Always Another Choice

By Toni Kief

Sleep,​​ with one eye​​ open,​​ is no rest at all. ​​ After​​ hours of searching for a place to lie​​ down,​​ she​​ found a bed​​ at the shelter. ​​ Life​​ is​​ tough​​ for​​ a young woman​​ alone, but it is better out here than​​ it was​​ at home.​​ ​​ As exhausted as she​​ felt​​ there is a​​ mindfulness​​ of every movement and sound in the long rows of beds. ​​ She listens​​ as the other​​ less​​ fortunates​​ toss and turn​​ with an​​ occasional​​ scream of​​ horror.​​ ​​ 

The worst part of homelessness is the loss of​​ dignity​​ that​​ only privacy​​ provides. ​​ ​​ She pretends​​ to sleep as the women begin to​​ stir moving​​ towards morning. ​​ Conscious​​ every minute in the shelter eliminates time on the street. ​​​​ Quietly she heard​​ someone​​ coming through the​​ rows, waking the lucky few who​​ slept. ​​ Then​​ she heard​​ the whisper of​​ her​​ name​​ flow​​ through the​​ grapevine. ​​ 

Damn,​​ why are​​ they are still looking? ​​ ​​​​ Feeling she​​ should have been given a medal for eliminating that slime from the face of the earth, she​​ thought​​ of​​ escape. ​​ Quietly and slowly she gathered​​ her wits​​ and​​ slid to​​ the​​ edge​​ of the bed. ​​ Slipping her feet into the​​ grimy​​ boots, she​​ looked at​​ the​​ backpack inches away. ​​ 

Just then the officer​​ rudely​​ grabbed​​ her​​ shoulder​​ pulling her dirty face​​ towards him. ​​ He​​ studies​​ the​​ school photo. ​​ At first,​​ he​​ seemed puzzled, but​​ tightening his​​ grasp, he​​ calls​​ to​​ his partner,​​ Got her. ​​​​ 

Yanked to her feet, cuffed​​ and thrown up against the wall,​​ sympathetic​​ eyes​​ listen to the Miranda warning.​​ The backpack is her first concern it holds what is left of her life. ​​ Her​​ next​​ thought is​​ of​​ the shower and breakfast she​​ will miss again. ​​ A life of privilege wasn’t what people​​ imagine, and now​​ bare necessities​​ have become​​ golden​​ in​​ this​​ precarious​​ chapter.​​  ​​​​ The​​ cops​​ are​​ rougher than they need to be,​​ but the fragile girl doesn’t care. ​​ They​​ slap​​ each other on the back​​ as she is​​ forced into the back seat of the​​ patrol​​ car.​​ ​​ She sees no end to humiliation,​​ hunger,​​ and fear​​ as they laugh. ​​ 

END​​ A: ​​ Quickly she​​ is​​ processed and left alone for interminable hours​​ to​​ anticipate​​ the arraignment.  ​​​​ A speech​​ was mentally​​ prepared for when​​ she faces​​ the​​ judge. ​​ At least her side of the story​​ will​​ finally​​ be heard. ​​ Nothing​​ in life​​ turns out as expected,​​ and​​ the judge has​​ no interest when she cries, “There was no choice.” ​​​​ He​​ glares​​ at her and​​ answeres,​​ “There is always a choice, and​​ you​​ made a bad one. ​​ ​​​​ 

Locked away in high security,​​ she continues​​ to wait​​ while​​ watching​​ her face on​​ the news. ​​ The​​ stories​​ are​​ based on​​ suppositions and​​ half-truths. She is tried in the media and​​ a headline of​​ “The senator’s​​ murdering​​ daughter…”​​ seals her fate.​​  ​​​​ At least​​ notoriety brought​​ a level of​​ safety​​ in​​ this​​ dangerous community. ​​  ​​​​ Convinced​​ the​​ only change​​ in her predicament​​ is that the rapist is​​ now​​ the judicial system​​ and​​ the press. ​​ Facing an​​ eternal hell utterly alone​​ she​​ waits for a Public Defender. ​​ 

END​​ B. ​​ She waits​​ for undeterminable hours that stretch into days and long scary nights. ​​ Occasionally,​​ hope​​ gathers believing​​ she​​ may have been forgotten​​ as​​ the other​​ inmates rotate in and out. ​​ Feigning sleep in the​​ late​​ afternoon,​​ she heard a familiar rattling. ​​ The door is thrown​​ open,​​ and the​​ matron barks, “Get yourself together​​ Princess, you are out of here. ​​​​ 

“What the​​ hell​​ is going on? ​​​​ They must have​​ me​​ confused​​ with someone else.” Maybe it’s​​ best to stay quiet​​ and​​ roll with​​ it. ​​ As they pull open the sliding metal​​ door,​​ she​​ saw​​ her​​ sister, Emily, and a tall well-​​ dressed man. ​​ The​​ desk officer​​ states flatly “Your​​ mother​​ bailed you out.” ​​ 

“My mom? ​​ She​​ diii​​ ...” ​​ 

Her​​ sister​​ squeezes her​​ and murmurs​​ “Quiet, Im your​​ mother;​​ there is more to this story than​​ you know.​​ 

About The Author

Toni Kief, a child of the 60s, Midwestern by birth, Northwestern by choice, Toni challenges the boundaries for women of a certain age. After a long career as an insurance adjuster, she fell into writing through a challenge from a friend. She has released her first book, Old Baggage, with two others in the grinder. Toni never dated Mick Jagger, but marched for civil rights, shared bread with icons of politics and art. She is spending her retirement, gathering stories prime for embellishment. Writing has taught her inspiration without perspiration is just a good idea.