THE SEVENTH CROSS

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EPILOGUE - ONE YEAR LATER

The past year was surreal. Mikey stood just inside the gate that would grant him freedom. He merely had to walk through it. Claire had backed up her promise in spades. She knew the right people, and within months, His case was brought before a review board, and now, a year later, he stood at the door granting him his freedom.

He had fought Claire on this. This place was his life. He was living his God given purpose behind these walls. He was changing or at least contributing towards change in so many of the inmates. Surely this was God’s calling on his life. But still, how could he ignore the one thing everyone in this place desired. Freedom. Even though many were unable to handle it once it was given, they still craved it, and he had to admit, so did he. But, he was scared. In here he was safe. He had to laugh at the absurdity of it all. With a final sigh, he stepped through the doorway and into the light. “Please God, help me find my way.”

There they stood. Claire and O’Malley, with smiles as big as their hearts! They hugged, they laughed, and they cried. But this time the tears were tears of joy!

These two had left nothing to chance. O’Malley had plenty of room at his place. Mikey could stay with his as long as he liked. Truth is, he was probably more excited about it than Mikey. That old house was pretty darn lonely since his wife had passed.

And Claire? Well, she needed Mikey. She’d already cleared it with Pastor Rick. She and Derek had already set a tentative date; confirmation would depend on Mikey’s release date. Tomorrow they would confirm it. Mikey would perform the wedding. Her Dad and Mom would give her away. Janice would be her bridesmaid. O’Malley and her boss would be the best men. And Joline would serve a few roles; that of flower girl, as well as songstress for them as they entered the chapel, and “unofficial” photographer.

Mikey, while indeed honoured at Claire’s request, was seriously stressed. He would do as she requested. But it would take every once of jam he could muster. And even though he’d only been out a few days, he’d been getting calls from former inmates wanting to meet. And that would violate his parole.

He knew he’d be tested. And he didn’t know if he’d pass. That was the only life he knew, and being out here was scaring the hell out of him! Why didn’t Claire and O’Malley just leave things alone? What happens if I blow this?

What Mikey didn’t know was that Pastor Rick was already hard at work on his behalf. He had long wanted to get involved in prison ministry but time and money never aligned at the same time. But with Mikey’s knowledge of the prison system and of the true needs of the inmates, this may be exactly the right time!

He hadn’t even mentioned this to Mikey yet in case it went nowhere. But after getting some positive vibes from the council, Rick decided that he and Mikey needed to talk. The pay would be substandard, which was no big surprise, but the possibilities to make a difference were endless. And that’s something Claire had stressed over and over to him. Mikey was fighting getting out of the prison because he believed God was using him exactly where he was.

So Rick made the call. They agreed to meet at the Church. Mikey assumed Rick wanted to go over the details of the big day fast approaching. They made small talk and discussed the upcoming nuptials as expected. But then Rick dropped the bombshell. Mikey was stunned! “Are you saying that I can still work at the prison with the inmates, except that now I’ll get paid for it?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s not quite done yet but I had to share this with you. Both of us praying can’t hurt! Of course, you won’t be living at the prison but I’m confident we can work out something that’ll give you as much access as you need. You get to continue your work but there’ll be a lot more resources available to you. You in?”

“Am I in? Oh my God! Yes! Thank you God!” Mikey had to tell Claire. He was like a kid! And that felt so good. He had to tell her in person. “Claire, we need to meet. Right now.” Claire was instantly alarmed. “Oh my God! What happened?” Funny how we always assume the worst. “No, no, it’s all good. Can we meet?” “Ok, I’ll be wrapped up in an hour and I’ll drop by your place.” “Don’t be late!” He yelled into the phone before unceremoniously hanging up.

When Claire finally arrived Mikey was practically bouncing off walls! “What’s come over you?” “Guess. Come on, just try and guess.” Yep, he was definitely a kid again. Wholly crap! ” Mikey, spit it out!” And finally, he told her and she pulled a Mikey! Now there were two of them acting like a couple of teenagers. That’s when O’Malley walked in. “What the heck of you two been smoking?” They started to giggle and before long, he had joined in. He had no idea what he was giggling about, but it sure felt good!

So they told him. “Thank you God! Mikey, I have to tell you, I was starting to get worried. I knew you were getting some calls, and as much as I hate to say it, the only people you know are either in jail or were in jail, and with your parole on the line, I was having my doubts whether this was going to work out or not. This is fantastic news!”

It was! But it would take time. Mikey was finding life on the outside a whole lot harder than on the inside. And O’Malley wasn’t around all the time. But they were, and they weren’t letting up!

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