Heart Transformed - Chapter One
Coarse laughter sliced through the dank air. Wiry, leaf-bare trees swayed beyond the wire mesh fence. Shivering, Genevieve hunched her shoulders, bracing against the westerly wind biting through her thin, green sweatshirt. She tilted her head, eyeing the pack of three women, much akin to wolves sizing up their next victim to prey upon, prowling around the perimeter of the drab, grey courtyard. Her heart hammered against her chest as the pack approached a lone woman pressed against the concrete wall. Scrawny with yellowing hair, the older woman drew her knees to her chest and gnawed on her fingernails, her eyes downcast as the trio leered at her, tossed a few ugly words her way and continued on their menacing walk.
Genevieve narrowed her eyes, watching their movements as they cussed at, or mocked anyone who dared look their way. Her back tensed. She’d fallen victim to their taunts before, and she didn’t have the strength to face their insults today. The first few months within the grey walls of the Women's Correctional Centre had opened her eyes to an entirely different way of life, and had seen her develop a thicker skin, armour to protect her emotions and self-esteem as a means to survive.
Karina, her cellmate, had taken Genevieve under her wing, giving her guidance and tips for enduring her time in the women’s prison. As a result, she’d learned who to talk to, and who to keep away from. And the women slowly approaching her were certainly ones to keep away from.
Molly Abbets, the self-imposed ringleader of the trio, was downright mean. Heartless and cruel would be better words to describe the solid-set woman with short-cropped black hair. Janet Niland and Susan Daintrey were fairly harmless by themselves, but Molly certainly called the shots when they were all together. Typical bullies. They were the dregs of society, now asserting themselves at the pinnacle of the prison hierarchy. Life behind the razor wire tended to be reverse of that in the outside world. The no-hopers were inclined to dominate, while the upper-crust of society were brought down a notch or two, toppled off their stilettos and tossed out of their McMansions up on Hamilton Hill, only to find themselves at the bottom of the pile.
That had been Genevieve’s experience. Her fall from a life of privilege had been less than graceful, much to her parent’s utter disgust and disdain. But when it came to the classes of society, she knew both sides of the coin. And it was the tail end, trusting the lies whispered against her skin that had landed her in the correctional facility exactly seven hundred and thirty-five days ago.
“Whatcha doin’ there, Jimmy?” A loose pebble scuttled across the ground. Genevieve flinched at the nickname, an obvious barb to her flashy lifestyle before her Jimmy Choo’s were exchanged for the green Velcro-strapped running shoes now adorning her feet. She slowly raised her head, willing her pulse to slow. She would not show fear. She would not panic. She refused to let the women intimidate her.
“Drawing.” Her eyes met Molly’s piercing steel-grey ones. The other woman reached out, snatching the notebook out of Genevieve’s hands. A sneer formed on her thin, cracked lips as she flicked through the worn pages. Genevieve swallowed. Only Karina and a few others had been privilege to the sketches within the spiral notebook. And her mother. She held her breath, waiting for the torment that always flowed from her mother’s lips.
“Why are you wasting your time on that? You won't make any money. You’re so much better than that.” The harsh words tightened around her heart again. Along with the humph of disappointment that always ensued. As an only child, Genevieve was expected to follow in her father’s footsteps, pursuing a prestigious career in law. What a disappointment she’d been.
“This is good stuff, Jimmy.” Janet’s nasally voice broke through her thoughts. Her bony finger tapped on the open page as she glanced up from her position over Molly’s right shoulder. Genevieve interlaced her fingers in the wire fence behind her and shuffled her sneakers on the concrete.
“Thanks.” Her sketches were of another time. Another life. Faded memories of what she’d left behind, and dreams of what she was yet to see. The ivory coloured pages of her notebook were filled with drawings of the Brisbane River, the cliffs at Kangaroo Point, and the view from the jetty at New Farm Park. The pencil lines were crisp and clean, reminding her of the good times, before her choices led her into the prison cell she now occupied.
“Who’s this?” Molly’s callused finger poked at the face of an infant child. Pencil curls floated around the soft, angelic face staring back at her.
“No one,” Genevieve murmured, smoothing her hand over her stomach as she glanced away. Even with daily exercise, loose skin remained, a bitter reminder of the selfish choices that had ruined her life.
“Hmph,” Molly grunted and tossed the notebook into Genevieve’s lap. Smoothing over the creased pages, Genevieve ran her fingers over the child’s face as an alarm echoed around the courtyard, signaling time for the women to return to their cells for another evening. Pressing her lips together, an all-too familiar ache welled in her chest. Would the guilt and emptiness ever leave?