Two Years Later
Melanie Pelly and Dr Belcredi were sitting in a very grim waiting room. The floors were linoleum, the walls were an unpleasant greeny-white and the plastic chairs were bolted to the floor. There was a long counter on one side of the room, beyond which administrative staff got on with their jobs, ignoring those who waited.
The waiting room had two doorways. One that led to the outside world. And the other, an internal door, that led to the country’s highest security juvenile detention facility. Melanie and Dr Belcredi sat waiting for this door to open.
Melanie was fidgeting with the green pork-pie hat she held in her hands. She would have preferred to be sitting outside in the car. She could sleep in the car. No-one could sleep in chairs this uncomfortable, not even her. But she had not seen her best friend in eleven months. She had to be supportive.
Dr Belcredi sat in silence. As a headmaster, it was very important that she maintained her dignity. There was something weird about the Pelly girl that encouraged honesty. Now was not a moment for emotional honesty. Who knew what state Friday would be in? Dr Belcredi was the grown-up here. She had to keep it together.
Dr Belcredi really wanted to look at her watch, but she knew she’d looked at it three times already in what couldn’t have been more than ninety seconds. So, she was spending the time willing herself to have better self-control. She was just about to give up and glance down at her wrist, when they heard the thud of a heavy metal door closing, then footsteps in the corridor on the other side of the wall.
The door swung open. And there she was. Friday Barnes. She looked small. A little thinner since they’d seen her last. Her big baggy brown cardigan looked even bigger and baggier. She was holding a plastic bin liner full of her possessions. They barely filled the bottom of the bag.
Dr Belcredi needn’t have worried about being embarrassingly emotional, Melanie beat her to it. She burst into tears, ran to Friday and wrapped her in a big hug.
‘If you’ll sign here, here and here,’ said the corrections officer behind the desk. ‘Barnes will be officially released into your custody.’
Dr Belcredi scratched out her signature. The officer took the form and went back to her computer. For her, these desperate emotional scenes were literally just another day at the office. Not worthy of a smile, a frown or even a second glance.
‘Shall we go?’ asked Dr Belcredi. Her voice hoarse to her own ears.
‘Yes, please,’ said Friday, quietly.
Melanie still clung to Friday’s arm as though she was afraid to let her go and they headed towards the exit.