“It’s me, Marlee.” I looked into the glitching screen, trying to find a face. One of many faces that I’ve missed since the summer. Spending your summer in Utani’s desolate prison sucks. Well, it’s not technically a prison. More like a hideaway house where no one can find me except the two cops I live with now. Mr. and Mrs. Sinns. They’ve allowed me to use a tablet for the day to call my family. At least the only family I know will still talk to me. My parents, in Coloro and my sister who lives here in Utani.
“Marlee, dear? Is that you?” My mother was adjusting her thick rimmed glasses when she saw me.
“Yes, Mom. It’s me.” Don’t allow her to see you cry.
“Where’s Dad?” My voice was coarse, like I had been crying for hours. Which isn’t entirely a lie.
“He’s still in the shower, getting ready to leave for work. It’s only 8 am, silly.” She fake laughed. This is awkward.
“I miss you, Mom.” I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fuck around and get sent away.
“Stop Marlee.” Her voice stern, and aggravated.
“You did this. You wanted to play hero instead of following the rules. You know the rules, they’re hammered to the door in your ro-, your old room.”
“Mom, it’s still my room. I have my hearing today. I’ll be back. Maybe by late tonight. You can’t have Christmas without me.”
“We’ve been without you since summer, I’m sure we can last another couple of days.” She hung up, my screen going black as a tear strung down my face.
A knock at the door. Mr. Sinns.
“Are you all ready to go, Miss.”
“I want to call my sister, I haven’t -”
“That wasn’t a question, Miss! We’ve waited months for your trial, I wouldn’t recommend making the president wait another few hours.”
So much for a happy Christmas.
We walked the streets as my arms were tied in a rope behind me, my hair pulled back in a bun. The skirts of my dress moved against the ground, nearly tripping me. People were in the streets, their holiday cheer filled me with rage. Some of them deserve to be in ropes, with the cops on either side holding their arms. Not me. Their smiles faded when they saw my disapproving glares.
“This could’ve been you, with your family. But you broke the-”
“Broke the rules. I know, you don’t have to lecture me, Mom.” I spat.
Mrs. Sinns snatched me to the side, her nails digging into my skin as all I could do was await the blood to start dripping from my arm.
“You watch your mouth, missy! I’m not the one who put you here, I didn’t make you sneak out, or wander into the forest like a little bitch who doesn’t understand the law.”
We arrived at the courthouse, cameras and people crowded around.
“All these people here for you, wench.” Mr. Sinns hissed as they dragged me in.
I sat across from the president, or Madam Svelte, as she calls herself. Everyone calls her Madam and it’s so irritating, I swear.
“Ah, Marlee Wess. Pleasure to finally meet you.”
“And I, you.” I bowed, pretending to care.
“Well, let’s get started shall we.” The crowd of witnesses hissed and cheered.
The case went on, recalling the details of me “heinous crime” of saving a man who was being attacked from one of her guards.
“I told you, he didn’t do anything. I was there!” I barked out. “All he did was be there. The cop attacked a man for no reason!” I was pointing at the cop, who was sitting in the bleachers all smug. Son of a bitch.
The case kept going on, putting me in the wrong for just trying to save someone. I don’t remember a lot of the details, I’m ninety percent sure that I had to force myself to stay awake during the middle of it.
“We’ve reached a verdict.” Madam stands up, setting off a chain reaction of everyone standing up.
Guilty. That’s the only word I remember.
I was thrown back into my room, banging on the door like a madwoman when Mr. Sinns shut and locked the door.
“Let me out! It’s Christmas!” For some reason, I honestly thought that I would be home by now. I didn’t think I did anything wrong. Apparently police interference was some big rule that we all knew. I knew, but I didn’t give a crap anymore.
“No, you’re supposed to be picked up and taken to Madam’s mansion tomorrow.”
I remembered I was being moved, not sure why. Again, I did nothing wrong.
“You’re to become one of her helpers, until you earn your way out.” I could tell he was smirking, almost like he was happy. Over the months I was here, all he did was hate me. He’d force me to clean everything, do all the essentials, and be a maid to him. I figured I’d do the same at her mansion. What better way to make me feel like crap?
“Annalise, come on. You have to help me. You can get me out!” I was pleading with my sister on the facetime call.
“Come on, Mar, you know I would if I could.” She was sad. She was washing the dishes, while her husband was in the background.
“Hi, Tyi.” I waved awkwardly.
“Marlee. Pleasure.” He has a smile that could make anyone melt, no wonder most girls in our town fawned over him. He’s only a year older than me and Annalise.
“You should listen to her,” I heard him whisper to her.
“Don’t encourage her erratic behavior, silly. Just get Lizzie into bed.” The wheels in her head were turning, I could see it in her eyes.
“You know we’re right!” He mocked, in a sing-songy tone. He and I were always buddies, getting along with each other like best friends. It’s like he knew what I was thinking when Annalise is supposed to be my best friend.
“What do you want to do, get in the car and bring her here?” He nodded.
“This is so stupid! I will not have you putting us all in danger because you got in trouble.” She slammed the towel down and stormed upstairs. Tyi turned to me.
“I’m sorry, I wish there was something I could do, Lee.”
“Me too.” Sinns entered the room, snatching the tablet out of my hand.
“Oh hush,” He shoved me to the floor and slammed the door, locking it.
“Someone get me out. Please.” I begged.
I couldn’t tell what time it was, maybe 1 or 2 am. Christmas was over, not like the day before even felt like it. I had to get out of here before I ended up in an even worse predicament. If I could get out and find a train station, I could take the next train out of here. I curled up on the bed, feeling as small as I’ve ever felt. All I did was keep wishing for a way out.
When I woke up, I was moving. On a train.