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Unsuitable

By:Samantha Towle

if you give me something, then I can help you. Maybe you didn't want to do this, and you were forced into it. Maybe the sound of the money was just too good to pass up. Give me the name of the person or persons who helped you do this, and tell me where the items are now. Then, I can help you."

He wants me to say it was Damien and that I was a part of this robbery.

But, if I do that, it would be a lie. I don't know for sure who did the robbery. I know, in my gut, that Jason took the key card, but I can't prove it. And, if I say it was Damien, then I'd be admitting to something that I didn't do.

I'd go to jail.

Shaking my head, I drive my fingers into my hair again, pulling at it, my eyes staring down at the table.

I have nothing to give him because I don't know anything, except my own truth.

And I'm not a liar.

Oh God. I can't believe this is happening.

Lifting my eyes, I catch sight of the clock on the wall. It's three fifteen. School will be finishing soon.

"My brother, Jesse. He'll be leaving school soon. I need to be home for him. He'll worry if I'm not there."

"Don't worry. Jesse is being taken care of."

What does he mean, Jesse is being taken care of?

I part my dry lips to ask him when the door opens. A policeman in uniform is standing there.

The detective rises from his seat. "I'll be back in a minute," he tells me.

I watch him through the glass pane in the door as he talks to the uniformed officer. Their expressions don't give away anything as to what they're talking about.

My heart is thundering in my chest. I've never felt fear like this.

The door opens. The detective comes back in with the uniformed officer following behind him.

The detective takes his seat in front of me while the officer remains standing. "Daisy, while you've been here, officers have been searching your apartment … and they've found one of the items of the stolen jewelry."

No.

This can't be happening.

"I didn't steal anything!" I cry, getting to my feet. "I didn't do this!"

The uniformed officer moves quickly, and before I know it, I'm being restrained, my hands behind my back. I struggle to get free, begging him to let me go.

Then, I hear the voice of the detective saying, "Daisy May Smith, I am arresting you on suspicion of theft. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

Oh Jesus. I'm being arrested. For a crime I didn't commit.

A holy terror, unlike anything I've ever felt before, seeps into every part of my body.

One

Present Day

I stare at my reflection in the small mirror.

My long brown hair is tied back into a ponytail. Face clean, free of makeup. I glance down at my clothes. Jeans and a baby-blue T-shirt. Black ballet flats on my feet.

The clothes and shoes that I wore when I came to prison.

The jeans and T-shirt are a little loose on me. I knew I'd lost weight in here. Daily use of the gym and stress will shed pounds off a girl. Not that I was heavy to begin with. I look too thin. I could do with putting some weight back on.

"You ready?"

Turning from my reflection, I look at Officer Roman standing in the doorway. "I'm ready."

So ready.

I have never been more ready for anything in my life.

One last look around, and with nothing to take with me, I leave the cell I spent my last night in and follow her down the corridors.

I was moved to a release cell last night, so I didn't spend my last night in the cell where I'd spent the past eighteen months. Not that I'm upset about it. Quite the opposite.

I'm frigging ecstatic.

I'm being released.

Eighteen months, I've dreamed of this moment. Counted down the minutes, hours, days … praying I would be released on parole after serving eighteen months of the three-year sentence I'd been given.

Being out on parole means I'll be living under conditions set by my probation officer, but at least I won't be here.

I'm getting out of this hellhole.

I'm holding the relief back, keeping it restrained.

I won't let myself feel anything until I'm out of here and back in the real world.

A world where I get my life back. A world where I can get back to the only person who has ever mattered to me.

My brother, Jesse.

I say my brother, but he's my kid. When I was sixteen and Jesse was six, our drug-addicted, waste-of-space mother bailed on us, disappearing with all the money we'd had and leaving me alone to raise him. But I'd been raising him since he was a baby because all my mother cared about was herself, drugs, and whomever she was screwing at that time.

When she left, I quit school and got a job, working in a factory, to get money to feed and clothe Jesse and pay our rent and bills. Not glamorous but it helped. Just barely. We scraped by. I'd buy the cheap food and go to the supermarket just before closing time, so I could get the reduced food, like dented tins because the price had been dropped on them. Sometimes, they would get dented on purpose. I'd shop in secondhand stores for clothes. I did everything I could to make sure the money would stretch.

It was hard, but I always made sure that Jesse was okay. He came first.

He always comes first.

I worked at the factory for a year, but I got laid off when they had a cut in the work force. It was last in, first out. I was the last one hired, so I was the first to be out of a job.

It got hard until I found another job. I didn't have savings because there was never any spare money to save.

I applied for jobs but wouldn't get them because I didn't have any qualifications. I received state benefits, and I still cashed in Jesse's child benefit that came through for my mother-yes, I would forge her signature-but it wasn't enough for both of us. And I couldn't exactly tell the benefit people that I needed more money because, if they knew that my mother had left, they would have taken Jesse away. And I couldn't lose him.

It got really tough for a time. There were days when I would go without food so that Jesse could eat.

I could have asked my best friend, Cece, for help, but I had to do it alone. Jesse was my responsibility.

Then, luck came on my side, and I got a part-time job, stacking shelves at the local supermarket. A week later, I got a part-time waitressing job. The waitressing was in the evenings, and I hated leaving Jesse, but Cece would look after him while I was working.

I did those jobs for six months, all the while still applying for full-time work. Finally, I landed a job in this upscale jewelry store. I could hardly believe I'd gotten the job. I mean, the interview had gone well, but I was uneducated, and the place was nice. For some reason, the manager had seen something in me and given me the job.

It was the best … and worst thing that ever happened to me.

The best part was the money. I was being paid more than both of my part-time jobs combined. I was learning a trade in the jewelry business, and it meant I could be home every night for Jesse.

Little did I know, four years later, I'd be framed for stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of jewelry from the store and that I would go to prison for it.

That I would lose everything.

Lose Jesse.

My kid. My family.

I want him back.

I will get him back.

Eighteen months without seeing or speaking to him, it's killed me.

Our communication was only via letters. Well, I say communication, but it wasn't exactly that. I wrote to him. He never once wrote back.

He's angry.

Because I wouldn't let him come visit me while I was in there.

He thought I'd abandoned him.

Truth was, I couldn't bear the thought of him seeing me in there. A

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