The door swings open, and Cairo’s breath catches in her throat. Riley stands in front of her beaming, red hair loose around her shoulders. She’s fidgeting with a black hair tie on her wrist, and Cairo can practically see the anxious waves radiating off her.
“Cairo, hey!” She runs a hand through her hair, swinging one arm out to gesture for Cairo to come inside.
Cairo follows her inside, letting the door shut behind her. She had been offered a supervised visit, but Cairo didn’t want to have anybody hovering over them. She knows Riley. She wouldn’t hurt her.
As she takes in the decor she remembers that she knew Riley. Knew the stuttering fourth grader, but not the over enthusiastic murderer standing before her.
Riley moves to hug her, but she stops, clearly thinking better of it. She leans forward instead, squeezes Cairo’s arm warmly. Cairo catches a hint of floral perfume, and her stomach twists.
“How are you?” Riley flutters around, ushering her to the couch and offering her beverages or snacks or a jacket is she cold?
“Riley-” Cairo stretches her hand out, catching Riley’s wrist. She tugs insistently, and Riley follows her lead. She slips into the armchair across from the couch, leg bouncing up and down. “Settle down, okay?” Riley nods jerkily, lips twitching up into a strained smile. She takes a moment to breathe, and Cairo watches as she settles into herself. “I’m good. We’re all good. You?” She asks cordially.
Riley shrugs her shoulders. “I can’t complain. I think I’m doing good, actually.” She adds on. “My therapist and I worked a lot on ways to calm me down. You know how I tend to spiral.” She laughs. “Um, I see her two times a week, and I think it’s been really good. She’s thinking about bringing it down to once a week because we’ve been together for so long. Three years since I got released and was able to go and find a therapist that wasn’t court mandated. She said it was a good step.”
Cairo smiles, and it feels genuine. “That’s good, Riley.” She says, and she means it. She can’t trust Riley, and she doubts she’ll ever be able to again. You can’t give your heart to somebody and return it once they’ve ripped it to shreds.
“God, look at me babbling on. How are you really, Cai? How are the girls? Do you still keep in touch?” Riley gets up for a minute, returning with two water bottles. She slides one across to Cairo and keeps the other for herself, gulping some down immediately. “It pays to be hydrated, you know.” Riley says, and she sounds like she’s straight out of some commercial. Cairo wonders if they’re being filmed for Tigers Water, so good you’d kill for a drink.
“Like I said, we’re good. I’m good. Annleigh actually had a three month anniversary two weeks ago. Reese and Mattie have been running their gym for a year now. Kate and Eva are going strong.” Cairo bites her lip. “They aren’t going to want to see you, you know that right?”
Riley slumps a little. “Yeah, I kind of figured that. I don’t blame them. I talk about it a lot in therapy. I talk about them, too, and you. And us.” Riley glances down, fingers drumming against her knee. “I’m sorry. I never said it after everything, but I am.”
“I was going to visit you,” Cairo tells her, and Riley’s head snaps up, brown eyes trained on her. “But I just couldn’t see you. I had to go to the trial because I owed it to everybody, and I owed it to myself, but I could never bring myself to see you in prison.” She confesses.
“Cai,” Riley’s eyes are shiny, and for a second Cairo allows herself to be angry. She used to fight for everything she had, and eventually she learned that she could relax. She could soften up. She didn’t need to be on the defense at all times. She gives herself a second to be mad at Riley for the tears in her eyes that wouldn’t be there if she hadn’t killed their classmates. Their friends. “I really am sorry. I messed up, and I’m sorry that you had to deal with the aftermath of my mess.”
Cairo nods slowly. “I came here for closure. I came here because a part of me has been stuck in your goddamn basement after all these years, and I need to finally be free. I’m choosing to be free, Riley. I’m choosing me.” She remembers fourth grade and Riley’s stutter, eighth grade and the way her heart glowed in Riley’s hands. She remembers I’ll always be on your team and she flashes back to Riley’s knife glinting underneath the basement’s lights, slick with Kate’s blood.
Riley stands in front of her now, and Cairo knows that she’s finally ready to let go and move on. “I understand. Goodbye, Cai.”
“Goodbye, Riley.” Cairo leaves, and she feels like the guilt and misery is fading away with every step she takes.
capt. to rah rah rah (4:01 pm): how did it go??
it’s annleigh to rah rah rah (4:09 pm): Let us know if youre okay as soon as you leave, alright?
eva’s pizza emporium to rah rah rah (4:11 pm): if things go badly let us know and we’ll help you out
cai to rah rah rah (4:34 pm): i’m good she didn’t do anything we just talked
angel baby to rah rah rah (4:36 pm): she didn’t stab you did she??? because that would suck :(
cai to rah rah rah (4:36 pm): no mattie she didn’t stab me
k8 to rah rah rah (4:37 pm): Can’t relate
Cairo snorts, fondly rolling her eyes with a grin tugging at her lips. Her girls have her back, and maybe once upon a time she wouldn’t be sure, but she knows without a shadow of a doubt that they have each other. That’s a guarantee.