Ali Krieger smooths the skirt of her pinstriped suit as she waits patiently, taking in the bland room around her. She’s no stranger to her surroundings, but she’s still surprised at how much it always feels like she’s on a movie set. It’s all so typical. The windowless room with the colorless walls, bland beige taking over everything. The desk stationed at the entrance with the large disgruntled guard behind it keeping a close watch. The row of cubicle-like spaces with a clear plexi-glass window separating them from an identical room on the other side. Each cubicle made to provide some kind of privacy, but really offering none at all.
Ali sits in one such space in the right corner of the room and waits, staring through the plexi-glass in front of her and watching the door in the opposite room. If she’s being honest, she’s a bit antsy. It’s odd. She’s done this many times before in the course of her career, but for some reason this feels different. She starts to question if she should be here at all.
“Maybe I should go.” Ali whispers to herself, smoothing her skirt suit one more time. She didn’t have to dress up, it’s not like she was here working professionally per say. She was doing this on her own time, but she put on the suit anyway hoping to look serious and competent even though she wasn’t exactly sure why she needed to present herself as either.
Another minute ticks by and Ali seriously considers leaving, unsure of what she will say and what she will find. Deep down she knows though. Ali has always prided herself on her ability to read people. She just knows in her gut what she will see when she finally talks to the woman, and she needs the confirmation: Innocence. Or at least some doubt of guilt. If she’s right, it will dictate the rest of the conversation or so she hopes. Another minute gone and she’s still willing herself to just go, but she’s rooted to the chair by a promise she made, eyes still glued to the door in the opposite room. It finally opens and her heart rate picks up a bit, knowing it’s too late to back down now.
She’s taller and broader than Ali figured. She looks stronger and more fit than in the pictures and media videos Ali has seen, but also more worn down and weary. Prison tends to do that to people as Ali has come to learn over the years of her career. Still, she’s beautiful in a way Ali hadn’t quite anticipated. Ali’s eyes take in the rest of the details as the female guard leads the woman towards her. The drab beige prison jumpsuit, the short-sleeves of which allow an elaborate full-sleeve tattoo on her left arm to peak out. Long, bleach blonde hair that falls naturally and a bit wild over her shoulders, yet somehow looks perfectly stylish like she just stepped out of a surfing magazine. A defined jawline set in abject determination. Finally, piercing hazel eyes looking back at her as the woman is seated in front of her on the other side of the plexi-glass.
Ali finds herself staring, a bit taken aback by it all. The woman in front her of having an undeniable presence that she didn’t quite expect. She’s broken out of her daze by a tap on the glass, the blonde motioning to the red phone beside Ali as she holds up her own on the other side and shakes her head a bit.
“Right.” Ali mumbles to herself, feeling a bit foolish. She holds the phone to her ear and musters up all the confidence she came here with, willing her voice to come out steady. “Ms. Harris, I’m…”
“Ali Krieger.” The blonde quickly cuts her off, dropping the ‘r’ in the pronunciation of her name with her Boston accent. “I know who you are. I know all about you.”
“Um, ok.” Ali replies, unsure of what else to say at the moment and not able to read into the statement one way or the other.
“What can I say, I have lots of free time to catch up on podcasts these days. Particularly those of a fellow Bostonian.” The blonde smirks a bit.
Ali is about to speak again, but the blonde beats her to it.
“So, tell me Ms. Krieger. What are you here for exactly? Fame, money, fun?” The blonde questions with a hard stare.
“Truth.” Ali answers confidently. It may sound cliché, but it’s honest. She watches the blonde’s jaw set again, the penetrating stare still there.
“People always think they want the truth until they actually hear it. The truth is complex and elusive. What makes you think you’re worthy of it?” The blonde questions with an oddly calm intensity and a mocking smirk.
“The lies that hide the truth are complex, but the truth itself is simple. I wouldn’t call myself worthy, but at least truth is all I ever ask for and the only thing I’m ever after. If you know me as you say you do, then you know that. Truth and justice aren’t elusive for honorable people, which I believe you to be, Ms. Harris. Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll drop it and leave.” Ali challenges. “If not, then give me a chance and you can decide for yourself if I’m worthy of it.”
The blonde looks contemplatively at Ali for a minute, sizing up the brunette in front of her before deciding to take up the challenge, smirking and speaking again. “Well, I guess I have nothing but time Ms. Krieger. Call me Ashlyn. Ms. Harris is something only a dork in a suit would call me.” She finishes with a playful wink at the brunette.
Ali ignores the insult about her suit and lets out her own curt smile, feeling a bit relieved. “Let’s try this again then. Hi Ashlyn. I’m Ali.”