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warning: swearing.

Jacopo’s new cellmate had only been here for about five seconds, and he was getting on Jacopo’s nerves already.

“So what’s the deal?” He flipped his hand and gazed at Jacopo with big, imploring eyes, a little grin on his face. “Are you a murderer or something? Is that why you won’t talk? Does the guilt eat you up?”

Slowly, deliberately, Jacopo picked a shirt off the pile and folded it neatly onto his bed. The shirt was identical to the one he was wearing: grey, plain, prison-issue uniform with his name stitched on the front. He’d worn a shirt just like it every single day for the last year, although this was the first time he felt like using it to gag someone else.

“Hellooooo?” The annoying young man waved at him. “Jackie? Are you mute? Deaf? Stupid?”

“Agani.” Jacopo grumbled. “Not Jackie.

The man held his hands up in the air as though praising the gods. “He speaks! It’s a miracle! So whatcha do, Agani?”

Jacopo turned to pick up another shirt off the pile and caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror over the sink. He was only thirty-four (he thought; it was hard to keep track of time in Shaman) but he looked older. His dark brown eyes had long had a tone to them which meant that others gave him a wide berth, but now there was a new quality to them: weariness. This was only Jacopo’s second stay in prison, so he wasn’t exactly the career criminal that some of the others down here were, but somehow this felt more hopeless than last time. Last time it had only felt like his life was over. Now it felt like he couldn’t escape life.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his cellmate grinning at him. The young man was dressed in brown – the colour of jail, not prison. If the investigation or trial found the young man innocent, or at least found there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him, he could walk out of here in just a few hours’ time.

“I fucked up.” Jacopo growled. “Don’t you do the same.”

--

“Jacopo, you have a visitor.”

Jacopo glanced up half-way through his forty-second press-up, his forehead slick with sweat. The guard was young and probably new, since he used the name on Jacopo’s clothes and paperwork rather than Agani, which was what everyone down here called him. Agani was Jacopo’s surname, and was what he had been known as in prison before; it had felt only fitting to adopt it again when he’d been incarcerated on Shaman. The only people who still called him Jacopo now were too green to know any better.

He rested his hand on the bed and used it to push himself to his feet. Two out of seven days, a guard brought Jacopo up into the castle and supervised him doing whatever admin work was required that day: filing books, translating texts, sorting petitions, that kind of thing. The other five days of the week were so mundane that he spent a good deal of time doing press-ups and sit-ups in his cell. The sensation of burning muscles was oddly satisfying and helped him sleep at night.

In addition to his forehead, his palms were sweating too. He took a small step forward, scanning the guard’s face. Only the day before, his counsellor had told him that he’d be receiving a visit from somebody called Olive.

I don’t know an Olive, Jacopo had told her blankly. She’d frowned and checked her paperwork.

The claim has been filed as a blood relative? Your daughter?

He’d felt his blood run cold, then. Olive must have been what Birch had decided to name their daughter. He’d had a daughter. After a year of silence on the matter, not even knowing the health or gender of the child, he would be meeting his daughter.

Jacopo stepped forward fully and leant against the cell, craning, expecting to see Birch with a baby tucked up in her arms. Would her green eyes be dancing with the love and amusement he remembered, or would they still hold the anger and shame for his actions?

What he saw wasn’t Birch. It was a teenage girl, probably about fifteen or sixteen, with olive-brown skin like his and thick, black hair. Like Birch, she had a diamond-shaped face with pronounced cheekbones, but her eyes were brown, not green. She had a thin, athletic body, but her clothes were stretched over a swollen stomach. Barely more than a child, her body preparing for a child of its own in only a few months’ time.

They stared at each other for a moment. Jacopo’s brain couldn’t compute what it was seeing.

“You… you can’t be.” When he wasn’t mumbling, Jacopo’s voice was hoarse from disuse. His jaw was slack and he was shaking his head slowly. “Olive is just a baby. She’s…”

The cell felt like it was spinning. Jacopo felt the urge to throw up.

“How…?” He croaked.


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