Later that night, I take my worn-out, filthy clothes to the laundry room which is around the corner from the bedroom quarters. I think about tonight as I cross the street at the back of my dorm’s line.
I didn’t mention anything to Duncan about what I heard in the hallway, even though he dropped hints, I acted as though I was oblivious--he’s trying to play a game, and I’m not playing.
After a quick, manipulative conversation, he made me stand outside the cubical of Carol while she slept soundlessly covered in bandages and bruises. He made me watch her, he made me observe her pain, her weakness--he made me stare at her broken, beaten body while he blabbed about nonsense beside me, trying to provoke a reaction from me. It was a metaphorical warning, not only that, but it was the test Elijah was referring to. I had to remain still, with my head high, watching the machine beep away beside her as a doctor made notes regarding her injuries. He made me stand there for what felt like hours, while he whispered into my ear and grazed his hand down my thigh. He called Carol a slut, repeatedly, he said that she was to blame for everything and that the world would be better without her.
He asked me if I agreed.
I looked at her face as I replied a quiet yes. I felt my heart begin to shred, my fingers began to squeeze together in anger as I fought the urge to punch him. He rambled about how ugly she was, how skinny and undesirable she was. How any boy would have to be blind to actually notice her.
He asked me if I agreed.
I follow my line into the laundry room, not wanting to dwell any further on the events of tonight. I’m now wearing a light grey gown that flows to my ankles, and my hair is tied back into a ponytail, which is apparently allowed after sundown. I’m so exhausted that I don’t even take notice to anyone on duty that is here, I just hold out my uniform and someone takes it. I hear the noises of the loud washing machines that bang against the walls, and it stirs my headache into a migraine.
It only takes a couple of minutes, and the line is heading back to the bedroom quarters. I drift aimlessly behind Ruth, using what strength I have left to frown for her. I hope that she doesn’t have repercussions from her actions today, I hope that I’ve done enough to save her from the punishment of saving me.
When we arrive back inside our dorm, all the girls and women descend straight to their beds. There is no conversation, no glances, no whispering, nothing. I have to keep reminding myself that they were out there in the field also, and they all must be feeling the strain of breathing today.
Madam Katelyn stands in the doorway of the dorm; she is a large, glaring shadow that looms over us with judgement. She flicks her eyes across each of us as we climb into our beds and bury ourselves underneath the covers.
“See you at dawn,” she says.
And the door slams closed.