''Miss Jones, my name is judge Abigail Stevens and I will handle all four lawsuits.''
I nod and and judge Stevens smiles.
''Let me first say thank you for agreeing to talk to me, miss Jones. These cases are complicated and I'm almost ready to make my ruling, but I do want hear your opinion before I do so.''
''Why?'' I ask confused.
Judge Stevens leans back in her chair and she frowns.
''Because your opinion matters to me, miss Jones. Like do you think that all four of them should be punished the same way? Should I let some of it slide or is there anything you would like to tell me before I make my ruling?''
I sigh and I squeeze the stress ball my uncle gave me firmly.
''I want to tell you to dismiss it all, but I can't.
''Why is that, miss Jones?''
''Because my uncle was right. These were not some pranks gone wrong or some kids making dumb decisions. Non of us are little kids anymore and we should be hold accountable for our actions.''
I stand up and I walk around judge Stevens chambers. I look at the books about law, the pictures and I stop to look out of the window. From here I could see the park and the the lake, it's a stunning view.
''I don't actually think they all deserve the same punishment. Kyle is the product of a childhood without any boundaries. He thinks he can get away with everything, because that's all he knows. It doesn't make up for what he did, but at least he didn't meant to hurt me.''
Judge Stevens looks surprised when she hears me say that, but she quickly hides it.
''What would you recommend in Mr. Morris his case then?''
''Honestly, I would send him to an YCF center. Hopefully they can teach him the importance of boundaries and straighten him out.''
''Thank you, miss Jones. I will take that under advisement. Can you share your thoughts on the others with me?''
I shrug my shoulders and I take my seat again.
''I don't really have any thoughts on the others. Kim blamed me for Kyle losing interest in her, which is stupid. Kyle literally flirts with everyone and she knows he sleeps around. She knows all of that and still she blames me?''
''Trisha believes that I stole Alexander from her, although they never were together. She never accepted that he was not interested in her like that or that he is in a relationship with me. She and Trisha could both have accepted the facts on moved on, but they didn't!''
''They put my pictures on a site for hookups. They talked to guys as me, even gave some of them my real number. They tricked a guy into believing he was in a relationship with me. That guy assaulted me and my best friend because of that! They already crossed the line there, but then the stunt at school.''
Judge Stevens looks at the file and she sighs.
''You mean the stunt with those two hanging up pictures at school of your shoot with Silk & Lace and releasing a video of you?''
I nod and I massage my temples.
''They actually thought it would show everyone who I truly was, not knowing anything about my old life. Not knowing what happened at that shoot of what seeing those old photos of me would do to me. I can't see any logic in their reasoning or relate to them. I really can't!''
I take a deep breath and I accept the glass of water the judge hands me.
''It's the same thing with Aiden. He doesn't realise what releasing those pictures and the video would do to me. He probably thought it was a joke, a way to get back at me. Those three actually cost me my sobriety and I can't deal with that.''
''Yes, I know they didn't ordered those drinks for me. They didn't handed me that bottle of whiskey, but they didn't realise what that stunt of theirs did to me. I wanted to drink myself into coma, because I didn't see the point in going on.''
''Those three are responsible for that, but I can't tell you how they should be punished for that. They don't even realise what they really did!''
Judge Stevens closes the files that are laying in front of her and she looks at me.
''However I will rule, remember that what you are doing is very brave, miss Jones. You are a strong and intelligent young woman. You will find your way in life, I'm very sure of that!''
After that we say goodbye and I leave the chambers of judge Stevens. I really don't know if I made things worse or not. It was now all up to the judge.
Uncle Thomas and aunt Laurel are waiting for me outside, which immediately makes feel better.
''Do you want to go home, kiddo?'' uncle Thomas asks before he gives me one of his bear hugs.
''Do we have to or can we check out that park?''
I see aunt Laurel give uncle Thomas a smirk, which means she already knew I wanted to go there.
''We have all the time in the world, dear!''
The park is big and I like that we can just walk around in silence there. We keep walking until uncle Thomas spots and ice cream truck.
''A scoop of vanilla and a scoop of strawberry for my beautiful wife,'' uncle Thomas says while he hands aunt Laurel her cup.
''One scoop of coffee, one scoop of chocolate and one surprise flavour for the lovely Samantha.''
''Kiss ass,'' my aunt and I say at the same time.
Uncle Thomas laughs and he nods in the direction of the benches by the lake. We sit down and I look suspiciously at the 'surprise' flavour that my uncle chose for me. It was a little game we played when we got ice cream.
We would always chose one flavour with a crazy name or a flavour we knew the other one would hate. This time I looked my uncle chose some tropical flavour, going of on the bright yellow colour of the ice cream.
''I hate pineapple!'' I groan. ''You know I hate pineapple, you know that very well.''
Uncle Thomas gives me a wink and I roll my eyes at him.
''You are still getting back at me for getting you that chilli pepper flavoured ice cream, aren't you?''
''That one I won't forget easily, but that is the risk and the fun of our little game. Now, kiddo. How was your talk with judge Stevens?''
''Fine,'' I mumble as I try to eat the pineapple ice cream. ''She wanted to hear my thoughts on all four of them and I told her. It's now up to her.''
''I'm glad that you talked to her,'' aunt Laurel says. ''We don't know what tomorrow will bring and they might not get any punishment at all, but at least we tried.''
I nod and I stare into the water of the lake. It would be all over tomorrow and I knew there was a big chance that all four of them would walk away from this. They all had fancy lawyers and I had no idea how the judge was going to rule.
''You did the right, dear. However it plays out, you did the right thing and we couldn't be more proud of you.''
I smile and I take a deep breath. The last few weeks were insane, but I still had to think about my future. A lot of things were not clear, but at least I was sure about one decision.
''I'm not going to college next year.''
''You don't have to make that decision right now, kiddo. You have all summer for that,'' uncle Thomas responds.
''I'm still struggling with staying sober, uncle Thomas. I still go to therapy twice a week. I need routine and stability. I'm not ready to be on my own. I'm not ready to leave Emma or you guys.''
''Honey, you don't have to go!'' aunt Laurel says before she pulls me in for a hug. ''If you want to stay home with us, then you stay home!''
Uncle Thomas gives me a wink when I let aunt Laurel cradle me like a little kid and I smile. In the beginning I felt awkward when my aunt made a fuzz about me. I felt awkward when she showed me any kind of affection, but I got used to it. I even like it now.
I had a place where I belonged and it was right here with my family.