"I'm done with all of this. I quit." I head into the lift elevator and I shut the door and don't look back. As my legs begin shake I hit the emergency stop button. I sink to the floor and sob like a child. The sounds echo off the walls and come from deep within my soul. I'm vaguely aware of the fact that everyone can probably hear me, but I do not care. Shame runs through me and uncontrollable anger follows. Almost as soon as I was down, I was now on my feet, screaming and pounding on the walls with my fist until they are raw and bloodied.
Taking a breath, I unlatch the stop button and I ride down the rest of the way in my pervious silent state. The guards who wait for us say nothing. I'm sure they'd been briefed over what I'd been through in case I had some kind of unraveling during travel. Little do they know they actually just missed the show. It seems like forever I sit alone in the van before Shea and Erica come down.
Instead of one of them sitting in the back, Erica and Shea sandwich me between them. As the van pulls away they each rest their temple against my forehead. Erica's cool hands lightly cover my raw hands, soothing them. Not one person in the van says anything, no one ever will. When we get back to Maybelle, I get sent to the infirmary where the doctor wraps my fingers. Shea waits outside and follows me back to my cell. He says nothing, doesn't try. Because there is nothing he can say to make things better. Once I'm lying on my bunk, he gives Shakes a warning glare and leaves.
I got fetal and close my eyes. I realize then it was big mistakes to do so, because all those images of Damien gleefully torturing the co-ed that had been at bay were now playing on a loop. I bolted upright, almost giving myself a concussion in the process and began to pace in a tight circle, over and over again.
"Cut the shit, Doc. You're making me dizzy." Complains Shakes, I glare but halt and lay on my bunk again.
I don't dare close my eyes but that doesn't stop the images from playing. I am not a religious man, but I think about co-ed and hope she is at peace far from Damien's torture. I am not so lucky; I won't be finding peace anytime soon. Nor do I deserve to. I don't think of myself as a bad man, but I am arrogant and look where it got me and the price I paid.
It was too high a price and not one, but two innocent girls were dead my hands. I never meant to hurt anyone, but I was young and foolish. My genius was my undoing. I want but don't know how to make amends for the pain I've caused.
I manage to somehow fall asleep but wake with piercing screams filling my ears. I was ashamed to discover they weren't just the girl's, but my own as well. In the morning I am sent to infirmary again, they prescribe me a sleep aide. It's not a usual practice but when you keep the whole cell block awake, they try to quell a riot before it starts.
A week passes, I'm barely eating and in a zombie like state from the sleeping pills. I refuse to go on my "work release" because I can't bear to see Julianne or potentially put another innocent at risk. I don't see Erica much but I know she's keeping tabs on me.
Shea comes around and he opens up a bit, talking about his girlfriend and his interest in business and making something of himself once he gets of Maybelle. It is a surprise to me but good for Shea for wanting to improve his life. I wish him the best. He then tries to get me to shake off at least some of my stupor, knowing I may never be whole again.
I am lying on my bunk when a guard appears. "You have a visitor." He says simply, leaving no choice but to follow. I have no idea who it could be: Ray, Julianne, my mother?
To my surprise, it is none of them but it is a middle aged couple sitting an empty table near the back of the visiting lounge. They had an air of sadness surrounding them. I swallow the lump that has formed in my throat.
"Lloyd Lowery?" the man asks. I nod numbly. "We're Rebecca Grayson's parents." he continues. My legs give out and luckily my ass connected with the seat.
The co-ed, I heard her name at last. Damien never spoke it; he used it as another way to torture me. Her mother reached out across the table and covered my hand with hers. Tears flooded her cheeks as her husband spoke.
"We spoke to a Julianne Simms over the phone and she told us what happened to you and how hard you were taking her death. We just want you to understand one thing. This was not fault. Please, take care of yourself, you're still alive. We want you to do that in Rebecca's memory."
"I-" I start to speak and my voice cracks and I weep openly again. They both embrace me and we cry for the loss. A loud buzzer sounds and it signals the end of visitation. Though I never get to tell them what I wanted to, I know we have an understanding. I will never see them again but I will do what they ask and honor their daughter's memory.
As three more days pass, I try to eat better and I turn to journaling my thoughts to aid in lightning the darkness. I am passing on another one of Shakes' homemade brew when a guard appears at my cell again.
"Lowery, you have a visitor." He leaves me to follow again and I do. I am surprised to discover Julianne sitting in the same corner I met with Rebecca's parent's days earlier. It's almost as if she knew it would have an impact in me. She seems nervous; she's wringing her hands and not making eye contact.
"I know you probably don't want to see me." She begins.
Inwardly, I sigh. I really don't know how I feel about her right now. I harbor not anger or ill will, I just can't understand why she sent a mixed signal and lied to me. I heard the relief in her voice when she discovered I wasn't in the body bag but when she took me back to the office, she hadn't said a word the entire drive.
"I want to tell you how sorry I am." She continues, afraid I'll send her away. "I should have spoken when I took you back to the office but I felt so guilty about how relieved I was I didn't know what to say without making it seem like Rebecca didn't matter."
"You spoke with her parents." I remark.
She nodded. "I did, for myself and for you. Shea and Erica told me how bad you were doing and I couldn't bear it if I lost you. I lied to you when I told you I only had friendship feelings. I still had feelings for Ray but I realized after he chewed me a new one for telling him what happened leading up to your abduction, that he wasn't the one for me."
She sighed and dragged her fingers through her honey brown waves."You never spoke to like I was just a screw up, even when I gave you every reason to. You never raised your voice to me." Her voice shook as she reached out and framed my face with her hands.
"You cherish me. I realize that now. I'm sorry about everything. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
The buzzer sounded and Julianne turned to leave. She pressed something into my hand and hurried out the door. I opened my hand and in it was a pen. It was inscribed.
'Lloyd, I love you. Always, Julianne.'