Angel 31 (hard knocks)
Angel was shaking all over when she got back to the cell. She could feel her heart beating, her bones knocking together.
Lisa had some crap on the telly, cartoons. She was small and child-like, even in the way she spoke. ‘You alright?’ She looked up at her from the bottom bunk, her mouth hanging open and holding her breath.
Angel had no time to think, couldn’t answer, she gasped and tried to suck in air. Wheezing, her throat seemed suddenly too small. She stumbled against the wall.
Lisa darted to the door, banging and screaming. ‘We need help here. We need help.’
Fitzi in the cell next door added to the clamour, adding muscle to the banging and the raucous echoing sound rang along the corridor. The sound of running feet, an eye at the peep-hole and the key turning.
Cherry appeared in the doorway, a new-start, in her shiny uniform with a bush of ginger hair and concern on her plump features, shadowing her older colleague.
‘Why don’t you do something, ya fat fuck?’ Lisa screamed at the novice, ‘instead of just fucking gawping’.
Cherry had already taken charge. She stood behind Angel, put her arms underneath her shoulders and pulled her backwards from her crouching position. Her hands were pressed hard against her chest as she stood beside Angel, supporting her.
‘Just breathe, breathe’ Cherry drew the word out made is sound airy and calm.
‘Breathe.’ Cherry waited a few seconds and spoke more softly as if counting down.
‘Donna, go get the nurse,’ Cherry instructed her younger colleague.
‘But I shouldn’t leave you alone with prisoners.’ There was panic in Donna’s voice, she turned her head and looked along the corridor.
Lisa sat down on the side of the bed, gnawing her thumb and started watching her programmes.
‘Breathe.’ Cherry’s grip slackened and Angel stood a little straighter.
‘I’m sure I’ll be alright,’ Cherry told her colleague, smiling, which made her face look younger. ‘Just lock me in.’
‘You sure?’ Donna searched her face, but sounded relieved. She took the set of keys that were proffered and locked the door.
Angel listened to her ragged breathing. It seemed a bit better. She stepped away from Cherry’s embrace, slightly embarrassed.
‘Thought I was having a heart attack.’
‘I get that as well. ’ Lisa looked from the prison officer to Angel’s face.
‘Can you turn that telly down a bit?’ asked Cherry.
‘No, I’m watching it.’
Angel took a few steps and poured herself a cup of water from the jug, on the shelf where they kept their personal stuff. She sipped at it. ‘I feel a bit better.
‘Great,’ Cherry nodded.
‘I’ve got a bit of a headache,’ Adverts were on the telly and Lisa looked towards Cherry.
The prison officer smiled thinly but addressed Angel. ‘Won’t be long.’ Her eyes strayed towards the door.
The galumphing sound of hurrying feet in the corridor and the keys in the lock had all eyes turning towards the door.
Donna stood in the door. Behind her in a nurse’s uniform of slacks and bluish shirt was a middle-aged woman with a pergola of hay-coloured hair that made her seem taller and her red face thinner. As Cherry edged out the door and into the corridor, the nurse took her place in front of the telly, a stethoscope slung over her neck.
She looked Angel up and down, appraising her, shifting her head to focus on her eyes. ‘Any tingling sensations in your hands or feet, or any other part of your body?’
‘No,’ said Angel.
‘I’ll just take your blood pressure.’ She didn’t wait for a reply, feeling for her wrist and wrapping a cuff around her upper arm and inflating it.
‘Not bad,’ the nurse said when she gave Angel back her arm and finished wrapping up her kit and putting the sphygmomanometer in its metallic case. ‘A little low.’ But she was quick to reassure her. ‘Nothing to worry about.’
‘I’ve no been that well either,’ piped up Lisa.
‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ the nurse kept her tone upbeat. ‘And we’ll talk about it later. But right now I’m going to take Angel along to my office for a wee chat.’
They left Lisa locked in the cell as the prison guards escorted Angel along to the nurse’s office.
Angel could smell the tell-tell fragrance of cigarette smoke from where she stood inside the door and the place seemed rather dirty and cluttered. There was a table, and chairs, a filing cabinet with a box of latex gloves on top of it, set of scales and a shiny examination couch with a protective, disposable, greenish paper cover.
The nurse brushed past her and slid into the seat behind the desk. Cherry stood outside and chatted to the new guard, shutting the door over a bit, for privacy, but leaving it ajar.
‘Sit down,’ the nurse ushered her into the seat facing her. She lifted a pen and a form from the tray on the desk and started filling it in. ‘By, the way, I’m Jenny.’ Her smile was warm. ‘I just need to confirm a few details Angel, your full name, date of birth and prison number.’
‘Right,’ Jenny murmured, having filled in all the boxes and giving Angel her full attention. ‘I don’t think we’ll need to get the doctor to check you over, but I’m thinking…’ and she huffed. ‘Maybe you had a wee panic attack…and you’re not on any prescribed medication. Have you taken any drugs we don’t know about?’
‘No,’ Angel shook her head. ‘I thought I was dying.’
‘Em, yes, anxiety attacks can sometimes be like that. The flight-fight mechanism kicks in and our body becomes hyper aware of everything around it. It’s a throwback to the days when we had to run before we were fully conscious of why we were running, because if there was a bear behind us, we’d be dead if we didn’t. The repercussion of that is even when there’s no bear, we’re still hyper aware and that rebound on us.’ She took a deep breath as if she too had been running. ‘Is there anything in particular that’s been bothering you? Making you anxious?’
‘Well, aye, I’m pregnant and the guy I want to be the father of my child doesn’t want to be the father. And the guy that will think he’s got me pregnant will want to be the father, but I’m no sure he should be, or is. And I was raped, and the rapist might be the father of the child…So aye, I maybe dae feel a bit anxious.’
A cracked edge to Jenny’s voice, ‘You were raped?’ She became flustered, searching through paperwork. ‘There’s nothing here on file.’
Angel looked at her evenly. ‘It doesnae need to be on file. It’s here growing inside me.’
‘I maybe will have the doctor look at you, after all. Maybe get him to prescribe a sedative. A benzodiazepine.’
‘Will it harm the baby?’
‘I wouldn’t think so, but we can never be sure.’
‘I’m no taking anything then. I’ve had worse things happen to me and I just get on wae it.’
‘But that’s what I’m saying to you. Your body is shouting, telling you, you’re not getting on with it. And if you don’t listen it’s bound to do a lot more shouting.’
‘I’m gonnae have mair panic attacks?’
Jenny shrugged. ‘How long’s a piece of string? I don’t know. What I do know is you can’t fight it. Because that’s totally the wrong approach.’
‘Whit can I dae then?’
Jenny considered her options before speaking, but toyed with her pen and stared down at her papers. ‘You can get counselling. Cognitive therapy has a relatively high success rate.’
‘Well, alright then, I’ll get counselling. How long will that take?’
‘Three months, six months, I don’t know…I can’t tell you for definite one way or the other. Perhaps a year…’
‘Fuck. It’s quicker having a baby.’