The Cheat continued …

“But I don’t understand why you feel you must go? Why visit him? I’m not having a very good day with my arthritis. Lorraine, love, speak to me. Tell me what you are thinking.”

Mrs Whiggleton tried to understand her daughter’s reasoning. Lorraine was reluctant to talk about it. Whenever she tried to explain to her logical mother, she couldn’t express herself. She couldn’t impress upon her that she needed to do the right thing even if others didn’t want to. It had been like that all her life. She had to be sure.

It had just been a walk in the park with Grandma’s dog, Flossie. She loved that black sleek-haired mongrel. Sunday morning was Lorraine’s treat. She always kept Flossie on the lead. That morning she had been on her own. Nine years old and she was responsible. Ravensmead Park was not far and anyway Flossie knew the way. She sat on her usual bench. He didn’t say much, just asked her about Flossie. What did she eat? Did Lorraine take her out every Sunday. They were just ordinary questions.

The policeman said riding in the police car would be fun. Lorraine didn’t think it was fun. It was scary. She didn’t understand why they, her parents and the police, were making such a fuss. He had only talked about Flossie. They had questioned her extensively. Had he done this? Had he done that? No, nothing but she still had to ride in the police car and look at six men through a window.

“They can’t see you. Which number did you say?”
“I think it was number two,” she had said, then added, “I’m not sure.”
The detectives whispered to each other. She couldn’t hear what they said.
“Lorraine, have another look, slowly, so you can be sure.”
But she couldn’t be sure. It was important to be sure. Just as she wasn’t sure if Andrew Edward Washington had cheated. She would find out. She would confront him. Her retirement had given her plenty of time. An excursion to an open prison would be interesting.

It took her two weeks to organize the visit. No-one understood why she wanted to go. The prison authorities didn’t understand but they allowed it. They said it could help with remorse and later rehabilitation to the community. Her mother didn’t understand and resented being left on her own for the day.

He sat on a bench in the grounds of the open prison. Forty years hadn’t been kind to him. He looked thinner but it was him. Lorraine was absolutely sure of that. His face was strained and his eyes were sunken. He didn’t understand why she came.
“Cheated?” he answered her forthright question. “You came here to ask me that! You bloody do-gooders think you’ve got all the answers, don’t ya.”
Then he laughed. A loud raucous belly laugh. That was his response. The prison officer took him back inside. He said the prisoner was making too much fuss. Lorraine watched him walk down the corridor with the officer. The visit was over. She still did not have the answer. She hadn’t been sure when she’d seen Peter with his arm around that pretty girl. Was he cheating? The doubt kept her from saying, yes, when he proposed two weeks later. Was she wrong about that too?

Lorraine didn’t know but she had learned to live with regret.