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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(7)

By:Jessica Hawkins

Even me.



The days after Tiffany's visits usually dragged, but this time was worse. She'd caught me off guard when she'd broken unspoken protocol and mentioned Lake. My self-control got slippery. Her name was everywhere. I saw it in books, heard it on the news. A guard had an upcoming vacation to Lake Tahoe. An inmate's daughter was starring in a school production of Swan Lake.

I went to the library to distract myself. Since I'd been twelve credits short of a criminal justice degree before all this, I helped with some of the guys' cases and they paid for that. But combing through legal books reminded me of my early days in prison, when I'd done nothing but try to understand how I'd gotten here, so my mind drifted to that night in the truck with Lake. It was the first time I'd thought of it in weeks. I left the library to work in the yard, mixing and placing concrete in hundred-degree weather until I thought I'd pass out from the heat. All that for fifty cents an hour, half of which went to the victim's compensation fund, but at least I'd been forced to learn a lot on the job. More than I would've jumping from crew to crew like I'd been.

A few nights after Tiffany's visit, following a full day's work, I went to my cell for lights out.

Wills sat on his bunk, short legs dangling over my bed as he sniffed the air like a rat. "You still got that jackbook?"

"No." I'd traded my porn for Cup Noodles and cigarettes.

"How about we swap-pictures of my girl for yours?"

"Not unless you want to take a trip to the infirmary."

Tiffany's Polaroids and catalogue tear-out were hidden in my legal paperwork with my letters. Just to make sure he hadn't fucked with me, I went and squatted in front of my locker, opening my files to check that everything was there.

"I've been looking at the same titties for months," he pleaded. "I need new material."

Lake's name found me again, her pretty scrawl tempting me from the corner of each of her envelopes. If I could get one message to her, it would be to stop sending the fucking letters. She needed to know they made things worse for me. I was strong enough not to read them, but I couldn't bring myself to trash them like I should. The smart thing would've been burning each letter as it'd arrived. Having them here was dangerous. The guys, they couldn't know about Lake. They didn't need that kind of lethal ammunition against me.


I stood up. My body ached, my muscles fatigued from a rough few days outside, but hard labor kept me sane. Focused.

Wills picked up his feet as I ducked to sit on my bed with the letters, and he belched a familiar tune. "It's the theme song from Growing Pains," he said. "You know that show with the curly-haired kid?"

Madison had probably watched it. I couldn't remember. I'd never talked to Wills about my sister, though. Or anyone in here for that matter. I lay back with an arm behind my head, staring at the underside of Wills' bunk. The springs glinted from the fluorescent lights, winking at me like stars. I could be back at the camp pool with Lake if I'd just let myself go there. Her curious hand inching across the pavement toward mine. Even with my eyes on the sky, I'd heard her shallow breathing, sensed her nervousness. I'd wanted to find out exactly what thoughts ran through her head, what had made her come looking for me. What had prompted a quiet, almost shy girl like her to check out Lolita from the library and then tell me about it. I was pretty sure she'd talked herself into everything she'd done that night. Asking me questions about Madison. About myself. Leaning in to try and kiss me.

She was seventeen now.

I pushed the thought away. Her age didn't matter. She could've been twenty-four like me, but I'd still be a convict with a "suspicious" background as my lawyer had put it. A minimum-wage construction worker. The son of a murderer.

"You think it'll affect my daughter, me being gone the first few years of her life?" Wills got in a philosophical mood some nights. "Like babies just know that shit? Or you think they're as dumb as they look, all goo-goo ga-ga?"

It made me think of Madison as a baby. I was six when she was born. I'd been an okay brother. I could've been better. Looking back, after her death, there were some things I regretted. I'd stay out after my baseball games instead of coming home for dinner. I'd hide her annoying flute, even though she needed to practice for a recital. I hadn't considered that my little sister might not always be around to kick out of my room or tease for watching cartoons.

"I think babies know," I said.

"But how?" He sounded sad.