Author's Note — This story, barring the prologue, takes place after Justina leaves San Pedro in capítulo 109. Despite Justina's many failings and evil deeds, I always thought that the narrative was perhaps a bit unfair to her, especially since she was never given a proper backstory like Rosario or Carmelo. Still, I found it interesting that Justina was perhaps the one antagonist who didn't receive a permanently dreadful fate in the finale, and this fic was thus born. Please be advised that this will be a dark story, and warnings for themes regarding abuse, abortion, suicide, rape, and prostitution all apply.

DisclaimerMi pecado is the intellectual property of Televisa and Juan Osorio. The story and chapter titles of this fic are inspired by "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. I make no claim to ownership of the series or the poem, and I make no monetary profit from the publication of this story.

Justina learns the most important lesson of her life when she is just five years old. She is searching for her mother, hoping to enlist her assistance in forcing her four older brothers to allow her to join their game of hide-and-seek, when she stumbles upon Mamá sitting silently on their dilapidated front stoop. Her blue-green eyes, once as captivating as Justina's in her youth but now dulled by time and disappointment, anxiously peer out into the dusk, searching for some sign, Justina knows, of her father. Before she could even talk, Justina learned that the night will go smoothly if Papá comes home from the cantina before dinner; if he still hasn't returned home before dark, though, then the night will be loud, full of shouting and shattering glass. These are the nights that Justina clutches her stuffed bunny tight against her chest and loudly cries herself to sleep in order to drown out the sounds of the skirmish beyond her thin bedroom walls.

All thoughts of hide-and-seek fly out of Justina's mind upon witnessing Mamá's weary face. Instead, she takes a seat at her side and rests her head on her mother's lap in an offering of comfort. There's a wilted flower petal at their feet, and Justina picks it up and absentmindedly twirls it around in her fingers, wondering what it looked like when it was still vibrant and whole. Justina's mother once had a beautiful garden — the most beautiful garden in all of Río Blanco, everyone tells her — with the most exquisite flowers and fragrant herbs, but all that's left now are withered stems and dust; Mamá lost the time and the will to tend to it long before Justina was ever born.

Mamá lets out a sigh, one not rife with exasperation but instead heavy with sorrow, and runs her fingers gently through her baby girl's hair. "Justinita," she begins softly, her voice barely audible over the cicadas' evening song, "I need you to listen to me very carefully, mi amor."

Justina twists her spine to look up and meet her mother's sad gaze in a demonstration of her undivided attention. From inside their shabby little house, she can hear the sounds of her brothers running and shouting, still engrossed in their game. "When you choose a husband," Mamá murmurs slowly, "you must make sure that he is both wealthy and smart. Love, mi vida, will fade with time; properly managed money never will."

A frown crosses Justina's little face as every fairytale that she has ever read, the common theme of true love conquering all linking them together, flits through her brain. "But I don't understand, Mami. Why does my husband have to be wealthy and smart? Why can't I just become wealthy and smart one day, and then marry who I want?"

Her mamá lets out a light but bitter laugh. "Because you are a woman, mi amor." She pats her young daughter's cheek sadly, watching without joy as the light in her child's eyes dims with this revelation. "And to the world, a woman is only worth as much as the man she marries. Promise me that you will remember this and save yourself a world of heartache."

Justina shivers slightly as a cool breeze tousles her hair. "I promise, Mami," she breathes. "I won't forget."

Justina never forgets; she remembers her mother's words when she's thirteen and her breasts have blossomed, turning each of her male classmates into blithering idiots, and she remembers them when she's seventeen and the object of three friends' desire. No matter what she does, her mother's words are always ringing in the back of her mind, reminding her of the stakes at hand.

It takes Justina decades to realize that her mother was wrong.