In the courtroom, sympathy runs high for the lovely young defendant. During the testimony phase of the trial several jurors could be seen surreptitiously wiping away tears as they listen in horror to the saga of two helpless children left to the devices of the monster who abused them in unspeakable ways for so many years.
And always, inconspicuous in the back corner of the courtroom, Thane's tortured eyes follow the proceedings, resting most often on the defendant.
Keira stands and faces the gallery, making eye contact with someone in the first row and giving an almost imperceptible nod and gesturing as if to say, "Your turn."
As Jes becomes aware of who is nearing the gate, she flings out her hand involuntarily as if to ward off the approaching storm.
No, oh no. Zellie, no. Not you! Oh, please don't do this! I'm not worth it!
But Giselle cannot hear the thoughts erupting from Jes and continues purposefully toward the witness stand.
As she passes behind Jes, she grabs her friend's hand and squeezes it in a quick show of love and support.
"Miss . . . Fuller? You go by the deceased's name?"
"It's the only name I have. I wasn't as lucky as Jes. I didn't miraculously find a family in my 20s. I have only what identity he gave me."
"Would you describe for the court your years with Mr. Fuller?"
Keira steps back to give Giselle the floor.
"I was taken in as a foster child by Noah Fuller when I was thirteen. I had just started puberty, a fact that I'm quite sure was not lost on him. It didn't take long for me to figure out exactly what he was all about. There was another girl there . . ." Here she looks pointedly at Jes. " . . . with haunted eyes. He locked her in the apartment's only bedroom and proceeded to rape me on the fold-out couch. When he was done he unlocked the bedroom door, shoved me in, and re-locked the door behind me."
Horrified gasps could be heard from the gallery.
As well as from the jury.
"Please continue, Miss Fuller."
"That first day set the tone for the next few years. A day didn't go by without him raping one or the other -- or both -- of us. We were expected to do the cooking and the cleaning and whatever else he thought of. We were not allowed to leave the apartment, but he did allow us limited use of a computer, so we took classes and eventually got our GEDs. He rarely left the apartment himself, but when he did he would handcuff or tie us to our beds. We lived in fear that something would happen to him and he would never return, much as we wished for him to die. He never missed an opportunity to drive home how worthless we were and how 'lucky' we were that he agreed to take us in. If we displeased him, he would find very unpleasant ways to punish us. Sometimes it just meant that day's rape would be more violent. Sometimes he locked us in a dark closet for days on end with only a bucket so we wouldn't soil the floor. This is how we lived our lives, year after year, as prisoners of Noah Fuller."
Jes is lost in the flood of repressed memories that have come flooding back as she listens to Giselle's testimony.
"Miss Fuller, please describe for the court what happened on the day Mr. Fuller was shot."
"I was handcuffed to the fold-out couch, but I heard . . . " Giselle pauses and takes a deep breath. "He always made sure that whichever one of us was not the current object of his attention could hear everything that went on. It was a turn-on for him." She shakes her head in disgust. "We always made sure never to make a sound while he was . . . on top of us. Neither of us wanted to give him the satisfaction of making the other uncomfortable, so we just took it. Silently. We learned the trick of separating ourselves from our bodies and pretending we were somewhere else. Anywhere else."
Giselle pauses again to marshal her thoughts.
"On the day that our foster father died . . . as I said, I was handcuffed to the fold-out couch. He went into the bedroom and shut the door, and I knew that it would be Jes's turn that day. It was almost worse for me when it was Jessy's turn." A tear begins to trickle down Giselle's right cheek. "Anyway, as usual I heard nothing but him talking -- his usual pre-rape crap about how lucky she was and how he was going to 'do' her right . . ." I tried to think about something else, anything but what was going on in that bedroom, when suddenly . . . BLAM! I was shaking in my shoes, not having any idea what had happened. Then I heard Jes yelling. She was telling me to sit tight, that everything was going to be all right. I couldn't hear him at all. After a few minutes she came bursting out of the bedroom, naked, carrying his gun. Her wrists were raw and bleeding from her struggle to get free from the ropes that had tied her to the bed. She found the key to the handcuffs and freed me. We gathered up what few clothes and belongings we had and ran."
Giselle looks at the defense attorney. "And that's it."
"Thank you, Miss Fuller. I know that wasn't easy for you. No more questions, your honor."
Giselle reaches for a tissue as Keira turns and walks back toward Jes. Lucien lurches out of his chair and stalks toward the witness stand.
Giselle watches his approach warily, eyeing the envelope in his hand.
Lucien knows that he must avoid the subject of the witness's years with Noah Fuller. He won't win any points with the jury, most of whom already appear sympathetic toward the defendant. In an effort to discredit the witness, he goes on the attack.
"Miss Fuller, you and the defendant were prostitutes for several years after you left the home of Noah Fuller, is that correct?"
"Oh no. Do NOT go there."
"YOU try being alone and in the big city at the age of 17 with no skills but the ones so painstakingly taught you by your pervert foster father! See what kind of work YOU'D be suited for!"
"YOU try not eating for a week and sleeping in doorways, always fearing robbery -- or worse -- and see how quickly YOU'D take whatever work was available."
An excited buzz grows in the gallery, but some of Jes and Giselle's friends react with dismay at her outburst, knowing that it won't make her any friends on the jury. Fortunately, however, it is Jes who is on trial, not Giselle.
"Order! I will have order in my courtroom!"
The crowd noise abates somewhat as Lucien throws in the towel and returns to his chair.
"Court is adjourned for the day. The court wishes to thank you for your flexibility, and we hope to have heat restored by tomorrow. These proceedings will resume at 9:00 AM tomorrow."
To be continued . . .