Forgiving Justice

"...So it came a bit of a shock to me when I saw what was happening between Bella and Theo. No one would have guessed that anything like that could happen to us: the happy go lucky Balmers and Kensits living in the big house on the corner. But that’s the funny thing about life.
You never know what’s coming next."

Fifteen year old Natalie Balmer/Kensit has never really felt like she belongs. Throughout her childhood she was continually bounced from one home to another- whilst keeping a terrible secret that her older sister Bella was being brutally abused.
Now, living in care, seperated from her family and in a steady relationship with boyfriend Jasper, Natalie is shocked to find her past being dragged out in front of her.

Theo is back. And his story's in court.

Natalie, as the only witness to Bella and Theo's injustice, is now compelled to make a life changing decision- Keep her families together?

Or serve Bella justice and send her sister to prison?

Coming soon!




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10. Family Values

Rain pulsing against the windows, I took a furtive glance at Jasper’s expression. If it had been anyone else, you would have thought that he was in the most tremendous sense of tranquillity. There was absolutely no readable expression on his face, and his breathing was in time to the Debussy that slipped softly out of the radio.

 

But because I knew Jasper, and Jasper knew me, I saw a sentiment of panic and apprehension radiating off him as potent as the smoke of a burning furnace. His shoulders were arched stiffly, and there were unmistakeable beads of sweat forming on his brow. Jasper’s hands clenched the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were white, and the skin stretched over so far that it looked almost translucent.

 

Jasper caught me staring, and forced a smile with obvious effort. “You feeling all right, Nat?”

“I’m fine, really,” I gabbled, “It’s you I’m concerned about.”

 

The laugh that escaped Jasper’s lips that second was so unbelievably fake, so painfully forced that I wanted to grab his shoulders and yell, ‘will you just stop it! You’re not fooling anyone!’

But instead I just stared out of the glacial window dejectedly, longing for the moment when I could just pull Bella into my arms and tell her how very much I loved her.

 

                        * * *

“Would you just like to sit here, Natalie, and...”

“Jasper,” Jasper piped up, his arm wound securely around my waist.

“Jasper,” the extremely pompous Mrs. Meredith ordered, “Could you kindly sit over by the...”

 

I felt Jasper’s arm tighten automatically at the request. “Is there a reason I can’t sit with Natalie?” he enquired stiffly.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Meredith shortly. “Ms. Balmer had been chosen as a witness for this enquiry, and will need to be seated away from the defendant’s family.”

“But I am the defendant’s family,”             I muttered miserably.

“Come along, dear.” She took my shoulder vigorously. “We don’t want any fuss now, do we?”

 

I watched Jasper’s face as he was pointed to the hard-looking benches at the far side of the room, while Mrs. Meredith sat me down purposefully. She looked at me, and for a moment I thought I saw a glimpse of pity in her furrowed eyes. “So are you her...?”

“Sister? Yes.”

 

She nodded once. “The rest of your family have just arrived in the boardroom. They’ll be down in a minute.”

Mrs. Meredith looked down to see my palms clasped rigidly together in my lap. “Have you...?”

Now it was my turn to be short. “No. I haven’t seen my Mother in six years.”

A look of confusion swept across her face. “Your... Mother?”

 

And that’s when the door swung open. Mrs. Meredith looked as if she wanted to ask some more questions, but she bustled off hurriedly to deal with the other guests. A kind looking plump women whom I didn’t recognise marched into the room purposefully, her gigantic bosoms bouncing as she walked. Behind her she dragged two miserable looking teenage boys dressed in stiff, grey suits. My heart lurched sickeningly as I suddenly realised who these boys were. These two despondent souls, two years my minor, were my own brothers Mattie and Elliot.

As soon as they saw me they shrunk back in panic, making the plump lady grab their hands and yank them forward at her rapid pace.

“Don’t let her see that you’re frightened,” She whispered softly to my brothers, “Now isn’t the time to be scared.”

 

I tried to smile at them, tried to look happy and euphoric that I was seeing them after all this time, but my lips wouldn’t respond. So I just stared sullenly as they were quietly comforted by the plump lady, who I began to realise was their adoptive mother, and shown to their seats the row behind Jasper. He turned and nodded in acknowledgment, but that was as far as polite friendliness went, and soon the room was silent again.

 

Even the arrival of Jamie, beaming and waving wildly at myself and the terrified twins, despite the occasion, did nothing to lift the current atmosphere. All my dreams of a happy family gathering were whipped away as swiftly and suddenly as death. I looked up, eyes unexpectedly watering, as Jamie approached me.

“You okay, honey?”

He was dressed, unlike the rest of us, surprisingly casually. I concealed a smirk as I surveyed his dark jeans, blue loosely buttoned shirt, leather jacket and... Bright green converses.

 

“Yeah, I suppose. If being secluded from your family in one of the most frightening moments of your life is your thing, then I couldn’t be better.”

Jamie enveloped me in a vice tight hug, and rumpled my hair lovingly. “You’re doing a good thing, Nat. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”

I tried to smile through my silent tears. “Jamie, can I ask you something?”

He gripped my hand. “Anything.”

“Are... Are his...”

Jamie looked behind his shoulder. “Yes. Theo’s family is coming. We met them downstairs in the boardroom. Taking their time,” he added, rolling his eyes in mock annoyance. “Just Chrystal and Lottie, though.”

 

My heart leapt suddenly, twenty feet into the air. Lottie’s coming! My heart screamed, Lottie, your best friend, your soul mate, your best mate.

 

But I had to ignore my heart pining for Lottie, and focus on what my brain wanted: the truth.

 

“Where’s Rusty?”

Jamie lowered his eyes. “Drug therapy unit. Don’t say anything to the twins though,” He added quickly, casting a look to our brothers, “He was the only Father they knew. They miss him like crazy, I think they were half expecting to see him today, though I don’t know why...”

“Er, Jamie?” I interrupted him. He looked up at me, sharply. “There’s still someone who isn’t here...” I scanned the room searchingly; wondering whether to just wait until she arrived, probably late as usual, with her top button undone and her sunglasses perched on top of her head announcing, “I’m SO sorry I’m late...”

 

“Bella will be here in a minute, Natalie,” Jamie assured me, “With her lawyer.”

“No no,” I stopped him. “Not her.”

“Then who?” Jamie asked, puzzled. “There’s no one else we’re expecting.”

 

My heart sank immediately. “So isn’t... isn’t... Mum coming?”

 

Jamie stared at me for what seemed like an age. His eyes grew cold. “Really, Nat, that isn’t a very funny joke.”

My eyes narrowed. “I’m not... joking.”

We were both silent for a moment, both trying to figure the other one out. Then Jamie conceded, and his eyes suddenly softened. “You don’t know, do you?”

 

I shook my head. Panic flooded through me, clear and significant. Something was wrong.

Jamie seemed to order his thoughts for a moment, then sat down next to me and took my hands in his. Mrs. Meredith, talking to a suit clad man by the door gave Jamie warning eyes, but he ignored her.

 

“There’s no easy way of saying this, Natalie but... Mum’s dead.”

A huge vat of emotions churned and bubbled inside of me.

“No she isn’t.” I automatically responded. I could feel my eyes growing wider and wider, my heart beating faster and faster, and the room was spinning at a terrifying pace...

 

“I’m sorry, Natalie. I’m sorry you had to hear it this way,” Jamie was saying somewhere in the distance, “God knows, someone should have told you. Me, your social worker, your care worker...”

 

I let him go on. I wasn’t really listening, anyway. The same message repeated itself in my head over and over and over again.

 

Mum was dead. She was dead. She was gone. Cold, lying in the filthy earth somewhere, rotting away, wasting into nothing...

 

“What did you say to her?”

I tried to come to my senses as I heard Jasper’s melodic voice next to me, but my muscles wouldn’t co-operate. Jamie sounded distressed. “Well it isn’t bloody my fault! I couldn’t just not tell her that her Mum’s dead, especially since she asked!”

What?” The roar that escaped Jasper’s lips that moment was enough to wake the dead. I wish it would.

“What the hell did you tell her that for? Now of all times, when she’s waiting to give testimony against her brother?”

Jamie cut in angrily, “I know it wasn’t perfect timing, exactly, but you can’t...”

“And why didn’t we know this before? For God’s sake, she was her Mother!”

 

I wanted to bring myself to yell at them, ‘Please, just stop! For one second, just stop arguing!’ But I couldn’t. Jamie noticed the plural.

“We? We? What have you got to do with this? I can’t see why...”

 

All of a sudden, Jamie and Jasper fell silent. I knew that someone had entered the room, and their presence must be shocking enough that it stunned everyone into stillness. It must be Bella. Please, God, please let this be Bella. My Bella. My older sister. My only reason for going through all this crap.

 

But it wasn’t Bella. An unmistakeable bell like voice wafted through the air from the door right to where I was slumped at the side of the room. “Oh my God! Is that Natalie? Look, Chrystal, look, lying in that box, is that Natalie?”

 

All of a sudden, my eyes snapped open involuntarily. Lottie’s bright eyes met mine, and with a dimpled, pearly smile that was so much like her brother’s she lifted a hand in greeting.

 

Lottie had been my harbour when I was younger. She had been all I had. And I was all that she had. It was just us two; in a morbid, sinister world filled with anger, hatred and abuse. Lottie was the only person I could turn to with tales of Theo’s deeds, and it was Lottie whom I could creep into bed with when dreams of Theo and Bella would shock me awake into screaming fits. I don’t even know why I cared about the death of my Mother, not when throughout my childhood it was Lottie who did all the motherly things that my Mum never did.

Our troubles, our deranged siblings, need not be thought of in mine and Lottie’s world of fairytales and princesses.

 

She was just as I remembered her: tall, slender, blonde; and like Chrystal, inhumanly gorgeous. Of course, she was now a young woman, her hair now cropped short in an attractive pixie cut and her long legs enclosed in tall high heeled boots, black as an oil slick. Lottie, like me, wore black, but opting for a tight figure hugging dress instead of my slightly more reticent suit. Her face was carefully made up, and her entire appearance gave the impression of a mature, reserved young lady, though her cheeks blotched with astonishment when she saw me.

 

With difficulty I tore my glistening eyes away from Lottie and turned to her sister instead. Chrystal was just as I had expected: an exact stretched out copy of the Lottie I knew and loved. Her blonde curls, now a shorter length, bounced gaily on her shoulders, and she wore an exact copy of Lottie’s outfit, only in grey. It hurt me to think that this girl, even though in adulthood, had grown so close to my poor sister, had possibly even shared the horror stories of Theo’s abuse, only to be snatched away from her like the thrashing autumn wind may whip up a fallen leaf from the ground.

 

Of course, there was no time for introductions. Mrs. Meredith led the girls away to Jasper’s row, and as Lottie introduced herself I saw him light up in recognition at the name I so often spoke of in my relentless sleep talk.

 

All of a sudden, everything seemed near perfect. It was as if Lottie had walked in and illuminated everything with her sunshine. Suddenly people were chatting, hugging, laughing even, as introductions were made and lost friendships re blossomed.

Although I was so cut off from my family I felt satisfied, happy, as I looked on to the jubilant scene that was unfolding right before my eyes. It was all so...

 

I happened to turn exactly the same time as everyone else, and all of a sudden there they were.

 

At first I only say the lawyer, the grey haired professional who had made it his strict duty to see my sister through this period, no matter how hopeless he though her case was. But when he moved, just ever so slightly to the left, that’s when I finally saw her.

 

Bella’s cold, grey eyes were fixed solemnly to the ground. The steps she took forward were so staggered and bent that it looked like she was making her way to the scaffold for execution. Her gnarled hands were coiled up like falcons claws and her sickly skin was the colour of half set concrete. Suddenly she raised her head, as if to survey her audience. Her hair, once a brilliant chocolate colour and soft as velvet, lay flaccid and lifeless and streaked with silver, though she must only be in her early twenties. I noticed that her cheekbones stuck out prominently from her face, and her lips were a tight thin line above her pointed chin.

 

Bella’s eyes darted around searchingly, squinting as if to make it easier to find what she was looking for: me. I tried to find something else to focus on, but when Bella’s eyes locked on mine I couldn’t help but to gaze back. But even when she hobbled gradually towards me, I wanted to look down. I wanted to pretend that, just for once, I couldn’t care less whether she was alive or dead. But I would be lying to myself. Bella was my sister. I loved her.

My hands knotted in my lap. I thought I could hear Jasper softly humming for a moment, but I scrunched my eyes up tightly in order to block the sound out. Focus is what I needed now. I needed every part of my brain to be on red alert to stop myself from collapsing.

 

“Natalie.”

Very slowly, I opened my eyes. Bella’s face was only at an arms length from mine. Her voice shot a bullet through my chest and I jolted backwards in my seat, banging my head hard in the process.  Her thin eyebrows furrowed, and she appeared concerned. “You all right?” She asked, her voice a coarse croak.

 

“Yeah.” I panted. Her lawyer whispered in her ear for a moment, and she nodded, once. I noticed that her facial expression remained the same, constant grimace.

Gradually, as if she wasn’t quite sure whether to approach me or not, Bella held out one withered hand.

 

“Thank you, Natalie,” she said. “You don’t know how much this...” Bella broke off suddenly, violently coughing into her arm. I heard a whimper, and saw Mattie silently crying into the plump woman’s breast. I had to win this for them. I had to win this for Bella. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I was as determined as hell that it was going to happen.

 

Without a moment for hesitation I grabbed my sister’s ice-cold hand.

 

“I love you,” I murmured, shivering slightly. Bella gripped my hand, tighter, and it shocked me how much strength this fragile looking woman actually had.

 

 “I love you too,” my sister whispered.

 

 

           

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