The first line suggestion for this fictional short story was sent to me by my long-term blogging friend, Jude Harley. Jude has three blogs, concentrating on photography and travel.
Carrie said farewell to the departing locksmith, closed the door and locked it with the shiny new key and let out a deep sigh.
It had been a long journey. Holding the key, her body shuddered as she remembered what it had taken to get there.
As a child, nobody locks their own door. Locks don’t even enter your head, not until your mum tells you not to lock the bathroom door. Apparently, children drown in the bath, fall in the shower, or pass out on the toilet. Carrie had never done any of those, but if she had, the bathroom door would always have been unlocked.
When they moved to the old house, her bedroom had a lock. But there was no key in that lock, not that she ever saw. That old house was in a rough area. Mum said money was tight, and the move was necessary. Carrie didn’t mind, as there were lots of kids her own age hanging around. She wasn’t to know they were bad kids.
Not at first.
They gave her cigarettes to smoke, sometimes beer to drink. One night when she got in late and threw up on the carpet, her mum locked her in her bedroom. “You can stay in there, young lady. Think about your disgraceful behaviour!”
So, there always had been a key.
She took stuff from shops. All the others did, and she just tagged along. It wasn’t always stuff they actually wanted, and sometimes they just threw it away. They did it for the thrill, for something to do. When she stopped going to school it wasn’t long before the authorities got involved. Mum was always angry, but Carrie didn’t care. Hanging out with her friends was so much more fun than school.
Then some policemen chased them one day, after they had snatched stuff from a shop and run away giggling. Carrie took a wrong turn, ended up in a dead end, and then ended up in juvenile court. Her mum wanted her out of the house. “I’ve had enough, can’t cope with her. Do what you like”.
In the Children’s Home, only the front door was locked, and it was always locked at night. They didn’t lock the windows though, and Carrie’s new friends soon showed her how to get out. They met older boys in the park, dared each other to do stuff, rode on the backs of motorcycles, climbing back through the windows when they were tired.
One night, they didn’t climb back in. An older girl named Mandy knew a house where an old man lived. She said he never locked the back door, and he was sure to have lots of money lying around. The three of them climbed over the garden fence, and opened the sliding door leading into the house. Going through the drawers and cupboards, they must have made too much noise, because the old man came downstairs and switched on the light.
Mandy hit him with a big vase, and it smashed everywhere. They ran back out into the garden, and ended up sitting in the nearby bus station. One of the bus drivers must have called the police. At first, they seemed to be concerned. Three girls out late, no coats or bags. Mandy did the talking, and Carrie wished she hadn’t. Too mouthy, too much attitude, refusing to tell the cops where they lived.
It looked like they were going to spend the night in a police cell for their own safety, until a social worker could be arranged. Then one of the detectives made the connection with an old man who had been murdered during a burglary.
Carrie’s childhood ended that night.
It started with court. Then detention in Youth Custody for an unlimited time. There were a lot of locks in that place, but someone else had all the keys. From there it was a transfer to an adult female prison. Carrie thought she knew the ropes by then, but soon discovered she was wrong. You learn fast, or your life isn’t worth living. You run drugs for the boss of your landing, beat up the ones she tells you to beat up. Or you become the target instead.
Then you don’t squeal. You take the rap for the boss, and your sentence is extended. When you come up for parole, you say nothing. No apologies, no confessions, no being a good girl. Then you don’t get parole.
She woke up one day and realised she was thirty-six years old. Not much of a birthday, smelling the feet of the girl in the bunk above her as they dangled down.The next time parole came up, she played their game. Yes, she was sorry. Yes, she wanted to be part of society. Yes, she had learned her lesson.
Parole was granted, along with a job, and somewhere to live. The job at a burger bar was about all she was capable of. But that offer came with a small bedsit at the top of a house, and more importantly, a lock. They even sent a man to change it to a new lock, just for her.
For the first time in her life, Carrie had locked her own door.