The last twenty hours had been a blur of chaos and questions; an endless stream of increasingly infuriating questions. Channing, the police, the other guards, the inmates...everyone had questions that Vera didn’t have the answer to, including herself.
Channing had asked her to work a double and she’d agreed, only so some of the other staff could get some rest before returning for morning shift. She certainly wasn’t doing it to help that arrogant piece of shit. Funny how he needs me now, she thought as he had asked the question.
Jake had stayed on as well and tried to send her home at the start of night shift, but she’d refused, partly out of spite and partly because she knew she wouldn’t get any rest if she went home anyway. He’d finally given into her suggestion that he go instead, leaving her in charge and promising to be back in the morning. His pathetic attempt to show kindness and apologize, yet again, made her want to gag.
Eventually sleep had granted it’s reprieve and the prison had gone quiet. She was glad to finally have some peace and solitude. It was nearly 3am and after checking in with the night shift in the other units, she had found herself en route to H5, pulled by a compulsion she could not fully comprehend. She had removed her shoes before approaching to slip soundlessly into the cell.
The room is eerily silent but she feels an odd comfort in this tiny pristine space. She steps to the small cot and takes a seat, exhaling with a soft sigh; it’s the first time she has sat down in hours. Leaning back against the cold wall, she feels the welcome chill of the bricks burning through the layers of clothing to soothe her tense shoulders. With a deep inhale she closes her eyes and welcomes the meditative silence.
In her half-sleep state, her mind falls to the horrific image of Joan hanging from the basketball hoop in the yard, face mottled red and blue, as life slowly escapes from her body. The next image is her bloodshot eyes as they bolt open when she gasps for breath, her haunting voice echoing “Why did you do it?” as the image fades. Vera awakens with a gasp and leans forward, resting small elbows to knees as she tries to regulate her heart rate and breathing.
She’s asked herself the same question a dozen times since the event and still isn’t entirely certain of the answer. She only knows that in spite of everything the wretched woman had done, she couldn’t bear to watch her being strung up to die. Sheer panic had settled in her bones as she watched the horror play out from behind the gate and she’d acted as a gut reaction. Despite the woman being hell-bent on destroying her, Vera still didn’t think she deserved to die, and definitely not in such a heinous manner. She remembers the relief she felt when those coffee eyes flew open and Joan took a gasping breath. Then there’s the guilt, that sickening feeling that she’s never managed to shake; knowing she too had some responsibility in Bea’s death, in Joan’s main reason for wearing the teal.
With a heavy sigh she rises from the bed and paces about the room. It’s odd looking through Joan’s personal things, knowing how fiercely private her former mentor is and she’s surprised at the twinge of sadness she feels when she realizes it doesn’t matter anymore. Joan’s gone, and even if she’s caught, she likely won’t be back here again. That thought generates an odd mix of sadness and satisfaction. Within the walls of Wentworth, Joan’s days were numbered, but outside, or at another prison, perhaps she would be safe.
She runs an idle finger across the books lined alphabetically along the desk, skimming the titles as she goes. She stops at one that catches her eye; the author known to her, but only in name- Sappho. Curiously, she pulls the book from the desk and opens it, skimming slowly through the pages. She flips to a page nearly halfway through the book and a small slip of paper wafts out, fluttering slowly to the floor. She picks it up and instantly recognizes the writing as her own. It’s a short ‘thank you’ note she had written to Joan after the night she had brought dinner to her and her mother, nearly a year ago.
It strikes her as odd that Joan would have kept it, especially after she had set out to systematically destroy her. Compelled by curiosity, she looks to see what is written on the bookmarked page.
…You burn me…
…Again and again…because those
I care for best, do me
Once long ago I loved you, Atthis,
A little graceless child you seemed to me
………but you have forgotten me…
Like the sweet-apple reddening high on the branch,
High on the highest, the apple-pickers forgot,
Or not forgotten, but one they couldn’t reach...
Tears begin to well in her tired eyes as the words sinks in; she blinks hard against them as she registers their meaning. Is this how she felt about me?
Carefully she places the note back into the book, closes it and tucks it into the waist of her pants before slipping silently back out of the room, tears now streaming fully down her face.