A Side of Fries

From her first visit to A Side of Fries, she caught the attention of the regulars with her tailored coat and manicured nails.

"I'm Carla," she offered, as soon as I handed her a menu and said, "Ellie, right?" And pointed to my name tag. I wanted to hate her and her fancy scarves, but I liked her immediately. It took little time for us to confide in one another like old friends. I began to look forward to Carla's daily lunch visits. We shared stories and dreams with one another. I admit to being shocked when she revealed she was in love with a married man.

"Ellie," she said, "I've nobody else but you to tell, as my family would disown me. My father plays golf with Judge Sullivan," she added, her face turning red.

"I never meant to say his name, Ellie."

"Don't worry about it," I said. "I won’t tell anybody."

About six months after Carla first arrived for lunch, her demeanor changed. She no longer dressed up, and her face was taut and haunted-looking. And I saw a bruise on her arm when she grabbed the salt.

"I quit my job and may move away, Ellie," she said, disappointing me to the core.

With my care for Nana and no romance of my own, I'd come to rely on Carla's perky visits to work.

"Why?" I asked, while scooting over to greet a new customer.

When I returned she cupped her mouth and said, "Judge Sullivan is trying to kill me. If anything happens to me, Ellie, speak up for me, please," and she paid her bill and left.

Nana loved to watch the news coverage about Carla's brutal murder. I went to my room when anything about Carla was announced. I felt shattered and hollow and angry, especially when they arrested a man for her murder.

The very next day after his arrest, I went to the authorities to speak up for Carla. Even if the suspect they arrested committed the crime, I wanted them to know the truth as I saw it. Judge Sullivan may have killed my friend. Judge Sullivan was a powerful man. I had no idea how powerful. I didn't know the detective and prosecutor were tight with the judge.

Nobody helped me as the things I told the detective got twisted and turned into multiple crimes of lying to authorities and obstruction of justice. My court-appointed attorney didn't even know my name.

They know my name in here. I've had plenty of time to re-think those words, "I won't tell anybody." The guard who works the lunch shift is softer than the others. I don't even mind when she says, "You can't fight city hall, kid." And she often tries to dress up my lunch plate with a side of fries.

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