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RED

By Merrylea Bullock

Drama

Chapter 19

The next week or so passes unbearably slowly – and every day is exactly the same.

Well, it changes a little. We have arts and crafts instead of movies some days, but it's really not all that different.

My long-haired bunkmate disappears (released, I think) and is replaced by a big scary looking kid with a crew cut who doesn't speak English and makes the upper bunk sag down at night.

I see the gas cloud thing a couple more times, enough to convince me that either I really am demented or it really exists.

Jared becomes unbearable. He and his annoying voice follow me everywhere. It's like every time I walk in front of him, he takes it as a challenge. I race him practically every day and tie with him, if I'm lucky. No one sticks up for me, of course, but it's not like I expected them to. They seem to consider Jared and his girls as losers and if they want to victimize another loser, that's fine with everyone else.

Mostly, I think. About Tanya and Wood and my parents and everything. I kinda get lost in my own mind sometimes...it's scary. I wish I had a book or something to distract me from myself.

I'm pretty much staring at the wall, thinking about what kind of career I could get with a conviction on my permanent record when a cop walks in and calls my name.

I blink and stand up. “Yeah?”

He jerks his head. “You have visitors.”

Around here, you only get visitors if you're not a troublemaker. I guess they decided I'm not going to kill anyone.

The cop leads me to the room you always see in the movies – little desks from wall to wall with bulletproof glass and phones on either sides.

Rock and Melissa are standing on the other side of the glass, looking nervous and upset. Rock is drumming on his collarbone and smiles weakly at me when I come in. Melissa is hugging the stuffed animal I gave her for Christmas (a little egg shaped thing covered with red and blue squiggles) and rushes to sit down at a desk and pick up a phone.

I sit down opposite her and pick up my phone. “Hey Missy.”

She bursts into tears. “Dash...”

“Hey, shh...” I've seen this girl cry way too many times. “It's okay! I'm okay, you're okay...nobody got hurt or anything.” I'm surprised by my own optimism. “It could be a lot worse.”

She sniffs and wipes her eyes. “It could be a lot better.”

I half-smile and nod. “Well yeah.”

She takes a deep shuddering breath and seems to calm down. “Are you really okay?”

I shrug. “For the most part, yeah. I haven't gotten beaten up or anything.” I don't mention the way my body aches after a race with Jared. No sense making her worry. “What about you? How's school and stuff?”

She squirms a little. “Oh...okay, I guess. Owen and Cheryl have been spreading nasty rumors about you...”

I roll my eyes. “Of course they have.”

She looks down. “People are such jerks.”

“Hey,” I wait until she looks at me again, then I smile. “It's going to be okay. I promise.”

She tries to smile back. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” She is so beautiful... “Lemme talk to Rock, okay?”

She nods and stands up, handing the receiver to him and hugging her stuffed animal again.

During the brief moment when no one's sitting on the other side, I catch a glimpse of my vague reflection in the glass. From what I can see, I don't blame Melissa for crying – I look awful. My hair is mussed up, there are dark circles under my eyes and I'm a lot paler than I was. Has it really only taken a week for this to happen?

Rock picks up the phone. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

I can see faint bruises on his collarbone...the poor guy must be really stressed. “It's worse at school than she said.”

I glance back at her, but she won't look at me. “What do you mean?”

“People won't really talk to her anymore. Or me. They talk behind our backs and occasionally, someone will ask us what you did.” He shakes his head. “Probably Owen and Cheryl.”

“And that evil cat,” I realize that sounds crazy, so I force a laugh to make it a joke and then change the subject. “How's Wood? Have you guys been to see him?”

“Yeah...he's just kind of...numb. Didn't really talk to us. He didn't seem mad, just...” He shrugs.

I glance at the cop, who's been standing in the corner the whole time and feel my pulse quicken slightly. “And what about my mom?”

“What?”

I force my voice to stay casual. “My mom. Y'know. Tanya. Have you seen her?”

His eyes widen in understanding, though there's a subtle look that says you never told me it was your mom's name! “Yeah. We've seen her a couple of times. She's...scared, but she'll be all right. She's changed a lot.”

“Yeah.” I feel a wave of relief wash over me. At least Tanya's safe. “She'll be all right though.”

He nods.

The cop clears his throat – time's up.

I glance back at him and nod, then turn back to Rock. “Take care of Missy.”

He smiles weakly again and nods.

“And my mom. Careful with that book.” Hopefully, that's cryptic enough not to be suspicious. I hang up the phone and stand up.

I glance back at them as the cop leads me out of the room. They're headed out the opposite door...his arm is around her and she's leaning into his shoulder. I feel a little pang of envy, but it passes. If they're happy, then I am.

Sort of.


Another couple of days pass.

I'd keep track via tally marks on the wall or something, but there's already about five other sets already and I don't think I'll be in here that long anyway.

At least, I hope I won't.

Not much changes...they've been on an arts kick lately and a lot of our rec time is spent drawing or sculpting etc. I guess that's the most harmless and convenient activity they could think of.

I'm not complaining. It works well for me. Jared can't race me in the art room and the worst things he does are shoving me with his shoulder when he walks by – which honestly, by now, is nothing to me. I can usually move fast enough to duck.

I draw Tanya, mostly, crumpling up the paper afterward so no one can see it. My sketches of her and of the other animals I've seen come out a lot better than anything else I try to draw, but I don't show them to anyone.

Right now, I'm working on the...thing that Tanya turned into. I didn't really get more than a glance at it and my drawing's not very good. If anyone saw it, I doubt they'd even know what it is.

“Daniel Chamall?”

I crumple it anyway. “Yeah?”

A guard stands in the doorway...I think he's the same one who supervised my conversation with Rock and Melissa. “Your lawyer's here.”

Whaddya know, I have a lawyer.

I follow him out, tossing the crumpled sketch in a garbage can. Hopefully no one goes through the trash very carefully. It doesn't matter, I remind myself. I'm already in here, what else could happen?

He leads me to a little office-type thing...it's got a door that can close (wow, I guess they really do trust me) and a table and a little security camera in the corner. He gestures for me to go in and stations himself outside the door.

I walk in and shut the door behind me.

“Hi, Dash.”

I look up, registering the woman at the table for the first time. “Amelia?”

She smiles. “Last I checked.”

“You're a lawyer?” I sound stupid, even to myself.

“I passed my bar exam last year.” She stands up and offers me the chair.

I take it. “Then how come you work with Wood?”

She waves a hand. “I do legal stuff for the company, but anyway – ” She crouches next to me. “I'm here to represent you.”

I kind of understand that, but there's other things on my mind. “Why hasn't Wood come to see me?”

“Dash, he's been busy. Please, can we concentrate on your case? I only have so much time with you.”

I sigh and nod, but I'm not going to forget it.

“Okay, so...” She opens the folder she's been holding under her arm. “Your charges were keeping an illegal animal. Did you?”

I nod.

She shakes her head. “Oh geez....”

“She was dying!” I burst out. “She was dying and I took her home and she didn't hurt anyone and – ”

“Shh,” She puts a hand on my shoulder. “I only mean that this trial is gonna be really public.”

“Why?”

“Dash, think about who your parents were! This is gonna seem like you're carrying on their work.”

“Oh.” That thought never even crossed my mind. “Yeah.”

“The media will be everywhere and will either try to make this into a huge sob story or decry you as a criminal. Either way, it won't be fun,” She stands up again and leans on the table. “Okay, so tell me everything that happened from the beginning.”

I hesitate. I hadn't realized until now how many illegal things I've done. “Well...it kind of starts with Owen. Owen Chessy, he's a guy who lives on my street...he's kind of top dog in my neighborhood and you don't want to offend him. Because if you do, he'll ruin your life...he's the one that called the cops on me.”

I go on from there, telling how much I hated the fight, how I found Tanya, how I took care of her – I leave Rock and Melissa out of the whole story though. They didn't do anything wrong. I mention Cheryl and how nasty she is and the other Nonextants in the park and how Tanya changed right before I got arrested...I didn't realize how much there was to the story.

Amelia waits patiently and nods. When I'm done, she gives me a sad look. “You're a good kid Dash.”

That's what everyone says, but I'm still in prison.

“I'll do what I can with what you gave me...we'll probably be able to play up your goodness and that kind of thing. Win the jury's sympathy.” She straightens and tucks her folder under her arm again. “I'll meet you next week, okay?”

“How long am I gonna stay in here?” My voice sounds smaller than I mean it to.

Her eyes soften. “Your trial is scheduled for February 4th. Hopefully, after that, you won't be staying here. If we don't win, though...about five months.”

I look down. “That's not...too bad.”

“Hey,” She puts her hand on my shoulder again and I look up. “We're going to win.”

I smile weakly. “I just wanna be out for your and Wood's wedding.”

She looks at me tearfully and hugs me hard. “It's going to be okay.”

Everyone says that too, but I'm still in prison.

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