Night Road

Page 51

"Drugs?" Zach said, frowning.
"And with her family history. I don't think she's the girl you remember, Zach. She spent a lot of time in solitary confinement. She broke a woman's nose," Bill said. "She could actually be dangerous."
Zach sat back in his chair, sighing heavily. "Drugs," he said again, shaking his head.
"We'll fight her," Jude said. "We have no choice."
Bill nodded. "Good. I'll file our response and let you know when the adequate-cause hearing is scheduled."
* * *
"I'm hurting them again, Scot," Lexi said, pacing her lawyer's office.
"Yeah," Scot said. "I imagine they don't want to be reminded of … what happened."
"What I did."
"What you did isn't the sum total of who you are, Lexi. We're not even talking about you here. This is about your daughter. You love her, and she needs you. That's what you have to focus on now. That's what you can control. The Farradays' grief is their problem."
She had been ruined again by just seeing Zach. Wanting him made her want to run away again, to hide. How long would she love him?
"I saw how much Zach loves her," Lexi said softly.
"It's not about him. Or them. Or what you did. It's about Grace. What does it feel like, Lexi, when a mother turns her back on you?"
Lexi stopped pacing and looked at her lawyer. "Thank you. That puts it in perspective."
His intercom buzzed. Scot reached forward and picked up his phone. "Hey Bea … Bill Brein, huh? Okay, thanks." Hanging up, he opened his desk calendar and wrote something down. Then he looked up at Lexi. "You're going to need to be strong, Lexi."
"I'm trying."
"Really strong," he said. "They're fighting back."
* * *
Two days later, Lexi was back in a courtroom. Just stepping through the doorway brought a flood of painful memories. So much so that when Scot asked Lexi to dress in black, she said no. She would not re-create that day. Instead, the day before the hearing, she went to the thrift store again and purchased a flared, ankle-length sea-green skirt, a barely worn V-neck sweater that was only a shade or two lighter, and a pair of bronze sandals.
In her new, feminine clothes, Lexi tried to feel unlike the girl in black who'd once been taken out of a room like this in chains.
She felt Scot come up beside her. He touched her arm gently.
"They're here," he said.
She felt herself straightening; the hair on the back of her neck stood up. She tried not to turn, but how could she stop herself? That gravitational pull toward Zach was too strong.
Lexi's heart leaped a little at the sight of him. The suit he was wearing was the same one he'd worn to the homecoming dance; now it pulled across his chest.
Can I kiss you, Lexi?…
She looked away from him, tried to forget. She and Scot walked up to the table on the left side of the courtroom; Zach joined his lawyer at the table across the aisle from them.
The commissioner was the last to enter. He was a portly man with a shiny bald head and rimless bifocals that rested over a veiny, bulbous nose. His bailiff, an elegant Asian man in uniform, smiled brightly as he took his place near the bench.
The commissioner smoothed his robes and sat down. "We're here for adequate cause," he said, rifling through the paperwork on his desk, finally finding what he needed. "Modification of a parenting plan. Mr. Jacobs?"
Scot stood up, whispering for Lexi to do the same. "Ms. Baill is petitioning this court for a modification of the parenting plan. In 2004, Ms. Baill was an ordinary high school senior, in love for the first time, and looking forward to college. Her exemplary grades and academic record earned her a scholarship at the University of Washington. At eighteen, she had dreams of becoming a lawyer.
"One bad decision on a summer night changed everything for both my client and the Farradays. Although Zachary Farraday had promised to be the designated driver at a high school drinking party, he failed to keep his word and became inebriated. His twin sister, Mia, also drank all night. And so, tragically, Alexa offered to drive the Farradays home. It was less than a mile away.
"In the crash, Mia was killed. At the time, I counseled Alexa to plead not guilty and fight for her freedom, but Alexa is a deeply moral young woman with a profound sense of right and wrong. So she pled guilty and went to prison, hoping her incarceration would help atone for her mistake.
"She didn't know then that she was pregnant. Originally she planned to give the baby up for adoption, but Zach surprised her by offering to raise their daughter. She was so grateful and so guilt ridden over Mia's death that she agreed to give Zachary full custody.
"In prison, Alexa earned a bachelor's degree in sociology, and she hopes now to get a master's degree in social work, so that she can help other teenagers who face difficulties in their lives.
"She is a wonderful young woman, and I have no doubt that she will be an exemplary mother to her daughter. The state has a strong interest in reunification of mothers and their children. In this case, it is absolutely clear that my client has substantially changed her situation and deserves to be reunited with her daughter." Scot touched Lexi's arm, said, "Thank you," and they both sat down.
Across the aisle, Bill stood up. In the small courtroom, with its dull walls and scuffed floor, he was an imposing figure, with his expensive gray suit and stern profile.
"There can be no adequate cause to modify the parenting plan here . Ms. Baill went to Purdy for DUI vehicular homicide. A class-A felony." He paused, looked meaningfully at Lexi. "Purdy, Your Honor. That's less than an hour's drive from Pine Island. She did not have to be cut off from her daughter's life. She chose not to be a mother. When Zachary Farraday wrote her letters about their daughter-even sent pictures-Ms. Baill sent the envelopes back unopened. She wrote no letters to her daughter and made no phone calls. Throughout the entire duration of her incarceration, she never once attempted to communicate in any way. A former cellmate of Ms. Baill's-a Cassandra Wojocheski-will testify that Ms. Baill told her point-blank that she never intended to see her daughter.
"It's hardly surprising, this lack of a mothering instinct in Ms. Baill. Her own mother was a felon and a drug addict. For all we know, Ms. Baill has a drug problem herself.
"In conclusion, we ask that the custody agreement remain in place. Ms. Baill is not a fit parent, and her circumstances are not significantly changed from the time when she voluntarily relinquished custody of her child." Bill nodded once and sat down.
The commissioner tapped a pen on the desk.
Lexi could hardly breathe for anticipation. Bill's words had loosened a poison in her bloodstream. She could feel it burning through her veins.
"We have adequate cause to move forward here," the commissioner said. He opened the laptop on his desk and made a few keystrokes as he peered at the screen. "We'll set a trial date of April 19, 2011. Does that work for counsel?"
Both attorneys agreed.
"A year?" Lexi whispered. "That can't be-"
"Hush," Scot said sharply.
The commissioner went on. "Until then, let's move on to the motion for temporary order to begin reunification. I'll appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate the issues and interests herein and to report the finding to this court." He flipped through some pages. "I'll appoint Helen Adams. If she has a scheduling conflict, I'll let the parties know. And now, to the temporary plan. Mr. Jacobs?"
Scot stood up again. "Ms. Baill is seeking immediate reunification with her daughter and asks that a temporary order of joint custody be entered."
Bill stood up. "That's patently ridiculous. Ms. Baill has no job and no money and nowhere to live. How can she possibly take the responsibility of joint custody for the minor child? Additionally, Ms. Baill has no parenting skills. As I pointed out previously, her own mother was an addict who abandoned her, so Ms. Baill knows nothing about positive parenting. Perhaps after some parenting classes she would be ready to assume some limited custodial care, but not now. Also, we should overlook neither Ms. Baill's bad behavior in prison-she was repeatedly sent to solitary confinement in 2005 for fighting and drug use-nor the flight risk she poses. Her only family is in Florida. Who is to say she won't try to take Grace away with her? She's already shown a disregard for the laws. We submit that there should be no visitation and no attempt at reunification until the parenting plan is modified next year. That will allow Ms. Baill time to show her true desires with regard to parenting."
"Your Honor!" Scot said, rising. "That's punitive on its face. Ms. Baill does not have a drug problem. It's-"
The commissioner held up his big hand. "I am going to allow supervised visitation between your client and her daughter. Because of the severity of this situation and the extreme separation that has occurred, a professional reunification specialist will supervise every visit unless one of the child's relatives agrees to be present. Between now and the trial date, this court will receive regular reports from the GAL." He hit his gavel on the desk. "Next case."
Lexi felt that little gavel strike reverberate up her spine. Turning to Scot, she tried to keep a smile on her face for his benefit. He had tried so hard. She didn't want him to know how the words supervised visitation sickened her. She'd been in that room before, under the watchful eyes of some dispassionate professional; only she'd been the little girl. Now she'd be the untrustworthy mother. "I get to spend time with her, that's what matters, right?"
Scot took her by the elbow and steered her toward the side door. Once in the hallway, he led her down to a quiet corner. "I'm sorry, Lexi."
"Don't be sorry. I know you did your best. And I get to see her. Get to know her. I'll prove to all of them that I deserve another chance. A year is a long time. Maybe by then-"
"It's not that simple," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"The court wants a professional social worker to accompany your visits, someone who specializes in difficult reunifications."
"I heard that."
"People like that are really, really expensive."
An unfamiliar bitterness welled up in Lexi, left a sour taste in her mouth. "Of course it comes down to money."
"I'll get started on research. There must be a way around this, but all I can see on its face is to ask one of the Farradays to supervise."
"Yeah. That's going to happen."
"Don't give up, Lexi. I'll keep trying."
"Sure," she said, slinging her purse over her shoulder. She couldn't wait to get out of these ridiculously girly clothes. She should have known better. The whole legal system was set up to give people like the Farradays what they wanted. "I'm outta here, Scot. Thanks." She started to walk away.

Back to Table of content

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.