Alice stayed in the hospital for a few days under observation, and under the guidance of various nurses learned the basics of caring for her newborn. Hackett had brought her cellphone to her during her first evening there, and she texted him numerous times a day, whether or not she had received a reply. She had not anticipated the days immediately following birth to be so awkwardly painful, and was secretly glad that he was not there to see her pathetically hobbling to the bathroom – not that he would have been able to spend all day with her anyway.
She was over-the-moon in love with her new baby, and frequently gave her kisses and sang to her. Even when Alicia was asleep, Alice would hold her just to gaze at her, marveling that such a beautiful person had come from her.
The word ‘dignity’ sprang into her mind again, and late one night she finally understood what Hackett had meant when he had spoken it to her months before. Alice had found it for the sake of her baby, and she never wanted to give up her dignity again.
When she was discharged, Hackett came to pick her up. She felt a bit silly being pushed around in a wheelchair, but she clutched onto her baby as he wheeled her out to his car, and gasped when she discovered that he had installed a carseat in the back.
“Basil, did you buy this for me?” she asked.
He nodded, hovering close by as she hunched over and carefully strapped Alicia in. The baby gave out a fuss then settled down as Alice cooed over her, and she loved the way it felt to be a mother.
“I thought that you’d bring some prison vehicle,” she said as Hackett helped her into the front seat. “I didn’t expect your personal car.”
“Seemed more like a personal errand,” he replied.
He climbed in the driver’s seat and started up the car, then carefully checked around them before slowly pulling away from the loading zone and navigating the parking lot. Alice got the feeling that he didn’t normally drive so cautiously, and was tickled that he cared so much about their safety. Privately, she fantasized that they were a proper family on their way home with their first-born.
“Alice,” he said slowly, and from his tone she knew that she wasn’t going to enjoy what he had to say next, “I’ve pulled as many strings as I can, and I’ve gotten myself eyeballs deep in owed favors – I can’t buy you more time. Now that your baby is here, you have to make your move: either recant, or lose Alicia.”
Unfortunately, they weren’t actually a family at all.
Alice let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t know much. I wasn’t an accomplice, or whatever the legal term is. I just … I don’t know, suspected.”
“You didn’t do it.”
“No. Damon told me to confess, so I did.”
Hackett’s jawline tightened. “We have video of him instructing you on what to say. He was careful though, and phrased it all in a way that can’t be used against him in court.” He glanced over at Alice, and her expression made him change his mind. He dropped the subject, and instead asked, “How’s motherhood?”
She perked up. “Wonderful! Alicia eats like a pig, and she’s already gained some weight. And oh my god you should see her tiny bum …” She paused. “Or maybe not. Anyway, I think it’s so adorable that I don’t mind the yucky diaper changes at all.”
He chuckled. “Good for you!”
“I’m scared about the future though,” Alice said somberly.
He reached over to hold her hand. “I’m sure that you can handle whatever life throws at you.”
“I hope so.” Alice gave Hackett a good squeeze. “While I was in labor …” She hesitated. “I guess I never told you about how Damon and I fell out, so I just want to explain why I was so irrational. You see, one night he just left without a word. He didn’t tell me we were breaking up, or give me any lines like going out for cigarettes; it took me hours to realize he wasn’t coming back. I got really scared that you were going to do the same thing. I know it’s crazy, but I couldn’t bear the possibility of that happening with you.” She leaned over to touch her forehead against Hackett’s shoulder. “I never told him I was pregnant. He has no clue that Alicia exists.”
“For the better,” Hackett said, smiling. “Tomorrow I’ll get all the right people together, and you can make an official statement about your involvement – or rather, lack thereof – with the murder case. After that, your trial should be quick and easy, then you’ll be on with the rest of your life. For tonight, you’ll be a princess in a tower once again.”
“That’s fine with me.” Alice smiled back. “I still have your phone number, after all, so I can still text you as much as I want.”