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A New Start
After my appeal, things were unhurried for the first few months. Neither one of us wanted to spend much time apart, so we thought we would just take things "slow" together. I moved into Helen's place right away and it felt like home so much for taking things slow. We got to know each other in all senses of the word. I didn't think I could love someone as much as I love Helen, and everyday it continues to grow. We came to realize that we were going to have to go back to work sooner rather than later as our savings would not last forever. We decided, however, to find something that we could do together - something that would combine our skills, experience, knowledge and education.
It didn't take us long to come up with the idea of opening a place for the families of female inmates. We determined that for us to succeed we needed to have former inmates and prison workers come and work for us. We weren't sure how the combination of the two would work, but we knew it would be a good and necessary mix. We would have a strict screening process for potential employees that both Helen and I would have to approve. We both agreed that there would be no "bodybags" allowed and that most of the employees would be female.
In our discussions we realized that we were going to need a lot of room, it was going to be big. We each had specific ideas on what our place would look like, how many rooms and what they would be used for. The main thing we both agreed on was that every room had to have as many windows as possible and that none of them would be small. The reception area would be what you first saw when you walked through the doors and would be very open. We also wanted to make sure that there were a couple of different rooms for kids to play in depending on their ages. The only room that would look a little stiff would be the phone room. In order for the family members to have private conversations with their loved ones in prison, it would have to be done this way. There would be multiple rooms for group sessions and a few offices as well. The only other thing that I our place had to have was a big yard.
Due to the publicity that my appeal received, it was easier than we thought to help raise the money that we were going to need to start our project. Claire said that she would help with the legal stuff and Monica was going to help with some of the red tape necessary for us to get started. All Helen and I needed to do was to get all of our ideas down on paper. Not as easy as we may have thought.
It took a few months of hard work to get the plans sorted out but it was worth it. The hardest part was deciding on the location. We looked at a lot of properties but none of them had a yard, and if it did, it was definitely not big enough. Helen was starting to get frustrated with the process and refused to look at anymore of them, she thought I was being unreasonable about the yard. I told her that it was very important for me to have this as I had specific plans for part of it, and it had to be perfect.
At the end of one very long day, we happened to be going by this neighborhood and we both saw the building at the same time and just looked at each other. We stopped, stared at the building and then at each other. I squeezed Helen's hand and smiled, I knew in my heart that this was the place. We got out of the car and walked over to the building just as someone was coming out of the door. We asked if the building was for sale. It was! We asked if we could take a look at. It was perfect. Helen then asked in an almost defeated tone if there was a yard. Helen was shocked when we were told that there was one, so we went to take a look. It was huge, though you couldn't tell as it was not visible from the front of the building, it was perfect. The smile on Helen's face was not even as close to being as bright as mine and the tears started to well up in both of us. Our dream was going to become a reality.
Once we were almost completed with the construction of our place (which we still do not have a name for) I got to working on my special project. The one thing that was going to be a permanent fixture of our place, and I was going to design it myself. Helen still had no idea what it was. It would be in the middle of the yard. It would be simple, a few benches around it to sit on with the sky there to look up to. There was going to be a memorial plaque on the side of it for all of the inmates that lost their lives while in prison, and those loved ones that they lost while in prison.
My special project was being covered the whole time I was working on it no one was able to see it. It was to be a surprise for everyone. The day of our grand opening came and our ceremony was being held in the yard. After all of the thanks and congratulatory speeches were made, I was the last one to speak. I thanked all of those who helped make this possible, I especially thanked Helen for all of her hard work and for putting up with me during the last few weeks.
It was finally the time for the unveiling, but just before I was ready to show everyone what it was, I asked Helen, my partner, to come and stand by my side. I whispered in her ear, "for you my love", as I pulled the drape down. It was a three-sided memorial that stood about 6 feet tall. There were flowers hanging along the sides and there was a large plaque in the centre that simply said, "This is for all of those who we have lost and for all those we have found." As everyone else came over to take a look at the plaque, Helen started to cry. I pulled her tightly to me and hugged her. You could feel the love in the embrace between us. The only thing she was able to say was "You're welcome, and I love you too. "
At the bottom of the plaque there was a little notation that said, "For my Darling Helen, You are the Love of My Life, My Hope, My Friend, My Lover, and My Partner. I will always love you. Thank you for believing in me."
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