08 Bird in a cage

Greenville Juvinile Detention Center was a grey, square, brick building surrounded by an enormously high electric fence. In the pale twilight of the day, it looked dark, remote and very, very old. As a black van arrived at the gates, an intercom system beeped in competition with the sound of the pouring rain. The front window of the van was rolled down, and the man in the driver seat announced that he had a prison transport to the detention center. A buzzer rang, the gate clanged, and slowly the gate opened wide like a big mouth ready to devour its food. The van rolled up to the front door, and officer Dana Scolari stepped out of the vehicle, pushing little Kate in front of her. They hurried to the door and waited for some slow, steady steps inside the building.The door was opened slowly, making a creaking sound like in some cheap horror movie. An unusually big woman stood in thee doorway, her face as stern as a headmaster.

– “So,” she grunted.

– “Is this the infamous Kate Stewart?”

Kate answered “no” at the very same time that officer Scolari answered “yes”, They both looked at each other.

– “This is the girl you have been waiting for!” the police woman said shortly.

– “But my name is really Kate Smith,” Kate protested.

The big woman rolled her eyes.

– “Well, I am Mrs. Ross. You better get in straight away. It will be bedtime soon, and it’s no good standing out here in cold. Thank you, officer!”

Mrs. Ross pushed Kate inside the door, and officer Scolari nodded and waved a short goodbye to Kate. Then Mrs.Ross shut the large door with a big bang, and the door was bolted and locked. The inside of the building seemed like an empty factory. Straight ahead were a set of stairs, there were two doors on each side of the stairs, and on the right hand side as you came in, there were an office. On the left was another room, but there was nothing to indicate what sort of room it was. Mrs. Ross kept pushing Kate in front of her, then the door on the left was opened. A narrow hall went straight ahead, on on the left hand side were toilets and showers. Mrs. Ross looked sternly at the skinny girl.

– “Take of all your clothes, please!” she growled.

– “You will be thoroughly checked before you get your new clothes. Everybody wear uniforms in here with nametags.”

Kate shrugged.

– “What do you mean by ‘checked’?”

Mrs. Ross steered her down.

– “We always check new inmates for drugs in all the cavities….”

Kate’s eyes opened wide.

– “Cavities? you mean….”

– “Oh, yes! Get your clothes off. I will check you out, then you can have a nice, refreshing shower. I will get you towels and fresh clothing.”

Kate turned her back towards Mrs. Ross as she started slowly to undress. She felt very small…. like a speck of dirt. Finally, all the clothes had been removed, and she tried to hide behind her bundle of clothes. Mrs. Ross gave a big sigh.

– “Let’s get on with it, girl,” she puffed, moving closer to Kate. A small tear started running down Kate’s cheek.

Kate’s room was a cell. It had a bed on one side, a chair and table on the other side, and at the end of  the room was a toilet with no door or cover of any sort. The door into the room had a window split in two. The upper part was transparent and could be used for looking in or out. The downward part was strong, greyish glass that could be opened from the outside and made into a shelf where i.e. food and drink could be placed. There were no decorations of any form. The colours were grey and dull. Everything seemed cold and naked. Kate could not believe she had to live here for several years. She laid down on the bed as soon as Mrs. Ross had left her. There was no clock on the wall. A small window on the one side of the room was covered with iron lattice on the outside. Lost in desperation by her loneliness and her humiliating cavity check a few minutes ago, she let the tears pour down, her head hidden in the soft and sweet smelling duvet on her bed. She cried and cried, sniffing, coughing and wailing. She hoped that the walls were soundproof, but at this point she couldn’t really care less. It seemed like eternity had passed, and that she had almost run out of tears when a hard knocking was heard from the door. Kate sat up with a start, wiped her eyes, and went to the door. A young lady was stood on the outside of the door, smiling softly. A clanking noise was heard as the lady unbolted the cell door and opened it.

– “Hello, Kate!” a friendly voice sounded.

Kate didn’t answer. Her eyes were moist and red from crying. She just stood looking at the young woman.

– “My name is Carmen!” she the woman said.

Kate noted that Carmen had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and beautiful, long, black hair. Her smile was ever so friendly, and Kate was hoping that she would not leave. She looked Mexican, and her accent suggested that too. Her smile seemed like an honest smile, and Kate had great expectations to this woman.

– “I will give you some information, Kate. Here at GJDS, you wake up at 7 AM. The door to your room gets automatically unlocked at that time, so that you can go and freshen up or have a shower. Breakfast is at 7:30 in the mess hall, and at 8 AM you will start your schooling. Lunch is at 12:00, school finishes at 3 PM. Then you are allowed some free time till dinner at 5 PM. Free time means that you can play pool, watch tv, or chat to other inmates. At 9 PM there is supper, 9:30 you can brush your teeth and freshen up. AT 10 PM you room will be automatically locked. If you don’t follow the rules, you will either be locked in your room and loose your free time, or, in worst case scenario, put in isolation.  Anything else you like to know?”

Kate cleared her throat.

– “How many girls are we here?”

Carmen smiled back.

– “There is room for eight girls on this floor, but there are only six at this moment in time. Upstairs, there is room for eight boys, and all those rooms are taken. The girls and the boys always stay separate, though.”

– “What are you, Carmen?”

– “Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot. I am your primary contact. That means that you will have lots to do with me. I am one of those who will take part when your case comes up for review. I will try to make some plans with you tomorrow, but tonight I thought we’d just get you to meet the other girls. Would you like that?”

Kate wasn’t too sure.

Carmen was still smiling.

– “I’m like a social worker,” she added.

– “I finish today at 10 PM, but I’m  back tomorrow at 7 AM. Any more questions?”

Kate bit her lip.

– “What are the other girls like?”

Carmen took Kate’s hand.

– “Come, and I’ll show you.”

Very hesitantly, Kate followed Carmen out into the corridor.

In the end of the corridor, there was a huge room with different kinds of  games. A tv was blurring in the corner of the room, and three of the girls were watching Nightrider. One girl was sat reading and two were playing cards. Carmen followed Kate over to the girl who was reading. She had short, black hair and thick glasses. She was wearing the same, ugly, orange suit of clothing that everybody else was wearing.

– This is Shirley, but everybody calls her “Mouse”. She likes to read, and doesn’t spend too much time with the others. Maybe you two could become friends?”

Kate looked at Shirley. She was a skinny little girl with brown hair and pigtails, thick round glasses and freckles. She put her book down for a couple of seconds, glanced quickly at Kate, then held the book up in front of her face.

– “She’s a bit shy,” Carmen explained.

Kate just thought she seemed very rude.

Carmen went over to the two girls playing cards.

– “This is Christy and Pamela,” she went on.

– “They like to play games. I suppose they have become quite good friends.”

Christy was also skinny, had long blond hair that was put up in a ponytail and seemed very tall. She had big brown eyes and a nice smile. The girl next to her, called Pamela, was a big girl with rosy cheeks, short black hair and small piercing green eyes. She looked solemn and had lots of zits all over her face.

Finally, Carmen walked over to the three girls watching telly.

– “And this is Brenda, Lillian and Lizzy.”

Kate looked at them. Brenda had red hair put up like a fountain on top, big blue eyes and looked older than the others. Lillian had short blond hair, blue eyes and spots on her chin. She was not very tall, and she was also a bit on the skinny side. The last one was Lizzy. She was an african american with short cury hair, brown eyes and a big nose.

Carmen stood in the middle of the floor.

– “Everybody; I’d like for you mall to meet Kate. She has just arrived, and she will be with us for quite some time.”

Only Christy and Pamela nodded to Kate. Mouse still hid behind her book, and the three by the telly didn’t seem to notice. Brenda turned her head and looked at Kate whilst chewing some gum with her mouth wide open.

– “So, Kate,  why are you here? Did you kill a fly or something?”

Laughter rung through the room, and everybody was suddenly looking at Kate. Carmen came to Kate’s rescue.

– “Kate does not have to tell you why she’s here unless she wants to,” she exclaimed.

Kate felt her cheeks turning red hot, but didn’t say a word. An older stern looking woman was sitting in a corner, her grey hair done up in a bun at the back. She had sharp piercing eyes that peeped over her glasses, looking left and right, keeping an eye out for any trouble.

– “Oh,” Carmen said.

– “This is Mrs. Barnes! She has been here for almost twenty years!”

– “Yeah!” Lillian smiled.

– “She must really love it here!”

Some of the girls giggled. Some did not. Mrs. Barnes nodded sharply at Kate.

– “You look awfully young,” she snapped.

–  “How old are you?”

Kate looked down.

– “I’m nine, miss,” she half whispered.

Mrs. Barnes tutted loudly.

– “Honestly,” she sighed.

– “They’re getting younger and younger!”

Carmen showed Kate around. There were different games and several books that she was allowed to use. Finally, Carmen left the living room, and Kate sat down next to Mouse. Mouse looked up at her for a second before she buried her head in her book again. Kate tried to be friendly.

– “What you’re reading?” she said.

– “Can’t you read?” a sour voice came from behind the book.

Kate refrained from answering. Mouse banged the book down onto the table, getting everybody’s attention.

– “I asked you a question, little girl,” she barked.

Kate looked at her big eyed.

– “Not really,” she hesitated.

– “I haven’t done much schooling.”

Now it was Mouse who was staring. Her face got all screwed up.

– “No kiddn’!” she blurted out.

The other kids looked away. Only Mrs. Barnes was still paying any attention to Kate and Mouse.

– “I could help you, if you want me to,” Mouse said, more quietly this time, almost sounding friendly.

“I’m quite good at reading…. By the way, I’m reading “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens!”

That didn’t mean anything to Kate, but she thought she might have made a new friend. Mouse started teaching Kate some reading, and Mrs. Barnes looked away again. Time seemed to pass slowly, but suddenly it was time for bed. Mouse grabbed Kate by the arm.

– “Stay clear of Brenda,” she whispered.

Everybody started piling out of the room getting ready to go to their rooms. Some had to go toilet, some wanted to freshen up before bed, whilst others again just wanted to hit the sack. Kate went to brush her teeth and clean her face before bedtime. Suddenly Brenda was stood right behind her.

– “Hello, little princess!” she said slyly.

– “I want you to do something for me tomorrow! Okay, squirt?”

Kate glanced at her as she put away her toothbrush.

– “What?” she spat out.

Brenda came close and grabbed Kate by the hair. Kate looked around in desperation, but no adults were in sight.

– “Tomorrow when we get dinner, I want you to save your desert for me, okay?”

Kate looked straight at Brenda, fear turning to anger.

– “You don’t need my desert, Brenda, you’re fat enough as it is….

Brenda’s eyes glowed of hatred. She pulled Kate on to the floor and hit her in the face. It hurt bad, and she could feel soemthing sarm and salty running down her face. Kate tried to wriggle away, but Brenda was too strong. She hit her again in the face, and more blood squirted out. A cry came from the back of the bathroom, and Mrs. Barnes came running to the rescue.

– “Carmen!” she shouted as she grabbed Brenda’s right arm that was getting ready to punch Kate one more time. As she pulled Brenda back from Kate, Carmen came around the corner.

– “What is going on here?” she yelled.

Then she saw Kate with her bloody face and Mrs. Barnes holding on to Brenda’s arm. She got hold of the other arm and helped pull Brenda out of the room.

–  “This means isolation for you, Carmen!” she puffed. The two adults pulled a screaming and kicking Brenda off to the isolation room, leaving the other kids standing around, some of them grinning. Kate wiped some blood of her nose as she stood up. She turned on the tap and grabbed a towel.

– Great! she thought to herself.

– Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Here’s another Priscilla….

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