Written for the Writer's Cramp Challenge 8/16/19.
| Lawyered Up
She lawyered up, and in a split second she bit on her tongue, trying to hide her pain. Paula had put the moment off time and time again, but then Cian had forced her hand. He had taken things to far.
"I don't want to press charges," she'd said at the time, and the truth was she still did not.
"You have to," she had been told. Not by just one person, but by everyone involved. "You could have been killed. Next time you might not be so lucky."
All the different voices now clamored together in her head. Where had they been for all the previous years? Not anywhere near her. She had received no support, no advice. Maybe Cian and his own lawyers were right in saying that she was to blame as much, if not more, than him.
Duncan Harris waited outside the court. He stepped towards her. "Are you ready?" he asked.
Every single part of her screamed, 'No!' All apart from her voice that answered tremulously, "As ready as I'll ever be, I guess."
"We'll have to go through every detail, not only of the night but of the years leading up to it, remember. You have to try and stay calm, in control. With me, you might find it painful, and if you have to cry, you can. Don't when those on the other side start laying on the blame. They will. That is really the only line of defense that they can pursue. Any sign of weakness and they'll push, exploit it. You won't know what you are saying."
"I know. We've been through this, Duncan."
"Talking about it in the office is one thing; doing so in the courtroom, in front of strangers is something else entirely."
Paula lifted her hand and pressed it against her side. The kitchen knife had gone in deep, but she had been lucky. It had not damaged any of her vital organs and the wound had healed. The bruises on her face and arms had disappeared completely too, but the pain of it all was still so very real.
But everything had healed, she wanted to just push it firmly in to the past. If only they would let her walk away. Was it really too late to drop all of the charges? She could not say it had been someone else, a stranger, for the neighbors had called in a disturbance and the police had arrived while the attack was under way. He had been caught in the act.
"I can understand how hard it is for you," the detective assigned to the case had told her. "You are doing this for his own good, remember. Next time he might be facing a murder charge."
Paula had hung her head at the time, and she did so again. She had to bear the blame, or at the very least a lot of it. Mistakes had been made, and there could be little doubt about who had made them. She had failed, and had failed so badly.
She walked steadily towards the witness box when her name was called. Her back was straight, her gait steady. Outwardly she was composed but inside she was screaming, 'No! No! No!'
So many faces were looking at her, some in sympathy, some in condemnation. They knew, just as she did, who should really be held accountable. Why had nobody helped while there had still been time? Things could have been so different. None of this had to have happened.
She needed to concentrate, but it was so hard, when that night and all the others that had led up to it were being relived and put up for judgement. Paula looked at her lawyer. He had taken her through the painful process of knowing what to expect. She would not have called Duncan Harris a friend, but she had had to trust him. There was no one else then or now. Other than her lawyer, she was alone.
"Is the man who attacked you in this courtroom, Ms Grant?" he now asked, his eyes urging her to be strong.
Paula Grant swallowed hard, took a sip of water. Her world was about to fall completely apart. She was about to commit the worst betrayal imaginable. Her hands shook, her body trembled as she lifted her eyes towards Cian, stopping short at meeting his own.
"Yes," she said, surprising herself with the calm tone of her voice.
"And would you point him out to us?"
Hoping that her trembling hand would not be noticed, feeling the tears already seeping from her eyes, she indicated the man in his early twenties. "Cian Grant. My son!"