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Unsuitable(6)
Author: Samantha Towle

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.

She turns on the engine, and the radio in her car comes on. Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” bleeds out of the car speakers.

I let out a humorless laugh and meet Cece’s eyes. “You have this playing on purpose?”

A small smile plays on her lips. “Maybe.”

I let out another laugh. But I don’t really feel it. Because I’m not going home. Not really. Home is where Jesse is, and I can’t be with him because I made a mistake. I trusted the wrong person, and it cost me my brother and eighteen months of my life.

I rest my head back against the seat and stare out the passenger window, letting out a sigh.

“Hey…you okay?” Cece’s voice is soft.

I turn my head to look at her. “Yeah”—I smile—“I’m good. And thanks for…everything. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

She reaches over and squeezes my hand. “You’ll never have to find out.”

Two

Sitting in the empty waiting room on the first floor of the probation service office, waiting to see my assigned probation officer, Toby Willis, I stare out the window and look at the busy London area.

Everything looks the same but different.

Or maybe it’s just me that’s different.

Cece wanted to come in with me, but I told her to go grab a coffee instead of being stuck in the waiting room until I was done. I told her that I’d meet her back at the car in an hour.

That was half an hour ago, and I still haven’t been called in to see him.

As I think it, a guy appears in the open doorway. Looks to be in his mid-thirties. Shaved hair—like literally not a hair is to be found on his head—and he’s wearing a black pinstriped suit that looks like it’s seen better days.

“Daisy Smith? I’m Toby Willis. Do you want to come through?”

I get to my feet and follow him down the corridor and into his office. I take the seat at his desk as he shuts the door behind us.

He comes around the desk and takes his seat. “Sorry I was late for our appointment. I got stuck in a meeting I couldn’t get out of.”

“It’s fine.” I smile. “I’m used to waiting around, and it’s not like I have anyplace to be.”

He lifts his eyes to mine. They’re blue and kind-looking. Actually, now that I think about it, his whole face looks kind. In stark contrast with his harsh-looking bald head.

He smiles. “Well, let’s hope we can change that for you.” He turns to his computer and taps some keys. Then, he reaches over and grabs a file.

I see my name written on the top.

He opens the file, looking through some of the papers. “So”—he looks up at me—“I won’t keep you here long. Really, all we need to do is have you look over the terms of your release and have you sign the license that signals your release. Then, we’ll discuss housing options and employment possibilities.”

“Can I start with the housing options?” I ask.

Leaning back in his chair, he gives me a nod, giving me the go-ahead.

“I know I’m supposed to move into a hostel. But my best friend has a three-bedroom apartment in Sutton, South London, and she’s asked me to live with her. If that’s okay with you.”

“Your friend, she doesn’t have a criminal record?”

“God, no.” I laugh quickly. “She’s a hairstylist. Never been in trouble in her life.”

But then again, neither had I until I was stitched up for theft.

I hold my tongue on that one. No point in protesting my innocence anymore. That ship sailed a long time ago.

“Then, I don’t see a problem with it. So long as I have the address and your friend’s details, then it’s fine.”

“Thank you.” I breathe a sigh of relief. I didn’t want to say it to Cece, but the thought of living in a hostel…it felt like I would be going back into a form of prison. “Do you want the address now? I have it. Cece wrote it down for me.”

“Sure.”

From my jeans pocket, I get the piece of paper with my new address on it and hand it over. He takes it from me and puts it inside my file.

   
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