By: Samantha Towle

“Right, well, I’ll arrange that for you now. So, aside from that, we’re done here.” He presses his hands to the desk. “I’ll need to see you once a week for the next four weeks. I’ll arrange with your employer for you to leave early on that day, so you don’t need to worry about that. Then, after that, I’ll need to see you once a fortnight for the second and third month from your release. And, as long as everything is satisfactory and going well, then we’ll go down to once a month. I will come do a visit at your home in around ten days. Actually, we’ll pencil that in while you’re here.” He turns back to his computer, tapping on the keys. “Okay…as you’ll be working and I don’t want to keep taking you away from your job, how does a week from Saturday sound? The morning?”

“I can do that.” I smile.

“Good.” He taps the keys again and then turns to face me. “Right, let’s get this loan sorted for you.”


Cece turns the car down into a cul-de-sac. At the end of it is an apartment building.

“Here we are.” Cece pulls into an allotted parking space and turns the engine off.

Through the windscreen, I glance up at the four-story-high apartment building. It looks really nice. More than I could have hoped for.

Just as we exit the car, the heavens open, so we dash for the building.

Cece opens the main door with a key. “If we have visitors, they have to be buzzed in,” she tells me.

I like that. It’s safe.

We take the stairs up to the second floor where our apartment is.

Cece unlocks the door, letting me inside first.

The first thing I see is the Welcome Home banner hanging from the ceiling in the hallway. I turn, smiling.

“Welcome home!” she says, throwing her hands skyward.

“You’re a total geek.” I laugh.

I walk down the hallway, toward the first door, and find myself in the living room. I take in the beige-painted walls and the furnishings. A big brown leather sofa with fluffy cushions and a matching chair. Glass coffee table. Flat screen TV sitting on a maple oak cabinet.

Turning, I see Cece standing in the doorway.

“It’s amazing, Ce. Did you do all of this?”

She comes over and sits on the arm of the chair. “My dad did the decorating, and Mum helped me pick out the sofa, but the rest was me.”

“How long have you been here?” I run my hand along the soft leather of the sofa.

“I moved in a month ago. It gave me time to get it nice for you and Jesse.”


The reminder that he’s not here with us slices through me.

I know the pain shows on my face because Cece comes over and puts her arm around my shoulders. “Come on, let’s go see your bedroom.”

I follow her out of the living room and down the hallway.

“Bathroom’s there.” She points to a closed door. “And the kitchen’s through here.”

I poke my head through the open door to find a modest-sized kitchen with white gloss cabinets and a small white breakfast table with four black leather chairs.

“Nice,” I say.

“Only the best for us,” she informs me. “And this one is your room.”

I follow Cece into a medium-sized bedroom, complete with a double bed, pale pink duvet cover, nightstand, wardrobe, white walls, and a dressing table in the corner.

“I didn’t do much to it. Thought you’d want to put your own stamp on it.”

“It’s perfect,” I say.

That’s when I spy a gift box sitting on the nightstand. I walk over and pick it up. I turn back to Cece.

“It’s your welcome-home present. It’s not much.”

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I pull the lid off the gift box. Inside is a mobile phone.

I lift my eyes to hers. “You didn’t have to…”

She sits on the bed beside me. “You need a phone, so you can ring Jesse. It’s only a prepaid. I put some credit on it for you—”

“Cece…it’s too much. The apartment…the phone.”

“Bullshit.” The harsh tone in her voice brings my eyes to hers. “It’s the least I can do. You’ve had the worst time, and there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do to help you. The apartment and the phone, I can do, so let me do them.”

My eyes water. I bite my lip and give her a silent nod.

“Good.” She gets to her feet and crosses the room. “I brought all your things from storage. Your clothes and shoes are in here.” She taps the wardrobe that she’s standing beside. “The other stuff, I wasn’t sure what to do with, so I left it boxed. It’s in here, up on the shelf.”

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