“Don’t get to comfortable. Girls and boys are gonna be separated soon.” William, the newest patrol agent mumbled to Ana and Jason as he shut the door. Ana reached up and held the little heart shaped charm attached to her rusting necklace. It was the last thing her father gave her before his death, and her mother made her swear to keep it on.
“As long as you have your necklace” her mother had said, “nothing can separate us”. When Ana, Jason, and their mother got to the border, they were immediately pulled aside into a little room with off white walls and no windows.
“Mama-” Jason whispered, looking up into his mother’s eyes with a fear stricken look on his face.
“There’s no time to worry sweet boy. They just want us to ask us some questions” his mother said before he could express his worry. What seemed like milliseconds after she finished speaking, the door flew open and two men stood in the doorway, one of them with a look of guilt in his eyes.
“Kids” one of them said “with us. Now”. Ana and Jason stood up, but their legs were shaking and their hands were sweating. Their mother started to tear up as she silently hugged her children, not knowing when she would see them again. Ana and Jason were then taken onto a bus and driven about 5 miles down a bumpy gravel road to the children’s detention center they were at now.
They sat down on a cold metal bench, the only place to sit in the cramped room they were confined to as they waited for the new patrol agent to come back. No words were exchanged between them and the other siblings. Jason looked up and made quick eye contact with the other boy in the room, but they both looked away as fast as they looked up, their gazes quickly returning to their hands clasped in their laps. All of the children’s heads turned when they heard the sound of keys jingling in the door handle. William stood in the doorway and told the girls to come with him.
Jason watched his sister walk out of the room, her hands shaking, her feet heavy. He looked up to see the other boy in the room watching his sister leave too. He wondered how long they’d been at the detention center, but couldn’t find the strength to ask. The door shut and the keys jingled once again to lock it.
As Ana walked out of the room, she looked up at the tall ceilings, diverting her focus from the amount of people around her. The sound of a toddler crying pierced her ears as a draft of air from the rotating fan hit her face like cold water. Not far from where she was with Jason, she was pushed into another room, but this one had metal bars as walls. William said it was her sleeping quarters. She didn’t see any beds, just blue mats that looked like they were coated with plastic, and silver blankets that looked like giant pieces of tin foil.
It had only been about twenty minutes without his sister when William came back to get Jason and the other boy.
“Up. It’s almost 8. I’m taking you to your sleeping quarters.” He said, in a rush. Jason wondered where the other guard went, the one who looked like he wanted to help them.
Dear Jason, There is a small grate in the floor next to my blue mat and maybe what’s underneath will lead us back together. I am by the big blue metal thing on the wall. It looks like a phone booth, but I’m not sure. I want to get to mom. They don’t stand by the doors at night, the only officers are in the office. We could run tomorrow night. Maybe we can see each other tomorrow when it’s time to eat. I miss you.
She slipped the letter through the grate in the floor, turned back over in her bed and held her heart shaped charm.
Jason awoke to the sound of dishes crashing together. He rolled over to see that biscuits were being set out onto metal plates along with slices of ham. William came and opened up the chain linked gate to the sleeping quarters. He had a white paper in his hands.
“Breakfast. You have fifteen minutes. Don’t be too chatty.” ordered William as he ripped up the paper he held in his hands.
Ana was clutching the metal plate she was given as she looked for her brother. Across the room she saw him coming towards her.
“Jason he took my letter!” exclaimed Ana as if Jason knew what she was talking about.
“What are you talking about?”
“I had found a pencil and paper, I wrote to you but he took it.”
“Who? What did it say?” asked Jason, trying to understand.
“William took it. The guard. I wrote that I wanted to escape tonight, we could find mom.”
“Where would we go?”
“We would run. We just have to run.”
A loud bell rung as the officers told the children to put their dishes away and return to their sleeping quarters. They then announced there would be 3 more breaks during the day, each twenty minutes long.
During the breaks, Ana and Jason planned their escape. Jason would get the key to unlock his and Ana’s sleeping quarters gates from Williams keychain. Once the officers in the office shut off their light, they would sneak to the back doors, unlock them, run, and hope.
As the skies darkened, the overhanging fluorescent lights brightened. Jason started to settle into bed before William came to do the final check. He positioned himself towards the openings between the bars in hopes to catch an opportunity to get William’s keys.
Just like clockwork, William came by to make sure all of the children were asleep. He leaned against the bars looking over at Jason and the other boys. As he was leaning over the bars, Jason quickly reached up his hand and unhooked the silver carabiner holding William’s keys, sliding off the master key.
Ana’s eyes had not left the office. She laid awake waiting for the light to turn off. As she heard the click of the light switch, she rolled out of bed. She grabbed her things, ready to wait for Jason. She saw him weaving through the sleeping children, clutching the little silver key in his hand. As soon as Jason finished unlocking her gate, they heard a rustle from the office. The light flickered on as William’s silhouette became clearer. Ana reached up for her heart charm, looked at Jason, and started to run.