Angela tilted her face toward the warm sunshine gleaming through the bus window. It felt good to finally be able to close her eyes and lean her head against the glass. It was a dream come true riding in a vehicle without a steel mesh barrier guarding the windows.
Ten long years she had existed in and survived the state prison system. It seemed a lifetime ago that she’d been convicted of manslaughter for killing her pimp. After numerous beatings from him, she had reached a point of no return. The case should have been dismissed, but a seedy career; an overworked public defender; and a zealous, newly appointed District Attorney, got her a ten year stretch; so much for the justice system.
Unlike many of the women who went home when released, Angela chose to travel in the opposite direction. Going home would have been nice, but after seventeen years, having run away at the age of fourteen, and her parents dead, she knew her brothers wouldn’t want the embarrassment of explaining her when she unexpectedly showed up on their doorstep. Besides, they were more like strangers now than family, which made her decision to stay away that much easier to make.
She opened her eyes in time to see a herd of cows out to pasture and smiled. A flood of memories washed over her. She shook her head thinking of those days of youth and innocence and rides in her father’s car. She thought of the many farms that were dotted along the road and the laughter and fun she shared with her family. She sighed. That was another life. Seeing the cows made her feel as though time had stood still for a brief moment. If only.
Angela averted her eyes and stared at her callused hands. The calluses were a gift from prison. Only this gift she didn’t feel bitter about because she had earned every one of them. They were her badge of honor and she was proud of them. The calluses represented the many hours of hard labor she put into making changes in her life. They were symbols of her future and reminders of where she’d been.
She checked her watch and calculated that less than two hours away she would be giving back by putting her newly acquired carpenter skills to the test – building homes for the New Jersey hurricane victims.
November 5, 2013