Twelve

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Lester came to group a shadow of his former self. Her hadn't shaved in days so his face bore a patchy uneven beard and his attire looked just as shabby. When he sat down he slumped against the back of the chair sliding nearly off the seat entirely. He zoned out completely while waiting for the other seats to fill and he barely paid attention once the group convened. The others talked for a while while he remained oblivious to their stories. Eventually though Father Bishop turned the groups attention his way.

"How are you doing today Lester?" Father Bishop asked.

Lester rubbed his scruffy chin and thought on it a moment. "Well Father, I've got to say I'm not doing so great." He eventually answered.

"What's on your mind?" Someone asked.

"You all know about my legal troubles as I won't rehash that, but since last week I've met with my lawyer and the outlook is pretty bleak."Lester straightened himself up in the chair. "Bare minimum he says I'll have to pay the money back which is, frankly, impossible in my life time."

"Isn't it his job to prove you're innocent?" Emma asked.

"Apparently the evidence is pretty damning. Nothing short of a miracle is going to exonerate me. My lawyer wants me to take a plea deal in hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Either way I'm boned."

"You never know," Father Bishop interjected, "The lord works in mysterious ways."

"He also works in some painfully specific and terrible way." Jackie added.

Lester nodded his head in agreement.

"That can also be true." Father Bishop admitted. "What's important is we learn to accept things that happen and not let them hold us back."

"Five years in prison is a hell of a thing to accept Father." Lester rubbed his eyes and slumped down in the chair a little. "And it's certainly going to hold me back during that time."

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Jackie had a plan. She would drive to group tonight and try to get Emma to agree to a ride home. Then she would know where to find her sons killer. It wasn't a perfect plan but it was the only plan she had.Assassination was not her trade nor did she want it to be. Keep it simple. She told herself. All you need to do is get Emma into the car.By some miracle she found a parking spot near the community center and parked the car. She got out and walked into the gymnasium where she sat next to the already seated Emma.

"Good evening. How are you doing?" Jackie asked Emma casually.

"I've been better." Emma replied.

"Trouble with the boyfriend?"

"Something like that." Emma mumbled something under her breath that Jackie didn't catch.

"You already know the popular opinion around here on that matter."

"Yeah,I know." Emma said glumly.

"Alright everyone please be seated so we can begin." Father Bishop announced. "Who wants to go first?"

A couple people shared their thoughts on their day then Jackie volunteered. "To begin with I've adjusted to living alone for the first time in over twenty years. Secondly I've met someone. Well I haven't met him, not in person, but connected online."

"Get it girl." Someone proclaimed.

"That's good and all, but you won't really know until you go on a date or two." Another woman offered, "He could be an overweight massive slob or something."

"We exchanged pictures. He definitely isn't overweight. You're right about it being risky though."

"Girl you can't trust pictures. People be doing all kinds of trickery with pictures. That might not even be him in the photos." One of the other ladies responded.

"I know, I know, but what's a girl to do in this day and age? I never liked the bar scene and I'm way too old to be up in the clubs shakin' my ass."

Father Bishop cleared his throat loudly to get everyone's attention."Companionship is important. Especially in times of loss, but it's also important not to rush into a new relationship just to fill that void. You are emotionally vulnerable right now. Don't put yourself in a position where someone can manipulate that."

Several of the group members nodded or made noises of agreement.

"You're right Father. I should avoid doing something rash." Jackie responded thinking of her plot to kill Spoony. "That will lead to nothing but trouble.

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Emma spent most of the group distracted by her Spoony troubles. That didn't mean, however, that she was completely oblivious to the plights of the others. She felt especially bad for Lester after he revealed not even a lawyer could save him from a conviction. Terrible that an innocent man will end up punished for the actions of another.Then again it happened all the time if you believed social media and in the papers. Everyone talked so much about their problems that,thankfully, Emma never had to speak about hers. She was relieved when Father Bishop wrapped things up.

Before she could even get up Jackie turned to her and asked, "Hey I drove today. You want a ride home?"

Emma thought for a moment then decided she saw no harm in avoiding a late night bus trip. "Sure, sounds good."

They exited the building together and silently walked to where the car was parked. "This is me." Jackie said pointing at the nearby vehicle.The doors unlocked and the pair climbed in. "You were pretty quiet tonight." Jackie observed as she pulled out of the parking space.

"Yeah.There's just a lot of things on my mind today." Emma answered.

"You get into it with your boyfriend or something?"

"No,nothing like that." Emma turned to look out the passenger side window. "It's just... I think he's done something really terrible.I think he has hurt someone far worse than anything he's ever done tome."

"Why don't you do something about it then?"

"I don't know what I can do about it." Emma admitted. "Turn her."

"If it's that bad maybe you should go to the police." Jackie suggested.

"I could never do that."

"Why not? What if he hurts someone else? What if he turns on you? Is it really worth that risk?"

"I don't think it will happen again. It was my fault. I won't make that mistake again." Emma pointed indicating the next street to turn down.

"What do you mean your fault? How did you make him do the wrong thing?"

"I just... I don't know... He's not really like this though."

"Isn't he?" Jackie asked.

"He loves me. Sometimes he just... loves me a little too much I guess."Emma shook her head. "This is my building here." She pointed to an old apartment building. Jackie pulled the car to a stop and Emma turned to her. "Before I go. I don't think I've had the chance to tell you, I'm really sorry about your son."

Jackie smiled. "Thank you. I appreciate it."

Emma hopped out of the car, closed the door, and entered the building. Up two flights of stairs and down a hall she unlocked her door and walked into a wall of smoke. She began coughing immediately. "Spoony are you in here?" She called out.

"Living room." He called back.

She found him opening the window trying to let the smoke out. "What are you doing in here?"

"I burnt some food on the stove." He responded followed by coughs.

"Since when do you cook?"

"I was hungry and I didn't feel like going out. Besides which I wouldn't exactly call what you do cooking either."

The fire alarm began blaring.

"At least I don't set off the smoke alarm."

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