I Cannot Tell a Lie
The courtroom stood still as the beefy lawyer, who’s shirt buttons were hanging on by a thread, took his seat again with a grunt and pointed look toward me, the defendant’s lawyer. I adjusted my own coat’s buttons making sure they were intact before taking in a deep breath and addressing the room.
“Your honor, if we could please address the evidence. Page three, if you will.” I opened the folder laid out on the table in front of me. Laying before them is the evidence the plaintiff was denying not seconds ago just after he pledged to tell the truth. I worried that everyone could tell I’m eager to make waves as early as possible. Even the way I stood from the chair to speak again showed them my impatience. Approaching the plaintiff who seemed to be sweating harder than the older woman playing the defendant at our table.
The people sitting in the cherry wood chairs held their collective breath for the reveal of the info I showed the judge. There hasn’t been an interesting case like this one in so long that even people from the fourth floor came down to watch.
“You deny signing the check, that you stated moments ago the woman sitting over there, stole from you.” I turned and directed the plaintiff’s attention at the curly hair topped woman dressed in her Sunday’s best, trying not to bite her nails too hard. She looked up at me as I gave her a warm, encouraging smile, hoping the trap worked to our advantage.
“Yes, it was a forgery. I would never lend that type of money to someone like her.” The plaintiff, a man in his late forties, wearing a sharp suit and matching tie with hair that had to have more than the recommended amount of gel in it. Sat in front of the lawyer he hired, the woman he’s suing, and me, the lawyer that’s about to win the case, and lied to us.
“How do you explain this?” I took the photo evidence from the folder and placed it in front of the plaintiff, he didn’t seem to have much to say when his eyes met the image.
“Could you please tell us how this picture came to be?” I asked him and for a long, pregnant moment, he didn’t say a word.
“Nothing further,” with a sly smile, I turned away from the judge and plaintiff.
Dismissing myself, I walked back to the table where the defendant sat hoping everything would be okay.
“Do you think it will work?” She whispered in my ear.
“It should, if we’re lucky, it was a bit of a stretch. I won’t lie.” I confessed and watched the judge’s face for some sort of answer. It wouldn’t be long and drawn out as if there was a jury, instead, the judge held all the cards in this case.
After longer than any of us wanted to sit there, the plaintiff was dismissed from the stand after not being able to give a good answer. Clearing his throat, the judge gathered the evidence in front of him and readied himself to hand down the ruling.
“With the eye-opening amount of evidence against the plaintiff, I see no reason the defendant would need to pay back this money. Further, I do not see why this suit needs to be open in the first place. Making your hired help hide your money. The scum of the Earth are the ones who use people, remember that.” We watched as the judge pointed his gavel at the plaintiff and his thick lawyer before raising it higher. “I’ll see you again, on the assumption the defendant wants to sue you.”
With a wink thrown toward the defendant, the judge slammed the gavel down and dismissed the case.
Jumping up and pulling each other into a tight hug, the defendant wiped away her tears of fear and hugged me for a second time, mumbling words of thanks in Spanish that I returned just as fast. Turning back to her family sitting in the chairs behind them, she shared her joy with the people she loved the most.
“How did you get that photo?” The plaintiff’s lawyer waddled his way over with his briefcase in hand and a snide look about his thick, red face.
“You have the same evidence I have; it was just something you overlooked. Or at least hoped I would, I can assume.” I batted my eyes at him and played coy for a second, but when his face twisted with anger and turned purple with fury, I built my walls up quickly to protect myself.
Standing up as straight as possible, I composed myself as my former classmate and my current coworker tried to intimidate me.
“I’ll see you when your client puts in for her own suit, I can assume?” He asked, too close for comfort.
“If that is what my client wishes, then I’ll be sure to wipe the floor with your fancy tie, again.” Breaking eye contact, I was the first to move out of the way and out of the courtroom. The sound of the door slamming behind me was the only thing heard before my heels picked up the rest of the hallway. Breaking through the main entrance, I breathe deeply with my face pointed toward the sun as if it was charging me after a long day.
“Ms. Morris, I can’t thank you enough for helping our family.” A voice interrupted my blank mind for a second and when I looked away from the sun, I saw her client’s husband standing and waiting for me.
“It’s part of my job, Mr. Lopez, I hope your wife and you get home safe, okay.” I reached out to him when he offered his hands. In them, he left the small basket of fruits and treats their family brought for me. I think I even saw my favorite candy stashed in between some fruit. I am very lucky to have clients like this, honest and true, I find they are the ones that needed protecting the most.
“This isn’t necessary, but thank you,” I told him while the basket was thrusted into my hand and up my arm the rest of the way. Smiling and waving as he walked back to his wife waiting by the car, I turned and headed the opposite direction toward the train that would take me back to the apartment.
Two trains and a half-mile walk back to my place, I am finally home. Throwing the briefcase down and my keys into the ceramic bowl by the front door, I began to peel the day off my back. Freeing myself from the confines of the day, I walked to the biggest window in the apartment and opened it halfway.
Squealing kids, shouts of domino players, and the far-off sound of a saxophone entered the apartment.
“Nothing like the sound of Queens,” I spoke softly to myself just before pushing off the windowsill and heading toward the fridge.
Just as the fridge door opened, a sound stopped me from grabbing the glass bottle on the top shelf. Trying to listen and see if it was the street sounds or a possible rat making their way back into the apartment.
While I live alone, I am often visited by my parents and brother. Usually unannounced but I knew the place had been empty when I walked through the door only minutes ago. Slowly closing the fridge, I walked back towards the knife block sitting right next to the bowl of oranges that should be rotted by now – they were here when I moved in.
Picking the second large knife, by feel alone, I stalked toward the rattling noise that seemed to be coming from the bedroom I had been in minutes ago tearing my clothes off. Slowly I walked, my sock covered feet allowing me to keep as much silence through the sections of the apartment as possible.
When my eyes met with what was rummaging around in my bedroom the knife nearly slipped out of my hand. Had I not tightened my grip and squared my shoulders, the knife would have told the man in the middle of her room I was here before my voice had the chance.
“I would be on the other side of the room before you were even able to use the knife. Think wisely,” his voice pierced my ears making my arm lower and heart race.
“How did you get into my apartment?” I finally asked him. The man standing inches from my dresser turned to face her. In the light of the room, I could have sworn his teeth were pointed when he smiled, and his skin was a shade of blue I couldn’t think of the name to at the moment.
“Your apartment, you really have made it well in this world. It’s a shame you were not raised amongst the flowers and vines. Instead, surrounded by concrete, loud voices, and something called cell phones.” He made a tsk sound with his mouth. The mouth I wanted to see again, just to see if I really saw the pointed teeth from before.
“Who are you, why are you here?” I asked him, voice only slightly trembling.
“Who am I?” He asked in a mocking tone and a shake of his head. I swear I heard a chuckle under his breath but I wasn’t in the mindset to think about it again.
“That is a loaded question, though something I planned for, but we don’t have the time now. If you would please, follow your feet to the center dot here.” He motioned to a spot on my carpet from a glass of wine I spilled years ago, and it never came out. Backing away instead, I lifted the knife despite the earlier warning.
“I am not going anywhere near you, how about you tell me your name, so I have something to give the police when they show up here. I’ve already dialed the number before walking into this room.” Turning to face me again, I really saw his face this time. The pointed teeth and blue hue were the least of my concerns. He didn’t look human at all.
“I thought that showing my true form would help the glamour, but it’s stronger magic than I remember.” His shoulders slumped a little as if he was disappointed, and I didn’t understand if this was a dream or not.
“The cops will be here any second. Do you not believe me?!” I raised my voice along with the knife and he put his hands up in mock defense. “Of course, I believe you, you cannot lie, just as I cannot. There is not much time, come to the center of the room and standstill.” He spoke with an edge to his voice and I kept the knife at chest level while walking slightly closer to him.
“I can see we will need to do this the hard way. I cannot tell you everything with that blasted window open.” He flung his hands in a waving motion toward the other parts of the apartment telling me that this isn’t the only room he’s been in.
“How long have you been in my apartment?” I asked suddenly.
“Long enough to know that you do not eat properly, and you need to read more.” His crass assumptions about me stung, without realizing it, I was now thinking about the two biggest issues I’ve had on my mind the last few months. How would he be able to point those things out as if they were nothing? Realization hit me again when I noticed I wasn’t near the wall as I once was. Instead, I’m standing right in front of the stranger.
“Now, we can begin, it’s been a long time since you’ve been home.” He spoke under his breath and I finally agreed to believe this was a dream. The knife was no longer in my hand but resting on the carpet we’re both standing on.
“Tell me what you are doing here, you obviously have the wrong home,” I demanded answers and the man before me tried to keep from rolling his eyes.
“I cannot get into the details, but the kingdom needs you. It’s time for the princess to come home,” he spoke to me as if all of that would make perfect sense. With a wild look on my face, I had hundreds of thought buzzing through my head but none of them made sense, so I just stupidly stood there.
Looking up to his eyes I noticed the blue hue of his skin wasn’t the only abnormal thing about him. The whites of his eyes were a shade of yellow I hadn’t seen since the schoolyard. Like the bus, I remembered walking past when I would walk to school. The black speck of his pupil dilated slightly as we stood there.
“This will hurt a bit, but everything will make more sense in the morning,” he spoke low again, and before I had a moment to say another word, the palm of his hand was slammed into the center of my brow.
“There was no other way, our kingdom needs their princess and for you to remember, sleep must take you first.”