Pining - Stephanie Rose



“Diaz, your lawyer and mother are here.”

The guard tapped on the bars of my holding cell before sliding the door open. We were heading to court in a few minutes to find out how long my sentence was, and I had no interest in any kind of pointless courtroom prep. At this point, the only thing I’d have to say to the judge was “let’s get this over with.”

At first, our court appointed attorney, Peter, he’d said to call him, told us that I could get off with just probation since it was my first offense. But when so many people implicated me as Mario’s regular partner, even though I’d never been by my cousin’s side during any of the other crimes he’d committed, I was portrayed as the same bad news he was. Whether or not I’d been the one to fire, the cops had found me with a loaded gun. A man’s life had been destroyed, and we needed to pay for our reckless actions.

Then, this jackass promised my mother that we shouldn’t worry because he could get a plea bargain, but that turned out to mean at least five years’ time served. The inconvenient fact of turning eighteen a week after I was arrested allowed me to be charged and tried as an adult. The one thing our lawyer did manage was to downgrade my charges to being an accessory.

“Hi Anthony.” Peter smiled as if we were old friends who’d just run into each other not that he was here to see me off before I was shipped upstate.

I jutted my chin in a half nod, not wanting to meet my mother’s gaze. If only she’d yell at me, berate me for what I’d done to her and to our life. But the only scolding I’d received was how badly I could’ve been hurt on the night it happened. Her love for me was pure and unconditional, and I didn’t deserve a bit of it.

Peter looked between us, his brow furrowing before he cleared his throat. “We went over this, when you stand and the judge gives you the sentence, try not to re—”

“Could we have a moment alone?” my mother asked settling next to me on the bench.

“Oh, sure. I’ll be right over there.”

As Peter walked away, I wondered how old he was, and guessed he hadn’t been anyone’s lawyer too many times, if any, before he was assigned to my case. Maybe after practicing on me, he’d get a better deal for the next stupid kid who threw away his future.

“Like he said, stand up tall, look the judge in the eye, and don’t slouch an inch when they put you on the bus or when you get there.” She framed my face and turned it so I had no choice but to meet her watery gaze.

I dreaded my family’s reaction after my sentencing more than I dreaded heading to prison. The family we had left, anyway. Titi Sofia and my cousins, Mari and Jasmine, insisted on being here today. I loved them for it, but at the same time, I wished they’d written me off like the rest of our family and friends. I didn’t want to hurt and disappoint any more people than I already had.

“Ma, I’m so sorry. For all of it. Please know that.” I cleared my throat when my voice cracked. Crying was definitely something I couldn’t do today or for the next however many years the judge said I had to serve.

“I do, mijo, and I’m so sorry I couldn’t do better for you. But, listen, I need you to do something for me.”

My gaze jerked up to hers. I didn’t know what I could possibly do at this point, but I kept my mouth shut and listened.

“I know, and Titi, Jasmine, and Mari know that what happened that night wasn’t you. Please don’t make it be you when you leave. Don’t let it define who you are or fall into the spiral we couldn’t save Mario from. You’re still my good boy.”

“Ma,” I begged. “Stop, after what—”

“I said listen.” She narrowed her eyes, and I almost laughed. “What I need is for you to make something of the time while you’re inside. You can graduate high school, even take some college classes.” She lifted her shoulder in a hopeful shrug. “This isn’t the end.”

“Sure as hell feels like it.” I scrubbed a hand over my face, appreciating having a free hand before they cuffed my wrists and ankles like