Kelly Duffy

< Back to Issue Eight



I meet my gaze in the reflection of the plexiglass. The mascara stains I tried to wipe off in the car have faded into the red on my cheeks, and my once well-done ponytail is now a mess of static. I am a mess of static.

The sound of a heavy door pushing air into the room jolts me from my staring contest, and he walks in. Handcuffs. My chest flails, my cheeks flush. I shiver at the sound of metal meeting metal, coming closer to me, wrapped around the wrists of one of few men I once trusted the most in this lifetime. Any level of preparation I had for this moment is gone with my eventual exhale as the officer leads him to the seat across from me. Beyond the glass, he picks up the phone to the right, and I do the same.

I finally take my attention off the cuffs and see his face. He looks terrified of me, and I instantly feel the urge to throw the phone down and run. Run back out through the layers of security, past the mile-high gate that greeted me just minutes ago, and into the comfort of my car. I cannot leave him though, not yet.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I saw your pictures in the news. I read the article, I found the address, I got in the car, and I drove. I…I…” My words trail off my trembling lips and I desperately search for the right words. I need to process this, and evidently so does he. He furrows his brows and tucks his forehead into his palm, grasping at the ends of his hair. I notice then a cut tracing the curves of his knuckles, disappearing into his fingers. It is fresh, barely cared for, with hints of dried blood on its surface. I do not ask where it came from, I already know the answer. My eyes cannot help but fixate on it, like an optical illusion I’m hoping will change into something brighter. His voice breaks my trance.

“I am in the news? Now everyone knows. This…this is not how I wanted you to find out.”

A nervous laugh comes from deep inside of me.

“I find it hard to believe that you would want me, or anyone, to find out at all.”

He sighs, avoiding my glance.

“What is she saying about me, or did you just come out of the blue after God knows how long just to give me that look of disappointment? I have gotten my share of screams and threats and dirty looks so if that is the reason—”

I feel my fists slam onto the counter, and the officer looks over disapprovingly, but not surprised. I am guessing I am not the first person, or the last, to lose their temper on this side of the room.

“Why don’t you tell me what in the world you are doing here, instead of blurting out assumptions for the short time we have together?” I plead.

His eyes finally meet mine, briefly, then fall back to the table. I see the wrinkles surrounding them harden, as does his jaw. Now he is the angry one, but that much I accounted for. He always spoke his mind when a button was pushed, even in the slightest.

“Haven’t you heard? I am a monster, a demon. I am the root of all her pain, all her problems, and now I am out of the equation. It does not matter what I did or did not do. Nothing does now. Can I ask you something?”

I nod. The phone in my hand is trembling as I try to make sense of his words.

“Have I ever hurt you? Intentionally?”

I shake my head.

“Then why do you, and apparently the rest of this town, think I would ever do that to someone else?”

“I didn’t say whether I believed it or not” I try to explain. “That is not the point anymore, I just wanted to come and let you know that someone at least has faith—”

His laughter interrupts me. It is a bittersweet sight and sound, a view that I have missed for so long and never once grew tired of. A view that seems tainted now.

“What is it you think faith is going to do for me now?”

“Save you.”

He laughs again. I try not to close my eyes and let my tears escape, but they do. I fight the embarrassment that accompanies them and look up to see that his laugh, his smile, is gone. His mouth hangs open slightly, but no words come out. We stare at one another for a moment before I wipe what I hope is the last tear off my chin and take a deep breath.

“You always used to wear that cross around your neck, the one your father gave you.”

He nods.

“Why did you?”

“I don’t know, I liked it?”

“Okay then, why do you think he gave it to you?”

He sighs and beings to fidget with the phone cord. I try not to stare at the cuffs again and dodge glances around the room instead.

“He liked it? I do not know, what is the point, it is just a chain.”

I point at the handcuffs.

“Those are just chains too. The point is you chose the first one. Maybe you did just like it or it had sentimental value. I think you chose it, you wore it, because you believed in it.”

“Well, I sure don’t anymore.”

His eyes tell the whole story in that moment. I see anger fade to pain, regret turn to disappointment. His stare is past my face, past this room, into a not-so-distant memory. The one that brought him here. Both hands turn to fists, and he shakes his head. I watch his chest fall in a heavy sigh as he looks toward the officer at the door.

“You can walk away and never take a second glance at me; that is your prerogative.”

Those eyes hit mine now, and he cannot hide the gloss over them. His fists are still tight, one gripping the phone and one his neck. I see the scar on his knuckles begin to crack, break open and bleed. I see him start to break.

“I did not leave any bruises on her, but they have my name on them regardless. Maybe I did not always treat her the best, but I did not treat her the worst, yet that is what I am now known for. Where is the forgiveness, the justice? Where is the God you seem to have so much faith in as I rot in that cell?”

“He is waiting for you to stop trying to do this all on your own and admit you need his help. You have always been a stubborn man and I bet he knows you are not going to accept handouts; you are not going to accept anything you did not earn. I do not know if you earned this. But you did not earn a second chance, and he is gracious enough to give you one if you can suck up your pride and accept it. I have faith you are a better man than this, regardless of what is or is not true. He does too. Now we are just waiting for you to have that faith in yourself.”

I stare at his broken expression, study every line and every freckle. Time has been good to him on the outside at least. I am not certain I can say the same for the inside.

“Why did you come here?”

My head nods toward the tattoo on his forearm and he looks down too.

“I came because that is the pain I felt when I found out what happened, and I did not know what to do with it. I knew I had to do more than just sit with it. The needle would not stop dragging, the ache would not quit, until I parked my car outside. Until I sat down in front of you and prayed like I have never prayed before that you would just listen to me.”

He does not answer, and I do not add anymore to my sentiment. I softly kiss the palm of my hand and press it onto the glass between us. A small smile forms on his face, and he puts his palm up to meet mine. A single tear falls, but he does not try to hide it. He looks at the phone, then into my eyes.

“I am sorry.” His palm grabs at the glass and falls to the countertop.

“Time’s up.”

My eyes do not leave his as we set the phones down. The officer pulls him by the arm and stands him up, and he is forced to turn away from me. I hear the metal start to fade, and I watch his bowed head walk toward the door. He takes a final glance over his shoulder and nods before it opens, and again he is gone. Again, I stare at my reflection, but my eyes are no longer carrying the weight of the pain they walked in with. They glisten with hope, with peace, and with that in mind, I stand to leave.

Kelly Duffy lives in Upstate New York. She pursued a career in nursing at a young age and has been blessed with the opportunity to help and care for others every day. Writing is her passion, along with drawing and photography. Kelly hopes the stories and poems that she shares help restore and ignite a little bit of faith in every reader.

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Photo is in the Public Domain.

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