Day One: Cell 29
Cell 29 was tiny. There was a narrow metal-framed bed along each wall, with an even narrower gap between. At the head of the gap was a stainless-steel washbasin above which, on a narrow shelf, were placed a few toiletries and a small tarnished mirror. Below the washbasin stood a lidded bucket and a plastic jug.
And that was all. There was no other furniture. There were no books or magazines, no pictures on the walls – and no windows: just a pair of air vents close to the ceiling. Despite these the air smelt foetid. The cell, which was painted a dingy magnolia, was illuminated by a single light bulb, set behind a wire guard in the ceiling.
On the bed to my right were some grey prison blankets. On the opposite bed a woman was lying. She looked about thirty-five, plumpish and brown-haired. She nodded at me: her navy prison skirt was hitched up to her thighs: she wore no knickers, and her hand was clamped between her legs: she was clearly masturbating.
“New cellmate for you,” said Clark
“Little white druggie bitch,” said Bradley. Neither Officer seemed to take any notice of the woman’s activity.
“Try not to strangle this one,” said Clark. Both Officers chuckled: then the door slammed and they were gone.
“Take no notice,” said the woman. But I hardly heard her. I spread out the blankets on the unoccupied bed and crawled underneath. Then I drew up my legs into a foetal position, trying to make myself as small as possible, and lay there. I started to tremble. Soon I was shaking uncontrollably.
“Hey,” said a voice which seemed to come from far away. “Hey, new girl: what’s your name?”
“Chloe,” I muttered.
“Hey, Chloe: come on now, you’re in shock. Come over here.”
It was all I could do to put my head above the blankets and shake it.
“Chloe: my name’s Rose: listen: come here – I’m not going to hurt you.”
Something in the woman’s tone reassured me. I crept out from under the blankets: I saw she had pressed herself against the wall to make room, and was patting the bed beside her. Aware of my nakedness I sat down awkwardly.
“Lie down,” said Rose. “Come on now.”
So I lay down, and was forced by the narrowness of the bed to squeeze up against her. I felt the coarseness of her grey prison pullover against my breasts. She put one arm around me.
“Now let me guess,” said Rose: “Dawes and Hardiman had you in the Examination Room: they shouted at you and strip-searched you and gave you an enema and generally made you feel like you were the most worthless piece of shit on the planet. Am I right?”
“Just about,” I muttered.
“And Bradley and Clark were there too?”
“I don’t know – who’s Hackett?”
“Woman with a face like a door wedge. Steel-rimmed glasses. Looks like she was once in charge of a concentration camp.”
“Yes” I said.
“Don’t take it personally,” said Rose. “They do that to all the new girls. It does get better, I promise you.”
“I can’t take it,” I said. “I really can’t: it’s going to kill me.”
“Yes you can,” said Rose. “You’re in shock now, but you will be alright. How long are you in for?”
“Two years,” I said.
“And what did you do? Bradley said something about drugs.”
“My boyfriend was dealing drugs from my flat,” I said. “It was nothing to do with me.”
“Course it wasn’t,” said Rose. “It never is.” Then before I could protest she added more gently: “Look: drug dealing is bad: it gives them an extra excuse to strip search you. But two years will soon pass. Look at me: I’m here for twelve years, and I’m surviving: nearly half way through now.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Murder,” said Rose.
I jerked away so quickly I fell off the bed: my head hit the lidded bucket. I looked up, and saw Rose was laughing.
“Don’t worry,” she said: “I’m not a psychopath. My husband beat me up once too often, so one day I took a kitchen knife to him. Everybody who knew him said I deserved a medal: but the judge gave me twelve years instead.”
“But what about – what about the prisoner you strangled?”
“Strangled?” Rose looked puzzled for a second – then she burst out laughing:
“That was one of Clark’s little jokes,” she said. “She was just trying to scare you.”
I got back onto the bed and lay down alongside Rose again. But no matter how much she tried to reassure me, I couldn’t stop trembling.
“You really have been through it, haven’t you?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. And then the dam broke. I started to cry. Soon great shaking sobs were breaking out of me; tears were streaming from my eyes, and I was crying in a way I hadn’t cried since I was a small child. I was aware of Rose patting my back and stroking my head, but this gesture of kindness only spurred me on: I leant my head on her shoulder and cried with utter abandonment.
Eventually I cried myself out. Rose had her arms around me, making comforting noises: then she began wiping my eyes with the sleeve of her white prison shirt.
“Feeling better now?” she asked.
“A ankara escort bayan bit,” I said. “Thank you.”
“My pillow’s all wet,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter. There’s nothing like a good cry for making things better – well, only one thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked innocently.
“What I was doing when you came in,” said Rose. “Now why don’t you go and stretch out on your bed and have a good rub-off?”
“I couldn’t,” I said. “Not after what I’ve been through.”
“Please yourself,” said Rose: “but you’d feel better for it. And it’s not as if there’s anything else to do, banged up in here round the clock.”
“Don’t we get let out at all?” I asked.
“One hour a week in the Exercise Yard, plus an extra hour each fortnight when you’ve been here over a year. And one hour a week for Showers. Apart from slopping out, that’s it.”
“What about work? I thought prisoners had to work? Kitchens and Laundry?”
“There used to be a laundry,” said Rose, “but they closed it down. Economics: it was cheaper to drive the stuff across town to the men’s prison. So now there’s only the kitchen. Everyone wants to work there, but there’s only work for a few. It’s done on a rota basis, but you’re not even put on the rota until you’ve been here a year.”
“Do you work in there?” I asked.
“Not allowed,” said Rose.
“You’re forgetting what I did,” said Rose. “You think they’d let me near a kitchen knife?”
“But that’s awful,” I said.
“That’s Sparsebrook Prison,” said Rose.
“So what do you do all day?”
“I’ve just told you,” said Rose. “We’re not allowed books or radios: but they haven’t yet found a way to deprive us of our fannies.”
“I’m too sore,” I said. “Even if I was in the mood.”
Rose, I noticed, was looking down at my body: I shifted self-consciously. She seemed to be appraising my newly-shaved area.
“Would you like me to do it for you?” she asked. “I’ll be very gentle.”
“Rose,” I said: “you’ve been very kind to me, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful: But I’m not a Lesbian.”
“Who is?” Rose shrugged. “Apart from the Wardens who are card-carrying dykes to a man. Otherwise: straight or gay, lezzie or hetero: you lose track of what you are in here. When it comes down to it we’re just women giving each other a helping hand. And believe me: after a few weeks in this place you’ll find any hand is better than your own. Besides: did you ever know a man who really knew how to touch a woman?”
I thought of all the boyfriends I’d had with clumsy, over-hasty hands.
“I suppose not” I said.
“We may all behave like born again lezzies,” said Rose. “But that’s because we have no choice any more.
“Look,” continued Rose, “I think I ought to warn you: every woman is this place, including the Wardens, is going to want to have you sometime. The first time you go into the showers there’ll be hands all over you. You can fight it if you like, but you won’t be popular. And as far as the Wardens are concerned, they’ll have you anyway whether you like it or not. The best way to play it is not to say no, but not to sell yourself too cheap. We have precious little to barter with in here: no-one’s allowed cigarettes any more. But sometimes a girl gets her hands on a bar of chocolate or an apple – a reward from one of the Wardens for services rendered – and it’s amazing what you’ll do for a square of chocolate when you’ve been in prison long enough. So when someone propositions you, tell her you’ll do it for a bar of chocolate. She’ll laugh in your face – but if you hold out, you might get yourself half a square.
“There’s one exception though: a woman named Megan. When she comes on to you don’t argue and don’t barter. Do everything she says. She’s dangerous. She’ll have you anyway, but if you make a fuss you’ll make an enemy of her. Act like you’re enjoying it and she’ll look out for you.”
“I can’t face it,” I said. From being comforted I was sinking back into a mood of black despair. “I don’t want to be ‘had’ by all these woman. I want to be back home with my boyfriend.”
“I’m sorry,” said Rose. “That isn’t going to happen.”
“Then I want to be left alone.”
“That’s not going to happen either,” said Rose. “You’re going to be locked away with a bunch of sadistic Wardens and sex-starved women for the next two years. You’ve got to face that. But you can make things better or worse by your attitude. Don’t think you’re any better than anyone else. Don’t look down on anyone. The Wardens hate anyone they think is cleverer than them, so never act smart. Same with the women. Don’t act dumb, though: they can sniff out a phoney a mile away.
“And don’t act like you’ve got the crown jewels between your legs. You may be young and pretty, and you’re not built like a brick shithouse, unlike half the women in here. But your fanny works the same way as everyone else’s. When it comes down to it your needs are no more refined or important than those of any woman in here.”
“Phew,” I said. “That’s told mersin escort bayan me.”
“Sorry to be blunt,” said Rose. “But it’s best I tell you straight.”
“No,” I said. “I’m glad you have.”
“You’ve gone all stiff and tense again,” said Rose. “Come on now, try to relax: we all get through it somehow.”
She held me to her again, and I allowed my breathing to deepen, and mirror the rhythms of her own. I started to relax.
“Why don’t you let me put my hand between your legs?” said Rose. “I won’t do anything, just hold it there. You’ll find you’ll feel better for it.”
I was still very reluctant. From what Rose had said I knew what was in store for me – but I wanted to put it off as long as I could. Yet Rose was sliding her hand down over my tummy: it was gentle and it was warm. If I was going to be touched by other women, surely this was the best place to start? And after what Hardiman and Dawes had done to me, I was hardly a stranger to probing female hands.
I opened my legs just a little way. I was still sore, but Rose gently closed her hand over my mound and then, true to her word, held it there. Neither of us spoke. Her hand was still, but a comforting warmth began to spread outwards, all over my genital area. I began to breathe more deeply and slowly.
“There,” said Rose. “Does that feel nice?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Where would we be without our fannies?” said Rose.
“Mmm,” I sighed.
“When I was a teenager,” Rose said, “my mother said to me: ‘Rose, you don’t need cigarettes or drugs or alcohol to make you feel good: You’ve got everything you need between your legs.’ How right she was.”
Although Rose wasn’t moving her hand, I could feel pleasurable little pulsations around my clitoris. It was strange: after my shaving, my fanny had felt raw and exposed: now it seemed to be responsive to the most fleeting sensations – even the pulse in Rose’s fingertips seemed to cause hot little shoots of pleasure. I began to feel a warm glow, all over my hips and legs, and a sense of wellbeing began to steal into my brain. I thought of Rose’s words, and of the miracle between our legs, and how sexual arousal had the power to drive away worries and cares. Hardiman, Dawes, and my awful humiliation in the Examination Room seemed less overwhelming and immediate now. I gave myself up to sensations. I could feel a very gentle movement between my legs, but I forgot whose hand was touching me: Rose was right: man, woman, what did it matter if it felt good? And it did feel good. Just don’t stop, I thought, but Rose was tuned in to my responses, moving her hand in a perfect rhythm, building me up, causing my body to flex, causing me to gasp and cry out.
“Oh God,” I said, “Oh Yes, please don’t stop, Oh God Rose I’m going to come.”
Then I pressed down into her hand and my vagina seemed to melt into the most beautiful, slow-motion, delirious, whimpering orgasm.
“Oh Rose, thank you thank you thank you,” I sighed.
“My pleasure,” said Rose, looking into my eyes, and we both smiled.
And then I sank into a deep sleep.
I was woken by the sound of the door opening. Two Wardens, one Clark one a tall woman I had not seen before, came in, pushing a trolley. I was still lying naked in Rose’s arms.
“Didn’t take you long,” said Clark. “Officer Hardiman said you were a little slag. Here: get your hands off Mason’s arse and get this down.”
She handed us each a plate of food and a mug of tea, then the two of them left and I heard the squeaking of the trolley wheels growing fainter. I looked at the meal: it wasn’t up to much: mashed potato with baked beans and some over-boiled cabbage. But after the enema I was completely empty, and, I now realised, starving. And never before had I been so grateful for a cup of tea. I ate quickly; but a little of whatever they had put in my enema must have remained in my stomach, for as soon as I had finished I felt the urgent need to empty myself again.
I eyed the plastic bucket apprehensively.
“Rose,” I said: “I think I need to use the bucket.”
“Feel free: you don’t have to put a coin in the slot.”
Still I hesitated.
“It’s all right,” said Rose. “I know, you’re not used to doing it in front of anybody. I won’t watch. Besides, I’ve got an urgent appointment elsewhere”
“Appointment?” I asked, puzzled. Then I laughed as I saw Rose had hitched up her skirt again and was beavering away between her thighs.
Gingerly I took off the bucket lid. The smell hit me at once: the thought of sitting there repelled me, and I held back.”
“For God’s sake get your arse on there before you stink out the room,” said Rose.
I lowered myself onto the bucket. It was very uncomfortable. The rim began to dig into my buttocks until I had to move. So I tried squatting. Thanks to the enema my bowels emptied almost at once, but my knees were aching so much that before I could finish pissing I was letting the bucket take the weight of my bottom again.
“God, that was uncomfortable,” I said to Rose.
Rose half-turned her head:
“There’s izle a knack to it,” she said. “You need to face the other way. Then take hold of the rim of the wash basin. That way you can support part of the weight with your arms. Then you just have to change positions as best you can.”
“I don’t suppose there’s any loo paper?” I asked hopefully.
“Loo paper – now what’s that?” asked Rose. “Oh yes, it’s that nice soft stuff you buy from the Supermarket – I seem to remember seeing some of that: about six years ago.”
“Sorry,” I said. “Silly question.”
“Use the jug,” said Rose. “Fill it with water – and before you ask, there’s only cold. Then cup your hand by your arse, pour in a bit at a time, and clean yourself with your hand. Try not to spill water on the floor. When you’ve finished, rinse your hands.”
I did my best. It was awkward, and I shrank from soiling my hands. But it had to be done. When I had finished Rose said:
“Since you haven’t got a towel yet you’d better borrow mine. Are you sure you’re clean?”
“I think so,” I said.
“You won’t mind if I check, will you? Only I do not want shit on my towel.”
Rose swung herself off the bed.
“Lean forward and spread your cheeks,” she said.
Reluctantly I did as she asked. She squatted down behind me: I could feel her breath on my anus.
“All right, you’ll do,” she said.
I took her towel, and dried myself. Already Rose was back on the bed, masturbating. I went back to my own bed, and lay down. After a while I tired of staring at the ceiling, and my eyes were drawn across to Rose.
“Rose,” said: “that was a beautiful orgasm. Thank you.”
“Rose,” I said again. “I was wondering – I just thought – Would you like me to – you know – diddle you?”
This got Rose’s attention: her hand remained busy, but she turned to look at me:
“I was hoping you’d ask,” she said. “Yes, I’d like that very much.”
“But only if you’re sure you want to. There are some women in here who use force: I’m not one of them. No-one has to touch me if they don’t want to.”
“I do want to,” I said. “I want to repay the favour.”
“OK then – here I am.”
She stretched her arms back and spread her legs wide, exposing herself to me without a hint of self-consciousness. I stared at her. With her hair falling back on her pillow she looked quite pretty, though there were frown-lines down her forehead and her skin was very pale. Her eyes were brown – the brown of year-old conkers that have lost their sheen. She had rather short, plump legs, and a soft tummy. Like me she was completely shaven. Unlike me she had loose, fleshy labia. But although hers had been a warm, comforting, maternal body to snuggle up against, I felt squeamish about touching her so intimately.
“Hurry up then, my pussy’s getting cold,” she said.
I sat down on the bed, but it was difficult to get into the right position, and in the end I knelt down on the concrete floor. I ran my hand over her stomach, and up and down over her thighs. Truth was, I was nervous. I’d never touched a woman before, and wasn’t confident I could do it properly. Men were so easy: you played with their dicks and squeezed their balls, their dicks got hard and you knew you’d got it right. But women were more complicated, more involved. Just do what you like yourself, I told myself. So I started to finger her lips, tugging them gently, gradually parting them and then, feeling her wetness and knowing I was on the right track, sliding my finger inside the folds, and down into the cleft between.
“That’s good,” said Rose. “Up a bit – bit harder – yes.”
I touched her clitoris lightly and began to flick my finger from side to side. Rose groaned. I let my head droop onto her belly: my eyes were inches away from her fanny and the smell of her juices wafted into my nostrils. Although I was sure I wasn’t a lesbian it was fascinating to look at another woman’s parts, see how they swelled and moved and operated. Rose was getting really worked up now: I let my hand fall over her mound with my middle finger sunk down over her clit and began to rotate, round and round, building her up, bringing her closer and closer – until suddenly she thrust her pelvis up and down, groaning and making the bed tremble, crashing one of her knees against the cell wall over and again as she was seized by a thunderclap of an orgasm.
It was a relief to rest my fingers. I let them rest between her legs as her orgasm subsided. Gradually her breathing slowed. A few minutes passed like that: then she reached down between her legs and clamped one of her hands over mine.
“Chloe,” she said. “You and me are going to get along just fine.”
I felt both relief and a surprising sense of achievement: I had managed to pleasure a woman, an older woman at that, at the first time of trying. I had done for Rose what she had done for me, and accomplished something in prison I might never have accomplished outside.
Since Rose was spreadeagled on her bed, leaving no room for me, I returned to my own bed. I stared at the dingy magnolia walls for a while, looking across at Rose from time to time, but she seemed to be asleep or else in a post-coital trance. Then suddenly the light went out, and the room was plunged into blackness.