The cold Winter winds were biting at my cheeks on the walk from the car to the courthouse, the trees that line the path way now completely bare. The temperature had plummeted over night and was now in single digits, with the weatherman predicting a chilly frost to set in for the upcoming weekend. I pulled my overcoat tighter around myself to create a shield against the wind and slipped my hands into my knitted gloves. Sam wrapped his bare hand around mine as we climbed the steps that led up to the courthouse, we hadn’t spoken much about Lucas’ testimony against Carson that had surprised everyone, including Mum and Carson’s lawyer, I had hoped that Sam would now see the change in Lucas and the effort he was making to become a better person but so far, any mention of Lucas’ name by either Bridget, Dad or myself was still met with pure distain by Sam but I wasn’t going to give up trying to help them patch up their friendship.
Melissa met us out the front of the courthouse, dressed in a navy blue pantsuit with her hair pinned back in a French roll, she looked confident and ready for whatever the day was going to throw our way, unlike Bridget who had been so anxious of how the jury would vote that it had kept her awake all night and now she had heavy bags under her eyes.
“Morning” Melissa greeted Dad, Bridget, Sam and I as she held open the door to the courthouse and ushered us into the warmth of the security screening area. I placed my handbag into a plastic tray and stepped through the security scanner, like the ones they have at airports, making me wish I was going on holiday somewhere exotic and warm, anywhere but the court room which could end in disaster if the jury decide that Carson isn’t guilty. “I want to have a quick talk with Bridget and Ed” Melissa says to us when we enter the courtroom, Sam and I take the same seats as yesterday, Melissa, Bridget and Dad leave us to talk in private in the room off to the right. Across from us Mum and Beverly are already seated, throwing cold stares our way, I try to ignore them but when Beverly gets up and walks over to us I know that theres no escape.
“Can I help you?” I ask, looking Beverly up and down, she’s dressed in a long sleeve dress that looks like it probably came out of a clearance bin at Kmart and her pantyhose have runs in them, she’s so tacky it hurts.
“You should feel ashamed of yourselves, the hell you’ve put your mother through and not once have you called her to ask if she’s alright” Beverly’s shrill tone cuts through me like a knife, the woman wants to talk to me about shame right now? My blood is boiling, she’s a real piece of work. I look past her to see Susan dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, if I was an outsider who didn’t know any better than I’d pity Susan but having lived through her twisted mind games and gaslight behaviour for years, I feel nothing but anger towards her.
“Carson physically assaulted both Bridget and I, but sure, it’s Susan that has been put through hell.” I spit back at Beverly and watch her recoil slightly but she bounces back quickly.
“You need to just get over that Veronica, you and your sister are holding onto the past, what’s done is done now, bringing it up all the time won’t change that, just let it go, so you can have your Mum in your lives again.” The absolute nerve of this woman never ceases to surprise me, ‘let it go’, sure, so Carson can get off Scott free and then go out there and beat the shit out of some other defenceless woman. Then what Beverly? Will you attempt to bully her into ‘letting it go’ too?
“Veronica and Bridget have every damn right to seek justice for what that piece of shit did to them and you should consider him lucky that they’re letting the law decide his fate because if I had my way, he would have been carried out of that house in a bodybag for laying a finger on any woman” Sam snaps, standing up to come eye to eye with Beverly but still she doesn’t back down, the woman loves to fight, even if she is fighting for a sadistic arsehole.
The door to the right swings open, Dad comes walking out with his arm around a tearful Bridget, he takes one look at Beverly standing over me and he knows exactly what she’s trying to do.
“Get the fuck away from my daughter” He shouts, marching up and placing himself between Beverly and I, she looks scared, we all know that she would never have had the guts to approach me if Dad was out here and so off she goes, tail between her legs, like the coward that she is.
“You alright?” Dad asks me, placing his hand on my shoulder, he had made it well known throughout the years how much he despised Beverly, how fake she was when you speak to her and how she was always trying to jump on the bandwagon of a cause yet had zero followthrough.
“I’m good, she doesn’t scare me” I say loud enough for the bitch to hear. I look from Beverly, back to Bridget who is shaking in her seat. “Is Bridge alright?” I whisper to Dad
“She is, it’s just a bit overwhelming for her but Melissa is confident we will have the outcome we’re hoping for but she still has to prepare Bridget for a possible loss, just in case it happens” Dad explains, taking his seat next to me. It’s just us today, both Nick and Aunty Celeste had to work but had sent us messages of support.
The jury walk into the courtroom just as Carson is being led in by guards with Max in tow, the handcuffs once again around his wrists and the green tracksuit, he throws a menacing look at the jury as they take their seats, they all look pretty refreshed which I’m hoping means that they came to a unanimous decision early yesterday afternoon.
I look around the room, searching for Lucas because he’s not sitting with Mum and Beverly today, I find him sitting alone at the back of the courtroom, he gives me a tight smile and I nod. I’m glad he came again today, he left so quickly yesterday that I didn’t get a chance to thank him for his testimony and support.
“All rise for the honourable Judge McNealey” The sheriff announces when the Judge steps out of his chambers and takes his seat, he gives the nod to the sheriff and we are told to sit.
“Mr Kreslin I am going to give you once last opportunity if you would like to change your plea before I hand over to the jury” The Judge addresses Carson coldly, Carson takes a moment to look at Mum who shakes her head, she’s still not ready to give up and admit he’s in the wrong, even with the amount of evidence stacked against him. Carson whispers his answer to Max, who looks less than amused making me wonder if Max had been trying to wear Carson down, changing his plea could get him a lighter sentence Melissa had explained to us.
“My client would like to stick with his plea of not guilty” Max says to the Judge through gritted teeth.
“Alright then, lets not drag this out any more than what it has been, members of the jury have you reach an unanimous decision?”
“We have your honour, for the charge of assault and battery against the first minor we find the defendant guilty, for the charge of assault against a second minor we also find the defendant guilty” I feel all the air in my lungs leave me, I almost can’t comprehend it, we won. Dad’s on his feet in a flash, pulling a now elated Bridget into a tight hug. I look up at Sam who is smiling widely at me.
“We won” I whisper to him, I still can’t believe it, there was that small doubt in my mind that the jury wouldn’t see through his lies, that Lucas’ testimony had done nothing to convince them that Carson was a monster. My whole life I had believed that Carson was given a green light to do whatever he wanted and that no one would ever stop him but today proved that speaking up could change everything, that we didn’t have to live in fear anymore.
“This is outrageous” Susan cried out, sobbing into her handkerchief, her anger now directed towards the jury. “He did nothing wrong”
“You are not doing your son any favours by trying to cover up his intolerable behaviour and attitude, if anything you will find that you are just fanning the flames” Judge McNealey’s anger towards Mum is evident. “For your crimes Carson Kreslin you will serve five years with 36 months parol period for good behaviour, I suggest you use your time in prison wisely Carson, you’re only young, you don’t want this to become your life, in and out of prison because you can’t control your temper.”
After sentencing, Carson is once again led out of the courtroom by two guards and the jury is dismissed. Judge McNealey retreats back into his chambers, leaving us to celebrate our victory. My arms are around Bridget as soon as the Judge has gone, holding her little body close to my own.
“We’re free, we’re finally free” I whisper to her as she breaks down in my arms, months of anxiety and anguish comes flooding out of her. We both never thought we’d see the day that we would have our story told and find justice.
“You selfish, selfish girls” Susan screams out from across the row, drawing all the attention to herself, I should have known that the witch wouldn’t go quietly. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done, I’m going to be all alone now, you could have just let it go and he wouldn’t have come near you ever again but no, you had to destroy my life too, you two have been a giant disappointment to me from the moment you were born” Bridget steps out from my hold and walks up to our Mother, her face twisted in anger at Susan’s cruel retorts.
“The only disappointment here is you Susan” Bridget spits out, her words laced with venom. She had spent years being afraid of our Mother, scared to speak up but now that’s all changed, a new, stronger Bridget is starting to emerge. “You are our Mother and you failed to protect us from evil and then branded us liars when we spoke up, theres a special place in hell for people like you”
Susan recoils, Bridget has never spoken to her like this before, Bridget has always been the child she could easily wrap around her finger to make her work her will but now she’s lost the one child who ever cared about her and its Susan’s own fault. Susan begins to walk away but Bridget is far from done.
“You can try and destroy every relationship that I ever have with a woman but it will never change the fact that I am a lesbian and there is nothing wrong with that, I didn’t bring shame to this family, you and your fucked up son did that” Dad steps up beside Bridget as Beverly drags Mum away. I’m so proud of my sister, I’m proud she took a stand and that the confidence that I’ve been trying to instil in her is finally starting to shine through.
I look to the back of the room where Lucas is now standing awkwardly, unsure if he should approach us or not but it is Dad that goes up to him, holding out his hand to shake it.
“Thank you Lucas, thank you so much for what you did for my family, I can never repay you” Dad says as the tears begin to fall from his eyes, I never thought I’d see the day that Dad was thanking Lucas. Bridget runs up to Lucas and wraps her arms around him, it’s a move that surprises him but he still hugs her back.
“Thank you so much, you’re my hero” She cries.
“For fuck sake” Sam groans beside me, watching Lucas getting praised. “He’s the hero? Really?” He pushes past me and storms out of the courtroom, making me run to keep up with him. I can’t believe him, I can’t believe he’s actually angry and jealous right now.
“Sam, wait” I call after him but he’s not slowing down, he bursts through the courthouse doors and runs down the steps, he can move pretty fast being an athlete and he’s putting a fair distance between us, my lungs begin to burn as I try to keep up with him, people are watching me chase after him like a mad woman.
I didn’t see the tree root sticking up until it was too late, my foot caught under it and brought me to the ground in a loud thud, I wasn’t hurt, just embarrassed that people were gathering around to help me up and asking if I was alright, Sam must have heard the commotion behind him and doubled back, pushing through the small group that had surrounded me. He wraps his arm around my shoulders, leading us away together.
“I’m sorry baby, are you alright? is anything hurt” He asks me, my heart rate was beginning to slow down, back to normal, my cheeks were flushed making the cold wind whipping by us a welcomed relief.
“Just my ego” I tell him coldly. “I should be inside, celebrating the win with my sister but instead I’m out here in the freezing cold chasing after you, today was about Bridget, not you, not Lucas”
“I know that Veronica, you don’t think I know that? You don’t think I realise that I let him get under my skin and it ruins every moment we have?” His voice is strained, his eyes filled with sorrow and pain. “I was there, when the shit hit the fan, I was there”
“Bridget knows that, she’ll never forget what you did for us Sam”
“Veronica, you don’t get it, I don’t want credit for what I did, that’s not why I’m angry, I’m pissed that this is just typical of that arsehole, he did nothing to help you both, even when we went to your Mum’s house that night, he was useless really yet, now, he just swoops in and is labeled a hero. He hasn’t changed, you’ve never been able to see him for who he truely is, this is just another game to him, put on the good guy act and fool the world”
His words are insulting, not only to me, to say that I can’t see who Lucas is but also to Lucas because he refuses to see the change within him.
“I am not doing this with you anymore Sam, it’s an exhausting fight. If you don’t want to have Lucas in you life then you don’t have to but he has every single right to redeem himself and he is working so hard to do that, you have no idea what he’s been through”
“I should have known you’d defend him, you’re so blind to who he really is, that’s why you always run back to him. Enjoy your life of misery with him Veronica, I’m not sticking around to watch him shit all over you again” I’m fuming, it always comes back to his insecurity that I’m going to leave him for Lucas, no matter how much I convince him otherwise.
“Go to England Sam, get as far away from me as possible, maybe when you’re all alone over there you will finally realise that it was your own insecurity that you are letting destroy us” I turn and walk away from him, not looking back and he makes no effort to come after me. My dreams of our future together are beginning to shatter and I can’t keep piecing us back together, just to have him tear us apart.