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From the moment I stepped into the Sullivan Juvenile Correctional Facility, my life took a different trail than I had ever imagined. I was robbed of so many childhood experiences. My first day of school, playing in the snow, Christmas mornings, and much more. As far as I knew, my dad was in some maximum security death row. My step-mom, Claire, was in Georgia somewhere in a prison. Robbie was in another juvenile facility in the middle of nowhere. I was only four years old and deserted. The lady who had been with me since my arrival, who I later identified as Miss Olivia, directed me to my new room, which I'd be staying in for the rest of my time there. We climbed up the stairs to the second floor and followed the hallway down the corridor D. The hallways were a very pale yellow and quite wide. We soon approached room B028, my room. She unlocked the door and opened it for me.
"Welcome to your new home, Iris," Miss Olivia said.
She stepped aside for me to enter. I walked in, taking it all in. There was a small window against the back wall with the bars in it. A bed was pressed against the left wall close to the window, this time low enough for me to reach. There were a small metal desk and a chair on the opposite side. A connected sink and toilet sat tucked away in the corner closest to the door. There was a single shelf on the wall beside the bed that remained empty. Placed on the back of the door remained 3 metal hooks. It wasn't like my old room, but it was better than nothing. I took a seat on the bed and continued examining my living quarters.
"Lunch is at noon," she said, gesturing to the wall clock above the door. It was 11:23.
"You'll be eating at table 17 with Kaylee and Megan. They're in their rooms right now. Megan's to your left and Kaylee's to your right. Talk to them before lunch and get to know them. They'll show you the cafeteria and help you out." She pointed to a small sheet of plastic on the wall beside the door.
"This is your schedule. Breakfast at 7, then you have your chores to do until lunch at noon. Chores are found in the cafeteria. Look for your name under the tasks. After lunch, you have free time until 3. At 3 you have your counseling session. Then free time until dinner at 6. Most girls spend time after that in the commons area watching TV or playing games. You can also go back to your room. Showers are required to be finished by 8. Lights out are at 10."
She walked over to me and picked up the ID clipped to my chest pocket. She examined it quickly and nodded.
"I thought so. Your counselor will be Haleigh. Remember, 3 is your meeting time," She released my ID and headed to the door.
"If you need anything, don't hesitate to go to the help desk on the first floor. Maps can be found all over the place along with right here," she said softly, pointing to a slightly larger piece of plastic beside my schedule.
"Make yourself feel at home. See you later, Iris." And with that, she was out the door, leaving me in silence in my new room.
I sat there for a few minutes and reviewed the room in my mind again. All the information she had given me had gone right over my head. Eventually, I'd learn my schedule with the help of my friends, but the first day was winging it.
After several lonely moments in my room, a knock arose from the door. Not waiting for approval to enter, my door swung open and a young girl came into view. She wasn't nearly as young as me but certainly wasn't a teenager. Her blonde hair was tied up in a bun on top of her head with flyaways everywhere. My guess was that she'd been asleep.
"Are you Iris?" she asked. She wore the same exact outfit that I did! I gulped and nodded. Her face lit up into a smile. "Wow... I've heard so much about you," she walked in and took a seat on the bed beside me."
She must have noticed my confusion and awkward silence because she said, "Oh! I'm sorry. I'm Kaylee. My room is right beside you over there."
She pointed to the wall behind my desk. "I'm 13. You're... 4, right?" I nodded again. "That's insane... Is that even legal?"
She waited for an answer. I had no idea what she was saying. I just shrugged quietly.
"I mean, they probably don't care around here. Any excuse to throw someone in jail," She chuckled. My eyes grew wide. I was in jail?!
"Jail?" I mumbled in shock.
She nodded. "Yep, you heard me right," She sighed. "How long you in here for?"
"18..." I whispered.
"18 years?" She laughed, "That's not possible. They don't let anyone above the age of 18 in here. You must mean until you turn 18. Wow, that's a lot. I'm here until then too. But, I'm... 9 years older than you."
All these numbers didn't add up. Partially because I couldn't add yet.
"I bet you're so scared. I was too. I came here a year ago. Don't worry, I'll help you. Megan will too. She's my best friend here. She's in here for a lot worse than me, though. She killed a guy! Not that bad of a person, though. You just gotta get to know her. She's in her counseling. You can meet her at lunch," she explained. "Speaking of lunch..." She scanned the room for my clock, finding it above the door. "Let's go!"
She jumped off my cot and waited for me to come down. "Just stick close, okay?"
Together we wove through the crowded hallway full of teenage girls wanting food. I kept an eye on Kaylee's platinum blonde hair and made sure to cling to her feet. Going down the stairs was a whole task itself but once we reached the first floor, the crowd cleared as the girls parted into four separate food lines. We entered the cafeteria and a sea of wide tables reviews itself to us. The walls held eight doors but only four had lines going in them. The others had girls coming out with trays of food.
"This one is ours," Kaylee gestured to the far left line. It was clearly the shortest line and had younger girls in it. The majority of them appeared to be around 14 or 15. Within seconds, we got our food trays. I was too short to reach the metal bar for the tray to rest on, so Kaylee moved mine with her's to each food station. I followed my tray and we soon reached the end. She nudged her head towards the door, gesturing to go through it. She carried my tray along with her's to table 17. She set mine on the table beside her's and I hoisted myself onto the seat while she sat down. When I arrived, I looked down at my food. It looked disgusting! There were mashed potatoes, a piece of white bread, and some gross, brown mushy thing. "Enjoy prison food," Kaylee laughed and began eating away.
We sat alone at table 17 for a good portion of lunch. After refusing to eat for a while, my hunger took control of me and I forced the food down my throat. I did gag several times but got over it quickly. All of the sudden, another girl sat across from us.
"Hey, Meg. I'm sure you've heard of Iris," Kaylee looked up at her while she gnawed on her bread.
The girl had hair as black as night that flowed onto her shoulders. She had used something to make her eyelids a sheer black. She didn't smile but didn't look too intimidating. She shrugged and shook her head.
"Iris Tobin..." she mumbled and raised her eyebrows, gesturing to me.
The girl's eyes opened wide and she stared at me. "A Tobin? Why it's an honor!" she said sarcastically and her excited emotion faded.
"Be nice, Meg! She's four," Kaylee scolded.
"Four?! Geez, kid, what'd you do??" she exclaimed.
"She was in the Tobin family robberies. I saw it on TV," Kaylee smirked. "You're famous, Iris."
Famous?? For what?
"I'm Megan. You can call me Meg if you want. I'm Kaylee's age," Megan said as she ate.
"We have a new member of our pack. We'll help you get through this. we've only ever had each other. All the other girls think of us as the weaklings... It's hard making friends here," Kaylee sighed, "but we don't need them!"
"Amen to that," Meg raised her bread in the air and nodded.
"It's us against the world."