By: Samantha Towle

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. And I didn’t want him coming to this place.

I wouldn’t let anyone visit me. Not even Cece.

So, I haven’t seen or spoken to anyone I love in eighteen months.

My heart pounding, I continue to follow Officer Roman. I wait while she unlocks the gate, and then she takes me through, heading toward the reception area.

I haven’t seen this part of the prison since I arrived here.

I look out through the window. My heart pounds with equal measures of nerves and excitement.

I’m getting out of here. I’m getting my life back.

The life that was stolen from me.

Officer Kendall hands me a plastic carrier bag. “The things you came in with,” she tells me.

Opening the bag, I look inside.

My old phone that no longer works, a used lip gloss, my purse. I pick my purse out and open it. Inside is a twenty pound note.

I have twenty pounds to my name.


I spy my old house keys in the bottom of the carrier bag. I touch my fingers to them. The keys to my old home. The home I no longer have.

Tears prick my eyes. I blink them back.

“You okay, Daisy?” Officer Roman asks me.

Swallowing past my emotions, I nod my head and drop my purse back into the carrier bag.

“You know where you’re going from here?” she asks me.

“Yep.” I look at her. “I go straight to London Probation Service to see my probation officer…” I stall, trying to recall his name.

“Toby Willis,” she fills in for me. “Toby will determine the terms of your release and give you details of the hostel where you’ll be staying.”

“You mean, I’m not staying at the Ritz?”

I give her a look of mock-horror, and she laughs.

“Come on, comedian, let’s get you out of here.”

The officer inside the reception room buzzes us through. I follow behind Officer Roman as she leads me to the door that will take me out of here.

I watch, my heart hammering in my chest, as the final door opens.

I’m free.

I take in a deep breath. A lungful of free air.

I know it sounds stupid, but the air just feels better out here. Cleaner, fresher. Better than the air I was breathing behind those high walls that kept me prisoner for so long.

I take my first step toward freedom.

“I don’t want to see you in here ever again.” Officer Roman’s voice comes from behind me.

I glance back at her. “You won’t ever see me again; that’s a promise.”

A smile works its way onto her hard mouth. “Good. And good luck, Daisy. I hope everything works out for you.”

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