Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. –Psalm 41:9
Taylor came over to testify on our behalf, having known the family for a few years and working with kids at a daycare as well as with the same company that Edward and I work for. The first day she bought breakfast, saying, “I always say, ‘you can’t have a great day without a balanced breakfast’” like a mantra. She loved hanging out with us, taking the Ladies shopping at the thrift store, and waltzing into the bedroom without knocking (Bailey demanded that Edward be the one to draw the line for our privacy). Edward refers to her as his little sister. She has her quirks, like getting overwhelmed around a lot of people. She had an episode while I was on a walk, and when I got back Bailey filled me in, telling me that she and Edward got into a fight and she was talking about staying somewhere else during the trial. They sorted it out though, and Ed drove her to her mother’s so they could discuss their differences and she could get some things that would make her stay more comfortable.
One of the things that I struggle with is accepting gifts given outside of holidays. Growing up my mother would scold us for accepting gifts from others, saying that there were strings attached. When I was older, Chris became an exception. He would spoil my mother, my sister, and me. More recently he’d taken me to an upper-class grocery chain to get treats a few times. I would pick out chocolate to share with the Ladies, cake for the girls, and something exotic for myself like raw honey or fig butter. He would encourage me to get more, and throw more things into the cart. As usual, everyone was surprised by his generosity, but I knew him to be like that (after all, he’s the one that bought me my car). We wanted to be generous like that, also, giving what we can that our friends or neighbors need, and we’ve found that it makes us wealthier.
The petitioner’s Attorney kept putting more and more witnesses on the stand, and we waited for days to pause the attack and repair the damage to our reputation. Taylor was starting work at another daycare soon, and I was the only one of the four of us with a cliché nine to five desk job, and it was hurting us for me to be out of work so long. Edward and the Attorney finally compromised to let me and Taylor have a turn on the stand. Before she went up we encouraged Taylor to tell the truth so that the jury could finally see that we were normal and fit parents.
And so she told the truth. Imagine how it sounds for a neat freak that lives alone with two cats to spend two weeks in another city in a house that has ten people staying there, which doesn’t include the three girls when they come over for visitation. It stung a little how openly she complained about the mess (let me remind you that there are boys) and the noise and even about our parenting. Then it was lunch time.
“Please don’t hate me,” she begged. Bailey fumed.
“We don’t hate you, Taylor. We asked you to tell the truth, and you did. At this point it’s important that you make it clear to the jury about your perspective.”
Let me translate what that means. Edward had the goal of having her pick out our flaws. This would show that we’re normal, but also that flaws can be embellished to sound horrific, so we needed to show the jurors that just as Taylor’s perspective makes her look down on our normality, so the petitioners judge us in the same way. I just prayed that it would be apparent.
On the way to lunch, Edward insisted that we all eat together. Bailey was sick of sandwiches and wanted to get pizza. The Ladies outvoted him and Bailey and Danielle promised to meet us at the courtroom. Edward did his solemn march on the way to the sandwich shop and was quiet for the first part of lunch. I tried to console him, reminding him that I could straighten out the scales when I gave my testimony and showed that I was not subservient and that he is undeserving of this attack. I’d never seen him cry before, and he vented over how unfair and cruel it was for him to face these outlandish accusations. Taylor was quiet, and I reminded him again that he wasn’t fighting alone and to give us a chance to set the record straight.
At the stand Taylor was reminded that she was still under oath.
Under cross examination she threw dagger after dagger after dagger. It was like watching a game you didn’t know the rules to and realizing slowly that yes, your team is actually losing. Judge even bared his teeth.
“In a knife fight, you can’t come out unscratched. It’s all about where you’re cut,”
Edward’s words echoed in my head as I closed my fingers around my faith, standing, as blood pooled around my feet.
“Permission to treat the witness as hostile,” Edward calmly asserted to Judge.
The attacks ceased. It was like a shot was fired; everything was strangely quiet. “One moment,” Judge responded, turning calmly to the stack of paperback thumpers behind him and pulling one out of the middle. As he paged through it calmly, Attorney flipped through her own book madly. Judge granted permission, and Attorney slouched helplessly.
He unleashed his wrath with the grace of death. Through his questioning and her responding, he guided her blade against herself. He started by asking, “Are you aware that the conversation that you had with the petitioner’s attorney was recorded?”
She confessed that at the fight they’d had, she was the only one screaming, and at that in front of Grace and Guinevere, and that she had invited him immediately afterward to go with her to her mother’s. She confessed to telling a fourteen year old boy to get hit by a bus and die, and Edward fought with many from the company to let her keep her job. She agreed that even though he had known that she would turn on us, he didn’t treat her any less kindly. She was afraid that knowing her mental history he would use it as leverage against her, even though he’d never expressed that intent nor had he ever exploited it except for now after she was acting on behalf of the
attorney’s petitioner’s side and in defense of his family. “I would hope you would choose your children over me,” she said. He referenced the time that they were at the college and she cried into his shoulder, and asked her what he’d said that made her cry.
“That I’m worth something.” She fought tears even now.
The blood from my wounds started to congeal. At the least, the jury was now engaged, and so their verdict would not be made half-heartedly. It was also made clear now that her testimony belonged to a woman that struggled with her own self-esteem and especially with relationships with those who didn’t mistreat her. When she was dismissed she sat behind us and sobbed softly. I didn’t hate her, but I couldn’t face her, my face hard like a diamond plucked from Bailey’s volcanic heat. Then my name was called and I became red as magma.
My place is behind the curtains. Edward questioned me and I tried to focus my vision on him alone. We were having a conversation about the only camping trip we were able to take together, the opportunity to go as a family later taken from us.
“Objection, assumes facts not in evidence.”
“Objection, calls for a narrative.”
I hated her for crushing our dreams, even as I told them. She was turned loose on me.
I knew that stupid car would be brought up. She threw me for a loop, however, when she asked me about keeping my clothes in the back. “You must be mistaken. I don’t even know where you would get that inf-” It clicked. “Oh, my trunk! You’re referring to the wooden chest that Ed made for me, yes, I refer to that as my trunk, I’m sorry.”
Oh, it felt good to embarrass her. She backtracked quickly to distract from the damage done. She continued to question me, and asked, “Is it true that Chris would take you to the grocery store to buy food because your family didn’t have enough to eat?”
The blade sank deep, and I discovered that it wasn’t near my heart. I stood my ground and refused her. F***ing chocolates. I looked past the pain like I had when delivering Guinevere. I was grateful for pulling my phone out in the bathroom to unfriend Chris on Facebook an hour after seeing him take his seat behind the petitioner’s for the first time. I suppose I had never let him that close to my heart.
“[A] dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly… stupid.” –Captain Jack Sparrow
I trust people to be human, but that’s not saying much.