Bob has his day in court.
The past two weeks have been nerve wracking for me. I’m sitting in my car outside the court house having a smoke. I was an hour early because I needed to get my head on straight. I sat there again wondering why I was doing all this? I took a drag from my cigarette and watched the smoke rise above my head as I exhaled. I knew I only had two reasons for being here. First to get the kid away from being abused and second was to make Alyssa happy. For the first time in my life I was going to be able to make her happy where Gerard couldn’t. I know I’m not gonna be with her to raise the kid. Believe some things get through my thick skull, but I also know from what Ray says, she looks an awful lot like me. So when she looks at our daughter she’ll think of me and how happy I made her. Even Way can’t take that away from me. In the end I gave her something Way could never give to her, a kid. And I know she’ll always love me for that. At least it was something.
I looked at my watch again and this time it was only a half hour until we were due in court. I was supposed to meet Joanna inside around this time. I took one more drag and stubbed it out in my ashtray. It had about five butts in it. They were all from this morning. I know because I clean my ashtray out every night. Some people call me a neat freak, I just like things in order. I smiled knowing at least Alyssa and Way would have to deal with the messes a seven year old makes. I also know as soon as I get her back and turn her over to Alyssa and Way, I’m going home to Chicago. I couldn’t bear watching them be a happy family. Unless they fucked up then I couldn’t bear for my kid to be raised by fuck-ups. I’ll make sure a good family gets her this time not one like the Howells.
I was about to get out of my car when I saw them in my rearview mirror. Even in her vulnerability she looked beautiful. And there was Way with his arm over shoulder, kissing her lightly on the side of her head. I looked down at the floor and wondered why couldn’t that be me?
I finally got out of my car and noticed my lawyer walking by, she noticed me too and waited. When I got up to her she put her arm on my shoulder and squeezed it and then asked, “How are you feeling?”
“A wreck.” I answered honestly.
“Where’s the mother?”
“She just went in.”
We walked in the court house and Way and Alyssa were standing outside the courtroom, talking. I hadn’t noticed what she was wearing earlier but all I knew is she took my breath away. It was a simple blue suit with a bright pink blouse, between the suit and the little make-up she wore all my focus went to her amazing eyes. But her eyes were focused elsewhere, at Way’s. I got lost in the situation when Joanna cleared her throat. I turned to her and gave a weak smile.
“Joanna I want you to meet the mother, Alyssa Johnson,” I said nervously. Joanna shook her hand and then turned to Gerard, “And who might you be?”
“Cousin,” I said quickly.
“You two seem very close,” Joanna said suspiciously.
“We practically grew up together,” said Gerard smiling knowing it wasn’t a lie. I knew they were best friends since they met in all those years ago in the school playground. So in high school it was a natural progression to become more.
I watched the interaction between her and Gerard, and then between her and Bob. Something fishy was going on the question was who was pulling the wool over who’s eyes. It was obvious to me that Bob had strong feelings for the girl, but it seemed she and her “cousin” had eyes only for each other. I wonder how they figured into this equation before the dust was settled she would find out.
I looked at Bob and he looked like a lost puppy dog, much like he did the day he stepped into my office the first time. I knew after he explained his situation I was going to help him. I also knew that I had to know if he was into this for the duration and not going to quit when the chips were down.
We walked into the court room, sat in the benches behind the railing, and listened to the case before them. There was a creak from the door opening and the four of us turned around and there was a tall man with a reddish brown afro who sat behind us. I noticed how the three of them turned to him in appreciation. The back door opened a few minutes later, precisely at ten we all turned around and watched as Dr. Lawrence Howell and his wife Sarah strolled down the court room aisle as if they were at a red carpet charity event. They were the picture of affluence. While Bob wore a suit that was probably either a cheap designer knock off or off the rack from Sears, Howell wore a pin striped tailor made suit from Ermenegildo Zegna, and Sarah wore an Armani Collezioni black pant suit. They sat on the other side of the aisle and stared at Bob.
My heart sank as I looked into those blue eyes, because I knew right away that he was Emily’s father. It wasn’t just the eyes though she had his lips and nose, and also his fair coloring. I looked at the woman next to him who wore an inexpensive suit with her hair dark brown layered hair brushing against her shoulders. I couldn’t help thinking that there was something familiar about her too.
I knew the judge very well she was a woman in her early fifties with salt and pepper hair. There were a few creases around her eyes and mouth but nothing major. She was definitely a no nonsense type of person. She knew that she was an officer of the law and her duty was to interpret the law based upon the facts that were brought in front of her.
The bailiff cried out, “Robert Cory Bryar vs the Dr. Lawrence and Sarah Howell.” I walked past the railing, better known in legal terms the bar with Bob in tow. I watched as the Howells did the same, however they did not have a lawyer present. I smiled at their arrogance. This wasn’t going to be easy as they thought. Like I said I knew the judge and she wasn’t the type to be bought off.
“Are all the parties present?” asked the bailiff.
“We’re waiting for our lawyer,” said Lawrence.
“I have a huge docket and I am offended that this proceeding is being held up because your counsel found this not important enough to attend.”
I smiled at Bob, I knew Judge Patterson wasn’t going to put up with any lawyer’s shit, save for one. The doors flew open and in walked the one, Darryl Thomas. It seemed she had a soft spot for him since he was taken off the streets of Harlem and worked his way up the ladder. He chose family law because he was abused and then abandoned as a child. He firmly believed natural parents aren’t always the best. I had another problem with Darryl, besides Judge Patterson finding favor with him regarding court procedures. I never won a case against him.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” said Darryl. “I had a slight accident on my way here.”
“I suggest Mr. Thomas next time you call the court and notify us of the problem.”
“Yes your honor,” he said in a soft spoken humbled voice.
I knew the Howells had done their homework. I faced Darryl five times and lost all five cases. There was no way in hell this was going to be number six.
“Ms. Brahms you have brought before the court a petition for guardianship over one Emily Howell to one Robert Cory Bryar. You are claiming that he is the natural father of this child and he wants custody.” She then turned to Bob, “Is this true?”
“Yes your honor.”
“May I asked why you waited seven years before you decided that you wanted custody?”
“I didn’t know until a few weeks ago.”
“You want the court to believe you are the father when the mother had told everyone that she was raped and didn’t know who the father was.”
“She was seventeen and coerced at the time.”
“And she just decided to tell you?”
“We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time, then we started dating a while back ago and a few weeks ago she told me that we had a child. I was angry at first, but I realized I wanted to raise my child with her mother.”
“Does the mother happen to be here?”
“Yes your honor,” I said. I turned around and motioned for Ms. Johnson to stand next to me.
“Ms Johnson, you know it’s a serious offense to lie about the parentage of the child you gave up.”
“I couldn’t let my parents know how I got pregnant.”
“And how did you get pregnant?”
I looked at Bob as he looked pleadingly at Miss Johnson. I then turned to her as her eyes filled with tears.
She began to speak softly, “Bob wasn’t one of the most popular kids in school, as a matter of fact he probably only had one or two friends. So my friends and I thought it would be funny if I slept with Bob, knowing how much he liked me. The trade off was a bag of heroin. I was going through a rough time my grandmother just died, I needed to forget, so I snuck up to Bob’s window and allowed him to have sex with me. I was drunk and high by the time I realized that I had forgotten to put a condom on him, he came.”
There were a few giggles in the court room. I looked at Bob and how embarrassed he looked.
“So neither you nor Mr. Bryar thought of using protection?”
“I took total control of the situation, as it was Bob’s first time.” I saw the sadness in her eyes and I knew that she regretted what happened. Bob was staring at the floor in total humiliation. I guess I would be too if someone just told a court full of people about my first sexual experience.
“All I could think of was my next high, and Bob paid the price. A week after I missed my period I took a pregnancy test. My friend Ray was there when I saw that it was positive.”
“Is Ray one of your friends that thought it would be funny that you slept with Mr. Bryar?”
I watched as she looked at the tall frizzy haired man, I imagine he’s Ray.
“No he was and will always be the voice of reason. He warned me not to do it. A warning everyday I wish I listened to.”
“So you found out you were pregnant with Bob’s baby, could any one else be the father?”
I watched as she looked over at her “cousin” then she shook her head sadly, “No. Every other time I was careful.”
“Again why couldn’t you tell your parents who the father was?”
“My parents were very Christian and very powerful in town. He promised to destroy the boy who impregnated me. I knew he would because he did it before. When a construction worker wolf whistled at my mom, the man lost his job and died on the streets two years later. I don’t even want to imagine what he would do to Bob, who had suffered enough from our prank. So I said I was raped and didn’t know who the father was.”
“Do to the evidence I’m going to remand this to the magistrate’s office for a paternity hearing. Once paternity is proven then I will decide if this case will be held over for trial. I want both parties to think very seriously before continuing about the welfare of this little girl. She seems to be in a very loving, and stable home. Are your ready to take it all away from her.”
“Loving my ass.” I heard Bob say under his breath. I knew where he wanted to go with this, but until I have more evidence I’m reluctant to bring it up, at least not here.
“I’m holding this case over for three months, that should give the magistrate time to hear the case and have the necessary testing done.”
“Your honor I have one more request,” I said as she was about to close the case.
“Yes Ms. Brahms?”
“Due to the affluency of Mr. Thomas’ clients I request that their passports be taken away.”
“Objection your honor,” Darryl spoke his first words since the case began. “Dr. Howell has a thriving practice and is head of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai and Mrs. Howell has is very active in the community. I see no reason that they would be flight risks. Besides the Howells do many charitable activities overseas.”
“I will allow Dr. and Mrs. Howell to maintain their passports, however I would like them to surrender Emily’s and also a full itinerary of their comings and goings when they do leave the country. I also want at least seventy-two hours notice of such trips.”
Darryl gave me an evil look, because I won this small battle. It was a long way for Mr. Bryar to get his child back but at least it was a step in the right direction. I looked at Judge Patterson and she gave me a nod of approval. I smiled inwardly knowing she taught me well.
I escorted Bob and Ms. Johnson past the bar, and we walked out of the courtroom followed by the “cousin” and Ray. I turned to them, “This is an important step, Bob had better be the father, because I’m putting my career on the line.”
Miss Johnson pulled her wallet from her pocketbook and went to the pictures part. She handed me the wallet so I could see the picture. There staring in front of me were Bob’s piercing blue eyes and several other features. There was no mistaking who the father was. I noticed the “cousin” was looking down sadly. I knew that look it was the look of father’s when they realize the child wasn’t theirs.
“How did you get this picture?” I asked.
“Last year I got a job at the school where Emily attends. I didn’t know she was going there until the first time she dropped off the attendance sheet. I cried for three days after that. When school pictures came I just took down the information and called the photographer for a sheet it had a 5x7 and five wallets.”
“Miss Johnson, I suggest you find somewhere else to work.”
“I can’t I need to watch Emily, they’re hurting her.”
“Bob told me of your suspicions and I have someone looking into the matter. If anything turns up, I’ll personally make sure that she is being watched. Until then you will need to find another job or it will jeopardize the case severely.”
I needed to get out of there, I hated this woman. She says we won a small victory then why do I feel so defeated. Then I heard his soft whisper, “C’mon baby let’s get out of here.”
He always knew what was best for me. We said our goodbyes and told Ray we would see him at home, and then we left. I could feel that woman’s eyes bearing down at me as Gerard put his arm around me.
I watched in sadness as Way and Alyssa walked out of the courthouse followed by Ray. I turned to Joanna and went to say thank you, but she was pulling out a card. “Here,” she said. “Here’s the name of a very good lawyer. I’m off the case.”
“I don’t like being lied to Mr. Bryar,” she whispered. It was then that the Howells and their lawyer walked out.
“You’ll never get her Bryar,” yelled the doc. But the wife seemed to look at me sympathetically. Their attorney walked them out the door.
“He’s right you won’t get your daughter back, not with all the lies that are going on.”
I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, “Let me buy you a coffee and I’ll tell you everything.”