10. Jumping Through The Hoops

Matt walked over to his son and the vision of his wife as a teenager in a daze. Am I seeing things? I must be… That’s Cass… That is definitely Cassie… But it can’t be…

But surely… It can’t be Ivy… Can it? No, no. Must be a coincidence, surely?

‘Dad!’

Tristan had clocked his father without Matt realising; he was so lost in his thought that he hadn’t really been paying attention to his surroundings. Scrambling off the bench the young boy ran to meet his father, the teenage girl following him and standing a little self consciously while Tristan gabbled away.

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9. Mentoring

Sniffling loudly, the boy roughly wiped the tears from his face and looked through his stained glasses at Ivy.

‘Sorry.’

‘Hmph. Good.’

‘I didn’t mean to wake you.’

‘Yeah, well. You did. So that didn’t work, did it?’

The little boy’s face fell further. ‘I didn’t mean to, though. I did try to be quiet.’

‘Well, now you’ve learned, haven’t you? Crying and silence, mutually exclusive,’ Ivy replied coolly, rather impressed with her own retort despite the hangover that was coursing through her. The boy nodded glumly, wiping his wet hands on his shorts before looking at Ivy with a sense of confusion. ‘Um… Why were you sleeping on a bench? It’s the middle of the afternoon!’

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8. Reunion

Cassie and Matthew set about organising their wedding, deciding on a quiet ceremony on the beach with only their nearest and dearest. The guestlist was tiny; Eric, Maria, Sue and Tristan.

‘5. Ivy’, Matt wrote at the bottom of the list, underlining it before looking wistfully out of the window. They both knew that finding her in time for their big day was a near-impossible task, but it didn’t hurt to dream.

While Cassie had Sue by her side to help choose her dress, she sadly wasn’t going to be able to make it to the wedding. Her mother was ill, so she and her husband were temporarily closing the pub and flying to Twinbrook to stay with her for a while, until she was back on her feet. They couldn’t afford to fly back just for the wedding.

‘Just you wait, Cass, I’ll get you the best present to make up for it,’ Sue had told her, hugging her tight. Cassie had been intrigued by the knowing glint in her friend’s eye, but decided to put it to the back of her mind. What was the point of a surprise present if you guessed it beforehand? Ruins all the fun!

Despite the fact they were only planning a small wedding, Cassie could not believe how much there was to sort out. Cake, flowers, catering, music, location, Matthew’s suit, and of course the all important wedding dress! The couple had been panicking over their relatively meagre budget until they received a phone call late one night.

‘Cassie, my dear!’ Eric bellowed down the phone. ‘I’ve got your wedding present sorted out! Maria says you’re still looking for a location, well not any more! I’ve hired you Castles In The Sand, the venue on the beach? It’s all booked, two weeks today!’

Cassie had been overwhelmed, both with the generosity of her former boss and how close the wedding date was! Full of gratitude, she set about arranging everything. Time flew by, until:

‘It’s today, it’s today! Mum, Dad! It’s today!!’

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7. Landing On Her Feet

Tidying the bedroom she now shared with her boyfriend, Cassie marvelled at how her life had changed. It was still strange, waking up snuggled in soft sheets in a proper bed as opposed to one rejected by the army in the middle ages, to a bright and cheery room bigger than twelve square feet that Cassie could freely walk out of once she had got out of bed at any time she pleased. She hadn’t realised how much she had missed the freedom to rise when she wanted, instead of when the electric lights rudely woke her from a usually restless night at seven o’clock in the morning, every morning, without fail.

She moved straight into Matthew’s from walking out of the prison. What was the point in waiting? It wasn’t as if they didn’t know each other, this wasn’t some whirlwind romance they’d entered into impulsively. In Matt’s arms, Cassie really was home. She was safe, it was where she belonged. She knew that now. She’d known it the second she’d first seen him, as he’d walked through her cell door on her second day inside. Her first instinct had been to run to him, to pull his arms around her and to hold him close, and not because he was a friendly face in an unfriendly place. She couldn’t really explain it. It was natural, like he was the other part of her. Cassie vaguely remembered reading an ancient myth once, saying that each Sim was originally created with two heads, four arms and four legs, and one of the gods had split them in two and moved them around so that everyone was wandering the planet searching for their literal other half. That was how she felt with Matt. She’d found another part of herself, in him.

Straightening out her things on her beside table, Cassie’s gaze fell on the pictures of Ivy on the shelf between the windows.

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6. Looking Up

Gently reaching down into the battered crib, Cassie pulled her baby’s blanket closer around her. She needed to make sure she was warm; these old cells were draughty, and she wasn’t entirely sure that there weren’t cockroaches scuttling around the edges of the small room.

It seemed strange, having something so precious in somewhere so grim. Even the mother and baby unit, a section of the prison for mothers with newborns where each cell had a cot and nurses were on standby, was no real place for a baby to be. Ivy was three months old now, and the only outside she’d ever seen was in the exercise yard, still walled into this awful place.

Still. Cassie wouldn’t have to worry about that for much longer.

The soft movement of her blanket roused Ivy who reached out for her mother, wanting a cuddle. Cassie smiled and picked up her child, holding her close. As if she’d ever say no to a quick snuggle!

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5. Stress?

‘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!’

‘Alicia! Now!’

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…

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4. Back In A Box

The next few weeks passed by in a blur of police interrogation rooms, holding cells, courts and handcuffs. The mystery of Vita Alto’s missing husband was soon solved; businessman Nick had been arrested for his involvement with the criminal underground movement of Sunset Valley and had exchanged information on those working around him for a leaner sentence.

James Brennan had been one of those. Mr. Alto told how he had contacted him in the hopes of arranging a revenge attack on the criminal gang he thought responsible for his parents’ deaths, once he had stumbled accidentally on some paperwork linking Nick to the seedy underworld of the Valley. Nick had been helping him in exchange for his silence; of course, once that confidentiality no longer held weight Mr. Alto didn’t hesitate to hand over James’ details and links to the criminal gangs of Sunset Valley. It didn’t help that James had made a mistake and identified the wrong group for his swoop.

As for Cassie, she was accused of aiding a conspiracy to commit murder. Unknowingly, she had delivered documents belonging to James arranging the preplanned attack amongst other, genuine legal pages for her boss. She was perfectly innocent, duped into carrying the papers. The only thing she could be said to be guilty of was being too trusting, for not questioning or looking through what she was carrying with her. Of course, she did not think she had a reason to query them, nor her boss or boyfriend.

There were many people named by Nick Alto, many people who were actually guilty of crimes. Many people desperate to save their own skin. Many people who also tried to barter with the police.

Many people who would not hesitate to blame others to try to save their own skins. Many people who would happily testify against a young girl, to say she had far more involvement than she actually did in exchange for a few years off their own prison time.

‘So, Cassie Rivers… I see you’ll be staying with us for four years?’

‘I shouldn’t be here at all! I’m innocent!’

The prison governer’s face hardened. ‘Miss. Rivers, I’m afraid I cannot possibly comment on your sentence, or your crime. I’m here to run this prison, not the justice system of this country.’

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