I thought about whether to tell Hunter I was leaving. He would probably want to come with me for support, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted him with me.
Hunter would be as sweet and as supportive as anyone could ask, but for this I really just wanted some space. This was between me and Marco.
I settled on writing a note and leaving it on the kitchen counter. Unless there was some crazy delay, I would be back by lunch. It would be just like I’d slept in. Our problems would be over by that afternoon.
Once the note was written, I headed out.
WHAT’S MINE TO KNOW
The sky was overcast as I drove to the prison. There were a lot of people on the road, especially for a Friday. Sitting in the stop and go traffic gave me time to think. That was the last thing I needed.
I hadn’t seen Marco since the trial, at least not in real life. My dreams had been haunted. Now that nightmare was going to be made into a reality, and I didn’t know if I was ready. At this point, though I didn’t have a choice. I needed to understand why my mom had died. If this could get me that, then I would put up with anything.
Traffic finally cleared as I got past an interchange and began the final trek toward the exit for the prison. I caught myself grinding my teeth and opened my mouth wide, trying to get some of the tension out. It was no use. As soon as I closed my mouth, there I was, grinding again. Eventually I stuck my tongue in between my front teeth to try and stop my jaw clenching. That helped.
I thought again about Hunter. He might be a little mad when he realized what had happened, but at the end of the day this was between me and Marco. A glance at the clock told me it was just a few minutes before seven-thirty. I would probably get back before ten-thirty. At worst he was going to miss me for an hour or two. That wasn’t the end of the world, Hunter would get over it.
This was just something that I needed to do. When Hunter had come to rescue me after the mess we had left in Studsen, I thought that all we needed to build a future together was to face our problems. We had made a lot of a progress, but clearly there was still something I hadn’t gotten over. Going to see Marco would fix that. I’d be able to move on, and then I could go back to helping Hunter face his MS. He needed me and I needed to get over this one last thing. He was counting on me, I couldn’t let him down.
Finally, the exit came and I got off. The road to the prison was littered with signs to beware of hitchhikers. Before I’d even thought about it, I locked my doors. The land was flat and treeless with nothing but fields in every direction.
After checking in at the gate and weaving my way to the correct lot, I parked my car. This was it.
Trying to steady myself, I emptied my purse of everything except my two forms of ID—my license and my Arrowhart ID—and the note with Marco’s ID number on it. I double-checked everything, then put my purse under the passenger front seat and stared out the windshield.
Visiting hours started at seven-thirty, meaning I could go in whenever I was ready. I watched a small family filter in and steadied myself to do the same.
I thought for the millionth time about what he was going to say. Why had he done it? What did my mom ever do to him? The questions had eaten away at my dad until he’d been driven crazy. I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.
I opened the car door and tried to get out before realizing I had left my seatbelt on. My chest feeling slightly bruised from the sudden jerk of the belt across my chest, I sat back, undid my seatbelt, and got out of my car.
The parking lot was poorly maintained. Weeds sprouted from cracks in the asphalt. I caught motion from the corner of my eye and nearly jumped. When I noticed what it was, I shook my head. It was just a cat. Its black fur shimmered in the early morning light. For a split second I had the bizarre thought that it was the same one I saw around Lake Teewee before I fell in.
Taking a deep breath, I shook the idle thoughts out of my head and walked across the parking lot to the visitor’s entrance. I was actually doing this. My heart thumped against my light jacket as I worked to steady my nerves and opened the door.
Even though I had arrived only ten minutes after the beginning of visiting hours, there was already a line of a dozen people waiting to check in. I got in the back and waited, my shoulders tense.
The drab beige walls and brown linoleum floor weren’t unexpected, but the decor was depressing all the same. All but one of the people in line were women. Several of them had brought small children.
Everyone there was very excited about their visit. The emotion in their voices as they shared the pain of having a loved one incarcerated made me feel awkward. Then one of them spoke to me.
“Is this your first time?” the woman asked. She had dark hair and wore a lot of makeup, but her eyes were kind. By my guess she was in her thirties.
I nodded, unable to say anything more.
“It’s not so bad. They’ll check you in and pat you down, then bring you into a separate room. You can even give your man a little kiss and a hug if you want. It ain’t like the movies with glass separating you or nothin’.”
My stomach felt queasy. I knew she was trying to help, but what she said only made me more uncomfortable. There was no glass? I was going to have to sit in the same room with Marco and not even have a pane of glass to separate us?
She cocked her head and looked concerned for a moment. “He’s not in segregation or anything is he?”
My throat felt dry and shut tight. I shook my head and dug through my reserve of willpower to try and be polite. I attempted a response but the words just wouldn’t come out. My knees shook, and I steadied myself against the wall. Something oily and slimy crawled in the pit of my stomach and I wanted to throw up. I thanked myself for not eating anything that morning.
She put her hand on my shoulder. “Oh gosh, you’re shaking. I’m sorry if I made things worse. Good luck with your visit.”
With a pat on my shoulder, she turned and went back to waiting in line.
Chills ran up my sternum and down my spine. I’d already been on a knife’s edge, but this was nearly enough to tip me over.
The line moved faster than I expected and suddenly I was up next. I dug through my pockets as the woman at the visitors desk waved me over.
She was heavy-set with short dark brown hair and wore brown wireframe glasses. To her credit, when she spoke it was obvious she was making an attempt to be cheerful.
“First time?” she asked.
“Okay, I’m going to need you to fill out this form and give it back to me with two forms of ID. You can just cut in line when you’re done. Pens are over there.”