Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

The Prisoner



Hey, you, out there; you think you know everything, but you are misinformed.


Just because you watch re-runs of Prisoners, or the dubbed version of Santa Monika, you don’t even begin to know what life is like behind bars.


Oh yes, the dramas about favouritism, butches and Nellies, and physical and psychological violence do exist. The script-writers have to provide colourful back-stories to explain why the motley assembly of actresses portray us inmates. But when the cameras stop rolling, your pin-up girls go home to their hot cocoa and more.


Nobody tells us to take five; if we act up, they just remind us that solitary is only a warden’s whim away. To the blazes with human rights; we signed them away when we broke the law.


Only one more day to go.


Six months ago, we’d got a new librarian. Right place, wrong time? Or was it wrong place, right time? She seemed to be harbouring a secret.


I was like that, once. A quarter of a century ago. Except that then, I had been pregnant. The father of my child told me that he had only seduced me because his pals had dared him to do so. He said that I flattered myself to think that he would really fall for Miss Goody Two-Shoes (oh, how that jibe hurt!).


There was no one else, he said; it was just that he did not want to be bogged down with a partner and child. In those days, you did what your parents told you to do. Dad made me go to Gozo to an aunt’s house. My child was, as they told me, stillborn.


I wanted to prove myself. I went to University and got a first class degree, a Master’s and then a doctorate while still working, hell-bent on erasing my sorry past. All along, I wrote as if my life depended upon it – perhaps it did.  My pot-boilers, under a different name, kept me in clover. People would be shocked to know that the same person who wrote textbooks and treatises also authored hardcore erotica.


On his deathbed, my father confessed. My child had not died; she was given up for adoption to a couple who would have gone their separate ways had it not been for his intervention. An Elestoplast child, go figure. He said I ought to count myself lucky that my child was, as he crassly put it, sold into a better life than I could ever give her. That is when I lost it. The judge said he could not understand why I was such an ingrate; after all, my father had acted to the best of his ability. He had saved me from the stigma of single parenthood, and my child from the shame of having “unknown father” on her birth certificate.  I had to be restrained. My sentence was harsher because I had shown contempt of court.


I kept writing throughout my stretch. The academia was easy to get past the guards. Anything else required a battle plan.


Our new librarian had probably been warned about me; I noticed she gave me several wary sidelong glances as she pushed the tray with books along the common room floor. So I gained her trust little by little; and discovered she was familiar with my educational works and boy, was she impressed! I did not mention my pen name, lest I scare her off.


We became friends; and I know she’s going to miss me when I leave, tomorrow. Her eyes are aquamarine with golden flecks. Just like her father’s.


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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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