Sarah Hayden thought she deserved her life. In prison. After all, she was a killer. A monster. A cold-blooded abomination to human kind.
At one point in time, she had been happy being a mother and a wife. She liked to write short stories and read books. She loved her son with all her heart.
But then, everything changed.
Jonathan Wellington was shocked at the woman he had been hired to represent. He did all he could to persuade her to beg the court's mercy, but Sarah would have none of it. She honestly believed that she deserved her fate.
In cohorts with her family, Jon has to convince Sarah that life is worth living again, that all is not lost. But can he do it? Or will the woman that once was so vibrant and happy be gone forever? And would Jon ever be able to get her out of his heart?
Sarah studied her eight by ten cell. It looked exactly the same as it had everyday for the past two years. Plain, grey walls, a plain, grey bunk covered with a rough, plain grey cover, and a so-called pillow. Literally calling it a pillow would be a lie. It was nothing more than a slip with some lumpy, bunched up fabric sewn into it. There was a stainless steel sink and a stainless steel toilet. No seat on the aforementioned toilet, though. Other than the sheet Sarah kept draped from the ceiling in an attempt to provide some privacy in her makeshift bathroom, there were no decorations of any kind. After two years, Sarah still had not collected any personal clutter. She had no TV, no cards, no games. The only possessions she had were her books and journals, and those were stored neatly under her bunk. Her prize possession, a four by six photo, was tucked neatly into one of those journals.
Sarah had her long brown hair tied back with a rubber band, as always. She wore no makeup, not that she had any. Not that she cared for it anyway. There was no one Sarah felt the need to impress, not even the parole board. Sarah remembered the last time she had stood in front of the infamous panel of character judges. They asked her all kinds of questions. Do you know what you did? Yes. Do you know why it was wrong? Yes. If you were given the chance, would you have done things differently? Ah, good question. Sarah had told them yes. When they asked Sarah to elaborate, well… they weren’t pleased with her answer. And so she remained, locked in an eight by ten cell, cut off from the world.
Right where she belonged.
Her attorney had been furious with her. “Why couldn’t you just lie? Tell them you feel remorse?” he had shouted at her after the denial.
“Lying was never my strong point,” she replied emotionlessly.
“But no one would blame you,” he said, “You could be free! No one thinks you’re guilty. All you have to do is answer the damned questions right! Do you want to stay in prison?”
“I killed a man, with my own hands,” she said flatly. “I broke the law. I committed premeditated murder. In cold blood. I willingly accept the consequences of my actions.”
“I don’t think I will ever understand you,” he huffed, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation.
“There is nothing for me out there anymore,” she whispered. Her eyes were trained on a stain on the cement floor. “Everything I had is lost.”
But being locked up was boring, Sarah had decided. She was running out of books to read, even though she had full access to the library. The guards were kind to her, as were the other prisoners. Many had tried to befriend her, but friendship wasn’t something Sarah wanted. She wanted to be left alone. And alone was getting harder and harder to achieve. Many of the women on her wing of the prison thought of Sarah as a hero; someone who did what so many wished they could have had the guts to do themselves.
But Sarah did not kill that man for anyone else. She never wanted to be a hero, she never wanted the attention that she got. All she wanted to do was read her books and write her stories. Short stories had been a favorite pastime for Sarah before it happened, but now, her journals were filled with her own life story.
Her attorney, Jonathan P. Wellington, had given her the first journal right after she was moved from the county jail to the women’s prison in Tulsa. That and an armload of books to read. He suggested that she put her talents to work writing a non-fiction book about her experience. He said it would help her deal with her grief and anger. Sarah didn’t know about all that, but it did certainly help pass the time.
She sat on her bunk and opened the first journal, there, on the first page, she had written about what was supposed to have been the happiest day of her life.
Justified, a true story, written by Sarah Jane Hayden
The wedding ceremony took place on a warm, sunny day in August. The flowers were in bloom, filling the air with the sweet, fragrant aroma that only roses and tulips can. It was a small event, only the nearest and dearest family and friends were in attendance. Even though they were standing in a crowded back yard, Sarah felt an overwhelming surge of joy that no church or large banquet hall could have provided. It was intimate. It was perfect, and she was happy.
The sun was shining brightly down on the gathering, and people had to wipe the sweat from their brows. But no one seemed to mind. Sarah certainly didn’t. She was marrying the man she loved. The man who took her for what she was, the man who accepted her two year old son, Jamie, as his own. Yes, it would seem that William Hayden was the perfect man. Not only was he accepting and kind to her, but he was easy on the eyes as well. Dark hair that was cut short at his nape, brown eyes that were the color of milk chocolate, and a smile that could stop traffic.
Sarah sighed to herself when she saw him standing with his father and the Justice of the Peace. She needed no encouragement to grasp her father’s hand and walk the short distance to meet her soon to be husband.
They exchanged their vows and kissed under the glare of the August sun. Applause and congratulations met them both as their friends and family hugged them and wished the best for the new couple. William took her hand in his own, and led her to the car. With a wave to their family, they were off for pictures, then a small reception at a local park. In the car, Sarah heard the low rumble of thunder in the distance.
Bang, bang, bang! The pounding on her cell door interrupted Sarah’s reading. She glanced at her clock and realized it was time for dinner. In two minutes, her cell door would open and she would be allowed to eat in the cafeteria with the other low-risk women. Sarah shoved her journal under her bunk and quickly put on her sandals.
She glared at the pitiful excuse for shoes on her feet. They were too big, too ugly, and too uncomfortable. But Sarah took comfort in knowing that everyone else had to were the same monstrosities as well. Heaven forbid anyone get their hands on a pair of shoes with laces. It would be a tragedy if someone was to use the laces for anything other than shoes. Like strangling someone. Or themselves. Not that Sarah had thought about it. Much. She felt the same way for the pea green jumpsuit she wore. Ick. But this was the life she chose when she committed her crime. There was no going back. She couldn’t change the past, nor did she want to. The price was worth it. And she would do it again, if she could have.
Sarah kissed the picture of her son and quickly left her cell when the heavy door opened. She was hungry and wanted to get to the cafeteria as soon as possible. The sooner she got there, the sooner she could leave.
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