tagRomanceInside and Out

Inside and Out


Author's Note

This is a sequel to my previous story, "He Reminds me of my Husband."


If you haven't already done so I strongly recommend that you read that story first.

I am deeply indebted to DaveT for his editing skills. He has undoubtedly made my story more readable.


Inside and Out

Angela stepped into her office and prepared for her first client. She placed a chair either side of the low coffee table. She opened a fresh box of tissues and placed it on the table. After checking the time, she skimmed through her first client's notes. At 9:00am on the dot, she opened the door to the waiting room and smiled.

"Good morning, Maria. Please come in."

Maria walked confidently across the waiting room and took Angela's outstretched hand. Angela smiled as she remembered the day she first met Maria, a quivering wreck of a woman, unable to speak more than a couple of sentences without bursting into tears. A far cry from the confident business woman she now saw before her.

Maria smiled as she looked down at the tissues, at least she wouldn't need them today. She sat down and waited for Angela to sit opposite

"So how are you, Maria?"

"Good! Very good, the best I've been for years."

"Are you still managing without the anti-depressants?"

"Yes, it's six months now."

"How are you managing at work?"

"Fine, I've even been promoted. Probably because I've taken more interest in my career."

"Are you still having the dreams?"

"Well yes, but they've changed. You remember, I told you I wake up next to a man knowing we've had a night of unbridled passion. Before in my dream I'd always been horrified and become hysterical because it was not my husband."

"So how has the dream changed?"

"The first part of the dream is still the same. The difference is that instead being horrified now I'm happy. I wake up hugging my pillow."

"Is it still the same man?"

"Oh yes, it's the same man."

"The man who killed your husband?"

"Yes, but it was an accident. He didn't mean to kill him."

"The same man you slept with before the trial."

"Well yes, but I didn't know who he was when we went to bed. Do you think it means something?"

"I'm a counsellor, not an interpreter of dreams. The only thing I can suggest is that perhaps you've forgiven yourself for that little mistake."

"Hmm, maybe you're right; I think I've forgiven him. When I was at the trial I hated him. Not just for what he did to Will, but also for taking advantage of my situation the night before. Later I hated him for making me realise what a bastard my husband was. I blamed him for something that wasn't his fault. He didn't take advantage of me if anything it was the other way round. Granted he could have told me who he was, but I all but dragged him into my room."

"It sounds like you have forgiven him. That's good."

The two women talked on for the rest of the hour. As Maria's time came to an end, she got up to leave.

"I don't know about you Angela but I'm not sure I need more counselling. I'm on top of things again now."

"If that's how you feel, you are probably right. Take my card. If you need to talk again, just give me a call."


"Take the next left," said the sat-nav.

"Where?" Maria said to herself as she continued down the narrow lane. A tall hedge lined the road to her left. She noticed a small break in the hedge and as she got closer. It was a narrow road. As she turned into the road the view changed to open parkland. A large board displayed the name H.M.P. Combevale.

"You have reached your destination," the sat-nav told her.

Ahead of her was a large country house with a spur road to her right leading to a building site. She drove on and followed the signs to the car park. She was sure this couldn't be the right place. Families were walking on the grass. One group sat under a tree and got out a picnic. It looked like no prison she'd ever heard of. She parked the car, intending to enquire at the house.

Maria tried to look plain, but without success. Knowing she was going to a prison, she'd opted for jeans and tee shirt. However, all her jeans were tight enough to show off her shapely legs and tight bum. Likewise, the loose fitting tee shirt didn't hide her proud breasts pushing forward, holding the shirt away from her stomach. She'd pulled her long dark hair back into a ponytail.

As she left and locked the car, a voice came from behind her.

"Now then bonny lass, what can we do for you?"

A giant of a man strode across the car park toward her. He stood at least six foot six tall with broad shoulders and a chest that was stretching his tee shirt. His arms were thicker than her legs, with tattoos on his forearms. He would have been an intimidating sight if it weren't for the beaming smile he wore on his face.

"I'm looking for Combevale House prison." She told him.

"You've foond it then pet. Welcome to Combevale. I'm Geordie." He extended a huge hand for her to shake.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Geordie. I take it you work here."

"Aye, in a manner of speakin'. I work for her majesty like."

"Do you mean to say you're a prisoner? But you are walking around free."

"Why aye bonnie lass; we all do here. It's what you call an open prison. Now, I know you're not here to see me, more's the pity. Who are you looking for?"

"I'm looking for a man called Paul Robertson; he is a prisoner here."

"Paul Robertson? That's not a name I recognise like, but I can ask for you. Why don't you come into the day room? We can have a cup of coffee and I'll try to find your man."

Maria smiled as he walked ahead of her. How could this giant of a man be so gentle and helpful? She wondered what he'd done, to end up in prison. He led her into a large room with sofas, tables, and chairs.

"Take a seat, pet, and I'll get you a coffee and try to find yer man Paul."

He went off to the tea bar and ordered their drinks. Maria watched him walk across the room to talk to a man on the other side of the room. He walked back to the bar, picked up a tray and brought it back to Maria.

"There we are, pet. I love visitin', me. It's the only time we get decent coffee. Sorry, I canna find yer man yet. I'll ask Mr Mackay when he gets in he knows everyone."

"Tell me Geordie, how long have you been in prison?"

"Me? Well, I spent three years in Durham, two years in Parkhurst. After that, I had a short spell in Belmarsh and then Maidstone aboot two years ago. I spent six months there when they moved me and The Prof to Gartree. We were there for aboot a year when they decided it was safer to send us here. That means I've spent aboot ten years inside now."

"Ten years, what did you do?"

"Murder pet, I killed a man. I got twenty years, but I've been a good boy like, so I should get out soon. That's why I'm here, preparing me for release."

"You? You murdered someone? I can't believe that you don't seem the sort."

"So what is the sort then pet? Anyone can be the sort. All it takes is the right situation and provocation. For me it was finding another man in my bed, with my wife. I grabbed him and threw him oot the French windows."

"You surely don't kill a man by throwing him out of the French windows."

"You do if you're eight floors up, pet."

"It sounds like you got rough justice. I'd have thought it should have been manslaughter at the most."

"Aye well, maybe you're right pet, but I was just a doorman, you know a bouncer at a club like. I had nae money for fancy lawyers"

Maria reached out for his huge rough hand and squeezed it. "Oh Geordie, that's so sad. I hope things get better for you once you get out."

"I'm sure they will pet. Things changed for me aboot two years back when The Prof got put in ma cell. I could barely read and write like, but that man helped me. He foond oot I was dyslexic and got me bits and pieces that helped me read. I foond oot I wasnae thick after all."

"He sounds like a good man."

"The Prof? He's the best. He shouldnae be in here, but I'm glad he is like. -Excuse me pet, that's Mr Mackay. I'll go and ask him aboot your man."

Geordie got up and crossed the room to a smartly dressed man in his fifties who was standing by the door. No sooner had he left Maria than another man came over to her. He was about five foot eight, slim, with curly black hair and a ready smile. Maria thought he was in his late twenties.

"Allo luv. You Geordie's girl are you?"

"No, I'm here to see Paul Robertson. Do you know him?"

"Nah can't say as I do. Are you sure you want to wait for him? Good looking girl like you shouldn't be left waiting around here. My name's Steve and I'm available I'd be glad to give you the grand tour."

A voice boomed out across the room.

"Ho way, Cockney man. She's here for The Prof so leave her alone."

Steve's face took on a worried expression. "I'm sorry miss I didn't mean anything. You won't tell him I tried to get off with you, will you?"

"Is that what you were trying to do?" Maria laughed. "Don't worry Steve, I won't tell him."

Geordie looked embarrassed when he came back and sat down opposite Maria.

"I'm sorry pet, I did nae connect. No one's called him Paul in two years. Even the screws call him Prof. He's not here now, he went in to work this morning. He should be back soon like."

"That's all right, thank you for keeping me entertained. Would you like to tell me more about him? Why did young Steve seem afraid of him?"

"Afraid of the Prof? Nae body's afraid of The Prof. We just respect him. You can have respect without fear, he taught me that."

"So what does he do to make you respect him?"

"Anything he can, pet. You've noticed the gymnasium we're building out there? He brought that here. I'm building it and I found oot I'm a good bricklayer. The Prof's teaching me to read site drawings, and I've already got the offer of a job when I get oot. The Prof, he knows people and they listen to him. There is a Scots bloke who owns a chain of gyms. The Prof writes to him and suggested he built one here. When you're inside, keeping fit is about all there is to do. So he tells this bloke he could get cheap staff for his gym. The lads would get to learn a trade that suits them a lot better than hairdressing. Can you imagine someone like me giving your hair a trim?"

"So if you're all allowed out to work, what's stopping you making a run for it?"

"Nothing pet, but if you get caught you go back to a real prison. Nae body wants that."

Maria was so absorbed in her conversation with Geordie that she didn't notice a man enter the room and stand beside them.

"Maria? What are you doing here?"

Maria looked up into the eyes of a man she hadn't seen for two years. Now, seeing him made her nervous. She had butterflies in her stomach as she stood up.

"Hello Paul, you're looking well."

"You look as good as ever, but what brings you here? I thought you'd want to forget all about me."

"Once upon a time I thought that way but now I'd like to talk to you. Can we go somewhere and talk?"

"OK let's take a stroll in the grounds."

Paul turned and walked to the door, holding it open for Maria. He led her out into the grounds of the big house and walked out across the grass.

"So, what can I say that didn't get said at the trial. I hurt you and I guess I hurt you again when you saw his message. I didn't want to, but I'd made a promise. I hope it helped you move on?"

"Well, one thing has changed." She held her left hand up showing no rings on her finger.

"Is that for my benefit, or is it the reason for the sadness in your eyes?"

Maria grinned at him. "I'm surprised you remember. It seems so long ago now."

"There's not much I don't remember. It was the best and the worst night of my life.The best because I was with a beautiful, kind, sympathetic woman who was incredibly sexy. She even seemed to find me attractive, that hadn't happened for a long time. It was the worst night because in the morning it would all be over. As soon as you found out who I was, I knew you'd hate me."

"I did; I hated you for taking advantage of me, I hated you for killing Will, and I hated you for sending me your phone and destroying my illusions about him. Now I find I am the only person who didn't know what sort of man he was."

"So what brings you here today?"

"Something my counsellor said. Oh yes, I was a mess after that message. I spent two years in therapy and it helped. I realised that Will's death really was an accident, and when I look back on it I'm not sure who took advantage of whom. Anyway, my counsellor said I'd forgiven myself for our night together and I realised that I'd also forgiven you. Well not so much forgiven you but realised there was nothing to forgive."

"I wouldn't go that far. If I'd told you who I was, you'd never have invited me into your bed."

"No, I wouldn't. I'd have tried to scratch your eyes out. You tried to be a gentleman. Short of causing a scene and embarrassing us both you couldn't have done much more."

"So you've come to tell me you've forgiven me. Thank you; that means a lot to me. I enjoyed our time together; I even contemplated pleading not guilty and trying to hold on to my freedom. I was very attracted to you and you seemed to like me."

"I did like you; I thought you were a good man."

"All that changed when you found out who I was."

"Yes it did, but I was wrong. You were much a victim as I was. Your world was torn apart just like mine. That's why it affected me so much. I'd spent months hating the man who killed Will. In my mind, I made him into some kind of monster. Then I met you, and you were such a gentleman I even felt sorry for you. Can you imagine my horror when I found out the focus of my hatred had been the man I'd welcomed to my bed?"

Paul didn't answer, even two years later he was still ashamed.

"I put those things behind me, or at least I thought I had. Then I got your phone and saw the message. I loved Will, but I never really understood him. It was like I'd been living a lie for seventeen years."

"That's a feeling I know only too well."

"Yes, I suppose it is."

They walked on away from the house and its manicured lawns. He showed her the farm and told her about the food they produced. On the way back he took her to see the new gymnasium and told her the story of how it came about. Maria looked at the steel frame and half constructed walls. She imagined Geordie in his hard hat and Hi-Vis jacket laying bricks. Paul was explaining the layout of the gym when Maria asked the question that had troubled her for some time.

"Why did you plead guilty?"

"I felt guilty about what I had done to you, what I'd done with you. I'd taken a man's life, I should be punished."

"So it wasn't only because you slept with me."

"That was part of it, but the more I thought about our conversation, the more I hated myself. It was the right thing to do and I've kept my nose clean, I won't serve five years."

"That gives me some comfort at least."

She turned and took his hand in hers.

"You're a good man, Paul. It was true in Maidstone and, from what Geordie tells me, it's still true now."

"Ah well, Geordie is chairman of my fan club. He sings my praises to anyone who can understand a word he says."

"His accent is a bit thick, but I understood him enough to learn that you put yourself out for people; even those that have done nothing to deserve it."

Paul felt the attraction again, just as he had in Maidstone. It occurred to him that maybe she was here to torture him; to let him see what he could never have. He quickly rejected the idea but still he resisted the temptation to put his arm around her. Instead, he let his hands fall down to his sides. As they walked back to the house their hands brushed together and occasionally Maria squeezed his fingers and smiled up at him.

Geordie winked as they came back into the day room. Paul led her over to a Sofa and they sat down.

"So how are things for you and your family?" He asked.

"We are fine. Alan, my eldest, is seventeen now and takes his `A' levels next summer. Andrea is sixteen, becoming a young woman. They've been wonderful. They really helped when I was falling apart. Even now, Alan will sometimes sit with me and chat about our plans for the future."

Paul shook his head. "Sixteen and seventeen? Unbelievable, you must have been a child bride."

She laughed and playfully slapped his arm. "I'm thirty-eight; if that's what you're trying to find out?"

"No, I'm thinking aloud.—Seriously though, you are OK? Financially I mean. I've got a few bob put aside from selling the truck. If you need a bit of help, you only have to say."

Maria reached out and squeezed his hand. "That's very sweet of you, but we really are fine. I still work because I want to. William may have been a cheating lecherous bastard, but he was a good provider. His personal life insurance coupled with his company policy made sure we are comfortable. The mortgage is paid off, and the compensation from the accident means I don't need to work. My friend Sally says you did me a favour."

"You don't see things that way though?"

"No, I don't, I really did love him. That's why finding out about him hurt me so much. What about you? Any chance of reconciliation with your wife? Don't your children need your little nest egg?"

"Reconciliation? No chance, and as for my children, it's now a question of whose children they are? I'd been in Maidstone for about three months when the money in my bank account dried up and they stopped paying the child support. Josie went to the child support agency. They found out I was inside they told her there was no way I could pay so she'd need to go on benefits. She wrote me a letter accusing me of getting put away to avoid paying her. I don't know if it was her anger speaking, but she finished the letter with a nasty swipe. She said the joke's on you; they're probably not even yours."

"Do you believe that?"

"I don't know, but one thing is certain. Before she gets any more money from me, she'll need to prove they're mine. The stupid thing is, if she'd contacted me, I would have had money moved into the account to continue the payments."

"Oh dear, it sounds like your life keeps getting worse."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that. It certainly got better when they sent me here."

Paul ran his hands through his hair, revealing a scar on the left side of his head. Maria reached up and ran her finger down the scar. "What happened here?" she asked.

"Oh, it's nothing. I slipped in the shower in Gartree."

The look on his face told her it was something much more serious. She began to understand what Geordie had told her. This prison was like a rest home compared to the places he and Paul had been in. She remembered Geordies words: no one wants to go back to such places.

She looked across the room and saw a clock on the wall and then checked her watch.

"I've got to go; it's a three-hour drive back to Kent."

As she stood, Paul also got up.

"I'll walk you to your car."

Neither one seemed to be in any hurry to get to the car. Maria was deep in thought. As they reached the car she turned to face him.

"Geordie said you can go out if you like, is that true? Can you go out for the day?"

"Yes as long as I'm back for roll call at 6.00pm."

"I'd like to come again, if that's alright."

"It's more than alright. I'd like that very much."

"Can I call you here?"

"No. we can call out but we can't receive calls. Mobiles aren't allowed."

"That's a shame; I'll just have to take pot luck."

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byDeYaKen© 19 comments/ 21919 views/ 30 favorites

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