MIAMI 1953

Sarah sat erect in the small Florida courtroom, as accusations of neglect, endangerment, abandonment pummeled her. The courthouse windows had been opened to their maximum, but outside the air had the weight of a moist blanket. Women waved brightly painted Japanese fans in an attempt to escape the savage heat of the afternoon. Her eyes burned with unshed tears. Her hands remained in her lap clamped, white-knuckled to each other. She looked neither to her left or right but stared unblinking at the white-haired judge wrapped in the accoutrements of power, remarkably resembling her image of God.

Ceiling fans whirred above her head blowing gusts of hot air downward, a useless attempt to cool the tropical atmosphere. The courtroom was an inferno. Perspiration dotted her upper lip and pooled in the small of her back. Her expression didn’t reveal any sign of emotion although she was terrified of her soon to be ex-husband and the phalanx accompanying him. His aunts had obtained a topnotch shark of an attorney to throw poisoned darts at her. The few remnants of her family were hundreds of miles away. No one would lift a finger to come to her aid. After all, she was worthless to them –and to herself.

He’d been arrested in Miami for kidnapping the boy from the home. Sarah had had to leave him there. She couldn’t care for the baby and find work. She’d planned to get him back.

Her husband had tracked her to Miami. His cousins had waited in the car as he broke into the home and taken his son back. But he’d been caught and bailed out by his rich aunt. The court had dismissed the charge when they found out what she’d done.

Caring for her baby had become too much for her to handle without help. She could feel the heat of his anger but she wouldn’t look at his face. The lawyer’s accusation thrown like darts.

“… deserted her newborn in the hospital.”

“…left alone in his own filth for hours.”

“…. found him hanging by his leg on the bars of the crib.”

“… found burns on his arm.” It was an accident.

There were no explanations she could give for her transgressions. No excuses held any value in the courtroom. Custody was given to the father. It was what she deserved. She’d made so many wrong decisions. All she could do after the judge’s verdict was to gather the shreds of her dignity and exit the courtroom.

* * * *

Sarah walked down the steps of the Miami courthouse unaware of the heat that struck her from the burning sun. She kept walking for hours ignoring of the curious looks of passing pedestrians. She reached the beach and sat on the sand, staring without seeing the ocean, her hat, gloves and shoes beside her. A seagull strutted next to her, poked its beak at the flower on her hatband squawked and flew away. Her numbness faded with the sinking sun and silent tears fell. Her aloneness was complete. The sky was black, she stirred when a policeman approached her.

“Miss, you can’t stay here all night. Do you have a place to go?”

Sarah blinked as if she’d been asleep.

“Lady, are you all right? The beach is closed. It’s not safe to be out here all alone.”

She looked about her at the empty stretch of sand. Got to her knees and dusted of the grains of sand that clung to her clothing. “I’m sorry officer. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I’ll go.”

“Do you have a place to go?”

“Yes.” Home. I have no home here. There’s nothing for me here. He has my boy now and he’ll probably take him back to New York. At least I’ll be near him.