I grow more impatient with every minute that goes by. The lawyer said I didn't have to do this; they had more than enough evidence to get a conviction without my testimony, without any of our testimonies. I guess he though there was no point in further exposing us to the scrutiny of the public, as if they could do something to us that hadn't been done already. No, I had to it; I had to face him once more and say my piece. The jury had to know the extent of the evil that was forced on us and they had to know it from our mouths, not just some pictures and reconstructions made by strangers. Not from someone who read assumptions from a piece of paper, but from us who had suffered it in the flesh. Today it's my turn. Still, I can't lie and say I am not nervous.
I keep my gaze on the skirt of the pale pink dress my mother bought for me. I'm wearing five-inch black heels that I can barely walk on, but still I thought I might as well try them on. I am not wearing makeup, not just because I don't know how to apply it but because I don't want to cover anything. I want them to see everything, every single scar so they can never even consider letting that monster go free. I am willing to walk in there naked if I have to. I don't have any jewelry on either, except for a green and white beads necklace with a small white heart pendant. It's the only thing I have left of her and I can never part with it.
"Miss Bowden?" The bailiff calls with his thick southern accent. "We're ready for you now."
And suddenly I feel I can't breathe. My whole body shakes uncontrollably, and I feel the tears coming. My mom moves towards me and holds me by the arms; this time I let her. The bailiff's eyes water too, I can see it. His body shudders a little bit, as if his instinct had been to move forward and give me a hug, but his station prevented him from doing so. He must have had been listening to all the evidence and the case the prosecution had built, he must have seen all the pictures.
"You don't have to do this sweetheart. We can go home if you want to."
"No." I say most emphatically and with those words I find my footing again. "I have to do this mom. I have to... for them."
"You can't go through here ma'am. You have to go through the gallery door." The bailiff says and my mother hesitates. "Don't worry ma'am, I'll take care of her. I Promise."
"Go mom. I'll be fine."
The bailiff ushers me in and I'm immediately overwhelmed by the amount of eyes on me. I try not to look at them, I don't want my nerves to get the better of me. I can't screw this up; It's all or nothing at this point. I don't want to look at him either, but I can feel him. I tell myself I am safe, there's this distance between us and a room full of cops, there's nothing he can do to hurt me anymore. I look up and find his eyes fixed on me, that disgusting sleazy and predatory look he always though was so charming. His lips are curved in a smile, like he's happy to see me. Why are you smiling asshole? Don't you know I am here to be your undoing? I get flashbacks, little pieces of everything that happened, of everything he did, and I feel sick. I lunch forward, covering my mouth as my gag reflex activates and the bailiff rushes to my aid. I don't vomit.
"Are you okay missing Bowden?" The judge asks.
"Yes, your honor."
The bailiff brings out his bible and I swear to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But the truth is tricky; I know there are parts of what happened, of what I saw that the jury won't understand. Then, the prosecutor gets up from his seat and approaches the stand, greets and thanks me for doing this, saying how brave I am and how much he admires me. I thank him for his kind words and then I start relaying my story.