One week after entering the Dispensary I was walking with a guard to my next destination in this God forbidden environment. It was fall time with the sun shinning, warming the air just enough not to notice the cool breeze as it blew the colored leaves around me. The guard at my side was a tall black man with a light hearted laugh and a little bounce in his step. He appeared to be a gentle guard all the girls walking past us called out to him “Yo Tree” and he’d answer with a smile and ask how they were getting on. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could out run him when I was making my rapid exit across the ground and over the nearest fence. As we walked I looked around the grounds at all the cottages all with so many barred windows. The grounds was neat, even the leaves that were falling from the huge Maple trees barely covered the grass.

We walked up the steps to Geneva cottage where a middle aged redheaded white woman met us at the door. Tree greeted her with a smile and she smiled back. After handing her some papers he turned to me saying “now you be good ya hear” Hearing him say these words to me I realized they were the kindest words I had heard in a long time. Tears ran down my face I couldn’t hold them back. The redheaded lady told me her name was Miss A then asked me how old I was. I told her twelve and she said most of the girls on the cottage were eleven to twelve with a few thirteen and I would fit in just fine as long as I followed the rules and not the girls, what did she mean “follow the girls”? I didn’t ask. I followed Miss A up the wide stair case. On the second floor were two halls one longer than the other. There was an office at the top of the stairs with dutch doors, the top half of the door was open and an older black lady was sitting at a desk. Miss A told me she was Miss J. As far as I could see there were a lot of doors up and down both sides of the halls some open and some closed with brown metal stools in front of the closed doors and shoes on top of the stools. Miss J told me my room was on the other hall as I followed her to a storage room where she loaded my arms down with two flat white sheets, a pillow case, white towel, a washcloth, a thick green bar of soap, Listerine toothpaste, toothbrush, and a tall blue tumbler. Shutting the door behind her she lead the way to my room on the other hall. My room was the first door on the right of the hall, another pink room, were all the rooms pink? Miss J told me in a day or two I’d have a schedule for school after I talked with my counselor. She told me meals were in the dining room and I was expected to come down to all of them, lights out at 9:00 PM and up at 7:00AM. Then she told me to make my bed, she’d be back at dinner for me, the door shut and locked.

The room was a little larger than my last room in the Dispensary. This room had a brown metal desk with a shinny top that had several scratch marks on it, no doubt marks made from the past girls that occupied the room. There was the same square brown stool like the ones I’d seen outside the hall in front of the closed doors with a pair of black and white saddle oxfords sitting on each stool, my stool was now outside my door. At this time I had no shoes I was still wearing the scuffs given to me when I arrived at the Dispensary.

The bed had a narrow metal frame with a thin Gray worn mattress, and the pillow matched, a vessel sat on the floor under the bed. As I was making by bed I thought of the last girl that stayed in this room and how lucky she was to be gone. I stood at the window looking out at the grounds crying until I began to hear noises coming from the hall. It was girls coming back from their days activities and it didn’t take them long to see there was a new girl on the cottage. Several girls were outside my door asking who I was and what I was in Geneva for. I was asked again if I was in the honey business, what is the honey business? Miss J told them to get away from the door. I sat silent on my bed repeating to myself I am not going to cry I am not going to cry when my door opened for dinner. The halls were filled with girls walking toward the stairs all chatting and laughing. I froze the first step out of my door. I remembered Miss A telling me “follow the rules not the girls.” Miss J noticing I was standing still told me to go downstairs to the dining room.

Once in the dining room I was told which table and chair to sit at. I sat with three other girls about my age Smokey, Crow, and Molly. I listened to them talk not volunteering any input to the conversation but politely answering their questions only with short answers. I wanted them to like me and not see that I was afraid of them and this place.

That night we had free time in the rec room where Molly came and sat next to me handing me a crochet hook and a small ball of string. Molly, a baby faced little eleven year old came from Peoria where she had ran away from a foster home. She told me she had become a ward of the state at nine when her mother was sent to prison in Dwight. Molly said she didn’t like Geneva, but it was better than her last foster home. I sat in silence listening to Molly talk about her life as if she had rehearsed it in her head over and over waiting for someone to listen to what she had to say. Smokey and another girl sat singing across from Molly and I, the other girl “raking” Smokey’s hair then rubbing “grease” into her scalp. It was time for our services and to go to bed before I knew it. The time had gone by so quickly with Molly’s company.