This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 797 words.
When I went to her house the next morning, Helen was back on form. She answered the door holding half of a bacon sandwich, with tomato ketchup smeared around her face like a toddler.
“Come in, I’ll make you some tea. I got up early and went shopping. Would you like a bacon sandwich, Martin?”
Saying no thanks to the sandwich, I set up as she made my tea. She came back in the room with two more bacon sandwiches on a plate, both leaking the red ketchup.
“The guards in that prison were more talkative. One who usually brought my food told me her name was Alina. She explained that I was on that corridor all on my own, and the guards all knew I could speak Russian and that I was a foreign spy. I denied that of course, and Alina laughed and shook her head at me, telling me not to lie. I asked her if I could have a hairbrush for when my hair grew back, and if there was some way of getting some fresh fruit, and cigarettes. She said that anything was possible, as long as I had something to offer in return. Of course, I had nothing of value, so gave up asking. Then on the fourth day, a guard called Olga came into my cell to take me to see the governor. As we walked to the office, she mumbled that she could get me cigarettes, but she wanted me to teach her English. I agreed of course, and she winked at me as we stopped outside the room”.
Helen paused to eat three more halves of her sandwiches before continuing, washing them down with her usual beverage of choice, vodka.
“Governor Makarova was an attractive woman in her thirties. Her uniform looked tailored and well fitting. She wore her hair in a bun, and had lots of make-up on. I had to stand in front of her desk, with Olga next to me as she spoke. She said that I was going to be detained indefinitely in that women’s prison, with no association allowed. I would be given a padded jacket for the winter, allowed books, and provided with one main meal a day, and one snack. Two cups of hot tea, and one flask of water daily would be all I was allowed to drink. I was expected to only speak when asked a question, and to behave impeccably, following any instructions from the guards. Failure to cooperate would result in being moved to a solitary cell, and dry rations. She said that proper medical care would be provided, and I could ask a guard if I wanted to see the nurse. Then she made me sign a document that I understood the conditions of my imprisonment, and handed me a copy. On the way back to my cell Olga whispered that she would bring cigarettes when she was next on night duty. But if I told anyone, she would say I attacked her and that would be very bad for me”.
Downing the vodka, Helen finished the last bit of her sandwiches, and slid her plate onto the small table. She refilled the glass from a bottle next to her chair. There had been no mention of how much longer her story would last, and she hadn’t asked how I had managed to stay on longer than arranged. I had bought extra clothes, and used a laundry service through the hotel. But none of that had seemed to enter Helen’s head. She had not asked one single question about me, my life, or my family.
“Before Olga rostered around to night duty, I got a bad toothache one night. Hardly surprising, after so long without a toothbrush, and existing on a diet containing almost no vitamins whatsoever. I asked Alina if I could see a dentist, and had to wait until late afternoon before she came to take me to what was a small hospital wing on the other part of the prison. They had obviously locked up all the regular criminal prisoners, as I walked there without seeing anyone. The dentist was a woman, and she looked like someone’s old granny. She had no assistant, and the chair and equipment looked like as if it hadn’t been updated since the nineteen-twenties. After a lot of painful scraping around accompanied by various profanities, the dentist put a rubber mask over my face, and knocked me unconscious with gas”.
Letting out a big sigh, and looking up to the ceiling, Helen suddenly leaned forward, and there was hatred in her eyes.
“When I woke up, that bitch had removed nine of my teeth, and scraped the others so badly, I couldn’t eat my dinner that night”.