Prompt> Tell us a story with an unexpected twist?… Okay, that’s the prompt for today. Didi and I wrote this in 2017!! As part of our challenges, we wrote so many with great twists but this one has always had a special place in my heart. So I’ll throw it back in 2019… This was one we called ‘Guilty, In Self-defence’ for the crime/suspense challenge… I think.. I can’t even remember it was so long ago! But I enjoyed it.
AUTHOR ONE: SCENE ONE
“Your top is very stripy today.”
Dean announces with a quizzical lift of one brow. He’s practically blocking the doorway into the breakroom. I hate it when he does that. Our firm is the largest on this side of California, and of all the Lawyers that Martin Law could’ve chosen to partner me up with on the most important case imaginable, it had to be Dean.
Dean Pritcher, the handsome, young, successful and entitled douchebag. He doesn’t have much of a filter on the stupid shit he says, and he gets away with it, because his father is one of the most powerful money grabbers known in the law business. Dean has a thing for me – a major one. The annoying flirtatious comments have been in full swing, ever since I accidentally let him get into my pants during last year’s Christmas party. That’s right, I said accidentally, and I also said, during – not after.
The wine was exceptionally fruity, which I love, and he was very easy on the eyes that night. We’d had too much to drink, and after a few laughs about the firm’s crappy choice of music, we wound up sneaking off to fuck in his office. The rest of the party was singing Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree in annoying rounds of staccato, while I was two rooms over rocking a shaft of my own, singing a whole different kind of tune. It was actually a very exceptional fuck, and I can’t even begin to explain how much I hate to admit that. I’ve told him time and time again, that it was a one time thing. He’s yet to accept that as a reasonable turn down.
“Can you move please? The coffee over there isn’t going to pour itself into my mug.”
I hold up my black coffee cup with the words smarty-pants-attorney scrawled in fancy pink and white letters across it, and flash my most sarcastic grin in his direction. This is the cheesiest coffee cup a lawyer could possibly have, but my mom gave it to me as a gift when I passed the BAR a few years back. I haven’t started a single morning since without it.
“And, I love this shirt.” I retort as I squeeze past.
My mom raised me and my three younger siblings on her own, she couldn’t afford to pitch in a dime on my schooling. My father is long gone. He’s been in the six foot hole he belongs in, for fifteen years exactly this month. My dad was the entire reason behind my drive to make it through law school. I intend on playing my dutiful part in keeping men like him off the streets and out of the beds of women who clearly deserve better than waking up each day hoping it isn’t their last.
I paved my own way, I waited tables and climbed more stripper poles than I like to talk about to get myself here. I’ll be damned if I let a spoiled little daddy’s boy brat, like Dean, mess up my chances of making partner in this firm. I honestly don’t even think he likes me that much anyway. To him I’m more of a challenge than anything else. The one woman who’s ever turned him away. I’ve even heard him refer to me as a “prick tease” to his friends, when he assumed I was not within earshot to overhear such absurdity.
“I’m not a fan, it makes your tits look smaller than they really are. The necklines way too high.”
“I hate that you know what my tits look like.”
I really do love this shirt. The stripes are small, and they’re several shades of black and gray. The material is mostly spandex so it’s very soft against my skin and tucks nicely into this particular black pencil skirt. It’s my favorite skirt, I have it in four colors.
Dean remains in the doorway, but he rotates himself to keep a close eye on me as I pass. He does this often. He doesn’t even actually use this break room, he has a single serving coffee machine and fridge in his own office. The only reason he comes here is to pester me. Even though we already spend enough time around each other as it is, especially with this particular case we’re working on. I can feel his eyes as they scour over my backside. I shift all my weight onto one leg, to accentuate my curves. Fuck it, I might as well show off what he can’t have.
“Did you get the email I sent you last night? Mrs. Chevelle will be here in an hour, and we need all of those documents finished.”
I say, while spinning back around to face him.
“I thought we were talking about your tits.”
I roll my eyes at his tenacity, this man is relentless.
“Can we please be professional?” I ask wholly irritated.
“I mean, I know you’re young. But maybe it’s time to act my age for a change instead of yours.”
Dean’s perfectly white teeth make themselves known as he bites his lower lip. Wanting and teasing me with those soft squishy lips, just before displaying his biggest grin.
“So, you’re finally going to admit that you’re my cougar?” He asks with his sparkling brown eyes and smiling from his cheeks.
“Oh my God,” I mumble. “Just have it all ready, okay? I’ll be in your office in forty five minutes to review it before she gets here.”
I shove my way through the small space he’s allotted me for a passage through the doorway. My chest rubs softly across his upper abs on my way past, making my nipples slightly perk, and my hips brush his thighs. He practically towers me in height, making him that much harder to resist. The short contact of his body heat sends a shock between my legs. I hate that he makes me wet so easily. I find it best to stick with irritation and spite when dealing with him. It makes things much easier.
“It was finished an hour ago, Kitty.”
He hollers after me, just loud enough to be heard by the few suits at the end of the hallway. They don’t even look up.
“It’s Catherine.” I retort, without looking back.
“Kitty-Cat.” He calls followed by a purposefully low humming purr.
I can hear the smile behind the words. I grin, despite myself, as he can’t see my face anyway. Then I flip him the bird over my shoulder, and sway my hips just right in step, knowing full well what those sexy eyes of his are locked on.
I’m actually surprised at the stack of pages he gracefully hands over to me. He leans across the desk, putting his weight on his forearms, and smirks in my direction. I thumb through the pages, double checking the format and signature markers in each section. Dean added in all our client’s information in the exact places needed. For being a shoe-in attorney here, and given the job based on his father’s name, he’s surprisingly bright.
“I’ve got to admit I’m impressed, Dean. Everything looks great.”
He leans back into his chair, pushing it a couple of feet to the side of his desk, to get a better look at me. We’re now a mere couple of feet away, without any furniture between us to block his view.
He says while rubbing his chin in thought, and staring blatantly at the exposed portion of my legs.
Before I have a chance to put his inappropriate innuendos in check, there’s a light tapping on his door. His entire office is made of the type of distorted glass that can be seen through from one side only. We can look out, but no one can look in. There are few offices in the building of its stature, and of course his is one of them. It made our one time sexual encounter that much more intoxicating. It was like having sex in public, yet not a soul could see it. I wonder how many other girls he’s fucked in this very room, as I look over to see the silhouette of his secretary standing at the door.
As soon as I turn back to Dean he winks at me. I wonder briefly if he’s secretly a mind reader. He calls her in without breaking eye contact. Becky is very tall and skinny with a quiet mousy voice. She blushes every time she addresses Dean, and stumbles over her words often. She walks in slowly and hesitant then clears her throat.
“Yes, um, Mr. Pritcher, you have a client here. Shall I, um, send her in?”
Dean hardly acknowledges her presence. He continues to stare into my eyes, refusing to let a blink slip through. The gaze is intense. I hate it when he does this in company. It’s like he’s staking an intense claim on me. Pretending that no one else around can pull his attention away. It’s irritating. Cute, but most definitely annoying nonetheless.
“Go ahead and welcome her in, Becky. I think Cat and I are ready. Aren’t we Kitty-Cat?”
“It’s Catherine.” I correct before turning to the timid girl. “Yes, we’re ready Becky, go ahead and send her in.”
Becky doesn’t look over at me. She’s just as stuck on Dean as he is on me. Just like every other girl around here. If he’s in the room, no one else on the planet exists. I just hope the judge is as impressed. I’m yet to work a case with him, and we could really use the help on this one.
Becky does as she is told, and shows Mrs. Chevelle in.
I instantly see my mother’s young face peering out through the eyes of Denessa Chevelle. Minus the prominent scar that my mom sports above her right eye, compliments of a grazing bullet provided by my dad’s nine millimeter. Denessa actually looks nothing like my mother, but the demeanour of a timid and abused pet is written all over her face. My heart pulls in a familiar ache for her.
I stand to my feet and walk over to greet her formally. Mrs. Chevelle keeps her head to the floor, staring at the tiles. A habit like this only comes from years of abuse. The woman clearly has no confidence or self -respect. Her eye is still blackened from the night that put her on the path to this very Martin Law office. I introduce myself and Dean before urging her to take a seat, on a plush white chair across from my own. I straighten my back and place a comforting hand on her knee.
“Mrs. Chevelle, I want to start by telling you that everything we talk about today will stay in this office. No matter what it is.”
She nods and finally looks up to make eye contact with me, though Dean is still avoided completely. She glances in his general direction, but has trained her eyes to avoid any direct contact with those of a man.
“You’re safe here.” I continue. “We work for you, and are bound by law to maintain the utmost discretion. Do you understand that?” I ask softly with genuine concern.
“Yes.” She replies softly and it’s my mother’s voice that I hear.
My heart races as my mind runs circles around the similarities in this circumstance. I was only fourteen years old when my mom took my father’s life in self defence. He was too drunk to actually hit his target, her face. He made one shot that grazed the side of her face, and in return she finally snapped. My mom stabbed my father repeatedly in the chest and head with the crafting scissors she had in her hand, when he tried to kill her. I personally locked myself and my little brothers in the bedroom. I remember helping them to hide from our dad underneath my mom and dad’s shared bed when it happened. I came out of the room by the coaxing of a uniformed officer, and witnessed first-hand the bloody mess that was my home.
Mom was lucky, and didn’t have to face trial after the entire incident. She buried my dad, and has been reminded of her own past by the scar on her face every time she looks in a mirror.
Mrs. Chevelle isn’t going to be so lucky. Her husband was a very well-known public figure, and not everyone around believes her story of self-defence. In a way, you could say that I took the case in honor of my own mother. I finally get the opportunity to do what’s right by a woman who defended herself, before she ended up dead at the hand of a man who claimed to love her, just as my mom almost did. Dean’s voice pulls me back from the distracting memories.
“Mrs. Chevelle, we need to start by asking you a few questions.”
AUTHOR TWO: SCENE TWO
“Okay, no problem.”
She replies without moving her eyes over to Dean. I take the lead, I can see she feels more comfortable speaking to a woman.
“Mrs. Chevelle, can you tell us a bit about your marriage to Ronald?”
I watch Mrs. Chevelle take a deep breath and swallow hard at my question. She’s nervous. I remember the look on my mom’s face, as she was asked the same question all those years ago. As my eyes well up I get up from my seat, smooth over my shirt and sit down beside her. My knees touch hers, I take her small and wrinkled hands in mine.
To my surprise she doesn’t flinch, but her head remains low. She grabs both of my hands tightly, and starts to sob lightly. As I hold onto her small hand it’s like an electric current runs from her to me. I feel it, the hurt, the pain, the years of being knocked around like a fuckin’ bean bag. For what, in the name of love? Because she’s too scared to up and leave, and try to make it on her own.
I look into her face as I wait for her response. The current runs through me still. I can feel my breathing become deeper. It’s right here and now that I make up my mind, guilty or not, there is no way she’s going down for this shit. I’ll work that court room and whip those jurors into line and get a not guilty verdict, and acquittal. Pretty boy Dean, better step up too and not fuck up with any armature moves.
For a woman in her late forties she looks good. That’s what money and good Botox does for you. The only tell-tale sign she’s a woman of a certain age are her weathered hands, rather than her face.
“When you’re ready Mrs. Chevelle please.” I softly encourage her to speak.
“Well I don’t know what to say really. The stories you read in the glossy magazines and newspapers really don’t fit the truth. Ronald was a twisted man. No matter how much he gave to charity or how many humanitarian things he did, it was all a cover up.”
I gently let go of Mrs. Chevelle’s hands to pick up my legal pad and pencil. I’m not missing a beat of this. I fix her with an empathetic look and brace myself to hear her story.
“Behind closed doors Ronald Chevelle was a bully, drunk and a very nasty man. I had to grin and bear it all for years.”
“Can you go into a bit more detail Mrs. Chevelle?”
Dean cuts in. I almost forgot he was in the room. I shoot him a warning look. The last thing I need is Mrs. Chevelle to clam up. He’s moving too fast, with women like this you have to let them talk with little interruption. Mrs. Chevelle places her hands over her face, a muffled voice comes from behind them.
“Please, please I can’t talk with him here.”
I look over at Dean, I nod my head toward the door. I watch him unfold his lean body, adjust his tie and head out the door.
“He’s gone Mrs. Chevelle. Please when you’re ready tell me a bit about your home life?”
“Ma’am there’s no point really is there? No one will believe me, no one will understand just what I went through. I may as well give up.”
“No, no we must tell your story, you have to trust me…please let me help you.”
In a low gentle voice, I question her further.
“Did he ever put his hands on you Mrs. Chevelle?”
She looks up at me with damp pale blue eyes, her thin pencilled eyebrows meet in the middle as she searches my face. I know she’s trying to feel me out, to see if she can trust me.
She mumbles and blinks, as she does a single tear falls to her plump cheek. Her mascara runs as her tears start to overflow violently once again. As the tears escape her she stays mute, staring off into space. I take a deep breath and brace myself for the shit I’m about to hear.
“Mrs. Chevelle, what’s your earliest memory of him hurting you?”
I hand her a tissue from the box on the table, and watch her wipe her nose and smooth over her blonde sleek shoulder length hair.
“When I was pregnant, about four months or so. I was in the kitchen cleaning the floor. I had terrible nesting syndrome everything had to be just right. Ronald hated it, as soon as he placed something down I’d tidy it away. Anyway, I was mopping the floors and forgot to tell him. He came in and almost slipped as he entered the house. He stormed into the kitchen and grabbed me by the hair. He yelled in my face why the fuck didn’t I tell him the floor was wet? I told him I never heard him come in or I would have. Then he… he.”
I take her hand again and hold it tight. C’mon lady, open up tell me. She looks down at our hands intertwined and speaks in a small voice.
“He threw me to the floor and smashed my face on the tiles, then he kicked me in the stomach – four times and raped me.”
As her voice breaks and the tears and sobbing take over Mrs. Chevelle, I keep my poker face in check, but inside I’m fuming. Son-of-a bitch.
“Mrs. Chevelle, is that the reason you… is that how the–”
She cuts me off.
“Yes, yes that’s the real reason I lost my son at four months pregnant. I never miscarried like the glossy magazines said. He kicked it out of me.”
I sit up straight, for a moment. My face slips as I think back to the headline of Hello magazine all those years ago. Mrs. Chevelle did an interview with them following the “miscarriage” she had. She played the grieving mother over the loss of her son. She confessed following complications with her miscarriage, she can now no longer have children. She conceived in her late thirties, it was considered a miracle it happened.
“He made me do it, Ms. Ms…”
“Call me Catherine, please.”
“Okay, he made me do it Catherine. He made me decline a makeup artist the day of my interview, as they would see the black eyes. He demanded that I do my own makeup and cover up my marks well. He said if he looks at the magazine picture and notices unperfect makeup he’d beat me.”
“Mrs. Chevelle, is he the reason you can’t have children?”
She bows her head again and sniffs back the tears and snot.
In my mind, I’ve won this case already. That piece-a-shit can go to hell. I place my personal emotions inline, and smooth over my chocolate brown sharp asymmetric blunt cut bob. I tuck the longer section of my hair at the front behind my ear, let go of her hand and make some swift notes. I keep my eyes low, I can’t afford for her to see my true feelings over this sick bastard.
“Mrs. Chevelle, was this the first beating? If not, can you confirm how long ago the first beating was?”
“I was thirty seven, so almost ten years ago when this happened. The first one was two years after we married, when I was twenty.”
I do the math, that’s over twenty five years ago.
“Right, and before this day in the kitchen how did he treat you?”
“Well, he was a little rough, ya know during sex. He liked very strange things, sometimes he’d want to tie me up and punish me, really punish me. I’d have welts all over my breasts and thighs from the strap marks. He also asked me to do weird things like…”
“It’s okay, when you’re ready keep going.”
Mrs. Chevelle sighs. Her face pinches up into the most painful look I’ve seen on any one in a while, it’s clear this is a hard trip down memory lane for her. Her voice starts of slow and then ends up in a shrill plea by the time she’s done.
“Maybe I’m the weird one? I don’t know but he… he liked to force himself on me. Nothing would stop him, period or no period if you know what I mean, he would still force himself on me and inside me. Then tell me to clean up the mess of blood and say it was all my fault. Catherine, I’d beg and plead and tell him how painful it was and I was in pain from time of the month cramps but he never stopped. One time he held me by the neck and forced himself inside me up against the wall. I was terrified, he was high on cocaine. Afterwards he beat me, told me it was all my fault, and punished me for messing up the walls with blood.”
“Mrs. Chevelle, can I confirm a few things? One, you said no, and made yourself clear. Two, he would still demand sex from you. Three, he would enter you with force, while you had not consented to sexual relations?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
Mrs. Chevelle, this is going to be a hard question to ask, and even harder for you to answer. But you’ll be asked it in court, so we need to prepare. Why didn’t you file for a divorce?”
Her timid face looks up at mine. I take in her smudged makeup as she moulds her pretty face into a frown. Her pale blue eyes plead with me.
“Catherine, please don’t judge me okay. Look at you you’re pretty, you have brains, you’re a lawyer, you go to work and kick ass every day. Men respect you because you deserve it.”
She looks away from me for a beat as she continues.
“Shit, you demand it Catherine. I wish I could be like you. I saw the way that other lawyer looked at you when you told him to go. He knew better than to fuck around with you. Me, I… I can’t do that. I don’t have brains.”
I’m flattered, this is a Hollywood wife telling me she’d love to be like me. I study her closely and prick my ears up, something big is coming I can feel it. With a look of shame, she lowers her lashes again to her lap.
“I can’t read… properly. I got pregnant at fifteen and my parents disowned me, I worked every strip club in London, after I gave up my child for adoption at sixteen. I’m British, not American, I hide my accent well after so many years here. At eighteen, I came over here to the USA on a visa. I worked the poles every night. That’s all I knew and still know how to do even to this day. I was a Las Vegas show girl. That’s how I met Ronald one night at The Golden Nugget Hotel, in downtown Las Vegas. He had money and demanded a private show, so I did it for the $10,000 tip he was offering. Back then to me that was a lot of money. Now I have shoes that cost more than that. The rest is history. I stayed by his side for security, I told him I wanted to learn to read and write and go to work, just like you be something ya know? He said no, pretty girls don’t need to learn that stuff. So, I stayed home, kept the house clean, went shopping and tried to make friends with the other Hollywood wives.”
Mrs. Chevelle pauses and takes a breather. She looks into my eyes, and then back down at her lap. I take her hand again and listen.
“The other wives never really accepted me, they still don’t after all these years. In their eyes, I’m just a stripper that got lucky. They’re all fake toward me, and I know they speak about me behind my back. Sometimes they laugh when I find it hard to order from the menu, I can’t read for God sake I’m not stupid.”
She takes another breather and squeezes my hand, as she shakes hard.
“I had one girlfriend, our friendship was never made that public, we were never often pictured together. But we were best friends”
I watch Mrs. Chevelle’s face light up for the first time as she relives her friendship with her close girlfriend.
“We met one night out at a celebrity charity event Ronald was hosting. She sat next to me. She started talking to me like a normal human being she liked me. She knew my background and wanted to talk to me for research, about the underground world of stripping. She was a little older than me and wiser, she helped me a lot over the years. Ronald knew about our friendship.”
“Who? Tell me who is or was your girlfriend? Maybe we can talk to her as well as a witness.”
“No, we can’t she’s dead.”
“Yes, my one-time girlfriend, and best friend was the author Jackie Collins. You know her right? We bonded over the struggles of adjusting to the USA, her being British she understood me. We would sit for hours and gossip about all the stories she was writing. She was so talented and great to talk to. One day, Ronald came home, he caught Jackie trying to teach me how to read and write. He threw her out, told her not to come back. Called me a cunt then beat me black and blue within an inch of my life. I was never allowed to talk to Jackie again. And I wasn’t allowed any female friends.”
My mouth hits the floor as Mrs. Chevelle pulls a photo from her purse. I take it in my hands and study the picture closely, her and the British New York Times bestselling author, at a party in elegant dresses, all smiles with a glass of champagne in their hand. Ms. Collins herself. Well I’ll be damned.
“Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that Mrs. Chevelle. I’m sorry for your loss of friendship and the treatment. Thank you for telling me your backstory. It’s useful for the jury to know.”
I flip over my page, and jot down her story.
“Mrs. Chevelle the night you attacked your husband, it was self-defence, right?”
She hesitates, for a moment I wonder if she is guilty of murder.
“Yes, of course.” She replies in a muffled voice.
“Okay. I think we’ve had enough for today. We’ll meet up in a few days before the trial starts and go over a few more things. Is that okay?”
“Umm hmm.” Is all she says as she starts to sob again.
I can’t help myself, I reach out to her and hug her tight against me as he breaks down crying heartfelt sobs. Her shoulders shake and my blouse is covered in her makeup, but it’s okay. As I hold her I wipe my own eyes and try to return to me. The tough ball-breaking lawyer and not the emotional wreck I feel. I can’t believe it. Raped, beaten, and deprived of the right to educate herself. If it’s the last thing I do, and for the sake of my own mother this woman is walking out of that court room, with a clean name.
After Mrs. Chevelle leaves, and Dean walks in, I head back to my office. I completely ignore Dean as he walks in. I brush past him and shove him slightly to one side.
“Wow, what’s got into you?”
“Nothing.” I call back as I walk off down the corridor fuming.
“You sure Kitty-Cat?”
I stop dead in my tracks, I spin around and sashay back up to him. Even in these heels he still towers over me. I get up in his face, before I know it the Brooklyn fire in me comes out. It’s like I step back in time, remembering what it was like having to protect myself and my little brothers in the ghettos of New York. Under his six foot three height I push Dean’s cheek, point in his face and yell up at him.
“Yo’, call me that one more time I’ll snap ya fuckin’ neck, got it?”
I spin around and the whole corridor looks my way. Fuck these suits. I straighten my skirt, hold my head up and sashay back to my office with my bitch face on show. The one I always reserved for those pricks back in Brooklyn. No one meets my eye as I walk along. I’m not in the mood for his banter about my tits, how good my ass looks in this skirt or how much he’d love to bend me over his desk or fuckin’ Kitty-Cat names. Now is not the time to piss me off with that shit.
I sit at my desk with my heels propped up. Reflecting on life, how unfair it can be sometimes. Some people don’t have the silver spoon others seem to have. They have to do what they have to do to get through each day. Even if it means staying married to a rapist, drug addict and abuser. My blood boils harder just as the door knocks.
“Yeah, come in.”
A timid looking Becky enters my office, she pushes her glasses back and shuffles over to me like a mouse. Her eyes rest on the floor and her shoulders hunch over.
“Urm, Catherine, Mr. Pritcher–”
I cut her off. From my desk, I remain rooted with my heels propped up, I bark at her.
“Stop Becky. Look at me when you’re talking to me God damn. Hold your fuckin’ head up. Get out of my office, and come back in. Let me know you’re present, don’t shuffle in like a chump.”
Becky looks at me wide eyed and scared. Like a rabbit caught in headlights.
“Catherine, I’m sorry.”
“Becky, shut up and get out there, knock on the fuckin’ door with some clout. Then get back in here and tell me whatever it is you wanna say. Go.”
I watch her turn on her flat sensible heels and walk out. The door knocks louder. Good girl. Now don’t let me down, show me who you are Becky. In she walks head high and hands clasped in front of her.
“Mr Pritcher wants to know if he can meet with you in five minutes?”
She lowers her head, ready to leave.
“Becky, sit down.”
“Am I in trouble Catherine cos I–”
“Sit down, Becky.”
She takes a seat opposite me, I swing my heels down off my desk and lean over, I look her in the eyes. Of course, she moves her eyes away from mine. In a soft voice, I try to boost her confidence.
“Becky, in life there are two types of people, the doormats and the stilettos let’s call them. The doormats will never get very far, as the stilettos are too busy walkin’ all over ‘em. Ya see where I’m goin’ with this?”
“Umm I think so.”
“Becky, I don’t know why you come across as so shy, but people will take advantage of that, if you let them. I’m not saying change who you are, if you’re a shy person that’s fine. I’m saying believe in who you are, have fire in you. Be the stiletto not the doormat. Okay?”
She looks me in the eye, a small smile creeps over her face and her eyes light up.
“I’ll try. Catherine.”
I sigh, I need a drink and a smoke.
“Can I ask you something?”
I swing my heels back up on my desk as I lean back in my chair.
“Can I assist you as your secretary? I like Mr. Pritcher but…”
She lowers her eyes, again.
“Eyes up Becky, I’m over here.”
“Sorry, yes. I like him but I want to shadow you. I think I could learn a thing or two and I’m debating whether to study law.”
“Okay, what else, that can’t be the only reason. You can shadow any lawyer as their secretary. Don’t bull shit me Becky, what’s up?”
Becky lowers her eyes again. What is wrong with this kid?
“He tries to touch me, Catherine I don’t like it.”
“What, you don’t like it? Every woman in here wants his hands between their legs, are you kidding me?”
I laugh out loud at this joke, she can’t be serious. Becky’s face stays numb and straight. I see her eyes well up with tears and she looks at the ground again. For a moment, I regret my joke.
“No, I don’t like it. I’m… I’m not really into boys like that. I, I… Catherine I don’t know how to say this but, I have a girlfriend, no one knows and I don’t want anyone to.”
You can knock me down with a feather. All this time I thought Becky was getting wet over him when she looked at him, it was a look of fear and disgust. He made her nervous that’s why she stutters around him.
“Jesus Becky, really? I’m sorry for my bad joke. Okay starting Monday, you’re on team Catherine. Leave it all to me.”
Becky’s face lights up and she gets to her feet.
“Thank you! I better get going I have a few reports to type up.”
At the door, she looks back at me.
“Catherine, you’re awesome. No one has ever stood up to that prick like you did back there.”
Before I can even respond she scurries through the door and closes it behind her. I laugh a belly rolling laugh and hold my sides. I swing my heels down from my desk and bend over in a fit of laughter… shy reserved Becky actually said prick.
“So, what did she have to say then? Catherine.”
Dean’s voice snaps me out of my daydream, as I stand over at my window, looking out at the blue cloudless California skyline. It’s a beautiful sunny day. My eyes take in the beach in the distance from the eleventh floor my office is located on. I feel him behind me. I smile at his emphasis on my name. That’s right bitch, fall in line. Runs through my mind, as he stands behind me in my personal space. I don’t face him. I continue to admire the beauty of the day.
“First things first. If ya put your hands on Becky again, I will snap ya fuckin’ neck that’s a promise. Second, as of Monday, she’s my secretary find yourself a new one … a male one preferably. Third, I don’t care who ya father is in this law firm. If I hear so much as a whisper that ya pawing any women in this place, you’ll be sorry. Got that pretty boy?”
“Good. Now we got a case to put together, I need ya on point. Let’s get to work.”
I spin around and face him. He’s so close I can smell his cologne.
“And one more thing. Ya followin’ my lead on this case, stay in line.”
Dean looks down at me, he gives me a salute.
Monday June 1st, 2016, California Supreme Court.
In the lady’s room, I look myself over. I feel good. I take in all the minor details. The sharp fringe of my blunt bob, minimal make-up, my best well-tailored black Chanel skirt suit, sky high red bottom Christian Louboutin heels. Perfect. I feel confident I’ve got this in the bag. I was raised a strict catholic by my mom, I bow my head in prayer before I walk out. Today as confident as I feel I’ll need God on my side. The prosecution lined up a good case. Naturally they have played on her as a money grabbing whore. She was a Las Vegas showgirl, doing what she had to do before she met that bastard. That does not give her a motive for murder… I hope.
“All rise please. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we’re here to hear the case of Mrs. Dennessa Chevelle. On trial for the murder of Ronald Chevelle.”
I watch an officer move over to Mrs. Chevelle, and hand her a bible to place her hand on. She gives her plea of not guilty and the show begins. The prosecution swim around her like sharks. A jumped up over confident suit, with way too much hair gel takes the center stage. He tries to break her down. I clinch my jaw, as my eyes watch him prance around the court room.
“Mrs. Chevelle, is it true you were a stripper before you met your late husband?”
“No, well yes but not a stripper I was a performer in Las Vegas. That’s how we met.”
“Right, right. A performer.”
The sarcastic chump uses quotation marks around performer, as he looks over at the jury. My anger rises.
“And how would you describe your financial situation at the time, stable? Or unstable?”
“I… I did not have much that’s true but I got by.”
All eyes rest on Mrs. Chevelle as he pushes her.
“Mrs. Chevelle, if you could please answer the question.”
A low voice leaves Mrs. Chevelle, she lowers her lashes to the ground.
“Unstable you say? Is it fair to say a man like Mr. Chevelle was desirable due to his financial status, maybe?”
The fuckin’ douche, he’s wasting no time. I get to my feet and call out to the judge.
“Ms. O’Neil, please remain seated. As you were Mr. D’Costa.”
I look over at Mrs. Chevelle and hope she doesn’t fall for the trap.
“No, certainly not. How dare you assume such a thing. He was my husband, not a meal ticket!”
That-a-girl Mrs. Chevelle. I take a seat and breathe a sigh of relief. I look over at the jury. Predominantly female, excellent. I’ll let this shark paint whatever picture he wants of Mrs. Chevelle, in my defence case I’ll hit ‘em with the abused woman story and give them some shit the female jury members never got to read in Hello magazine.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as you can see the prosecution has tried to paint a picture of a money grabber, a whore and a stripper.”
I move closer to the jury, and slowly walk past the stand with confidence as I talk.
“The woman you see over there in that stand, is none of these things.”
I stop for a beat in front of a female juror around Mrs. Chevelle’s age.
“You see that lady over there, she was an abused woman, mentally, physically and emotionally.”
The female juror moves her eyes over to Mrs. Chevelle, she takes a closer look at her on the stand. Right on cue, Mrs. Chevelle blows her nose into her tissue and wipes her eyes. Perfect. I watch the women in the jury stand some more. Their faces move from pinched up discomfort to shock. Beautiful. I walk back across the room to center stage, and command their attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, what you don’t know about Mrs. Chevelle is she endured years of beatings. I’d like you to cast your mind back around ten years ago, Mrs. Chevelle miscarried. Or so we were told. Mr. Chevelle, beat that child out of her on the kitchen floor, and blackened her eyes. He then raped her at four months pregnant. The interview you read in Hello magazine was a facade, he made her give that story.”
I hear the gasps from the jury stand, I look over at Mrs. Chevelle with her eyes lowered playing her part well.
“Ladies and gentlemen, for nearly twenty six years Mr. Chevelle raped her high on cocaine, beat her with whatever he could get his hands on, made her do sexual things she did not want to do. Including things like threesomes, water-sports and rough sex, including anal sex. She did not want it at all, none of it. She never asked for it, she was forced into it, she never consented. This happened for years.”
The jury are stunned, of course they are. They never imagined that the glossy magazine pictures of Mrs. Chevelle and her husband would hide such a lifestyle. I glance over at the prosecution and smirk.
“Ladies and gentlemen, is this the great land of the United States of America? Where everyone has freedom of speech, and equal access to human rights?”
I let the question linger, as I walk over to the jury. I turn and point back at Mrs. Chevelle.
“Mrs. Chevelle was denied all of this, on purpose by her abuser Mr. Chevelle. Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Chevelle is unable to read or write at the age of forty six years old, sadly. When she arrived in the USA from London, aged just eighteen and met her late husband this was her aim. To learn these skills, find suitable work that didn’t mean exposing her body and make a good life for herself. She expressed her interest to her late husband. She asked permission to learn to read, he said no.”
I turn fully to Mrs. Chevelle up on the stand.
“Mrs. Chevelle, can you please repeat what Mr. Chevelle said when you expressed your desire to learn to read?”
In a timid voice, she responds to me.
“He… he said no. Pretty girls don’t need to learn how to do those things.”
I look back at the jury, the women have their hands over the mouths, their eyebrows are raised in shock. Excellent.
“Mrs. Chevelle can you please let us know what Mr. Chevelle wanted you to do instead?”
“Stay at home, clean the house, give him sex when he wanted”
I turn back to the jury and look over at their priceless expressions of disgust.
“Thank you, Mrs. Chevelle.”
I walk away from the jury stand, I feel their eyes on me, watching me. I love it, it feels better than any dick out there to know I’ve got them hook, line and sinker.
“Mrs. Chevelle, can you please explain to the jury what happened the night your late husband got home, and he found you with a girlfriend, learning to read?”
Mrs. Chevelle clears her throat, wipes her eyes at the painful experience of reliving what that bastard had done. I can see it written all over her, she’s dying a slow death up there with these memories. Again, a muffled voice leaves her, she looks at the jury this time and pleads with her eyes.
“I, was very good friends with the late author Jackie Collins, she understood me while other Hollywood wives shunned me. You may not believe it but it’s true, I have a photo here with Jackie.”
Mrs. Chevelle pulls out the picture she showed me at my office and looks down at it, the picture brings a small smile to her lips.
“Years ago, Jackie tried to help me to learn a few words and read, just a few not many. He walked in on us, he threw her out, called me a cunt then beat me within an inch of my life. Jackie and I were banned from speaking to each other from that day. And I was never allowed friends after that day.”
Mrs. Chevelle sobs and throws her arms up in the air. She becomes erratic and emotional. Like a crazy woman she throws her arms around the court room, as tears of pain escape her.
“I never done it on purpose, I never meant to kill him but he was going to kill me. He attacked me that night I hurt him. Oh God I can’t do this. Someone please just take me away now if that’s what you want to.”
She offers her wrists to the guards next to her. They wrestle her to her seat where she sobs more and cries out.
“For years I took the abuse, he beat my baby out of me, I can’t have kids because of him, he raped me constantly, and locked me out of the house in the garden with no clothes on, he made me do cocaine with him. I hated it. I lost count of the number of men and women that would enter me on those nights, when he had wild parties with cocaine that I had to be part of. He made them do all kinds-a shit to me… and he watched while he masturbated himself and then came over me. He was a sick son-of-a bitch. Please believe me.”
My eyes well up for a moment. If I blink, I’m going to break down myself. I compose myself as best I can. I look up at the ceiling as I breathe heavy. I give it a beat, and allow the jury to watch Mrs. Chevelle in an emotional state mutter to herself and slap the side of her head calling herself stupid.
After just ten minutes of deliberation the jury enter the room with their verdict. My heart pounds. This is the biggest case I’ve worked. A high profile Hollywood wife on trial for murder, I gave as good as I got. I worked the court room and bat off all the bullshit the prosecution tried to make stick on Mrs. Chevelle. She has to walk free. The judge hushes the room with her stern voice. A female judge, I like it. I watched her listen to the evidence, but it was hard to read her.
“All rise please. Juror number five step forward. How do you find the defendant Mrs. Denessa Chevelle, guilty or not guilty of murder in the first degree?”
Juror number five walks over to the stand. A middle-aged man with grey hair and small glasses speaks up.
“Not guilty ma’am.”
“How do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of manslaughter?”
“Not guilty ma’am.”
I wink at the prosecution as they sit there and stew. I can’t help it, very unprofessional I know. Who gives a shit, this is cause for celebration.
Following the trial, of course I made partner at Martin Law Firm. I strut into work every day with a smile on my face, proud that I oversaw justice. The media went crazy, every glossy magazine wanted to interview Mrs. Chevelle. She became an even more wealthy woman than she was when Ronald Chevelle was alive. From what I’ve read she’s turning her hand to business, good for her.
Three weeks later:
My office door knocks, I look up from my paperwork.
“Yeah, come in.”
Becky walks in, she’s a changed woman. We hung out one weekend at the mall, we ended up in the opticians, she has a new pair of funky, cat eye shaped hot pink glasses. I take in her sharp outfit, she wears flat black brogues with white knee socks, a black mini skirt, a crisp white shirt is tucked in… and a black tie. Her nails are also a hot pink shade to match her glasses. She looks so cool and individual. She’s starting to express herself with her dress sense. She said it makes her feel confident. The whole office knows she’s gay after she brought her girlfriend to after work drinks. Good for her, her confidence has grown and she has fire in her belly. I’m proud to have her as my secretary.
“Catherine, Mrs. Chevelle is here to see you. She doesn’t have an appointment is that okay?”
“Yeah of course, send her in.”
I push my papers to one side and wonder what she wants, as she sweeps in with a cloud of perfume.
“Catherine, so good to see you. I’m sorry to drop in unannounced like this.”
“No problem take a seat, what can I do for you?”
“Catherine, I’m going back to school, I’m learning to read at forty six, can you believe that? I have a private tutor. I’m also setting up a service for abused women in California, to help give something back to the community.”
“There’s something else as well”.
Mrs. Chevelle looks around the room and leans in close to my desk.
“Catherine, I can trust you right?”
“Right of course, always.”
“I want to thank you for helping me walk free, and these are for you.”
A shoe box lands on my desk from Mrs. Chevelle’s large purse.
“Just a little something to say thank you, I think these are about your size if not just exchange them.”
I open up the box and eye a pair of gladiator style high heels. Sexy and patent black, as the weather heats up these would be great to let my toes out a bit.
“Why thank you! Perfect size. Oh, my you really did not have to, these are so beautiful, just my style.”
“Oh, but I do Catherine, you helped me when I most needed it. And lemme tell ya somethin’ else.”
I smile as Mrs. Chevelle’s accent dips back to its original London cockney accent.
“That prat ‘ad it comin’ to him. It wasn’t self- defence darlin’. That was cold blooded murder. He never attacked me. That night I ‘ad enough of his bitchin’ ‘bout dinner not bein’ as nice as what the cook does. So, I thought fuck it… I’ll shut you up good ‘en proper. I picked up the sauce pan an’ battered that bastard to death, I loved every fuckin’ moment of it, the little prick. Then I blackened me own eye to make it look good, ya know what I mean? I met him when I was eighteen, from the age of twenty I took the beatings and rough sex, I’m forty six. That’s over twenty five fuckin’ years love, I had enough.”
My mouth is on the floor. At the confession, her spunk, and most of all her brutal honesty and acting abilities. In court and when I interviewed her myself, she had everyone under a spell, she played the part perfectly. To a Goddamn T. As she gets up from her chair she winks at me, then kisses my forehead, just like my own mom. I’m too stunned to talk. I lean back in my chair with a stunned look on my face. She laughs.
“Take care darlin, I’ll never forget you. It’s time to start living life now.’
She disappears out the door. The lingering smell of Chanel No. 5 is all that’s left.
No discussion, no planning, one author starts a story she sends it to the other to finish part #2 .