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A Second Chance
Listening to the monotonous hum of the forest, Dan picked up his pace, warily glancing back to see if he was being followed. Clenched in his rigid hand was a small bag of powered coke, tied securely with a rubber band. With every breath he took, a small puff of fog erupted from his nostrils; he let out a wheeze, which turned into a hacking cough.
“Fancy meeting you here.” A voice from within the darkness of the forest growled, barely audibly. Dan grimaced, his shoulders jolted from the shock. His bloodshot eyes narrowed.
“Who’s there?” He hissed, barely aware of the bitter bile seeping up his throat. As if to answer his question, a burly African-American man dressed from head to toe in navy blue stepped out from behind a maple tree.
“Strongsville Police. You’re under arrest.” The man stated expressionlessly, flashing a glinting badge in Dan’s direction. Questions were better left unanswered. Another man appeared, momentarily stretching his legs after crouching under a prickly bush.
“And I thought he’d never come.” He chuckled, pulling out a pair of handcuffs that sparkled in the rare moonlight. Dan flailed his arms, looking outraged.
“Get away from me!” He shrieked, taking off deep into the forest. Before he knew it, he was spitting out flecks of dirt from his mouth, ignoring the stabbing pains in his arms, which were being forcefully held behind his back. He felt the clink of the handcuffs before he acknowledged them. The small bag of coke was lying in the dirt, unharmed. Just seeing it made Dan want to throw back his head and scream. Because the truth had dawned on him. I’m going to jail.
“…And so you’ll have to take physical therapy classes three times a week, every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. While you have time off…I daresay you’ll have the time to think about what you did, and where you went wrong.” The rail-thin woman perched on a stool glared at him with distaste. Dan ran his tongue over the front of his yellow, chipped teeth, feeling almost…ashamed. As if the woman sensed this, her facial expression softened considerably.
“I’m just saying, Dan, you made some pretty bad choices, and those aren’t ones that you can correct like that.” She snapped her fingers on the last word, hoping to elicit some reaction from him. He nodded, looking down at his fingernails, picking the dirt from underneath the nail carefully. The color returned to the woman’s cheeks, even bringing what looked like a ghost of a smile.
“I made the same mistake once, Dan,” she explained in an undertone, casting her eyes around in all directions, “and I’m not about to let someone else make that same one.” Dan raised his eyes to meet hers; it was the first time he had a good look at her. Her eyes were laced with pink, but the pupils were a deep color of sky blue. Her nose was rather petite for her face; he lowered his eyes, feeling shy.
“All the opportunities you’ll have, Dan. So many new people to meet, so many places to see…of course, after you’re done with your sentence.” She reprimanded, looking suddenly stern.
“Of course.” Dan mumbled humbly, bowing his head. The woman shook her head, looking bewildered.
“I’ve never met anyone quite like you…you seem to have gotten over everything so fast…” She repeated, looking awestruck. “I’m Deborah, by the way.”
“Yeah, well, I was never really into it. I knew I could quit if I tried…”
“…but you never really tried to.” Deborah finished for him.
“Exactly.” He said plainly, wringing his hands together in obvious discomfort.
“Well, Dan, I’ll be seeing you later. Things to do, places to see…” Deborah winked, and with a screech of her stool, departed with a wave, leaving Dan to contemplate why exactly he’d done the things he’d done.
Looking back on his life, Dan could barely remember the first twenty years of his life. They passed in mere fragments of fragments of memories, blurring from first feeling the toxic thrill zip through his veins to the feeling of the cool dirt resting beneath his face and the metal handcuffs biting into his wrists. The next twenty passed in full segments, the details vivid and engraved deeply in his mind. He blinked several times, as if to remind himself to not get caught up in reminiscences. He was wearing a crisp tuxedo, sitting in a black leather swivel chair, seated behind a polished mahogany desk. Papers in neat piles rested at the corners of the table; in the middle was a simple framed photo of Deborah, smiling ecstatically, her cheeks pink from the snow that was falling around her. He leaned back, propping his feet up on the corner of his desk. God had given him a second chance. He was at peace.