Two very opposite people strike up an impossible relationship.
You call to me from oceans,
I sail to ride your waves.
You don’t always get to pick the arrow that strikes your heart. The man that reached out and drew me in wore a prison uniform. His stripes tell you he is the Property of the Indiana Federal Penitentiary.
My name is Susanna Felton, a volunteer for a Prison Ministry. So we already know these feelings I have might cause problems. To make it more impossible, I am married to an attorney, Allen. He does pro bono work occasionally but is a successful corporate lawyer. We also have two children I adore. On the surface, it looks like we have a ideal life.
The problem is I always loved Allen more like a brother. We lived next door to each other. While he was in Harvard, I went to Vassar. We come from wealthy ambitious families that know each other very well. Our parents and friends thought we were a lovely couple. We fit together like Barbie and Ken, I suppose. You know, the couple most likely to marry in the yearbook. We only dated each other, a definite mistake.
I think since everyone assumed we were deeply in love, we wanted it to be so. Then, my Dad found out he had cardiomyopathy with a poor prognosis. I love my daddy more than anything and wanted to please him. So, we rolled with a society wedding; the “right people” attended, a honeymoon in Italy, and bought a majestic (ridiculously large) home on a golf course. The sex is a five (on a 1-10) however Allen treats me like a queen. I host lovely dinner parties and do charity work. Along came adorable Amanda and 16 months later, sweet angelic Steven. I love my darling children (I really do) and want to be full time Mom but Allen insisted I remain an involved society wife. I believe he has political ambitions although he doesn't discuss much with me. So, I hired a nanny.
One day I found a red silk thong in Allen's suit pocket. I didn't ask, I didn't care. No wonder he didn't touch my soft, childbirth worn body anymore.
Then our church started a Prison Ministry. Perfect for me; I needed to be talking with those who had nothing to look forward to. I really wanted to help but was anxious about being around prisoners at first. Never thought I'd meet my soul mate!
Brian Melton is thirty, six feet tall, well built, his eyes are dark opals; pools of sadness. His hair is curly, ebony and out of control, his mouth waiting for a kiss. His dimples and previously broken nose completed a picture that stirred me deep inside.He has two tattoos; one was love written over a rose and the other was fear over a heart.
He is in for life. The story is he killed a man during a robbery.
Separated by a glass partition, he told me about his life. He had grown up in a middle class home with loving parents. He went to a local university and graduated with a degree in Social Sciences. He took a job with the state Probation Office, "I love working with broken kids, watching them gain confidence".
He met a lovely Latina girl managing a dance studio for children. Cupid found them. They married and Laurie became pregnant, It was a difficult pregnancy. She had eclampsia; her blood pressure was dangerously high affecting her kidneys adversely. The obstetrician delivered her early by C-Section. Their tiny baby boy was stillborn. They said heart broken good-byes, holding him close. Brian sang a lullaby.
Then Laurie began to jerk uncontrollably with grand mal seizures. Despite medical intervention, she died from a "massive stroke". The OB doc told Brian, "Sometimes these things happen. I am so sorry."
Brian, sick with loss, buried Benny cradled in Laurie's arms. Brian swallowed the grief and buried it deep. He took personal time off. After a couple of weeks, he assured his employer and therapist he could return to work. He needed distraction and the office was desperate. One of the “kids” dropped a tiny bottle of cocaine in the sofa. Brian took it home and stared at it for days. He couldn’t sleep, barely ate, and was only play acting with his job.
The day came when he had to do something, anything to stop the pain. He chose poorly but didn’t care. His relationship with the drug lasted one week. He walked to a local convenience store while high. He had gone in to buy some snacks and the store was in the process of being robbed. A nervous teenage kid asking for cash, threatening a nice old man who Brian knew. The old Marine tried to take the kid on when a Glock appeared. The kid wasn't really paying attention to Brian. Attempting to keep the man from getting shot, Brian managed to grab the kid from behind. The gun went off as he wrestled it out of the assailant's hand. The old man crumbled.
The kid ran and Brian was left holding the gun.He dropped it just as the cops pulled up. They didn't really even try to catch the kid. Brian’s prints were on the gun plus he was intoxicated with an illegal substance according to a lab test. The surveillance tape wasn’t working. The judge made an example out of a probation officer. It was a "law and order" election year.
I fell deeply in love with this good man. I was sure he had been hijacked by the system. This stirred feelings I had never had before. I made every excuse to be near him even though we were separated by bars and partitions. I brought him baked goods. I mailed him sweet letters and he wrote lovely words to me.
Now, I know what any therapist would say about the whole crazy idea. I was a spoiled naive woman in an unhappy marriage and this poor man was unlike anything I had ever encountered. I could rescue him. Perhaps. Life is sometimes a complex puzzle.
By Kathie Stehr
August 13, 2021