There was one thing she could think of doing but she had to be quick. Running to the bathroom in the laundry room Celia turned the lock before scrambling on the toilet seat to climb out the window. She could hear her Aunt screaming at her and Malcolm Sr was pounding on the door. Crouching below the windowsill Celia took a few lungfuls of air before sprinting across the lawn. She slipped as her feet came free from the flip-flops she was wearing. Kicking them off she continued to run. Jumping she grabbed hold of the top fo the brick wall her Aunt had built around the property for privacy. She hauled herself across the top and into the yard next door.
Sprinting for the backdoor Celia knocked on the door yelling “Mr Peterson!” The door opened a crack as someone peered out at her. It opened further as Mr Peterson exclaimed “what happened to you?”
Looking down at herself taking in the scrapes on her knees from scrambling over the wall. Her dirty feet from running without shoes. The black eye from the night before….she must look a fright. “Mr Peterson please I need help” she cried as she looked over her shoulder towards the wall she had just scaled.
“Come in girl. Tell me all about it,” Mr Peterson gestured towards the table while he got her a coke from the fridge.
Taking a deep breath she was about to speak when someone started to pound on the front door. Jumping to her feet Celia made ready to run. Mr Peterson put a hand on her shoulder putting a finger to his lips pointing towards a utility closet.
Scurrying into the closet Celia stood amongst the brooms and mops listening to the strident voice of her Aunt and the deeper angrier tones of Malcolm Sr. After what felt like forever Mr Peterson returned. Opening the closet he motioned for her to come out. He looked into her eyes and smiled “for someone who is supposed to be high on drugs your eyes are remarkably clear and bright.” Sitting at the table he said “tell me what this is all about.”
After an hour he grimly nodded his head “Malcolm Sr would do anything to keep that worthless son of his out of jail. It appears your Aunt has aligned herself on the wrong side.” He fell silent drumming his fingers on the table “Celia do you know who I am? I mean what I do for a living?” Shaking her head Mr Peterson continued “I didn’t think so. I’m a lawyer and I’d like to offer you my services pro bono. Your going to need a good lawyer and one not associated with the lawyer the Bennett’s have working for them.” Holding his hands up over her protest’s “the Bennett’s have an excellent lawyer, one of the best. What you need Celia is someone to personally represent you. I’m going to hire a private investigator to dig deep into your Aunt’s affairs.”
“But why? I don’t understand,” Celia said quietly confident that this man had her best interests at heart but why investigate her Aunt?
“I hope to dig up enough dirt on her to prove she’s an unfit guardian. You my dear are going to pursue emancipation. In the meantime you can’t go home. Not with Malcolm buzzing around. You’ll never make your court date. I’ll call Officer Barnett and ask him to come by in plain clothes just in case Malcolm has someone watching the house. I’m not entirely sure he believed me when I told him you weren’t here. He demanded to search the place. I don’t intimidate that easily. I know my rights. I am after all a damn good lawyer. I’d love a chance to nail his hide to the wall.”
Giggling as the image of Malcolm Sr hanging on the wall entered her head. “Thank you Mr Peterson. Can I use your phone? I promised I’d call my boyfriend. He’ll be frantic if my Aunt shows up at the their house or the hospital demanding to know where I’m at.”
“Go right ahead,” he handed her his phone, “I thought kids your age were permanently attached to these things?”
“Mine’s broke thanks to Malcolm’s little visit last night. He stomped on it,” Nodding his understanding he waved her off to make her call.
“Hello,” Ian answered looking at the unfamiliar number “who is this?”
“Ian it’s me Celia,” she held the phone from her ear as he demanded to know where she was. “I take it my Aunt has been there already.”
“Yeah she said you went berserk and ran out of the house. What happened?” he asked. She could hear the concern in his voice. “She’s telling everyone that you were high on drugs.”
“She’s trying her best to discredit me so that the jury will doubt my testimony,” Celia explained calmly while trying not to panic on the inside.
“Hold on a sec dad wants to hear this too,” she waited while they set the phone to speaker “hi Celia why don’t you tell us what happened after you left with your Aunt this morning.” She smiled at the reassuring tone of Gene’s deep voice. As she started to recount what happened the lawyer came in…
“Why don’t you put it on speaker Celia so we can all hear,” he told her “Mr Bennett I’m over at a neighbor’s house, he’s a lawyer who has offered to represent me. I’m going to put you on speaker so that we can all get acquainted.”
“My biggest concern,” Gene stated after the discussion had gone one for over an hour “is Celia’s safety and welfare. Where’s she going to stay? Her Aunt isn’t fit to raise a flea led alone a young girl.”
“She could stay with,” Aimee suggested.
“No I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Mr Peterson cut in “your son and Celia are in a relationship. Plus she’s the main witness against Malcolm in your son’s case. We need someone else…”
His statement was greeted with silence. Each lost in thought “why can’t I stay here?” Celia asked turning towards the lawyer.
“No I…” he opened his mouth protesting “I’m not married or have any experience raising kids…”
“But you know me,” Celia protested “you have my best interests in mind. It’s not like I require a lot of care. I am fifteen after all. Please….” Celia begged enjoying making the lawyer somewhat comfortable. “Besides if I become an emancipated minor I could live on my own without any adult supervision.”
“I’ll have to think about this,” the man said refusing to commit himself further “hmm I do have that mother-in-law suite I was going to demolish over the garage…I might be able to renovate that and turn it into a small apartment,” he mumbled aloud and everyone knew Celia had a place to stay.
It took six months for Celia’s emancipation to go through. On the day it did Celia planned on meeting up with Ian at the fair to celebrate. Seeing him walking towards her she smiled thinking of how much her life had changed since the day she literally walked into him.
“Hey,” he called out to her “what do you want to do first?”
Taking his hand she said “let’s walk around for a while.” Seeing the slushy machine ahead she turned to Ian asking “would you like one?” She ran ahead giggling as she went confident that Ian would follow.
Catching up to her he said “I thought you wanted to walk. What’s so special about slushies anyway?”
“Here taste this,” she shoved her slushy at him.
“That’s good what is it?” Ian said laying claim to the remnants of the slushy.
Eye’s twinkling she reached up and brushed her fingers across his lips wiping left over slushy away. Eyes connecting Ian brought his face closer to hers. Hesitating as his lips hovered over hers before he brought them down on hers for the first time. They leaned into each other enjoying the electrifying sensations of their first kiss and holding each other. When they finally pulled apart she smiled up at him “I like slushy ala lips so much better,” she said as she skipped away towards the face painting booth.
Following Ian caught up to her aren’t we a little old for this?” he protested.
“You’re never too old to have fun,” she said dragging him in with her ignoring his protests. Feeling a little childish and more than a little foolish Ian allowed her to choose the design the artist painted on his face.
“Why does yours look so much better than mine?” he complained as they left the booth.
“Quit complaining you big baby” she said playfully smacking his arm. Pulling on his arms she ran off towards the skating rink “want to try?”
Shaking his head “I think I’ll pass.”
Sticking her bottom lip out she moved closer to him “are you sure? We can learn together.”
“I’m positive,” Ian shook his head “if you want to break a leg be my guest.” He watched as she skated around the rink waving at him each time she passed. Frowning Ian watched as some guy from school approached her. Took her hand and skated around with her. Without taking his eyes from them Ian went to get a pair of skates. Putting them on he tried to catch up with her. It was harder than in looked. As he tried not to fall he felt someone come up beside him and take his hand.
“I thought you didn’t want to break a leg,” she laughed up at him.
“I changed my mind,” he mumbled as he felt his feet go out from beneath him. Flailing he tried not to fall and take Celia down with him. Laughing as he sat up on the rink floor Ian turned to Celia “sorry are you ok?”
Nodding Celia could barely talk from laughing “I think we better get off the rink before you kill yourself.”
“No I can do this, ” Ian said struggling to his feet only to fall on his face again. “Alright I give up. I admit defeat to the little shoes with wheels,” he sat there and began to unlace the skates.
“You’re not supposed to take your skates off on the rink,” Celia told him.
“If I don’t how am I going to get off?” Ian grumbled keeping his head down as people passed them laughing. “I knew this was a bad idea,” he mumbled.
“Then why did you do it?” Celia asked as someone came over to them to see if everything as alright.
Standing in his socks with the skates in his hands Ian marched off while Celia was still talking. Following him Celia went over to him while he was putting his shoes on. “You’re jealous,” she stated as if she thought it was ridiculous.
“No,” Ian denied refusing to look at her.
“Yes you are,” she smiled at him “you don’t have anything to be jealous about.”
“I know and I’m not,” he smirked reaching over to unlace her skates.
“Hey what if I wasn’t done skating?” Celia asked as he pulled the skate off.
“Too bad I’m hungry,” Ian told her taking the other skate off.
“I guess it’s a good thing I’m hungry too,” Celia said giving in.
Sitting down at one of the picnic tables Celia watched Ian scarf down his food. He looked up and grinned. “I’m sorry. I was jealous. Watching Theo skate with you made me crazy. I thought, I can do that. How hard could it be? I made an idiot of myself.”
“No you didn’t…” she started to say but stopped seeing Ian scowl at her. Laughing “alright you did but at least you tried.”
Looking across the fairgrounds then back at Celia he smiled “I’d try anything with you.” Taking her hand he continued “I know everyone assumes were dating already but I’ve never really asked. Celia I … I like you a lot. I care so much about you and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and Matty. Will you be my girlfriend?”
Smiling she squeezed his hand “Ian you didn’t have to be so formal. I already thought of you as my boyfriend. I don’t want to date anyone else. I care so much for you and your family. I’d do anything for Matty. He’s like my little brother too. It goes without saying that I’ll be your girlfriend.” Standing she asked “Are we done with the overly formal mushy stuff?”
“Almost,” Ian said as he leaned down kissing her lips for the second time “I think I prefer cheeseburger kisses over slushy lips.”
Swatting him she allowed him to pull her close “I think we need to stop kissing after we eat.” As they walked to the taxi they had called to take Celia home she asked “so was this our official first date?”
“Yes it was,” Ian confirmed kissing her goodnight. “Nope it’s just not the same.”
“What’s not the same”
“We haven’t eaten anything since our last kiss. It’s not the same.” He grinned impishly down at her.
“Careful Mr Bennett you might be developing a fetish.”
Shaking his head in denial “it’s not that. I just like kissing you.” He moved in for another when Celia slipped through his arms and into the waiting taxi.
“Goodnight Ian,” she waved as the taxi pulled away.
Sighing Ian watched her drive away before he got on his bike and rode home. He couldn’t wait for his dad to teach him how to drive. Now with the trial coming to a close and his sixteenth birthday coming up he needed his license. Arriving at home he found Mr Peterson and Corina discussing Matty’s case. Quietly he sat down to listen.
“We have new evidence to present to the jury,” Corina told them “thanks to the investigator Mr Peterson hired we’ve discovered where Malcolm obtained the drugs he gave Matthew.”
Eyes gleaming with triumph Mr Peterson announced “his sister was his source.” He slammed his fist down on the table.
Ian looked around the table at his father’s stunned face as he fully took in what had just been told.
“You mean Nurse Moore? She’s Malcolm’s sister. The same nurse that the paramedics said was more of a hindrance than a help when they were working on Matt?”
The lawyer’s nodded their heads in agreement. “It explains why Malcolm has refused to disclose his source.”
“This is exciting news,” Mr Peterson exclaimed “why so glum?”
Sighing Gene turned to Aimee who put an arm around him “I know I should be grateful that Malcolm is going to get what he deserves for what he did to Matty but it’s awful that it involves the entire Moore family. It’s bad enough Malcolm ruined his own life but he dragged his sister down with him. Destroying her future…its depressing. I can’t help but feel for the parents despite the fact Malcolm Sr is an asshole.”
“Don’t feel to bad for them Gene,” Corina asserted “Mr. Moore has known his son had behavioral problems. He chose to ignore them instead of getting his son the help he needed. Mr Moore contributed to this mess. As far as the sister goes…she’s an adult and could have said no. Instead she went along with it…”
“So what happens now?” Aimee asked.
“We go to court. Lay out the evidence then we wait for the jury,” Mr Peterson said.
“Then it’s done?” Ian asked.
“Yes,” Corina smiled at him “this nightmare is coming to an end.”
“Good it’s dragged on long enough,” Ian said getting up to check on his brother. Going to their room he found Matt lying on the floor. “What’s up?” he asked sitting beside him.
Lifting his head Matt shrugged “not much. They didn’t want me downstairs while they discussed my case. I played video games for a while but I’ve never been much good at them. So I came in here…” he eyed his brother before asking “how’s Celia?”
“She’s fine,” he smiled as his mind wandered to their kiss…
“She’s more than fine,” Matt said sitting up “by that goofy grin I take it your date went well.”
“It did,” he felt his face flush as he thought about how well it went and the three kisses they shared, the feel of her lips on his ….
“Awe my big brother finally had his first kiss,” Matt teased “it’s about time bro.”
“Not all of us grow up with the girl of our dreams,” Ian retorted. He regretted his words as soon as they escaped his mouth watching the smile fade from his brothers face. “Oh Matty I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” he wiped tears from his eyes “Angelica knew what she wanted. It wasn’t me. I was a fool to believe I could help her. She didn’t want the kind of help I offered.”
Ian moved over next to him “I’m sorry. I know you used to be close with her.”
“I couldn’t do what she wanted. I wouldn’t pretend to be the baby’s father. How could she think I’d go along with that? How could she stay with Malcolm knowing he didn’t want the baby, his baby? Why could she see I would be a good dad but still not want me?” Burying his face on his brother’s shoulder he cried “it hurts Ian and that’s not even the worst of it.”
Holding his brother feeling his shoulders heave. Ian felt his heart drop. He knew he wasn’t going to like what Matt had to tell him. “what did she do?”
“She came to the hospital after I woke up. Tttttold me it was…it was mmmmy fault.” Matty gulped for air unable to breathe.
“Whatever it was,”Ian told him firmly “it wasn’t your fault.”
Shaking his head “you don’t understand if I had only said yes, did what she asked. She wouldn’t have done it.”
Taking Matt firmly by the shoulders Ian shook him until he looked up at him “what did she do Matt?”
“Shshshe had an abortion. Ttttold me it was mmmy fault because I…I…” his voice dissolved into gulping heart wrenching sobs “how …. could …. she ….. kill …. an …. innocent …. defenseless baby?”
“Mom dad get up her now,” Ian yelled from his room holding his brother. “No matter what this wasn’t your fault. It was her decision to abort her baby not yours.” He looked up into the worried faces of his parents as they came bursting into the room. Aimee knelt beside Matt and gently cradled him in her arms. Ian stood up to face the others as they came into the room.
“You’ve got to get Matty away from Angelica,” Ian demanded after telling them everything Matt had just told him. “She’s as bad as if not worse than Malcolm. Matt doesn’t need her guilt tripping him because of what she did.”
“No you’re right” Gene said pulling his son close.
From the comfort of his mom’s arms Matt pleaded “Please don’t make me go back there. I can’t take it anymore.”
Standing in front of Matt “you don’t have to. Until the new school year starts you can home school. Then we’ll enroll you in that private school we discussed before. Do you think you can handle that?” Gene put a reassuring had on Matt’s shoulder and squeezed. He motioned for the two lawyers to follow him. “Is there anything we can do? I’m tired of that girl laying her guilt on my son.”
“Gene I know you want what’s best for Matt but I wouldn’t recommend pressing charges against her. It’s horrible what that girl is doing but think how another court case will affect Matt. I don’t think he’s strong enough to go through another.” Corina told him putting a hand on his arm.
“I’m afraid I agree with her Gene.” Mr Peterson stated. Shaking his head over the situation. “the stress of a new trial and being cross-examined may be more than Matt can handle at the moment. I’d recommend putting out restraining order against her and getting him out of that school.” Turning to Ian Mr Peterson continued “Ian I know you probably want to stay in the same school as Celia but I you might want to consider transferring with your brother. He’s going to need someone he can rely on.”
Ian nodded. He knew this day was coming. It didn’t make it any easier but Celia would understand. They still had the weekends.
After the lawyers left Gene pulled Ian close into a hug. “I’m very proud of you son. For thinking of your brother first over your own wants. But if Celia will let me, I’ll pay for her tuition to go to the same school as you. Matt will need all the support he can get.”
“Thanks dad. I know Celia will agree. She may be proud but she’ll do this for Matty,” Ian told his dad confident what her decision will be.