Ryan felt hot tears begin to form behind his eyes as he watched the woman, who he now knew for certain was their mother, practically crumple to the ground when she saw them.
The male guard rushed over to see what was going on. “Everything okay?” he asked the female guard. She looked at her prisoner and their mother nodded. “Okay,” he said and pointed at Avery. “You know the rules.”
Avery quickly put her hands in the air as she nodded her affirmation. Ryan took a deep breath in an effort to maintain his own composure while he watched the exchange. Reagan was squeezing his hand, which made it doubly hard. He knew he had to stay strong for her because she was just as unnerved as he was. Ryan wasn’t sure exactly what he had expected, but this wasn’t it.
Finally satisfied her prisoner was okay, the guard motioned for Avery to take a seat at the bench across from them. She sat down, her head down, unable to meet their gaze. Ryan looked at his sister and tears were rolling down her face and it was like someone punched him in the gut.
“Mama?” she squeaked out, which made Avery finally lift her head to look at them.
Avery nodded her head. “My babies,” she whispered and began to cry again. “I never expected to see you again. How?” She barely managed to choke out the words.
“Mama!” said Reagan on a sob and started to reach across the table. The guard cleared his throat loudly causing Reagan to inhale sharply and jump back.
“It’s okay baby,” said Avery, her voice barely above a whisper. She took a cleansing breath before speaking again. “I just can’t believe you are actually here. Reagan, you’re beautiful, and all grown up. God, you look so much like your father.” She smiled a little before going on. “But, I always knew you would. God I’ve missed you two so much. I think about you all the time.”
Then she directed her attention to Ryan. “And you. Oh my god Ryan. You were just scrawny little guy and look at you now. You are so handsome and strong. You must work out. I’m sure you have to fight off the girls.” Tears were once again sparkling in his mother’s eyes.
Ryan had tried to imagine what he would say to her when he finally saw her face to face. In fact he thought he might even tell her to go to fucking hell for what she had put them through. That had worried him, because Rea was so sure their mother loved them, and she would have been hurt even more if he’d had to say those words to her. But she seemed extremely moved to see them and it confused him. Where was the evil bitch that their father had made her out to be? Why hadn’t they been allowed to see her? It suddenly seemed wrong that they’d been kept away for eight years.
Avery sighed deeply when neither of them spoke. “I know this is awkward. But you have no idea how much it means to me that you are here. But I don’t understand. How? Why?”
Reagan spoke before Ryan could form any words. “I’ve missed you too Mama, I think about you all the time. Why didn’t you call?”
“Oh Reagan. It’s not that simple,” explained their mother, “I was a mess when I got here. Very bitter. I blamed your father. Hated him, in fact, for putting me in here. And I knew, he hated me too. So I gave up my rights to you. I couldn’t fight it from here.” She put here head in her hands and choked out a sob before she could calm herself enough to continue. “I’m really sorry I did that. But I knew I couldn’t be a mother to you from here and I had lost all hope.”
Ryan watched her getting angry. How could someone just give up their children? And her words were destroying Reagan. “I think we need to leave Reagan.”
Avery looked up panicked. “No Ryan,” she said quickly, “Please. Please don’t go.” She sounded desperate and began to wring her hands. “I’ve dreamed of this moment for years. You came this far for a reason. Stay and hear me out.”
She paused and when they didn’t make a move to leave, she continued. “I didn’t orchestrate what happened to Ami. All I’m really guilty of is cheating. I don’t even know what happened – – to him. I’m not proud of what I did, but I think, if things had been different, your father and I, we maybe could have worked it out. I don’t hate Cole anymore. He was hurt badly and needed to blame me, and rightly so. When I look at the two of you now, I know it was right to let him have you. He did good all alone.”
“He’s not all alone,” said Reagan bitterly.
“Oh?” said Avery and arched her eyebrow briefly. “Well, I’m sure he must have started to date again. We are divorced sweetheart.” Avery looked at the book laying in front of Reagan. “What’s that?” she asked softly.
Ryan wanted out of there, but there was no way his sister was leaving. And truthfully, he was also beginning to soften. He hadn’t expected his mother to be repentant. He expected a bitter hateful version of her. He wasn’t sure what to think anymore. So he watched as Reagan began to talk about the pictures she had lovingly put into the book.
“Who’s the pretty blonde?” asked Avery.
Ryan remembered back to the time before they found out Taylor was their sister. She and Reagan were joined at the hip. So it was hard to find any pictures of them, until the last couple of years, without Taylor, Dannie and even baby Connie in them.
“She’s our half sister,” said Ryan emotionless.
Avery looked curiously in his direction. “But how?” she asked, “She’s the same age as you two.”
Ryan went on to explain that Taylor was in fact nearly two years older than them and they now had another half sister, Taylor’s sister, that was now six.
Avery thought for a minute. “She was the woman with Cole at the trial….the football player’s wife.” She said it more to herself than to them.
“I don’t know,” said Ryan, “She was married to a football player. So I guess so. I didn’t know she was at the trial.”
“Yes. Of course not. I’m sorry Ryan. It’s just, I don’t talk to anyone – on the outside.”
Reagan pushed the album back across the table to her mother, “You can keep this. I made it for you,” she said.
“Thank you,” said Avery and tears lit up her eyes again.
“Um…Ryan plays basketball,” said Reagan, “The scouts were there for his game and talked to the coach. He might get a scholarship.” Reagan smiled and Ryan was warmed at the pride in her voice.
He wanted to repay the kindness. “Reagan is going to work for Ami this summer. Ami said she has an eye for color.”
Reagan blushed. “She said I took after you, with a flair for color and design.”
“Really?” asked their mother, looking shocked.
“She said you were really good at it,” replied Reagan.
“I am so proud of you both,” said their mother and smiled for the first time since she sat down. “And Reagan, thank you so much for this. When I get lonely, I can look through it and it will remind that this day was real. I love you both so very much.”
“Mama….” said Reagan, and scrunched up her face, “can we come see you again?”
“Of course. I would love that. It would make my remaining time go by so much faster knowing I have something to look forward to.”
Ryan spoke up not wanting his sister or his mother to get their hopes up. “I’m not sure when we can come again. You see, Dad doesn’t know we’re here.”
“Yeah,” chimed in Reagan bitterly, “he’s in Paris with his other family.”
“They went because Taylor is going to go to school there,” explained Ryan quickly, “And, Rea, you could’ve gone.”
“Paris? As in France?” asked Avery.
Reagan nodded. “Sorry. He’s right,” she said, “It’s just so hard to see Daddy be proud of Taylor, and disappointed with me.”
“Oh honey, you are beautiful and talented. How could he possibly be disappointed?”
“Because, he and Dannie, Taylor and Connie are a real family. We are just step kids now,” said Reagan.
“Taylor’s a kiss up,” grumbled Ryan.
“I’m sorry you two are having to deal with that,” said Avery, sadly. “You wouldn’t have had to if weren’t for my bad decisions. I’m so very sorry.”
“If Daddy was nicer to you, all of this wouldn’t have even happened,” complained Reagan.
“Honey, it’s not all his fault. I was dealing with depression and didn’t know it. But, I got help here. Do you know, you are the only visitors I’ve ever had.”
“Ryan, we have to come back,” said Reagan, desperation in her voice.
“I don’t know when or how,” replied Ryan trying his best to prepare Reagan for the fact they may not be able to see their mother again for quite some time. “You know Dad probably won’t allow it.”
“He’ll have to! We’ll just tell him!” said Reagan her voice beginning to carry across the room.
“Rea, be quiet,” said Ryan, “they’ll make us leave.”
“Reagan, it’s okay sweetheart,” said Avery trying to calm her down. “Don’t tell him. Ryan’s right. I doubt he’d sanction a visit to see me. You graduate in another year. When you do, if you still want to see me, you can come then.” She laughed bitterly. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Oh Mama …. I don’t want you to have to have to stay here,” said Reagan and dissolved into tears.
Avery looked at Reagan helplessly. “Shhh. It’s okay. Please, don’t be sad. You two coming to see me has given me new hope. It gives me something to look forward to when I do get out. Then we can see each other and get to know one another again. I love you both so much, and I’m so very proud of you. It took a lot of courage to come here. So, don’t ever let your father make you think you are a disappointment. You aren’t.”
Just then the female guard walked over followed by the woman that brought them in earlier. “Avery, your time is up,” said the guard.
As soon as she said that Reagan cried out, “No! Mama!”
The guard smiled kindly at Reagan. “Miss, clam down. You can come back later. I’ll give you a minute to say goodbye. You can give her a hug before I take her back.”
“Thank you,” said Avery and stood up. She drew both of her children into her arms. “I love you both. Be strong. We’ll get to see each other again. Thank you for the album, and most of all, for coming.”
“We’ll call,” promised Ryan as they took Avery away, desperate to say something to calm both his sobbing mother and sister. Ryan now had to hold his sister up, much as the guard had to hold his mother up when she first saw them. Damn his mother or damn his dad. He didn’t know who to blame for his sister’s misery. And his too, for that matter. He knew right then, he would never, ever have kids.
Ryan waited until the steel doors closed and their mother was no longer in sight before he urged Reagan to move. “Come on Rea, we gotta go. You heard Mom. You need to be strong.” He put his arm around her and guided her out as they followed the woman that initially brought them down.
Here is a link to the Prison on the Gallery – It is CC free by FC781