Maddie was a mix of emotion. She was glad that she would see Jeremiah again but she dreaded the reason that he had sent for her. Her thoughts were interrupted by a guard who showed her into a large room. She sat in a plastic chair in front of a glass partition. A buzzer sounded and a metal door swung open on the other side of the glass.
A man, shackled by hand and foot shuffled into the room, followed by another guard. He turned to face the guard who removed his fetters. Rubbing his wrists, he sat in the chair opposite Maddie.
The blue-gray outfit he wore had short sleeves that revealed tattooed markings. Her eyes moved to his face. He maintained a mustache and a goatee. She couldn’t read what smoldered in his chestnut brown eyes. She sighed. Then the man turned his head and pulled his shirt down off of his left shoulder. Maddie stared at the lump of melted flesh she saw there. The man picked up the receiver.
“I was badly burned—”
“—when you tried to free the horses from Grandpa’s barn. Jeremiah?” she asked through her receiver.
He covered himself again. “It has been a long time, Maddie. I figured you wouldn’t recognize me. When I left I was—”
“—a boy,” she finished. “Now…I wanted to see you so much over the years but you refused.”
“I couldn’t allow that. You weren’t just my sister; you were my heart and my conscience.”
She pulled a tissue out of her handbag. “I didn’t do such a good job.”
“It wasn’t your fault. You were too young to see the inside of a place like this.”
“So were you!” she blurted out. “I didn’t even recognize my own brother. I haven’t seen or talked to you in fifteen years!”
“Being in prison changes a person. At first, I was like a caged animal. Then every day was like standing on the edge of a cliff. I wanted to be rid of the pain.”
“Don’t talk like that Jeremiah. I’ve never stopped praying for you. I pray every night. There is still another appeal left.”
Jeremiah straightened up. “No.”
“That’s one of the reasons I sent for you. I wanted you to hear this from me. My last appeal failed. The execution is set for the day after tomorrow.”
Maddie blinked several times in an effort to hold back the tears. She tried to speak, but words failed her for a moment.
“But…but I prayed.” Tears broke through her defenses. The tissue she held was saturated in seconds. Jeremiah’s own face was tear-streaked.
“God did hear your prayers, Maddie. He just didn’t answer in the way you intended.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you still carry a bible in your purse?”
Maddie nodded. She reached into her handbag and pulled out a miniature black New Testament.
“You remember that?” she said.
“I remember your love for God. I am ready now Maddie, to hear the words you tried to teach me back then. Tell me what to do to be saved.”
Maddie dried her eyes. Despite her sadness, a wellspring of joy erupted from her soul. She turned to Romans 10:9 and read aloud.
“Are you sorry you killed those people in the bank?” she asked.
“I think about them everyday and cry. I robbed God’s children of their lives. I did that.”
Maddie stared at her brother. “Do you believe Jesus came to save you and to offer forgiveness for your sins?”
“Yes…I do.” Jeremiah spread his arms wide. “Lord Jesus, please forgive me for my crimes against you and welcome me back into Your family.”
Maddie closed her bible. When she looked up at Jeremiah, his face was radiant.
“Then I will see you again one day,” she managed to say.
“There is something else. I want you to come here on Friday night to be with me. It’s a lot to ask, but I wanted my last glimpse of this life to be you, Maddie.”
She closed her eyes and mouthed a few words that he couldn’t hear. When she opened them again, she touched the glass. Jeremiah let his hand mirror hers on the opposite side of the glass. He smiled and hung up the phone.
The walk back to his cell was not devoid of hope. He would see his precious Maddie one more time on this side of paradise.
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