Soundtrack To My Youth (book 1)

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Shout

The sound of footsteps next to my bed, filters into my dream, I can hear them clearly, padding across the floor, long strides getting closer and closer until they stop right beside my bed, there’s a scraping noise, like furniture being dragged but it doesn’t go far, a soft crinkle of fabric followed by deep, heavy sigh. I’m being watched, I can sense it, I want to scream out, to run from my room but my body won’t allow it, I feel like there’s a weight sitting over me, holding me in place. A familiar scent hits me, a spiced, woodsy smell brings instant comfort and I’m no longer afraid. I speak his name in my mind but no sound comes out.

“Come back to me baby” Sam begs beside me, his voice so clear, “I need you” His hand caresses my cheek, I can feel it, I can feel everything but I can’t see him, all I see is darkness, pitch black that stretches on forever. More footsteps, running, an unfamiliar perfume scent lingers over me, my left eyelid is pulled up and a bright light floods in, this is then repeated on the right eye.

“Page Doctor Papskin” A loud, female voice shouts. There’s a conversation happening at the foot of my bed, the voices are muffled, I’m trying hard to grab on to what they’re saying but the dream is slipping away and reality is seeping back in.

“Veronica, you’re having a nightmare, come back to me baby” Sam voice pulls me out of my sleep, waking me with a shudder. My room is filled with a dull, Winter’s morning light, the thick comforter on my bed is making me feel hot but my body is cold and clammy from sweat, my breathing laboured as I try to settle myself. Sam’s arms are wrapped tightly around me, holding me close to his chest, I breathe in his scent and feel a calm wash over me.

“It was just a dream” I’ve never had a dream feel so real, I’ve never been able to feel or smell anything in a dream.

“It’s the trial baby, it’s stirring on your mind but you’re safe, Carson can’t get you” Sam reassures me, assuming that my dream was much like the ones that came after Carson was arrested. The trial, which was starting today, was the real nightmare that none of us could escape from.

Bridget had been on edge for the past week, snapping at everyone around her and starting petty fights. We all understood it was because of the trial, the constant reminder that she would have to face Carson again, so none of us took her attacks personally. She had broken down so many times, letting the fear creep in, she was so afraid that he would be set free and come after her, seeking revenge and the closer the trial got the worse she became.

A high pitched scream came from down the hall, I was on my feet and out the door so fast, running to Bridget’s room, Sam trailing behind me. I flung open her door to find Bridget, sobbing in Dad’s arms. He had started sleeping on a blow up mattress on her floor when the nightmares had started, he wanted her to feel protected, safe and secure, he also knew that he wouldn’t be able to get to her quickly in his state of fitness.

Bridget had also started seeing Daniel at the clinic, she had had two sessions so far and she said it made her feel better to get it out, just to be able to talk about her anxiety and fears and she showed me some of the copping methods he was teaching her, so that I too could help her when she reaches that state of full blown panic attack.

I took a seat beside her on her bed, taking her trembling hand in mine and spoke to her in a calm, soothing tone.

“Bridget, deep breaths, in and hold it and then release.” She followed my lead but her breathing was ragged at first as she struggled to gain control over it. “Close your eyes, I want you to picture the beach, the warm sand crunching between your toes, the waves crashing against the shoreline, imagine the salty sea air blowing in your hair as we make a giant sand castle together. Can you see it?”

“Yes, there’s shells on the sandcastle and a moat” Her breathing has calmed, she opens her eyes and gives me a small smile.

“Whenever you get scared today I want you to imagine us at that beach, just you and me, safe” I tuck her hair behind her ear. “That’s our happy place, no one can hurt us there remember?” She nods her head.

“Thank you Veronica” Dad whispers, brushing my shoulder.

~~~

Before the trial, our lawyer, Melissa, takes Dad, Bridget and I into a small room alone and goes through what we can expect, breaking the case down into sections. She had grilled both Bridget and I on the questions that would most likely be thrown at us by Carson’s lawyer and warned us that his intent was to trip us up, to make it look like we are lying, in order to improve the way Carson is viewed by the jury.

“Max is known to get very aggressive with his questioning, don’t allow it to bring you undone, stay calm and if you need to take a break just say so” Easier said than done. Bridget and I had practiced our testimonies all week leading up to today but I worried that nerves could get the best of either of us.

“Don’t look at Carson” I told Bridget, her little body beginning to tremble with fear. “Focus on Sam, pretend you are just talking to Sam”

“I’ll try”

Melissa lead us into the small courtroom, it was like you see in movies, expect smaller, there was a judges bench and witness box at the front, to the right of the witness box there was 12 seats set up for the jury, 6 in the front row and 6 behind them. There were two desks in the middle of the room, spaced apart with a barrier behind them, separating them from the seating at the back of the room.

Sam, Nick and Aunty Celeste were sitting in the seats, directly across from them, in the other row was my Mother and Beverly, glaring at us with a look of disgust when we entered the room. I was relieved that Carson hadn’t been brought in yet.

Bridget and Melissa took their places at the desk, Dad and I sat directly behind them next to Sam, his hand slipping into mine, easing some of my tension. The back door to the courtroom opened and my jaw dropped at the sight of Lucas, dressed in a suit, hair slicked back, he walked up the gap, separating the the rows and took his seat next to Mum, refusing to look at us, his eyes trained to the ground in front of him.

“What is he doing here and why is he sitting on their side?” I whisper to Dad.

“I don’t know pumpkin but if I had to guess, I’d say that he is the character reference for Carson” bile stirs in my empty stomach as I see the smug smile forming on Susan’s face. This is why she was keeping it under wraps. Anger fills me fast, Sam was right, Lucas was just playing me, yet again, probably trying to get information to use against us and I fell for it, believing he had changed. He’s just like Carson, he’s incapable of changing.

The side door on the right opens and Carson is led into the room by two guards either side of him, he’s dressed a green tracksuit with handcuffs on his wrists, his hair looks disheveled and his beard has grown out of control. His lawyer, Max follows behind him, carrying a a large briefcase and looking like he’s ready for war.

He looks over to us, his stare ice cold, full of menace. I put my hand on Bridget’s back, willing her to not look at him but it’s too late. Her breathing is increasing rapidly.

“Remember the beach, Bridge, think of the sandcastle” I remind her, she breaks contact with him and closes her eyes, her breathing becoming more regulated.

The back door to the courtroom swings open again and around 50 people file in, taking their seats behind us, with some left standing at the back of the room. Melissa had explained that the jury would be picked in front of us and that both sides had a choice to veto a juror and have them swapped out.

She had said that jurors were picked at random, by a number they were allocated and that all potential jurors had to be briefed on the case beforehand, giving them a chance to decide if they don’t feel comfortable sitting in on it.

“All rise for Judge McNealy” Is announced by the sheriff, everyone stands up as a tall, stern, broodish looking man enters the room from behind his bench and takes his seat in the large chair, overlooking the whole courtroom. He nods at the sheriff to permit us to sit.

The sheriff proceeds to inform the room about the case that they will be hearing and the expected length of the trial. Carson was asked how he pleaded to the charge of assault and he simply stated “not guilty”, making my stomach turn.

“Please come forward now if you feel, for any reason, that you are unable to sit on this case for the reason stated on the sheet in front of you, only Judge McNealy can excuse you if he feels you meet the requirements stated” The sheriff tells the jurors and 10 of them form a line to speak to the judge. One of which, a woman who looks to be in her early 30′s, looks over at Bridget, visible tear stains on her cheeks. The judge excused 4 of the jurors, including the crying woman and the sheriff started announcing the numbers of the jurors picked.

Once their number is called out, the juror must them find a seat in the jury section and wait, when all 12 jurors had been selected the judge then asked both lawyers if they wished to swap any of them out. Max swapped out one person, a young woman and seemed pleased when an older man was selected. Melissa whispered to Bridget and Bridget shook her head, indicating that they didn’t wish to make any changes. The other jurors were excused and asked to leave the courtroom.

The case moved pretty quickly once it got underway. Once again, the case was explained to the 12 jurors but more detail was given. Bridget was called to the stand first, looking like she may throw up as she sat down in the little booth next to the judge. She looked straight ahead, her eyes locked on Sam, just like I had told her to do.

Melissa questioned her first, the questions ranged from the type of relationship she had with Carson and led into the events that brought about the assault. Bridget’s voice was quivering as she recalled the story of leaving our room to get herself a glass of juice, she had tried to tiptoe pass Carson’s room but had bumped into an end table. She was on her way back to our room, glass in hand when he trapped her in the dinning room, pushing her hard to the floor and placing a foot on her stomach to hold her in place, she told how she kept trying to break free but every time she would get up he would kick her back down, the last kick he gave her wasn’t like the others, it was harder and it winded her, she spoke of how she thought she was scared she was going to die, the pain was that intense. Melissa asked why Carson stopped his attack on her.

“Veronica came out and he moved onto her, I felt bad that she was now copping it too but I was so scared and when she told me to get out of the house I did, I left when he had his hands around her throat, chocking her.” Bridget breaks down, she’s told me a thousand times how guilty she felt about leaving me behind but each time I tell her that it’s not her fault, none of this is her fault.

As Bridget relayed her story, Carson sat there smiling to himself like he was proud of his actions, not a shred of remorse at all for what he had done.Questioning is then handed over to Carson’s lawyer, Bridget looks at me, fear in her eyes, this is the part that she had been dreading the most.

“Bridget, can you please tell the court what you took from my clients room?” Max asks

“My diary”

“Why would your diary be in Carson’s room?”

“He stole it from my room, I accidentally left it at my Mum’s house and when I went back to get it, it wasn’t under my mattress”

“So you just assumed that Carson took your diary? You never waited around to ask him?”

“No, I went into his room and I saw it there on his desk and I took it back” Bridget’s voice is so small, so unsure of her own actions.

“Do you often steal property?” Max asks

“Objection, it’s not stealing if it’s her own property” Melissa calls out.

“I’ll allow it, only because I wish to see where he’s going with this, answer the question Miss Kreslin” Judge McNealy instructs Bridget. How can he let this happen? Max is trying to make Bridget out to be a thief just to say that Carson had every right to abuse her and the judge is letting this play out.

“I’ve never stollen anything in my life” Bridget answers loudly, her fear is being replaced with anger at the allegation that she’s a thief.

“So you went into Carson’s own personal space and acquired something that you claim was yours? That’s theft”

“He stole it from me first” Bridget exclaims, working herself up. “He went into my room and stole my diary and then wrote dyke on the page”

“Do you have proof that he stole your diary? It could have easily been planted there by someone else but you just assume that Carson was the one who took it and that gives you the right to enter his personal space” Max spins around from Bridget and approaches the jury. “I don’t know about any of you but if someone broke into my house and took something I would be pretty angry too”

I was called to the stand next, I was asked about my account of the events that took place and about my relationship with Carson and with My Mother.

“Would you consider yourself to be a volatile person Veronica?” Max asked me as he paced in front of the witness box.

“Not at all, I’d say I’m easy to get along with really, but there are some people who go out of their way to push me around or try and hurt my sister and I won’t stand for that”

“Did you ever call Carson degrading names such as ‘fuck face’?”

“Yes, among others” I proudly tell him, I have no regrets with how I spoke to Carson, he’s a pig and I haze zero respect for him.

“And you would often do this in front of your sister? Letting her see that it’s alright to be disrespectful to her brother?”

“Yes, but in my defence these names were used when he was disrespecting Bridget”

“How exactly would he disrespect Bridget?”

“He would call her a dyke, that’s very disrespectful”

“It has been established by Bridget herself that she is a lesbian, has it not?”

“Yes but...”

“Dyke is just another term for lesbian, Carson could have been simply acknowledging Bridget’s sexual orientation” Max is so smug in his response. “You’re trying to find offence in the word he choses to acknowledge a sexual orientation”

“He defaced her diary with that word, his intent was to hurt her” I’m not going to allow this man to make Carson look like a saint, he’s a monster and nothing more.

“You don’t know what his intent was Veronica because you never bothered to ask him. Did it ever occur to you or Bridget how your close relationship with each other made Carson constantly feel left out?” Oh, a new tactic I see, painting Bridget and I as the evil villains and Carson as the neglected victim, nice try douche bag.

“Did it ever occur to Carson that maybe if he hadn’t been abusive and jealous of his sisters then we would have included him?”

“I guess we will never know now will we? No further questions your honour” Max can’t play his twisted mind games on me like he can with Bridget.

“Before I go, I just want to say one thing. Regardless of how Carson felt, it was never and is never ok for him to lay a hand on anyone else. Carson kicked Bridget so hard that it broke her rib, this is not just some petty sibling fight, this was physical abuse, he got to walk away from it but Bridget didn’t, she has suffered for months, it took eight weeks for that rib to heal but the nightmares about that day still plague both of us. You can fool yourselves into believing that this is all because of a diary or because he felt left out but in reality, this wasn’t the first time Bridget or I had been abused by Carson, it’s just the first time I spoke up about it”

Silence falls on the courtroom as I walk back to my seat, holding my head up high. Judge McNealy calls for a 15 minute recess. Melissa ushers Bridget, Dad and I into the small room again.

“Well that’s the hard part over with, well done to both of you” Melissa says, filling a a paper cup with water from the cooler in the corner. “He hasn’t got a case and he knows it, he’s trying and failing to make Carson out to be the victim in all of this, give him some sort of ‘hard done by’ storyline but I’m hoping the jury is smart enough to see right through that and Veronica, your speech just then made it very clear who Carson was”

“So, what happens next?” Dad asks.

“When we go back in there, Carson will get a chance to take the stand and then his character witness and then it gets handed over to the jury who will present us with the verdict, hopefully tomorrow and if found guilty, which I’m sure he will be, then the judge will hand out the sentence.”

“Are you alright?” I ask Bridget, she hasn’t said a word since we got in here, her head is down and she looks exhausted.

“I am, I just want it over with”

“It’s almost done Bridge and then you never have to see him ever again, I promise” Dad tells her, hugging her.

When we walk back out into the courtroom, Mum is talking to Lucas, her hand on his shoulder and he nods occasionally. I want to scream at him, call him out as a liar in front of everyone. Of all the shitty, hurtful things that he has ever done this tops the list, throwing his support behind Carson when he witnessed, first hand, the abuse. I will never forgive him for this.

The judge calls Carson to the stand, Max questions him first, asking him about the relationship he had with Bridget and I.

“I love my sisters very much and I would never have hurt either of them. As their older brother I want nothing more than to protect them from the world” He looks over to both of us and smiles. That lying bastard has been coached by Mum on what to say.

“Why would they accuse you of such a horrific crime?” Max asks Carson.

“Veronica likes to cause trouble, she was always trying to get a rise out of me and when I wouldn’t take the bait she would then lie and say I did something I didn’t do. Bridget plays along because she enjoys the attention. All I ever wanted was for my sisters to treat me like family but I was always treated like the castoff, even by their dad, all because I wasn’t a Kreslin like they were” Oh give me a bucket!

“Did you call Bridget a dyke or ever refer to her as a dyke?”

“If I did then I can’t remember doing it but like I said, Bridget likes attention”

“Please explain to the court, in your own words, what happened on Saturday 21st February, 1999, the day you allegedly physically assaulted your sisters”

“I had gone out the night before and I had a hangover that I was trying to sleep off but Veronica and Bridget were making that impossible, they kept running up and down the hall way, playing some sort of game until Bridget knocked over the end table and I had to come out of my room to clean up the mess. That’s when Veronica started baiting me, trying to get me to fight her and Bridget joined in, together they pushed me up against a wall and I had to fight them off with force. I went back to my room and I heard Veronica telling Bridget that they should make it look like I really hurt them this time so I get into real trouble.”

“He’s lying, he’s a fucking liar” Bridget screams, jumping up from her seat, Melissa tries to pull her back down but she won’t go. “Everything he says is a lie”

“Miss Kreslin, I have to ask you to please calm yourself down or I will be forced to hold you in contempt of the court” Judge McNealy warns Bridget, she takes her seat once again, visibly shaken by the shit spilling out of Carson.

“Why do you think that your sisters try to set you up?” Max asks Carson.

“I believe that Veronica’s boyfriend, Sam, had told her to. His soccer team played mine two weeks beforehand and it was clear to me from the moment I met him that he was out to get me, he didn’t like that I was friends with Lucas and he saw both of us as a threat to his relationship with my sister.” Lucas looks down in guilt at the mention of his name. “Lucas is Veronica’s ex boyfriend and Sam didn’t like that he was still hanging around so he set me up to get me put away so Lucas wouldn’t come around bothering Veronica anymore”

His story is so elaborate and farfetched, there’s no way anyone is buying this shit but as I look over at the jury I can see a few of them are taking notes.

Max ends his questioning and Melissa steps up.

“You have a strong history of violence, don’t you Carson?” Melissa asks straight up.

“If you say so” Carson fires back smugly.

“Oh, I don’t say so, your rap sheet does, in fact this isn’t your first allegation of physical abuse this year alone, there was another case too, you broke a boys nose at a soccer match back in early February”

“Objection, she is bringing in information that has nothing to do with this case your honour” Max shouts.

“Stick to the case at hand barrister” Judge McNealy warns Melissa.

“Yes your honour” Melissa turns from Carson, smile on her face, she knew bringing up the other case against him would establish with the jury his history, proving he’s a liar.

“I’d like to bring to the courts attention document A, this is a photograph, taken by the police of Veronica’s neck, please note the hand print that was left around her neck” Melissa hands the Judge some papers, he takes one and hands the others to the sheriff who shares them out to the jurors, Melissa also hands one to Max. “Bridget please hold up your hands so that the members of the jury can get a visual on how small they are, compared to the size of the handprint”

Bridget holds up her hands and the jury looks from them to the marking in the photograph. Theres no way her tiny hands did that.

“No further questions your honour” Melissa says, walking back to her seat and Carson is assisted back to his by a guard.

“The state calls Lucas Stephenson to the stand” Lucas walks up to the stand and my heart drops, I don’t want to hear him lie to defend Carson, not when he knows what’s at stake. I feel so betrayed by him but what did I expect, once a snake, always a snake.

Max questions him first, asking him how he knows Carson and how close of a relationship they had.

“Would you consider Carson a friend?”

“Not exactly, more of an acquaintance really, we haven’t kept in touch since he went away” This revelation makes me sit up and listen.

“But you were once close?”

“No one is ever close with Carson, he burns bridges pretty fast with his attitude” Lucas says with a smile spread across his face. Max looks back at Mum confused, this was meant to be their big character witness, the one shinning light that could free her golden child and he’s working against them.

“Being Veronica’s ex boyfriend were you witness to any of the trouble she tried to stir up when you visited her at the house?” Lucas sets his sights on me, our eyes locking for a moment before he looks away.

“Being forced to stay in that house was an absolute nightmare for those girls, I witnessed it first hand for myself, two weeks before the attack, Carson held Veronica up against a wall and didn’t let her go until their Mother intervened. My biggest regret is that I didn’t step in then, if I had then maybe Bridget wouldn’t have had her rib broken. I’m sorry Veronica and Bridget, I’m sorry that I failed you both when you needed to be protected”

“I have no further questions your honour” A defeated Max storms back to his desk, shaking his head in anger. Lucas played them, made them believe that he was going to testify for Carson and they now know they’ve lost this whole thing.

“I have no questions either” Melissa says, unable to hide the smile on her face at the shambles of Carson’s defence. I feel terrible for doubting Lucas but I’m forever grateful to him for the part he played. He had even me fooled until he took the stand.

“Well then, if there is no further question then I will now pass it over to the jury for a verdict and we will meet back here tomorrow to hear it” The judge says.

The fate of Bridget future now rests with 12 complete strangers, find him guilty and she can breathe easy but if they decide not guilty then she will forever be watching over her shoulder.

A/N I know that ‘Shout’ is from 1985, but I felt it fitted this chapter. Don’t forget to like and comment if you enjoyed it.

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