With Love from the Inside

BOOK: With Love from the Inside
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G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Angela Pisel

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

eBook ISBN: 9780698408432

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Pisel, Angela, author.

Title: With love from the inside / Angela Pisel.

Description: New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2016.

Identifiers: LCCN 2016008052 | ISBN 9780399176364

Subjects: LCSH: Mothers and daughters—Fiction. | Women prisoners—Fiction. | Physicians' spouses—Fiction. | Family secrets—Fiction. | Death row—Fiction. | South Carolina—Fiction. | Psychological fiction. | Domestic fiction.

BISAC: FICTION / Contemporary Women. | FICTION / Legal. | FICTION / Family Life. GSAFD: Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3616.I867 W58 2016 | DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016008052

p. cm.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To Greg and the four kids who share our home. You're the reason I want to be
there.

GRACE

The police took “normal” away from me the moment they
came rushing into William's hospital room. They dragged me from
his crib while my helpless baby lay hooked up, struggling
to breathe, needing his mother. I had been to doctor
after doctor, but no one would listen to me when I tried to tell them something wasn't right.

“Bradshaw, your attorney is here to see you,” an unfamiliar voice barked at me through the steel door, and snapped me into the present.

Tuesdays were my usual lawyer days, not Thursdays, so the news couldn't be good. I slid the pen inside my worn leather journal and tossed it on my cot. As I stood, the shooting pain in my back reminded me I wasn't sleeping at the Hilton.

The stark, cold walls and the constant clamor of cursing and flushing toilets wasn't at all how I'd pictured my life. It was a stagnant existence, every day like the one before and the one after. As unjust as I know that to be, nothing I could do will change my situation or my reputation. The latter, as crazy as it seemed, still mattered most to me even after seventeen years. I would prefer not to be remembered as the monster the local newspapers dubbed me, and especially not as a baby killer.

“Hurry up,” a new officer growled through the narrow horizontal opening in the door. “Give me both your hands.” His tone startled me,
and I bit the inside corner of my lip, a nervous habit I'd tried and failed to break. This time I tasted blood.

I handled officer changes better than some on the row. Jada, I suspected, was right now sitting with her hands clasped around her legs, rocking back and forth like someone residing in a psych ward. She once told me that when she was little she never knew who her “daddy” would be when she woke up in the morning. I pictured a four-year-old Jada peering around the corner in footsie pajamas, surveying the situation—praying that whoever she might see at the breakfast table would be kind to her. A sanguine version in my mind, but Jada still panics, even more than the rest of us, when an untried voice gives her orders.

I placed my left arm through the slit and elevated my right shoulder a bit to get my other arm to cooperate. My limbs had gotten stiff and slow, and sitting in a cell all day didn't help. The officer pulled my wrists together, snapping the cuffs tighter than necessary before he pushed my arms back through the hole and unlocked the cell door. “Your attorney is waiting on you.”

I avoided eye contact with him as he escorted me, kept my eyes on the floor, counting the gray concrete slabs to keep calm. My count was interrupted when Roni started screaming.

“Keep it down,” the officer snapped, “or you won't get a shower this week, either.” I knew by the sharpness in his voice that he meant what he said.

“Okay, Cowboy,” Roni shouted back. “Okay.”

Cowboy
spelled backward is YOBWOC, and it stood for Young Obnoxious Bastards We Often Con (one of the many useless things I've learned in prison). I don't include myself in the “we” part of that acronym—I just do my best to get along—but Roni does. She's the one in here I've tried to connect to the most, the one I've tried to help. Maybe it's because she's young enough to be my daughter, but for her own
sometimes inexplicable reasons, Roni chooses to make trouble whenever she has a chance, or whenever she has no chance at all.

Only four of the seven cells in this wing of the prison were occupied on death row, but only outsiders called it that. Those who resided here called it the Hell Hotel. On the inside, hope was something no one seemed to believe in except me.

Mainly, I just missed the ordinary. The uncomplicated, taken-for-granted things like the sound of my husband's house keys rattling in the front door at exactly two minutes before six o'clock, or the buzzer on the duct-taped dryer signaling a load of warm towels was ready to be folded; the gritty feel of the hot driveway on my bare feet as I walked to the mailbox to raise the rusted red flag, or sitting in my cold minivan making sure the windows defrosted before driving my daughter to school. Or burying my face in the space between William's chest and his rolled chin just to smell his sweet baby-powdered scent after he had a bath.

The officer squeezed my upper arm as he guided me through the vacant dayroom and buzzed us through one door and then another before we entered one of the attorney-client holding rooms.
Room
was a generous term, but at least it was bigger than my cell and offered some contact, meaning my attorney could shake my handcuffed hands if he so desired or slide a paper across the chipped Formica table without hitting glass.

Ben Taylor stood when I entered. He'd represented me for the past five years and had become one of the few noninstitutionalized faces I saw. His face today didn't look that good.

“Hello, Grace. Please take a seat.” I sat down with my feet and hands still cuffed.

“Ben, how are you?” I was delaying, wanting to hear anything other than the news I feared he was about to give me.

“I'm fine.” His slight southern accent made whatever awful words he was about to tell me sound more tolerable. Most of the guards and many
of the inmates here had come from all over. Ben's soft tone reminded me of home.

“Have you found her?” I asked, hoping he would give me something to cling to.

“I'm sorry, Grace. My office still has not been able to get in touch with her.”

After all these years, I still woke in the morning with a sweat-soaked shirt stuck to my skin, dreaming about my daughter sitting alone at her dad's funeral. Abandoned. I knew I couldn't make my daughter forgive me, believe me, or even come to see me, but I wouldn't stop hoping. I'd stopped calling many years ago, figuring the refusal of collect calls meant the expense was too much for her to handle. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separated me from the last time I'd heard her voice—the last time I'd heard anyone call me “Mom.” A word I'd never longed to hear until I did.

“That's not why I'm here,” he said. “I am afraid we didn't get the news we had hoped for. The court refused to hear the latest appeal.”

I dropped my head and tried not to make my attorney, my only believer, feel any worse than I knew he already felt. Whatever hope I'd carried into the room had fled by the time I looked up.

My lawyer rubbed his forehead. “Grace, the judge has set your execution date.”

BOOK: With Love from the Inside
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