Trevor had a day off on Wednesday. After dropping Liam off at school, he had his usually morning workout. Then it was time to make a phone call. The living room was clean and tidy from the cleaning Trevor had done in the early morning. He leaned against the beige couch in the middle of the room and dialed Mrs. Day’s number.
He did not know why he was nervous as he placed the phone to his ear. After five rings, a woman’s voice answered, “Hello?”
Trevor cleared his throat. “Janet Day? This is Trevor Clifton.”
“Oh! Trevor.” The woman sounded surprised. “How are you?”
“Fine. I’m calling about Liam.”
The was silence at first, then: “Is there something wrong with him?”
“No, he’s doing great,” Trevor said quickly. “It’s just-” He paused. “What did he do, Mrs. Day? This situation makes no sense. He seems like a completely innocent kid. He doesn’t even understand what he did wrong.”
“Sometime I don’t understand it either,” the woman said softly.
“Will you tell me what happened?”
There was hesitation on the other end. “Please don’t judge him.”
Trevor held in a sigh. He understood her worry. “Trust me, Mrs. Day, I’m in no position to be judging anyone.”
“Alright.” There was a sigh. “It happened two years ago. Liam was at a female friend’s house. My husband and I knew her parents. We were friends. Liam and the girl, Jessica, had known each other since preschool. They were at a young age where they did not understand gender differences and sexuality. From what I can gather, they voluntarily showed each other their private parts and then Liam dared Jessica to touch his. I assure you, it was just childish curiosity. Something that needed to be reprimanded, certainly, but it was nothing unusual.
“Anyway, Jessica’s mother saw the end of the scene. She pulled them apart and told them what they were doing was wrong. Of course, they did not understand, so she called a counselor to gain advice on the situation. She was only trying to help but I wish she had talked to me first. The counselor reported the incident to the police and Liam was arrested for sexual assault.”
Trevor was taken aback by the statement. Sexual assault? Were the police getting that bad? They were kids! It had to have been a misunderstanding. “Surely when they heard the story, they let him go?” But as he spoke, a sinking feeling told him where this story was going.
“I’m afraid not,” Janet said, her voice cracking. “I used to have such respect for our legal system, but now we’re so focused on being hard on criminals that we’ve lost all sight of common sense. Liam’s lawyer advised pleasing guilty to get a lighter sentence. He said we did not have much of a chance of winning.”
“Hold on,” Trevor said, thinking of something, “how could they prosecute if this Jessica girl did not feel like a victim?”
“The State took up the case,” Janet said sadly. “I don’t know why. I thought the criminal justice system was created for victims. Well, our lawyer said the courts are hard on sexual assault cases, even those involving juveniles. They’ve got an idea that they have to catch habits early and punish them so they won’t do it again.”
“But he’s a kid,” Trevor said emphatically.
“I know, but the legal system did not see it that way. Liam plead guilty and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.”
“Ok,” Trevor said, his heart thumping, “that’s not so bad.”
“That’s what we thought too,” Janet nearly whispered. She paused. “Do you know anything about the sex offender registry?”
Trevor blinked, unsure of what this had to do with anything. “Sure. It’s a public list of dangerous pedophiles so parents can protect their kids.”
“That’s how it is in Minnesota,” Janet said in agreement. “Only those individually assessed of having a high likelihood of reoffending are put on the list. But Minnesota is the only state with such a system. Most put anyone who has ever committed a sexual offense on the list, and some states, like Texas, even require juveniles to register.”
“WHAT?!” Trevor exclaimed in outrage. “That is the most outrageous thing I have ever heard! I thought we were supposed to be protecting children!”
“I know.” It sounded like she was choking back a sob. “People think everyone on the registry is dangerous and threatening. The kids at school ridiculed Liam. I heard a story of one teenager on the registry who committed suicide because he was treated so bad. It’s not right what they’re doing. Liam committed no crime and now he’s being treated like a rapist. He was required to register for 15 years. His picture will change on the website, but the stated age of his victim will not. Eventually, it will look like he really is a pedophile. I had to get him out of Texas. I just had to. He doesn’t have to register in Minnesota. He doesn’t have to be treated like a villain.”
Trevor closed his eyes. The news was paining him. It was an outright injustice, but he did not know what to do. He felt helpless all the way up in Minnesota while the problem was down in Texas. No, the problem was people; people had no common sense anymore. That was probably why the world was so messed up. When he opened his eyes, he spoke calmly, “Alright. I understand.” His eyes tightened as he reached a determination. “I promise you I will take care of Liam the best I can. I will make sure he is treated right.” His voice had become hard and confident. He could not change the past, but he could protect the kid’s future. He took it on as a duty; the kid would live a good life. He only wished he could get true justice for Liam.
“Thank you,” Janet whispered.
“Everything will be fine,” Trevor said. “Liam is a good kid. I will never doubt that.”
For the first time, Trevor approached Justin in the locker room on Thursday. A whole week had passed since had had talked to Liam’s mother. Because of two road games at the end of the previous week and Heather’s busy schedule that Sunday, he had not found time to talk to his teammate sooner. They had had four days off. Now they were back at home playing the Anaheim Ducks. The Wild’s record was three to five, but Trevor’s mind was not on the game.
He had no time for small talk as he found Justin. “I know what Liam did,” he said.
Justin looked at him in surprise. “You talked to his mother?”
Trevor nodded. “It’s crazy, actually. And wrong.”
Justin frowned. “What did he do?”
“He showed a girl friend his private parts and had her touch them,” Trevor said.
Justin blinked. “Is that it?”
“Texas thinks it’s a crime,” Trevor said.
Justin stared at him incredulously. “But he was just being a kid!”
“I know,” Trevor said through gritted teeth. Talking about the issue was bringing his anger back. “They have no sense. He got probation, but he had to be on the sex offender registry for 15 years.”
Justin’s mouth nearly fell open. He blinked rapidly, not seeming to be able to speak. Finally, closed his mouth and the said, “There had to have been a mistake.”
Trevor shook his head. “That’s what I thought too, but the law is just messed up. They’re so obsessed with preventing sex crimes that they’re punishing innocent children. Minnesota has better laws, which is why Liam was sent here with me. He won’t have to endure the shame of being a sex offender.”
“Which he’s not,” Justin said. He sighed and shook his head. “This is crazy. I can’t believe it.”
“I’ve got to protect him,” Trevor murmured. “I’ve got to make sure he doesn’t go through something horrible again. I need to find him a good family to take care of him.” Because he would not be able to do it for long. He looked at Justin, getting an idea. “What about you? Would you take him in?”
Justin lanced at him wearily. “I don’t think I would be that much better than you, Trevor. And I don’t have the times or means. I’m not even married.”
Trevor blinked in surprise. “Really? You seem like the marrying type.”
Justin shrugged and smiled slightly. “I guess I haven’t found the right woman yet.”
Trevor was intrigued by this information. “Have you done much dating?”
“I’ve dated a couple girls since coming here,” Justin said. “Our schedule makes it hard to form serious relationships. You have to find a girl willing to put up with everything.” He shrugged.
Trevor knew Heather could put up with this kind of life; she had put up with him in high school, after all. This idea might just work. Now there was one more thing he needed to know. “How old are you?”
“31,” Justin said. “Don’t worry, I still have time.” He winked.
That was only six years older than Trevor. It could work, if… But could he do it? He had to. For Liam. “I’ll talk to Heather about the kid. She’s a girl; she might know what to do.”
Justin nodded. “Good idea. Now let’s get out there and win!”
The way the babysitting ordeal worked, Trevor never actually had to see Heather, so he could not use that as an excuse to see her, and he needed to talk to her about Liam. He decided he would just stop by at the Caribou on which she worked Friday morning, which was a day off for him. He needed a cup of coffee anyway.
He could not see Heather when he entered, so he ordered a cup of black coffee and sat down. The place was quiet in the morning. There were several people sipping coffee while reading the newspaper or working on their laptops. Trevor hardly noticed them as he sat alone with his own thoughts. Staring at the steam was somehow calming to him.
The Wild had lost again. They were playing the Red Wings, a rival, at home the next day. They had already played them in Detroit and lost. Trevor hated losing to teams he despised; it was humiliating. He did not feel like giving much of an effort to his team anymore. What was the point? To look good so other teams would trade for him? Maybe.
“Hey, Trevor,” a friendly voice said. “It’s a surprise to see you here.”
Trevor looked up, relieved to see Heather standing before him. “I had to talk to you,” he said. “I know the story with Liam.”
Heather’s smile slowly fell. “Ok. I can take some time to talk.” She took a seat across from him. “What happened?” Her gaze was sympathetic.
Trevor held his coffee with his hands and stared into its dark depths. “In Texas, he’s required to be on the sex offender registry for something that no sane person would consider a crime.”
“What?!” Heather exclaimed in surprise. “Kids don’t even know what sex is!”
Trevor shook his head sadly and wearily. “The system is messed up. Minnesota is different. They don’t think Liam is a threat to children here.”
“Of course not!” Heather said indignantly. “Who would think he is?”
“Texas apparently,” Trevor said bitterly. “And just about every other state.”
“Something has to be done!” Heather declared.
Trevor looked up at her, his face dark. “What is there to be done? You can’t change the law. You’re not even in Texas or a state that has a problem.” He splayed his hands on the table.
“Can’t you say something? You’re a public figure.”
Trevor grimaced. “I doubt anyone would listen to me. Besides, I don’t think this is what Liam’s mom intended. I don’t want to draw attention to him. That would mess the whole coming to Minnesota to start over thing up.”
Heather’s shoulders sagged. “Then what are we going to do?” she asked softly.
“Try to make sure he lives a good life here,” Trevor said. “That’s all we can do.” He paused. “I think I need to talk to Liam about this. He thinks he’s bad because that’s what he’s been told.”
“Poor kid,” Heather murmured. “Yes, talk to him. Straighten this out.”
Trevor hesitated before asking, “Will you talk to him with me? I don’t know how good I am about these sorts of things.”
Heather smiled weakly. “Of course.” She reached out her hand and placed it on top of Trevor’s. He flinched in surprise but did not pull back. “We’ll get through this. We’ll make sure he understands.”
Trevor nodded numbly, his focus now on her hand touching his. He wondered if he had crossed a boundary he had not intended to cross. But he could fix this. They just had to talk to Liam first. “You should get back to work.”
Heather pulled back her hand and frowned. “Alright. We’ll talk to him Sunday?”Trevor nodded. “Sunday.” His eyes trailed her form as she walked away. Then he stood up, let out a deep sigh, and walked out of the store with his coffee in hand.