The judge and jury had already resumed their positions.
Again, Laura tried to get her mum to look in her direction. She desperately wanted some emotion to be shown. Sway them into the right decision. However, her mum neither sobbed, or protested her innocence.
Even if she could briefly acknowledge her presence; that would be something. Instead nothing was given away – either to the jury, who would soon give their verdict, or to the people in the room who actually cared.
‘Members of the jury have you all come to a decision that you all agree on?’
‘Is there a majority verdict?’
‘Do you find the defendant guilty, or not guilty, of murder?’
Laura hugged Theresa and cheered. Her mum remained impassive and continued to stare around the courtroom.
‘Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of manslaughter?’
Laura collapsed into Theresa’s waiting arms and started to sob.
Fingers were interlinked together, as if in prayer – her mum didn’t care for at least ten years she would be in prison. Handcuffs weren’t needed: Thomas still had control.
‘Mum!’ Laura shouted from the public gallery.
Her mum’s head was fixed on a point just in front of the room she was about to enter. At no point did she even try to acknowledge Laura’s frantic waving. A veil had been drawn, and she wasn’t allowed to follow.
‘Mum!’ Laura shouted, as she was led through the door.
‘Come on love, let’s get some fresh air.’ Theresa tried to pull Laura back, but she was done being ignored. This time her mum had to listen to reason. Within minutes Laura was outside. She hurtled down the concrete steps of the court, holding Buddy in a tight grip.
‘Laura, how do you feel about your mum?’
Ignoring the reporter’s pleas for a statement, Laura fled past the crowd and into the side doorway. She could scarcely hear her shoes clattering down the stairs. Before she knew it was standing beside the prison officer.
She touched Laura on the shoulder. ‘You are not allowed to visit your mum before she is taken to prison.’
‘Please, I need to speak to her . . .’
Looking around her, she said. ‘A few minutes, that is all.’
Laura was aware the young woman could lose her job but knew her mum would refuse to see her in prison, so it was the only thing left for her to do.
‘Laura, you shouldn’t be here.’
Laura had no fight in her to argue any more. Instead, without a word, she handed Buddy over.
‘I can’t take it.’
‘Tabitha wanted you to have this; she said that you are going to be lonely and that he likes cuddles,’ Laura said, and tried again.
Her mum wasn’t willing to touch it. Instead of Buddy, it was like it were shards of glass she had been asked to take.
‘No Mum, you don’t have a choice. Tabitha gave him up for you. Don’t treat her like she doesn’t matter,’ Laura said, pushing the bear into her mum’s palms.
‘I want to, but I can’t I’m not allowed.’
‘She wants you to have it, I want you to have it.’
‘Tell Tabitha thank you, but Nanny can’t take it.’
If there were a place in the holding cell for her mum to hide, then she would have taken it. Why do you refuse my love? It’s always this way. ‘Please take it Mum.’
For a second it looked like she was going to change her mind. However, as quick as her mum reached out, her hands slumped back down to her side. ‘It’s prison rules Laura, I’m not allowed.’
Rules that’s all her mum cared about. Rules at home, rules about marriage and prison rules – they were all the same. She watched as her mum clung to the bars. Feeling no pity, Laura reared forward again. This time her words flashed by unhindered. ‘Do you know what my earliest memory was? It was my third birthday and you had prepared a little cake for me – just a little cake with four candles on it. He came home from work, and he raised his hand so high. He slapped your face. If I close my eyes, I can still hear that terrible sound. I ran upstairs and closed the door and when you came up you had a bruise on your arm. Your excuses for him ready.’