“Could I have another blanket, please?”
Through the steel bars of the jail cell, Darla could see a chair piled with six or seven folded blankets. A janitor was sweeping the floor in front of her.
He didn’t even look at her, just kept sweeping.
“You think this is a hotel?” he said.
“No,” said Darla in a small voice. “I’m sorry. I’m just so cold.”
“We need these for other detainees,” he said. “Only one per customer.” He pushed the broom down the corridor, out of Darla’s sight. As far as she could tell, she was the only person locked up in the police station’s holding cell on this winter night.
She lay down on the hard cot and curled up in a ball. She pulled the singular blanket allotment up to her chin and started to cry again.
She had been crying most of the night. The only time she stopped was when she drifted into a restless sleep. Blessed sleep, thin as the blanket wrapped around her shaking shoulders. She’d drift off, literally crying herself to sleep, then wake abruptly to the tearful realization that she was still locked up.
“I don’t belong here,” she cried.
Never having been in trouble in her life, she was now in jail, wearing her pink flannel pajamas, the ones with the little puppies all over them. They’d been a Christmas gift from her husband. He gave his girlfriend a nice watch; he gave his wife pajamas.
Darla found out about the girlfriend a few hours ago, following a dinner of pork chops, green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. After doing up the dishes, she had changed into her new pink pajamas and stretched out on the couch to watch Jeopardy. During a commercial break Karl came into the living room and announced he had fallen in love with Frankie-Sue at the bowling alley and was leaving. Instead of kissing him good bye she whacked him with the frying pan that was drip drying in the dish rack. Blood flew. He fell to the ground in a silent heap.
Afraid she had killed him, Darla called 9-1-1 and, when an ambulance showed up, so did the cops. Karl roused around and went off in the ambulance with a goose egg. Darla was handcuffed and went off to jail in the back of a police cruiser.
This was not how she had envisaged her life. She thought back to her wedding day when her life held such promise. Karl, handsome in his tuxedo, holding her hand, holding her heart, looking at her with undiluted love in his liquid eyes.
She wished she could go back to that day and warn the blushing bride what lay ahead.
She wished she had never met Karl.
Tears puddled on the coarse cotton sheet as exhaustion carried the troubled woman into a troubled sleep.
She dreamed of red shoes.