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I'm Not Letting Go

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I sigh as we stand outside the court building. Mum, Dad & Toadie are to my left. Tyler stands close to my right, our arms lightly brushing. It’s the day I’ve been dreading for over two weeks. Reliving the nightmare. Facing the psycho who has traumatised me.


“If this gets too much,” Toadie says to me. “Just tell me. I’ll call for a break.”


I nod, forcing myself to smile at him.


“Is there anything we should expect?” Mum asks.


“They’ll try their hardest to have as much of our case dismissed,” Toadie replies. “They’ll most likely try & attack individuals. Not just Piper. I’m expecting them to go after Tyler, as well as Mark. But I have a strong argument to counter their attacks.”


“And what can we do?” Mum asks.


“Be there,” Toadie replies. “Be supportive.” He looks at Tyler. “No matter what his lawyer says about you, Mark or Piper, I want you to stay calm, okay Tyler? You get angry, & it could jeopardise us.”


“That’s a little unfair, Toadie,” I reply.


“I know it sounds like it, but I promise you it isn’t, Piper,” he replies. “His lawyer will try & goad us into reacting. Any sign of anger could be exploited.”


“And you’re singling out Tyler?”


“I did slug the creep,” Tyler says. “That’s put a target on my back.”


“Exactly why I singled you out,” Toadie adds. “No doubt his lawyer will try & pin some assault charge or something as a counter for our charges. They’ll want to prove Tyler did the wrong thing. No doubt your relationship will fall under attack too.”


“Great, so the psycho drugs me up & tries to rape me, but Tyler & I become the bad guys.”


Tyler puts his arm around me.


“We all know that Tyler acted in defence. Brodie knows that too. But his lawyer will push it in order to get us on the defence. Anything to get him off the hook, or at least his sentence reduced.”


“Hey,” Tyler quietly says to me. “We’ve got this.”


I nod.


Mark walks up, dressed in his formal uniform.


“Hey, sorry I’m late. Paige had a huge case of morning sickness. Didn’t feel right leaving her.”


“Its fine, Mark,” Toadie says. “We’ve still got time.”


Mark steps over to me, & Tyler lets go so Mark can give me a hug.


“How are you doing?” He asks.


“Dreading facing him again,” I reply.


“You’re strong,” he replies. “And you have both me & Tyler here for support.”


“I thought you were supposed to be unbiased,” I reply, narrowing my eyes.


“On the outside, I am,” he replies. “Internally… I’m backing you.”


I smile. I hug him again.


“We should head in,” Toadie says.


Mark & I part. Tyler slips his left hand into my right hand. I smile & he smiles back, before we follow the others inside.


****


The wait in the meeting room is torturous. We’re sitting in the same order as we stood outside- Dad, Mum & Toadie to my left, & Tyler to my right. He’s holding my hand, his thumb gently rubbing the back of my hand. Mark is waiting outside, to maintain his unbiased front.


“What’s taking them so long?” Dad asks.


“Just stay calm,” Toadie replies. “They’re trying to put us off by making us wait. Making us impatient will be a tactic to unsettle us. It’s all a ploy to get us to be angry.”


“So it’s just another attempt to make us look like perpetrators?”


Toadie slowly nods. “Pretty much, yeah.”


The door opens before Dad can reply, & the Judge followed by Mark, a transcript writer & two security officers enter. Brodie’s lawyer enters next, followed quickly by Brodie himself. He smirks at me as he follows his lawyer over to the table. Tyler & I both tighten our holds on the others hand.


Toadie stands as they all approach the table. Dad, Mum, Tyler & I follow suit. In respect to the Judge. Mark stands at the end of the table to my right, keeping his distance from both sides. The writer takes a seat between Mark & Brodie’s lawyer. Brodie’s lawyer stands opposite Toadie. And much to my dread, Brodie chooses the seat directly across from me. The Judge takes the end seat to my left, the security officers standing at the wall behind. The Judge nods at each team & we all sit.
The Judge looks at the transcript writer. She adjusts her keyboard & then nods at the Judge to signal she’s ready.


“This is the case of P Willis versus B Chaswick,” The Judge says. The transcript writer instantly starts typing. “I’m Judge Cameron Dawson. Prosecution lawyer is Jarrod Rebecchi. Defence lawyer is David West. Present for the Prosecution is Miss Piper Willis, Mr Brad Willis, Mrs Terese Willis & Mr Tyler Brennan. Present for the Defence is Mr Brodie Chaswick. Also present is Constable Mark Brennan of the Erinsborough Police Department.”


“On behalf of my client, I propose the dismissal of charges,” West says.


“Why?” Judge Dawson replies.


“The arresting police officer, Constable Brennan, is unbiased,” West says. “Not only is he a friend of the entire Willis family along with Mr Rebecchi. But his younger brother is the boyfriend of Miss Willis.”


“Constable Brennan is one of the finest officers in not only Erinsborough but the Victorian police force,” Toadie replies. “He is fully capable of maintaining professionalism & remains unbiased while working.”


“I agree with Mr Rebecchi,” Judge Dawson says. “Constable Brennan will remain. Anything else you seek to have removed, Mr West?”


“That’s all for now,” West says.


Judge Dawson nods. “This is how this will work,” He says. “Both lawyers will be granted time to ask questions to both Miss Willis & Mr Chaswick. We’ll then hear from Constable Brennan & Mr Brennan, who will be questioned by both lawyers. At the end, I will vacate to my office to consider the facts. My ruling will be final. However, if both sides can agree upon a deal while I am gone, then so be.”


West & Toadie nod.


“Mr Chaswick,” Judge Dawson says. “You will be asked first. Prosecution first.”


“Mr Chaswick,” Toadie says. “You have a history with the Willis family?”


“Yes,” Brodie says, staring at me.


“Please state for the record what that history is.”


“I used to be trained by Brad, alongside his son, Josh.”


“And why did Mr Willis stop training you?”


Brodie hesitates. “I wrongfully accused him & Josh of using steroids to improve Josh’s swimming.”


“Why did you arrive in Erinsborough this year?”


“I wanted Brad to be my coach once again,” Brodie says. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had.”


“Why would you seek that?”


“Like I said, he’s the best coach.”


“Did you think that was wise, given how your relationship with Brad broke down?”


“I approached the family with sincere apologies about my accusations. I wanted to put the past behind us.”


“And how was that received?”


“Terese was open to hearing me out. In fact, the whole family was accepting of me. Brad was open to hearing me out, & Josh took a while but he too supported it. Imogen as well. The only one who acted with hostility towards me was Piper.”


Tyler grips my hand as Brodie stares at me once again.


“You & Piper have a far more personal history, don’t you?” Toadie says. “One that was, until recently, unknown to the rest of her family.”


Brodie nods, keeping his eyes on me. “We used to date. While she studied in Canada & I was there to swim.”


“When did that relationship end?”


“Objection!” West says. “Relevance?”


“Brodie’s past relationship with my client is vital to the case,” Toadie says. “I’m merely establishing the timeline for the record.”


Dawson nods. “Continue, Mr Rebecchi.”


“I ask again, when did that relationship end?”


“When Piper returned home last year,” Brodie replies.


“And when was that?”


“September.”


“And you’ve not talked to her between September & your arrival in Erinsborough?”


“I’ve tried texting, but she continued to tell me to stop.”


“So you knew prior to arriving here that your presence would be unwelcomed?”

“I believed that, once she saw me again, the feelings we both had for each other in Canada would resurface & she would want me to stay.”


“And was she reciprocating of your feelings?”


Brodie sighs. “No.”


“Did you back off? Did you respect her choice to not rekindle your relationship?”


“Everything I did, I did to win her back.”


“So kidnapping her, dosing her up with rohypnol & trying to rape her is okay because it would prove to her you love her?”


“Objection! He’s leading my client.”


“Denied,” Dawson says.


“Do you think that, when my client said no to being with you that it’s appropriate to force her into it?” Toadie asks.


“What’s your point?” Brodie asks.


“Merely wanting to clarify why you assaulted my client,” Toadie replies. “You obviously made a conscious choice to do what you did. I just want to have a proper understanding of that.”


“For the whole time we were together in Canada,” Brodie says. “She wouldn’t ever sleep with me. Which was understandable, given she was so young back then.”


“And now that she’s of consenting age, & refusing to be with you… does that justify forcing her into having sex with you?”


“She deserved to be punished.”


“Punished?” Toadie asks. “Why would an innocent schoolgirl need such punishment?”


“Because she’s more than happy to spread her legs for an older man she barely knows, yet deny me that despite the fact that I have a much longer history with her.”


I catch Tyler tense up beside me.


"Objection! Defamation of my client!” Toadie says.


“Sustained,” Judge Dawson replies. “Please make note of that in the records.”


The transcriber nods.


“Maybe if you weren't so egotistic, you may have had a better chance of us going that far,” I say to Brodie.


“Well, well, well. There's the two-faced bitch.”


Dad & Tyler both react. They go to stand, but Mum & I stop them- I dig my nails into Tyler's hand to stop him.


“You should dump her,” Brodie says to Tyler. “She hid our relationship from her parents.”


“They know about Tyler & I.”


“But not until after I arrived,” he replies, smirking.


“You're so full of it,” I reply. “Think you're the centre of everything. But you're nothing to me. I’m glad you refused to come home with me in September.”


This has struck a nerve in Brodie. His smug expression vanishes. I hadn't planned on saying anything else for now, but seeing him react that way inspires me to continue.


“I was devastated when you turned me down,” I say. “But now that I’ve seen the real you… I’m glad we ended things. I’m glad that you were too self-centred to show your girlfriend, your so-called soul mate, the support that she needed from you as her family crumbled. That may have been a massive letdown at the time, but now that we’re here, I can see that it was really a saving grace.”


“Can we please return to the questions from the prosecution?” West asks.


Dawson nods. “Proceed, Mr Rebecchi.”


“I have no further questions at this moment, your Honour,” Toadie replies.


“Very well,” Dawson says. “Then we will proceed with the defence. Mr West.”


****


Tyler hands me a bottle of water.


“Thanks,” I say, taking it.


“You're welcome,” he replies, sitting down beside me.


After West had questioned Brodie, we were given a break. Mum, Dad & Toadie had gone to get coffees. Mark was busy checking in with Paige on his mobile, wanting to not be too close to us in case West tries to use it against us. I take a long drink from the bottle.


“How are you?” Tyler asks.


“Like I’m hanging upside down,” I reply, screwing the bottle cap back on.


“It’ll all be over after today.”


“Will it?” I ask, looking at him. “Two weeks ago, I hallucinated that he was raping me again, & I hurt you. What he did to me isn't going to easily go away.”


He nods before taking hold of my hand. “I know,” he says. “But I meant that he will be gone from our lives after today. The psychological scars he’s given you will stay, but you will be able to heal. You’ll move on with your life, leaving that behind you. There's a chance you may never fully move on from this, but I know that I will be here every single day for you.”


I smile, leaning in & pressing my lips against his.


“Urgh, gross!” Brodie says.


We part & Tyler goes to stand but I stop him.


“Awwww, Pippy, don't ruin the fun!” Brodie says. “Let him stand up. I want to see what he does.”


“And give you the strongest point to your case? Not going to happen.”


Brodie is about to reply, but Toadie, Mum, Dad & West approach.


“You three better not be discussing the case,” Toadie says.


“Never,” I reply. “Brodie was merely trying to wind us up so Tyler would punch him.”


“Pippy is controlling him,” Brodie replies. “As always.”


“Mr West, please escort your client away. I’d like to talk to my clients.”


West & Brodie leave. Brodie looks back at Tyler & I, giving us a smirk over his shoulder.


“Urgh! Any chance we could speed things up so we can leave?” I ask.


“Sorry, but I can't do anything about it,” Toadie replies. “But hopefully once everyone has testified, we’ll be able to leave.”


“We don't have to be here for Judge Dawson’s decision?” Mum asks, surprised.


“If you wish, I will stay behind to hear it,” Toadie replies. “But we're not legally required. Brodie, however, is.”


“Good,” I reply. “I’d like to take advantage of that.”


Toadie nods. “You might feel differently after Mark has given his testimony.”


I frown at him. I’m about to ask him to elaborate, but we get called back in.


****


“What was your reaction to Brodie arriving in Erinsborough?” Toadie asks me.


“Shocked… Angry.”


“Why?”


“Because Brodie had refused to come in September. He chose his career over me when I needed him. His sudden arrival just made me mad & hurt. Because once again he was pushing his career further. While single-handedly setting a bomb under my family.”


“And when he approached you to rekindle your relationship, what was your reaction?”


“I made it clear that I wasn't interested.”


“And when he persisted to pursue you?”


I sigh. Tyler rubs my leg.


“The more he didn't listen, the more angry & frustrating it was,” I reply.


“How did he react when he learned you're dating Tyler Brennan?”


“He laughed. Mocked us. Told us we wouldn't last.”


“You were on your way home after school the day he attempted to rape you. That's correct?”


“I was on my way to Tyler's work. I do that a lot, even before we started dating. Because we were friends.”


“But you never made it to Fitzgerald Motors. Why?”


“Because Brodie waited until I was on my own, on my way to the garage, to approach me. He wanted me to go with him, & I refused. I tried to leave.”


“How did he react?”


“He grabbed me, refused to let me go despite me asking.”


“How did he get you into his car? How did he make you go to the hotel?”


“I struggled against him,” I reply. “So he used chloroform to knock me out. That way he could get me into his car & to the hotel, into his room without a fight.”


“You woke up there, at the hotel, an unknown time later. Correct?”


I nod. “Yes.”


“But you couldn't move?”


“No.”


“Why?”


“He had… Drugged me.”


“I’d like to refer to Exhibit A, your Honour,” Toadie says, placing a page on the table within Dawson’s reach. “This is the test results for Piper Willis, run by the Erinsborough hospital after she was admitted there. This proves that Brodie Chaswick administrated my client with the drug, rohypnol. Known commonly as the date rape drug, because it causes paralysis, which makes it easier for rape to occur.”


Judge Dawson picks up the page & reads it.


“There's an unknown dosage amount,” Dawson says.


“The lab at the hospital was unable to determine the amount administered,” Toadie replies. “But as stated in Exhibit B-” he places a folder in the same spot at the page. “This is Piper’s medical record. Doctor Karl Kennedy concluded, based off the test results that the dosage would have been quite high. This would mean she would be unable to move while he sexually violated her for several hours.”


Dawson examines the new file for several minutes. “Do you have any further questions for Miss Willis, Mr Rebecchi?”


“Yes, your Honour.”


“Continue.”


Toadie looks at me. “When you woke in the hotel, what did Brodie tell you?”


“He told me that I needed to be punished,” I reply. “I don't know why, but the only explanation I can think of is because I had refused to rekindle our relationship.”


“How did it make you feel, lying there, unable to move when you wanted to stop him?”


I sigh, shakily. “I felt helpless. And… Frustrated. Full of anger because I knew he'd given me something so I wouldn't be able to fight back.”


“In the weeks since that night, how has the events of that night affected you?”


“I have had many restless nights, haunted by nightmares. There was also one night, two weeks ago, not long after the assault, when…” I look at Tyler. He smiles reassuringly. “I was going to have sex with my boyfriend. Something triggered memories, & I thought I was back at the hotel. Back with Brodie. And he was raping me.”


“What did you do when you believed that?”


“I… I reacted the way I hadn't been able to in the hotel,” I reply. “I fought back.”


“Objection!” West says. “What exactly does her hitting her boyfriend have to do with my client?”


“The incident is evidence of the psychological trauma my client has suffered due to your client’s attempt to rape her.”


“Your objection is overruled.”


****


“Why did you choose to punch my client?” West asks Tyler.


“He was about to rape Piper.”


“How do you know he was going to rape her? How do you know that it wasn't consensual?”


“Because he was sitting between her legs, completely naked while she was calling out to me. It doesn't take much to understand it wasn't anywhere near being consensual.”


“In hindsight, would you agree that punching him to stop him was the best course of action?”


“He needed to not only be stopped from raping her, but to be detained until the authorities arrived to arrest him.”


“That didn't answer my question.”


“Actually, it did.”


****


I hug Mark tightly. “Thank you.”


“What for?” He replies as we still hug.


“You were amazing in there.”


“I just presented the facts.”


I pull back to look at him. “Still…”


“You're my sister-in-law,” he says. “I’m not going to stand back while some kid tries to tear you down & get away with it.”


“Awww, you're such a good, protective big brother.”


He smiles. “Tyler & Paige wouldn't let me ever forget if I didn't help you.”


“You wouldn't dare not help anyway,” I reply. “You're too good. It goes against your cop instincts.”


He smiles, trying not to laugh. “You know me too well, Piper.”


“Are you gonna stay, bro?” Tyler asks.


“Would love to, but I have to get back to the station. I’m working soon.”


“We’ll keep you updated,” I reply.


He nods. “You're going to win.”


I raise an eyebrow. “That confident, huh?”


He smiles. “You had him running the whole time.”


“Didn't feel like it,” I reply, staring at the floor.


“Hey,” he says.


I look at him.


“If there's one thing I’ve learnt since your family arrived, it's that the Willis women are the strongest willed women around,” he says. “You held your ground in there.”


I smile. “Thanks.”


“You're welcome,” he replies. “Tonight, everyone come to ours. We’ll get take away & just wind down after all of this.”


“Really?”


“It's been a rough few months for all of us.”


“Sounds good.”


“Then it's sorted.”


“I’ll let the others know,” Tyler says.


Mark nods. “Invite the whole street.”


Tyler nods. “Will do.”


****


Tyler walks me back into the room, his arm around me as we follow Toadie, Mum & Dad. Brodie & West are already there, sitting down. We cross to our seats. It doesn't take long before Judge Dawson, the security officers & the transcriber enter. When everyone bar the officers have taken their seats, Dawson begins.


“Before I give my ruling,” Dawson says. “Have you made a settlement?”


“We made an offer,” West says. “The prosecution turned it down.”


“Because it was absurd & the defence knows it.”


“Alright, alright, settle down,” Dawson says. “Therefore it comes down to my ruling.”


He stays quiet & I hate it. Just hurry up so we can leave. Tyler takes hold of my hand, giving it a slight squeeze.


“I have considered everything presented here today thoroughly,” Dawson says. “And I have found there is only one possible conclusion to all of this.” He looks at Brodie. “There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the theory that you not only drugged Miss Willis with the intent to sexually assault her, but that you did it after thorough planning. This cannot be ignored. Therefore, I am ruling that you are guilty on all accounts. You are sentenced to five years & nine months in juvenile detention, with a non-parole of thirty months.”


Brodie & West are angry. Everyone on my side of the table sigh in relief.


“Given your age, Mr Chaswick,” Dawson says. “I must consider that you will be too old for juvenile detention before your sentence is complete. Therefore I am ordering that the last eighteen months of your sentence will be in jail.”


“Your Honour, that is far too harsh!” West says.


“Given how severe your client’s actions were, along with the long term psychological trauma those actions have on Miss Willis, I find your client’s sentence appropriate,” Dawson replies. “You may appeal this, if you wish to pursue it further. However I recommend you wave that right.” Dawson looks at me. “I am terribly sorry for what you went through, Miss Willis. You showed much courage today. I wish you the very best for the future, & I hope today proves to give you much needed closure.”


“Thank you, your Honour,” I reply.


Dawson looks at Brodie. “You have till ten o’clock tomorrow morning to get your affairs in order, Mr Chaswick. Report back here to the courts, where you will be transported to the juvenile detention facility. Fail to arrive by ten o’clock, & I will be forced to grant the Victoria Police with a warrant for your immediate arrest. Please take note that any attempt to avoid going to the juvenile detention will result in a far harsher sentence to be given.”


****


“PIPPY!”


I feel Tyler tense during our hug.


“Stay calm, Tyler,” I whisper.


We part, Tyler stepping ever so slightly in front of me to be between me & Brodie.


“What do you want?” Tyler asks.


“I just wanted to say that this is far from over,” Brodie says to me. “I will be appealing, & I will make you suffer.”


Tyler starts to step forward. I grab the back of his shirt & pull him back.


“And one more thing for your guard dog,” Brodie says. “My lawyer is filing assault charges against you for that night.”


“Do your best,” Tyler says. “You’ll just fail again. No one will accept your plea.”


Brodie grins sadistically. “Wow, she really has you wrapped around her pinkie,” Brodie says. “I wonder how long it will take before you realise that she's manipulating everything you do. That she's no more than an attention seeking whore.”


Tyler raises his fist to punch him.


“Ah ah ah,” Brodie says. “I may not be able to get the charges against you punching me at the hotel to stick, but I have far better odds if you do it right now.”


“Oh, I’ll gladly do a lot more than just punch that smug look off your ugly face,” Tyler replies.


Brodie laughs, turning his attention to me. “You really like them violent, don't you? You act all innocent, but beneath that good girl outer shell, you're a whore craving the violence. You know you wanted it so bad. Admit it. You wanted me to fuck you as hard as possible that night. To make you scream from the pain, driving your whole body wild with the desire for more. Because that's who you really are, aren't you, Pippy? A rebellious whore-”


I let go of Tyler's shirt. Seconds later, Tyler's fist collides hard with his smug face, blood spraying everywhere as his nose breaks.