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Life on the Inside

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Mary Anne was surprised when she saw her new cellmate was a white girl. Even in prison, which had a strange sort of equality in the way it treated everyone like scum, there wasn't exactly a lot of population mixing. This was something out of the ordinary.

It didn't take her long to figure out that the most likely reason she'd been placed here was that Doris Delaney was crazy, and the wardens probably figured that if she snapped and killed her cellmate, better a black woman than a white one.

Doris talked a lot, about near everything under the sun, but her favorite subject was how they were going to break out. That's always how she talked about it-- “us” and “we.” It was surprising, Doris' blithe assumption that they were in it together, that they were pals.

It was nice, too. Mary Anne always thought of herself as a good person, door-slamming aside, but she knew she wasn't always the easiest to get along with. She was quiet, had been even before she went inside, and there were folks who assumed she was judgmental or high hatted or bored because of how she didn't say much. Doris, though, she just took it in stride. The things she read in Mary Anne's silences weren't always (or even often) correct, but she was never mean about it. Anyway, she talked more than enough for the both of them.

Doris was touchy, too. Affectionate. Mary Anne didn't think she meant anything by it, nor did she take it as any kind of romantic interest. It was just how Doris was. A screwball, sure, but one with a good heart.

Falling in love with Callie had been like being hit by lightning. Mary Anne had looked at her one day and felt her heart nearly explode with love. And, like being hit by lightning, there had been some unpleasant consequences.

Falling in love with Doris was more like twilight, when the sky slowly gets darker and before you know it, night has fallen and the streetlamps are lit and the stars are out. She should have seen it coming, and if she had given it any thought she would have, but who expects to get stuck on a girl in prison? And for it to happen so soon after what happened with Callie, it almost didn't seem right.

But there was the guard, telling Doris she was going home, and Mary Anne knew. She was going to miss Doris' antics and grudge against the gals in Cell B and how she never minded Mary Anne's silence. Not just because they'd become friends, but because her heart had fixed on her wacky cellmate. So she made the decision to speak, and told Doris why she was there and how she'd miss her. It wasn't everything, but it was enough. An act of trust, a little testing the waters, to see how Doris would react, and if she could read between the lines. When Doris smiled, all goofy, tears running down her face, Mary Anne felt free. Then the door closed, leaving her alone in her cell. Prison, which had never been pleasant, seemed unbearable without her old cellmate.

That night, after bed checks, Mary Anne broke out of prison.

Things wouldn't be easy, she knew, living on the lam. She'd have to start a new life.

Maybe Doris would want to start one with her.