The corridor was barren and bleak,
whitewashed brick walls interpersed with grilled doors. At every opening
stood a guard, each alert to the slightest sign of trouble, and around her,
women in identically shabby uniforms shuffled along between officers, making
the ritual trip between the cells and the visiting room.
"Mind you watch yourself, Monahue."
The guard at her left hissed in her ear as they reached the front of the pack. "You're up for review in a week. Don't blow it now."
Sadie didn't answer, merely turning clouded blue eyes away from her keeper and into the big sparse room that served for visiting hours. At a corner table, a familar figure sat, and she bit her lip.
"Well, get on with you." The guard gave her an un-ceremonious shove towards the tables. "You're holding up everyone, girl. I warned you - no trouble."
Sadie muttered a curse under her breath, but obediently began to pick her way between the people towards where her visitor sat. Row upon row of steel tables, bolted firmly to the floor marked her way as she did her best to focus on where she was going. Her hip caught on one of the blunt table edges and she swore again, getting a grip on her shaky composure.
Finally, she reached the far wall, dropping down in the chair in front of her sister.
It was more a challenge than a greeting, and Alyssa's expression became troubled as she heard the defensiveness in her companion's voice.
"Well." She echoed, then paused. She sighed.
"Sadie, you look terrible." She murmured.
"What the hell did you expect me to look like?" Sadie demanded, but there was little real fight in her tone. "I'm doing stir, Aly. I'm not auditioning to be a catwalk model."
She coughed. "Why are you here, anyway? Don't you have much better people to spend time with?"
"Sadie, I came to see you." Alyssa said softly. "Why else? I wanted to speak to my sister."
"Well, as it stands I don't have an awful lot of choice in what you do." Sadie said bluntly. "So whatever it is, spit it out. My head's aching and I really don't want another lecture."
"I didn't come to lecture you." Alyssa shook her head. "I just wanted to talk."
I know it would break Mum's heart, if she could see you right now." She added. "She was so proud of you - she had so many hopes for the things you might do with your life."
"Shut up." Sadie's hands flew to her ears, anger sparking in her dark blue eyes. "Shut up, Aly. We don't talk about Mum. She ain't here so it's not like she can give a damn what any of us are doing. You know that. If she cared so damn much, she shouldn't have got herself shot. So don't try the emotional blackmail crap on me, all right? I don't want to hear it."
"I know your case is up for review at the end of the week." Alyssa continued mildly, ignoring her sister's outburst. "What have they said?"
"The usual things." Slowly Sadie dropped her hands from her ears, eying the older woman warily. "Why?"
"The usual things?"
"Yes. I don't know why it bothers you." Sadie shrugged. "It's not like I'm going to get good behaviour or anything."
"Far as I understood it, you haven't done anything so very bad since you've been here." Alyssa looked confused. "Why wouldn't they give you a chance?"
"Because they don't give people like me chances." Sadie said bitterly. "Listen, Aly. You were at my trial. You know what the conditions of early release are. I'd have to go into a program, and I am not doing that for anyone."
Alyssa swallowed hard.
"Sadie, what is this drug doing to you?" She whispered. "I thought at least, in here, you'd sober up and realise that you need help and that this has to stop. I thought..."
"Well, you should have known better." Sadie interrupted. "If you know who to ask in this place, they'll keep you happy."
She rubbed her arm absently, and Alyssa caught a glimpse of the bruises that mottled her sister's wrists. She let out a gasp.
"Sadie, is someone hurting you?" She demanded. Sadie smiled humourlessly.
"I'm in prison. Who cares if they are?" She asked. "Look, if all you came to do was fuss, you might as well shove off. I'm here and I'm not likely to be getting off any time soon, so you might as well deal with having a convict for a sister. It mightn't be pretty but it's the deal, Aly, and the sooner you realise it the better."
Alyssa did not respond for a moment. She glanced down, and when she raised her eyes once more to her sister's, they were wet with tears.
"I feel like I let you down so badly." She murmured. "You, Mum, everyone. You had so much, Sadie...you could do so many things and Mum always hoped you'd be able to use that to move on in life."
"I told you, we don't speak about Mum!" Sadie responded angrily.
"Why not?" Alyssa demanded. "It's the only way I get any kind of real feeling out of you these days! You're too thin, you're white as a sheet and bruised up. Your eyes are blank, as if you don't even know me and it hurts me, Sadie. And if the only damn thing I can make you feel is that you're making Mum turn in her grave, then I'm going to use it!"
"Then I'm going back to my cell!"
"No, not this time." Alyssa shook her head. "This is serious. If early release means you have to go into a drug program, then you should do it. I didn't think you were a coward, and you're certainly not stupid. You know you have a major problem and you know it's not going to get better unless you do something about it. If you want to spend whatever's left of your life going in and out of places like this and being beaten up for whatever reason, then you're really not the Sadie Monahue I thought you were. And you're certainly not the Sadie that Mum loved so damn much."
Sadie stared at her sister, stricken. She swore, banging her fist down on the table and startling one of the guards nearest the door, who shot her a suspicious look.
"Shut your damn mouth, Alyssa!" She snapped. "I told you, I'm not going into any damn program!"
"Sadie, I don't want the next time I see you to be when I'm burying you next to Mum." Alyssa's tears began to fall at this point, and she dashed them away. "You're nineteen. You have so much still you can do. And you have people who love you so much, too. But unless you take the first step, none of us can help you. And I really don't want to have to bury my kid sister as well as my mother. She would never have let you go this far. She would never have let you hurt yourself so much as this."
Sadie made a strange sound, almost like a choked sob, then she buried her head in her hands.
"I wish you hadn't come see me." She muttered, her voice muffled beneath her fingers. "As if it ain't hard enough in here, scraping between fixes and trying to keep out of the way of people who want to make trouble. It's not like there's much safe on the outside, either. Neal's still there. It's all still there. I can't get out of that. Whatever you think, Aly, I'm safer in here. I had more bruises back with him than I have had since I got sent down. What in hell makes you think that he'll let me go?"
Alyssa looked troubled.
"I didn't know Neal was abusing you too." She said slowly. "You didn't say."
"Would you? He'd probably bloody well kill me for even mentioning his name in this hell-hole."
"Well, perhaps it's time you did tell them."
"No, thank you. I'm alive and that's enough for me."
"For now, but what about tomorrow?" Alyssa asked gently. "Sadie, every time you take that stuff you risk killing yourself. And when I see what it's done to you..."
"It's the only thing that stops it all hurting." Sadie admitted, her voice shaking slightly. "If I lose that...I can't do it, Aly. It's the only thing I have to keep me going."
"No, it isn't." In a flash, Alyssa made up her mind. "You have us, too. Andrew and I, and Sharita."
"Your damn husband hates me, and your daughter barely knows who the hell I am." Sadie snorted. "Besides, what good are you? You're in Birmingham. You're not here."
"Sadie, if you promise me that you'll go to your review hearing and agree to go into a drug program, I'll promise you that Andy, Shari and I will be there to look out for you." Alyssa said slowly. "I'll talk to whoever makes the decisions, and I'll tell them to send you to one in Birmingham. Then you won't be here, around Neal any more. You can get your life back together, and we'll help you in any way we can to get back on your feet."
"What makes you think I even could give it up?"
"I know you." Alyssa said simply. "I know the real you, before the chemicals started to fuzz your mind and confuse you about what you can and can't do. I know you can do this, and I know you need to. Please, Sadie. At least think about it. I love you - we all do. And it breaks my heart to see you suffering like this."
Sadie was silent for a long while, digesting this. Slowly and silently, her own tears began to fall.
"I'm scared." She admitted, her tones no louder than a whisper. "But I can't keep going round on this loop. You're right - it's going to kill me, and I don't want to face Mum up there and tell her what I've done. I just don't know if I can do this. I don't have the faith in me that you do."
"Then I'll have enough faith for the both of us." Alyssa cast a surrepticious glance at the nearest guard, then reached over and squeezed her sister's hand quickly. "I promise, Sadie. I won't let you down, and I won't let them leave you here in Kent. Is it a deal?"
Sadie swallowed hard. Then she spread her hands.
"I'll try." She agreed, though there was still doubt in her blue eyes. "If they give me it, well, I'll try. And then I guess we'll see how strong Sadie Monahue actually is."
Prologue: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's Song
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey Show
Chapter Six: Flashback - School Concert
Chapter Seven: Sandra Bray
Chapter Eight: The Dean Problem
Chapter Nine: Cursed
Chapter Ten: Flashback - Stir
Chapter Eleven: Secrets
Chapter Twelve: Robin Vs Nancy
Chapter Thirteen: In The Line Of Duty
Chapter Fourteen: Flashback - Griefstruck
Chapter Fifteen: Aftermath
Chapter Sixteen: Jewel Consult
Chapter Seventeen: Forever Changed