Witness for the Defence
The witness box barely contained the volcano rumbling in Laura’s stomach.
‘Can you tell me a little part of your home life when you were a child?’
‘I was always put to bed early and told to be a quiet little mouse.’
‘Why was that?’
‘If I weren’t in bed by the time he got home, just one look at Mum and I could see that he was angry with her.’
Her mum sat rigid in her chair. She didn’t want Laura to speak. There were some things better left silent, but today was different. Today she wasn’t going to keep her secrets anymore.
‘You must have been so afraid.’
‘Objection, my learned colleague is once again putting words into a witness’s mouth!’
‘Sustained, please be careful of your questions.’
‘Sorry, Your Honour.’ Barbara Craven merely glanced up at the judge before she continued with her questioning. ‘Did you ever feel threatened by your father?’
‘Most of the time I was afraid for Mum. The only time he hit me was when he found out I was pregnant and threw me out of the house.’
‘Was your father drunk when he hit you?’
‘Yes, but to say he had a drink problem would be putting it mildly. He was always an angry drunk.’
The child that never was, and her hand rested over her womb.
‘Did he not have the right to be angry with you?’
Laura felt the sides of her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth. ‘If he ever loved me, then yes.’
‘What happened to the baby?’
‘I lost it, the doctors didn’t give a reason, but my dad hit me in the stomach and called me names that an eighteen-year-old girl shouldn’t hear. My boyfriend accepted the baby as his own and wanted to protect me.’
‘What did he call you?’
Laura was reminded of being back at school and her kind teacher trying to find out why she was crying in the playground. ‘He called me . . . said that I deserved to be out in the streets where I belonged.’
A woman in the jury looked to her mum serenely sitting in the dock and her pen whirred across the page of her notebook.
‘That must have been very frightening for you.’
‘I was scared he was going to kill me and if it weren’t for my mum, he would have.’
Barbara Craven said nothing, again shifted her eyes towards the women in the jury. ‘No further questions.’
It was now time to face her mum’s biggest threat.
‘Mrs Masters.’ Richard Blake’s face was set in stone like a gargoyle. ‘Your story about your father seems very convincing.’
‘It isn’t a story,’ Laura said, ready for his probing questions.
‘So, you say, but we only have your version of events.’
‘I’m telling the truth.’
Laura avoided the disappointment in her mum’s eyes.
‘How long had you been seeing your boyfriend before you got pregnant?’
‘I was pregnant when I met him.’
With an undeniable look of distain, Richard Blake pursued his goal. Many of the older women in the jury started to nod, their expressions blank. ‘Did you actually know who the father was?’
‘I did, but he refused any part of our child.’
‘And the reason for his refusal?’
‘He said I slept around, and that it wasn’t his. Which was stupid because he was the one who persuaded me to.’ Laura stopped: this was too much information.
‘Persuaded you to do what? May I remind you about keeping to the truth.’
With a deep breath in, Laura stared right at him. ‘He persuaded me to try weed, and it’s the only reason I slept with him. I wouldn’t have done it sober.’
‘Were you often drunk?’
‘Objection, the witness is not on trial for her teenage years!’
‘Sustained, keep to the facts of the case.’
‘Was your father aware of your relationship with your new boyfriend?’
‘No, he didn’t like me to go out with boys. I was only allowed to go to Reading University and take the train straight home.’
‘Do you blame him? Not only were you taking drugs, but continually went against your father’s wishes?’
‘Only because he didn’t care about me,’ Laura said, and refused to look down.