08/02/2004 at 12:00 PM EDT
The day after her sentencing, Martha Stewart already seemed to be sowing the seeds for her return. She spent the afternoon surveying her estate in Bedford, N.Y., paying particular attention to the vegetable gardens she had planted and a grove of magnolias that were just taking root. Throughout the tour her cell phone rang incessantly, with friends calling to offer their support. "She is already moving forward," says longtime chum Memrie Lewis, a landscape architect. "I got the sense she had a real feeling of closure, like she thought a lot of the nightmare was over, that she might actually have a good night's sleep for the first time."
Of course, Stewart, 62, wasn't about to turn over a completely new leaf. After Judge Miriam Cedarbaum sentenced her to the minimum term allowed under federal guidelines – five months in a federal prison camp and five months of house detention, which she will spend at the $15 million Bedford estate – for lying to investigators in the ImClone stock scandal, Stewart sounded more defiant than contrite. The night of the sentencing she told Barbara Walters that "many aspects" of her trial were "not fair." Earlier in the day, on the steps of the Manhattan federal courthouse, she claimed that all along she had been "more concerned about the well-being of others," specifically her employees who lost their jobs when her company tanked in the wake of the scandal, than she had been about herself. And she made a point of flashing her trademark resolve. "I'll be back," she said outside the court. "I will
Not that she's gone anywhere just yet: She will remain free on bail until her appeal is completed, which may take as long as a year. Stewart may also choose to abandon the appeal and do the time in order to move on and stabilize her company's stock price (which jumped 37 percent at the news of the light sentence). "My company needs me," she told Larry King in an interview. "I would like this to be over."
The investigation and the trial clearly have taken their toll on Stewart. "She is at the worst time of her life," a friend said after the conviction. "She is suffering the loss of her life." As Stewart said, "I have been choked and almost suffocated to death" for the past two years. She told Walters that the March 5 guilty verdict had so devastated her that that night, her daughter Alexis, 38 (who had fainted on hearing the jury's decision), tucked her into bed and slept with her. "That's not really what moms should do," Stewart said. "But sometimes I guess it's nice." Indeed, Stewart has come to rely heavily on Alexis, who runs a yoga studio in Manhattan, as her main confidante. "Alexis has really been there for Martha," says Salli LaGrone, an antiques dealer and a longtime Stewart friend. "It's been a terrible ordeal for both of them, but their relationship has really been strengthened by it."