I went back into what the bailiff referred to as the “pen” and took my place between the murderer and the drug dealer. They both turned to me with envy and annoyance in their eyes. I was going home at the end of the day; they were going back behind bars.
The druggie lifted her eyebrows at me and stuck her tongue out, licking her dried lips. I cringed involuntarily, which had her giving me a crooked smile that showed all of her yellow and chipped teeth. “That guy representing you is hot. How much does he charge an hour? Are you fucking him? I would fuck him. I bet he’s expensive and good in bed. That hard-ass judge denied us all bail, except for you.”
I felt my eyes widen and I looked at the woman on the other side of me; she seemed as interested in my answers as the drug dealer.
I cleared my throat and shifted uneasily on the hard wooden bench. “I didn’t pay for him, so I don’t know how much he charges, and no, I’m not sleeping with him. I only met him yesterday.” Which didn’t explain why everything inside of me turned gooey and warm when he unleashed that grin of his. Or why I instantly felt better when his elbow briefly touched mine. It was a totally inappropriate reaction seeing as the man was a decade older than me, noticeably from a different background and social class than I came from, and had only ever seen me in jailbird orange while he was trying to keep my ass out of the slammer. My hormones must have missed the memo that the rest of me was in deep shit and Quaid Jackson was the guy holding the shovel to dig me out.
“I would fuck him.” This from the possible murderer on my other side. I wondered if Quaid knew that the entire female criminal population of Denver considered him fuckable.
I clicked the metal snapped around my wrists together to distract myself and muttered, “I don’t think we’re exactly his type.”
I imagined guys like Quaid preferred women that didn’t know what real handcuffs felt like when they were used for their intended purposes, and I couldn’t see him getting all hot and bothered over a chick with pink hair, even if mine was quickly fading and turning more rose colored as my natural dark brown took over at the crown.
“Girl, I’m every guy’s type if the price is right.” The druggie licked her lips again and I wanted to curl in a ball and make myself as small as possible to get away from both of them and the way they were talking about my attorney. I didn’t like it. Furthermore, I really didn’t like that I didn’t like it.
Luckily, there were only a couple of cases left and soon enough we were all being herded into the van and heading towards the jail. I was dreading having to sit behind bars again, but instead of taking me back to the cell with the scorned spouse, I found myself in a room similar to the one I had spoken to Quaid in the day after my arrest. The clothes I was wearing the night of the robbery were brought to me and I was told to change and sit tight.
I happily shed the jumpsuit and scrambled back into my own clothes. I never thought torn jeans, a stretched-out cotton T-shirt, and battered Vans could feel like the most expensive evening gown with designer heels. It wasn’t haute couture, but man, did it feel luxurious compared to the scratchy jailhouse jumpsuit. There was even a hair tie in my pocket, so I wrestled my thick and colorful hair up into a messy top knot, then did what I was told to do and sat tight.
It was only a few hours, but it felt like days. I counted the tiles on the floor, memorized the pattern in which the flickering fluorescent light above my head was going to flash, and I had plenty of time to go over every single fuckup I had made on my way to this point. The right thing was always there, always right in front of me screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” and I was always the defiant moron that ignored the best option and went chasing after my downfall. Now that I had officially caught it, I could confidently say it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Falling meant I had to land eventually. The falling was scary and endless, but the landing … that was where things really got rough. That was what left a mark.
I should have known the second I met Jared that he was no good. There was no reason for him to pursue me. I was a recent college dropout, didn’t have my own place, had no job; too much Netflix and junk food had left my tiny frame far rounder and curvier than most twenty-year-old dudes chased after. I needed my dad to come save me when my last boyfriend ditched me, so I knew there was nothing about me that screamed, “She’s a good catch.” Even with all those marks against me in the girlfriend material department, Jared had pursued me relentlessly.
At first he was sweet and charming. His low-key, stoner vibe worked for me, so did the fact that no one seemed to like him. The more my dad glowered and grumbled about Jared, the more attracted to him I became. My dad was my hero, my idol, my best friend, but the more he disapproved of the men in my life, the more determined I was to hold on to them. It hurt to do that, but the hurt was what I was after. Eventually, Jared and I were sleeping together and I was spending more and more time at his place, even as it became clear he enjoyed more than the occasional marijuana high. I convinced myself Jared was a recreational drug user, that he liked to dabble, but it was a lie, one that I couldn’t even tell myself with a straight face as time went on.
I begged Dad for a job at the bar because I needed space away from the drugs and the abuse. Right there, I should have been smart enough to walk away from the man and the situation, but I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. Jared loved having me work at the bar. It meant free food and booze, and whenever he was short when he had to pay his dealer, he thought it meant an easy place to snatch some cash. I hated stealing. It made me feel dirty and ugly, but I hated having to explain a black eye and a fat lip even more. I didn’t have the words to try and justify why I stayed. I sure as hell didn’t have the words to describe why I froze and did nothing the night of the robbery.
Eventually, after what felt like eons and eons left alone with my own sour thoughts, a uniformed cop showed up and told me to follow him. I stopped at a desk and was told to fill out a bunch of paperwork. I signed it all without reading it, then took a sealed plastic bag that was pushed my way; it was filled with my belongings from the night of my arrest. My cell phone, as well as my purse, were in the bag, so I took them both out, turning to see my father getting to his feet from where he was sitting in a small plastic chair.
Without a word, I hurled myself at him and wrapped my arms around his waist. He squeezed me back and I felt him rest his furry cheek on the top of my head, squishing my bun down. I inhaled his very-dad scent, which always reminded me of his bike and his bar, letting his familiarity and strength prop me up under the weight of everything pressing down on me.