Below is my first flash fiction attempt. The feedback from the group indicated that maybe this would be better fleshed out as a longer short story. Your feedback is welcome, too, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
“Bunk 34B! You got visitors!”
Marisol sat up in her bunk. Was she being called to the visitation room? No, not yet. She was 34A. 34B was Zwena, the Ghanian woman whose bunk was on the opposite wall of the dormitory from hers. Zwena’s smile as she hurried off to the visiting room was irrepressible. “You’ll be next!” She called over her shoulder to Marisol as she went.
Everyone in the dorm knew, today was the day Marisol’s babies were coming. Today, finally, she would hold them in her arms. Thinking about hugging her children made Marisol’s arms physically ache, she longed so to hold them close.
To keep her trembling hands busy Marisol reached into the battered metal locker next to her bunk and pulled out the folder in which she kept the letters and artwork her children sent to her. The picture on top was nothing more than a colorful blue and green scribble, but she saw a masterpiece. Little Beto made it. She smiled, imagining his chubby three year old fingers gripping the fat crayons. When they took her he was not quite two. Her baby, her Betito, was growing up without her. Would he even remember her now?
Marisol swept the back of her hand across her eyes to wipe away the tears that were blurring Beto’s lovely picture. The need to hold her baby again was so strong she was almost sick with it. Why weren’t they calling her? When would they call bunk 34A? What if they didn’t come? Had the plan changed? The caseworker was never good about informing her of what was happening. What would she do if they didn’t come? What if . . ? No! She stopped her thoughts from going any further. They would come, they would! They had to. She could go at any time now, so they had to come today. If they didn’t . . .
She knew she mustn’t think of it, but the image of Reina’s tearful departure the night before filled her mind, unbidden. Reina had hoped and prayed that perhaps there would be a delay so she, too, could see her children one last time. Yet at 6:00 p.m. they had called Reina’s name with the others. She was given a mere fifteen minutes to say her goodbyes and collect her few things before they came for her.
Marisol ground her knuckles into her eyes, her resolve caving momentarily as all the fear she usually kept at bay came rushing in. She had been here too long, much too long. The last time they spoke the caseworker made it clear, if they sent her back she would lose her children permanently. Her only consolation was at least the foster family was willing to adopt. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing her babies, but to have her rights terminated and the children lost to foster care, bounced from home to home, maybe separated, would be like a living death. At least these people were kind, nice. They had written her a letter, told her how much they loved Betito, Ariana and Serena. Her babies, her children that would soon be theirs.
“Bunk 34A! You have visitors.” The loud speaker crackled to life, causing Marisol’s heart to leap with bittersweet joy. She wiped away the last traces of her tears on the hem of uniform shirt, put away the cherished folder of mementos and ran to the doorway where an agent was waiting to escort her.
“34A?” The agent glanced at Marisol’s ID bracelet without looking her in the face.
“Yes!” Marisol replied brightly, prepared to smile at the woman should she look up, but the agent merely turned and began walking, her every loose-limbed step conveying her utter indifference to her charges. Marisol wanted to push past the woman, run the rest of the way to the visiting room, but instead she walked docilely down the putty colored corridors behind the agent.
As they neared the visiting room, which was really just the gymnasium, filled up with plastic lawn chairs to accommodate the visitors, Marisol could hear the hum of chatter as eager detainees traded news with the loved ones who had come to see them before they were deported. Marisol quivered in shivery anticipation. Her babies were only steps away now.
Instead of continuing down the hallway to the gymnasium, the agent stopped abruptly. She fished a ring of keys from her pocket and unlocked the door to a smaller room. “Inside.” Was all she said.
Marisol closed her eyes and took a deep breath, holding back tears of anguish through sheer force of will. They had lied to her. There was no visitor. She was being sent somewhere else, she knew it. She would be shipped off to yet another facility in yet another state. All this time, all the work her attorney had done to get her transfered to a detention camp closer to her children, and now she wouldn’t even see them.
Teary eyed, Marisol squared her shoulders, head held high despite the pain of betrayal. They might wish to look through her, to ignore her humanity, but she would make them see her. She would face them with all that remained to her, her dignity. Marisol pushed the door wider and stepped into the room.
There were no agents waiting with shackles and manacles, ready to put her on a plane to who knew where. Instead her shaggy haired young lawyer grinned at her from the other side of the table as he gestured to her to sit.
“Marisol” He said, his grin widening as he took a document from his briefcase and handed it to her. “We won the motion. The judge canceled your deportation this morning, this is a copy of her order. You’re going home to your kids!”