The serial at last draws to a close in a spectacular, page-turning conclusion. On the verge of his long awaited release, Jeremy hopes to finally be able to put the nightmare of prison behind him. Enemies from within the prison as well as outside attempt to deny him freedom. Trey seeks escape from the vengeful scheme of Jeremy’s ex-lover, and Shontay, Corey, and Bobby yearn to find their happily-ever-afters.
Minus her spleen, Shontay Williams checked out of the hospital almost fully recovered, a free woman at last. She’d requested placement as far away from the city as possible, fearful of the temptation to return to her former life. The last few months of her incarceration had changed her, and one person in particular had taught her she was more than a worthless street whore to be used and discarded.
With no driver’s license and no income, she’d have to find herself a legitimate, hourly-wage job. Whatever would she do? What could she do? She had no experience, no qualifications. When she learned she’d be living in Traverse City, she spoke with one of her nurses who’d grown up in that town, and discovered it truly was a small town, not a city at all. The nurse, Melanie, had brought in a laptop for Shontay to use while in the hospital, and she explored the location of her new home. Excited squeals escaped her lips as she clapped her hands excitedly. The town seemed like Paradise, quaint and beautiful, the perfect place to begin her new life.
After Trey’s visit, she wrote a letter to Jeremy, urging him to reach out to his boyfriend. Though certainly not responsible for their separation, she found herself plagued with guilt for the role she’d played in steering Jeremy away from Trey toward Darren. Then later, she’d encouraged him to end things completely with Trey, but under the circumstances, what else was there to do? At that point it had appeared Jeremy would remain incarcerated the rest of his life, and in that case, his best option was to move on and try to find happiness within his reality. He couldn’t cling indefinitely to the past, pining for his lost love.
So much had changed. With Jeremy at last facing the possibility of eventual freedom, the situation no longer was void of hope. He could dream again. He could look forward, focused on a brighter future, instead of hopelessly living each and every day one at a time, struggling to hang on. Shontay wrote to him to remind him of these things, to bolster his spirit and possibly restore the optimism that had begun to fade in the absence of his Trey.
Well, there was all that, but she also wrote to him to let him know she had survived the stabbing. Knowing him the way she did, she envisioned him frantic with worry. He probably also blamed himself for her injuries. She’d thrust herself between him and his would-be attacker, after all. Of course, he’d laud her as a hero or something. But Jeremy had saved her as well. He’d loved her and believed in her when no one else did. He truly was her angel, and she’d lay down her life for him if need be.
Prior to leaving the hospital, Shontay called Trey to check on him and his progress in securing Jeremy’s release. To her delight, she learned they’d be living fairly close to each other. Traverse City, by coincidence, was Trey’s home town, but he’d moved a few miles away to take a job in Petoskey. And by coincidence, Petoskey, which was located sixty miles north of Traverse, had been Jeremy’s home town.
She arrived by bus, and when she stepped out into the brisk thirty-degree winter air, she pulled her long coat around her. Melanie had been so kind to bring her a suitcase stuffed to the brim with women’s clothes, items she’d insisted would have otherwise been donated to Goodwill. And once Shontay got settled in her new home at the halfway house, she’d begin her official transition, starting with hormone therapy. She was taking a step into the unknown, a stranger in a strange new world, and she didn’t know what to expect.
She threw a hand over her mouth as she squealed with delight upon spotting the poster board-sized rainbow-colored sign bearing her name, her new name, SHONTAY. She waved both hands and rushed over excitedly to the two smiling faces on either side of the homemade banner.
“I’m Pixie and this is Alex. You must be—”
“Shontay!” She raised both hands in the air, waving them in celebratory fashion, then leaned in to hug her new friends, one at a time. “Thank you for such a warm welcome.”
“You’re a celebrity here,” Alex said. The slightly-slender man beamed his boyish grin excitedly. “A hero! We all watched you on TV.”
“When you saved that dear boy by hurling yourself into the thick of danger.” Pixie, who had to be in her late sixties, presented as female but had rather mannish features. Her broad shoulders, pronounced Adam’s apple, and seemingly oversized hands and feet reminded Shontay of the struggle so many trans women faced when they came out later in life. And not every transgender person opted to transition physically. Surgeries were painful and expensive, and not everyone felt the desire or need to follow the process all the way through.
Shontay waved her hand dismissively. “I don’t think it was all that heroic. I just sort of panicked, and I suppose I’m lucky I didn’t get myself killed. If not from leaping off the platform, the Secret Service could have taken me out.”
“Not to mention the stabbing.” Pixie’s gravelly voice didn’t quite jive with her feminine attire, but to Shontay it sounded almost sultry. “We’re just so glad you survived it.”
Shontay shook her head, laughing quietly. “Made it all those years unscathed, then got myself shanked on the last day.”