Decree of Hope

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When I got here they took my clothes and gave me a black and white striped outfit. It was iconic like a stereotypical jailbird costume. On Halloween, it might have even been cute if it wasn’t so faded. They took my shoes and made me wear jail-flops. I burst into tears. “I’m not wearing used flip-flops. That’s gross.”

“Sweetheart, it’s either that or you can walk around barefoot on this pristine floor. A man pissed on it yesterday. What’s your preference?”

Basic biology. Think Kailee. Where is bacteria most likely to live? In the fabric of jail-flops or on the hard floor. Oh, like I know. “Why can’t I keep my shoes?”

“They could be used as a weapon,” the butch guard said.

“Yeah, because I’m so thoroughly trained in martial arts.” I grinned like the Cheshire cat. “But I do have a really high high kick.”

The nicer blonde lady beside Butch laughed. “They could be used as a weapon against you.”

“Umm… isn’t that why there are guards?”

Butch laughed so hard she snorted. “Is this your first time through here or somethin’? We aren’t your security. We really don’t even care if you get your face smashed in. Our job is to keep you on this side of the door.”


The nicer lady said, “You might not want to act so disgusted by the uniform and the flops. They tend to sense new blood, and your hair is perfect.”

I smiled. “Thank you. I get it cut once a month in Dallas.”

Butch snorted again and the blonde said, “I wouldn’t say things like that.”

I sighed. “Okay.”

The blonde took me back to the cell after I’d been strip searched, wanded, and robed in the jailbird get-up. Some people went to a nurse’s station. Some went to a lounge with two TVs, but I got the cell. “What are you in for?” she asked.

“Arson, I think. But I really didn’t do it.”

“I hear that all the time and it’s usually not true, but for some reason I believe you.”

“I’m afraid of matches. I’ve never tried smoking because I don’t want to play with a lighter. And the whole premature wrinkles thing.”

She laughed. “My name is Jill. I’ll come and get you for your mug shots once your paperwork is processed. It’s probably a good idea to stay quite while you’re back here.”

“Don’t I get a phone call?” People on TV always got a phone call.

She grimaced. “Not yet. After your mug shots.”

I nodded, and my eyes teared up.

She leaned down over my ear. “You can’t do that. Not here. You don’t want to look weak. Some of these girls are career criminals. We try to send the drunks to a medic, but I’m sure we miss a few.”

I gulped past a lump in my throat and commanded myself not to cry. But it didn’t work. Instead, I was sobbing again.

They took my phone. I didn’t wear a watch not that they would have let me keep it. I didn’t know how long I’d been sitting on the dirty concrete floor. There were two women—not girls—in the cell with me and two bunks on each side of the room. The problem was they had each claimed a set of bunks. So I sat in the floor with my back against the yellow stone wall that I thought at one time might have been white and cried into my arms. Occasionally, I peaked my eyes out of my arms, looking for Jill to take me for the mug shot so I could call Abe. The smarter thing would be to call my dad. He’d recognize the number and since he couldn’t have his daughter in jail, he’d make sure I was out of here ASAP. But I had to call Abrahem. I was so horrible to him at the graduation. And if he thought I burned a mosque… I wasn’t sure he would believe it, but the night he met me I was spray-painting “Ragheads” on his garage. I could count on him. He would make sure my dad got here, and he needed to know I didn’t do it.

Jill came around the corner, but I didn’t get my hopes up. The last two times I had seen her, she stopped at a different cell. At this point I’d be happy to go with Butch who scared me but had to be better than hiding in the corner from my cellmates. The two of them were now exchanging stories about gangs and armed robbery. Jill stopped in front of our cell. God, please let her take me. The thing was if Jill was here to collect either of my cellmates, the other would be bored. And I was afraid to find out what that meant for me.

“Kailee, let’s get your mugs.” She put her keys in the cell and slid the bar door open.

“Hey, why’s blondie get an expedited trip to the phone call?” one of my cellmates asked.

“Because I said so,” Jill said.

“Bitch! I’ve been here longer than she have!” My other cellmate screamed.

Jill smiled. “Regulars don’t get special treatment. You know that, Simone.”

I slid past them on a mission to get to the other side of these bars as quickly as possible, but the white woman with a hole in her nose—I thought a barbell normally stuck out of—grabbed my shirt. I squealed as I hopped over the threshold, the striped t-shirt slipping out of her hand.

“Tina, behave!” Jill snapped. She led me down a hallway through a set of doors and to some small office that resembled the place you get your driver’s license from.

The man behind the counter said, “Go stand behind the white line, and don’t smile.”

I let them snap a photo of me in this outfit I wouldn’t be caught dead in so I could get my one phone call. The guy behind the counter took the picture and Jill led me to the phone.

“This one is free if it’s an Austin number.”

“It’s not.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry but more serious crimes don’t usually get to spend much time in the lounge. If you’re still here tomorrow and you have good behavior they might let you then. There is a pay phone in the lounge you can use as much as you want, but you have to call collect. If you’re not calling Austin, you’ll have to use this one.”

Great. I had to call Abe collect. After what I’d said to him, I hoped he would pick up. But it didn’t matter. I had to try. I wouldn’t let him think I did this. That would destroy whatever chance we had left. He didn’t tell you his sister is getting married. You have no chance.

“Why can’t I be in the lounge? Those women scare me.”

Right. I was a serious criminal. I made my collect call. When I heard his voice, I broke into tears again, because I was in jail wearing dirty flip-flops. He wasn’t remotely upset about anything I’d said in the past couple of days. He only wanted me to quit crying and give him my dad’s phone number. “I didn’t do it,” I whined.

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