Don't Judge Love

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Chapter 4

When the court date finally arrived, Ashley got up at five in the morning and spent two hours picking through every business suit she had, trying to find the most conservative. She wanted to look more professional than she ever had in court. She wasn’t sure if she was more interested in trying to impress Jean or trying to turn her off, but she definitely didn’t want to wear anything that might be considered even remotely sexy. That might set Jean off.

Finally, she emerged from her room fifteen minutes before Mary and she were due to leave for work. Mary gave her a questioning look. “What the hell was taking you so long? I was afraid you were going to bail altogether.”

“If only I could,” Ashley sighed, straightening the gray pinstriped suit coat.

Mary raised an eyebrow as she looked Ashley over. “Going for quiet mouse look?”

“Yes,” Ashley confirmed, and then added, “I should wear my glasses. That would really throw her off.” She rushed into the bedroom to grab them.

“What’s with her?” Jackie asked as she shrugged on her UPS jacket.

“Remember the dominatrix she was seeing?”

“Sure,” Jackie replied.

“She’s the judge Ashley has to present before today,” Mary explained, giving Jackie a quick kiss on the lips.

“No shit?” Jackie answered. “I knew she had some political job that she was careful to make sure no one knew about, but I wouldn’t think being a judge and dominatrix would be that big of a deal.”

“She’s a family judge,” Mary responded, “And an elected official.”

“No wonder she was always so secretive,” Jackie acknowledged with a nod. “She definitely doesn’t want the fact that she was playing that kind of a role getting out.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t want anyone knowing she has sex with women, let alone being a dominatrix.” Mary picked up her purse and walked with Jackie to the door. “Come on, Ashley,” she called.

“I gotta run though. Love you,” Jackie kissed Mary and hurried out the door.

Ashley came up beside Mary. “Don’t you two ever get sick of that shit?”

“You’re just jealous.”

Yes, I am, Ashley thought to herself.

* * *

Ashley sat next to Laura Garrett on the left side of the court room. Jerry was on the other side of Laura. Ashley looked past the two of them to John Garrett and his new attorney, Wayne Hubble. Wayne was very detail oriented, and Ashley had prepared for him and Judge Jean Carlisle to rip her apart today. She’d spent all night last night going over her notes, and had Mary drill her this morning at the office while they waited to come over to the courthouse for the case.

Jean stepped out from the judges’ quarters and the bailiff announced. “All rise. The Honorable Judge Jean Carlisle presiding.”

Ashley stood and straightened her suit for the hundredth time this morning. She looked at the judicial emblem on front of the desk, but did not raise her eyes to look at Jean. She wished now that would have worn her glasses so she could feel like she had a shield to protect her from Jean’s intense eyes.

“You may be seated,” the bailiff said, after Jean had taken her seat.

Ashley spent the entire hearing staring at the papers on the table in front of her. Only once had she spared a glance at Jean, whose dark eyes immediately locked on her. She could feel the anger radiating toward her. She immediately dropped her eyes back down to the papers.

Both attorneys made their arguments, and Jerry was doing his rebuttal. Ashley couldn’t wait to get this hearing over with so she could go vomit. Her stomach was in knots. Jerry was talking about the information Ashley had gathered from the social workers and parenting class teachers, all of whom had said they felt that Mr. Garrett was doing all the things he was doing just to appease the court, not because he had truly changed.

Jerry was detailing the testimony of a woman from one of the parenting classes; she said that Mr. Garrett would slouch in his chair throughout the class and make rude comments about things other parents were saying.

Ashley had just barely been paying attention. She kept praying that the judge would refuse Mr. Garrett unsupervised visitation, the hearing would be over, and she would be out of Jean’s presence.

Suddenly, Jean said, “Is that correct, Ms. Jessup,” addressing Ashley directly.

Ashley’s head shot up. She looked at Jean with wide frightened eyes, then over to Jerry who was giving her a questioning look. She closed her eyes for a moment to recall what had been said, and then finally said, “Yes, yes, that’s correct”.

Jean glared at her, her dark brown eyes piercing Ashley. “Are you sure? Did you hear what Mr. Winslow just said?”

Ashley forced herself to meet Jean’s eyes. God, the woman has no right to be so beautiful, Ashley thought, taking in the dark brown hair that framed her oval face. Those intense eyes, that perfect mouth that she had finally gotten to kiss. She swallowed. “He said that I had spoken with Amanda Smith at the county parenting classes. She told me Mr. Garrett had been rude in class and slouched in his chair like he was sitting on his own couch.” Ashley took a deep breath and continued. “She also said that his answers to questions about parenting appeared to have been memorized from the books they were assigned to read. He didn’t seem to have really learned anything from the books or the classes, and was just going through the motions to appease the court.”

“Thank you, Ms. Jessup,” Jean said, a slight smile playing at the corner of her mouth.

Ashley knew that Jean loved the fact that Ashley was completely flustered from being in her presence. She went back to looking at the papers on the table and conversed quietly with Laura Garrett as Mr. Hubble made his rebuttal arguments that Mr. Garrett was making an effort to prove that he was trying to be a better parent. In the end, the judge ruled that Mr. Garrett would continue with therapy, AA meetings, and supervised visitation for at least another four months before she would review the case again.

Good, Ashley thought, hopefully, by then I’ll be over this fear of her.

Ashley walked with Laura to the bathroom. Jerry stood outside waiting for them. There was a protection order against John Garrett, but that didn’t always stop men like him from grabbing their spouses or girlfriends inside the courthouse and beating the crap out of them.

They were leaving the bathroom when Ashley realized she had a piece of paper towel stuck to the bottom of her shoe. “Go on out, Laura,” Ashley told her, leaning against the wall to get the paper off her shoe.

The door closed when Laura went out, and then opened again. Ashley stood up to find herself face to face with Jean Carlisle. Jean put her hand on the closed door to keep it closed and looked toward the empty stalls. Her eyes dropped to Ashley’s lips. Ashley subconsciously ran the tip of her tongue across them. Jean leaned into Ashley quickly, but hard enough to ram her leg into Ashley’s groin making Ashley almost double over in pain. “No one ends things but me,” Jean hissed before stalking off to one of the stalls.

Ashley took a deep breath and bit her lip. She forced herself to stand upright and walk as calmly as she could out of the bathroom. Jerry, Laura and she walked to the elevator together. Jerry must have noticed her wince. He asked, “Are you okay?”

“Pulled a muscle in my leg when I went to pull a piece of paper off my shoe,” she grunted quietly.

He nodded at her explanation, and then started talking to Laura about what she needed to do before the next court date.

Ashley took a deep breath and made a mental note to never be in the bathroom at the courthouse alone.

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