Graceful Waters


B L Miller


Verda Foster


The booming voice of the bailiff cut through the din of the courtroom. “All rise, Family Court of Iroquois County is now in session. Honorable Judge Grimm presiding.” Grace stood next to the public defender, her hair a rainbow of pink, green, white, and blue with blonde roots. “Be seated.” The bailiff sat after the judge took the bench.

“Miss Waters,” Judge Grimm said, looking squarely at Grace. “This is not the first time you’ve appeared before me, but this will be the last. You have no regard for the rights of others, and no amount of community service or probation is going to change that.” Grace rolled her eyes. “I know you think this is all some kind of fun little game, but your playtime is over, young woman,” he said, his voice rising with anger. “You assaulted a teacher and that kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. I agree with the school board’s recommendation that you not be allowed to return to Iroquois High School. Since the district attorney has decided not to charge you as an adult, the question before this court then becomes what to do with you.”

“Who cares,” Grace said, then rolled her eyes at the reproachful look from her court-appointed lawyer.

“Indeed, Miss Waters,” the judge said. “It’s clear you don’t. It is also clear to this court that your mother is unable to maintain any type of control over you, and releasing you to her custody again will only result in allowing you the opportunity to add to your already lengthy record. Therefore, the sentencing will be as follows; the minor Graceful Lake Waters is remanded to the custody of the state until the age of eighteen, which I understand to be in six months.”

“Big fucking deal,” Grace said, ignoring the stifled cries of her mother sitting in the row behind the defense table.

Judge Grimm’s face turned beet-red. “That’s enough from you. I was going to send you to Crestwood, but after listening to you, I think something more than a minimum-security youth facility is in order. I’m sending you and that smart mouth of yours to Sapling Hill.”

“You had to open your mouth,” her lawyer whispered.

“Big deal,” Grace said, flipping her middle finger at the judge before the handcuffs were put on her by the bailiff. “Boot camp for girls. Who cares?”

“Oh Grace,” her mother said as the bailiff passed her to the correction’s officer for the youth facility.


The parking lot was full of upset parents waiting for the corrections officers to take their teenage daughters away to the Sapling Hill Youth Facility for Girls, better known as the Girl's Boot Camp. Grace had spent the two weeks since sentencing at Crestwood, unable to see her mother. Now she had only a few minutes before she would be put on the bus and sent north to what other teens had described as "hell with lots of trees." To her annoyance, Edna Waters spent those minutes crying at the sight of her daughter in an orange jumpsuit and shackles.

"That's right, make a scene," Grace said, rolling her eyes as her mother pulled out another tissue.

"I'm supposed to be happy that my only daughter has been incarcerated?" her mother said, dabbing at the tears that spilled out of her eyes.

"It's six months, Ma. I can do that standing on my head." Grace turned her head to let the wind blow the pink bangs out of her eyes. "Look at it this way, you're always complaining you don't know where I am or what I'm doing. Now you'll know."

"Shackles," her mother said, referring to the restraints keeping Grace's wrists pinned to her sides. "If your grandfather had lived to see this."

"Yeah, yeah, I know I'm a huge disappointment and a disgrace to the family," the teen said, drawing a look from a nearby guard.

"If you would just realize how much better things could be," her mother said. "If you would just get some direction in your life."

"I've got direction." Grace turned back to her mother, her fists clenched. "I don't need you or anyone else telling me how to act and what to do. I can handle everything just fine by myself."

The corrections officer grabbed her arm. "I think you'll sit up front with me," he said. "Mrs. Waters, did your lawyer explain the visitation to you?"

Grace's mother nodded and pulled out another tissue. "He said maybe after the first two months."

"They'll send you a letter to let you know," he said. "Let's go, you smart-mouth punk."

"What's the matter? Can't get any unless you chain them up?" Grace taunted as he pulled her in the direction of the bus. "Then again, maybe you ain't got one to get up in the first place."

"Oh yeah, that big mouth of yours will be real welcome at Sapling Hill," he said, jerking her to stop in front of the bus where another officer stood with a clipboard in hand. "This is Grace Waters," he said. "She's going up front."

Grace was furious by the time the bus pulled through the high gates of Sapling Hill. A well-aimed glob of spit had earned her a gag that brought laughter and comments from the other teens. Now the bus had stopped and everyone was off except her. The guard who put her on the bus, and whom she had spit upon, was now talking to a tall woman with short black hair and wearing military fatigues. The woman nodded several times, then stepped onto the bus.

"Well, Waters, it seems you're going to be this group's hard case." The imposing woman stood in front of Grace and towered over her. "You listen up and you listen close, little girl. Playtime is over!" she shouted into Grace's ear, startling her as the shackles that held her to the seat were removed. "Now you get your ass off this bus and line up. Move it!" Grace ran off the bus, the screaming woman right on her heels. "Move move move!" When the teen reached the end of the line, she turned and stood facing the bus.

"All right, ladies," the tall woman said. "Welcome to Sapling Hill Rehabilitation Facility. I am Instructor Carey. You will refer to me as Instructor Carey or ma'am." Carey paced back and forth in front of the three dozen girls. "Nothing else will be tolerated. Do I make myself clear?" She was met with a chorus of "Yes, ma'ams" and "Yes, Instructor Carey," except for Grace, whose mouth was still gagged. Carey walked down the line until she stood in front of Grace. "This is Waters," she said in a loud, clear voice. "Waters didn't know enough to keep her mouth shut. As you can see, she was punished." Reaching around Grace's head, Carey untied the knot and removed the gag. "This is Sapling Hill. You have a chance here to turn your life around. The other instructors and I are here to help you. If you accept that help, you will leave here a different person. If you don't," she stared directly at Grace, "this will be the saddest five months you've ever had."

"This is bogus," Grace said to the girl standing at the next cot.

"Word up," the girl said. "I'm Latisha Jones." She held out her hand.

"Grace Waters." She reached out, shaking the hand in dark contrast to her own. "What'd you do to get here?"

"Set fire to the school library," Latisha said. "You?"

"Threw a chair at a teacher," Grace said. "He had it coming, though."

"You get five months?"

"Six," Grace said. "After I get out of here I have to serve another month, probably at Crestwood."

"I'm done after here," Latisha said. "Girl, that's one funky 'do."

Grace ran her fingers through her multicolored hair. "Works for me. Better than dreadlocks," she said, referring to the style Latisha was wearing.


They turned to see the imposing Instructor Carey approach. "This is not macramé class and your head isn't a planter. Get those beads out of your hair now. Waters, let's go."

Rolling her eyes, Grace put her hand on her hip. "Where?"

"Drop and give me ten pushups, now!" Carey yelled, causing Latisha to jump back and the other girls in the barracks to stop what they were doing to see what the commotion was about. Grace lowered herself to the floor, though not as fast as she knew the streaming woman would have liked. "When I tell you to do something, you say, yes, ma'am or yes, Instructor Carey!" she hollered. "Four, five, six, keep going. Seven, eight, nine, ten. Stand up."

Grace felt the anger rise in her along with the embarrassment of being reprimanded in front of the other girls, but knew enough to stay quiet this time. Clearly Instructor Carey was not someone to mess with.

"Now let's go."

Grace remained quiet as Instructor Carey led her to the administration building, not wanting to draw any more pushups. "We're going to do something about that hair of yours," Carey said as she unlocked the door labeled "Barber."

"No way," Grace said. "You're not fucking touching my hair."

Carey was immediately at her right side. "Did I ask you a question?" she yelled into Grace's ear. "Drop and give me ten! You don't get to make the decisions around here, do you understand? Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am," Grace said as she pushed up with her arms.

"What do you think people think when they see that rainbow on your head? They see a freak, not someone to take seriously. Is that what you want people to think of you?"

"No, ma'am."

"I don't care what trash your parents let you get away with, you don't swear at the instructors here. Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am." Bitch.