Wracked with worry and fear, Nicole had spent a fitful night lying on the top bunk staring at the bland tiled ceiling. Bridgette had not fared any better. Barring a miracle, they would most likely find themselves locked up in here indefinitely. Following the morning headcount, the twenty women from H Block were escorted to the prison cafeteria.
When they got there, Nicole and Bridgette watched as detainees from the other units sat at long tables eating in silence. Among them was a small group of male prisoners. They picked away at a horrific-looking breakfast of oatmeal, burnt toast, water and coffee. Nicole, Bridgette and two women from H Block who were in their early forties sat down together. Lieutenant Paynter eyed several of the youngest, cutest prisoners. Nicole hoped that she would not have much trouble with the malicious prison officer.
Bridgette said a silent prayer to herself before sampling the oatmeal.
“It’s disgusting.” Bridgette could hardly stomach the revolting fare.
Nicole took a sip of her coffee.
“The coffee tastes like dishwater.”
The two women, Melanie, slim, petite with brown hair And Sharon, a bit heavier with dirty blonde hair, sat there nervously.
‘This type of blatant human rights violation occurs in oppressive regimes such as North Korea or Myanmar, not in what were up until a few months ago two of the freest, most prosperous nations on the planet’, Nicole thought to herself.
“Hi my name is Melanie. This here is Sharon.”
“I’m Nicole and her name is Bridgette.”
“Nicole Clare?” Sharon inquired.
“Guess I’m a bit of a celebrity in these parts. It’s obvious none of us are in here because we broke any genuine laws. What about yourself?”
“When my husband and I were arrested, NAP intelligence agents told us our political activities were a dire threat to national security. We’ve been quite involved with various environmental causes,” Sharon explained.
Her worries never far from her mind, Bridgette looked up from her tray with deep, yearning eyes.
“Sharon, do you have any idea where they took your husband? I have a son who I believe is in here. But my husband, if he isn’t dead, is most likely in a labor camp.”
Sharon leaned in closer and lowered her voice so as not to draw the attention of the guards that were monitoring them.
“There’s one such camp near Banff. Huge. That’s where a lot of the men are being sent. Tough conditions. It’ll be hell there in the wintertime,” Sharon explained.
Nicole glanced at Melanie.
“What about you Melanie?” Nicole asked. “Are you married or have family around here?”
“I’m divorced. Son-of-a-bitch treated me like garbage the entire seven years we were together. Pretty girl like you must have somebody in her life.”
“I have a fiancé and a seven-year-old daughter, Arielle. She’s in the children’s section of the prison. I just hope that I get to see her soon.”
Arielle was one of twenty children of adult detainees who were being housed in a newly-constructed wing of the correctional facility-now a re-education centre. The little girl and her fellow prisoners-ranging in age from eight to fourteen-had spent their first night sleeping on bunk beds in a dormitory. Children under eight were sent to live with foster families while many teenagers joined their adult counterparts in the labor camps. Most of the frightened child detainees cried all night for their parents and siblings they’d been so harshly separated from.
There was almost no conversation among the children as they sat at tables in the open area of their unit eating breakfast. A picture of President Asher hung prominently on one wall. His evil, penetrating eyes struck fear in Arielle. A boy with chocolate brown hair who looked to be around eight or nine years old and a girl around Arielle’s age sat at the table with her. Tears streaked down the girl’s reddish, angelic cheeks.
“Hi,” the young boy said quietly to Arielle as he took small bites of his toast.
“Hi,” Arielle replied.
“My name is Josiah. Josiah Shaw.”
“I don’t know where my parents are,” Josiah stated. “I think my mother is here.”
“I think mine is too.” Arielle had little appetite this morning. She took a few mouthfuls of her oatmeal. It was gross.
Arielle and Josiah looked over at the little girl with red hair.
“It’s going to be okay,” Arielle said as he placed her arm around her.
“I want my mommy,” the child blubbered.
“I want mine, too.” Even at her young age, Arielle had her mother’s sense of caring. “We can be friends if you like. I’m Arielle.”
“My name is Jennifer.”