Spencer spends her morning shower de-breakfasting herself. Aphasia, it turns out, was thorough in her grooming technique, so Spencer’s thankfully egg-free. But, the ten allotted minutes were only enough to scrub her sticky uniform and nothing else. Now, she’s just wet, not actually clean.
As Boomer’s collecting them to return to their cell, Sue comes charging around the corner in large strides. “Banger!” she yells, not slowing down as she nears them.
“It’s ‘Boomer,’ sir,” the guard replies, like she’s said it a hundred times.
“Until you stop calling me ‘sir,’ you can be Bibbity Bobbity Boo, for all I care. What’s the status on 5?”
“Still code black, but we’re on it, sir—Sue. Ma’am. Sylvester. Sir.”
Sue does not look pleased. She leans down until she’s right in Boomer’s face, awkwardly so, and speaks with an even calmness that gives Spencer a chill. “Move this chum out of my hallway and get your ass down to the galley until you’ve fixed our little problem.” She straightens, glancing quickly down the line of prisoners until she reaches Spencer. Sue casts her a disgusted look, then turns to walk away. “I’ve got the President on the phone, six conjugal visits in the next four days, and enough unfiled paperwork in my office to bury a small child alive.”
Spencer perks up. Not at the sex part (because, ew), but at the potential for office work. She’s overdue for a good, old-fashioned snooping around.
When they return to the cell, Spencer hangs by the door to talk to Boomer. After five minutes of negotiating through the guard’s almost impressive levels of ambivalence and apathy, Spencer manages to convince her to run an idea by Sue—an hour of helping in the office in exchange for a few extra minutes in the shower. It feels like a win-win, not to mention the much-needed change of scenery. An hour later, Boomer comes back with a “whatever” and leads Spencer to a blissful five-minute rinse, saying that Sue will call her in soon. Getting a shower now is a gesture of good faith from the warden, who could smell the breakfast on her from ten feet away.
Three o’clock rolls around, and squeaky-clean Spencer files out for rec time as she’s done for the last four days. She’s finally reaching a point of routine, which is comforting, even though it’s a prison routine. She likes structure and schedules and all that; it helps her stay in control. But today feels different. Today, terror is bubbling violently in her stomach (though, that may be the “orange juice” from earlier), and Spencer has no goddamn clue what is waiting for her up ahead. Somehow, today’s agenda seems even scarier than Knives or Fires or anything else on that list.
She takes small steps (as if stalling will do her any good), and tries to keep her face as blank as possible. Nobody else seems the least bit worried about their rec time. Regina has a stack of library books in her arms at least a foot high. Kat’s bragging loudly about her latest bench press load, which nobody’s buying, and Corky’s soliciting opponents for the billiard room—though, for playing pool or “playing” on the pool table, Spencer doesn’t know. For that matter, she has yet to see either a gym or a pool table in this place.
As the prisoners pass through the main hall, a contingent starts to break off to the left. Mack leads the way yet again as Spencer follows timidly (in no small part because Mack grabbed her by the collar and growled, “If you fuck this up for me, I will kill you.”)
A pair of beautiful inmates just behind them—Flaca and Maritza—are chatting incessantly about beauty tips and DIY prison makeup. They’re practically finishing each other’s sentences in rapid fire, bopping from one topic to the next. Spencer wonder if this is the type of vapid conversation that regularly takes place in a Play-Doh Funhouse. She wouldn’t be surprised.
For all Mack’s bluster about this course, it doesn’t seem to be very popular. Spencer counts only a dozen students, including a few familiar faces like Dark Willow and one of the Sarah Connors, making it the smallest class she’s attended this week. They wait outside until a faint signal sounds—a kind of ringing from inside, like a brass bell—and they enter single-file with Spencer close behind Mack at the end of the line.
Yeah. She is absolutely fucking terrified.
Mack isn’t, and she enters with a spring in her step, breathing, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” over and over.
Spencer finally edges into the Mess Hall, takes one quick glance around, and echoes, “Oh...my god.”
The room has been completely redecorated since lunch. It would be unrecognizable if not for the perpetual smell of dirty dishwater hanging over everything. Hot pink drop cloths cover the four center tables with neon green on the benches. Crêpe paper streamers of every color twist overhead. Baskets of craft supplies line the walkway, filled with glitter and paint and beads and brushes and paste. On an easel in the middle of the room rests a purple chart with twelve names, each boasting several gold star stickers in a row under a checklist. (Spencer notices Mack’s name has been added to the bottom on a blank line and Jenny’s row is crossed out.) A string spans the length of the room like a clothesline, displaying maybe fifteen of what must be fingerpaintings on construction paper. But god only knows what they’re paintings of. One of them has eyes? Maybe?
No one with an IQ over sixty made those. And is that “Pop Goes the Weasel” playing in the background? ...On a cassette player?!
Spencer seems to have left prison behind and entered the world of kindergarten.
Kindergarten in Hell.
It’s even worse than she thought.
Two rows of six place settings rest on the tables—replete with small tubs of neon Play-Doh—and Mack pushes through the other inmates to get a seat on the end of the front row.
Spencer lingers in the back and watches out of morbid curiosity. A blonde woman she assumes is Lucy stands with her back turned as she makes final adjustments to the spread of supplies on the front table. She’s dressed not in the standard black uniform but a bright pink one. Definitely the same girl Spencer saw in the cafeteria.
She sighs and resigns herself to an hour of arts and crafts, of all things, and walks up to nudge Mack over and sit next to her. Spencer figures since she doesn’t have a place setting to herself and she’s not technically a member of the class, she might as well sit with someone she knows. Even someone as embarrassing as Mack; she’s grinning like an idiot and literally bouncing in her seat, as is the happy Maybelline couple on the far end of their bench. Spencer notices the rest of the class behaving similarly, and looks around to see if there’s an espresso machine somewhere she missed.
One very long minute later, the instructor turns around with a flourish and smiles at her rapt audience, giving Spencer her first look at the mystery that is Lucy Fabray. Her breath catches in her chest. Smoldering hazel eyes, perfectly sculpted eyebrows, soft lips she recognizes, though they’re usually wrapped around a cigarette filter...
Spencer does a double-take, then leans over to Mack. “That’s Quinn!”
Mack looks at Spencer like she’s denser than concrete. “No...that’s Lucy.”
Spencer blinks hard and squints, but she’s not imagining things. “It’s Quinn! They’re identical.” Well, aside from the longer, less-pink hair and the apparent personality transplant.
Mack slaps Spencer’s pointing hand down before Lucy can see it and whisper-yells, “What are you talking about? No, they’re not!”
“Are you blind?” Spencer says it more loudly than she means to, but she’s not making this up. “It’s her fucking twin.”
Mack hisses, “Don’t say ‘fucking’! Lucy doesn’t like cussing in here. So I’ve heard.”
Spencer stares at Mack in disbelief. Did she wander into some bizarro alternate universe? Or is this what going crazy feels like?
“Good afternoon, friends!” Lucy announces, sweet as punch, before Spencer can say anything else. “Welcome to Lucy’s Play-Doh Funhouse! It’s a beautiful day to make art, don’t you think?”
“No,” Spencer says lowly. “It’s not even daytime. We’re in SPACE.”
Mack jams an elbow into her ribs. “Pay attention, this is important.”
Lucy puts her hands over her heart. “Today we will use the magic of Play-Doh to recreate a childhood pet. We want to celebrate and remember the love and warmth they brought into our lives.”
Spencer’s eyes nearly roll out of her head. Lucy Fabray is the Mr. Rogers of space prison.
“For many of us,” Lucy continues, “a pet is the most true and loyal friend a girl can have.”
Apparently, she’s never owned a vibrator.
But hey, at least Spencer is exempt from today’s assignment. After all, she killed her own pet with a death glare when she was five. She doesn’t imagine a dead guppy would meet any of Lucy’s expectations.
A voice rises from the table right behind them. Spencer recognizes it as Dark Willow’s and wonders what the hell this Creature of the Night is doing here. Hunting, perhaps? She’s probably about to flay Lucy’s skin off with a casual flick of her hand. (Spencer remembers that trick and the defenseless fried chicken on Friday.)
“What if I didn’t have a childhood pet?” Dark Willow asks. She then whispers over her table to Spencer, “I wasn’t allowed to have fish for five years.”
Lucy just smiles. “That’s okay, you can borrow one of mine! I have plenty to share.” She gestures grandly to one of the fingerpaintings, the brown, spiky ball with two glowing red eyes. “Miss Lady Meowsers Scratchington the Third is wonderful inspiration for any artist!”
Spencer thinks it looks like a Tribble on crack, or something out of Pet Sematary, only scarier.
One of the Mary Kay wannabes, Flaca, raises a hand, and Lucy calls on her. “Question?”
“Does it have to be, like…exactly like how he was? Because I had this little chihuahua named Pepper, and he was always tryin’ to get up on the ass of the little poodle next door, because she liked to come into the yard flaunting it right in front of him even though he was chained to his leash, right?”
Next to her, Maritza asks, “Why she gotta be like that?”
Flaca continues, “And one day she got him chasing her in circles, just running around and around, and his chain got wrapped around his leg and it pulled so tight that it almost ripped it right off.”
Maritza gasps with a hand over her mouth.
“It got messed up real bad. Like, there wasn’t enough blood going into it anymore or something and it just hanged there. And then he couldn’t walk right or nothing anymore? It was kinda dragging along behind him. But we couldn’t take him to the vet because we were two weeks late on rent that month and the landlord’s sister was a assistant vet tech at the animal hospital and woulda been like, ‘Hey bitch, why you got money for a stupid dog leg but not for your fuckin’ house?’"
Maritza nods sympathetically, then turns to look at Lucy. “She would totally say that.”
“So, my cousin Marco gave Pepper some tequila—not enough to get him drunk, but just to take the edge off, you know? And then he tied a balloon around right here—” She holds her hands against the top of her thigh at the hip joint. “—and cut off Pepper’s whole leg using this really good knife we got on the Home Shopping Network—”
Martiza cuts in, “I love the Home Shopping Network. I get all my best turquoise earrings there.”
Flaca turns to Maritza, confused. “You don’t wear turquoise earrings.”
“It’s not my color, I just like to have them.”
Flaca nods like that makes all the sense in the world. “We could still use the knife after, too. It was kind of messy but Pepper lived through it.”
Putting her hand on Flaca’s arm, Maritza nods and says, “That’s so good. I never knew Marco could be so kind to animals.”
“Yeah, me neither.” They close their eyes and share a moment together. “I think we were all better after that, you know?”
Spencer’s watching this tale play out, horrified. She glances over at Lucy and sees she’s listening intently and nodding along, equally heartbroken on poor Pepper’s behalf.
“We grow stronger from the love they show us,” Lucy says, “but we also grow from the love we show them.”
“That’s it exactly,” Flaca says. “So, even though Pepper only had three legs when he died, technically in his heart he had four. So, that’s how I’m gonna make him today.”
Maritza puts her hand over her heart, overcome with emotion. “His true self.”
Lucy smiles at them both. “I think he would like that very much. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.” Then, looking up over the whole class, she announces, “You may now begin creating your masterpieces!” Right away there’s a flurry of hands grabbing Play-Doh jars and tops popping open, as everyone dives in. Well, everyone except Spencer.
Not one minute later, Lucy walks over to where she and Mack are sitting. Mack about pisses herself. Lucy locks eyes with Spencer and gives a warm, friendly smile. “Hi there! You must be Spencer. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Spencer is unable to contain her passive-aggressive smarminess. “Likewise.” She can’t imagine what Lucy could’ve heard about her, other than her syrup-flavored breasts, but even that’s not as embarrassing as this class. “Quite the set-up you’ve got here.”
“It’s a very special place,” Lucy agrees. “Well, I hope your first few days here have been going well. Very nice to meet you.”
“You, too!” Spencer’s vapid smile fades the moment Lucy turns away. Being in this environment can’t be good for her health.
For the next twenty minutes, Spencer watches twelve convicted felons make a variety of animal-like creations using colors not found anywhere in nature. At one point, Mack asks her if she wants to try one herself, and Spencer declines with a firm, “No,” and goes back to judging every single thing around her like it’s her job.
Forty minutes in, she’s pretty sure she’s going to die of boredom. And it’s unnerving, watching a girl she’s followed to DIY Tattoos basically devolve into a five-year-old. Spencer wonders why all these supposed hardened criminals are taking such delight in neon modeling clay. Is “funhouse” just code for “nuthouse”? How long have they all been trapped up here? Isn’t there a library full of porn just down the hall? Why the fuck is there Play-Doh in space prison, anyway?
After doing several laps around the cafeteria, Lucy stops in front of their table again. “Great work, Mack!” She claps her hands a few times in polite applause. “Your artistry in creating such a fluffy puppy-dog is outstanding! Just look at those little ears! They’re perfect! I can tell you’re a truly gifted new addition to our wonderful little class.”
Mack beams so brightly she could power the sun, then elbows Spencer in the side just as hard. “Did you hear that?!”
Peering over them to the table behind, Lucy says, “And what a perfect depiction of Lady Meowsers! Whiskers and everything! I couldn’t have done it any better, myself.”
Even the veins on Dark Willow’s forehead are smiling.
Lucy shifts gears, turning to Spencer with a tiny frown. “Is there a reason you haven’t gotten started? Do you need some help?” A pause, then a pointed accusation. “Is Mack sharing?”
Spencer glares, wondering if her fingernail is sharp enough to slit throats. “I’m fine.” She also wonders how in the course of a week she went from a Georgetown acceptance to failing kindergarten.
Mack’s not coming to her rescue. “I asked!” The defensiveness then softens with a smile. “Sharing is caring.”
Lucy smiles back. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Spencer’s going to puke.
The moment Lucy turns her back, Mack grabs Spencer’s arm and bounces in her seat again. But before Spencer can shake her off, a graceful arpeggio sings out from the rainbow-colored chime on the front table, signaling the end of class.
“All right, ladies, it’s time to clean up! Be sure to put the lids tight on your cans! We’d hate for everything to dry out before our next class.”
Spencer hears a murmur as several heads dutifully nod. Play-Doh is serious business.
“If we have class next week,” Lucy continues, “we’ll make chicks and bunnies for Easter!” Most of the room gasps in excitement. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed!”
Spencer leans over to Mack. “Why wouldn’t there be class next week?”
“What’s it to you?” Mack pushes the cap tight on her tub and slams it hard on the table. Without warning, she gets up and heads for the door, clearly trying to distance herself from the class dunce.
Spencer thanks Lucy with the fakest of smiles and chases after Mack. She can’t exit the room fast enough, really. Boomer’s dull, apathetic faces is a sight for sore eyes, and Spencer practically pulls Boomer along at her brisk pace to get back to 10. Who knew she’d be so excited to get into a jail cell?
Quinn’s in her bunk as usual and looks up from her book upon their return. “How was preschool?”
“Ignore her, Spencer,” Mack says, feet perched on the crossbeam of her bunk. “She’s just jealous.”
“Jealous of what?” Spencer asks. “The Crayola Cult? How can you not see how weird that all was?” But she has an even bigger bone to pick with Quinn, who so conveniently left out very fucking important details at breakfast that morning. Nobody keeps Spencer Hastings in the dark. “And you,” she angles up to Quinn, “is Lucy your evil twin or something? Because that was the creepiest part of the whole thing!”
Quinn sighs and doesn’t meet Spencer’s eyes, rolling over to the face the wall without a word.
“You take that back!” Mack shouts. Standing up, Mack gets in Spencer’s face for the eleventh time this week with that same sick, smug look. “You think you’re so damn smart, but you’re the dumbest bitch in this place. You had a chance to work with Lucy Fabray your first week here, and you just sat there like a fucking loser.”
Spencer finally snaps. “WELL, EXCUSE ME IF I’M NOT INTERESTED IN MARY POPPINS’ PLAY-DOH SHITHOUSE.”
For once, Mack doesn’t seem to know what to say. She throws herself onto her bunk with a huff, mumbling obscenities under her breath and mimicking Spencer in a nasty voice. Spencer lies down, too, and hears Quinn quietly laughing up in her bunk.
Thank god there’s someone else who hasn’t been sipping the Kool-Aid, she thinks. Even if her twin is the damn ringleader.
Without warning, Aphasia’s face pops into view from overhead and about scares the shit out of her. “Y’all watched Mary Poppins?”