Adelaide blinked uncomfortably against the early morning light and realised that she'd fallen asleep in front of her computer at some point, the screen in front still glowing and asking her did she really want to log out of facebook? She closed the lid of her laptop instead of answering that complicated question and then stood up, taking note of which muscles she'd angered by her sleep habits.

Stretching her neck as she walked, Adelaide made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen, the only person awake on a Saturday morning. Were it a Sunday, her grandparents would be going out to church - occasionally with Darcy in tow - but Saturday was always a quiet and late start for the household.

As the kettle heated itself up on the stovetop, Adelaide sat down and opened the letter she'd received the day before, addressed to her from Brixton Prison in a by now completely familiar hand.

Dear Adelaide,

You always send me the best thing. I've put the photos up on the wall of my room because it's nice to be able to see a little of the outdoors when I'm stuck in here. The garden here is never very good. I'd like to go out and weed it myself but that's not allowed and I understand why but still it's frustrating. Didn't even know I cared about gardens before I got in here. It's that cliche about prison teaching you about yourself I guess.

How are your classes? Are you still rethinking anthopology? I think it sounds pretty interesting but way above my level. I'm still dissapointed i never did uni but studying for a degree in here is better anyway. There's less distractions in here than out in the world. It was always a bit too much going on but now I'm thinking that buy the time I get out I might really have my shit down.

I've been thinking a lot about the future recently, even more than usual. (There's not much else to think about in here but with my time getting closer I can feel it. A few more years and I'll be out. I'd like to see you but I'd understand if you didn't want that to happen. It would be intense, I get that.)

The kettle whistled.

Putting the letter down, Adelaide went to take it off the heat and then, letting it rest, she considered the page on the table. This was the first time Joshua had mentioned the idea of meeting her again in person after he got out of jail and Adelaide couldn't picture how that meeting would go.

She remembered the first meeting between them: it had been in a courtroom where Adelaide, coloured with bruises and cuts, her leg in a cast, each breath making her painfully aware of the surgical stitches up her side. Adelaide was sixteen. It had been only a month ago she had been in the car when her parents were killed, only one month since her world had been turned on its head. Joshua, shorter than her even at sixteen, had looked like a monster to her then, the drug addict who'd taken her parents from her, from her siblings. She'd hated him then.

Seven years was a long time though and their letters had been long and involved, and they'd shared a lot about themselves over that time. But there were ground rules that had been in place since the beginning this relationship and Adelaide had stuck to them: no addresses, no full names of others, no photos of the people in her life, especially the female people. Those things were for her safety, maybe not even from Joshua but from the other men incarcerated with him. Lawyers had known that photos of teenage girls didn't belong in prisons, and Adelaide got it herself when she was older.

Meeting Joshua. That idea was a lot on this Saturday morning, birds chirping brightly outside the window.

So instead Adelaide made her coffee and folded the letter away back into its envelope. She had things to do today, and she wasn't even thinking about the assignment she had coming up yet.

It was a Saturday in which Adelaide had very little to do, which was a rare event for her. Maybe she'd spend the day on the couch catching up with TV? But Adelaide didn't really watch much TV; she wouldn't know where to start.

So instead it was to the reading chair in her bedroom, her mother's old record player spinning The Smith's Strangeways, Here We Come. Adelaide owned a lot of records - it was wasn't because she cared about the arguments around different types of music media, but simply that listening to records, playing records, just having records, felt like a connection to her parents, one of the only ones left to her. The quiet click of the needle as it moved into position, the almost-silence when the record reached its end, the physicality of setting a new one up - all these things meant that Adelaide could close her eyes and almost smell her mother's perfume.

(Truthfully, she didn't know if her mother had even worn perfume, but it had become a thing now - 'her mother's perfume'. Even if it didn't exist, in death it had become a truth unbreakable.)

By the time she emerged from her bedroom, the rest of the house was awake: sisters were arguing, grandpa was singing, grandma was mowing the lawn. Adelaide kissed her grandpa's cheek as she collected her book bag and headed for the door, walking the few blocks to the library. There she finished her book - one hour and fifty-two minutes - and then waited.

Adelaide had always been good at maths - supremely good, even. She never loved it enough to think of dedicating a career to it - the idea of being stuck away in some dusty room doing maths sounded awful - but she'd always been top of her class. And so it was only natural that she'd taken to maths tutoring as a way to make a little money to add to the expenses at home. Currently she had three high school students she was taking, each once a week, and Saturday afternoon was her standing appointment with one of them.

Adelaide was flipping through the maths text book when the younger brunette appeared almost silently at the table. "Hi."

Adelaide raised her head and smiled. "Hi, Nia. You ready to get your maths on?"

Nia nodded, her hair almost hiding her face. Adelaide didn't know much about Nia, other than that the girl came off as both painfully shy and very eager to impress Adelaide. (She didn't know if it was her personally or everyone, as she only knew Nia in these small one hour blocks.) She seemed like a sweet girl, if a little lost.

A few times they'd talked about home lives and listening to Nia ("Dad doesn't really talk to me and mum... she doesn't talk to anyone except me.") had made Adelaide want to scoop her up and take her home. Why couldn't she just adopt everyone? There were way too many teenage girls that Adelaide felt this way about and if she'd somehow managed it, she would have needed to buy Hogwarts just to fit and feed them all.

(Not a terrible plan, Adelaide thought. She'd rock a headmistress position. The Hufflepuff Pride was strong in Adelaide.)

Nia tucked her hair behind her ear as she sat down and opened up her textbook, Adelaide flipping hers back to the same page. She didn't put an arm around Nia, because it was invasive, but she really wanted to.

I need to stop adopting strays, Adelaide lamented as she listened to Nia read out from her assignment. sheet.

Or, at least, she amended, I need to be more subtle about it...


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Darker London

October 2014

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