Tear In My Heart

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XXV. Dandelion Children

"Babe, where's my tie?" Madison frantically asked as he hurried into the room, his eyes desperately scanning the room for his tie.

Today was the morning of our court case and Madison insisted on looking absolutely perfect. His hair was neatly gelled back and he had a nice baby pink dress shirt tucked into black slacks with black dress shoes. Now all he needed was the tie that he demanded on wearing.

I finished buttoning the last button on my own dress shirt in the mirror. "I don't know, hon. Have you checked in the-"

"Yes," he cut me off. "I've checked in the closet and on the bed and in the dresser and on the couch and it's like it's disappeared." Madison rubbed the back of his neck with stress and anxiety obvious in his eyes. "Non posso farlo Tutto è rovinato. L'ho rovinato. L'ho rovinato( I can't do it. Everything is ruined. I ruined it. I ruined it),"

I turned toward his and gripped his shoulders. "Madison, respira (breathe)." As I spoke something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye and I grinned as I walked to the other side of the bed and picked his tie off the floor. "Is this what you were looking for?" I slightly teased, causing him to sigh. I weekly chuckled as I used my hand to dust it off and approached him. "It's fine, Mads." I positioned the tie around his neck and prepared to put it on him.

"I've got it," he said, a slight edge in his voice. He was stressed.

"Babe, please let me-"

"I said I've got it," he snapped as he pushed my hands away, causing me to gasp and step back due to his sudden outburst.

"Madison, what-"

"I can do things myself, Noah, okay? God, I'm sick and tired of you acting like I can't do things on my own! I might be beaten but I'm not as broken and helpless as you think I am you're suffocating me!" By the end, he was breathing heavy and his eyes dropped to the ground as he put his head in his hands. I blinked back the moisture in my eyes. I knew that I could be over caring sometimes but I didn't know he felt this way...

He sighed. "Babe, I didn't mean it," he softly said as he finally looked back up at me. "I'm sorry, it's just that I'm stressed and worried and I know I shouldn't have taken it out on you but..." he trailed seeing the hurt in my expression and sighed again before he wrapped his arms around me in a hug so that my cheek was resting on his shoulder. "Mi dispiace amore mio (I'm sorry my love). I shouldn't have done that and I didn't mean any of it, okay?" I didn't respond. People say you're either the most honest or the least honest when you're upset and when you're drunk. I couldn't tell if he actually meant it or not. My heart hurt.

"Noah," Madison said again as he pulled back so he could look me in the eyes. "Mi dispiace. Te amo (I'm sorry. I love you)." The look in his eyes told me that he was sincere. I believed he was sorry for his outburst, but I still didn't know if what he'd said was true or not.

"Te amo," I softly said back before he gently kissed my forehead then my lips in a soft kiss that seemed to say I didn't mean to hurt you, before he swept my hair from my forehead and laced his fingers with mine.

Opting to forget about the tie, he led me out into the kitchen where he grabbed his keys and we headed out the door, my hand securely in his the whole way. "We need to remain strong and united," he explained as he started up the car. "Like you said, it's going to be scary, but we have each other right?"

"Right," I said my voice sounding a bit weak. My chest still felt weird and I didn't like it.

Madison noticed and moved his hand to my knee before giving it a slight squeeze. "Are you okay? You know I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, especially with everything you've done for me. I love having you here and I'm glad you care about me as much as you do."

I mutely nodded.

He sighed before he looked around then pulled over the car. "Madison..." I trailed, but the words died on my tongue.

"I can't keep going knowing that you're upset with me. Now tell me what you're thinking about."

"It's nothing, okay?" He gave me the look. I sighed, knowing that he'd literally keep us here all day until I talked. "I just...I didn't know you felt like that. Even if you say you don't mean it, there has to be a subconscious part of you that does." I looked away.

"Noah, look at me," he said as he used his fingers to gently readjust my head so that I was looking at him. "We have something. Something so big that we've literally skipped to living together even though we've known each other for less than a year, and for the short time we've been together, we've gone through hell. So of course tension and stress and anxiety is running high, and though I shouldn't have taken it out on you, it happens sometimes and you'll just have to trust that I only have love in my heart for you, the same way I'll trust you when you have your own off day. We're going to have arguments, but we also know that we love each other and we always talk it out. Every couple goes through it's rough patches, okay? But you just have to know that I meant absolutely no part of what I said and I will keep saying that until you believe me, okay?" I nodded in response and he kissed my forehead again before he pressed his forehead against mine. "We're dandelion children. When things go wrong and life tries to trap us in, we still find a way to grow and live," he softly said, causing the edges of my lips to slightly pull up.

"Dandelion children," I softly repeated, causing him to slightly chuckle before he pulled away and laced one hand with mine before he pulled the car back onto the main road.

The car ride to the courthouse was silent, yet comfortable. As soon as he parked the car he turned and looked at me before saying, "No matter what happens in there, I want you to know that I love you."

"I love you too," I instantly responded before he gave my hand a squeeze and we got out. Each step up the towering stairs of the courthouse felt like a mile and with each step, my heart moved faster and faster. I was terrified but I had to keep my cool.

When we got in, we were assigned to our "victim" waiting room where the lawyer was waiting for us. He was a lean man in his late thirties to early forties. We'd talked to him before about our circumstances and he said that we had a high chance of winning.

"Okay, boys. Let me run you the list of our witnesses and the prosecution's witnesses, okay?" We nodded. "On our side we have Officers Walker and Herold, your friend Connor, Henry, your Nona, Doctor Emma, and obviously your testimonies." My eyebrows furrowed.

"I didn't know my Nona was involved."

"She was contacted yesterday evening and she accepted. Will this be a problem?"


"Good. Alright then, on the prosecution's side you have Trey and the boys who participated in the hate crime at the soccer fields and Mr. Williams. You two know that the prosecution will ask you and the other witnesses and-or 'help' questions, correct?"

"Yes," Madison said.

"And remember what I told you: answer questions directly and clearly. Don't go into detail unless you're asked or you really think it'll help the case. Also, remember that you can take your time. If you need to slow down or stop, just let them know."

I nodded again.

"Okay, do you have any questions or confusion before we go out?" Madison and I both shook our heads.

"Can I pray before we go out?"

He nodded. "I'll be right outside when you're ready."

I looked at Madison. "I know you're not a religious person, so you don't have to if you don't want to."

Madison took my hands in his. "If it brings you comfort, then I'm all for it."

I gave him a thankful grin before I closed my eyes. "Lord, please be with us as we enter this scary situation. We're terrified but we know that You wouldn't give more to us than we can handle. I just pray that...that these people won't be able to hurt anyone the way they hurt us. Thank You for all You've done, all You're doing, and all You're going to do. I Jesus' name we pray, amen."

"Amen," Madison softly repeated as I opened my eyes and let out a shaky breath.

"I think we're going to be okay," Madison affirmed.

I wrapped my arms around him in a hug. My heart was beating so fast I wondered if he could feel it. He wrapped his arms around me and held me there for a while in his tattooed arms. I knew this was hard for him, especially because we were going against his father. I buried my face in his neck. "La famiglia è la patria del cuore (family is where the heart is)," I reminded him, an Italian proverb.

He nodded as our lawyer came back in. "Sorry to cut this short, but it's time." I nodded before Madison's hand slipped into mine once more and we followed our lawyer out.

As soon as we came out, I instantly felt dozens of eyes on us and it made my skin crawl. Once we made it to the front, we took our seats, both making sure not to make eye contact with my former teammates or Madison's dad.

After a few moments, the bailiff entered and stood before us. "All rise."

We stood as the judge approached the bench. The judge was a woman in about her mid forties. Her shoulder length red hair was pulled in a low ponytail and she had glasses balanced on her nose. "Your honor, we have case number two-three-nine, the case of Noah Bruno and Madison Williams against Henrik Williams, and others."

She nodded. "You may be seated." We all sat down and my leg instantly started bouncing. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears and sweat was gathering on the back of my neck. ANxiety was chewing at me from the inside out. I didn't know if I could-

Madison stopped my wild thoughts as he gently put a hand on my knee, causing it to instantly stop under his familiar touch. I looked at Madison. He gave me a small grin. "I'm right here" he mouthed as he gave my knee a squeeze before he turned his attention back to the judge.

"Alright Prosecution, you may begin your case."

Our lawyer stood up and adjusted his shirt as he did so. "Your honor, I would like to present one of the two victims, Madison Williams."

Madison took a deep breath and stood before he was sworn in and went to his designated seat beside the judge. "Madison, how would you describe your relationship with your father prior to the incident?"

"It was good," Madison said. "I mean, we had our ups and our downs like any other family, but other than that, we were very very close. He was like my best friend."

"And in your interview you said that your mother is not in the picture, correct?"

Madison swallowed. "Y-Yes, that's correct. She's gone."

Our lawyer nodded. "Had he exhibited any violent behavior toward you prior to the incident?"

Madison shook his head. "No. He'd hassle me sometimes about school or work, all verbal. The last physical altercation, I guess you could say, was back when I was fifteen when he gave me a spanking. I don't remember what I did though."

"So up until this point, you and your father had no real physical altercations, correct?"

"Yes, that is correct."

Our lawyer wandered around to the other side of the desk. "Had your father exhibited any homophobic behavior before this incident?"

Madison shrugged. "I mean, not more homophobic than normal Italian Catholics. He'd always talk about how it was un-natural and said that God would take care of the homosexuals or whatever, but he'd never talked about taking physical action or previously took any physical action."

Our lawyer nodded. "Tell me about Noah. How long have you known each other?"

"I met him about a month ago at that gay-straight alliance place, but I don't remember what it was called. We instantly clicked and I knew that I really liked him. He'd walked there since it was close to his house, but by the time it was time to go, it was late and he was too tired to walk home so I let him crash at my place." I was glad that he'd left out that I may or may not have been drinking. It wasn't lying, just leaving out some parts of the truth.

"Was there any sexual activities?"

"Objection! That has nothing to do with the current case."

"I am just getting the full picture your honor."

"Overruled. Please continue Mr. Daye."

"Thanks your honor," he said with a nod before his attention returned to Madison. "Please answer the question."

"No, there wasn't and haven't been any sexual activities between Noah and I. Just kissing, that's about it."

Mr. Daye nodded. "Is Noah your first male partner?"

Madison shook his head. "I've had others, nothing serious though."

"Was your father aware?"


"Why not?"

"One, I'm an adult and I didn't feel that I needed to tell him every detail of my life and two, none of them were important to me."

"But this one is?"

"Of course."

"Do you see this relationship being long term?"

"Definitely," Madison instantly answered. "I want to marry him one day."

My heart skipped at how fast and shamelessly he said that, not only in front of strangers, but in front of his dad as well. I couldn't help but grin as his father's jaw clenched.

"Now that we have those details, can you please tell me from your own perspective of what happened with your father and what led up to it?"

Madison swallowed and nodded.

"Alright. Take your time and you can stop if you need to."

Madison nodded again before he took a deep breath and started. "It all really started a couple Sundays ago. Noah was over my house because of a homophobic sermon at his church and he didn't feel safe. We were just spending a bit of time together and watching Netflix when Noah told me that my father, Mr. Williams, called him in. Not much later, I get a text from Noah telling me that it's over. Naturally, I was scared and confused because it was so sudden and our of the blue. I tried calling and texting but it was never delivered or it went to voicemail. I felt betrayed and confused, especially because I never got a why or closure.

"I was down for a while until Noah's friend Connor came to my job and said that Noah wanted to talk. I went to Noah's house and he told me that my father had found surveillance of us kissing and he lost it and told Noah to either break up with me, or he'd our Noah, which might've put him in a dangerous situation, especially with his church and, as we saw, his so called friends."

"So what happened next?" Mr. Daye questioned.

"I was furious. I wanted answers as to why my father would do something like that instead of trying to talk to me about it or basically anything other than what he did, but Noah calmed me down and I tried to sleep it off, but when I woke up I was still as furious. So I went home and called him and told him that I knew what he had done and that he needed to come over. He tried to justify it by saying that he was trying to protect me. I was so upset and told him that I loved Noah and hated him. At the time I didn't really know if I meant it about hating him, but now I definitely do. At the time I knew that I just wanted to hurt him like he'd hurt me. He then hung up and I thought it was the end of it but then..." he trailed as he furiously began blinking. All I wanted to do was hug him, but all I could do was hold my hands together and bounce my leg uncontrollably.

"I thought it was over and I was glad. I just wanted it to be over. I was tired, physically and emotionally. I was about to head back over to Noah's because he always knew exactly how to calm me down and pull me back from the ledge, but then I...I heard banging on my door. It was loud and angry. At first I thought someone was trying to break in but then I heard my father say, and I quote 'I know you're in there you ungrateful fag'. I'll never forget it..." he trailed as tears started to well up in his eyes. He closed his eyes and took a breath before he opened his eyes again and pressed on. "I knew what he was capable of. I've seen him get violently angry before but, like I said in my original statement, I never thought he'd actually hurt me. He broke in the door and the look of rage and hatred on his face mixed with his balled fists...I've never seen him so upset or angry. It was terrifying. Then um...then he just walked up to me and punched me in the face without giving me a chance to say a single word." Anger boiled within me all over again. All I wanted to do was make Mr. Williams pay, but I knew I couldn't. Not yet.

Tears were now steadily flowing down his face but he continued, his voice shaking. "Then he just kicked and kicked and kicked me until was on the floor. I tried to defend myself, I really did, but it was like I just...couldn't, you know? I couldn't bring myself to hit him even after all the terrible things he'd done to me and the one I love. So he just kept at it, hitting me and calling me a fag. But he ignored me and just hit me harder and I realized exactly how much he hated me for something that I didn't choose."

Mr. Williams looked down. I wanted to grab his head and make him look his son in the eyes and hear what he'd done.

"I begged him to stop and told him if he didn't, he'd kill me. And you know what his response was? He said, 'I'd rather have a dead son than a gay one.' That hurt the most, so I just gave up." I could feel the atmosphere in the courtroom change once he said that. Even the judge had a look of sympathy on her face. "Once he realized I'd stopped fighting, he basically said that I'm a sorry excuse of a man, he's disappointed in me, I'm no longer his son, and he hopes I burn in hell then stormed out.

"I was just in so much pain and in shock that I didn't know what to do. I just stayed there on the ground where he'd left me and cried. I don't really know how long I was there but...after a while I picked myself up and went to sit in the bathtub. I was so disoriented and shocked that I didn't know what else to do. I slipped into hysterics and called Noah, again because he knew how to calm me down. He got there fast and when he knocked I thought he was my father again and I was afraid that he'd come back to make good on...on having a dead son rather than a gay one but when I saw Noah and I knew I was safe.

"He wanted to go after my dad but I convinced him not to. I was just holding on to the thought that he'd come around and that he hadn't actually meant it. I also didn't think I'd be able to sit in front of a courtroom like this and relive it, but here I am. Noah stayed with me and protected me up until what happened at his practice."

Mr. Daye nodded. "I'm sorry that happened to you Madison. Now, going to the soccer incident, had you known any of the attackers before that day?"


"So that day was your first time meeting them?"


"Please explain what happened."

"Well, I convinced Noah to go to soccer practice since he'd been skipping so many practices to look after me. He finally agreed so I drove him though it was only across the street. We were there early so we parked in the back where no one could see us and I kissed him a bit then he went to practice. I went on my phone for a bit and the next thing I knew, one of his teammates were banging on my window and said that Noah needed help. I saw him being beaten up and I saw Trey kick him in the head until his eyes rolled back and he passed out and all I could see was red. I don't really know all I did, but I got them off of Noah and an ambulance came and I rode with him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion and two bruised ribs. I later found out that this all happened because Mr. Williams outed Noah and his teammates didn't like his sexual orientation."

"Thank you Madison. I have one more question and I want you to think about this and answer honestly. If your father and these young men were to be found not guilty and released, would you feel safe?"

"Not at all," he instantly answered. "The man who claims to be my father beat me to the point that he could've killed me and those monsters beat Noah without a second thought all because of what? Because he was gay? And if they could do that to a so called friend, what could they do to someone they don't know or someone they don't like?"

Mr. Daye nodded. "Thank you, Madison. That is all, your honor."

The judge nodded before she turned to the other lawyer. "You may start your cross examination."

"So Madison, you say that you and Noah only started dating less than a month ago, correct?"


"Is if possible that Noah broke up with you on his own and blamed your father for it? I mean, it seems like you two took things pretty fast and as far as I know, he's currently staying with you is he not?"

Madison was obviously taken aback. "Yes, he's staying with me, but no, he'd never do that."

"How do you know that he wasn't only using you or experimenting and once he found out he didn't swing for that team, he blamed your father? I mean it's kind of hard to believe that a man who's raised his son on his own suddenly went into a violent rage against him."

"Objection! Badgering the witness!"

"I agree with Mr. Daye. The jury will disregard that. I suggest you clean up your cross-examination Mr. Olsen."

"Okay, withdrawn. Now, Madison, why didn't you go to the hospital or call the police?"

"Like I said, I wasn't ready to. I was in shock and confused. I knew that if I went to the hospital they'd ask questions and I wasn't emotionally ready for it."

"So how do we know this really happened?"

My jaw clenched. How could he even suggest that-

"Noah, calm down," Mr. Daye lowly said into my ear, sensing my anger.

I let air out of my nose as I leaned back in my chair, jaw set.

"Dr. Emma will vouch for me she saw the bruises," Madison tightly said.

"Now, I understand that you're Italian-American, is that correct?"

"Yes. First generation American."

"Do you think you're Italian heritage has anything to do with how your father reacted?"

His eyebrows furrowed. "No. Italy is generally an LGBT friendly country."

"How about your religion."

Madison's jaw clenched. "It's messy."

"Care to elaborate?" Mr. Olsen smugly pressed.

"All I have to say is that I don't believe in a religion that calls for harm to come to innocent people. I believe in a higher power, yeah, but I don't blindly follow everything that's said about it. My father does."

Mr. Olsen nodded. "Final question: do you believe that your father was doing what he thought was right for you?"

Madison scuffed. "If wishing death upon your son, beating him, and putting him in danger is a sign of love then sure. But as far as I'm concerned it's not. So to answer your question, no I don't." He looked his father in the eyes. "I hate him. I hate him with all of my heart."

Mr. Olsen nodded. "Thank you. That is all, your Honor."

Mr. Daye signaled for Madison to come down. As Madison sat beside me, all I wanted to do was throw my arms around him and hold him tight, but I couldn't. All I could do was put a hand on his knee and gently run my thumb along it. That seemed to relax him.

"Up next, I'd like to call Noah Bruno," Mr. Daye announced. I took a deep breath before I got up and was sworn in and sat down. I hated the pressure of eyes on me.

"Hello, Noah. Can you please tell my your side of the story please?"

I nodded. "Well it started for me when I was at home. I forgot exactly what I was doing but I got a call from Madison. He was crying and I could just hear the fear in his voice. I was scared. All he said was that he needed me, that's it. I told him not to hang up and I was on my way out the door when my Nona stopped me. She was upset with me because I was always gone or whatever, and in a fit of rage, I came out to her and told her that Madison needed me and I had to go. She didn't say anything, but I was so concerned about Madison that I don't think I had time to process everything. So I rushed to Madison's house and saw his front door busted. When I went in, I found him in the bathtub all beaten and bruised and...I felt so helpless standing there seeing him like that. He was crying, so I calmed him down and made him tell me what happened. All he told me was that Mr. Williams had beaten him and nothing more. He's right, when he told me I was furious. I don't know what exactly I wanted to do but I wanted to make the bastard pay for putting his hands on Madison. But Madison stopped me. And I couldn't leave him alone. Not after something like that. So I stayed with him. My friend Connor delivered my homework while I took care of Madison. Then Madison convinced me to go to practice. Like he said, we made out a bit in the back of the parking lot but nothing too serious.

"But when I got out, I saw the guys were already gathered around. Then Trey started coming at me about not being allowed to be the captain anymore. We got into a verbal fight and he told me that it was because I was a fag, sorry for the language, and that Mr. Williams has outed me to them. I was furious but before I could do anything he hit me." As the world flowed from my mouth, anger built within me and my vision got blurry. I blinked away the tears. "I went down and before I knew it, they were all surrounding me, kicking and beating me. I saw Henry run away but I didn't know why. Then Trey kicked me in the face and the next thing I know I'm waking up in a hospital."

Mr. Daye nodded. "I understand that Connor is on your team too, correct?"


"Where was he?"

"His girlfriend's grandfather died, so he had to be with her."

Mr. Daye nodded again. "As stated by your medical report you had a concussion and bruised ribs, correct?"


"What are the normal injuries you'd get from soccer?"

"Usually just bruises, shin splints or maybe a broken nose at the worst. Nothing to this extent though."

"What was your relationship with Mr. Williams prior to the incident?"

"He was my boss. That's it. He and my Nona were friends, but not anymore to my understanding."

"Had he ever threatened you before?"

"After he called me in for the video he threatened me if I didn't break up with Madison and stay away from him."

"Threatened you how?"

"I don't know, he was very vague. He just kept saying that he would disciple me for taking my confusion out on his son." The words tastes bitter on my lips. "I was scared so I agreed. I didn't want him to hurt me or Madison."

"And how long have you and Madison been dating?"

"About a month, give or take."

"Have you ever felt doubtful or that things were moving too fast?"

"I mean, I felt doubt in myself only because I was only starting to realize that I wasn't straight, but none of the doubt was toward Madison, and no I never felt that things were going to fast. I think it was because of the circumstances and just how comfortable we'd gotten with each other since we'd already been around each other a lot."

"Did anyone know of this relationship?"

"Only Connor, but that was after we'd been forced to break up. Oh yeah, my teacher Mr. Hill knew. I felt comfortable telling him because he's a proud open gay man with a husband and daughter so I thought he could help me."

Mr. Daye nodded. "You mentioned that you came out to your Nona. Did she accept you?"

"Not at first, but she recently came around. We're trying to take things slowly and make sure that we're on the same page."

"Okay, Noah. Thank you. That is all I have your honor."

"Mr. Olsen," was all the judge said and I instantly felt my heartbeat increase and my palms get sweaty.

"Hello Noah. I have a few questions I need you to answer. It says here on your medical report that you didn't remember everything right away, correct?"

I swallowed. "Correct."

"And it wasn't until Madison told you what happened, you suddenly remembered, correct?"

"Now hold on, I-"

"Yes or no, please Noah."

I bit my tongue as I took a deep breath. "Yes, but I remembered."

"Okay. Don't you think it's convenient that Connor wasn't there the day this all happened?"

"Wait what do you-?"


"Withdrawn. Anyway, Madison is your first homosexual relationship with, correct?"


"Are you sure there weren't any underlying negative feelings? Perhaps you were bicurious?"

My eyebrows knitted together. "No. I knew what I wanted, I was only unsure of how to go about it."

He clicked his tongue. "Alright Noah, here's an easy one. How long have you known the boys on your team?"

"A bit over five years."

"Would you describe them usually as violent people."

"No, but I-"

"Yes or no."

I balled my fists under the table. "No."

"So why do you think they had this sudden out burst?"

I scuffed. Is he serious?

"Please answer the question."

"I don't know, maybe because they're homophobic trash?"

"Or do you think they were scared? Threatened maybe?"

"I'm scared and threatened right now, but does that give me the right to clock you in the face?"

Mr. Olsen chuckled. "I fighter. I like it. Ok Noah, I have one final series of questions. Is it true that your mother and father are deceased?"

My throat tightened. "Y-Yes."

"Died in a car accident on the way to one of your games?"


"Is it possible, and stay with me here, that you saw another Italian boy with a life you wanted with his living father and tried to mess it up by driving a wedge in between them, on purpose or not."

Anger boiled in me as tears gathered in my eyes. "Excuse me? Don't you dare talk about my-"

"Objection, your honor! Badgering the witness!"

"Overruled. Answer the question please Mr. Bruno."

Was she serious? I took a shaky deep breath and looked Mr. Olsen in his beady eyes. "No. I told Madison not to go after his father after he found out he forced us to break up. You know why? I reminded him that at least he had a father. I told him that maybe he was confused and would come to his senses but obviously he didn't., and that's no one's fault but his own."

"Interesting," Olsen said. "That's all your honor."

While I was walking back to my seat I was shaking. "You did good, mi amor," Madison whispered in my ear as I sat next to him before he took my hand in his own. I rested my cheek on his shoulder and allowed his presence to calm me.

Mr. Daye continued calling up witnesses, Emma to confirm both my and Madison's injuries upon arriving at the hospital, Connor to confirm my story as well as Nona. Henry confirmed the events at the practice and Officers Herold and Walker.

All the while, Mr. Olsen has no real questions to ask except for his usual harassment.

After a while, Mr.Williams took the stand. Madison's grip on me became tighter. I ran my thumb across his knuckles. "Va bene. Sono qui. (it's okay. I'm here)," I gently whispered. He nodded.

"Alright Mr. Williams, I'll cut to the chase. What were your thoughts when you saw the tape of Madison and Noah."

"I was disgusted. Horrified. Confused. I thought this boy on here surely can't be my son."

"Who kisses who first?"

"Noah did," he said and my jaw clenched. He's lying. "I was horrified. And Madison was trapped so he kissed him back." I squeezed Madison's hand, needing something to channel my anger to.

"What happened when you confronted Noah?"

"I threw some empty threats at him like any concerned father would."

I rolled my eyes.

"I didn't mean any harm though."

"So why did you handle things the way you did with Madison?"

Mr. Williams sighed. "Look, I admit that I could've handled things differently, but Madison was being over dramatic. I didn't do all that. I just...I love him so much and I don't want to see him ruin his life over some boy he'll get over in a few weeks." That hit me in the heart, but I kept my poker face.

Madison gave my hand a squeeze as if to say it weren't true.

Mr. Olsen continued asking him dumb questions and Mr. Williams continued trying to save face until Mr. Olsen was done and Mr. Daye's turn started.

"I find it interesting that you claim that Noah kissed Madison first when the surveillance video clearly shows Madison kissing Noah first. It even seems that they were joking with each other too. Let me present the court with this video evidence." On a TV next to the witness stand, the surveillance video played showing me with flour on my face trying to walk away before Madison pulled me into him and kissed me. It was apparent that he was laughing once I pulled away and he was not "trying to get away" as Mr. Williams claimed. He was caught in a lie.

"Now, I know you've seen this, seeing that this is the reason you went after my clients, and I know that you understand that lying under oath is a punishable offense, right Mr. Williams."

"I must've mis-seen it."

I rolled my eyes.

Mr. Daye continued asking questions that broke apart every part of Mr. William's fake testimony. It looked like God was on our side.

Once Mr. Williams has been torn apart by Mr. Daye, it was Trey's turn. He spewed some crap about me attacking him, even though Henry testified the opposite and Emma said there was no way that I could've come for him base on how my bruises were.

I found myself tuning everything out and focusing on Madison's hand in mine and the feeling of his warm skin against mine instead of my hammering heartbeat. Even though their case was held together by chewing gum and spit, you never know how the law might work sometimes.

After a while, the judge said "Alright. The jury will deliberate and come back with a verdict. Until then, both parties wait in your assigned spaces."

Mr. Daye got up and used his head to motion back toward the waiting room. I stood up, Madison's hand proudly in mine as we followed Mr. Daye.

Now all we have to do is wait.

Wait for our lives to be dictated by complete strangers.

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