By: Samantha Towle

“Thank you.”

“Stop thanking me.” She gives me a soft smile. “Now, do you wanna order in, or I can cook?”


Cece makes the best pancakes ever.

Her smile widens. “Pancakes, it is.”

Stuffed from the mound of pancakes that Cece made for me, I head to bed early. My body clock is still on prison time. It will be for a while, I imagine.

But, now that I’m in bed, I can’t sleep. My eyes are wide open, and I’m staring at the shadows on the ceiling.

I keep expecting to hear the clanging of turning locks and the endless sounds of crying and wailing that echoed throughout the prison at night.

I turn the lamp on and sit on the edge of my bed. Pushing to my feet, I walk over to the wardrobe, open the door, and stare at my clothes hanging in there.

Cece washed and ironed them, and then she hung them up, all ready for me.

Honestly, I couldn’t have wished for a better friend.

I reach up and get one of the boxes down from the shelf.

I sit on the carpeted floor. Legs crossed, I open the box.

Sitting on top of the stuff is my old iPod. I try to turn it on, but it’s dead. I search through the box and find the charger. I go over and plug it in, charging it so that I can use it tomorrow.

I go and sit back down at the box.

There’s a picture frame, upturned. I know which picture it is. The one of me and Jesse that used to sit on the mantel at our old apartment. It was taken when I was sixteen and Jesse was six. It wasn’t long after Mum left.

Picking it up, I turn it over and stare at it.

Cece and I took Jesse out for the day to Brighton. We took the train there. We were so lucky with the weather, as it was glorious that day. We spent most of the day on the beach, eating the picnic we’d packed and messing around in the water. It was a great day.

Just as we were heading back to get our train home, Cece stopped us at the railing that overlooked the beach and took the picture.

My arm is around Jesse, as he’s tucked into my side. We’re smiling. The beach, sea, and sky are in the backdrop.

We look happy.

We were happy.

“I’ll fix this, Jesse,” I whisper to the photo. “I’ll get you back home, I promise.”

I don’t realize I’m crying until a tear drips onto the glass of the frame.

Drying my face with my hand, I get to my feet. Taking the frame with me, I climb back into bed and hold the picture tight to my chest.


I wake early, my body still set to the prison clock. It takes me a moment to remember that I’m no longer there, trapped in that prison cell. I’m safe in my own room, in my new home.

I’m free.

For a few moments, I let that soak in.

I can eat breakfast when I want. Shower when I want. Shower alone, without twenty other women there.

Relief fills me.

I turn over in bed, and something digs in my side.

I realize it’s the picture of Jesse and me. I fell asleep holding it.

Picking it up, I look at it one last time before putting it up on my nightstand.

I push the covers back and get out of bed, loving the feel of the carpet beneath my feet instead of the cold concrete that used to be waiting for me every morning while in prison.

Closing my eyes, I dig my toes into the fibers.


I might be feeling good right now, but a restless energy is starting to burn inside me.

I need to exercise. My body is used to it now from all the hours spent in the prison gym.

I could go for a run. It’s hours before I have to be at my new job.

Decision made, I push to my feet and grab my old running shorts, tank top, and trainers from the wardrobe. I get my old iPod and earphones. Putting the earphones in, I put the iPod in the pocket of the shorts.

I let myself out of my silent apartment and out of the building. The air is cool and crisp. The street is quiet.

I push my key into my pocket and get my music going. The sound of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” fills my ears.

Ready to burn off this unspent energy, I take off, starting in a slow jog, onto the main street. Then, I quickly pick up pace. I make note of where I’m going and the street names, not knowing this area very well. I don’t want to get lost and be late to work on my first day.

The freedom to run outside doesn’t go unnoticed by me. I relish the feel of the cold breeze whipping on my face and at my legs. I take in the sight of people setting off for work early.

I’m back in the real world. And it feels good. Damn good.

I run for an hour, feeling like I could run for another, but I need to get back to have breakfast and get ready for work.

When I let myself in the apartment, I hear the TV on in the kitchen.

Cece must be up.

“Hey.” I smile, seeing her sitting at the table, nursing a cup of coffee.

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