A Lovely Start

This is the first of three parts… I tried my best to research this part.

It had started so innocently.  A member of the women’s group at her church had told them that there were men at the nearby prison who didn’t have anyone on the outside.  What if we wrote them letters?  Becoming pen pals with the inmates had seemed like it would be a great outreach program.

She’d chosen him at random for no other reason that she liked his name: Ezra.  It was an old-fashioned name.  It was unusual.  That made it easy for her to remember.  She hadn’t been really looking to become his friend.  After all, he was a man who had been convicted of theft and fraud.  He was the unsavory type, surely.

At the next meeting of the women’s group, Laura had sat with the other women and written her letter to him.  She was careful not to tell him very much about herself.  Instead, she told him about books she’d read and television programs she’d seen.

Then, nearly a week later, she went to her mailbox to find that she’d received a letter from Ezra Montgomery.  Where she’d been careful not to share any personal information, Ezra didn’t seem to be worried about that.  He wrote her a three page letter, detailing everything that had happened in his life that had led him to be convicted of fraud and theft.

He’d seemed honestly contrite about his crime.  Rather than blaming a poor upbringing for his behavior, he said that his upbringing wasn’t to blame.  He’d known that what he was doing was wrong and his greed had blinded him to that.

Laura shook her head and looked over at her sister.  “He seems so… genuine,” she said.  However, she knew that he was a con-artist.  After all, that was why he was in prison now.  Wasn’t it?

She didn’t take his words as the truth.  Instead, she’d taken the time to check the facts.  It took some digging, but trials were a matter of public record and she had his name.  Soon, she was reading over the transcript from his trial.

He’d plead not guilty, initially and he’d been released on bail after spending only a night in prison.  Then, bounty hunters had caught him a mile from the prison he’d left only days before  He’d been on his way back, to turn himself in.  Laura wasn’t sure if she believed that or not.  She wanted to believe it.  That much was certain.

He’d changed his plea to guilty the next day.  At what would have been his trial, he apologized to the court for wasting their time.  He’d apologized to the police for fleeing from them.  He’d thanked the bounty hunters for bringing him back.

Tears welled in Laura’s eyes as she read his words.  He’d apologized for everything that he’d done or said.  Then, when he was sentenced to ten years in prison, he had passed out.  The transcript confirmed everything Ezra had read in the letter that he had written to her.

Laura wrote back to him that very night.  She was still careful to keep her personal information secret from him.  However, it was more difficult to not trust him now.  After all, he’d been so open and up front with her.

“That’s exactly what he wants you think,” her sister warned her.  She shook her head.  “He knows that all that stuff is easy for you to confirm.  He’s got no reason to lie and every reason to build up your confidence in him.”

Things had escalated from there, however.  Laura wrote to him every week and each week, she received a letter from him.  He’d told her about his childhood in Georgia and Laura could imagine his voice as she read his letters.  There was something about the Southern accent that never failed to catch her attention.

As the holidays drew near, Laura wrote to him and asked if he would like her to visit him.  Was that allowed?

She had no idea what his reaction would be.  Her sister told her that she was a fool.  He would jump on the request and use it to draw her in.  Instead, he wrote back to her after two weeks and told her that it was not a good idea.  She should be with her family, not a prison, during the holidays.

That made up her mind for her.  She wasn’t sure if he was allowed to have a present of any kind.  Most of all, she knew that he didn’t really want her there.  She couldn’t simply show up and expect to get in and see him.

She called the prison and asked what the protocol was for visiting an inmate.  She listened carefully to the rules.  Gifts, she found, were not allowed.  She could bring money with her, in small bills, to use for the vending machines in the visiting room.  She also learned that, even if she went that didn’t mean he had to see her.

Laura waited anxiously for the day of the visit to come.  She took the day off of work, since the weekends were especially busy.  Then, she dressed conservatively in a comfortable blouse and jeans with sneakers and headed for the prison.

Although it was chilly, she left her coat in the car, along with her cellular phone.  All she brought with her was her purse, with her driver’s license, a few dollars in a clear pouch and her car keys.  She was apprehensive as the guards processed her for the visit.

What if she wasn’t on the visitor’s list and they refused to let her see him?  What if he simply refused to visit her?  What if this was a mistake?  She released a shaky breath as she stepped into the visiting room and moved to the table where she was directed.

A few moments later, the door on the far side of the room opened.  There was no one else waiting for someone, so she knew this could only be Ezra.  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw him.

He had reddish brown hair and wide, pale green eyes.  He blinked at her for a moment.  Then, he stepped over to the table and sat down.  “Laura,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.  “Whatever are you doing here?”

Two things stuck her with those simple words.  The first was that he sounded exactly how she’d imagined he would.  The second was that he sounded as if he were going to cry.  She wrote to him because no one else did.  Was it possible that no one had visited him either?

“It says… in the book of Matthew that we should visit people in prison,” Laura said, shrugging.

“Chapter twenty-five,” Ezra said, a faint smile touching his lips.  “Verse thirty-six.  ‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'”  His voice cracked when he said the last words.

Laura nodded.  “Besides,” she added, “it’s nearly Christmas.”  She flushed a little and said, “I wanted to bring your a present, but they said gifts aren’t allowed.”

“They have… ways,” Ezra said, flushing.  He cast a glance towards one of the guards and then reached out to set his hand over one of hers.  “Just the fact that you thought of me… that you would come here is more than I really hoped for.”

Laura smiled and flushed.  She shrugged again.  Tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, she said, “I was afraid they’d turn me away when I found out that I had to be on some kind of list.”

“Josiah suggested that I put you on my list when you mentioned it,” he admitted.  He shrugged and then shook his head.  “I never really… I wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but he said that it would be… unkind, if you came all the way out here and were turned away.”

He had mentioned Josiah a few times in his letters, so she knew that he was Ezra’s cellmate.  “Thank him for me,” she said, smiling.  When he chuckled softly, she said, “Do you have any… friends in here, Ezra?”

“Josiah,” he said, without hesitating.  When she nodded, he looked thoughtful for a moment.  “There’s one other man… Vin,” he added.  He shook his head.  “I don’t know if he’s a friend or not.  We’re cordial, in any case.  He’s so quiet that I’m not sure if he’d call me a friend or not.”

Laura spent the next hour talking and laughing with Ezra.  When the guard told them that it was time for her to leave, they both moved to their feet.  Laura gave Ezra quick hug and a kiss on the cheek.  “I was nice to finally meet you face to face,” she said, as she stepped back.

“Likewise,” he said, his voice soft.

As Laura headed out of the prison, she knew that it wouldn’t be their only visit.  When she got into her car, she made a note on her cellular phone to look into sending him a gift of some kind through the prison system.  Perhaps there was a way she could send him books to read.


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