Chapter 14

I arrived right on time for my meeting with Ms. Turner. I hoped to talk with her about this Settlement Conference and what we would be putting in a Plan of Care. The receptionist, a fine boned woman with half-moon spectacles, asked me to take a seat and wait. My hands twisted in rhythm with the twisting sensation in my stomach. My foot tapped my briefcase in time with the clock ticking.

The woman beside me let out a small sigh every once in a while. She was here before I arrived and appeared to have been here for a long time. I watched the clock and grew more impatient with each passing minute. Finally, the secretary called me into the inner offices.

Ms. Turner sat at one end of a boardroom table with papers scattered all around. She looked up when I entered and abruptly asked me to take a seat in a high-backed leather chair. She smelled just slightly of coconut.

“Ms. Williams. It appears that both the C.A.S and the Police Department have been conducting an investigation into this case. I have talked with representatives from both places.” Without looking up, she continued, “Obviously, we do not want to bring the case to trial because it’s very difficult to get a conviction in child sexual abuse cases with only one victim. Especially since the daycare provider didn’t follow proper protocol.”

“Proper protocol?”

“Yes, the law requires that she report the abuse to the Children’s Aid Society. Instead, she reported it to you and you brought it to the attention of the C.A.S. This complicates things.”

“How so?” I let out a long, slow breath.

“Rod can use this in his defense.” Ms. Turner’s molars grated back and forth. “Your daughter is too young to stand on trial. It’s best to present a Plan of Care at a Settlement Conference and let the judge decide.”

I nodded in agreement.

Ms. Turner went on. “I talked with a Sergeant Wallace from the police and he reported the results of your husband’s lie detector test.”

“My ex-husband,” I corrected.

“He failed. Twice.”

“That’s good, right? We can use that in court, right?” A ray of hope filtered into my world.

“Well, yes and no. We can’t use the results of a lie detector test as evidence. However, we can allude to the fact that he failed it.”

My ray of hope spiraled downward into my shoes. “I don’t understand.”

Ms. Turner explained that a judge would not accept the outcome of a polygraph as solid evidence. However, it could strengthen a case if it were mentioned in the court papers. She went on to say that, although she personally believed the tests to be solid, the courts had always disputed this fact and so it’s never been allowed as evidence.

I asked her why they went through the trouble to do the test and why Rod would accept it.

Ms. Turner speculated that Rod’s lawyer recommended he take the test. If he refused, this would automatically make him suspect. But if he took the test and failed, his lawyer could dismiss it as non-admissible evidence. If by chance he passed, then his lawyer would filter it into their court papers one way or the other. His lawyer was probably curious, too, whether Rod would actually pass the test.

My brow knit in confusion. The legal system seemed backwards. If someone took a lie detector test, was asked if he had sexually abused his daughter, and then failed it two times, wouldn’t this be enough to charge him? I tugged on a hangnail. And even if a man did not use his penis to violate a young girl, could he not be charged criminally? The system I’d been counting on, one of honesty and integrity, began to shed its skin. For the first time the rosy glasses that I had worn to view my world were looking smudged.

Ms. Turner sat forward, knees together, one high-heeled foot tucked behind the other. She explained that the C.A.S. deemed Caitlin in need of protection, and they would be recommending a family member supervise Caitlin.

Rod’s Plan of Care included a narrative that not only denied the abuse but also included a theory that I had coached Caitlin. Ms. Turner read from Rod’s document, “The father’s theory of the case is that the mother taught her daughter to make these allegations, and has, in essence, brainwashed this into her.”

My stomach lurched. What? What kind of monster does he think I am? What kind of mother would teach her child to say such horrific things?

Ms. Turner continued, “Rod seems to think that the statements made by Caitlin were made because she was being taught to say and believe such things.”

My throat felt tight. Still reeling from this lie, I found it hard to concentrate on what Ms. Turner was saying.

I remembered conversations with Rod in the past where I told him that I would not tolerate lies. He seemed to think that “little white lies” were okay, and especially okay for a young girl. He found it fun to use Caitlin in his schemes to beat the system and coached her to lie if they ever were caught. I specifically remember the day they returned from the grocery store excited that he had got away with putting thirteen oranges in a bag while paying for only twelve. And another time when he replaced old laces in his boots with new ones right in the store. It made me sick to think that he now accused me of doing what he had always done.

“Ms. Williams?” Ms. Turner’s voice was razor sharp. “Do you agree?”

“I’m sorry?” I felt a little like a tongue-tied trout.

Ms. Turner curled her lips in a saccharine smile and repeated what she had just said. She reviewed the Plan of Care that we would present. Because it was a Child Protection Issue, I would be agreeing with the C.A.S. to provide supervised access visits. However, I would be requesting a third party provide the supervision instead of a family member. I signed the forms.

“The court date has been set for Friday, September 27. You need to be present at the Family Court House. Please arrive by nine.”

Relieved to have this meeting over with, I packed my papers into my briefcase and nodded goodbye to the receptionist.

Once outside, the cool air stung my cheeks. The bright sun shone in stark contrast to the dark office I had just left. I felt as if I were walking in a dream – more of a nightmare.

In my Jeep, I heaved my briefcase onto the passenger seat. My composed professionalism puddled onto the floor of the Jeep as I collapsed in a pool of tears.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and drove home. Once back at the apartment, I brewed a cup of tea tinged with honey and lemon, wrapped the couch throw around my shoulders and pulled the rocking chair up to the window. Blue-Casey saw this as an invitation to curl up on my lap and sleep. Clouds blocked out the sun and hung low. Some black, some gray, but they all spoke the same thing – misery. I felt miserable.

In the solitude I thought about justice. All I wanted was justice – was that so much to ask? When a little girl says she’s been hurt, is it too much to run to her side and help her? If the world was right and I had my way, the police would have been at Rod’s door the night I made the first phone call to the C.A.S. The police would escort him to jail, where he would wait until his trial. Then at his trial, the judge would accept the little girl’s words as truth. He would send Rod to prison for at least ten years. There, the other inmates would show him the horror and humiliation that he inflicted on his own daughter. They would remind him of his crime every day. He would be tortured physically and emotionally. Oh, if only the world was right. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

But instead, I sat looking out my apartment window at the dreary world as it truly was. I calculated what my next step would be to defend my daughter.

In my misery, I let my thoughts wander. It would have been so much easier to ignore it all. What if I just said to Donna, “Thanks for bringing this to my attention,” and poured her another tea? Oh, I could have ignored it and continued on with life as if I had never even been told. I could just go back to the way life was before all this. Life would have been so much easier.

But then that would have been the second time that Caitlin called out for help. Surely if she were ignored again, she would have died inside.

And reality was here. I could fantasize and wish this all didn’t happen, but that wouldn’t make it go away. I stroked Blue-Casey’s fur with the back of my fingers.

I continued to let my mind wander. What would life be like if I never had a girl? If I had a boy maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe Rod and I would never have even separated. We could still have been together in our big home living the life I deserved to live.

The guilt of wishing Caitlin was a boy smacked hard across my face. New, hot tears rolled down my cheeks. If only I were stronger. If only I were a better mother. Outside the full clouds mirrored my tears and spit bonbon-sized drops of rain against the window.

When the phone rang, I felt as if I had to look up just to hear the ring. I threw a blind hand toward the ringing phone.

I spoke into the receiver in a scratchy voice, “Hello?”

“Hi Sissy, it’s me.”

“Hi Janice.” I had little energy for anything more.

“God placed it on my heart to call you. Is everything okay?”

Her sympathetic question made my composure crumble. “Oh Janice. I just want him dead. Why do I have to go through this? What is wrong with this world? What is wrong with the justice system?” My sobs slowed as my anger rose.

“I know, Heather. It doesn’t seem fair. But you can find peace knowing that God is caring for you.”

“God?” I spit out His name. “Where is He in all of this? If He were taking care of me then I wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.”

Janice remained calm. “You can’t blame God for the evil in the world. He doesn’t cause it. But He is here for you when it does come. And He’s on your side. Even if this world doesn’t give you the justice you deserve, God will.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. I settled on the couch with my legs tucked under me.

“Well, ultimately God’s the one who delivers justice.”

The next sentence came out with a cough. “I thought that’s what we hired lawyers for.”

“In the Bible, it tells us that human errors result in imperfect justice but God knows all things and He knows best how to see that justice is done. We have to leave room for God’s wrath.”

When Janice said that, I envisioned a thunderbolt coming from the sky and striking Rod dead. I smirked.

“Sissy, read Romans 12:17-21. It’s in the New Testament.”

“Thanks, Janice, I love you.”

“Love ya, too. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“You already have.”

“I’ll call you soon. Bye.”

I had to think about where to find a Bible. Oh yeah, at the Women’s Coffee Break. I wrote down the scripture verse and made a plan to look it up the next time I went to the ladies group.

Padding over to my bed, I burrowed under the covers and thought, “Wrath – I like that word.”