Excerpt of ‘London Road: Linked Stories’

WHEN JANICE BAILEY WALKED

The day Janice Bailey was released from prison was the hottest Friday on record in England. Even at eight thirty in the morning, heat waves rippled across yellow and brown fields and, as Janice walked away from the metallic clank of the closing door of Chorley Prison, her white pumps stuck to the black top, and birds sat silently in the trees.

She paused, remembering what she had been told: ‘Turn left outside the gate and keep going for twenty minutes until you come to the train station.’ The prison was off the bus route, so if no-one met you, you had to walk to the station in Chorley and catch a train to – where? London, Janice supposed. She hadn’t made any plans. What was the point? She was a fifty seven year old convicted criminal with no family – her parents were both dead and she’d never had children – and no prospect of a job. Who would want to hire her? She’d tried to ignore her release day, creeping nearer, because, if she had a choice, she would rather stay in prison.

Janice swung the Tesco’s carrier bag over her shoulder and started walking. The bag contained everything she brought with her five years ago: three £20 notes, her building society passbook which now held £1,113.23 (interest at 2%), a soft denim purse complete with Shining Red lipstick and a regular tampon plus keys to a flat she no longer rented and a photograph of a man she no longer loved.