I would see my family soon.
We left our cells just as we had every other night, except this time, we knew if all went well we would never be returning. The only sound to be heard was our footsteps as we went through the tunnel and to the ladder. The hatch opened up to reveal a calm and clear sky, which would work well for us.
"Over there." Emmett pointed to the north side of the roof where there were a few drainage pipes leading down the building.
"We go down here, then straight through the brush, under the water tower, and head off there."
We adjust the ties that were holding the raft to Emmett's back before shimmying down the pipe. We both jumped when we were close enough and landed with a thud. Eyeing the area carefully, we headed out. When we got to the water tower, we realized that we had been spotted. A guard was running in our direction.
"SHIT!" Emmett cursed before dropping to his knees with his hands on the back of his head. I copied his stance and waited. If we didn't fight, we would get sent to the hole and eventually let out.
When the guard got closer, I realized that Jasper had been the one to find us.
"Edward! Get up! Now!" Jasper whispered harshly as he got close to us. "You too McCarty!"
We both stood quickly and looked at my cousin curiously.
"You two have exactly 20 minutes before the next guard goes on duty. Take this," he thrust his hand at me and gave me a 20 dollar bill. "Where are you going?"
"I don't think you should know, Jasper. That way you can deny any knowledge if it ever comes up that we are family." He was taking a huge risk and I didn't want him to take anymore of one.
"No, I mean which way in the water. The current is traveling towards the bridge, if you can find it; there is a bag by the east side of the bridge near Marin Headlands." He pulled me into a hug before telling us to hurry.
We ran as fast as we could toward our launch point. When we got there we saw that some wooden planks had been left there and knew that Jasper had been a step ahead of us the whole time. We had decided to get the wood when we approached the trees as we didn't have a way to hide any on our person while collecting the materials for the raft.
We took turns blowing up the raft and when it was full, we put it in the water and slowly got in. The tide was fast and swept us away from our own personal hell within moments. Emmett took the lead on steering as he had the experience and strength to get us through these waters. The moon lit the sky and reflected off the water brilliantly.
The water sprayed us and chilled us to the bone. After a few minutes, we realized that we were losing air and while Emmett paddled away, I began pumping air from my lungs back into the tiny boat.
After two grueling hours, we reached land under the bridge. Emmett and I collapsed onto the shore and directly in front of us, by the stabilizing beam of the bridge was a green duffle bag. Emmet and I laughed at the sheer luck we seemed to have.
I pulled open the zipper and found the clothes that Jasper had stashed for us. Changing out to the jean suits we'd worn for a year, we slipped into our civilians and taking the few items we'd brought with us in a pouch made of a small piece of the rubber from the raft, we headed up to where we could find the road. After getting up to the highway leading off the bridge, we walked for a good mile before the lights flashed behind us. Running to the edge of the shoulder, the car came to a stop and we both froze as the driver got out.
"What are you boys headed?" The older gentleman asked as he stood by his car.
"We're trying to get to a phone. Our car broke down a ways back and we have to get home to our wives or they'll skin our hides."
The older man laughed and motioned towards his car. "Come on, then. There's a truck stop a few miles down the way. You can make a call to the Misses' and there's a diner you can stay in while you're waiting."
"Thank you, sir." I spoke up, not wanting to seem off to the man who was helping to put those first necessary miles between us and Alcatraz.
"Don't mention it."
Emmett got in the front seat and I slipped into the back. It was a quiet ride as we made it the first few lengths of the journey. As he pulled into the stop, we left him behind and ducked into the diner. Walking over to the counter, we ordered some coffee and looked over the menus.
The waitress walked back over and smiled to us. "Would you boys like something?"
"A slice of apple pie." Emmett asked, making me chuckle.
"And for you, Joe?" She looked at me warmly, but all it made me do was wish it was my Bella asking me that question.
"I'll have some blueberry pie."
She shuffled off to get our pie as we sat, trying to figure out what we were going to do from here.
"We need to figure out our names." I whispered to him and he nodded.
We sat around thinking and sipping our coffee until out pie arrived. The confection was the best thing I'd eaten in a while and it took everything within me not to inhale it.
"What'll we do about papers?" Emmett asked, I'd been thinking about it too, but it would take a little time to work that out, time we didn't have to be hanging around here.
"Do you think you can make it to New York without them?"
"New York?" Emmett looked at me oddly, but I simply nodded.
"It's a big city, the kind of place we could get lost in, but it's also a port city, we could catch a ship headed anywhere if we chose to."
"I'm not sure, I suppose we could manage it, we'd just have to be smart about the travel. But Rosie's out in the middle of nowhere, no one would notice her missing for a while. How are you going to get Bella away, your whole family is going to be wrapped around her tight."
"I'm going to have to let them contact her. Let her wait it out otherwise they'll get smart to us. How about we wait it out for a bit together? Get our papers drawn up somewhere and then split up from there?"
"Good idea, now we just have to get going."
Waving over the waitress, we paid our tab, all $.64 of it, and headed off. In the parking lot of the large rest stop there wasn't much around, but as Emmett tried to secure us a ride, I went and bought a few supplies at the station shop.
Walking back to Emmett, he was leaning against a livestock truck. "Didn't think you'd mind the smell?" The smile on his face was too broad for his face as he jabbed at my city life before nodding to the bag.
"Grabbed some essentials."
Without another word, the driver of the truck walked up and told us to jump in back. We did just that as he began to drive north. Emmett and I spent the next five hours plotting possibilities when the truck lurched to a stop.
"Sorry boys, this is as far as I go. After I make this stop, its home to the wife." We hopped out and thanked the man for the ride, grateful to have 300 miles between us and San Francisco with no one the wiser.
We continued on by foot, up in the middle of nowhere, nothing but farms out this far from the cities, which was all the better for us. We needed a place to lay low. "Okay Em, if we're going to wait this out together, then I'll have papers for you, Rosalie and the boys before you head to meet them."
"How will you manage that?"
I sighed, hating to remember back to that time in my life, but glad it would come to some use. "Back when James was after my Bella, there was a time I thought about us just picking up and leaving everything behind, so I learned how to forge papers pretty well, but the bastard got too close for comfort before we were ever able to."
Emmett nodded solemnly as we continued to trek across the land. During the evening, as we split a candy bar I'd managed to swipe while buying what was most important at the moment. "Emmett, we need to fix our looks so we don't get caught."
"Well, you haven't cut your hair in a while so you'll look different from your photo, but what can I do?"
"This." I thrust the bottle of hydrogen peroxide at him and he grimaced. "Bella's mother used to use it to lighten her hair; no one will recognize you as a blonde, especially with the weight you lost. We just need to find somewhere to squat for a bit and we'll be golden."
Emmett shrugged and ran off, coming back from the river a little while later looking sour. "The sun will make it get even lighter the next few days, Rosie did this once and she was cursing something awful when her work outside made her hair go almost white."
I laughed at the image and then we kept going. We walked all through the night, trying to hunker down during the day as to go unnoticed, but as the sun began to rise, we came upon a small farm. Hungry as anything, we decided to pop in and see if we could beg a meal.
As we made our way along the main road, we came across a man in his fifties. He had this impossible blonde hair and pale blue eyes, but as he dismounted from his horse, I was struck most by the friendly smile. "Morning, you boys lost?"
"Actually, sir, we're trying to make our way home, but we're mighty hungry." Emmett nodded and extended his hand to the farmer as he shook both of ours.
"Well boys, what do you say to breakfast with me and my wife, I'm sure she will have enough to feed you both."
We thanked him and followed him along the road. When the house came into view, he led us into the dining room and introduced us to his wife Esme as she sat the food in front of us and asked our stories. Not offering much, we told them that we were trying to get back to our wives, but that we weren't sure how long it would take us. It was Carlisle that opened his mouth and answered our prayers. "Well, boys, this is the time of year when we turn to migrant workers for help, we hire of few boys to keep us afloat as we normally are too small a farm to keep a staff. If you could spare the time, Cullen Farms would be happy to put a roof over your head, food in your belly and a few sawbucks in your pocket. What do you say, can you stay for the next two months or so, or will you be leaving us this afternoon?"
The idea of having the time to get everything settled and a little extra money for when we went to get our families was too good to pass up, especially since we needed the heat from the search for us to die down.
Taking the Cullen's up on their offer, we got down to work and settled into our routine. Never asking more than our names, which we had decided on rather spur of the moment as Patrick for me and Anthony for Emmett, we became Esme's Paddy and Tony, the two sons she and Carlisle never had.
For the next three months we worked the land and helped the Cullen's get through the harvest that would help them through the winter with their cows and chickens. Every night we sat by the radio and listened to the news, which always featured something on the escaped convicts from Alcatraz and the search for their remains; as the raft had washed ashore empty. I knew it would be too dangerous to try to contact Bella, so with the news report one day in early November alerting us to the end of the search, we knew it was time to leave. Warden Volturri was too proud to ever admit that we had successfully escaped, so the biggest manhunt in San Francisco's history ended with our bodies being lost at sea.
Saying a tearful goodbye to Esme, who wished that we could stay on, and with a firm handshake and a small wad of cash from Carlisle, the $80 each that was all he could afford to pay us, we set off. I'd spent my nights in the beginning practicing the forgery skills until I had a set of papers for the Cullen brothers and our families. We were all set with the birth certificates and saying we were from California, it would be easier to pass off in the beginning, until we built a history of our own that would be what peoples judgments were based off of.
As I split up from Emmett at the bus station that Carlisle drove us to, Anthony Cullen, as he was now calling himself, agreed to meet me with his family on Liberty Island on December 20th.
One final hug sent him along on his way as I ventured up North towards Washington. I hitchhiked to Portland, making that the stop for my next task. Knowing that I needed to plan this next part of this very carefully, I tried to place a call to my parents, knowing to do so it would go through Bella's switchboard office. There were twenty operators working at a time, so I knew it may take a while. Fourteen tries later, I heard the sweetest voice I'd ever known on the other side of the payphone. "Hello, East Seattle Switchboard, how may I direct your call?"
"Bella, I need you to stay calm, it's me."
I heard the stuttered breathing before she quickly regained herself. "Where can I reach you tonight?"
"Union Station 4239, in Portland. I'll be waiting for your call."
The line went dead and I steadied myself, I was almost home, as home was wherever Bella was.
I waited at the station the few hours until the phone rang around 8pm. "Hello."
"Edward, is it really you?"
"Yes it is, love. Listen, I need you to do me a favor. You cannot stay in Seattle. I want you to pack up and tell my family that you're going to visit your family in California, that you want everyone to meet little Edward. Pack up everything of value, but travel as light as you can, and pack me some things as well. Then take a train to California, but get one that stops here, I'll be waiting for you here one week from today, meet me by the South Entrance. I love you."
"I'll see you in a week."
The next week ticked by painfully slowly as I waited for the 4:45 from Seattle to arrive. I had wasted no time, feeling I'd stayed here too long, getting us on the 6:50 to Chicago, where we would switch for a train to New York. I paced the floor, until the announcement came. I waited as she came into view, pushing the large stroller as the porter sat her bags down and ran off to find his next charge. I saw her look around, the large suitcases at her feet as she rocked the stroller slightly and my chest tightened. Walking over to her, I collected myself and then stood in front of the stroller as she looked up and gasped.
"Sweetie!" Hearing her voice in person was a joy only outdone by the warmth of her arms.
"Hello Josephine, I've missed you so much." She looked confused for a moment then blushed at the name; I chose it knowing her favorite book was Little Women, and that the name was unique enough to suit her. I kissed her properly, ecstatic to feel her lips on mine again. It was short lived however, as the most beautiful sound came from the stroller.
"Mama. Mamamamamama." I looked at Bella with stunned eyes and she smiled.
"He started a week ago." It was hard knowing all I'd missed in the almost two years I'd been away, but in that moment as Bella handed me our son for the first time, it didn't matter, because I would be there from now on.
"Hello Robert, it's your daddy." My son squirmed in my arms, but quickly settled down as he drifted back off to sleep.
Bella and I grabbed a quick meal at the café before boarding our train.
Five days later, we stepped out of Grand Central Station with nothing more than the things we could carry. We were able to find lodging in a boarding house downtown and for the first few days we reveled in being together. Soon enough, I looked for work, which being so near the holidays was easy enough. I was packing items in a department store while my Jo and Robert stayed home.
It was after Thanksgiving that I began to wonder about Emmett. I hoped we'd see him next month, as he was as close to a brother as I'd ever known. Bella had adjusted well to the change, saying I was all she needed, but I felt bad that I'd taken her away from everything so we could be together.
One night as we lay in bed, I opened up to her about how I felt I'd let her down, but she quickly put an end to that. "Edward, you are my entire life. It nearly killed me when they said you had died, so never feel bad about what you had to do to come back to us. We're together and that's the only thing that matters."
I never again questioned my actions, but instead looked forward to the day when she would meet Emmett and his family, so we would have someone to understand our burden and share the load.
When the day had finally come, we bundled up and got on the boat to Liberty Island. I was a wreck the entire trip, fearful that he wouldn't be there, but as we got off the boat, Bella passed me the carriage and latched onto my arm, grounding me in what was important.
Just as we got inside the pedestal of the massive statue, I heard a distinct twang in the question asked by a young child. "What does it say, dad?"
My heart soared as I heard the friendly voice that had saved me from the darkness of the Rock many times answer the question. When he reached the middle of the poem, we stopped behind him for a moment as he continued to read, "'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses-'"
I spoke with him as he finished the line, "'Yearning to breathe free.'"
Emmett spun around and smiled at me, crossing the few short feet and clasping me in a hug. "Welcome to New York, Anthony."
"It's good to see you, my brother." We turned back to our families and began the exciting process of getting to know each other, because no one else would ever be able to know our story.