Anthony looked back at the prison that had been his home for forty years. He had gone in as a young man, but was leaving someone who qualified for Social Security. He shook his head, drew himself up straight, and continued to walk out.
Jerry, the guard escorting Anthony out, asked, “So do you think you’ll miss the place?”
“Do you miss when you take a dump?” asked Anthony. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment every day since I stepped foot into this hell.”
Jerry smiled. “Yeah, well I’ll miss your humor. Take care old man,” Jerry said.
Anthony didn’t respond, but waved as he continued to walk. There was a taxi waiting to take him to civilization. The taxi driver took what few belongings Anthony had put in a duffle bag and put them in the trunk. As Anthony got into the back seat the driver turned back. “Where you want to be man?” asked the taxi driver.
Anthony pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket. “I want to go to the Starbucks on Clinton St,” he said.
The taxi pulled away from the curb. “Ah, looking for some of the good stuff. Most of you guys want to hit a bar,” the taxi driver said.
“Most of us guys are stupid,” Anthony replied.
The taxi driver just shook his head and continued to drive in silence. Anthony sat there and watched the scenery go by, sort of like he watched his life go by for the last 40 years. Finally he decided that the silence was more painful. “Have you ever done something for all the right reasons, but paid for it like it was the wrong thing?” asked Anthony.
“Not that I can think of, man, but I’m sure you had lots of them back where you just came from,” the taxi driver said.
“Yeah, well, most of those dopes were animals. They lived on emotion,” Anthony said. “Me, I did it with calculations. I looked at insurances, at what could be done, at what had to be done. I almost got away with it, but that wouldn’t have been right either. In the end I was convicted on a crime I didn’t commit. Now that is story you get a lot back there.”
“Oh yeah? What did they say you did?” asked the taxi driver.
“Kill my wife,” said Anthony, “but you see, I didn’t do it. It was brilliant in a way.”
“You didn’t murder your wife?” the taxi driver asked. “Did you try to prove your innocence?”
“Nope. I didn’t say I was innocent. I just did what I had to do. Now I am a free man. The question is, was it worth it?” said Anthony.
“Man, I am confused,” said the taxi driver.
Anthony chuckled. “So was my wife. At least until I laid it out in front of her. She had to die. It was best for everyone involved, especially her sister.”
“Dude, are you like high? Man, you must be on something. Look, we’re here,” the taxi driver said as they pulled into the Starbucks parking lot.
Anthony suddenly became nervous. He fumbled to take out the faire and a good sized tip. “Thanks for the ride,” he said.
The taxi driver pocketed the money and handed Anthony back his bag. “Man, I think you were the one taking me for a ride. Good luck.” With that the taxi pulled away, leaving Anthony alone and free for the first time in a real long time.
Anthony looked around, trying to find the courage to walk inside. She said she would be there, but would she really come? She had sent the address through his friend Pauley, but it could be one last prank that Pauley got to pull on Anthony the sourpuss. The only way to know was to go inside.
Anthony pulled the door open and let himself inside. The smell of real coffee permeated the room. It was heavenly and an assault on his senses. He looked around and didn’t see her. Stupid Pauley! Still, he didn’t want to look like an idiot. He walked up to the counter to order a coffee, but was confused by the myriad of choices and weird sizing. He decided to take a step back and watch.
Suddenly a woman’s voice from the past electrocuted his soul. “Sorry I’m late. Traffic from the airport was murder.”
Anthony spun around and began to tear up. Right there was Emily, wait no it was Eva. He had to keep that straight, or else forty years could mean nothing. “Eva, so nice of you to come,” he said, stuttering with emotion. “I…”
Eva gave him a hug. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “I’m here Anthony. I’m not going to let you go.”
When Eva let him go she smiled and dabbed at one of her tears, then one of his. “Sit, I’ll get us coffees. Black, one sugar, right?”
Anthony smiled. “You always had a great memory,” he said.
Eva left him at a small table in the corner and disappeared up to the counter. Anthony watched her. She looked so good. She looked like a slightly older version of the woman he had married so long ago. The thing that impressed Anthony was the way she carried herself. She was so much more self-assured, so much like her twin sister.
Eva came back to the table and handed Anthony back his coffee. “I just can’t believe it. You’re finally free,” she said.
Anthony stalled for time by taking a sip of the coffee. Boy that was stronger than the crap back at the prison, but so rich. He let it play in his mouth before swallowing. He looked back at Eva. “Finally. To be honest I was worried I was going to die in there.”
“So was I,” Eva said. Now it was Eva’s turn to stall with her coffee. She studied him with those jade green eyes. Anthony almost began to squirm under her gaze. Then she made a decision and put her coffee down. “You’re flying back with me tonight.”
Anthony put his coffee down and steepled his fingers. “Won’t that undo all the things we’ve done? I don’t want to go back there,” he said.
Eva leaned in close. “No one is going to figure it out now. It was too long ago. They just don’t care anymore,” she said in a low voice.
Anthony leaned in as well. He could smell her breath, her scent, and it unleashed so many physical responses, but his calculating side kicked in. “You don’t think bringing home the murderer of your sister is going to raise a few eyebrows?” he asked.
Eva sat straight up like she had been slapped. “Isn’t forty years enough to pay?” Eva asked. “You don’t think we have served enough time.”
Anthony laughed. “You served? Which penitentiary were you in?” he asked.
Eva looked Anthony straight in the eye. “The man I loved and my sister were taken from me in one night. I’ve lived inside those walls since then, not letting anyone come inside, not letting anyone come close, all to preserve a lie. Now you tell me Anthony Fierily, are you going to stick to your marriage vow?”
Anthony dropped his gaze. She was right, but so wrong at the same time. Death had parted them that night. Yet here she was wanting Anthony to come home with her. Forty years of waiting, and now he realized he was scared to be the man he was while she had embraced the woman she had become.
“Okay, I’ll come home,” he said.
Eva quickly gave him a kiss on his forehead. That perked Anthony up and put a smile on his face. “More of that later,” she said. “We need to hit the road. The plane leaves in three hours.”
They both got up and left Starbucks. Eva steered Anthony to a Lexus SUV. “It’s not mine,” she said at his inquisitive look. “Mine is nicer.”
The SUV came to life and Eva pulled out into traffic. Anthony couldn’t wait anymore. “I know I came up with the whole plan, but I didn’t like it. It just made sense,” he said. “I just didn’t see Maurice going for my throat.”
“Yeah, you were smart, but not that smart. You were political hay my dear. Maurice rode that conviction to governor. If he had won and put you to death, well maybe he would have been president,” Eva said.
“To think, my death could have launched a different president,” Anthony mused.
“My sister’s death launched this,” Eva said pointed around the SUV. Anthony’s gaze dropped to the floor again. Eva noticed and placed her hand on his thigh. “She was going to die from cancer. It’s not like now. She was terminal. That damn insurance company would have dropped the policy.”
“And now you’ve made quite the recovery,” Anthony said.
“It’s truly amazing,” Eva said. Tears were now streaming down her face. It was Anthony’s turn to blot them out with a tissue.
“Good thing we never changed who your beneficiary was after we got married,” Anthony said.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Eva said.
Anthony slapped his forehead. “Of course not. I’m sorry.”
Eva grabbed his hand fiercely. “It will be okay. I love you Anthony. Till death do us part,” Eva said.
Anthony gave Eva’s hand a kiss. “I love you too Emily. I just had to say that one last time,” he said.
Eva nodded. “But now it’s time for a new chapter. Eva always had a cooler ring to it anyway.”