My first night crept slowly. In jail, I had mostly enjoyed a solitary cell where the only sound had been the slow pacing of the guard outside in the corridor. Sharing a room with five other girls was new. The breathing and snoring were not unexpected, but I had not been prepared for the youngest girl, 18 year old Emily Sargeant, to cry herself to sleep. I stopped crying myself to sleep after they told me Brian had died. In fact, that’s when I stopped sleeping.
Sunlight sprinkled in through the windows. I watched the digital clock between the two windows until the time read 06:00 and the overhead speaker crackled alive with the ear-piercing shriek of a ringing bell. Everyone sat straight up in bed, clasping their hands over their ears, everyone that is except me. I rested my head on the pillow until the speaker shut off.
The girl above me jumped down onto the floor. She rushed into the water closet, taking first turn at the toilet. The other girls formed a line. I decided to get dressed for the morning exercise, which I’d read in my booklet was unavoidable. Besides, my last drink was at dinner. It had seemed a wise idea when I figured out I was sharing one toilet in the morning with five other girls. I was dressed and tying my shoelaces, sitting on my bed, when my bunkmate re-emerged.
She slapped a hand on my shoulder. “You’re Margaret, I’m Jocelyn and we’re bunkmates. I’m guessing you either got up early or you’ve got a bladder of steel, but either way I can tell you’re smart cause you’ve already figured out what to wear. That’s the great thing about being at Rosecliff, back home I could never figure out what to wear in the morning. I’d try on like fifteen outfits everyday before I left my room. Here, it’s all decided. I’m blabbering aren’t I? I do that, just tell me to shut up if I’m going too long. So, tell me, did you really kill your boyfriend and five police officers? I mean that’s like hardcore, girl and you don’t look like a killer, but I guess that’s why they call girls like you femme fatales. Right?” She stared at me for a moment. “You aren’t deaf are you?”
I smiled at her. She reminded me of an old friend. “I wasn’t deaf, but ever since the clock struck six I’ve had this ringing in my ears.”
Jocelyn wiped the back of her hand across her brow as if wiping away sweat. “Whew. You had me worried for a minute there. Don’t mind the ringing, that is pretty much a constant around here. Most of us cover our ears when the damn thing goes off. Oops. I shouldn’t have said damn. Ms. Chambers doesn’t like swearing and she thinks damn is a swear word. I never heard of anyone thinking damn was a swear word before coming here. How about you?”
I shook my head. “How long have you been here?”
Jocelyn turned away from and opened up the bottom drawer on her chest of drawers. “Just over a year. In fact, yesterday was my one year anniversary. Somebody should have gotten me a gift. I mean I should have at least had some cake after dinner. If I wasn’t saving for one of those graphic calculators I would have, but I start trigonometry on Monday and they say I have to have one of those calculators. If you don’t have one they give you one and if you don’t have enough money in your account to pay for it, they really make you pay for it. If you know what I mean. Of course you don’t know, I mean you just got here. So what I mean is they blister your bare backside and keep on blistering it until you earn enough allowance to pay for it which for something like a graphic calculator could be a long time. I much prefer my butt blister free. Oops. There I go again. Ms. Chambers says butt is a bad word too, but I guess it’s not a bad word when she demands we bare our butts, but then double standards from adults is something I’m used to. That’s just life, eh Margaret?”
I got up and started making my bed. It was definitely going to be the hardest thing to get used to for me. Neatness was never my thing and getting sheets perfectly flat with perfect corners was something I thought only magicians and maids were capable of doing. It occurred to me that I would simply have to become one or the other. Magician sounded like the better choice cause if got good enough maybe I could just open a doorway that led me right out of the nightmare my life had become.
Jocelyn said, “Don’t bother with that now. We’ve got to get over to the field. Mr. Oneal doesn’t like girls being tardy and you don’t want to be disliked by Mr. Oneal. Besides we got plenty of time to make our beds, clean the room and even shower after exercise. If you need to use the toilet you better do it, otherwise we’d better get going. They don’t allow running around here. Well they do allow it out on the track and if you’ve been bad, Mr. Oneal will make you run in place, but that’s not what I meant. Hallway running, indoor running, you know, the kind of running your mother probably told you not to do, that’s the kind they don’t allow. You do have a mother don’t you? I read someplace that girls who kill people usually didn’t have mothers. Is that true?”
Somehow Jocelyn had managed to get completely dressed while talking a mile a minute. It was impressive. I almost laughed. The line to the bathroom was still three girls long. I didn’t have the immediate need and exercise period was only meant to last 45 minutes. The bathroom could wait. “Let’s go,” I said.
We left the room together, Jocelyn leading the way.