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Innocent, yet so guilty..........
by Begin Again
| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| March 13, 2010 Views: 539|
"I should have killed you, you good for nothing pig." Venom spewed from my mouth.
Every available crevice of the Charlotte County Courthouse was jammed with reporters, cameras, curiosity seekers, the town gossips and professionals. Inside the courtroom, the hushed crowd exploded in pandemonium. Flashbulbs lit up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Judge William Baxter's gavel pounded against the desk.
"Miss, please be seated. It's only making matters worse." The bailiff's strong muscular arms urged me toward the bench, but his compassionate brown eyes told me another story.
"Carrie, please stop." My little sister, Shannon, tugged at my arm, pleading with me.
"Order ... order!" The judge's voice bellowed across the room. Slowly, the people returned to their seats, whispering their personal thoughts about the jury's findings.
"She's nothing but a lying whore," a voice hissed somewhere behind me.
"What a shame, dragging a fine upstanding man like Jack through the mud."
"She's the one that should be on trial."
Mortified, I slumped against the wooden bench. Shannon buried her face against my chest, weeping softly. Instinctively, I wrapped my arm protectively around her trembling body, yet never taking my eyes off my stepfather and his 'I told you so' grin. On the other side of the aisle, our mother clung to his hand, the same one that had touched and probed every part of my unwilling body.
Not one of the jury members turned their head in my direction. Regardless of their unanimous decision, God and I knew Jack raped me. The ironic part was my mother was the key witness for the defense. On the witness stand, she'd sobbed hysterically, convincing each juror I was a promiscuous teenager with little, if any respect for adult figures. When she testified Jack and she were out of town having a private rendezvous on the night in question, the entire courtroom nodded in confirmation, never questioning her honesty. Jack was one of the town's biggest benefactors, a prestigious lawyer, and an upstanding citizen.
Mother stepped across the aisle; a shiver ran down my spine when her cold, dark eyes met mine. Speaking barely above a whisper, she hissed, "Stay away from us, Carrie."
Shannon's grip tightened around my body, fearing the inevitable. Mother's cold chiseled face visibly melted as she reached for my sister, "Come on, Sweetie, let's go home."
"Nooooo! Please, Mommy, we can't leave Carrie. We can't!" At ten, she was still very much an innocent child, her love equally divided between our mother and me.
"Shannon, people are watching us." Exerting pressure on my sister's arm, attempting inconspicuously to tug her away from me, Mother smiled, "Sweetie, be a good girl now. Maybe we can stop for ice cream on the way home."
"I don't want ice cream. I want my sister," she whimpered.
My heart shattered like a broken mirror, knowing neither she nor I had any control over the situation. The jury's not guilty verdict had sealed our fate; we were no longer a family.
Wiping away her tears with my fingers, I kissed Shannon's forehead before squeezing her tight. "It's okay, Shan. Everything's going to be alright."
"Nooo! Nothing's ever going to be the same again."
Our eyes met, and I knew at that moment, my little baby sister understood the harsh realities of life.
"Free as a bird." My stomach somersaulted. Unable to breathe, I raised my head toward the deep rich baritone voice. Jack's grin mocked me, "Nice try, Carrie. You gave it your best shot."
Sensing a scene brewing, Mother quickly interjected, "Honey, come on, let's go celebrate."
Pulling Shannon along, her high heels clicked against the marble floor, stopping a few feet away. "Jack, darling, forget about Carrie. It's over!"
Leaning close to my ear, he whispered, "We know it's not over, don't we?" Chortling, he joined my mother and sister, stopping every few feet to accept everyone's congratulations and best wishes.
My stomach churned, sending a foul taste into my throat. I searched for an escape, knowing the entire town waited outside the courtroom doors; people who now scorned me.
"Excuse me, Miss." A hand rested on my arm.
Reacting violently to the touch, I jerked away, visibly shivering.
"Oh, I'm sorry if I startled you, Carrie." The soothing voice belonged to the bailiff. His eyes reminded me of a beagle our family once had, warm and gentle. "I thought you might prefer to use the back door."
His gentle words unlocked the dam; tears streamed down my face. "Oh, thank you."
Without another word, he ushered me away from the cruel, haunting eyes that mocked me.
During the next three months, Gramps, the compassionate bailiff, hovered over me like a doting grandparent. I lived in a one-room apartment above his garage, worked packing groceries at his friend's corner store, and finished my senior year studies at home.
On rare occasions, Shannon and I secretly shared precious minutes together. The bubbly, vivacious little girl was no longer. Instead, her eyes were vacant, her speech cautious. Refusing to talk about home, she lived in the moment.
On a Friday afternoon in June, I was surprised, but overjoyed, to see Shannon, riding her bicycle toward me as I returned from work. When she stopped, we hugged and I sensed something different about her.
"What's up, Shan?" I quizzed.
"Mom's going out of town with Aunt Sharon this weekend, some convention, I guess."
"Yeah, are you going, too?" My heart slammed against my chest, praying she wasn't staying home alone with Jack.
"No, but I get to stay home alone. Mom says I'm big enough to know right from wrong."
"What about Jack?" My choppy breathing echoed in my ears.
"He was supposed to go with Mommy, but he has to work. We can spend the whole day together and no one will know." For the first time since the trial, Shannon was bubbling with excitement.
"Wow, that's great. I have to work in the morning, but we can hang out after lunch. Maybe I can pick up some burgers and fries for lunch. Would you like that?"
"Yeah, just like it used to be. Just you and me, okay?"
I ruffled her hair. "Just you and me." Kissing her cheek, I added, "But you better get home before Mother starts looking for you."
"Right! See you tomorrow." She waved and rode away.
My spirits soared, already imagining spending several hours with Shannon. What a treat! I'd missed my pesky little sister more than I'd thought.
I spent the rest of the day and night, planning for her visit. I wanted every moment to be memorable. I rented two of her favorite videos, bought her number one choice of ice cream, and for good measure, stocked up on a variety of chips and dip. I was probably as excited as Shannon.
On Saturday morning, I couldn't keep my eyes off the clock, anxiously waiting for noon. The time dragged, but twelve o'clock finally arrived. Punching out, I hurried to Shaggie's, our favorite burger joint, ordered two double specials and two large orders of fries, before sprinting the remainder way home.
Racing up the stairs, expecting to see Shannon, I yelled, "I'm home. Anyone hungry?"
No one answered. Scanning the room for signs she'd been here, my eyes saw a large orange piece of construction paper on the table. Recognizing the scrawl, my hand trembled as I picked it up and read it.
This morning, Dad told me he would be home at noon and we were going shopping. I'm so sorry. You know I'd much rather be with you, but there's no way I can get out of it. I love you.
Please don't be mad!
Nausea swept over me as I raced to the bathroom, vomiting over and over until only dry heaves racked my body. Shuddering, I slid down the wall onto the floor, moaning in disbelief.
Please dear God, don't let this happen. Please!
Flashbacks exploded in my head. Grotesque visions of Jack groping my breasts, slobbering and sweating on top of me as he rammed his manhood inside of me, tortured me. Unaware, I huddled on the bathroom floor, screaming until my throat was raw.
Drained, I struggled to my feet. Leaning against the sink, I looked into the mirror and shivered at the person staring back at me. Fear blazed in my eyes. Not fear for myself, but for my little sister.
I remembered the words Jack whispered in court - It's not over!
He was right! It would never be over unless someone stopped him. A plan began to form in my mind. I was the only person who could save Shannon.
Splashing cold water on my face, I continued to work things out in my head. Sporadically, I told myself I could be wrong and it was an innocent shopping trip, but deep inside I knew the truth.
Sweeping my hair into a ponytail, I put my plan into action and headed for Gramp's house.
Every Saturday, he had lunch with his cronies. Today was no exception. Entering the back door, the quiet silence calmed my jittery nerves a bit. Passing through the kitchen, I headed for my destination, Gramp's bedroom closet.
Opening the closet door, I pulled a black box from the shelf. It was locked, but I knew where to find the key. Moving mechanically, I got the key, unlocked the box, and removed the .38 Special and bullets. The barrel was cold against my hand.
My breathing was rapid. My heart was slamming against my ribcage. For a moment, I closed my eyes, expelling the air from my lungs. Slipping the gun into my waistband, I pushed the box across the closet floor with my foot and left the room.
Ten minutes later, I cautiously approached the house. First, I checked the garage for Jack's car. Opening the side door, I prayed, Please don't be there!
I almost screamed aloud when I saw the garage was empty. Jack's car was gone.
Thank you, God.
Relieved that Shannon wasn't in danger, at least for now, I leaned against the garage door, slowly letting my adrenalin dissipate. My haggard breathing returned to normal. My fingers touched the gun in my waistband; I was suddenly aware of how close I'd been to killing someone. Icy fingers strummed my spine.
Stepping out into the yard, I let my mind wander back to better days. Times when our real dad was alive and life was good. Brushing my eyes with the back of my hand, I prepared to leave, but something, beyond my control, drew me to the back door of the house.
What can it hurt? No one will know.
Until now, I hadn't realized how much I missed home. Trying the knob, I discovered it was unlocked. Stepping inside, the fresh scent of vanilla hung in the air. I inhaled the clean fresh smell, remembering how my real dad loved it.
Crossing the kitchen, I stepped into the familiar front room, the crocheted afghans, the lace doilies, the coffee table where I'd fallen and lost my front tooth, the loveseat where I'd read stories to Shannon, and the tea set - the center focal of so many Saturday afternoons. Tears streamed down my face as I remembered the good times, the happy, carefree times, the times before Jack.
Thoughts of Jack dampened my spirits once more. I needed to leave before they returned from their shopping trip, but first, I decided to grab a few of my personal belongings, like my favorite shirts, some books, and a few CDs. Mom refused to give me anything until I apologized to Jack, something that wasn't happening in this lifetime.
Checking the time, I decided I could safely go upstairs, get a few things, and leave with no one the wiser.
I climbed the stairs and headed to my room. Passing Shannon's bedroom, I froze.
What was that sound? Did I imagine it?
I stood listening. Just when I was about to move, I heard it again. Without thinking, I slammed my body against Shannon's bedroom door, bursting into it. My eyes and brain registered the horrified look in my little sister's eyes as Jack's hands covered her mouth and his pants hung loose around his knees.
"Oh God, you worthless piece of garbage. Let her go."
Tossing her across the bed, he bent to pull up his pants, laughing. "Did you come to take her place, Carrie?"
His demonic laughter disappeared as he stared down the barrel of Gramp's gun.
"You won't shoot me. You're afraid. Look at your hand shaking." He took a step toward me. "Give me the gun, Carrie."
"No!" I shouted. He stopped as I waved the gun at him. Shannon eased herself around the room, closer to me. Her wide-eyes registered fear. "It's okay, just go downstairs. I'll take care of this maggot. He won't touch you again."
For a second, my mind focused on Shannon. Jack seized the moment and rushed toward me. Without any thought, I fired the gun. The jolt sent me sprawling backwards onto the floor. My ears were ringing and voices were screaming. The room went black.
The next thing I remembered was Gramp's concerned face as he cradled my head in his lap. The room was buzzing with people, EMT's worked on the bullet hole in Jack's leg, police officers questioned Shannon, and Jack was cussing and swearing, reminding them how he'd have their jobs.
"What happened? How'd you get here, Gramps?" I tried to make sense of the situation.
"I came home and found the box on my closet floor. It wasn't hard to figure out what might be going on. I called for back up and raced over here."
"I'm glad you did." I sighed, "But I should have killed him."
I Should Have Killed You
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