Lucky Charm by KyAnn Waters

“Hey Landon, wanna smell?” he inhaled deeply, sucking the paper flush against his nose and mouth. “My old lady walks around for a day with my letter in her panties before she mails it.”

Landon Booker laughed at his friend. “A pleasure, I’m sure, but one to keep for yourself.”

Jesse lay down on the bottom cot, and balanced the letter on his face. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. “Trude’s coming up today. How bout your old lady? She gonna make it?”

“I hope so,” Landon closed the envelope containing an anniversary card, but didn’t seal it. “Ten years this Friday.” Prison was the biggest mistake of his life. Placing a personal ad that found Gretchen had been the best. Ten years together in every way except one; the state penitentiary didn’t allow conjugal visits.

“Ten years,” Jesse shook his head in disbelief. “Long time for a female to go without gettin’ laid.” He leaned up on his elbow. “Long time for you, too. You sure you don’t wanna sniff.” He held the letter out. “You serving life, dude, just like me. Better take what you can get.”

“Jesse, I’m not visiting with my wife after I’ve scratched and sniffed your letter.” He stood, leaving the card on the metal shelf bolted to the wall of their eight by twelve prison cell. “Visiting isn’t for a couple of hours. Want to play chess?”

Jesse tucked the letter safely under his pillow before joining Landon. “Maybe I’ll beat you today.”

* * *

Gretchen Smyth-Booker didn’t consider herself unattractive necessarily. But she didn’t put into her appearance such as other women climbing close to forty, letting her brown hair turn to gray, keeping it short and maintenance free rather than spending money in the salon. She didn’t see the need. She certainly wasn’t trying to attract anyone in the prison visiting room; not even her husband. Their relationship transcended the physical. She and Landon shared their minds, their hopes, and even their disappointments.

“Hi, Tom,” she said as she placed her personal belongings in a rubber bin. Nothing changed year after year. Disgusting, the way Tom’s belly still brushed against her as she was searched before going beyond the barred doors leading to the visiting room. Made her wish she was more outspoken. She’d tell him to lose some weight or suck in his gut because it was bad enough smelling him without having to endure his flesh pressing into her.

The air in the hallway was moist and reeked of sweat like a high school gymnasium. She waved at Mrs. Sanchez. The little woman had been visiting her son for thirty years. Gretchen imagined thirty years into the future. Coming to the prison to visit Landon, one might find the thought oppressive. She didn’t.

Marriage to Landon suited her perfectly. Having a traditional marriage would mean she’d have to be a traditional wife. The idea had never appealed to her. It wasn’t just having someone around all the time, but the idea of a man on top of her every night turned her stomach. Having been down that road, she vowed never again.

Gretchen stood next to Mrs. Sanchez along with the other wives, mothers, and girlfriends patiently waiting to visit with their incarcerated loved ones. Mostly the same faces week after week, just as hers was familiar to them. Laughter echoed off the walls as they filed into the large open room filled with tables and chairs, resembling a cafeteria. The cement walls were painted light gray, and the tiled floor was cream with specs of color. Gretchen found a table near the back and waited for Landon.

Small groups of prisoners began to trickle through the double doors. Children ran to their fathers, who lifted them into the air, and planted kisses on their smiling faces. Close intimate contact was not permitted between an inmate and his significant other, but that didn’t stop a few from stealing a quick feel of their woman’s breast. She watched Mrs. Sanchez’s son bend to give his aging mother a kiss on the cheek. Her hands trembled as she held his face.

Gretchen’s eyes drifted back to the door as she anticipated her handsome, dark haired, husband. Finally he was there speaking with an inmate she’d seen dozens of times on previous visits. He gave his friend a pat on the shoulder as they parted ways. It was always the same. The intensity in which he crossed the room, combined with the powerful look of possessiveness reflected in his hazel eyes, commanded notice from those sitting around her.

“Baby, it feels like a lot longer than a week.” His lips gently brushed hers. He held the chair for her to sit down. “How was the drive up?” He pulled the other chair close to hers. It was the only amount of intimacy they were given in the brightly lit room with barred windows facing the freeway far off in the distance.

She looked at their hands clasped together on top of the table. Any moment a guard would tell them to separate. Prolonged contact wasn’t allowed either. “Not too bad,” she said to his question.

Smiling brought dimples to his cheeks. Laugh lines creased the corners of his eyes, and brought his whole face to life. “I wish I could give you spring flowers for our anniversary.” Landon got a nod from an approaching guard so he released her hands and crossed his arms on the table.

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