We line up for chow in pairs of two. I hear one girl ask another, “Want to be my two?” I move to the back of the line since that’s where the lonely “one” goes. In two weeks I’ve made just a few friends. I’m in what they call the “Cottonwood” cottage. There is a “prison shower” which is a large room with multiple shower heads. There’s a living area where there’s a TV, tables, chairs, and puzzles. The walls are nothing but square bricks painted white. The office is a bubble of glass, brick, and one door that always remains locked. Then of course there are our cells. Two more weeks. I can do this.
The sight of that state car never looked more sweet. This time nutcase must have stayed in her nut tree because it was a handsome young man that made the drive back home more enjoyable. You’d think that it’d be amazing to be home after being away for that long. But alas, it’s just like old times with mom driving the control boat and me trying to jump off without a life vest. I run. I run. And I run like hell. I run to alcohol and drugs. I run from the law. I run to every boy who is willing to give me the attention I crave. I run in a stolen car. I start fights with anyone and everyone who tried to take away the control I thought I had on my own life. Truth is, I was totally out of control.
Red, white, and blue stands for freedom so why is it that I’m locked up again? The judge gazes at me over her glasses. “Eighteen months in Mountain View School for Girls to run consecutively. Defendant is to maintain counseling and drug and alcohol treatment. And Tonia? I really hope you’re able to turn your life around. If you choose not to, you’ll be 18 soon and I will have no other choice but to send you to adult prison. Have a nice day.” SMACK goes the gavel.
I return to see old faces. Name calling and glares have been replaced with hugs and welcome backs. Perhaps last time the girls were trying to scare me straight on my 45? It was however, their home and I was just a visitor at the time. What they don’t know is that I was lured back. Lured by a feeling of love, acceptance, and of being wanted. Some of these girls had been beaten, abused, raped, molested, and left to the world to survive on their own. They were only teenagers.
I was allowed to work in the cafeteria. It got me out of my cell and I moved up into one of the top cottages for good behavior. I learned how to cook and serve at least a hundred girls and staff. It was nice to have responsibility. The girls really became some of my closest friends. I had affairs with a few but after realizing relationships with girls cause way too many dramatic issues, I was done. After 18 months, I was released into a group home. Then a foster home. I was bounced around between five foster and group homes for what seemed like eternity. I was able to complete drug and alcohol counseling and maintain a job that paid off all of my restitution to the state and the victims of my crimes. I was ready for 18 in two months and I sure as hell wasn’t going to see that judge as an adult.
“Tonia, you are now released from state custody. You are no longer a ward of the state under the juvenile statute.” The judge again peers over her glasses. Doesn’t she have some that fit?! “I hope you take this as an opportunity to grow and learn. I wish you the best. I don’t ever want to see you in my courtroom again.” The SMACK of the gavel no longer holds fear. It now holds freedom.