Joan crossed her legs in front of Bridget, sighing impatiently. “And that’s exactly how it happened. A simple nasty fall in the shower.”
Joan didn’t exactly know what to say to her, since she didn’t want to actually talk about what really happened. She was always so good at lying, yet Bridget was able to very easily see when she wasn’t telling the truth.
“I know the women don’t like divulging what really goes on, but I was hoping you could talk to me about it.”
Joan didn’t always understand why she kept coming back to these sessions. She was beginning to trust Bridget, even just a little bit but it was still difficult. One false move or wrong word, and whatever little rapport they developed would go up in smoke.
“Hypothetically speaking, if what happened to me wasn’t an accident, what does it matter? It’s over and done with.”
“I think how you feel right now about everyone in prison knowing about your pregnancy is very important. Now, we knew everyone would know sooner or later, but you wanted to keep it as hidden as possible. You’ve spoken about being afraid of what would happen. Everyone knows, so how do you feel about it now?”
Joan had flashbacks to the women jeering at her, some in complete surprise and pity. But not pity for her. Pity for her child. The only ones who were understanding were Kaz and some of her crew, and of course Vera. But even Vera couldn’t completely understand everything she dealt with on a daily basis.
“You know, the women hung a doll like figure in my likeness saying ‘Freak’ across its forehead. Despite the fact that I’m pregnant, they’re still as vicious as ever. So you’re asking me how I feel knowing that no matter what, they’d still like to kill me? I feel terrified that these broken women… these animals might make an innocent child suffer.”
“Why don’t you go into Protection?”
Joan asked herself that almost every day, but she felt like it would be telling them that they won. And despite how often Vera came to visit her, it wasn’t enough. She needed more support.
“I just need a little more time.”
“Are you afraid?” Bridget asked her gently.
Joan swallowed. “Yes,” she said tightly.
“It’s okay to be afraid. But if you ever feel that you or your baby’s life is in danger, please put yourself into Protection.”
Joan sighed, her emotions overwhelming her. She was scared, angry, sad, and confused. Her lips trembled with the effort to hold everything in.
Bridget watched her with sympathetic eyes, and Joan felt her chest tightening. “It wasn’t an accident,” she said hoarsely.
Bridget sighed and nodded. “You really do need to be moved into Protection.”
“I can’t yet,” Joan said.
“And why not?”
A tear slowly rolled down her cheek. “I need the interaction. I don’t want to be so isolated. I don’t have--” She paused when she thought of her father. “I have no family,” she said quietly.
“Do you consider some of the women your family?”
“No, I never could. I’m not like them. They’re too… damaged. But I rely on their companionship and their… empathy. If not for me, then for my daughter.”
Bridget smiled. “You don’t always refer to her as your daughter. I think that’s one of the first few times you’ve spoken in a less detached way about her.”
“That was before I could clearly imagine her, and now I might be too damaged for her,” she said tearfully.
“No one is ever too damaged, Joan,” Bridget said gently.
“I don’t know… I’ve done so many things in my life that I don’t feel guilty about. And then there are many others that I question whether or not I was doing the right thing. I don’t know how to be a mother. Some days I just wish it would all go away, hoping I’d wake up from some strange dream. Then I have dreams about her, my father. And about her father…” She said quietly.
“And?” Bridget prodded gently.
“I don’t want her to ever think I didn’t want her, because that’s what I always thought my dad felt,” she said as she began to cry. “That he didn’t want me.”
Bridget handed her a box of tissues. “Those are such hurtful feelings to keep inside.”
“I know he didn’t want me. After my mother died, he… he was just so angry. Everything was my fault. What if I do the same to her?”
“Joan, these fears you have are a level of awareness not everyone has. You can be different with her. Learn from the mistakes of the past, and don’t repeat them. You’ll be okay,” she said gently.
Joan sighed and stroked her stomach, hoping that Bridget was right. “Thank you.”