I used to believe that a layer of ice lay behind his eyes, that they had the power to freeze hell over and the degrees of his soul remained constantly lower than those of the arctic. He was always so distant and cold. But then he opened his heart to me, he let me in and it reminded me of one thing, the hottest fires always burnt blue.
Liam loved fiercely, despite never being shown how. He fought with so many things and came out stronger after every battle. But there’s still one more left for him to face.
“Five minutes!” Jordan shouted from my hallway. “We gotta leave no later than five minutes.” I ignored his voice and continued lightly dusting my cheeks with contour powder. My hands trembled, I was a nervous wreck.
“So, I’m not gonna go.” My head spun round to Lola who stood in my doorway wearing her full court attire. She kept picking at the nail polish she wore.
“What do you mean you’re not going to go? Liam really needs our support right now.” I threw the brush down into my makeup bag without even looking.
“Tell Liam I’m not feeling well but I wish him the best of luck. I just don’t feel up to going right now Liv.” I stood up, feeling anger lay on the already made pit of worry that gathered in my stomach.
“Lola he’s your friend, how can you just decide you’re not going?” I wanted to lash out at her verbally, release some of the negative feelings clogging up inside of me. I felt sick with nerves, we were all feeling unwell but Lola should be there. We all should.
“Please don’t make this awkward Liv, I’m not going. Just tell Liam I wish I could be there for him.” She took herself out of my bedroom and back downstairs.
“Three minutes.” Jordan shouted. It was like I was in an escape room and my timer was ticking down faster than what I was ready for.
Be brave. Be brave for Liam.
I repeated those words on a loop in my head. A part of me felt selfish for feeling this frightened because it wasn’t me that needed to face him. I worried how it would affect Liam afterwards, I worried incase he lost it and started fighting in the courtroom, I worried about so much.
“Knock, knock. You ready?” Jordan stood in my doorway suited and booted. His curls, however still as uncontrollable as ever. I shook my head, my eyes glossing over with unshed tears. “Me neither.” He admitted “but we gotta go.” His eyes landed on the photo display behind my desk and he smiled to himself, no doubt because of the newest additions.
He slung his arm over my shoulders and walked me to the door, had he not done that I think my feet wouldn’t have allowed me move.
The journey to the courthouse was short, too short. I shared a car with Jordan, Tia and Reece. Zak and Ben travelled in the other car. Everything inside of me felt tense and melancholy, like I had just received some really bad news.
But I held my head up with confidence and hid my fear behind the mask of my foundation.
Be brave. Be brave for Liam.
As soon as I walked in the door I could feel Liams presence, his whole aura was tense enough to fill the entire hallway. He was standing, then sitting, then walking, then drinking. He didn’t know what to so with himself. Then he spotted me.
“I’m freaking out.” He admitted, his voice as shaky as his body.
Hey, come here” I made him sit on a wooden bench just outside of the courtroom, he was far too fidgety standing up. “It’s good to be nervous. Use that as a stepping stone to find your bravery and move forward.” I gave him the advice I had been using myself all morning.
Be brave. Be brave for Liam.
The guys walked in from parking their cars and offered a few words of affirmation to Liam before taking their seats in the gallery.
“I’ll be right in.” Liam told them but he looked like he was going to run. I watched him nervously pace up and down the corridor, using maximum effort just to breathe. He wasn’t okay and I needed him to know he still had a choice.
“Liam, you know you don’t need to do this right?” He pulled my hand up to his lips and kissed it.
“I can’t move forward without doing this, it’s just hard to walk into that room. Lola not coming?”
He nodded towards his friends, we could see them through the open door. They all looked extremely nervous too. None of them were laughing or teasing one another like they usually did. They sat quietly, Zak had his head bowed, Jordan held Tias hand tight enough to make his knuckles white, Ben nervously picked at his finger nails and Reece wouldn’t stop bouncing her leg up and down. They all cared for Liam so deeply, all except Lola it would seem.
“No. She said she’s not feeling well.” I couldn’t mask the irritation in my voice.
“You’re mad at that?” I sighed in annoyance and rolled my eyes.
“She should be here supporting you, even Reece came and I don’t believe she’s not well but today isn’t about her it’s about you getting the justice you deserve.” I didn’t want to talk about Lola. Liam brought himself closer to me and looked me deep in the eyes.
“Liv, don’t be mad at Lola.” How could I not be? Liam obviously wanted her there if he noticed she was missing. She knew how hard this was for him and couldn’t even make the effort.
“But-” I started to say but Liam cut me off.
“Liv, you can’t be mad at her. This trial, it’s just as hard on her as it is for me. It comes with a lot of memories.”
“What?” And suddenly I understood. Lola had been abused as well and I made her feel bad for not coming. I’m such a shitty person. “I didn’t know.” I whispered, a tidal wave of guilt setting in.
“Now you do.” I needed to apologise to her the moment I set eyes on her.
They were getting ready to close the doors and had placed a ‘court in progress’ sign outside. I looked to Liam who still had doubts written all over his face and I held my hand out for him to take it. He glanced at my hand with complete caution, like I was the guard waiting to take him to his fate. Just when I thought he was going to back out he took my hand, his sweaty palm in mine and we strongly walked into that court room united.
Liam sat beside me, I could feel his whole body shaking like a leaf. He didn’t want to hold my hand, he didn’t want to be touched. He kept his head bowed, not looking at anything. Then he walked in, hands in cuffs linked to an officer.
It sickened me to my stomach that if I passed him in the street I would probably smile, or hold a door open for him, perhaps I would pay for his coffee if he rang up short at the counter. He just looked so ... normal.
When someone hurts the one you love you become addicted to hating them and your body, heart and soul craves it’s daily fix. Hate consumes you, changes you. Hate is the devils path and as tempting as it is to walk down it you need to resist because the worst thing it can do to you is leave a footprint on your soul.
But how could I not hate the monster in front of me?
I hated him with every molecule in my body.
The lawyers read out some of Liams statements, the worst ones and it was excruciating hearing them again. I don’t think Liam was taking in anything said during the trial, his coping mechanisms kicked in and he shut it all out. Keeping his head low and his hands busy picking at the skin around his finger nails. It’s human nature to want to offer comfort to him right now, hug him, hold his hand, reassure him. But I knew Liam inside and out, he just needed to be left alone.
And although I couldn’t touch him or offer him compassion; he was never alone. He built a fortress around himself, wore the thickest armor which left him constantly prepared for a battle that he always believed to be fighting by himself but what he didn’t realize was that he had a whole battalion behind him.
This battleground wasn’t filled with mud, blood and trenches. Our battleground smelt like polished pine instead of smoke and gunpowder. We didn’t need to hide behind sandbags or wear protective armour but the fear still tasted the same. It was thick and heavy in the air all around us. The solider in this story had an army that supported him like our lives depended on it.
The judge called Liam up to the stand and I held my breath, praying to find the strength for us both to get through this. He hesitated before bravely rising to his feet and approaching his platform.
Taking a deep breath he clutched a single piece of paper between his shaking fingers. His face was raw with emotion and his eyes were the lightest shade of silver, like the glare from a blacksmiths sword.
I knew after this the nightmares would return, just like they did last time he came face to face with his abuser. In fact I don’t think they ever truly went away. But Liam needed this, he need to face the demons in his story, battle them and gain closure before moving on.
This is the start of the rest of our lives, Liam is starting therapy, the monsters are gone and happiness is a fingertip away.
I could see his composure falling apart. He spent many years of hiding behind his armor and succeeding. But right now, he was unprotected and disarmed. His shield became dented and worn, his breast plate had bullet holes breaking through the metal and his helmet was so loose now it barely protected him. One man did all of that. The man he bravely stood before, ready to read out his letter to.
“Liam, you may proceed.” The judge encouraged, but Liam already knew that. He knew everyone was waiting for him to speak he was just trying to find the words.
Through Liams eyes the courtroom was dark, like a pillow was forcefully being held over his face, closing off air to his nose and mouth, leaving him struggling to breathe. He was suffocating from the absolute fear right before me and I was forced to watch from the sidelines.
“He can’t do this.” Jordan whispered to me and I won’t deny I was losing faith as well but I wasn’t going to openly admit that, not to anyone.
“Liam?” The judge pressed.
But Liam was frozen in fear. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t talk, in that moment he barely existed. Just like always when Liams mind is plagued by the darkness he searched for the light. His eyes scanned the courtroom until they landed on me and hovered for longest time as we telepathically communicated with each other.
“You can do this.” I mouthed, giving him a confident head nod, one that I hoped he wouldn’t see through.
His eyes closed slowly and remained closed while he tried so desperately to compose himself. I could see his chest rapidly rising and falling behind the trembling hand he clutched his letter in. I could see his lips moving ever so slightly to the words of affirmation that he was mumbling to himself under his breath.
When he opened his eyes something had changed within him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the friendship bracelet, mindlessly twirling it between his fingers as he cleared his throat and turned to face the evil before him. The microphone amplified the sound of his gulp through the speakers on each wall.
“I was born into an unfortunate life, my care givers were both abusive and neglectful. I lived through constant darkness, some days were so dark I believed the only way out was ending my own life and I prayed so hard for someone to come along and help me find a way out. See, even at a young age I didn’t know that a happier life existed, I thought everyone went through the things that I went through. Yet I still wished for something better, something more.”
Liams voice was betraying his confidence, it wavered and cracked but he didn’t give up. He pushed through and his abuser looked him right in the eye, listening silently. Throughout this trial he didn’t have anything to say for himself, only his lawyer talked for him.
“You had the opportunity to take me away from all of that, to report the wrong doings that you were fully aware were going on within my household. Instead you decided to add to my hell in the worst way imaginable. You claimed my innocence, violated my personal space, my rights, my mind and my body. You took away my voice and because of that you destroyed me mentally, physically and emotionally.”
He stroked the bracelet between his fingers, letting it give him theoretical courage, or letting him believe I was closer than I actually was.
“But the sad thing is, you made me strong enough to cope with all of the beatings that I got on daily basis at home because what you did to me was so much worse. At five years old I wasn’t scared to return home after spending the day playing in the park. I wasn’t frightened of putting too much milk on my cereal because whatever Jax did to me could never compare to the fear of your shoes tapping against my floor as you walked over to my bed, or the smell of your disgusting cologne lingering on my sheets.
It was you that plagued my mind, it was you that I based every decision on. Too scared to style my hair differently in case you liked me more, too frightened to dress in a bold colour because I didn’t want to capture anymore of your attention. You affected my life, even to this day. I hated changing my usual attire up for a smart suit just in case you liked it more.”
My heart ached. I didn’t know that. All this time his signature look of dark jeans, a T-shirt and a dark leather jacket was so that he could blend in. He was truly that uncomfortable within himself that he dressed the same to not get noticed.
“But that ends now, you didn’t win and you’re not going to. My life is no longer in darkness because dawn has come and the sun has made everything brighter than I ever dreamed possible. I’m moving on from my anger and instead I’m going to be grateful of what I learnt from this experience.
I learned how powerful consent is and because of that I never overstepped boundaries with any girl, even if, regrettably, I did disrespect them.”
He pulled his eyes away from him and looked at me, the slightest smile pulling at his lips. It was a thankful one, like across the room in front of all of these people he was openly thanking me. My heart beamed with pride, I felt like a mom watching her child in the lead role of some nativity story. Liam standing up to his abuser made me immensely proud. He turned back to the predator.
“I learned to appreciate simple things, like touch and I knew that when I felt compelled to be with someone I needed to grasp that feeling with both hands and see it through because that’s where my happiness lay. You made my world so dark that it enabled me to see the light clearer than anything and it shone like two emeralds in a forest at dusk. Rare and beautiful.”
Liam sucked in the rank air from the room and paused momentarily. This was it, his moment of closure. The words he wanted to say to his abuser and right now, he appeared stronger than ever even if he was falling apart.
“I have begun healing in all of the places that your hands have been, my scars will always be with me but now I’ll wear them proudly because they show how far I’ve come. They will no longer remind me of what you did, instead they will remind me that I not only overcome the vilest, cruelest crime on this planet but I won against my abuser.
I am not damaged.
I am Liam.
I am strong.
I am brave.
I am loved.
I am a survivor.
But most importantly,
I am free.”
“Colin Fitzpatrick how do you plead?” My heart was in my mouth, so many emotions rushed through my body at once and I thought I was going to throw up right there and then. Silence filled the court room except for one single cough somewhere in the back.
In mists of waiting a lifetime for his answer he turned around and I froze. He was looking right at me. No not me. He was looking at Jordan and Zak and Ben. Jordan raised a challenging eyebrow at him and he turned back to face the judge.
“Guilty.” He replied.
“What did you do?” I whispered, without moving my lips. Jordan smirked at me.
“Nothing you don’t already know, nothing he wouldn’t do for me.” He whispered back. I glanced at Liam, he was watching Jordan and I suspiciously. He caught that whole encounter.
“... I hereby grant the defendant to life imprisonment.” He banged his gavel down on the counter and I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I stood up and clapped. Jordan stood up and clapped, Zak, Ben, Reece and Tia followed and then so did everyone else, including the jury.
Liam got a standing ovation and his abuser finally lowered his head in shame.
The abused bad boy that stole my heart had been saved and our journey of happily ever after can begin.
(Sorry this chapter was so long, I couldn’t get it all in with less words. Epilogue is coming.)