I got your contact details off a Death Row website, and I found the website because of a nun, and that's not a sentence I ever thought I'd write, but then my life isn't exactly turning out the way I'd imagined. There was a picture of you looking friendly for someone in an orange jumpsuit with a shaved head, thick glasses, and a scar down one cheek. Yours wasn't the only profile I clicked on. There are hundreds of criminals who want pen pals. Hundreds. But you stood out. All that stuff about your family disowning you so you haven't had any letters for eleven entire years. All that stuff about your guilt.
Not that I believe in God, but I went to confession to get rid of my guilt after triple-checking on Wikipedia that the priest wouldn't be able to say anything to the police. But when I sat down in the booth and saw his silhouette through the grille, I couldn't speak. There I was, about to confess to a man who'd never done anything wrong in his life, except for maybe having an extra sip of Communion wine on a bad day. Unless he was one of those priests who abuse children, in which case he would have known all about sin, but I couldn't be sure so I didn't risk it. You're much safer. And you sort of remind me of Harry Potter to be honest. I loved those books when I was little. I can't remember when the first one came out, if it was before or after your murder trial, but anyway in case you're confused Harry Potter has a scar and glasses and you have a scar and glasses, and he never got any mail, either. But then all of a sudden he received a mysterious letter saying he was a wizard and his life was miraculously transformed.
Now, you're probably reading this in your cell thinking, I wish this letter was about to tell me I had magical powers, and if the website is anything to go by, I bet you're imagining healing every single one of those stab wounds in your wife. Well, sorry to disappoint you and all that, but I'm just an ordinary teenage girl, not the headmaster of a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Trust me, though, if this pen was a wand, then I'd give you the magic to bring your wife right back to life, because that is the thing we have in common.
I know what it's like.
Mine wasn't a woman. Mine was a boy. And I killed him three months ago exactly.
Do you want to know the worst thing? I got away with it. No one's found out that I'm responsible. No one has a clue and I'm walking around saying all the right things and doing all the right stuff, but inside I'm sort of screaming. I daren't tell Mum or Dad or my sisters, because I don't want to be disowned and I don't want to go to prison, even though I deserve it. So you see Mr. Harris I'm less brave than you, so don't feel too bad when you go for the lethal injection, which I wouldn't worry about, because when my dog was put to sleep, it really did look peaceful. The website says you'll never forgive yourself, but at least now you know there are people in the world far worse than you. You had the guts to own up to your mistake, but I'm too much of a coward even to reveal my real identity in a letter.
So yeah, you can call me Zoe. And let's pretend I live on Fiction Road, I don't know, somewhere near Bath, which is an old city with ancient buildings and lots of weekend tourists taking pictures of the bridge. Everything else I'll write will be the truth.
1 Fiction Road
From Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Copyright © 2013 by Annabel Pitcher. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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