Now Echols jokes about the thermostat, about battles over how warm it is. "It's like a hot loaf of bread when you take the covers off Lorri. The heat just rolls out," he says. He teases her, mocks her voice: "It's freezing in here." It's a domestic scene repeated over centuries, but new to him, and there's a relishing in the telling, the novelty of it. A Look at us, we're just like everyone else. Davis giggles.

Echols and Davis spent many years divided by plastic and glass. There's a certain romance to love letters and living in anticipation. Love and life outside the walls is harder. How could it not be? When the other person has existed in words on a page, weekly visits, and your imagination for so long, the domestic reality of trying then to share a life — the snores, chores, smells and sounds and needs of another human body — might yield more than the usual challenge of the collision of two people.

"I didn't have the slightest idea of what to expect or how it was going to be, so I wasn't prepared. How can you be?" says Davis. "Damien owned his world in prison, as much as anyone could. He carved out an existence and a way to survive. I was used to dealing with someone who knew what to do," she says of the adjustment. "Everyone just expected Damien to be the capable, self-assured, strong man that he was in prison. I'm included in that. I thought he was going to come out like a ready-made man."

"We thought the hard part was getting me out," Echols says, "and then we realized the hard part wasn't anywhere near over."

If he could go back to West Memphis, age 18, and never have been picked up by the cops that evening, never have gone to jail, had followed instead the trajectory he was on, as a teenage father, high-school drop-out, would he take that, follow that path, or go through again what he has gone through?

He looks into his mug, holding it in both hands, and looks up again, dark eyes locking in a firm gaze. "If there was no other way to be with Lorri, then I would go through it again."

Echols's life after his release has taken on the irrational arc of a dream: after being released from prison, his ride out of Arkansas — the first plane ride of his life — was on a jet to Seattle provided by Eddie Vedder; a month after his release he was paragliding in New Zealand with Peter Jackson. He calls Johnny Depp a brother; they have matching tattoos. Henry Rollins and Patti Smith, among others, are also part of the star-studded list of supporters of the West Memphis Three.

Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh, have helped perhaps most of all. While Echols was in prison, they hired Davis to work on the case full-time. She would wake up to 20 emails from them directing her on what to do, whom to contact. "You know, drive to Missouri and look into this legal file, and on your way back, go to Memphis and look through so-and-so's garbage. Which I did," explains Davis. "In the end it's what won us our freedom."

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