It was a stupid name. No wonder it took him months to tell it to her.
Alice lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, and wondered what his age was. He was old enough to be the warden, but probably not as old as her mother. Chances were, he saw her as being far too young for him, and regarded her more as a paternal figure would – especially because he knew just how broken she was. The moment that they had spent holding hands hadn’t meant anything, but it still made her heart flutter to think back on it.
Her baby squirmed and kicked inside her, so she placed her hands over her stomach and said, “You like him too, huh? He is a good man, though I’m still not sure about his first name. It’s weird.” Then she rolled over onto her side and picked up the teddy bear, still wrapped in its matching blanket, to hug it close. “He’s already given you a present, my tiny Alicia.”
The baby kicked again, and Alice giggled. “He is much better than your real daddy.” She moved to reach her nightstand, and picked up one of the books that was sitting on it.
It was the book: the very first one that he had ever given to her.
Seemingly ages ago, she had found herself sitting alone in his office for a few minutes with nothing to do, so she had wandered over to read the titles on his bookshelf. It surprised her to find that a good number of them were paperback novels, and with white creases through the binding and folds in the covers. She picked one up and read the first page, and liked the way it sounded. So, she had tucked it into her bag, then slid out a few others to take as well. She must have gotten carried away, because when Hackett had arrived with Damon to release her on bail, he had stopped her in the doorway.
Damon had been livid when Hackett had searched through her bag to retrieve his novels, but Alice had been too embarrassed to protest. Hackett, on the other hand, seemed amused. He picked out one of the books and handed it to her, stating, “If you’re interested, then this is the one you need.”
She kept had kept it for reasons that were beyond herself, but it wasn’t until after she discovered that she was pregnant that she had begun to read it. The story was enthralling, and she used every spare moment that Damon would let her have to indulge in it. Unfortunately, she hadn’t managed to finish before she turned herself in, and it was a regret that she had confided to Hackett a few days into her incarceration. He retrieved it from her personal effects and brought it to her the next morning, and another book a few days after that.
Then he asked her what she had thought of it.
Alice had felt awkward at first, and didn’t know what he expected her to say. It had taken some prodding for her to express anything beyond the fact that she had liked it, but once Hackett had gotten her to open up, she discovered that she loved chattering away about characters and plot twists. That was when Hackett began eating breakfast with her every morning, to give them more time for their conversations.
That had been four months ago.
Despite the fact that Alice had vowed to hate him forever, he had quickly become the only true friend she had ever known.
She couldn’t let herself feel anything more than that. She was already pregnant with another man’s baby, and an inmate of the prison that Hackett presided over as the warden. The circumstances were completely wrong for her to fall in love.