It had been too long.
Ana still hadn’t emerged from her meeting and Fatima was growing restless.
“Something’s happened,” she said worriedly to Rebecca for what seemed the hundredth time.
Rebecca groaned at her and rubbed the backs of her thighs. “Do you think something’s happened to Ana? Because I would have never guessed!”
“I know, I’m sorry. I just, I’m worried…”
“You know what I’m worried about?” Rebecca replied. “I’m worried that my legs are gonna fall off.” She carefully approached the bench, bum first and lifted her legs slowly over together. Her face was strained and if Fatima hadn’t been so worried, she would have laughed at her.
“I don’t get how anyone could like spinning!” Rebecca said, as she settled into her position. She frowned and made a sort of small squealing noise. “I want some chocolate…”
“You always want chocolate.”
“I wish you were made out of chocolate,” she grumbled back at her, her cheek squashed against the tabletop.
Fatima rolled her eyes. She wanted to laugh, she wanted to tease Rebecca for being weird and greedy, but she couldn’t. There was a knot in her stomach and as the minutes ticked by, the knot grew bigger, twisting around on itself further.
Rebecca didn’t move, but her face softened slightly. “She’ll be OK.”
“Carer Marie hasn’t come back yet,” Fatima responded quietly, so the other Carers wouldn’t hear her. “And you know what Ana can be like.”
“Are you talking about A2-2195?” Another girl asked. She was pretty, with large green eyes and wavy brown hair. Fatima had seen her around before, but they’d never really spoken.
“Yeah – she’s my friend. She had her meeting today.”
The girl sighed softly and raised her eyebrows, “I heard she went she went completely crazy and attacked one of the committee members.”
“What!” Rebecca said, jolting upwards. She groaned and put a hand to her neck.
Fatima shook her head, “she wouldn’t do that. I know Ana.”
“Well, I heard one of the Carers saying it,” the girl replied with a shrug. “She’s in S.C apparently.”
“Donees!” Carer Marie was standing at the front of the hall, the lines on her forehead even more pronounced than usual.
Fatima couldn’t believe what the girl was saying. Ana. Her Ana wouldn’t do that. She would never attack anyone. She’d been known to do bad things, but not on purpose and nothing that could ever harm anyone.
“I, along with the committee members want to remind you of your place,” Carer Marie continued, her eyes scanning the hall. “You are Donees. You are property of Triple S and you will respect your superiors. Eye contact and backtalk will not be tolerated. Anyone to dare disobey any of these rules will find themselves terminated immediately. And to demonstrate how serious I am, only a mere few hours ago, was Donee A2-2195 found guilty of both of these. She since been rightly stripped of her privileges and will be terminated tomorrow.”
Fatima stared at her. They were all staring at her. Early termination was rare. The last account was at least three years ago. Some girl had been found nearly five miles out from the Home. That was the furthest anyone had got apparently. There wasn’t anything out there though, nowhere to hide, just endless fields and marshes and if even if you did get through all of that, you’d still have to swim to land. Fatima wasn’t sure how far you’d have to go, but it must be a long way.
“They can’t do this,” Rebecca muttered under her breath. “We have to do something.”
Fatima looked at friend with a sad smile. It was a sweet thing to say to her, but what could they do?
A tear rolled down Fatima’s cheek and landed silently onto the table.