The battle for Emily's well being begins.
“Do you really think I look okay?” I asked Bob and Ray. Today was the custody hearing and I wanted everything to be perfect. Joanna reviewed everything with us yesterday. The judge will listen to both sets of parents and both lawyers will be able to question us, then there would be expert testimony from Department of Social Services, the court appointed advocate and lastly the child psychologist. After all that the judge could take days even weeks to deliberate, seeking what it best for Emily.
Joanna had mentioned that Social Services noticed the huge demeanor change when she saw how Emily is when she’s around us. With the Howell’s she is primp and reserved, but with us she’s relaxed and playful. She’s affectionate always giving hugs and kisses. I love how she’s really taken to Bob since it was so rocky at the beginning.
I look into his eyes and smile as I realize how lucky I really am. We started dating two weeks ago and he’s been nothing but a gentleman. He doesn’t ask for more then I’m willing to give. Right now I’m not willing to give much, I feel like if I did I would be cheating on Gerard. Not that I should care, word around is that he’s been shitfaced at every show and is taking a different girl at every venue back to the van. So why can’t I give my all to Bob, why am I holding on to some fantasy that Gerard will come back to me and we’ll have the happily ever after? Why can’t I stop loving him when it’s so obvious he’s stopped loving me?
“You look beautiful,” said Ray. “Just like a mom.”
I spent over six hundred dollars on a dark gray Rebecca Taylor designer suit for the occasion. I spent over another hundred dollars on a pair of Sofft black pumps. My hair was in an upsweep and I wore very little make-up. I wasn’t going to be out done again by Sarah Howell.
“You’re missing something,” said Bob.
“What?” I ran to my mirror and looked, everything seemed fine.
Bob sauntered in my room slowly with a gleam in his eyes that made them even more beautiful.
“This,” I watched as Bob pulled out a small square wooden box. “I just thought it might look better if you wore it.”
I opened the box slowly and then dropped it like a hot potato. “Tell me it isn’t real.”
“It’s just cubic zirconia just to wear for court, make it seem that we’re serious.”
“Oh, good idea.”
I picked up the box and again looked at the ring, it was absolutely beautiful. I actually would have loved it for a real engagement ring. Bob took the box from me and took out the ring and placed it on my left had third finger, filling in the spot I thought would be filled in by a real ring from Gerard after this all was over. I take a deep breath after it’s on and smiled weakly at Bob. Ray must have sensed something because the turned to Bob and muttered ‘we’ll be right down’.
Once Bob left Ray shut my door and turned to me, “Are you okay.”
“Is it wrong for a large part of me to wish he was here? That I wish, even though this ring is a fake, that it was his ring on my finger?”
Ray put his arms around me and held me for what seemed like a minute before he spoke.
“No. You still love him don’t you?”
“I can’t shut if off Ray, I’m trying so hard and Bob has been so wonderful. I don’t know what to do? I should just say fuck him, he drinking and whoring around. I don’t need those kinds of things around while I’m trying to raise a daughter.”
“You can’t just turn love off, and if we could what would country singers sing about?” He gave me a smirk.
I smiled back at him. He always knew how to cheer me up. “Let’s go get your daughter.”
Ray opened the door and I walked out, but before I went down the stairs I stopped in the room we had when Emily stayed over. I’m hoping it will be her room permanently.
Ray came behind me and squeezed my shoulder, “She’ll be home soon.”
We walked down the stairs and to the kitchen. I heard an engine coming from the garage. Bob must have already started the car. Ray and I walked out the side door and into the garage, before I closed the door I made sure it was locked. We got in the car and as the garage door was lifting Bob looked into my eyes and placed his hand over mine and gave it a reassuring squeeze. I gave him a slight smile, and he leaned in and kissed me softly on the lips. “Everything’s going to be fine, just see.”
“Yeah, today will be our day. I can feel it.” I said. He winked at me and we drove off.
We arrived at the courthouse twenty minutes early, so I decided that I wanted to have a quick cigarette. For the most part I had quit but right now I was a nervous wreck. After two drags I have to admit it made my stomach turn, I smashed it in the tray that was standing outside and smiled at the two most important men in my life. “We ready?” I asked them.
“Let’s go get our daughter back,” smiled Bob.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that Bryar,” snided Lawrence Howell.
“Fuck you asshole,” said Bob who was ready to beat down the guy.
“Calm down dude, he’s not worth it, he’s just trying to rile you up,” Ray said as he got between the two men.
“Yeah, you’re right.” Bob said glaring at Howell.
From nowhere I heard Joanna’s voice, “Everything okay here?”
“Learn how to control your client,” seethed their lawyer. I really hate that man.
We watched as the three of them made their way to the courtroom then Joanna spoke, “What happened?”
Ray explained everything to her and she nodded her head. “He’s trying to get at you. No matter what he says or what their lawyer says or does. You need to keep your cool. It’s obvious that Emily loves both of you and wants to live with you. He probably knows it and is trying to get petty. They’ll make you want to lose your cool, don’t play into their hands.”
“Sorry Jo,” Bob said quietly hanging his head.
“The bad news is the nurse disappeared. We have no proof of the abuse. Hopefully the child psychologist picked up on that.”
“Don’t we know what she’s going to say? Isn’t there something about discovery and getting evidence.”
“That’s in criminal and civil trials not custody hearings. We all hear what the expert witnesses have to say together, not to get your hopes up or anything but I have a good feeling about this all. Mrs. Howell seems really terrified at what is going to happen in that room.”
Joanna looked down at my hand, “Wow, that’s beautiful. Are congratulations in order?”
“Actually it’s cubic zirconia, it’s just for show. We thought it may look better if we were engaged.”
“Bob you need to tell me where you got it, it’s beautiful and looks so real. The color and clarity are amazing.”
Bob just said “Thanks,”
We got into the courtroom and it seemed that the judge was running late on the hearing before us. After waiting in the courtroom for about a half hour it was finally our turn.
“Robert Bryar vs. Lawrence and Sarah Howell regarding custody of eight year old Emily Howell.
“I can see all parties are present,” said the judge. “Mr. Bryar will you take the stand?”
I watched as Bob was sworn in.
Joanna smiled at Bob, “For the court, please state your name address and occupation.”
“My name is Robert Bryar, I live at 37 Mountview Avenue in Belleville, New Jersey. I’m employed as a sound engineer for the Irving Plaza in New York City.”
“What are your hours?”
“Currently, I work from six at night to midnight.”
“And what are your earnings?”
“About fifteen hundred per week.”
“How is your relationship with Emily?”
“I think it’s pretty good, I really love her.” I watched as a tear rolled down Bob’s cheek.
Joanna looked at the judge and said, “I have nothing further your honor.”
I watched as their attorney got up. He sauntered over to Bob, “Must be pretty cool working with all those bands?”
“It can be, some are fu..” I could feel myself cringe as the words were about to come out of Bob’s mouth “jerks.” Whew he stopped himself.
“I’m sure some can be. Do you party with these bands?”
“Is there illegal substances at these parties?” I swallowed hard knowing the answer to that. Bob and I went to a few of the after show parties and the drugs were rampant. We usually bowed out early I think we were both afraid that I might succumb and throw all my hard work out the window.
“And do you partake?”
“You want the court to believe that you never do any drugs?”
“It’s the truth, I’ll take a drug test if you want.”
“That won’t be necessary,” he smiled.
“So your hours are six to midnight? Are those hours really conducive to raising a child?”
“I believe so,” answered Bob. “I can be home for her during the day and Alyssa will be there for her at night.”
“Alyssa, yes the mother of the child. I couldn’t help but notice the ring on her finger, congratulations.”
“So fifteen hundred dollars a week. Not too bad. But will it be enough to keep up with the lifestyle Emily is accustomed to? Your honor may I admit into evidence exhibit A the cost of Emily’s extracurricular activities. ”
“Yes you may Mr. Thomas.” I watched as their lawyer gave the judge a folder filled with papers.
I bit my bottom lip as I watched the judges eyes grow wider and wider and then she finally spoke. “Please show Ms. Brahms and Mr. Bryar the cost of Emily Howells expenditures.”
The bailiff showed Joanna the folder and then it was passed to Bob, who was still on the witness stand. “So how do you plan on supporting monthly activities of over seven thousand when you yourself only make about six thousand a month.”
Bob looked down the list and at the attached receipts, “She really only likes two of items on the list and I can afford those two.”
“So you would let an eight year old child pick out what’s best for her?”
“Yeah, what’s the sense of her going somewhere she didn’t want to go to and doing things she doesn’t want to be doing.”
“So when she’s sixteen if she didn’t want to go to school, she wouldn’t have to? She could drop out like you did?”
Joanna rose quickly from her chair, “I object, speculation.” Before the judge could say anything their lawyer said “Withdrawn.” I looked around the room and could tell it had an impact. I only hope the judge saw differently. I was that Bob was starting to look flushed, knew he was getting mad. Suddenly I felt someone grab my hand and gave it a slight squeeze. I looked over at Ray who gave me a supporting look.
“I have no further questions for this witness,” said their lawyer.
“Do you Miss Brahms?”
“Mr. Bryar do you hold a high school diploma?”
“You sure not a GED?”
“I know the difference, I have a high school diploma and a degree in sound engineering.”
“What was the reason that you dropped out?”
“I dropped out when we moved back to Chicago, I just finished my course requirements at night school.”
“So technically you never dropped out did you? You just changed your school hours.”
Joanna turned to the judge, “No further questions.”
“You may step down Mr. Bryar, any further witnesses?”
I wasn’t going to be a witness because of my past. Joanna thought that can of worms should be better left untouched.
“Mr. Thomas, please call your first witness.”
“I call Sarah Howell.”
I watched as she was sworn in.
Their lawyer started the questioning that was similar to Bob’s first questions.
“Are you employed?”
“I’m raising my child.”
“What a noble profession.”
I couldn’t help but notice that Joanna rolled her eyes as she wrote something on her pad.
“Can you describe for the judge what Emily has meant to you?”
“Ten years ago my husband Lawrence and I discovered I was unable to have children. We had our name in many different agencies just to have a chance at a child. When we were told about Ms. Johnson we were overjoyed, at last our dreams have come true. I have to admit we were a bit skeptical at adopting Emily due to her birth mother’s drug abuse. Unfortunately in the past few years Emily had become withdrawn and she began telling lies. We imagine this type of behavior is due in large part to her mother’s drug abuse.”
I wanted to cry, they were blaming all of this on me. I wanted to take the stand and defend myself, defend Emily. I watched again as Joanna shook her head and wrote something down and then whispered something into Bob’s ear. Bob turned and looked at me and gave me a weak half smile. I hope Joanna had something up her sleeve.
“That’s why she’s in so many activities so she’ll be more outgoing.”
“Objection speculation,” cried Joanna.
“Sustained,” said the judge. I have no fucking idea what they were talking about but I knew their lawyer was not happy.
Sarah turned to the judge, “When they put Emily in my arms I knew I never wanted to let her go. I love my daughter more than anything.”
“That’s all Mrs. Howell,” said their lawyer.
“Your witness Ms. Brahms.”
“Thank you your honor.”
“How many charitable committees do you serve on?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I count over twenty. You’re a very giving woman Mrs. Howell.”
What the fuck was Joanna doing by complimenting her.
“You even won an award for your charitable work?”
“You must have been very proud?”
“Yes I was.”
“In your speech and I quote ‘I love charity work more than anything, sorry Lawrence.’”
“I’m sure that was taken out of context.”
“Your honor I would like to admit into court Exhibit B a video tape of the night and Exhibit C, a transcript of said tape and Exhibit D an affidavit stating that this tape was given to us under their own free will and under no circumstances were given under false pretenses.” I watched as the judge reviewed the documents.
She whispered into the ear of the the woman sitting next to her and she left.
“We will take a short recess while the video equipment is being set-up, please return in fifteen minutes, if you are not here I will find favor for the party that is here on time.”
“All rise,” boomed the bailiff.
We watched as the judge walked out. Bob passed the bar and came straight towards me wrapping his strong arms around me.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” as I felt his heart beating. It was such a soothing sound.
I watched my client holding his girlfriend and couldn’t help but smile. I knew he really cared about her and I was happy for him when they finally got together for real. I watched as he gently kissed her forehead and gave her a reassuring hug. I think I might even be a little jealous at what they seem to have. Though there’s something not quite right about it all. Something in her eyes seem so empty. I’m probably reading into something that just isn’t there.
The fifteen minutes went fast and by the time Judge Patterson made her way into the room everyone was there.
The video equipment was set up and Sarah Howell’s speech was played for the court. After it was finished I was allowed to continue my questioning.
“So Mrs. Howell, when was this speech given?”
“Last year,” she said with her head down.
“So last year you didn’t love your daughter?”
“Then why didn’t you acknowledge her?”
“I was nervous.”
“She was sitting right next to your husband who you acknowledged.”
“Objection, badgering the witness,” said Daryl from the other side of the room.
“Sustained,” said Judge Patterson. She then turned to the court reporter. “Strike that last statement from the transcript.”
“Yes your honor,” he said.
I continued with my questioning “So with all your charities how do you find time for your daughter?”
“I have an au pair.”
“How old is your au pair?”
“Nineteen, so you leave a nineteen year-old to raise your daughter.”
“I didn’t say that!”
I can see that she is getting really angry at this point. “You are involved in over twenty charities and sit on a dozen boards one of which is your husband’s place of employment, if you’re doing all that who is taking care of your child? Who is taking her to all her activities that she desperately needs? Who is helping her with her homework? Who is raising your child?”
“You have no idea what it’s like to be me. I didn’t fuck a guy for drugs and then gave up the baby. If it weren’t for me that kid would be dead. You can’t come here all high and mighty eight years later. She’s mine!! I paid through the nose to get her and you’re not getting her back!!”
I couldn’t help but smile to myself, I looked over at Daryl he looked completely devastated by the statement as he should be.
“I have no further questions for this witness,” I said to the judge. I turned around and gave Bob a wink and he smiled at me. I made my way around the table and sat next to him. He leaned over and whispered, “Thank you.”
“Do you have any further questions for Mrs. Howell?” asked Judge Patterson.
“No.” Darryl said with a display of arrogance.
“Do you have any further witness?” asked the judge.
I was expecting Dr. Howell.
“Actually I do have someone who was not on my original list, but I think they will could be very important to the as to how the child might be raised.”
“I’ll allow it, call your next witness?”
“I call Alyssa Johnson.”