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.