Sharon kept her sunglasses on and paused to straighten out her dress, a white knee-high covered in blue and yellow flowers that she had originally bought to wear to church one Easter Sunday. Walter, her husband, told her it was too short. When she protested that it fell below the knees, he told her again, and made her buy a brand new dress that better matched the swollen bruise on her upper left cheek. Shaking the memory from her body, she clutched her purse tightly to her chest and walked through the metal detector. “Follow me,” a guard said, and she did, walking as slowly as possible with her shoulders straight and her stiletto shoes stepping one foot in front of the other, trying hard to maintain the appearance of confidence and delay her destination for as long as possible.
As they entered the Visitor’s Center, Sharon turned her nose up towards the ceiling and pretended not to notice the man on the other side of the glass holding the receiver up to his ear and forcing a smile through his crooked, toothy snarl. The skin on his face looked more worn and leathery than usual, the pockets in his flesh accentuated by the accumulated prison grime.
Sharon thanked her escort as she took a seat across the man. The prison guard stepped back, but remained in the room, hovering nearby. The man across from her began screaming into his end of the receiver before she even had a chance to pick hers up. She waited until he was finished, and then picked up her own receiver with clammy, sweaty hands, and slowly pressed it to the side of her face.
“Good afternoon, Walter,” she said. Her face read no emotion.
“Fuck you, you fucking whore. I saw the fucking news. Where’s my god damn money?”
Sharon took a deep breathe and tried to steady the shaking hand that held the phone receiver. She spoke after a pause: “I just came by — I thought I should tell you in person, that I’m not giving you anything. I’m not splitting the money.”
“Wrong again, ya stupid bitch,” he growled, leaning into the glass that divided them. “You think I don’t got time to read in here? I’m still your husband, means I’m still entitled to half. Besides — it was my numbers that won. You still play ‘em, and it’s my fuckin’ numbers that hit.”
Pause. He waited for Sharon to respond, but she said nothing.
“Maybe if ya hadn’t been in such a rush to throw yer man in jail, you woulda thought’a that first. Even if we got a divorce now — and baby, I’m okay with that, just so you know — I’d still get half a’what you got. And what’s half of, uh…”
“Forty-five million.” Sharon swallowed hard and placed her free hand in her lap so that he couldn’t see it shaking. “Forty-five million dollars.”
Sharon took another breathe, dropped the telephone receiver, and for the first time in her life, she stood up and walked away. She was certain that Walter was screaming at her through the phone, telling her what a useless whore she was, and detailing all of the terrible things he was going to and all the drugs he would buy with her money.
But this time, she didn’t have to hear him.