Short Story 1. Louise Lush's life changing mistake
Updated: Jul 8, 2019
It was nine o’clock in the morning, and Miss Louise Lush was packing her bag for the last time. It was seven am in the prison she had woken up in. “Today,” she had been told “was the start of her new life.”
She showered, and then combed her long blond curly hair. It would be a short journey ahead of her to the Devonport Training Base. But she was going to freedom, fresh air and the first career she had ever had.
Her parole officer had advised her that it would be a good time to reflect on how she had ended up where she was. Louise was inclined to agree with her, as the three years she had spent behind bars, looking out at the same view, had already caused her to realise that she was wasting her life, when there was more to be enjoyed elsewhere.
It was four weeks earlier that she had heard about an amnesty on low level crimes being offered as part of Queen Boudicca’s Jubilee. The news was all over the television. But the prisoners had to wait a little before the details could be ironed out into a proposal. Eventually, the whole prison block had attended a meeting in which the details of the release were spelt out, by an official.
The warden stood there in a long black dress, and presented the details using a series of slides. First she explained the reason for the mass-release, and then got down to the details and conditions.
“The first people to qualify are those who sub-holdings will accept them back, there is an offer of release if you agree to certain conditions,” the Prison Warden announced. “These include good behaviour, some community service and prisoner-victim liaison meetings.”
Louise’s heart sunk because she knew that she was instantly not qualifying, as her sub-holding in the City of Devonport, had disowned her. Even her parents refused to have contact with her these days. This offer meant that she would have to do another three years, as she was only half way through her sentence.
The Warden continued to set out these terms for another ten minutes. At the end of this, Louise was just about to get up mid-meeting and ask to return to her cell, when the warden announced something that gave her some hope.
“And for those of you who do not qualify under those conditions, there is still some good news. Our Queen Boudicca has announced that she wants release for as many as possible, so also extends the offer to those who are estranged from families and sub-holdings, on condition of military service!”
There was a huge gasp within the room, which indicated that the offer appealed to more than just Louise. Louise leant forward in her chair to focus, as the warden laid out the alternative release terms.
“As you will be aware,” he continued, “there is a potential conflict about to start between Celtishia and The Med Alliance. The influence of Egypt grows by the day, and the raids are increasing in frequency. It is believed that the very existence of our way of life is threatened. The offer is for those brave enough to enlist.”
The warden peered over his spectacles at those assembled. “We need to be under no illusions about this. It is an opportunity that carries great risk. But maybe great rewards? If you accept this offer, you will be given release within two weeks to start training. You will receive accommodation, and a salary. There will be sport facilities, and the options to develop. In the past, many have taken this route and never looked back.”
Of course, within the prison meeting room, this was generally viewed rather cynically as an attempt by the government to save money, and gain extra soldiers. But Louise was thinking along different lines.
The warden continued. “If you are interested in this option, there will be a meeting immediately afterwards with a Captain Sophie-Smith, who herself I believe benefitted from this training.” And it was at this point, a young woman with black hair appeared on the stage, and was instantly recognised by Louise from earlier in her life, when they had lived in the same base and been friends.
It had all started eight years previously. Louise remember the time they first met. She had been arrested for stealing again. The magistrate had sent her to see a supervisory counsellor, whose job it was to provide training activities to help his clients improve. She was waiting outside in a chair, when Freida walked in.
Freida had just arrived in Devonport from the Central Hub. Her parents had been given a small sub-holding of their own, and she was seen as their troubled 18 year old daughter. She had been put on probation by Boudicca herself, and was meant to be reporting to the same supervising officer.
But the officer in question was running late, and this gave the two of them a chance to talk. Louise discovered that Freida had come originally from Palestine, and could speak more than one language. But she was badly educated, and had missed several years of school for reasons that were never disclosed, and everybody could see that she was putting on some weight.
“Can I show you around, because I am fed up with waiting here?” asked Louise. “I know he will be at least another half hour.”
Freida looked her up and down and sneered in disbelief. “And what exactly would a tween-ager have to show me that would be of interest?”
“Well, I could show you where the bar gets its booze left, when they are not there?”
Freida’s eyes lit up with interest at the mention of alcohol. “Go on then, where is it?”
“Come on, I’ll show you,” said Louise as she ushered her new older mate out the door.
One and a half hours later, they were sitting by a lake, under the influence of alcohol. Both girls had missed their appointment and neither cared. They had stolen two large bottles of expensive beer.
“To not getting caught,” toasted Freida.
“Indeed,” Louise toasted back, as the conversation opened up.
“Have you always lived in the base?” Freida asked her.
“Yes. My mother is a seamstress on the military uniforms.”
“So what are you in trouble for?”
“Got caught,” Louise replied, trying to impress.
“No I would never have guessed,” said Freida sarcastically.
“Well,” Louise paused, “I was actually caught stealing the Chief Officer’s cane! The one that is used for ceremonies. It was a dare from somebody else.”
“So why did you do it?”
“For a boy. Paul Smyth.”
“Oh?” said Freida, who clearly understood this.
“I wanted to impress him. I was told this would get me noticed. It did that I guess?”
“Who told you that?” asked Freida getting concerned for the younger girl.
“The sister did, so she asked her brother to give me a dare. She said it would get a laugh.”
“So you did this ridiculous dare for a laugh?”
“Yes. It was meant to be a laugh,” said Louise, before explaining further. “And because the older girls were teasing me for being from a poorer family.”
She went on to explain that her mother raised her alone, by working on the uniforms. The officers on the base had generally treated them badly, and chose to belittle them at every opportunity. The children has chosen to copy their parents.
“I get teased too,” admitted Freida, “for being an Israeli, and putting on weight.” Louise looked at her in a knowing way.
Freida looked at Louise and asked. “So who is teasing you anyway?”
“That Paula Smyth. I thought that doing her brother’s dare would make him like me, but she set me up to get caught. And then she just laughed at me.”
Freida looked annoyed at this. “I’ll talk to her for you.”
“Really. Will you?”
“Yes, I’ll do it tonight,” said Freida with an expression of determination, “because you are my mate now.”
Louise remembered the following day, when Paula arrived for class. Her green nose was mysteriously broken, and had a huge bandage covering it. For once everybody laughed at her, and she was noticeably a lot nicer to Louise. Over the next few weeks, her family also eased up, as if pressure had somehow come from above.
And things got better for Louise for a period of about two years. It was towards the end of this time, that she actually started dating Paul Smyth, despite the sister trying to stop it. Over time the relationship got serious, and they started to spend a few nights together, without their parents knowledge.
Louise’s friendship with Frieda grew, and they were often suspected of keeping each other’s secrets. And when eventually, Freida was sent into military service, they still kept in touch.
Then one day she started to feel extremely ill. Initially she started feeling tired and sluggish, before being sick that same morning. Then she started to notice that she was developing red veins on the green skin of her breast, which freaked her out, causing her to be sick again. She was sick every morning that week, before she realised she was pregnant.
She contacted Freida by Tech-Tab and asked for her help. They talked all night, and Freida advised her to speak to her boyfriend.
The conversation with Paul was slow and awkward, as she told him her situation. She had expected him to help but instead he shouted at her, and called her “stupid for allowing it to happen to her.” Eventually Paul stopped raging and said that he would “sort it,” but looked worried as he left.
He obviously spoke to his family that night, because His sister, Paula Smyth, started to put pressure on her to have a back-street abortion. She said it would ruin the reputation of their family, and that “their relationship was never going to last anyway.” Although they spoke by Tech-Tab, Louise wished that her friend Freida was still around to help her in person.
Eventually the pressure got too much. And this resulted in a miscarriage. It was the worst pain, and disappointment of her life. Freida could only do so much for her, and her mother didn’t find out. So she continued to see Paul, and sleep with him.
Then one day, she was to have a further shock.She was just getting up to leave his flat at eight o’clock in the morning, when another girl walked in. She was several years older and clearly from a richer family. Louise had no idea who she was, as they had never met before.
“Who are you?” she asked Louise, in a way that looked down on her.
“I’m his girlfriend,” said Louise embarrassed at having been caught in a man’s room.
“Oh No. You are most certainly not,” the girl replied, showing her an engagement ring. “I am his fiancé, and we are engaged.”
Paul looked at his fiancé and offered an explanation.
“This is ‘only Louise,’ she is my mistress.”
This was devastating to Louise, who had convinced herself that Paul loved her.
“Well get her out of here,” the girl yelled. “I don’t want her in my house, now that I am moving in!”
And Louise was pushed towards the door, by the boy she had dated for two years.
She was humiliated and angry, and tried to defend herself.
“Do you think I am just going to let you take my boyfriend?” she yelled. “Who do you think you are?”
“I am Suzanne, the daughter of the Chief Officer, and our future marriage is arranged.” And with that she punched Louise in anger, and Louise fell to the ground, hitting her head against a wall as she fell.
Her head was dripping with blood, and her vision was obscured. All she could see was Suzanne kicking her from above, and a fire extinguisher from the corner of her eye.
Suzanne relentlessly continued the attack, calling Louise a “money grabbing slut” and worse. Then, as another kick hit her in the left arm, she fell against the fire extinguisher, which fell from the wall, landing on her leg.
“Now look at what you’ve done you useless piece of vermin,” the girl yelled.
“Just go,” yelled Paul at Louise, who was still on the floor confused. “It’s over. My parents don’t approve of us. They never did!”
It was then that Suzanne tried to go for a final kick at Louise. Only this time she saw it coming. In desperation, she held up the extinguisher to protect herself, and managed to block the clumsy attack. Suzanne’s foot was broken on contact, and she started to hobble about in pain.
Louise could not fully explain what happened next, at the trial. Or why she did what she did? But she seized her opportunity. She grabbed the extinguisher. Then she hit Suzanne from behind and accidentally killed her with one blow. As she lay on the floor, Paul called for help, and Louise fled the room.
She was arrested that night for the crime of manslaughter.
The news of what had happened spread very quickly around the base, and in the Sub Holdings nearby. The scandal was horrific. The mother got banished from the City of Devonport, and chose to disown her daughter and start a new life elsewhere. She refused even to attend the trial.
Instead it was left to Freida and her mother, in their capacity as friends to stand by her. But it was all to no avail. The prosecution was partly funded by the dead girl’s angry parents. Louise’s defence was arranged by the state, and lacked ambition.
And so, with the evidence stacked against her, she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of killing in self-defence to get a lesser sentence. But to make matter worse, the judge that day decided to make an example of her. She got six years and was sent to Devonport Jail.
Now she was three years into the sentence, but she had at least used her time well. She had done a higher education course on the use of herbs, and could distinguish between a variety of plants.
She had also attended the military cadets in the prison. This had made her fitter, and stronger. She had found some kind of purpose despite her incarceration. So now she decided to attend the meeting.
She crept in quietly, hoping to keep a low profile, and an open mind. But naturally Freida spotted her as she entered, and signalled to the warden that she would want to speak with her afterwards. The warden passed on the request, and she agreed to wait behind.
The meeting lasted about twenty minutes. Then some of the prisoners stayed behind to ask questions. Two girls in particular spent a long time discussing things with Freida, and they seemed to be getting answers they mostly liked. She was later to learn that one of the girls was called Charlotte. She was also informed that Charlotte had recently and unofficially married in some kind of Prisoner Marriage Ceremony.
When they finally caught up with each other, the conversation with Freida was short and to the point.
“It is good to see you again, Louise. How are you?”
“Okay, I guess,” she replied, realising that this was the first time they had spoken since the trial.
“I cried at how badly things went that day. How are you coping?”
“Getting through it, as best as I can.”
“And you have three years left? Is that right?” Freida asked knowingly.
“Good,” said Freida, “because I have been instructed by Boudicca herself, that it you were here tonight, I could make you an offer. I have been kept up to date with your progress, and I have often discussed your case with her, to try and help. I don’t forget my friends see?”
Louise was moved by what she had heard, for she assumed that Freida had forgotten her and moved on. “Thank you,” she replied.
And Freida smiled before saying her piece. “You see the thing is.. I need a new unit for my company. I may already have three. Would you like to join us?”
Louise was uncertain. “Will I be welcome? Will I be treated fairly by other soldiers? They have not been kind in the past?”
“Well I am Captain Sophie Smith now. My mentor is Queen Boudicca herself! Nobody would dare mistreat you in the service again,” Freida replied reassuringly.
Louise silently thought and weighed up her options. She just had one more concern. “Freida, I am not fully trained. How can I join your team?”
“Well,” said Freida, “the great thing about war, is that we are encouraged to do things differently.” She paused to explain. “There is a probably a specific member of the team who will need a specialised training course. So will that Charlotte girl, who spoke to me five minutes ago, and has signed up. I can place you on the same course. Now, do you want to come?”
“Yes,” she said without a second’s regret. “When can I start?”
“You have one more night here, but in the morning you report to this room with Charlotte. Eight am sharp. An officer will meet you both, and take you to the Devonport Training Base.”
Louise nodded, and Freida gave her a quick hug.
“Thank you Freida.”
“You’re welcome,” Freida replied, before stepping back, and giving Louise her first order. “But from now on you must call me Captain!”