Today's story is a piece of flash fiction from Mindy Hardwick, who has shared other flash pieces, Directions and Night Crimes. Jailbirds, today's piece, is about two teens who meet at a poetry workshop, which is based on the real life poetry workshop Mindy runs in a juvenile detention center. She is currently working on a memoir about the experience titled Kids in Orange. And if you're curious about the teens' actual poetry, feel free to read some at www.denneypoetry.com after reading Mindy's story. Enjoy!
By Mindy Hardwick
In the conference room, I watch her. She talks softly to a woman who wears a dark black skirt and white blouse. The woman leans closer to the girl in the orange jumpsuit. Their heads touch.
She is my girl. The girl in the orange jumpsuit.
My attorney clears his throat, and scribbles notes on his yellow pad. I’ve given him most of my story.
But not all.
I haven’t told him about her.
She is a good girl. She always does her homework and makes the honor roll. Parents and teachers love her. No one knows she is my girlfriend. We keep it secret. No one would believe us.
I’ve been running with gangs since I was twelve. By the time I was fourteen, I’d already served more days in the juvenile detention centers than out of it. Assault. Theft. Vandalism. My file grows thicker every year.
But not her.
She’d never seen the inside walls of the small cells with concrete walls. She’d never seen the silver toilet placed next to the bed. She’d never felt the scratchy blue blanket. She’d never heard the other inmates crying themselves to sleep. She’d never seen any of it.
I met her on the first day of school. I sauntered into Geometry class and she was there. Dark brown eyes gazed at me. Long dark hair cascaded over her shoulders. We didn’t speak.
On the second day of class, I failed the first assignment. She passed. “We can help each other,” she said softly. Oh, so softly.
She spent nights at my house. We slept on the couch. We spooned together. Our arms and legs intertwined. She slipped out of her house after her parents went to sleep. She crept back in before they woke. No one was home at my house.
We clung to each other. It was a desperate searching for something. And, at the same time, we were keeping some dark, unfulfilled place at bay. She told me about her life. She told me how her younger brother had died two years ago. She talked about the silence in her house which made her hurt. She’d never known that silence could make you ache. On that couch, her legs entwined with mine. Her dark hair rested softly over my arm.
I don’t think I ever slept when she was there.
“You’re not bad,” She’d say to me in her soft voice. “You’re not bad.”
I wanted to believe her. I thought if I had just a little more time, I might have proved her right. I could be good.
But things have a way of getting away from you.
She wasn’t supposed to be there the night it happened. She appeared as I was slipping the gun into the side of my pants.
I looked up to see her standing in the doorway.
“I’m coming with you.” She crossed her hands over her chest.
“Stay here.” I stepped toward her and ran my hand lightly along her arm “I’ve got to take care of a little something. You don’t need to go.” I purred in her left ear. My eyes never left her eyes.
“No.” She insisted. Her own stare was as intense as mine. I never knew anyone’s gaze to match mine. It made me fear her—just a little.
I should have argued with her. I knew the job wasn’t hers. But, selfishly, I wanted her with me. I wanted her to see me in action. I wanted her to see me protecting what was mine.
Silently, we walked out of the house. We walked through the dark night. Our hands brushed against each other. Touching but not linked. My heart pounded and the adrenaline pumped. Just like it always did before a job.
The next morning, they found us in Geometry.
We were handcuffed and escorted to the waiting police cars.
One for her.
One for me.
As I watch her across the room, I see that, even in her orange jumpsuit, she is beautiful. She stands and places her hands behind her back. They are not cuffed. Here, like at school, she follows the rules.
She walks past me. Our eyes met, briefly.
"Baby,” I mouth.
She gives me that smile. And, I am sinking. I am sinking just like the night she picked up the gun and fired the shot.