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The Cruelty of Love

The Cruelty of Love
Kate Johnson has made it to mid-level management in the IT group of a pharmaceutical company. Her intelligence, technical competence and easy-going personality are among the keys to her success. When Kate watches a television interview of one of her ex-boyfriends, her demons of over 30 years ago are awakened. Over the coming weeks, she cannot shake the resurrected feelings of betrayal and injustice, and vows to confront the men she once loved. She methodically conceives and carries out her ingenious, and illegal, plan. As the two men, her family and friends seek to understand her actions, Kate accepts her punishment.
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The sharp metallic sound of steel-capped heels on black combat boots echoed through the corridor, keeping time with all the paraphernalia tapping against the guards’ thighs—keys dangling from metal chains, walkie-talkies, and black wooden Billy clubs. The stocky female escorts, a blonde and a brunette, both with hard chiseled features, were bored and uninterested. This was routine for them; another day, another prisoner.

Musty sweaty odors, mingled with those of stale food, drifted through the air. Walking along on either side of their prisoner tightly holding her upper arms, the guards escorted Kate to what would be her new home for a few years. She stared straight ahead, her peripheral vision taking in the gray cell bars, the gray walls, the gray atmosphere, and the empty cells. All the “ladies” were at lunch. She thought the city jail drab and unwelcoming. This one was slightly worse.

At the supply manager’s office Kate had handed in her clothes, underwear, shoes, and purse. The surly office manager stored these in a brown cardboard box labeled with her name, prisoner number, and the date. Now Kate’s only personal possessions were the gray prison uniform, black tennis shoes, and the items she held tightly against her chest—one change of loose-fitting gray cotton trousers, a matching short-sleeved gray tunic, grayish white cotton socks, and prison issued toiletries in a small plastic bag.

“Here we are, ma’am.” The blonde guard stopped in front of an empty cell. She let go of Kate’s arm while the brunette tightened her grip. The blonde picked up one of the dangling key chains and rifled through them until she found the one she wanted. The guard stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. “In here. Your roommate will be back in a few minutes. Lunch’s almost over. In the meantime, make yourself at home.” Both guards laughed.

Kate walked slowly into the narrow space—a narrow bed on either side of the small cell covered with a thin beige bedspread and a flat pillow, a metal sink in the corner, and at head height, a small window protected by metal bars. On the metal shelf above the sink were a comb with strands of hair caught in the teeth and a dirty white Styrofoam glass holding a toothbrush. A worn grayish dishtowel hung from the single metal towel bar attached to the wall.

She placed her belongings on the bed and slumped down on the hard cot. The wire springs under the thin mattress creaked under her weight. She sat upright for a few seconds, sighed, and bent over, putting her head in her hands. Tears welled up in her eyes. The clunk of the closing door and the key turning in the lock made her jump. She looked up at her escorts as they walked away.

Kate laid back, her head resting against the wall, the events of the previous months and years playing through her mind.



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