Friday, May 20, 2011

CBWR? Chapter 99

Author’s notes:
I always liked the story 101 Dalmatians, so this also works with my OCD. 
Yeah, this got too long.  Two more chapters to come, unless the next one gets too long, or…oh hell.  It’s still almost done.
"The state will hear from Mister Cullen."
Chapter 99
I scratched at the back of my head and tried not to yank at my hair too much.  I was practically sweating bullets, and wished I had skipped breakfast. 
“What if they don’t…”
“We’ve been over this,” Irina’s calming voice attempted to reassure me.  “This is your first parole hearing.  The chances of being granted parole is not great, so you have to be prepared for anything.  You’ve got good people on your side here, so just say what you need to say, and we’ll see what happens.”
I nodded.  I knew she was right, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to tear my hair out while I waited.  I didn't know what made me more nervous - the fact that the direction of my life could drastically change over the next couple of hours or because I would be in the same room with Bella.
In person.
She was going to be here any minute, and seeing her in the flesh – not through the glass in the visitor’s cubicles – was just about as exciting as the idea of getting out. Since that day five years ago, I hadn’t been in the same room with her - not really, anyway.  Not somewhere where I could actually maybe touch her.  My heart pounded at the thought.  
I tried to remember what Irina told me yesterday.  I knew the chances of early parole weren't great, and I didn't want to get my hopes up.   As much as that was true, I was far more concerned about Bella.  I didn't want her to be disappointed when they said no.  She was going to see it as a huge set back, and I didn’t want to see the hurt and frustration in her eyes.  She had such high hopes, and I was far more terrified of her being crushed if parole was denied than the idea of another six months.
As if she could hear me thinking about her, Bella walked in the far side of the room along with the public attorney assigned to my case, my social worker - Nahuel Martinez, and Frank Banner – the head of the work program in the prison.  She was dressed in a modest kind of jumper dress and looking all kinds of beautiful.   Our eyes met for the briefest moment before the door on the opposite side of the room opened, and five people walked in, including the warden - two men, three women.
I swallowed hard, and tried to keep my focus towards those who were to decide my fate.  The woman in the center chair, who said her name was Emily Young, opened up the file folder in front of her and started to read.
"Parole hearing for inmate 2427289, Edward Cullen. Served six years, seven months of a ten to fifteen year sentence for second degree rape.  Five hundred twelve days earned for behavior, been involved in extensive counseling for the past five years..."
She went on a bit, and I tried to at least look like I was paying attention, when I was really shaking in my fucking boots.  I was beyond terrified.  I’d faced death dozens of times, but never felt like this before.  I didn’t feel this scared when I walked into this place.  I guess that kind of went to show how much I had learned.
Okay, so my hopes were up.
Fucking sue me.
"The state will hear from Mister Cullen."
As many times as Irina and I had talked about it, and as many times as I had practiced it in my head, I still wasn’t ready.  I stood up slowly and tried to wipe the sweat off my palms as I rose.
“I…um…I’m Edward Cullen…”  Okay, fucking brilliant start.  “Sorry…you know that…”
Shit – this was not starting well!
I tried a long slow breath to calm myself down so I could focus, and then I tried again.
“When I got here I was in a pretty bad place, and I had done something really…um…horrible.   I understood that when I plead guilty.  At the time, I didn’t really want to hurt anyone…I just didn’t understand.  Once I realized it, I knew I had to pay for what I had done.”
“I’ve spent my time here trying to figure myself out,” I continued.  “My counselor has been really awesome for that.  She’s helped me figure out how I got screwed up in the first place, and I’m really trying to make sure that I don’t get back in that place again.  I want to go out there and be a real person…um…with a wife and a house and maybe even a whole family some day.  I want to get a real, legitimate job and just do things they way you’re supposed to do them.”
I took one last, long, deep breath and looked at the parole board straight on.
“I don’t plan on ever being back here again.  I have a simply incredible woman who’s agreed to marry me despite what I’ve put her through, and I just want the chance to be the best husband I can be for her, the best person I can be for society, and the best man I can be…for myself.”
I mumbled something like thank you, and then quickly sat back down before I fell over.  I felt Irina’s hand on my arm trying to steady me and glanced up to her smile.  I guess I hadn’t done too badly.  She spoke next, talking about my progress in therapy and how far I had come since she first met me.
“The state will now hear from the victim, Isabella Swan.”
I turned to her and watched her stand slowly.  She glanced to me for a second, but then straightened her shoulders and stared into the faces before her. 
I had no idea what she was going to say, and out of all the words spilled forth from her mouth – talking about everything I had accomplished while I was here in prison, from helping to support her, getting my GED, to going to therapy – it was the last few sentences that would live with me forever.
“Edward Cullen today is not the same man who raped me all those years ago.  The person who raped me was nothing more than a scared little boy who had no idea how to relate to people or how to care about them.  He is a different person today, and one who I believe will continue to learn to grow and love in the years to come.  He had paid for his crime against me, and I have forgiven him.  He now deserves the chance to prove that he can be the loving, generous man who has always been locked away in his heart.”
She sat back down and held her hands clasped together in her lap, looking straight down at the table.  It was killing me to not be able to go to her – to hold her and tell her I was there for her.  I closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself doing it, hoping that if I thought about it hard enough it would eventually come true.
Banner talked next about how much I had done in the kitchens – improving the nutritional value of inmates’ meals without increasing their prices, and helping them to earn some sort of high grade for such shit from the state.  I barely heard any of it, because all I could hear was Bella’s voice echoing in my mind, and all I could see was her picture-perfect profile out of the corner of my eye.
The parole board looked back and forth at each other, leaned in and made some hushed comments, wrote things on papers to pass around, and eventually seemed to come to some sort of consensus.
Way too soon.
Emily Young looked up and me as she unfolded the paper in her hands. 
“Edward Cullen, in light of your heinous crime as well as the handful of infractions during your time here – one of which was serious – I am inclined to not consider you as a candidate for early parole.”
I felt every muscle in my body tighten up, and I couldn’t breathe.  I heard Bella’s slight intake of breath and saw her hand move to cover her mouth out of the corner of my eye.
“However,” Ms. Young continued, “considering the recommendation from your counselor, and the eloquent words of your victim, this parole board has decided to grant your request.”
“Yes!” I shouted, and I had to place my hands against the table to keep myself from falling over.  Bella was thanking God over and over again, and even Irina was beaming from ear to ear.  I would have just gotten up and gone over to Bella, who now had tears running down her face, but Ms Young banged her gavel heavily on the table, silencing us all.
“Mister Cullen,” she continued.  “There are several conditions of your parole, which will be provided to you in detail, but there are a few I want to go over with you now.  You will be required to visit with your assigned parole officer weekly for a two year period from your release.”
I nodded emphatically.  Two years, once a week visits – shit, once a day visits – I didn’t fucking care.
“You are not to leave this state.  You will be required to actively seek employment, and maintain that employment during this time as well.  You will continue your treatment with Ms. Denali, and you will also be placed on the national sexual offenders listing for this period of time.”
I took a deep breath.  I knew that was to come, and it was something I had talked about both with Bella and Irina.  It was going to make it very hard for Bella to get a full-time job as a school teacher when she had a husband on the list, and…and…
Wait…what did she say?
“Period of time?”  I heard myself repeat.
“Correct,” she said.  “For a period of two years.  As long as you meet all the conditions of your parole and keep to the restrictions of your parole, you will no longer be required to attend counseling, you may relocate out of state, and you will be removed from the listing at that time.”
“It’s not…not permanent?”
“I’ve reviewed your case extensively, Mister Cullen,” Ms. Young told me.  “The reason for the sex offenders listing is to provide the public with information to keep their families safe from repeat offenders.  Between the details of your exact crime and the notes from Irina Denali, I do not believe you are likely to be a repeat offender.  You aren’t going to prove me wrong, are you?”
“No!”  I tried to catch my breath.  “No, ma’am!”
“Good.”  She held the papers out in front of her and tapped them down on the desk until they were all even.  “Congratulations, Mister Cullen.  Release date set for one week from today.”
She picked up an ink stamp and slammed it down against the paper before pushing it off to the guy on her left, standing up, and leaving the room.
I just sat there in shock until I felt Bella’s fingers against my cheek.  I turned into her, wrapping my arms around her waist and placing my face into her stomach.  Her hands wrapped around my head, and her fingers stroked my hair.
“I love you,” I mumbled against the fabric of her dress.
“I love you too, Edward,” she replied.  “One week, and I’m going to be yours forever.
Sweeter words had never been spoken, right?
Chapter end notes:
Just a few more things to wrap up with the next chapter, which should be the last “Real” chapter before the epi.
Stop by the forum and give a shout!