PrisonerBy: Annika Martin & Skye Warren
Heavy bars close behind me with a clang. I feel the sound in my bones. A series of mechanical clicks hint at an elaborate security mechanism beneath the black iron plating. I knew this would happen—had anticipated and dreaded it—but my breathing quickens with the knowledge that I am well and truly trapped.
“Can I help you?”
I whirl to face the administrative window where a heavyset woman in a security guard uniform stares at her screen.
“Hi,” I say, pasting on a smile. “My name is Abigail Winslow, and I’m here to—”
“Two forms of identification.”
“Oh, well, I already filled out the paperwork at the front desk. And showed them my IDs.”
“This isn’t the front desk, Ms. Winslow. This is the east-wing desk, and I need to see two forms of identification.”
“Right.” I dig through my bag for my driver’s license and passport.
She accepts them without looking up, then hands me a clipboard with a stack of papers just like the ones I already filled out.
I’ve been dreading this day for weeks, wishing I’d been assigned any other project but this one. You’d think I was being sent here for a crime. My professor—the one who’d forced me into this—warned me that prisoners were not always receptive to outsiders. Apparently nobody here is.
I complete each form, arrange the pages neatly on the clipboard, and bring them back up to the window. The guard accepts them and gives back my IDs…still without looking at me.
My hands clench and unclench, clench and unclench while the guard eyes my paperwork.
Seconds pass. Or are they minutes? The damp chill of the place seeps in through my cardigan and leaves me shivering.
Leaning forward, I read the name tag of the guard. “Ms. Breck. Do you know what the next steps are?”
“You can have a seat. I have work to do now, and then I’ll escort you back.”
“Oh, okay.” I glance at the bars I just came through, then the open hallway opposite. “Actually, if you just point me in the direction of the library, I’m sure I can—”
Thunk. The woman’s hand hits the desk. I jump. Her dark eyes are faintly accusing, and I wish we could go back to no eye contact. How did I manage to make an enemy in two minutes?
“Ms. Winslow,” she says, her voice patronizing.
“You can call me Abby,” I whisper.
A slight smile. Not a nice one. “Ms. Winslow, what do you think we do here?”
The question is clearly rhetorical. I press my lips together to keep from making things worse.
“The Kingman Correctional Facility houses over five thousand convicted criminals. My job is to keep it that way. Do we understand each other?”
Heat floods my cheeks. The last thing I want to do is make her job harder. “Right. Of course.” I shamble back, landing hard on the metal folding chair. It wobbles a little before the rubber feet stop my slide.
I understand the woman’s point. She has to keep the prisoners in and everyone else out, and keep people like me safe.
I reach down and pull a book from my bag. I never leave home without one, even when I go to classes or run errands. Even when I was young and my mother used to take me on her rounds.
I would hide in the backseat with my nose in the book, pretending I didn’t see the shady people who came to her window when we stopped.
A little green light above the barred doors flashes on and there’s an ominous buzz. Somebody’s coming through, and I doubt it will be a library volunteer. I slide down.
Pretend to be invisible.
It’s no use. I peer over the top edge as a prisoner saunters through the door, and my pulse slams in my throat double time.
He’s flanked by two guards—escorted by them, I guess you’d say. But they seem more like an entourage than anything. Power vibrates around him like a threat.
Read, read, read. Don’t look.
The prisoner is half a foot taller than the guards, but he seems to tower over them by more than that. Maybe it’s his broad shoulders or just something about the way he stands, or his imperiously high cheekbones. The dark stubble across his cheeks looks so rough and unforgiving I can feel it against my palm; it contrasts wildly with the plushness of his lips. His short brown hair is mussed. There’s one scar through his eyebrow that somehow adds to his perfection.
Also By Annika Martin & Skye Warren
- · Prisoner