Ruby looked around her cell. The bare white walls appeared blurred through her tears. The steel door locked out the free world. A thin mattress provided less comfort than the one she had in college. A stainless steel toilet and sink sat next to the bed, and she tried not to think about who might have used it. Sadness enveloped Ruby’s thoughts.
Why did it end this way? I didn’t want anybody hurt. Why did Blake get so mad?
Ruby touched her left cheek. It hurt just to lay her finger on it. The hospital the police had taken her to said there were no fractures, but her cheek would be sore for a few days. The jail infirmary refused to give her the pain medicine they prescribed. Instead, they gave her only Advil, which upset her stomach. She looked up towards heaven and spoke.
“God, I know I what I did was wrong. Okay? I was wrong. But this? Jail? What happened to the woman you caught in adultery? Is this really my fault after all? John took me for granted.”
She stopped. A voice inside her mind spoke, You know John wasn’t ignoring you. She nodded to herself. Ruby didn’t know how everything had gone so wrong. She and John had built a good life together, but work had slowly eaten away at their relationship. With every one of his successes came more responsibility, and more time away from home. She loved John. He was always first in her life, but she was lonely.
Blake was a neighbor who liked to come over and chat with John. They would include Ruby in their conversations if she were in the room. Later, Blake started to drop by when John was at work. He asked to talk with her since John was not around. His request was innocent enough. Until that day. The day she had turned her whole life upside down. In one candid moment, she told Blake about her loneliness. His reaction was loving and compassionate. He just held her hands. He looked into her eyes and said John was foolish for putting his job before her.
Why did I fall for that? I was so stupid. Ruby scowled at nobody in her jail cell.
Blake was smooth and patient. In one moment he had her hooked, and then let the matter drop until John had to travel out-of-town. It was an innocent dinner and a couple of drinks. She never meant to end up in his bed. Blake just seemed to know how to meet her every need. Responsibilities, family, none of that seemed to matter. It was all about her.
Ruby looked back up at the ceiling and spoke. “I was a fool, I know, but just once in my life, I wanted to be selfish. Is this the price I pay for my one mistake? Did you have to destroy John and me? Why? He was innocent.” She sobbed and stained her t-shirt. How she wished she could change into an orange jumpsuit. Ruby hated the clothes she had on. The tight thin white t-shirt and jeans had been one of Blake’s favorites. How could she have put them on again? Not after what Blake did yesterday.
One last hurrah, what was I thinking? Ruby thought to herself.
She only wanted to give Blake a goodbye. One last thrill. John was getting suspicious, and Blake was not worth her marriage. They had some good times together, but it was time to end it. It was time for her to go back to her husband and the life she had chosen.
Ruby looked at the handprint that bruised her forearm, and a chill ran through her body.
Blake would not take no for an answer. At first, she found his attempt to charm her endearing, but when that failed to work the real Blake came out. His grip was like a vice upon her arm. His fist like a hammer to her cheek. He threatened to kill John and her if she left him.
Ruby picked up the pillow off the prison bed and slammed her fist into it again and again. How could I be such a fool! She thought to herself. Today was supposed to be her day with John. Instead, she was sitting in a jail cell. Ruby buried her head in the thin pillow and wept. It was never supposed to end this way.
John had come home last night from his business trip. He was alarmed at Ruby’s face and arm. She claimed to have fallen. Although John appeared unconvinced, he dropped the matter.
This morning Ruby tried to forget what Blake had said and done. After all, he was probably caught up in the moment. Only a fool would attack a woman, and then expect her to stay with him. A moment after convincing herself everything would be okay a text message dinged on her cellphone. All Blake typed was, “I’M COMING OVER, TIME TO CHOOSE!”
Ruby folded her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs and rocked. Why did Blake do that? Why did he corner me?
It all seemed like a shadowy nightmare now. Ruby told John that Blake was coming over. She still did not know why she felt like she had to say anything. Deep down inside did she think it was a warning or a confession? It never occurred to her that John might wonder why Blake was texting her, but John never said a word. He merely nodded and walked into his home office. The doorbell rang about thirty minutes later, and Ruby left their bedroom to answer, but John was already there.
Everything seemed to play back in slow motion. Blake asked John if he knew why he was there. John never spoke, only nodded. Blake threatened John to move out of his way. John stepped back, Blake swung open the door, and it slammed into the wall. John never spoke, but quickly pulled out his pistol and shot Blake. A single shot to the chest. Blake was likely dead before he hit the floor.
John never uttered a word. He calmly walked over to the phone and called the police. She had no memories after that until the police arrived. They put John and her in separate rooms, so Ruby could not hear what John told them. She only remembered the feeling of the handcuffs around her wrists. She was put into one patrol car, and John the other.
Ruby’s memories were interrupted by the sound of the lock on her cell door. The door opened, and a guard said, “Come with me.” Ruby was escorted to a room. Inside was a woman in a business dress, and a man in a cheap suit.
“I’m Connie,” said the woman. “You husband hired me to represent you both.”
The man spoke up, “I’m Detective Lewis. As I was just explaining to your attorney, there are no charges. We saw the door and the wall. The home security camera shows the deceased entered your home aggressively. Given your, um, relationship to the deceased, and your bruises, we believe your husband’s story that it was self-defense.”
Ruby broke into tears. Connie held her for a few moments while Ruby regained her composure. Ruby sat back, sniffled and asked, “What about John?”
Connie smiled and said, “John is waiting at home for you. He asked me to pick you up and take you anywhere you want to go. John also said to tell you all is forgiven. He said he only wants you happy and supports any decisions you need to make. Mrs. Lee, I don’t know what has gone on between you two, but if I were you, I wouldn’t walk away from him.” Connie handed Ruby a tissue.
Ruby smiled and cleaned up her face. “What has happened doesn’t matter. I just want to go home and be with John.”
After the paperwork was complete Ruby walked out of jail with Connie. The air smelled fresher than she could ever remember. Ruby smiled. She was free not only from her jail cell but her mistakes.