On my third morning inside, I sat in bed watching and planning. Rebellion?
I considered the idea for a moment deciding, No. Not strong enough!
I dismissed the thought and traded it for another. Mutiny! By the time I’m done they’ll throw us out!
After five a.m. rounds, I whispered my thoughts to Danica,
“Want to play a game,” I asked in my very best imitation of Joshua; the kick-ass computer in the movie War Games.
“K, Sure,” She replied, still groggy and asleep.
At seven a.m. break, I waited for the girl across the room to rouse. I learned her name was Marie and bummed a cigarette from her. She started toward a nearby seat on the porch but I tugged her to a more distant location. We sat on the bench of my choice, the furthest from the door.
She taught me how to smoke without turning green and I confided that I was making plans and recruiting, between coughs and choking. I explained the revelation I’d had after sobbing by the fence,
“On the inside, it’s us against them,” I explained, “They’re free to treat us like garbage because they can. How badly do you want out,” I asked emphatically.
A wide grin spread across her lips that shone in her previously hollow eyes.
“What’s your plan,” she asked.
“That depends on you,” I said, testing the waters, “Are you in or out?”
I knew I would need her loyalty. I also knew I was asking a complete stranger. It was a necessary risk.
“In,” she hissed happily and without forethought, “I was wondering when you would wake up and smell the incarceration!”
Goon and big B waved us in for breakfast. We all ate Corn Flakes together in silence while I schemed, plotting to reign down hell’s fury on them. Danica and Marie flashed smiles across the table as they watched my eyes register my thoughts.
I focused my stare on my bowl of sodden flakes remembering the words big B had said when I arrived,
“We earn our own keep around here. You’ll do well to remember that.”
I did remember that and wondered about their jobs; hers and Goons’, as well as the orderlies and others, Whose making them earn their keep? For how long have they been paid to do such a cushy job? They actually ‘earn’ paychecks to follow us around, looking for any little thing that they deem to be wrong? No! No way in hell!
I decided to start with making sure they earned their keep from now on, and with making their jobs a lot less cushy. Smugly, I thought, They’ll have to work very hard to earn their keep and paychecks from now on. No more ‘Miss nice gal’ for you. Your jobs just got a whole lot harder, I mused with an angry sneer.
I was pulled from my vengeance when the lady who had taken a seat with Danica and I, the preceding day, rejoined us. She placed her tray on the table asking, “Is this seat taken?”
Marie and Danica turned eyes to me, waiting for me to answer. I let go of my thoughts long enough to smile brightly and say, “Nope, it’s yours. Have a seat.”
She smiled warmly, digging into Corn Flakes and lukewarm milk while I introduced all of us, “I’m Emma and this is Danica and Marie,” I motioned to ‘my cohorts in crime’ with my plastic spork.
I cast a sideways glance toward Goon and B realizing that we had been too quiet. I knew it would arouse suspicion bringing unwanted attention to our little group.
“I’m Helena,” she admitted shyly, “I hate it. Please call me Helen.”
I looked at Helena across the table and instinctively summed her up. Her hair was permed in the front and on top, leaving the jet-black length to fall straight down her back. She had the appearance of an older woman, possibly in her mid-twenties and wore an engagement ring. I made a mental note of it.
Helena stood to reach for a spork. When viewed from a different perspective, I knew she had to be about eighteen. Helena’s brown eyes were wide with confusion, and though she wore a great poker-face, I detected absolute fright. I gathered that she was a newbie, fearful of all that was unfamiliar and perhaps with good reason,
Hell, I thought, aren’t we all afraid? All of us have heard the horror stories about life in an institution. Not one person had even attempted to ease our fears. All we got was strip-searched and ‘follow me.’
Determined to make small talk, I replied, “Wow, the most beautiful woman in the world and a major cause of the Trojan War. Must be a tough rep to live up to.”
Helena’s face turned scarlet as she ground out, “Imagine the high school jeers and jokes.”
“You can relax with us,” I said kindly, “There will be no jokes, jeers, or wars here, that are not of your choosing.”
Goon began breakfast rounds and Helen’s unspoken question hung in the air. There would be time enough later to determine how much to reveal.