By: Samantha Towle

A lump forms in my throat.

I can’t believe what she’s done for me.

She got this apartment to help me. She knows this is what I need to get Jesse back. It’s not like I can apply for custody of Jesse without a stable home. I was expecting to be in a hostel to start with until I got on my feet, and it would have taken me ages to sort out a place.

“Have you…” I bite my lip. “Have you seen Jesse recently?”

She exhales, and I know the answer. “I went to see him yesterday.”

Jesse has been living in a group home since I was put in prison.

I know what those places are like. I’ve been worried sick about him every moment I’ve been away from him, praying to God to keep him safe until I could get back to him.

Cece promised to check in on him regularly, and she’s kept me updated on his progress.

“How is he?”

“He’s doing okay.”

“Did you…” I swallow past the ache. I know full well the answer to my question, yet I have to ask it anyway. “He knew I was getting out today?”

“Yeah.” Her voice is quieter now. “He’s just confused at the moment, Mayday. But he’ll come around. He loves you.”

My eyes lower. “I let him down.”

“No, you didn’t.” The force in her tone brings my stare to her. “You met and trusted a guy you thought was nice, but he turned out to be the biggest fucker in the history of all fuckers. It was not your fault. I swear, if I ever get my hands on that bastard, I’m gonna rip his balls clear off, douse them in petrol, set them on fire, and make him watch them burn.”

“That’s quite the visual.”

“Thank you. I do paint a good picture.” She grins at me. “And I’ll feel awesome after I sort out that stain on society.”

“I just want to forget he ever existed. My sole focus is on getting Jesse back.”

She reaches over and takes my hand in hers, squeezing. “You’re gonna get him back. I have no doubt. All the good stuff starts right now.”

The tears that I was holding back win the battle, and one escapes.

“Don’t you bloody cry, Daisy May, or you’ll have me crying, and I’m not wearing waterproof mascara. So, what do you say about the apartment?”

I brush the tear away with the back of my hand. “I say it’s awesome, but—”

“No buts, Mayday. Just say yes, you’re moving in with me.”

I give her a look for cutting me off. “The but is, I’ll have to check with my probation officer to make sure it’s okay. They’ve already arranged for me to stay in a hostel.”

“Uh-uh. No way is my girl staying in some skanky hostel for ex-convicts—no offense.” Her face blanches when she realizes what she just said. “Because you’re not an ex-con, Daisy. Well, technically, you are, but you aren’t, and—”

“Ce, it’s fine.” I laugh. “I am an ex-con. It’s just the way it is.”

Daisy Smith, ex-con.

That brand will stay with me until the day I die.

My life is completely different now to how it was before I went inside. There’s nothing I can do about that. But I can do something about my future.

I can make sure that I never let myself be fooled by a man again.

And I can damn well make sure that I build a better life for Jesse and me.

Better than what we had before.

I’m not smart. I don’t have a degree. But I’m a hard worker.

All I need is for someone to take a chance on me and give me the opportunity to give Jesse everything he should have had…everything he deserves.

The kid was dealt a shit hand. At least I had our mum around when I was growing up—not that she was much use even then—but her drug habit worsened after Jesse was born. I think our dad dying was the catalyst.

Our dad was barely around as it was. An addict himself, he was out on one of his benders and injected himself with some bad heroin—not that there’s such a thing as good heroin. One minute, he was there, and the next, he was gone. And so was she. She was there physically—well, not all the time—but she checked out mentally. So, when she left, it wasn’t exactly a hardship.

I had Jesse, and that was all I cared about.

“I have to go check in with my probation officer now,” I tell Cece. “So, I’ll ask him about moving in with you and see what he says.”

“Cool. We’ll go see him and tell him that you’re coming home with me today.” She gives me a petulant smile.

I shake my head, laughing. When Cece has something set in her head, there’s no dissuading her. It’s one of the many things I love about her. That, and her fierce loyalty.

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