‘Huh? Do you two know each other, or something?’
‘Alicia, I said get out! You’re to go to the servery, you’re needed to fill in.’
‘Oh, what? I don’t want those greasy fumes polluting my hair!’
Grumbling, Alicia got up from the bed and safely stowed her book of phone cards under her pillow before stomping out of the cell, giving Cassie a sideways look as she went. Cassie wondered briefly what her reaction would be, to learn that she had once dated one of the ‘screws’, one of the enemy within these walls. But there were more pressing matters at hand.
Matthew. Matthew was here, in uniform!
Matthew, whom she thought she had left behind in Riverview.
Matthew, who was sending rushes of love through her body simply by looking at her…
He pushed the door to and turned to face Cassie, who had got to her feet unsteadily. She felt oddly weak, the shock taking its toll.
‘Cass… What the hell?’
A quiet laugh spilled from Cassie’s lips. An odd reaction she supposed, true, but how on earth were you supposed to react in a situation like this?
‘Oh, Matt… It’s a long story…’
‘Well, it’s not like you’re going anywhere!’
‘Er, Cassie? This is a prison! Even if you walked out of this cell you wouldn’t exactly get very far!’
The familiar glint of humour sparkled in Matt’s eye, and Cassie felt herself smile properly despite herself, for the first time since this whole sorry mess began. If she could rely on Matthew for anything, it was a reality check! She caught herself, pulling it back. No, no. She couldn’t go back to those feelings. Especially not in here…
Cassie sighed. ‘Well. When I… You know. When I left. I walked down the first road out of town that I came across, the one I now know leads to Sunset Valley. I got a job as a nanny for Eric Stanislav, do you know of him? He’s a business man.’
Matt nodded. ‘I know of him, he’s made an application for a special visit to come and see you, with his daughter… Mary?’
‘No, Maria.’ Cassie’s heart warmed; Mr. Stanislav hadn’t forgotten about her! Still, did she really want Maria and he to see her in this place? ‘That’s brilliant news! Do you know if it’ll be granted?’
‘There’s a good chance.’
‘Great! So, yeah. I was working for him, looking after Maria, and I… I met his business partner…’
Cassie paused, feeling suddenly awkward. Was she really going to talk to her ex-long-term-boyfriend about her love life?
‘…James… James Brennan…’
Matthew ran his fingers through his hair worriedly, and Cassie knew instantly that he knew exactly who James Brennan was. ‘Please, tell me you’re not the girlfriend of the guy who arranged a revenge attack on the wrong criminal gang?!’
Cassie hung her head. ‘Matthew, I swear to you. I had no idea what was going on. He mixed up papers arranging it in some of Mr. Stanislav’s business documents, all I did was deliver them! I had no idea where they were going to!’
‘Oh, right! And that’s why you were put in here, because you were innocent by way of ignorance, isn’t it!’
‘Matt, please!’ Cassie felt tears welling up in her eyes as she pleaded with him. She needed him to believe her. ‘I was set up! A bunch of other people caught up in it, they knew I was seeing him, they knew I’d delivered some of the papers, so they embellished to try and save themselves! Please, Matt!’
Tentatively, Matthew reached out and brushed away a tear that had slipped down Cassie’s cheek, tucking a strand of her hair gently behind her ear. His touch was familiar, comforting; as his eyes gazed into Cassie’s she felt a warmth of safety washing over her.
She had missed him. She hadn’t realised how much, until now.
‘You know, you’re a rubbish liar Cassie.’ His words were offbeat, casual, but Cassie felt indignation rise inside her.
‘Matthew Forest, I am not lying! For gnomes’ sake!’
He laughed at her angry expression, cupping her cheek as he used to do. ‘Let me finish! You’re a rubbish liar. So, I know you’re not lying now. I believe you, Cass. I know you. You wouldn’t do anything like that for anyone.’
The indignation evaporated into a glorious sunshine that glowed throughout her. Finally, someone believed her!
‘Sierra to Foxtrot, sierra to foxtrot, your presence is required in the servery.’ His radio crackled, and Matthew rolled his eyes. ‘Duty calls.’
‘You don’t look too thrilled!’
Matt chuckled. ‘Yeah, well. Strictly off the record, Erin Sheeran is a total cow. But that didn’t come from me!’
Giggling confidentially, Cassie nudged Matt playfully. ‘Let’s face it, that could’ve come from anyone in here!’
‘So true!’ Matt’s laughter died down to a comforting smile. ‘I’ll see you later, Cassie.’
‘Yeah, see you later.’ As Matthew turned to open the door, Cassie couldn’t stop herself calling out. ‘Matt! I, er… I missed you. I’m so sorry for walking out on you like that.’
‘Yeah, well. That’s in the past. And it’s not like you can do that in here, is it? Your stuff will be delivered later, by the way!’
After Matthew had left, Cassie stretched out on her bed, feeling infinitely cheerier. Finally, a friendly face she could trust! And he believed her! Matt believed her! Not that she expected otherwise, of course. She was a terrible liar, not that a jury would know that.
Looking over to Alicia’s side of the room, she admired how she had decorated it. Postcards and letters on the wall, pictures her son had drawn, photographs and make up. It was a still a grubby little space, but she’d made it her own. Maybe once her own stuff was brought to the cell it’d feel a bit more homely.
Still gazing over at Alicia’s half of the room, imagining what she would do with her own things once they arrived, the girl herself strolled back into the cell.
‘Can you believe they made me go help clear up? One of the girls accidentally cut herself washing up so she needed to go see the medical officer. Still, why should I ruin my nails? And who the hell was that dreamboat, anyway?’
* * *
‘You have no idea how good it is to finally have my stuff, Alicia!’
Preening herself as best she could in the tiny mirror, Cassie felt better than she had done in days. Seeing Matt, or Mr. Forest as she had to officially call him, again after so long had only been the beginning. It had taken a further four days for her things to be sent down to her. Ms. Sheeran had said that they’d been ‘stuck in admin’ with a sneer on her face, but Cassie theorised that she simply hadn’t been bothered to bring them down the corridor from the staff room. She hadn’t been able to talk to Matt again since their meeting; as he was new to the prison he had to move around all the wings to learn security procedures, so they’d only seen each other once more across the crowded servery one dinner time. The quick smile he’d flashed her had made her day.
‘Yeah, well. Count yourself lucky. I was waiting two weeks for mine. They don’t hurry things up for murderers,’ Alicia replied moodily, stabbing a full stop on the letter she was carefully writing out. She wasn’t the most literate person in the world. ‘We can’t all have screws doing us favours, can we?’
‘Alicia, I told you! Mr. Forest is not doing me favours!’ Cassie had told Alicia that she briefly worked with Matt in a coffee shop during her highschool years. She didn’t really want her knowing the truth, plus if she told anyone there was a chance he wouldn’t be allowed to be her personal officer any more. She didn’t want that.
‘Whatever you say, Cassie,’ Alicia sighed. Cassie cursed her rubbish abilities at lying as the door opened, and who else but Mr. Forest walked in.
‘Cassie, I’m here to take you to your meeting. Mr. Stanislav is here.’
‘Any chance you can bring me a latte, sir?’
Matthew’s brow furrowed. ‘What are you on, Boyden?’
‘Well, sir, you should be a pro seeing as you worked in a coffee shop. Latte, two sugars, please!’ Alicia smiled coyly at Matt, who thankfully didn’t let so much as a glimmer of confusion flit across his face.
‘Boyden, shut up. Come with me, Cassie.’