Even the Broken
Disclaimer: Orange is the New Black belongs to Jenji Kohan and co. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison belongs to Piper Kerman.
AN: I'd like to use House Tyrell's words for this fandom: Growing Strong. Let me know what you think of this story and thank you!
It's a sweltering Sunday when she visits Alex for the first time after she's settled with the whole big fuss of returning to society. Litchfield is still unfriendly as ever, and the guards in the visitation room look bored as usual. Whatever. They don't matter.
The woman sitting across her does.
Alex's eyes shift to the simple band of gold on Piper's finger then back to her face again. Congratulations, I guess, she says.
Piper swallows. Thank you.
Alex looks away, her figure illuminated by the faint light from the window. Gorgeous, Piper thinks, but she quickly chastises herself for ever looking at someone else when she is already married.
Have you forgiven me?
Alex turns to look her in the eye, and Piper suddenly dreads the answer.
I've never forgotten.
She finds out that Alex still has ten years to serve from the total twelve years sentence.
For their first anniversary, Larry brings her to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. This is the highest elevation in the whole New England, he says proudly—proud of what? Of discovering a mountain that has always been there? Of discovering the fact that it's the highest in the Northeastern area? Such childish enthusiasm, Piper thinks, but she does love being outdoor, surrounded by nature and the people she loves. It's been a long time.
She remembers looking out the window to see the majestic, snow-tipped Mount Fuji stand gloriously with Lake Ashi as its foreground, and on the bed behind her Alex stirs from her sleep only to hog the blanket to ward off the chill of a Hakone morning.
The bed is cold, Alex says. Come back.
She misses Japan, she guesses.
Visitors are only allowed two hugs in the visitation room, one at the beginning and one at the end of the visit.
Alex never gives her a hug. Not even once. Not even a handshake.
She misses that, too.
She wants that.
One day, Alex appears with a freshly looking cut above her left eyebrow. I slammed my head on Myra's door, she says. Bitch needed fixing all the time.
She can't help chuckling. At least you weren't locked inside this time.
Alex flashes a small smile—the first one in what feels like ages. I'd still be the hot one who's locked inside.
Yes, you would, she says without thinking, then blushing after realizing that she has said it out loud.
If anything, it makes Alex smile a bit wider.
On another day, Alex happens to appear with what looks like a fading hickie on her neck, and Piper feels even sicker than when Larry drops a hint about children in their pillow talk.
She brings Alex a copy of Eat, Pray, Love on her next visit. Alex is skeptical about the book, but she accepts it nevertheless. We know better some of those places than this author, Alex reasons.
Her journey is different from ours, she replies. She's looking for herself.
Alex is quiet for a moment before saying, You're right. We had everything back then we didn't have to look for anything. Then she raises a hand as if to stop Piper from responding. Forget it.
She wonders if Alex knows how impossible it is to forget. It isn't fair to Larry and Alex, she knows, but she is damned to never be able to stop.
After all, Alex uses to be her life.
Three years into marriage, she finds that all her letters to Litchfield returned and her calls rejected. They are no longer responsible for Inmate Vause, they say. And Piper goes into panic. Is she transferred to another prison? Does she get in trouble and moved to a higher security level prison? Why doesn't Alex tell her anything? Is it because she's not as important as she thinks to Alex as Alex is to her?
Give it a break, Polly says. Perhaps it's the best for you both. You have your life, and she has hers—no matter where she is. You'll get over her eventually.
No, she finds herself saying. No, I can't.
Please don't leave.
Funny. Now she's the one who wants to scream those words out loud.
Another three-year passes, and she hasn't heard anything about or from Alex. She considers writing to the Warden of Litchfield or to someone in the Department of Justice, but in the end she doesn't go with it. It isn't until she chance-meets Officer Fischer in a supermarket during a Thanksgiving break. The kind officer is the first to smile and greet her, and that's why Piper can't help asking her if she knows anything about Alex.
Fischer looks uncomfortable. She looks around a bit as if to make sure nobody is around to eavesdrop. DEA got her. Then she adds, They specifically asked for her.
In the seventh year of marriage, Larry files for divorce after months of emotionally exhausting quarrels and fallouts.
She's too numb to process anything and too tired to even cry. I'm sorry I can't be a good wife to you.
You're a good wife, he says, equally tired. I just can't stand being second anymore.
There's a postcard addressed to her office three months after her divorce is finalized. It doesn't have the sender's name, but it bears a picture of the legendary Manneken Pis and a Brussels stamp.
At the back, a simple, familiar writing is drabbled. She'll recognize that handwriting every time.
It reads, 'Hope you're not too pissed off and return to your old temper.'
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
She laughs so hard that her co-workers come running to get her, wondering why she's doubling over on the floor in a mess of tears and laughter.
A few months later, another postcard is waiting for her in her new office in London.
It's a picture of white sand beaches sprawled across lush small islands. Tahiti, she realizes.
It reads, 'I get here first.'
In a clear Boxing Day morning—which in itself is a rarity, Piper turns on the TV to watch the news about the capture of a West African drug kingpin after a tense four-hour, joint US-British raid and shooting in a flat in Kingston upon Thames. She dashes out, grabbing her car key, forgetting that she still has a few hair rollers on her head and is still in her pajamas, because her flat is just 20 minutes from the raid location, and perhaps—perhaps—
The area is already closed and guarded by heavily armed police, and bystanders can only watch from afar. She sees some handcuffed men being herded into police units, and her heart never beats this fast as she scans the crowd.
Only to end up disappointed because she can't find who she is looking for.
Piper holds back a sob as she drives back to her flat, and she remains glued to the TV the whole day, still hoping to catch a familiar face on the screen. Even a glimpse will do. Stupid, she knows. Hoping like this is stupid.
Or perhaps not, because the next day her bell is rung and a stem of white lily is left on her porch. Attached with it is a silly card picturing Santa Claus dressed only in plaid boxers like O'Neill's.
The card reads, 'You're beautiful even with hair rollers and pajamas.'
She gets a copy of the Archbishop of the Church of England's Christmas Address from a co-worker. I think you'll like the message, her co-worker says, because you always look like you're pretending not to be sad.
The Christmas Address reads, 'Even the broken, the bent, the bowed deserve a chance of salvation. Hope is not lost. Love is not lost.'
She calls Larry before New Year's Eve. He's doing well with his oncoming book, and he has been out for a couple of dates with an NYU assistant professor. Piper is happy for him. For everything that has happened, he deserves happiness, too.
Oh, and Larry?
I think I can confidently say now that I know a real life Jason Bourne-like person.
On January 2, her bell is rung again.
The door opens to reveal the woman she has always been thinking of.
Alex doesn't change much through the years. She keeps the length of her hair similar to when she is in Litchfield. Yet the lines at the corners of her mouth and on her forehead are more visible, and her eyes, too, seem aged. The duvet bag she carries on her shoulder shows marks of wear, a silent testament of the long, hard won battle she has fought.
Piper opens her mouth, but words betray and leave her on her own.
Then Alex smiles, really smiles, soft and somewhat remorseful.
- fin -
 In Orange the memoir, the West African drug kingpin that real life Alex works for is captured in London on a US warrant.
Even Orange the memoir doesn't tell what happens to the real life Alex after Piper serves her time. My idea of Alex being offered a deal by law enforcers comes from the deal between the real Frank Abegnale, Jr and the FBI. You might want to watch Catch Me If You Can to know further.