{October 29, 2012}   Going Home, Part I

On the bus ride home, I rehearsed what I was going to say to Daddy. On our phone call, he asked why I ran away. I was going to tell him that I left because I needed freedom to have friends and a social life outside of going to school. He and Mother couldn’t keep me locked in my room anymore and have me on never-ending restriction. I was also going to tell him that randomly searching my room and confiscating my notebooks wasn’t okay. I needed for them to respect my privacy and stop trying to control my every move. I felt sure that Daddy would listen. He was reasonable and I could talk to him.

When the Greyhound bus finally pulled into the Atlanta station, it was around ten at night. I waited for the driver to take everybody’s luggage from the bottom storage until finally I saw my flowered suitcase. I looked around the station for Daddy and Mother but I didn’t see them. I thought maybe they didn’t know what time my bus arrived.  A woman dressed in a wine-colored suit came up to me. She asked if I was Lynn. I said, yes. She said that her name was Miss Russett with the Cobb County Juvenile system. She was appointed as my probation officer and would be taking me to the detention center. I didn’t know what to say. I was expecting my parents to pick me up and take me home. I didn’t dream that a probation officer would show up to take me to a detention center. I started shaking and sat down next to my suitcase. When I spoke to Daddy on the phone a couple of days ago, he said that he would see me at home. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t there to pick me up. Miss Russett saw how upset I was, and sat down in the plastic chair next to me. “Well, I don’t have to drive you straight there. Are you hungry? Can I buy you something from the Varsity before  we go?” “Yeah, I like the Varsity” I said. “What do you like there?” she asked. “I like their chilli dogs and peach pies.” “Okay. Let’s go,” she said. I picked up my suitcase and followed her to her red Volkswagen Beetle in a nearby parking lot. I put my flowered suitcase on the back seat, and got in. There was a yellow plastic daisy hanging from a chain over her rear view mirror. Miss Russett was a young woman and very pretty. She had curly dark-reddish hair and wore a wine colored scarf and boots. She got in the driver’s seat and tried to start the car. The car didn’t start. She kept turning the key and pumping the gas until it finally started. “Cold engine” she said. “Cold engine, warm heart” I quipped. She asked, “How do you like coming home to the cold after being in Florida?” “Feels good, actually” I said. I guessed she knew all about how I skipped school and stayed in Panama City for over a month. “Can I ask you something?” I asked. Miss Russett changed gears and missed the right one, causing a grinding sound. “Yeah?” “Why didn’t my parents pick me up tonight?” I asked. “Because your parents are not in town,” she replied. “Where are they?” I asked. Daddy didn’t say they were going anywhere when I talked to him on the phone. “They’re on a cruise in the Caribbean,” she said. “Oh” was all I could get out of my throat. So, my parents were on vacation.

Miss Russett turned sharply into the Varsity parking lot and parked. I got the feeling that she didn’t like driving me to the detention center and was trying to make me feel better. She seemed cheerful for a probation officer. It must be a pretty gruesome job most of the time. We stood in line and ordered chilli dogs, onion rings and fried peach pies. We carried our trays to a room with student’s desks lined up in front of a TV set. “So, after this I’m going to a detention center. Is that because my parents left town?” I asked. “Yes, partly. You’ll also have to answer to a judge about missing school. Truancy is very serious. I expect that you’ll be on probation for a while on that charge. Your parents also charged you with being unruly. They filed a complaint with the judge that basically states that they can’t do anything with you. They asked that you be locked up,” she said. My stomach churned and I couldn’t eat. I sipped my frosted orange and thought about what she said. “I’m not going home for awhile, then?” I asked. If I had known that I wasn’t going directly home, I may have changed my mind about that promise I made to the deputy.  I might have gotten off the bus before I reached Atlanta. But I knew that wouldn’t have fixed everything, either. I have to turn eighteen before I can finally leave home for good. I had two years to go. I could suffer through whatever I needed to go through for a couple more years. Being at home was like living in a detention center, anyway. Maybe even worse since Mother is the guard.

Once we finished eating, it was time to leave the Varsity and for Miss Russett to drive me to the detention center. I was nervous about what it was going to be like. “How long do you think I’ll have to stay there?” I asked. “Until your parents return home from their cruise. Next Monday, there’ll be a hearing. I’ll recommend two months probation for truancy, which the judge will probably agree to and you’ll be able to go home and get back to school” she said. “So, about a week then?” I wondered. “Yes. About a week” she said.

We got to the center around 11:30 pm. Miss Russett rang an outside buzzer and a large woman in a white uniform came to the door. “This is Lynn, and here are her papers” Miss Russett said, then she turned to me, “You’re going to be okay. You’ll be going home soon. I’ll check on how you’re doing when I come into work tomorrow.” “Okay” I said. “Thank you for picking me up and taking me to the Varsity,” I said. Miss Russett glanced at the uniformed woman as if perhaps she shouldn’t have taken me to the Varsity. “You’re welcome, Lynn” she said. I followed the uniformed woman down a darkened hall.

The guard led me to a tile bathroom that had toilets without stalls, sinks without mirrors and showers without curtains. She told me to get undressed. “All the way?” I asked. “Yes. You’ll need to shower and use this on your hair and down there” she pointed, handing me a liquid that had a horrible, medical odor. “What is this?” I asked. “It’s to kill lice,” she said. “I don’t have lice,” I said. “Everybody that comes through here has to shower with this,” she said. I took off my clothes while the guard watched. I stood under the shower head and used the liquid she gave me to wash. It made me uncomfortable having her stare at me while I showered. When I was finished, I stood naked in front of her, without a towel, shivering, hair dripping. Finally, the guard handed me a green uniform to put on. She stared at me as I put on the pants and pulled the shirt over my head.  “Follow me” she growled. I followed her to a yellow cinderblock room with a metal bed. “Can I have my suitcase?” I asked. “No. You’ll get that when you leave,” she said. I sat down on the bed. The guard stood in the doorway for a minute looking at me. “You’re pretty” she said. “Thanks,” I said. Then, awkward silence. “Night” she said and turned off the light switch outside the room. I got into bed, pulled the woolen blanket over my head and tried not to cry.


Barbara Panter says:

So glad you’re sharing this Look forward to reading more. xxx’s Barbara

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