Miranda and the Convict is a series of letters written between Damon and Miranda during his time in prison, and I did something extra fun:
*Trumpeting* DUN DUN DUN DA DU-LAH!
I made custom fonts for their handwriting!
(I get way too nerdy sometimes.)
You have no idea how amazing it is to see my own characters come this alive like this.
It was a profound relief when Damon went to prison. Alice felt better rested than she had in a long time, especially with the threat of another parental visit over and done with for good. The last one had been such a train wreck, she wasn’t at all sure if she had it in her to see Damon again. When she heard of what had happened to Miranda, that she had lost her job as a criminal lawyer after being accused of extortion and testing positive for drug use, Alice knew in her heart that it had been Damon’s doing. Despite herself, she felt a strong kinship with Miranda because of their similar misfortunes at his hands, and every day she waited for the call or text that never came.
Hackett’s adoption of Alicia was finalized, and they officially changed her last name to his – Gertie even brought over a cake to celebrate. It was a small party, but it was wonderful. Alice had put a headband with a big flower on Alicia’s head, then took numerous pictures of Hackett holding the baby before asking Gertie to get one of the three of them together. Later, she had it printed, to put in a frame and hang in the living room, where she could see it and think about how happy she was to have her little family.
Kate came to stay with them again for the holidays, and listened intently as Alice relayed the story of everything that had happened since the last time they had seen each other, both of them working with balls of yarn and passing the baby back and forth through the conversation. She made all the right exclamations at the right moments, and was particularly concerned when Alice briefly described the way Damon had treated her during his one visit. It was strange to realize just how distorted her relationship with Damon had been, how detached she had been from reality during that time, and it made her uncomfortable. She wondered what Hackett must have thought of her when their relationship had first begun to form, and she had been overcome with gratitude at the normalcy of it. Now she casually spent the day sitting in the living room, chatting with her mother-in-law as she worked on her knitting and cared for her baby, reveling in how wonderful it felt to feel safe and secure.
The best moment came when Kate and Gertie conspired to borrow Hackett’s car to take Alice to a salon, where they minded her baby for her while the bleached part of her hair was dyed brown to match her natural color. To top it off, her makeup was done professionally, and the two older women presented her with a gorgeous lace dress for her to wear on a special date. When she paired it with the shawl that Gertie had given her, she felt every bit like a beautiful princess when she looked at herself in the mirror. That evening, Kate took Alicia over to Gertie’s, while Alice waited for Hackett to return home from work. As soon as she heard a car pull up in front of the house, she ran to the door and watched as he bid farewell to Dr. Westley after thanking him for the ride.
Hackett paused as soon as he saw her, then broke into a grin as his eyes gleamed. “Why hello, there,” he called as he walked up the steps. “Who’s this gorgeous girl in my house?”
“It’s the one and only, Mrs. Alice Hackett,” she answered, then squealed as Hackett swept her up in his arms.
“My favorite person,” he purred as he kissed her. “Your hair is gorgeous.”
“My amazing mother-in-law helped with it,” Alice replied, wrapping her arms around Hackett’s neck. “Do you want to take me out tonight?”
“Sure do.” But despite what he said, Hackett stepped inside the house and kicked the door shut. “Where’s the baby?”
“You’ll never guess, but I have discovered that there’s this thing called babysitting.” Alice giggled. “Apparently, it’s possible to let someone else watch Alicia for awhile.”
“I love the sound of that,” Hackett said, and he carried Alice to the bedroom.
Alice sat in the bathroom with her eyes closed, a pregnancy test held tightly between her fingers. She had been feeling unusually tired for the last week with a picky appetite that came and went, and the thought of having another baby was both exciting and terrifying. When she felt that she shouldn’t put it off any longer, she opened her eye for a peek.
Hackett was waiting for her in the bedroom, playing with Alicia so that she squealed with laughter and kicked her legs, her eyes shining brightly as she watched him between rounds of tickles. Alice hung back behind the door frame for a few seconds to enjoy the scene, feeling as if her heart could burst. When she entered, he looked up expectantly and asked, “Well?”
Alice bit her lip as a big grin spread across her face, and she knew that her reaction was giving the answer away. She couldn’t think of anything coy or clever to say, so she blurted out, “I’m pregnant.”
He sprang to embrace her tightly, showering numerous kisses on her face as he murmured, “I’m so glad.”
“Alicia’s still only six months old, though,” Alice said, looking at her baby sitting on the bed with a frown. “They’ll only be fifteen months apart, and that’s awfully close together.”
Hackett stiffened as his face twisted with concern. “Do you not want it?”
“Of course I do!” Alice placed her hands protectively over her stomach. “I’m just a little scared is all, because I didn’t realize I could get pregnant again this fast. But I do want this baby very badly, and I want it to have your eyes and look just like you.”
He relaxed and chuckled as he stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. “We’ll be more careful next time. Besides, you have Gertie to help you, and my mom will love any excuse to stay with us for awhile, so I’m sure that you won’t have any troubles at all.”
“You’re right. I’m a tough sort, you know, so I’ll get through it.” Alice beamed. “We should give this baby a name that’s similar to yours …” she mused, then snickered slightly as she said, “Like Oregano.”
“Anise, if its a girl,” Hackett replied jovially, taking Alice’s hand as they moved to sit on the bed next to Alicia.
“Ooo, that’s really pretty. We should do that.” Alice picked Alicia up and bounced her as she sang, “You’re going to be a big sister already!”
Alicia grabbed a handful of Alice’s hair and pulled it with a squeal.
“She’s excited,” Hackett laughed, as Alice carefully untangled strands from little fingers.
When she was finished, she gushed, “They’ll be so cute together! I bet that they’ll be the best of friends, and do absolutely everything together like two peas in a pod. Won’t that be the most adorable thing ever? I can knit matching things for them, too. Oh my gosh, this is super exciting!” She snuggled up against him, and whispered, “You’re finally going to have a baby of your own.”
“That is nice,” Hackett replied, wrapping his arms around Alice as they settled down comfortably together. “You’re quite beautiful when you’re pregnant, and I’m not going to pretend like I haven’t been aching to knock you up.”
“I think I noticed, you randy old goat.” Alice giggled. “But don’t stop, because I don’t want to be out of practice for when we decide to go for number three.”
“I solemnly promise to never slack off with my husbandly duties.”
She teased, “Good. As your pregnant wife, I have every intention of being as high maintenance as possible, just to keep you on your toes while I’m busy making your baby. It’s the least that I can do.”
“I look forward to it.” Hackett laughed. “But beware, if you go too far I just might have to start working overtime.”
“You wouldn’t!” Alice stuck out her tongue at him. “You’re the responsible one around here, so you have to make sure that I’m getting enough nutrition and rest so our baby will be healthy. Some foot rubs will be nice too, to help our baby grow, of course.”
“I can’t argue with that.” He gave Alice a slow, sweet kiss, then whispered, “I love you, Mrs. Alice Hackett.”
Alice and Hackett cuddled together with their baby, cozy and happy, as they made their plans for the future.
Miranda stood outside of her condo building, staring up at it. She held a glass jar with her goldfish in it, and her car was packed to the brim with boxes and bags alongside the street behind her. No matter what, though, she was determined not to cry.
Hackett’s car turned the corner then slowly eased into the parallel parking space behind hers, and Miranda tensed up, not wanting to see him. The door was still dented, and she couldn’t help but think about how out of character that was for Hackett, who had always been so prompt and meticulous for as long as she knew him.
Both Hackett and Alice got out of the car, and he approached Miranda while Alice hung back. He looked grim, but said softly, “I heard that you were moving today. Alice thought that we should come by and see if you needed anything.”
“I’m fine,” Miranda snapped. “I have everything finished already, and I was on my way out.”
“Miranda,” he replied in that annoyingly stern way of his. “We’re here to help you, not to gloat. Don’t be unpleasant about it.”
She took in a deep breath, counted to three, then let it out. “I’ve been put on probation until I complete community service and drug rehab. I decided that it would be best if I didn’t have my mortgage payments eating up my savings account during this time, so I’m downsizing. It’s not a big deal.”
“You look profoundly unhappy about it.”
“I liked my condo.” Miranda tightened her jaw. “I heard that you argued to have Damon sent to your prison, and even signed a pledge to give him fair and unbiased treatment. Why would you do a thing like that?”
“I have my reasons.” The corners of Hackett’s mouth twitched upwards slightly. “Besides, I’m grateful that he relinquished his paternal rights over to me, so it seemed like the least that I could do. I hope he didn’t hurt you too badly.”
Miranda tightened her grip on the jar. “You really should be gloating,” she fumed. “You should look down at your nose at me and declare, ‘I told you so!’ then laugh at the mess I’ve made. I get it, okay? I screwed up big time, and now I’m paying for it. I deserve all of it.”
Hackett was quiet as he looked over at Alice and nodded. Timidly, she approached with a wrapped present, which she held out to Miranda. “I made this for you,” she almost whispered, visibly nervous. “Please take it.”
Miranda wanted to go on the attack, but she didn’t dare lash out at Alice with Hackett standing right there. She bit her tongue as she took the package, trying not to glare. She hated Alice more now than she ever had before.
“If you’re squared away, then we’ll let you be,” Hackett said, putting his arm around Alice. “Take care.”
Miranda regretted chasing them away as she watched them climb back into their car and drive off, wishing that she had let herself share her sadness with them. She got into the driver’s seat of her own car, and carefully buckled her goldfish jar into the passenger seat beside her before turning on the engine. With the car idling, she paused to unwrap the present that Alice had given her.
It was predictably a knitted scarf, made out of a soft dusty purple yarn. Miranda scoffed at how ridiculous Alice was, and thought about tossing it callously into the back. But as she picked it up, she felt a piece of paper carefully folded up inside it, and curiosity got the better of her. Pulling it out, she discovered a handwritten letter from Alice. It read:
I think that we might be the only two people in the whole world who can understand each other right now. Damon has a way of sucking you in before you realize what’s happening, and being with him can be both wonderful and agonizing. I’m sorry that it happened to you, too.
I just want to tell you that you still matter. I hope that you can rebuild and start over, and if you ever want to talk to me, I’ll be here to listen (I swear I won’t tell Basil anything).
Miranda angrily tore the paper in half and flung it to the floor, then hung onto the steering wheel as she screamed with hot tears streaming down her face.
She realized why she had always existed in the shadow of Alice’s memory, never able to compete with her for Damon’s affection, and why Hackett had been so quick to marry her: Alice genuinely cared about others in a way that Miranda never did.
That made her hate her all the more.
Later that night, Miranda finished filling up her fish tank, then carefully measured out a small amount of salt and water conditioner, making sure that everything was neatly in place before she gently scooped her goldfish out of the jar and placed it in the water with her hand. She sat for a moment and watched it swim around, seemingly unaware that anything had changed.
She went back to sorting through boxes to unpack in her new apartment, despising how even the walls felt cheap and smothering compared to her condo, when she came across the purple scarf. Picking it up, Miranda turned it over, studied the yarn, and wondered if her life would have turned out better if she had been more like Alice.
Damon leaned back in the chair, his shoulders sagging. “I need to privately consult my lawyer before I talk about anything related to that case.”
The investigator agreed, gathered up his things, and left. Damon looked up at the camera in the corner of the room, sighed, then turned to his lawyer.
“Listen, I’m tired of running away from this, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. I’ve got a daughter now, and she’s still just tiny, you know? I want to have the chance to know her, one day.”
“I can negotiate a lighter sentence in exchange for your confession,” the lawyer replied. “Otherwise it will go to trial.”
Damon looked away and frowned. “I suppose I should finally step up as a man, and not put Alice through the stress of testifying in court; I know she’s gonna be the star witness against me. All right, I’ll do it. I’ll give a full and complete confession.”
The next couple of hours were spent with lawyers popping in and out, drawing up a plea bargain for his confession. Damon wasn’t thrilled with the terms, but he was worn down and sick of fighting. He agreed to a 20 year sentence, with the possibility of parole after 10.
A couple more people crammed themselves into the small room to listen as witnesses, and a tablet was laid down on the table to record him. Damon watched it all passively, waiting until he felt ready to finally tell the story out loud.
Then he began. “I had been meeting the, uh, undercover officer regularly before that night. We were working out the details for a big drop that was supposed to be lucrative, but I didn’t want my girlfriend, Alice, involved, so I had started tranquilizing her with ketamine before the meetings. She thought I was getting off on a date rape fetish, and she had no idea that this guy even existed.
“That night in particular, I accidentally gave her too much. I was high and miscounted the number of pills, and since she didn’t know what it was, she took everything I gave her. I realized my mistake when it hit her too hard, and I was scared that I had killed her with an overdose. But I couldn’t just take her to the ER, you know, ’cause they’d ask too many questions, so I brought her along with me. I guess it was stupid, but I wasn’t sober.
“When I got to our meeting spot, the guy flipped. At first he thought that she was dead, then wanted to do some sort of first aid or whatever. I told him to fuck off and mind his own business, so he threatened to call 911. That’s when I realized that he wasn’t legit; guys in the scene don’t act like that, and I couldn’t let the narc get away with it.
“I remember that he was bent over Alice when I came up behind him, grabbed him around his head, and stabbed him in his back. I made sure to hit his lung, so he barely made a sound.”
Damon paused, thinking it was strange that he could describe killing someone without any hint of emotion, only to find a heavy lump form in his throat at the memory of Alice lying on the ground, covered in someone else’s blood.
“He fell on top of Alice, and she stirred and tried to talk, but she was still out of it. I had the problem of what I was going to do with a dead body, and my unconscious girlfriend. I decided to leave her hidden in the park while I took the guy to the nearby river to dump him. I threw the knife I used into the water, too.
“When I got back to the park, Alice was freezing cold. I took her straight to our motel room where I could get her warmed up and washed off, then after I put her to bed I took everything of ours that had blood on it, put it in a bag, and threw it in a dumpster.
“She didn’t remember anything the next morning, but I got us out of there anyway. We were in the process of skipping town when the police picked us up, so I decided to have Alice take the fall for me. I knew that she’d go along with it to protect me.”
Damon carefully scanned everyone in the room, reading their expressions before settling on looking his lawyer straight in the eyes and asking, “Is there anything else that you’d like to know?”
They remained quiet, until the lawyer shook his head. “We’ll need you to sign the transcript once it’s typed up, and pledge that your testimony is accurate to the best of your knowledge.”
Once all of the necessities were taken care of, he was escorted to a jail cell in cuffs to spend the night. He felt heavy as the finality of his situation pressed down on him – ten years was a long time. He already missed the elation he felt whenever he cruised around on his motorcycle, and he wondered what would become of it. He was beginning to regret his decision to confess, and the way that he had grown too cocky and expended Miranda too early, throwing her away when he still needed her. He could have really used her in the courtroom, pleading in his defense, and she likely could have ripped apart Alice’s testimony in a heartbeat. He had lost control of the entire situation.
It was that stupid dream, that had made him sentimental at the wrong moment. He had let remorse get the better of him, and he had made the wrong decision. Unfortunately, he couldn’t change directions now.
In his dream, Alice had handed his daughter to him with a smile, and the baby had reached up to touch his face.
Now, he never had the chance of that happening.
The frozen ground stung Damon’s bare feet as he was escorted to the police car in handcuffs, so he hopped to get inside the warm vehicle as quickly as possible, not wanting to pause to hear what he was being arrested for – it was his third time within a year, and all the fight was going out of him. As dramatic as it was to be ambushed and hauled away, it was shortly followed by a long wait in a tiny room.
He requested a lawyer, and was assigned the same one that had represented him before Miranda had gotten involved. After an eternity, someone finally came in to talk to him.
“So, Mr. Rake, you want to tell us why you were living at Ms. Grainey’s house?” the investigator asked.
Damon stared sulkily down at the table in front of him, then answered quietly, “She forced me, okay?”
“And how did she do that?”
He fidgeted and looked around uncomfortably as he said, “Ms. Grainey told me that she would help me get visitation with my kid … in exchange for sex. She’d only help me if I slept with her, and I can’t afford any other representation.”
The investigator folded his arms and leaned back. “Are you aware that we found drugs on the premises?”
“Were you using?”
“There was a memory card with them, and we are currently looking at the contents. Do you have any idea what’s on it?”
“So you were only there because Ms. Grainey wanted a sexual relationship with you, and offered her services as a lawyer in exchange?”
“Yes, sir. My ex-girlfriend had my baby, and she’s doing everything she can to keep me from knowing my own kid. I wanted visitation, and the only option I had was to go along with Ms. Grainey.”
“The good news is, there might be some truth in your story. Your drug test came back clean.” The investigator looked up at the camera in the corner of the room and nodded, then said, “We have a witness who placed you at the scene where an undercover officer was murdered last year. Tell me about that.”
Miranda trembled slightly as she finished writing down her statement, doing her best to guess at what sort of story Damon had come up with to explain his presence in her condo so early in the morning. She signed her name, handed it over to the secretary, then pulled on her coat and picked up her bag to leave. However, she was stopped at the door, and informed that she was being placed under arrest.
She protested and argued, and almost refused the drug test until she thought better of it. There was no way she could avoid the positive result, and the lawyer part of her knew that it was better to cooperate. Then she was put into a room to wait, alone. It was agonizing to not fully know what was going on, and she wondered where Damon was. Aside from the little bit of coke that she had used to pick herself up every now and then, she hadn’t done anything illegal, and she prayed that it wouldn’t be long before she was released.
When an officer came in, she gave him a scornful look and asked, “Can I go home now?”
“Not yet,” he replied, sitting down across from her. “You probably know that you tested positive for cocaine.”
“I experimented with a tiny bit to get me through a crunch, and I deeply regret it,” she answered.
“Along with the drugs, we also found a memory card with a video on it. Do you know anything about that?”
Miranda went pale. “No,” she retorted.
“You’re in the video.” The officer was watching her closely. “Along with Mr. Rake.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. As his lawyer, we had a number of discussions, so a video of the two of us doesn’t mean anything.”
“Then why would it be hidden inside your mattress along with the cocaine?”
“I don’t know.” Miranda chewed on her lip as her mind raced. The officer sat and watched her, his eyes unwavering as he waited and studied her every muscle twitch. She had never been the subject of an interrogation before, and it was unexpectedly different from what she was used to as a lawyer. Her mind was freezing up.
“Mr. Rake has accused you of coercion.”
“He said that you utilized your position as his lawyer to demand sexual intercourse with him.”
“That’s …” Her voice cracked. “It’s absurd. He was blackmailing me.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wished that she could take them back. She had said too much.
“Is it true that you had an inappropriate relationship with your client?”
Miranda didn’t know what to say. The police had the video that proved that she had crossed that boundary with Damon, but she didn’t dare admit that she knew about it. The worst part was the thought that Damon had threatened and exploited her, only to then accuse her of doing the very same thing.
No, that wasn’t true. The worst part, the one that hurt inside her chest as if she had been stabbed, was the thought that he had so quickly turned against her after they had fostered something of a relationship together. After everything, he really did see her as nothing more than a temporary distraction.
“I want a lawyer,” she whispered.
It was still dark when Damon woke up.
After his drunken excursion at the bar, he had spent a couple nights on the couch to give Miranda her space, until she had quietly asked him to share her bed once again – even his company was better than long hours spent alone with herself. They resumed where they had left off, without talking about any of the events that had transpired. He took her out most nights, and flirted with her when it suited him, carefully inserting himself into more and more details of her life. He was developing an odd fondness for her that was constantly combating against his dislike of the way she carried herself, but the moments when she relaxed and let go of herself were endearing. Miranda was growing on him.
But that night, he had dreamt about Alice.
His heart ached as his eyes opened, and for a moment he stared up at the dark ceiling, feeling … regret. Slowly, Damon sat up and picked his phone up from the nightstand, using it to pull up a picture of her. She grinned up at him from the screen, with pink hair and black eyeliner, and he thought about how much more beautiful she had become without him.
“Is that Alice?” Miranda asked from beside him, and he quickly turned off the screen, his mood spoiled.
“None of your business,” he replied, setting the phone back down.
“No, I want to talk about this.” Miranda sat up. “Do you still love her?”
Damon cast a sideways scowl at her, then stood up and pulled on his pants. “What do you think?” he asked snidely.
“Why? What has she got that I don’t?” Miranda drew up her legs to hug her knees, watching Damon’s outline move in the dark room. “What makes her so special?”
Damon thought for a moment, wondering how much he wanted to bother himself with explaining, and how much Miranda was even capable of understanding. His dream had struck him deeply, and he decided that at the very least, he wanted to answer the question out loud. “Alice …” he began, then paused to formulate his thoughts. “She’s the only one who ever saw me as a person.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Miranda fumed. “I bet it’s that same old thing about how men like younger women, and that’s the only reason why both you and Basil are so fixated on her.”
“Shut the fuck up!” Damon snapped. “You’re just some self-absorbed bitch who’s only good for a temporary distraction, you got that? You don’t know shit.” Miranda sat in stunned silence, so he continued, “In all this time, you never once considered that I might give a damn about my kid. It never occurred to you that I have thoughts of my own. And just now, you acted like I’m too stupid to know my own feelings without you dictating them to me. Alice actually gave a fuck about me – but you never have.”
“Do you think that I’m supposed to erase myself so I can pander to your feelings?” Miranda shot back. “I’m not some doormat!”
Damon laughed, slowly and coldly. “Then what are you, exactly? What decisions have you made for yourself lately?”
Miranda curled up even more tightly, her lips twisting downwards as she quietly answered, “I don’t have a choice …”
“It’s easy to be a victim, isn’t it,” Damon sneered at her. “The fact is, Miranda, I can’t blackmail you without your consent, and you’ve loved every moment of it.” He turned and glimpsed something out the bedroom window. Miranda replied, but he didn’t hear what she said as he slowly adjusted the blinds to cautiously peek out, then cussed profusely. “Get dressed,” he said, snatching his shirt from the floor and pulling it over his head. “Quickly.”
“Why?” Miranda asked scowling, but she slid out of bed to open her drawers and rummage through them.
Damon went to her closet and reached in blindly for something, then threw the clothing at her. He left the bedroom and hid himself in the front entrance, closing his eyes to listen carefully. Sure enough, there was pounding on the door, followed by a voice bellowing, “Police!”
Miranda was still buttoning up her shirt as she scampered out of the bedroom, looking at Damon with wide eyes. He nodded at her, so she answered the knock.
“Miranda Grainey?” the officer asked, and she replied in the affirmative. “We have a warrant to search the premises.”
“On what grounds?” she said, trying her best to sound secure while all too aware of Damon’s presence just out of the officer’s sight.
“Is there a Damon Rake here?”
She felt herself grow cold, but said, “No.”
“Would you please step aside?”
“On what grounds?” Her voice was tight.
“We have evidence that Damon Rake has been residing with you.” The officer pushed his way in, followed by another.
“That’s just absurd!” Miranda resisted the urge to look directly at Damon as she stepped away from him, hoping to keep the police officers distracted. “Damon Rake is a client of mine, but he’s most certainly not living here. You can’t just barge into my home because of some rumor, and you can bet that I’ll be taking you to court over this. You’ll be lucky if you still have a job after I’m done with you.”
Damon took advantage of her rant, and silently slipped behind the officers and out the door. Miranda privately let herself feel a surge of relief, though she carefully kept it from showing on her face.
She continued, “If you touch any of my personal items then I’ll sue you for sexual harassment. I am not going to be subjected to this!”
Then Miranda’s heart stopped as shouting echoed from outside, followed by the officer’s radio bleeping, “Got him.”
“Take him in. We’ll finish up here,” the officer said back into his radio, then he looked at Miranda expectantly. “You might want to come with us to provide a statement. A team will be up here shortly to perform the search.”
Miranda’s knees went weak. For a moment she felt herself dissociate, and her lawyer voice clipped in her ear, “Cooperate, but don’t answer any questions. Keep your head together.”