This cell was built to sleep two but there are always four of us, sometimes more. The friendships you make in here are so much more intense than those outside. Good friends would do anything for you and you for them. Bad friends would stop at nothing to get you. The scary ones are more terrifying than anyone, except the sort of women you hear about on late night television.
I’ve been here for just over two years now and it’s been three months since I last cried myself to sleep. You never let anyone know, though. Not after the first few nights. The banging and shouting to welcome you to the wing is mostly harmless the first night. The second night less scary voices start to yell at you to shut up and it’s for your own good. Those newcomers who have still been making a noise the third night get a visit from Rita’s girls the next morning and from then on they only ever cry quietly.
There hasn’t been too much turnover here so I still have two of the original girls in my cell. Steffi is a bit younger than me and she’s been in and out since she was 18. Carol is as old as us both together and clucks over us both. She’s really hard but doesn't use it unless she has to. I remember seeing her handling three of Rita’s girls at once after she caught them trying to deal to Steffi. They never did it again and we had our own den mother and guardian.
They kept me sane those first months. When my mother refused to visit, they told me not to mind that she was a stupid bitch anyway, and if she wasn’t she would never have let Ralph do that to Kelly’s friend. When Kelly’s mum came and thanked me for doing it, they held me tight afterwards whilst I wept that it was necessary at all. When my boyfriend dumped me by letter, they offered to fix me up with someone in here because a cutie like me would have them queueing round the shower block Carol said.
And they helped me come to terms with what I did. Not to admit I did it, because I always did. It was me that called the police and I was still holding the knife dripping his blood when I did. We talked it through every night for months and months like a therapy circle of some sort. We all took turns talking about anything we wanted but I only ever talked about what I did to Ralph.
It was Carol who decided I was over it. Probably not over it, but fully coping as she liked to call it. “You have to own it Sarah. Doing it takes real balls and yours are dangling with the best,” she said. She looked serious, then added “unlike Ralph,” and the pair of them started pissing themselves.
When you can take a joke about what you did to your stepfather’s testicles, you can consider yourself fully owning it. It’s crap in here and I miss making decisions for myself, but after what he did, yes it was all worth it.