"Ben Weston, you have 15 minutes to gather your things before we bring you to your new home. The judge did the world a favor today by sentencing you to death."
I sat on my bed staring straight at the wall unable to move. Unable to even form a coherent thought. All that kept replaying over and over was the sound of the gavel banging down and echoing throughout the courtroom followed by the worst sound I've ever heard: Ciara's blood curdling scream. My heart sank further than I thought possible with my inability to do anything about it. I only wanted one thing: to be there for Ciara and comfort her. I closed my eyes and prayed when I opened them, I would be home in the gatehouse with her. This whole afternoon would have been nothing but a nightmare. With my eyes closed, I could almost feel Ciara. I could practically see her smile and the way she would light up. Most of the time, I couldn't believe it was at me. All I wanted was to be able to kiss her tears away and whisper sweet nothings in her ear; make her world okay again. The harsh reality hit me when I opened my eyes and I was in a four-by-four cold concrete cell.
I have done a lot of wrong in my life. Things that haunt me, even in my dreams. But the one thing I know for certain is I will be dying an innocent man for the death of not just anyone but my sister. No matter what happened between us, she was still my sister and I still loved her.
"You better get a move on, Weston. You don't have much time."
I turned to look over at the wall next to my bunk. I had taped up a few pictures of me and Ciara but some of just Ciara that I had taken along with a letter she wrote that I used as a goodnight story. I didn't need it up as I must have read that letter so many damn times I had it memorized. I could almost hear her voice saying the words to me as I read it. I very gingerly took a picture off the wall and as I did I began to stare at the picture in my hand. I touched Ciara's face. We weren't allowed to touch during visits, so this was the closest I could get. A cheap imitation though of the real thing.
This was all I had to comfort me. Her face. I had every inch of her face etched in my memory. The way her lips curled up at the corners when she smiled; her smile was radiant. It made me feel better, even locked up in this hellhole. The way her bright green eyes glimmered through me. The way her smile was always for me. I could feel how much she loved me even through a picture. I had to fight back the tears that stung my eyes. But I refused to let these assholes see me cry.
It took me a few seconds to snap back to reality as the guard was rambling on. About one thing that was enough to make me see red: Ciara.
"...Who's in that picture? Is that the pretty little thing you call your girlfriend? It's only a matter of time before she's jumping into bed with the next guy. What's her name, Weston? Maybe I can track her down. Make sure she's warm at night. Safe from a psycho like you. I can be her shoulder to cry on... amongst other things. A warm body for her at night. If not me, then that guy she left with I'm sure is doing a great job of comforting her right now while you get…" I couldn't hear him anymore.
The thought of anyone comforting Ciara, let alone a man as skin-crawling like this one sent anger coursing through my whole body like nothing else. I dropped the picture in my hand, careful not to damage it or step on it despite my anger. I rose to my feet quickly and before I knew it my hands were stretched through the jail cell bars and around his shirt collar.
"I will never tell you what her name is. Do you understand me?!"
The guard had a wicked smirk "I'd let go of me if you know what's good for you, Weston."
I chuckled bitterly "What's good for me? Like I have anything else left to lose. If you so much as talk to her or even look in her direction, that will be the last thing you'll do. And that's not a threat, that's a promise. Do you understand me?" My knuckles began to turn white as I gripped tighter on his shirt collar as I glared at him.
He looked back at me with fright. It must have been the rage in my eyes or the tone of my voice as I was gripping tighter on his shirt because he pulled back from me, the metal bars between us served as a barrier.
"Alright. Alright. Let me go."
I released my grip on his shirt. As he took a few steps back readjusting his collar. I wasn't proud to still have this effect on people. To put the fear of what the Necktie Killer was capable of but I would protect Ciara until my last breath from filth like this. The thought of this piece of dirt touching Ciara and making her uncomfortable made my blood run cold. I bent down to pick up Ciara's picture from the floor and brushed it off.
"You don't deserve a woman like that. She deserves the love of a real man. Not some homicidal sociopath who murders his own flesh and blood. Five minutes Weston, 'til you go rot in your new cell for the remainder of your life. Which luckily is less than 48 hours from now." He said to me as he walked away from my cell to stand in the middle of the hallway as I lunged for him again.
I glared at him for a few seconds before I turned back to my bunk to continue to remove the pictures And letter from the wall. I carefully removed the gum from the back of the pictures. You learn to improvise a lot being here and tape was not a luxury in Statesville Penitentiary. But gum was.
I rolled it off the back and threw the small ball into the garbage as I neatly stacked her pictures and folded up her letter placing it back into the envelope. I took my blanket and sheets off the bed and folded them up, stacking them on the thin pillow they gave to us.
I gathered the rest of my items and stacked them all on top of my pillows. I didn't have much. And nothing besides my letters from Ciara and her pictures did I even care about. They gave me a small cardboard box to place my belongings in. This box would be picked up from Stefan. I gave the warden strict instructions to only release the items to him.
I bent down to reach under my bed to a stack of envelopes tied with a string I had ripped off of my blanket. I had five envelopes in total. This was the only thing I placed in the box.
No one else could know about these, not even Ciara, not yet anyway. They were something I had been working on for awhile. Yes, while Ciara was so damn hopeful I would be getting out of here and her hope gave me strength, I still needed to do this for her in case things didn't go in my favor. I would take care of her and look after her until my last dying breath, and with these letters, after too.
Holding the letters in my hand today I was glad I decided to do it. The letters that I had written were for the different stages of Ciara's life. Each milestone she would reach… in her new life without me.
They were each labeled "For Ciara when..." so Stefan would know which one to give her when without reading the contents, they were just for Ciara's eyes; something just between us. The first one read "For Ciara When I'm Gone". Writing these letters was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, it was like another level of accepting I wouldn't get to grow old with Ciara. We were robbed of so much. We had so many hopes and dreams that were dashed with one bang of the gavel. Well besides the last one I have to write tonight. I saved my last letter to her as one I would give to her. I waited because I still had a sliver of hope that everything would be okay. As hopeful as Ciara was, I wanted to wait for the last letter. This one will be the hardest one to write because I was hoping I'd never have to.
I chose Stefan to give these to her because Stefan had become like a brother to me and the only person I trusted to do this because he wouldn't read them for his liking. He wouldn't pacify me and tell me he would oblige by my wishes only to turn around and not give them to her when it came down to it. Getting them to him in this box was the only way I could.
I know Ciara would question where my belongings were but I would explain it all in my letter to her that I didn't want her to have any memories of this dark time. The worst time in her life… and the final time of mine.
"Alright time's up Weston. Let's go"
I gathered all the things I had in my arms and he grabbed me by my elbow and led me down the hallway. The chants and taunting of the other inmates echoed the halls as I walked past. After what felt like eternity we finally stopped as I heard the buzzing of the cell doors opening as he led me through. They slammed shut a few moments later. The guard stopped before room 4. It was half the size of my last cell with no lights. He released his grip on my arm and jerked me into the cell. As he did that, everything I was holding came crashing down to the floor.
"Have fun cleaning up your mess, Weston." He laughed maniacally as he slammed my cell door shut and locked the door.
I bent down to the floor instantly to pick up the pictures of Ciara. I didn't care about anything else. Those pictures were all I had left to comfort me, all I had left of her. I scrambled to pick them up but the room was dark with just the lights of the hallway filtering into the cell. It was colder than my last cell. A chill crept up my spine. I took Ciara's pictures into my hands and clenched them against my chest, tight but careful not to wrinkle them. How I wished I could have Ciara in my arms right now, feel her tightly wrap her arms around my waist as I kiss her head. But I would never want Ciara to be in this place. Even if it was to comfort me.
I sat on the cold concrete floor with my back against the cold cement wall. The tears that I was holding back for so long stung my cheeks. I tried to keep it together for Ciara, but in this moment I broke. If only my old man could see me now. "Man up boy. Only sissies cry." I shook my head, trying to ignore his taunts. Ciara was instrumental in being able to get my father's voice out of my head and helping me to see that being emotional isn't a sign of weakness. But now… now my life is over. My purpose for living was being ripped from me. This had to be God's sick joke. 'Find redemption. Find the one person who could ever fall in love with me.' Then destroy my life. This was payback I'm sure.
All the family members of the victims of the lives I destroyed could now sit back and laugh if they saw me now. They would probably jump for joy at the excruciating pain I was experiencing. But the only thing I cared about in this hell of a world I was living in was Ciara.
I knew she wasn't okay. I knew how devastated she was; I could hear her screams still. Her desperation to get to me. The both of us having to be restrained from each other. Sobs started to echo through the cell I was in. I knew she was probably laying in her bed sobbing and the thought of that made my heart break further than I ever imagined possible. I looked down at her picture again as my tears soaked them.
The life I worked so hard for. The life I always dreamt about was taken from me in the blink of an eye. I warned Ciara so many times not to fall in love with me; to walk away while she could. I knew I was never going to be good enough for her or give her the life she deserved but the selfish part of me let her come back every time I tried to push her way. The way I felt around her, the way she loved me was truly indescribable. She made me feel like I could be the man that I wanted to be, the man that wasn't just Clyde Weston's spawn. With Ciara, she made me feel like I wasn't just destined to be like my pops. She made me feel like I could just be me and that was just fine. She saw the real me. She loved the real me. I had never exposed myself to someone like I had with Ciara. She knew everything, the good, the bad, and even every ugly detail. But it never derailed her. She loved me anyway.
For some godforsaken reason, Ciara saw good in me. She taught me I was worthy of love and being loved. I didn't know what love truly was or what it felt like until Ciara Alice Brady came into my life. She gave me purpose and reason. She was my home. My safe place to land. She was my comfort, my anchor, my compass, and my true north. She was my salvation. She only had to smile at me and I would feel better again, I would instantly feel lighter and could never help but smile back myself. She never gave up, she fought for me so hard until the bitter end. I knew I had to tell her not to come see me anymore. But I couldn't. As much as I wanted to protect her from all of this, the selfish part of myself needed her face to be the last thing I saw as I left this world, before I was met with what was next. Whether that be Heaven, Hell, or just nothing. Her beautiful face needed to be my last image.
I stood up and wiped my eyes. I made my way over to the small cot and placed the picture I was holding of Ciara on the bed. My fingers lingered over it for a moment vying to be able to touch Ciara again, to be able to wrap my fingers in that gorgeous mane of hers and not sneaking a handhold while the guard isn't looking. All I wanted was to be able to hold Ciara in my arms all day and all night again. We had a love of physical touch. It was how we communicated our love without words. Words weren't always needed when it came to us, we just had that kind of connection. But I had to shake that thought out of my mind. It would never happen again. I would never get to kiss Ciara's hair and inhale her scent as I fall asleep or give her a good morning kiss with her crazy bedhead mane. I took a deep breath and reached for my notebook and pencil ignoring the rest of my belongings that were still spewed around me. I began to write my letter to Ciara. I looked at her face, trying to find the words and the courage to write what I needed to. I knew what I had to write but these were going to be the hardest words in the world to say.