By Jessica Leonard
I lied flat out on my bed, wiggling my toes, and talking to my bestie, Maddie, while on the phone. I lifted my hand up to start my math homework when my ears open wide to hear a knock on the front door. Mom always told me to never answer the door, I thought. Therefore, I lifted up my pencil to continue working on my very difficult algebraic equation. KNOCK, KNOCK. I go straight to assuming it is just another solicitor. Wait. What if this is important? What if I won 10,000 dollars from The Ellen Show? “One second Maddie, someone is knocking vigorously at my front door.”
I slipped my feet into my warm UGG slippers and watched my feet as I stumbled down the dark brown, wooden staircase. I lift my hand up to the window on my front door. Standing on my tippy toes, looking for the cameras and Ellen, standing with a big 10,000 dollar VISA gift card. But instead, there sat my mother. She peered towards my eyes, and then my wide and broad smile faded to nothing. Red. Blood. Tears. Bruise. Purple. Scraped. Her eyes were brighter than a red firetruck and her left cheek was more purple than a ripe grape. I opened the door to hear what I had never wanted to hear.
“Oh my god, Mom. What happened?” I said as a large frown volcanically erupted onto my face.
“Your father. He’s gone. I lost my job,” she whispered, as droplets of tears rolled down the side of her cheek.
“My dad died? Your boss punched you until you decided to quit?” My jaw dropped and a thunderstorm started on my own cheeks.
“No, your father punched me and my boss thought I got into a fist fight so he fired me because it had seemed like I was slacking off.” She attempted to drag her feet to get back up, but then fell back onto her heels. My hands were trembling, shaking faster than a cheetah could run. My palms were sweating, my face was the sky while a lot of rain was coming down. My eyes became filled with water as if I were a pond. I tugged on my mother’s red, bloody, scraped up hand as she linked her fingers between mine. I pulled her up with all of my strength. I put my arm on her shoulder to help her get inside of the home. I glanced at my hand, as to only see blood transferred onto my wrist. How bad could have whatever really happened even been? As we stepped foot into the house that used to be under the name of my father’s, tears blasted out of both of our eyes. Her bright red, fiery eyes, and my dark blue, anxious eyes.
“Mom, please sit. This is not okay. I never knew your life would ever have to depend on my abilities. This is not okay. Not okay at all,” I said as I whimpered and barely was able to get any words out. My boggled mind was whirling in different directions, looking for a disruption. Nothing was there.
“No honey, it’s fine. Everything is fine. Trust me, Monica. I can handle being fine very well on my own.” Nothing was fine. Clearly, nothing had ever been fine. My mother was not fine. My father was no where close to being fine. At that very instant, I shared the feeling of not being fine with those that surrounded me, those that brought me to be the person I am today. The person that knows when something is not fine and needs an immediate alter to make it closer to the goal of being fine. I knew this was necessary, I knew that we should be fine. That we should be fine with not having to cover up how we feel. Maybe things would have been fine if my mother’s 14 year old daughter, being me, knew what was going on. I stepped over to the phone. I dialed the numbers I dreaded to ever dial in my entire life. 911. The phone buzzed and rang, slower than I had hoped that it would.
The hot, smelly, and gross ambulance, going at a fast 80 miles per hour, bolted through the traffic. EeEeEeEeEe. The sound of the ambulance was loud, a sound that I had assumed I had never wanted to step foot in. Especially at this point in my lifetime. I knew that it would come at some point in my life but I was not sure just when, but apparently it was now. Now. Right now. Yep, right now. That’s when. Right now.
“Is my mother going to be okay? Is my dad going to jail? I’m confused. WHAT EVEN HAPPENED?” I said to the poor, young lady watching over my mom in the back of the ambulance.
“Yeah honey, don’t worry. She will be fine. It’s just some bruises and blood. I’m more worried about your father’s mental state but I think that is for the police to deal with, not me.” she said calmly. I don’t know how this lady is not frantic right now. A 42 year old woman, abused by her husband, lost her job, and has a daughter. I don’t see what is not stressful about this situation. I would be freaking out if I were her (which I am definitely freaking out, but I am also definitely not her), but I guess this lady has a lot of practice with these types of moments.
“So, what exactly is going to happen with my dad?” I said.
“I don’t know. He will probably be arrested or put on trial depending how much evidence of this happening the lawyers have. I would assume there will be a divorce though, at least I hope so,” the lady said, attempting to not see eye to eye with me.
“Do the police know about the current situation?”
“No, you asked for an ambulance. That was your emergency,” she said, rolling her eyes as if she was the smartest lady in the world. Obviously she was not. She did not call the police on my dad for abusing my mother. I don’t see what is smart about not doing that…
“Come on old lady, give me your phone. My old father needs to go to jail. No one messes with my mother. If you’re gonna mess with my mother, you’re going to have to mess with me first.” I winked at my mother as I saw a discreet smile spread across her face. My eyes were peeled open as searching for a phone, as it may be my last hope.
Around 2:25 PM, my mother was sitting in a chair on the phone with the police. My father was put in handcuffs and taken to the police department.
“Hey, put me on the phone with our daughter.” I heard my father’s faint, deep, mysterious voice on the phone.
“No. If you’re going to try and apologize to her, you are not going to get anywhere. Your apology will not be accepted by any of us,” my mom said loud and proud. Just thinking of my father, sitting in the police car, with handcuffs on, is a true shock to me. I would have never thought that this could even happen. Not that this was not a possibility for my father to do, but that fact that my mom was physically and internally hurt by her own husband.
Another hour later, I was sitting in the Police Department, watching my father get interrogated. I stood there in astonishment. My jaw dropped and my eyes became wider. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.
“So, Mr. Westbrook, under our lie detector test, it seems as if you did not cause any harm to your wife. We will do further investigations to make sure our questions resulted in the correct answer. For now, you will be put on probation and we will keep you away from your wife. If anything happens, you will go in jail and will need to testify in court,” the old, large man said to my father. I guess he is a detective, but to my knowledge, he sure doesn’t seem like a good one. I grab my phone out of my back pocket, dial in my code and my mother’s number and call her immediately. “Hey, Mom.”
“Hey, honey, what is going on at the police department with your father?” She said. I could tell that through the screen she was nervous. She had a frown on her face and was feeling the suspense creeping up to my answer. I don’t want to tell her, because I think she will be sad. Although, at the same time, I think she just wants this to be over with and she just wanted my father and her to pretend that nothing ever happened.
I took a deep breath and went on, “Mom. Dad is not going to jail. He is on probation. The detective guy said that under the lie detector test all the questions asked about committing this crime came out truthful for when dad said that he did not hurt you,” I said, staring at the wall, a tear dripping down my cheek.
“Oh. Uh, okay. I don’t know what to do. Should I call the police department?”
Anger arose on my face. Not because of my mother, but because of my father. I don’t understand. I just wish that this never happened. That’s all I want. Nothing else. I want my mom to be fine and my father to be fine.
* * *
It is April 27th, and it turns out that my father has an abnormality with the way his body works when he lies. He was lying when they did a closer lie detector test on him. He’s just a bad person. Nothing less, just a bad person. Now, we wait for my family to get called to court. If it even happens, which it should. I don’t see why it wouldn’t. Thankfully, the government is currently funding my mother with some extra money so she doesn’t have to take out of her salary.
* * *
I’m nervous. It’s been too long. 8 months of waiting. It’s already almost the new year. Nothing is going to happen at this point. My hands trembled, as if something really was going to happen. Ring ring. The phone. It’s the phone. Please, please, be someone working for the court.
“Hello, is this the daughter of Mr. Michael Westbrook?” Said a female, with a smart sounding voice.
“Yes, it is. What are you calling for and may I ask who you are?”
“I work for the local courtroom. I need to talk to you about the case that you and your mother submitted to your lawyer.” Clearly it was nothing. She is probably just going to tell me that it was accepted and we will be able to go against my father in court.
“Okay, go ahead.”
“I don’t know if you will understand considering you are not an adult, but I will try my hardest to explain this to you in the simplest way possible,” she said. Clearly it was bad, but I guess after waiting for 8 months, what should I even expect?
“Your father was not able to accumulate enough witnesses for the case to be even. You were not listed under your mother’s side or your father’s side. Due to this conflict, you will have to send in an affidavit in favor of your father’s side. There is no true choice, it is forced. Your mother sent in a report and there is enough evidence for both sides but your father is calling you as one of his three witnesses. I am in deep sorrow if this affects you in a negative aspect,” the serious woman said. The sly smile on my face faded, my heart was trembling, my hands were shaking, I began to cry.
“Um. I don’t know if I co-could do tha-that.” Words were not coming out, tears were soaking my shirt, I was having a three-year-old’s meltdown. Except, this was serious. This is what will determine my family’s future. There is no way I am standing for my father but I guess if I don’t, I will put my family in more danger.
“Well, for this case to continue, we will need you on your father’s side.”
“Is there a deadline that you need to know my decision by?”
“Tomorrow, 11:59 pm.”
“Uhh, okay. I’ll call the firm tomorrow.”
“Okay, thank you. Bye.”
It was time to make my decision. I cannot let my mom down, but I also cannot let the court down. Thoughts, wonders, traveling throughout my head. Is this a dream? Did this really happen at the ripe age of 15? Yes Monica, yes it did. It did happen at the “ripe” age of 15. Okay father, I guess this is for our family. Sorry if I mess up accidentally on the cross-examination. That is it. That is my decision.
One hour later, I decided to call the firm. “Yes, I will defend my father in the case. I will send in my affidavit soon.”
* * *
It’s August 2nd, and here I am. A whole two years older than when this started. Nervous. Shaking. Heart beating faster than sound waves could travel. Dizzy. Getting prepared to be sworn in by the bailiff. You have to tell the truth Monica, you have to tell the truth. It should be easy. The truth is that my father abused my mother. That is it. That is all I need to know. I should be fine. Nothing but fine. Not excited, not nervous. I should be mediocre. I should be fine, only fine, and nothing but fine.
“Monica, please stand here,” said a middle aged man. I step over in silence, wondering if I made the right decision. I don’t think I did. Something just doesn’t seem right but I guess it’s too late to turn back now. I want to turn around, looking for my phone, finding the delete call button. I want to delete the call I sent to the court 8 months ago. I pivot, looking backwards, yet the resistance is telling me to stay put.
“Monica Westbrook, please raise your right hand,” the man says, I follow his directions. I don’t want to go to jail before my father does, after all.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
“Defense, you may call your third witness to the podium,” the kindly faced woman with the mallet in her hand says. I step over to the podium, staring into the crowd of unknown people. The jury, staring down at me as if I was the spotlight. To tell the truth, I am the spotlight right now. But I would rather not talk about that because I will lie and go to jail, which is not my final goal.
I did it. I did not lie and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth had a bad effect on my father. I’m proud. Now I wait, ever so patiently, in the front of the courtroom. A small grin spreading across my face. I know we won. We meaning my mom and I. I did not want to stand for my father, but it was the only choice. If anything, it was a good choice, because it put my father in an uncomfortable position.
“All rise,” the bailiff says to the people of the courtroom. The jury walked back into the courtroom without any expression.
“Have you reached a verdict?” The judge says.
“We have, your honor.”
“What is the verdict?”
My heart is trembling, I can hear it pounding out of my chest. My palms are sweating, I am breathing heavily. Come on, please be guilty. Please be guilty.
“We the Jury, in the case of Alyssa McCourtnell versus Michael Westbrook, find the defendant guilty of the charge of physical abuse.” I want to scream. I want to scream at the lady on the ambulance, louder than anyone else. I want to cry happy tears. We are free. He is gone.
“Thank you to the jury for their service on today’s case. Court is now adjourned.” I’m free. My mom is free. I’m fine. Actually quite more than fine right now, I might as well be jumping for joy. I put a frown on my face so it appears as if I am upset that my father will no longer be on probation and will actually go to jail. But boy do I know, once I get home I will be jumping off of those walls. I will hug my mother and hug her in disbelief. Everything went right. Nothing was wrong. My mother was not wrong. I was not wrong. My father was more than wrong. He was different than the rest of us, something was wrong. Thankfully though, there is nothing wrong about forgetting him and leaving him to be in jail. Finally, I was fine. My mother was fine for the first time in over a year. My father was fine with being a bad person. The jury was definitely fine. My life was fine. I can get back to FaceTiming Maddie now. I’m sure her phone’s battery is not fine. That’s the only not fine thing. Other than that, everything is fine. That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
photo credit: aboutislam.net