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Bette looked up at the August sun, squinting, feeling the sun’s heat on her face. She closed her eyes and took a soft breath. Somehow the sun felt brighter and the air felt fresher. The grass was greener, the trees had changed. She hadn’t noticed the changing of seasons while inside. It seemed her hearing was keener because she heard a train in the distance. Everything around felt more intense. As she watched the white fluffy clouds floating serenely in the blue California sky she could sense the tingle of anticipation building inside her.
Standing outside the prison gates almost ten years later, Bette felt as if she had never existed outside of prison in the first place. As if she was born again. She looked back and saw a female security guard closing the gates after her, closing something that had been offering stability and structure for so many years. Now the real world welcomed her with skepticism, offering nothing but uncertainty. Although, somewhere deep inside there was still some faith left in Bette, faith in life, faith that there was no insurmountable obstacles.
”Have a nice day,” Bette waved at the security guard with a smile.
The woman smirked. ”Same to you. Hope we never meet again.”
Bette smirked in return. ”Touché,” she muttered to herself and threw her rucksack over her shoulder. She took another cleansing breath and headed toward the road. She had a long journey ahead.
As she walked along the side of the road, Bette began recalling events of her life in prison.
The hardest thing about her first months there had been adjusting not so much to confinement, but to the physical limits of space. She remembered pacing across a single-person cell once, twice, before realizing that she had done it a hundreds of times. She would forever remember the sounds of prison, with its constancy of bad language, shouts, agonizing screams, heavy footsteps, metal clanging against metal. In the distance she had always heard electronic buzzers. Buzz, clang, buzz, clang, clang, buzz. It was the rhythm of prison, its heartbeat.
She remembered the first time she had tasted prison food, how she had refused to eat it in the following weeks, letting her weight plummet to a dangerous level, how the guards had tried to force her, beating her to a half-conscious state. She remembered all the violence she had received, remembered all the pain when the guards had hit her with their truncheons, when bunches of other prisoners in collision had attacked her, punching and kicking her all over, until she couldn’t breathe. She remembered the sound of bones shattering ruthlessly in her body, the bitter taste of blood mixed with bile in her mouth, the feeling of her internal organs tearing apart. Despite the intense physical torment, Bette had never made a sound, suffering silently while the damage had been inflicted on her body, trying to save what had been left of her dignity. Although, at the end of the day, in some weird, messed up way all this pain had relieved the mental anguish that had been demolishing her from the inside.