A judge is shocked when she discovers that a woman she is forced to rule against for dead is someone she loves and admires. Linda Wallace was a successful woman with a full and rewarding life. After a brilliant legal career, she had been appointed to the bar at age 35 as one of the youngest judges in the state.
She was happily married to an English literature professor, a wonderful man with whom she had shared two lovely children. But what most people didn’t know was that Linda had grown up dirt poor as the youngest child in a dysfunctional family.
Linda’s present life was a miracle, and once she’d never stopped thanking God for it. It was a Friday afternoon, and after a hectic day in which every lawyer who stood before her seemed intent on wasting her time, Linda was exhausted. Her clerk placed yet another file before her and stepped back. Linda saw that it was a motion to sell a house belonging to a Mrs. Edith Halloran for seven years of property taxes.
Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions despite what our hearts may tell us to do. Linda hated these cases. They were basically decisions ordained by the law with little or no leeway, and the defendants were usually people on their last legs heading for homelessness. She looked up and asked the assistant D.A who’d placed a motion before her, “Where’s Mrs.
Halloran?” That was when a faint bell rang in the back of Linda’s head. She knew that name. Where did she know that name from? A small elderly woman stepped forward, and Linda shook her head to dispel the nagging memory.
“Mrs. Halloran?” Linda asked. “Yes, your honor,” the woman said, and at the sound of her crisp, lively voice, Linda recognized her. “Mrs.
Halloran! Linda gasped. “It’s you!” “Yes, dear,” the woman said, smiling up at Linda. “It’s good to see you.
It’s been how long? Twenty years?” “Twenty-three,” Linda said. “I was 15. You were the brightest student I ever had, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of all you’ve achieved.
Linda felt her eyes fill with tears. Here was the reason she was where she was, who she was. Linda looked down at the document before her, waiting for her signature. She knew that there was no way around it. According to the document, Mrs.
Halloran admitted her dead and was not contesting it. Linda’s hands were shaking as she reached for the pen. She was about to make the woman who had first believed in her, made her be herself homeless. She cleared her throat and read out her sentence. “Consequently,” she said, “the defendant has seven days to vacate the premises.
She raised her eyes to Mrs. Halloran and whispered, “I’m so sorry.” But Mrs. Halloran shook her head. “You have no reason to be sorry,” she said.
“You followed the law, and that’s what it’s there for, to give our society structure, even when we don’t like the consequences.” That night, Linda went home and cried bitterly. She went to the bookcase and took down a very special book. She turned to her husband and showed him the book. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she said.
“Mrs. Halloran gave it to me to read when I was 15. The book made me angry, and I told her I hated injustice. So she said, ‘If you hate injustice, change the world.’ So I told her, ‘Look at me.
I’m nothing.’ And she said, ‘You’re the most talented, brightest girl in my class, and your colleagues are very clever. You can do anything you want, anything. I believe in you, and I’m never wrong.’” Linda covered her face with her hands.
“And I took her home from her.” Linda’s husband put his arms around her. “Remember what Mrs. Halloran said. There’s nothing you can’t do.
I think she’s right, and you’ll find a way to help her.” Seven days after the hearing, Mrs. Halloran was standing at her door with her belongings around her, the memories of a lifetime. When someone knocked on the door, she opened it, thinking it was the Marshals coming to evict her, and found herself face to face with Linda. “Linda!
she gasped. “What are you doing here?” “Well, Mrs. Halloran,” Linda said with a big smile, “we’ve come to take you home.” Mrs.
Halloran frowned. “We?” she asked. “What do you mean, Linda?” “You know every single kid you taught made something of their lives,” Linda said.
“So I called them and told them we finally have a chance to give something back.” Mrs. Halloran stood bewildered as dozens of her old students trooped in, carried boxes out, and loaded them into a U-Haul truck. “Why are you taking my things?” she asked.
Linda and the other students took Mrs. Halloran to a lovely little cottage in a tranquil part of town. “This is your house now, free and clear,” Linda explained, “and we’ve set up a trust fund to pay the property taxes. Houseguest Mrs. Halloran, we all contributed.
Linda explained, “You motivated us all to make something of our lives, and we did. We owe you our success, and this is our thank you.”