Chapter 8

Drea sat on a pile of damp logs next to the boundary fence of the prison. No one had even bothered to rename the hell-hole and it was still called The Farm. The prisoners at The Farm were all woman and all guilty of various crimes of shame and disgrace to varying degrees. Drea couldn't remember which atrocity they'd actually jailed her for. Begging? Shameful publicity? It didn't matter. The other women in The Farm had committed similar crimes, that was to say, none at all. The guards, for the most part, left the women alone. They were left to ponder their shame and to be thankful they'd been given such a punishment as a means to work towards atonement. The guards lazed about in huts around the outside fence and the woman were left to the squalor of the inner farm buildings that were now dirty, cramped cells. Despite the guards' apathy towards them, Drea had still manage to draw their attention towards herself by not grovelling to their ideals, then refusing to cry at their beatings. In the two years she'd been there, Drea had become known as the prisoners' prisoner, as well as one in the crotch of the system as a whole. Drea Silver was a very proficient pest.

"So did he sell the shares?" Candice had been listening to one of Drea's many stories. Drea was way past bothering if she was actually believed or not regarding her tales of mansions and lords. It didn't matter. It was a light to listen to and a light to talk about.

"I don't know." Drea shrugged. "I was married off to a drunken old relic before the place went bust. I can remember these fields full of crops though, from when I was a little girl. You're from State Seven aren't you?"

"I am. My brother educated me in history and I began to teach to the local kids. I was sent here for my troubles and my brother was shot." Candice heaved a weary sigh.

"I'm sorry Candice, I didn't know." Drea apologised. "Do we have any volunteers for shovel duty tomorrow? It needs done before the warmer weather." Both women pulled a face. This rather foul job was undertaken by the women themselves. Behind the cells were trenches, covered with wooden boxes. Toilets. Every week the trenches had to be filled in and fresh ones dug. If the women themselves hadn't decided to do this, then the prison would have been even more rife with sickness that it was already. "I'll do the north one then start on the east." Drea offered.

"Ugh. OK I'll do the other two." Candice gagged. "How come you still wear an arm cuff? Most women these days would be glad to get shot of such a marker."

"I'll never part with it. It's the only thing in the world I've ever owned. More than that, it's all I have left of Lord Jasper. Even if it was made from rusty tin, I'd still never part with it."

"What do you think he's doing now?" Candice looked up at the night sky.

"Sleeping if he's any sense." Drea smiled. "He'll be running the business with his brother and father. He'll be twenty-eight now so he'll probably have a wife or two and half a dozen kids." Drea looked at Candice. "Petra once told me to leave it all to the fairytale books. If I did that, I'd die. It's the only spark I have. I was part of that fairytale, even if it was only for a heartbeat in time."

"But you were a slave." Candice said. "At least your marriage raised you from that." Drea started to laugh and waved her arm at their surroundings. "Oh yes, point taken. You know what I mean though. Under less tragic circumstances you'd have a family and a good man."

"I had a good man. I know it was only to look at and only to sort out his stocks and shares but he was there. That was all that mattered. He wanted me there. No one's ever wanted me either before or since. Now he's lost to me." Drea shrugged. "How shitty is that eh?"

"Drea! Your language is terrible!" Candice laughed.

"I picked it up from the men. What are they going to do? Jail me for it?" Drea smiled.

"Drea!" Lila came running towards them. "Drea, Beth's fever's worsened. She hasn't got long." Drea jumped to her feet and followed Lila into the stone hut that was home to twenty women. It was smelly and stale, despite every attempt at cleanliness. Beth was panting and sweating. Her skin was a ghastly yellow and her eyes were bright with sickness.


"I'm here Beth. Lie still." Drea held the dying woman's hand.

"Tell me about your Lord." Beth croaked.

"He's causing one hell of a scene in Brightplain, Beth, you'd better believe it." Drea felt tears pricking her eyes. "You think he's just going to sit there while these arseholes chuck his girl in jail? Pfft! He'll be down here like a whirlwind, Beth, and he'll kick a few arses while he's here."

"Then you can get married at last." Beth managed a smile.

"Absolutely." Drea smiled even though her lip was trembling. "He'll have carriages for miles, Beth. We can all go to Brightplain. My wedding will be party of the decade! Lord Cassidy will give us all enough wine to have a bloody bath in!"

"Oh your mouth." Beth tried to laugh at Drea's bad language.

"Oi you should hear Lady Maya! By my suppressor can that woman swear!" That was an out and out lie but Drea was sure that Lady Maya would understand. "It won't always be like this. One day we'll be able to do what we like. We'll be able to go to school and even university. We'll be able to go to work with our husbands and brothers. We'll fix Crull so it'll be every bit as good as the other two Zones, even Brightplain. It's going to be OK, Beth. You can sleep now and when you wake up again, everything will be perfect for you." Drea had tears streaming down her face as she watched Beth's eyes stay still and her jaw slacken. "Rest well, sister. You deserve it."

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