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Waterloo: The restless soul

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December 2015 – Boston

“Callie, open the door!”

Another loud bang.

Callie’s eyes flip open for a second. She rubs her eyes from where she’s lying on the bathroom floor. Her head hurts even though it’s swimming. She snickers but she has no idea why. Her eyes are red, she’s been doing it for a long time now. Crying and laughing almost maniacally. The alcohol makes her a bit numb. Or perhaps it’s the pills.

“Callie for fucks sake what’s going on!?”

She looks at the closed door. Wyatt is not giving up. He’s going to want an explanation. He’s going to make her tell him why she made him believe it was a matter of life and death that he made a call to someone he’d never talked to before.

Callie’s crying again. Thinking back to just a few hours earlier. He had finally done it. He had done what she’d always feared that he would do. Jude had told her goodbye. He had told her goodbye but not before making her remember what she had done to him. He had brought up but a fraction of all the times she had wronged him – she knew this. Still, it was enough. When the call finally ended Callie had lost it. She has no idea how much alcohol she had downed before Wyatt came home to their apartment.

Another bang on the door, softer this time.

“Callie… please… just talk to me…” Wyatt is pleading, he sounds like he’s crying.

Callie lays down on her back and stares at the ceiling. She took too many pills, she’s not thinking straight.

“Callie… you need to tell me what’s happening…”

She closes her eyes. She thinks back to times past, to where it all began. She likes to think that way anyhow. That she wasn’t always lost. That it wasn’t her fault. She wants to remember times when she didn’t hate herself. It’s getting harder as time goes by.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

2004, spring – San Diego

An 8-year old Callie is sitting on a chair in the kitchen. Her mother is sitting in front of her and her father is sitting next to her. Her father takes her hand. She knows they are about to have serious conversation, she hopes that it’s not something that she’s done.

“Sweetheart… we… we need to tell you something about... about your… about your sibling.” It’s Sarah, her mother, that speaks. It’s usually like that. She’s talking calmly, making sure that Callie understands every word.

Her mother starts out by talking about the difference between boys and girls and that sometimes people get born into the wrong body. Callie tries, she really tries to hold back but after Sarah says words like transgender and identity disorder it’s just too much. She’s even asked to call her sister a new name. She can’t even remember it, it’s just too absurd. Callie puts her hands over her mouth as she laughs.

Her mother is not smiling. She looks… troubled. Sarah gulps and looks Callie in her eyes.

“Sweetheart… I know it’s much to take in but.. it’s really important that you support Jude with this. He will need all the support he can get if he’s… if he’s going to make it.”

“Jude? He?!”

Callie’s eyes widen. Sarah looks hurt, she looks sad but Callie can’t help it. She looks over at her father who hasn’t said a word. He’s got a blank expression. She looks between her two parents. She can’t believe that they are serious. Her sister is four years old, they can’t be serious.

They sit there for a while longer, Callie’s mother repeating the words from before. Callie remember being angry. How can she do this to her? What will they say in school? This is so typical her. Everything was better before her sister… this Jude came along. She’d never liked her, everything was better when it was just the three of them.

Finally, her mother gets up from her chair. She kisses her forehead before going upstairs – probably to her sister – like always. Her father stays with her, still holding her hand.

“Just so you know sweetheart, I think it’s weird too.”

Callie looks over at her father and they both smile. She feels relieved. Finally, someone is making sense.

“It will probably pass soon but you know how your mother is… always overprotective of your si… of Jude.”

Her father snickers slightly after saying the name, clearly thinking it’s about as ridiculous as she is. She laughs with him.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

Back to the bathroom floor.

It didn’t pass though... Callie thinks. No matter how many times Callie tried her, sister-turning-into-brother, never even once tried to be a girl. It was so frustrating and her mother even encouraged it. She bought him boys clothes and always called him Jude, everytime she did Jude smiled so wide. It made Callie sick but she got used to the madness. She even remembers taking a liking to him.

There was no doubt that Jude was kind, she didn’t think he was capable of being mean to anyone. Back then she thought it was because he was weak, now… she’s not as sure anymore.

Every night before going to sleep, he told her that he loved her. Callie feels tears running down her cheeks. Never once did she return the favor.

Callie sniffles. Wyatt is still knocking on the door, he’s still pleading to her to open up and let him in.

Callie closes her eyes again, thinking about that horrible night.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

It’s only small parts that lingers in her memory. Her psychologist told her she’s blocked some time periods out to be able to cope.

She remembers them leaving in the afternoon. They were going to talk to a doctor, talk about Jude. Dr. Parker. That was the name. Not that it matters.

Their neighbor was babysitting them. Jude was already sleeping when the doorbell rang. Callie stops her train-of-thought. It’s still too painful to think about.

She remembers the chaos that was the aftermath. There were meetings, a lot of them. Chaos. People telling her how sorry they were. There were police officers, social workers, doctors and therapist but still… still the one she remembers clearest is Jude.

Callie was numb and shut down. Jude wasn’t numb, he screamed and cried so much that her ears hurt and it went on for weeks. She remembers him being so lonely. Even when she sat beside him it was like she didn’t even know the person sitting beside her. She had to though, she had to pretend that she was there 100 % for Jude. It was the right thing to do. It was what her father would have wanted.

She remembers foster homes. She remembers the troubles that Jude’s situation brought them. They had to move around. She remembers Jude wetting the bed almost every single night. Most foster homes made her change the sheets. She remembers not seeing him smile for many years. She remembers missing him smile and it made Callie feel good, it made her feel human. 

Sometimes she hated Jude, he was the reason for it all. Because of him their parents had left their house that night and because of him they couldn’t find a permanent home.

Callie cries. She cries because even through it all she knows that Jude still loved her. He loved her even after times that she had done unforgivable things, things she regrets so much.

She’ll never forget the time she told him that no one would ever love him if he stayed the way he was. She didn’t say it to be mean… at least she doesn’t think she did. No, she did it for his sake. Life was hard enough as it was even without him wanting to be a boy.

She’ll never forget telling him that because… because she saw that he believed her. He had looked down and she still remembers the words he whispered while shaking. “If I’m not a boy I’m not anything…”

Callie has to wipe her eyes again.

Fuck…

BANG!

“Callie!”

Callie is back in the present. She stands up. Well, she tries to because her first attempt is a failure. Callie doesn’t give a fuck anymore, why should she hide anything when nothing can make her feel worse than she’s already feeling.

She stands up, successfully this time, and takes a few steps and unlocks the bathroom door.

She’s met by her boyfriend for many years. Wyatt’s been crying. She knows he worries about her sometimes, the times when she shuts him out. He doesn’t know though, why she shuts him out. She doesn’t want him to know, doesn’t want him to see who she really is.

He’s about to find out.

She takes Wyatt’s hand. She bites her lip, she knows it might be for the last time. She leads him to their couch without saying a word.

They sit down. Still silence. She looks over at him. She looks at his blonde curls and in his eyes. He looks scared, he sometimes looks scared when she’s shutting him out.

“Is… is Jude in danger?”

Wyatt trembles.

Callie gulps. Wyatt has always cared so much about Jude. When they lived in San Diego Wyatt always wanted to check up on him, he always tried to talk to him as much as possible.

“Yes…”

Callie’s eyes sting and she’s crying again. Wyatt’s eyes flicker all over the place.

“W-who did I call… who is Connor?”

Callie avoids eye contact with Wyatt. She doesn’t answer him.

“Why… why is Jude in danger? Please Callie you have to talk to me.” Wyatt sounds broken, he’s tired and he’s upset. He has no idea… Callie thinks.

A few more minutes of silence. Callie looks over at Wyatt. She looks into his eyes, the eyes belonging to a man that probably still loves her.

“I told Phil that Connor is Jude’s boyfriend.”

Absolute silence. Wyatt opens his mouth and closes it a few times. He looks surprised. Callie is scared. She tries to read Wyatt’s expression.

“Why would… why would you…why would you tell him that? Isn’t he a religious freak?”

She doesn’t have an answer for him. When she doesn’t speak Wyatt continues.

“So wh-what… is Jude… Jude is gay?”

“No.” She answers immediately.

“No?”

“Or… I don’t know…”

“What? If Connor is his boyfriend that means he’s gay, no?”

Callie sighs.

“I… I need to tell you something about Jude.”

Callie starts talking. She knows she’s drunk and probably high but she doesn’t care. She’s talking nonstop telling Wyatt about the time up until she and Jude moved into Phil Thompson’s house over seven years ago.

Wyatt listens. Callie doesn’t understand why he’s not laughing. He looks concerned, sad and… hurt. Weird. For a second she remembers the last time she saw that facial expression.

She has stopped talking. She knows why. Wyatt can probably guess why.

“Callie… you need to tell me about Phil…”

Wyatt has always hated Phil. It had to do with how he treated Jude. He wasn’t outright mean to him in front of Wyatt but that he didn’t have any respect for his girlfriend’s little brother was obvious.

Callie starts crying. She hides her face in her hands. Wyatt puts his hands over hers. It calms her.

“Callie…” Wyatt says and nods at her when she meet his eyes.

Callie starts talking. She talks for over ten minutes about how much she wanted a permanent home, that she couldn’t take moving around anymore. Finally, they had found a home that had accepted Jude’s situation. Everything was going to be all right for them. Callie skipped lots of parts, parts she wasn’t proud over.

Callie was rambling and Wyatt noticed. She always did when she had something to hide.

“Callie!”

Callie stops talking and looks at Wyatt.

“Has Phil hit Jude?”

Callie’s eyes sting again. She whimpers in a low voice.

“Baby please… yo-you need to understand h-how it was for me.”

Wyatt didn’t get an answer. Or maybe he did. Callie is hurting. He has so many things he wants answered but he can’t stand looking at her like this, broken. Wyatt pulls Callie into his embrace and lets her cry into his chest while he’s holding her.

Callie cries and Wyatt’s mind is going 100 mph.

Jude… being born a…?

Wyatt gulps. Somehow he knew that there was something that Callie wasn’t telling him. Sometimes Callie and Jude shared looks like they were keeping a secret. Never in a million years would he have guessed it was something like this. Wyatt feels sad again. He thinks about Jude, how lonely and scared he must feel about having his secret out.

Callie regains some control after a few minutes of crying into Wyatt.

Wyatt speaks when he thinks that Callie is ready.

“Callie… what has Phil done to Jude?”

Callie is silent. She’s breathing deeply through her nose. Wyatt is about to repeat himself when Callie speaks with an unsteady and low voice.

“It was him or me…”

“What?”

No response. Callie sniffles. She thinks back to the day when Phil had come into her room. She closes her eyes, a few more deep breaths and Callie… Callie tells Wyatt about that day in May 2008, about a week before Jude’s 9th birthday.

They had been living with Phil for a few months. Callie thought that everything was going great. They had a permanent home and she liked her new school a whole lot. Jude wasn’t doing as good though. He was worried and didn’t want to be left alone with Phil. Callie remembers that she thought Jude was just being shy, that it would get better when some time had passed.

Phil came into her room, it was in the evening and a 13-year old Callie had just hung up the phone after talking to a girl from school she’d already made friends with.

Phil had acted strange. He sat down on her bed without speaking. She can’t remember everything about that night but she does remember his first words after a minute of silence.

“Do you believe in God, Callie?”

She had nodded. He looked at her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. He had done so a few times before. Callie was grateful that Phil hadn’t put his hand on her yet, something he’d done twice before. He had just touched her, nothing else. She prayed it would stay that way.

“Good… good.”

Another moment or two of utter silence, Callie remembers starting to get scared. Phil break the silence while looking her in her eyes, black eyes, firm tone.

“This… thing with Jude, it’s not right, you know that right?”

Callie gulped but nodded slowly.

“This… pretending to be a boy. It’s not… it’s not what God wants.”

When Callie doesn’t answer him Phil raises his voice.

“Don’t you agree?”

“Y-yes.”

Phil had smiled for a second. She never liked that smile.

“Good.”

Phil waited a while. It looked like he was trying to decide what to say next. Phil continues.

“So this is what’s going to happen… I’m… I’m going to make a girl out of your sister.”

Phil paused a second before he carried on.

“And you’re going to help me.”

Callie didn’t say anything. She didn’t like Phil’s tone but she didn’t really have a problem with what he was saying.

Phil moved closer to Callie.

Phil put his hand on Callie’s thigh. She remembers feeling scared.

“And if you help me with this I’ll never have to come into this room again if you don’t want me to. Do you understand what I mean?”

Callie took shallow breaths and looked up at Phil before nodding. She understood him perfectly. Phil removed his hand from her thigh.

“Good. So do we have a deal?”

Callie bit her bottom lip and nodded once again. Phil smiled again and got up from the bed.

“How are you-…. we going to do it?”

Phil turned around and gave her the third smile of the evening.

“Don’t worry about it, you leave that to me.” Phil said and closed the door.

<<<<<<<<<<<< 

Callie stops talking. Of course she hadn’t fully understood exactly what she had agreed on but it was too late by then. Callie hadn’t told Wyatt word-for-word about what had been said that night, she felt too ashamed.

Callie looks up at Wyatt for the first time since she began telling him about that night. Callie’s heart almost stops when she looks into Wyatt’s eyes. The love she usually finds there is nowhere to be found. Callie speaks again.

“So I… I… I let Phil have Jude… it was the only way.”

Wyatt’s eyes flicker from the living room table and back to Callie’s eyes. He’s processing. Callie is scared. She’s about to lose him.

Wyatt sets his gaze into her eyes. His broken voice from before is replaced by a firm tone.

“Callie, what the fuck do you mean that you let Phil have Jude?”

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

May 22nd 2016

Callie is leaning against a tree. She doesn’t even know how long she’s been standing there, it’s been hours. There’s noises coming from the backyard of the house that she knows that Connor, Adam and Mia Stevens lives in.

It’s Jude’s 17th birthday and he’s obviously having a party. She isn’t invited. Of course she isn’t. They hadn’t talked since the day when Jude was stabbed. He had survived. Thank god he had survived. Callie got so happy and relieved when she heard that she’d cried. 

She had called Wyatt. She called from an unknown number. That was the only reason that he picked up. She had told him about the happy news. He already knew. He was apparently in constant contact with the Stevens’s. Callie’s broken heart wasn’t mended that night as Wyatt hung up the phone the first chance he got.

Callie hadn’t seen Wyatt since early January when he had got the last of his stuff. He didn’t want to have anything to do with her. She didn’t blame him. Wyatt was a good person and she wasn’t, she can’t believe she was able to hide it from him as long as she did.

She wanted to go in so badly. She wanted to see Jude more than anything in the world. She needed him. She needed him. She had prepared for this. She hadn’t taken anything for a week and it was driving her crazy but it was worth it. If she was to see Jude she wanted to be clean. He deserved that.

She keeps scratching her arms with her fingernails. She had remembered to bring a long sleeved shirt, hiding the needle marks underneath. She didn’t know why she bothered, Jude would notice it anyway. No way she could ever outsmart her genius of a brother. She smiles at that. She thinks how proud she is of him. She likes to pretend, pretend that she’s got the right to be proud of him. Like she has anything to do with it. Deep down she knows it’s the opposite. Jude had survived despite her.

Callie trembles. She sniffles and looks once again at the card in her hand. She feels stupid. She has no right being here. She opens the card.

“Happy birthday to the best baby brother in the world. I love you Jude.

I’m sorry. For everything.”

Callie starts to cry and rips the card in half. She screams into her hand. She has no right. She still has the package with the small teddy bear inside in her backpack. She remember that he loves those.

Callie tries to focus. She needs to get out of here. She has no right. Just as she’s about to walk down the street people are starting to come through the front door. Callie hides behind the tree.

The sheer number of people that apparently had been to Jude’s party surprises Callie. She had no idea that he had so many friends. There were some adults as well, among them two women that she knew was Jude’s new foster parents.

Perhaps she could do this. Perhaps she could knock on the door when everyone was gone.

Then, Callie’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. She had to blink several times to make sure her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her. The last person out of the door the last one she expected to be there.

Callie has stopped breathing. Her mind is racing.

How is this possible?

Never once did her eyes leave him as he said goodbye to the other guests and started walking down the street. Callie followed him. When she was sure they were alone she couldn’t hold back. Anger filled her.

“What the fuck are you doing here!?”

The man stopped dead in his tracks and turned around. Callie’s feeling furious as she makes her way up to him.

“Callie?”

The man squints his eyes.

“What are you doing here?!” She screams more than says.

When she approaches him she’s taken a back. She takes a good look at the man standing in front of her.

“Wh-why… are you sick or something?”

Roy doesn’t answer her. It didn’t really sound like a question to begin with. Callie shakes her head and the anger is back.

“Why are you here?!”

“I… I was at Jude’s birthday party. He invited me.”

Callie snorts.

“And why the fuck would he invite you of all people?”

Roy hesitates for a moment and forces down saliva. Callie notices the change.

“Wait? He doesn’t know does he?”

Roy remains silent.

Callie snickers.

“You haven’t fucking told him have you? He has no idea?”

“I’ve been there for him Callie. Something you apparently forgot to.”

“Been there!?” Callie snorts again. She opens her mouth a few times, not finding the words.

“Do you think that he wants anything to do with you if he knew who you are!?”

Roy doesn’t retaliate. Callie is angry and upset. And Callie… Callie isn’t wrong.

Callie and Roy looks at each other. Both feeling they have many things to tell the other one. Neither of them having much love for the other. Heavy breathing from Callie. Roy knows the signs. He can see that she’s sweating. He’s met enough users in his days to recognize withdrawal when he sees it.

He doesn’t engage her on it, no good will come of it.

“How do you… how do you live with yourself Callie?”

Roy asks the question he’s wanted to ask her for many years.

Callie snorts once again.

“How do I… how do I live with myself?”

Roy responds calmly.

“Yes. How do you do it? He was… he was your brother… you were all he got.”

“He’s still my brother.”

Roy shakes his head.

“No Callie. I don’t think you get to call him that anymore.”

Callie flinches. Her body itches. She takes a moment because she needs to.

“Don’t… don’t you fucking try to get inside my head. I don-.”

“You knew didn’t you?”

Roy’s calm but distinct voice disturbs Callie. So does his choice of words. Callie doesn’t know what to say.

“You knew what he did to Jude didn’t you?”

Callie just blinks. Many things running through her head. What’s he doing here? How does he know? What does he know?

“Sh-shut up… you have n-no right asking me anything.”

Roy looks disgusted. He shakes his head again.

“You fucking knew…”

Roy rarely swears - it just slipped out.

Callie’s eyes start to sting. She’s breathing through her nose, trying to compose herself. After Roy’s staring at her for a few moments she can’t fight the tears any longer. Roy’s look of disgust doesn’t change.

“Just… just stay out of his life. He’s going to be alright. Connor’s making sure of that.”

Callie’s tear-filled eyes breaks the eye contact as she looks down. Roy continues.

“Stay out of his life. For some reasons Jude refuses to talk about you. I have a feeling you will be in prison if he changes his mind.”

Callie closes her eyes and concentrates on breathing. She can hear footsteps going away from her. Before Roy gets too far away, Callie speaks.

“If you don’t tell him who you are I will.”

Roy stops. He bites his lip. He closes his eyes and sighs. He guessed it was inevitable.

Roy turns around and looks at the mess of a woman behind him. He nods at her.

“I’ll tell him.”

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

May 23rd 2016, the day after Jude’s 17th birthday

 

Madison, Hannah, Mike and Chris are sitting in the couch of Mike’s grandparents house. Mike looks towards the big armchair occupied by two boys. He smirks and snickers before hitting Madison’s shoulder.

“You think Connor’s enjoying the movie?”

Mike speaks just loud enough so that Hannah and Chris also hears him.

The four of them looks at the couple. Jude is laying/sitting in Connor’s lap, head resting on Connor’s chest and eyes closed. Connor’s awake but his attention far from the movie playing on the TV. He’s looking at Jude sleeping and he got that small smile on his face that the they’ve seen before. Connor gently strokes Jude’s cheek with his thumb.

“Jesus Christ they are unbelievable…” Chris says.

“Is it just me or does Jude always fall asleep when we’re watching movies?” Mike says.

Hannah and Chris snickers. Connor doesn’t look like he’s even aware of his friends presence.

“Has it always been like that?” Mike continues.

Hannah gulps before responding, she smiles softly looking at Jude in perfect peace.

“No… no… only with Connor.”

It’s a strange sight for Hannah, seeing Jude sleep. He’d been so very careful about not falling asleep in front of anyone, Jude probably didn’t know that she’d noticed. But, there he was fast asleep in Connor’s arms. Hannah looks at Connor and it almost bring tears to her eyes.

The way Connor looks at Jude. Even though she’s seen it many times, it still blows her away. She looks at Jude again and before she knows it, she’s smiling. Jude is exactly where he’s supposed to be. He’s safe and undoubtedly he’s loved.

“No homo or anything but they are kind of cute together.” Chris says laughing slightly.

Madison looks over at him, she’s not impressed. Chris knows she hates that expression.

“Ok maybe a little homo.” Chris says before pecking Madison on her lips.

Before returning to watching the movie, Mike glimpses towards the cupboard. On it, a framed picture his brother Peter. He looks at Connor and forces his thoughts aside.

Connor is the first to notice that Jude’s phone is starting to vibrate. Jude has turned off the sound so Connor has to shake him gently.

“Jude… Jude wake up.”

Jude groans and gives away a few more sounds telling Connor he’s not interested in doing anything other than continue sleeping in Connor’s warmth.

“Jude, it’s your phone. Wake up babe.”

Jude registers that his phone is indeed vibrating in his pocket. The caller doesn’t seem to give up so Jude slowly starts to take out the phone with eyes still closed.

Without checking who it is Jude snuggles into Connor’s armpit and answers his phone.

“Hello…” Jude says, it’s clear to all that he’s only semi-awake.

Connor hears that Jude gets a reply and Jude’s eyes instantly opens. He looks surprised and cautious. 

“Umm… okay. Wh-why are you calling?”

Jude is sitting up, much to Connor’s disliking. Less body contact with Jude is always a bad thing if you ask Connor Stevens. He wants to protest when Jude stands up from the armchair and walks out of the room.

Connor follows his boyfriend with his eyes. He’s brought back from his thoughts by a snickering coming from the couch.

“Connor Retriever.” Madison, of course can’t help herself.

“I don’t know. Golden Stevens also works.” Chris fills in, setting off the other three in the couch laughing.

Connor’s not following. The foursome helps him along.

“You are a puppy Connor Stevens.”

Connor raises his brow.

“I’m a what? Why…?”

“You… you just are.” Madison says and sighs jokingly and the attention from the couch goes back to the movie.

Jude comes back into the room and sits down beside Connor. Connor doesn’t like the worried look on his face.

Jude takes his hand. Connor doesn’t know why it makes him feel so relieved, it really shouldn’t. Jude leans in and whispers.

“It was Roy…”

“Roy?” Connor did not expect that.

“But… but he never calls?”

“No I… I know. He wants to meet me. He said it’s important.”

“Umm… ok… when?”

“Tonight… now.”

Connor got a bad feeling in his gut and Jude felt about the same.

They looked at each other for a moment. Connor bit his lip.

“Can I… can I come?”

Jude got a warm feeling inside hearing Connor’s caring tone. He gave Connor a peck on the lips and a smile.

“Roy said he rather talk to me alone but that it was up to me…”

Connor nodded, he could hear it in Jude’s voice before Jude said it.

“I think I want to go alone… is that ok?”

No, not really. Connor didn’t like it but on some level he knew that his separation anxiety when it came to Jude was starting to become a bit of a problem so this could be good practice. Connor never lied to Jude though.

“It’s ok. I mean… I want to come with you, but I understand.”

“Thank you.” Jude smiled again and gave Connor a quick kiss on his cheek. Connor grunts and Jude laughs softly knowing that Connor wants one on the lips.

“You’ll get one when we’re alone.”

Jude excused himself, the others found it a bit weird until Connor smirked at them and said the word “Schoolwork”.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

Biking towards the beach and the bench, Jude’s mind is occupied by thinking about the reason for the meeting. Roy often sounds serious but this time there was something else in his tone, something Jude couldn’t quite place. He heard that it was important to Roy to meet him, and he wanted to meet him as soon as possible.

If it had been someone else. Someone that wasn’t Roy, Jude had been worried sick.

It was a warm night, even if the sun had gone down a few hours earlier the warmth still lingered. Jude enjoyed the breeze when he biked down a downwards slope as he got nearer to the beach.

While locking his bike he sees that Roy is already sitting on the bench. Jude checks his phone. It’s still 10 minutes left to the time they agreed to meet. Jude gulps. Roy is never early. He’s always right on time.

Weird…

Jude walks up to the bench. Roy leans back and greets him with a soft smile.

“Hey…” Jude says and sits down.

“Hey…” Roy says looking out towards the ocean.

Something’s a bit off, Jude can tell. Roy leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees while cupping his face with his hands. Roy exhales and pull down his hands until only his mouth is covered.

Jude observes him. Jude’s starting to get a bit worried about what Roy wants to talk about. A realization hits him from nowhere and Jude’s eyes water up instantly Jude sniffles and just before he’s about to cry he huffs out.

“You a-… are you going to die?”

Roy turns his head towards Jude looking confused.

“Wh-what? No… No, Jude. Well I’m going to die someday but not… not anytime soon… I hope.”

“You promise?” Jude’s still crying softly.

Roy turns his head back towards the ocean, looking forward he sighs deeply.

“Yeah… I promise.”

“Ok… good.” Jude manages to say before drying his eyes with his arm.

The minutes goes by without a single word said between them.  Jude has another idea. Another thought about what Roy wants to say. It’s been so long though, Jude had given up on them ever having that conversation. However, now Jude is beginning to consider it a possibility.

“I… I have something to tell you Jude…”

Finally, Roy breaks the silence. Jude waits for him to continue. Roy looks like he’s about to form a sentence but he stops. After a minute, Jude gathers courage he didn’t knew he possessed. He asked the forbidden question.

“Are you… going to tell me who you are?”

Chapter Text

“Are you… going to tell me who you are?”

 

When Jude had finished his sentence, he took shallow breaths, worried about Roy’s reaction.

Roy turned towards him once again. He looked Jude in his eyes for a moment before smiling slightly. He broke eye contact and looked forward again.

“Can’t believe that I for a second forgot that you’re a genius.”

He gulps and looks down at the sand.

“Of course you’ve thought about it.”

A few moments of silence before Roy continues.

“How?”

Jude inhales through his nose.

“I saw… I saw you… before. Before the… before the beach. A few times.”

“You did?” Roy exhales deeply. “I tried to be so careful…”

The two of them returns to silence. Jude wants to comfort Roy, Roy seems… sad. Jude doesn’t like that. Roy was always the strong one. Roy was always strong for Jude.

“You didn’t think it was… you didn’t get… scared?”

“No.” Jude answered immediately. “Never.”

“Why?”

Jude shrugged.

“It never felt like you… It felt like you were looking out for me.”

Both of them gulps at the same time, Jude speaks again.

“And you were.”

Roy nods.

“Yeah… I… I tried to.”

The question lingered in the air. Jude had to ask it though, there was no going back now.

“Why?”

Roy took a deep breath. He faced the small 17-year old boy sitting beside him.

“Jude… can you promise me that you’ll let me finish? After all we’ve been through… that’s all… just let me finish, ok?”

Now, Jude was getting worried. He nods.

Jude notices that Roy’s body is starting to shake. He looks at Roy’s arms and flinches seeing how thin they are, veins clearly visible. Roy starts to cry and Jude doesn’t know what to say or do, it feels surreal. Roy. Crying. His rock and voice of reason, always calm and composed. Seeing him like this feels so wrong for Jude. Roy starts to talk while crying. Jude has to focus to hear him.

“Jude, I’m… I’m the reason for all this…”

“I’m the reason that you and your sister has been through all of this… That you got sent here… to that mo-monster.”

“What do you mean, you can’t blame yourself for-.”

“Your parents died because of me.”

Roy’s words left Jude speechless. Jude blinks and his head starts to spin.

Roy has trouble breathing but he makes an effort to be able to continue talking to a shocked Jude.

“I drove the car that hit them. That night.”

Jude’s eyes flicker. He blinks and his eyes are burning. Warm tears are running down his cheeks before he knows it.

“They died because of me.”

Jude stands up. He needs to think. He needs to get out of there. Even though he’s outside he feels like he needs air. His head is spinning. He takes a few steps away from the bench. He tries to think but he can’t. He can’t form a coherent thought.

Jude sits down again. He knows the feeling building up inside his body, a panic attack will occur if he doesn’t do anything about it. Jude has learned to try and think rationally to have a chance to avoid blacking out. It doesn’t always work but hearing Roy crying probably helped.

“Bu-but… it w-was an… accident.” Jude stutters but he gets the words out.

Jude is sitting considerably further away from Roy than he usually does.

“Yo-you didn’t mean to… right?”

Roy shakes his head violently.

“No!”

“Th-they… my dad… it was his fault.”

Roy gulps.

“Yeah he… he ran a stop sign, but if I hadn’t been there. If I had paid attention it wouldn’t…”

 Jude’s almost back in control. The same cannot be said for Roy.

“Jude… I… I would do anything to… I wish I had died instead of them.”

Me too…” Jude instantly hates himself for even thinking it but he did. They both struggle to get their emotions under control.

“It wasn’t… it wasn’t your fault Roy… please don’t cry. You can’t cry…”

Roy stops crying after a few minutes. He feels too ashamed to look at Jude.

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to tell you.”

Jude and Roy breathes through their noses, eyes stinging.

“Why didn’t you?”

Roy laughs slightly without looking amused.

“I… I don’t… Two reasons, I guess.”

“First of all I, I told myself that you needed me, and that if I told you that… then you couldn’t trust me anymore.”

“The other reason is that… I was… I was so scared to lose you. After we started to talk it got even more difficult to say anything. You… you’re my best friend Jude.”

Jude doesn’t get time to question Roy.

“I… I know Jude… you don’t have to say anything. I bet it sounds pathetic as we don’t see each other that much.”

Roy sighs.

“I got no right. In front of you of all people, I know that. But… life… after the accident… It’s not just… I know it’s not comparable to what you’ve been through but life… life hasn’t been good to me either, after.”

Jude is looking intensely at Roy who still can’t look Jude in his eyes. Jude reaches out for Roy’s hand. Roy shivers from the touch and looks over at Jude. It’s the first time their bodies have made contact since the day Roy carried Jude and laid him down on the shore with a towel covering what Roy already knew Jude desperately was trying to hide.

Roy can’t believe the caring eyes looking back at him.

“Did you not hear what I just told you!? I… I killed you-”

“I heard you.” Jude replies calmly, rubbing Roy’s hand with his thumb. Connor, and before him Hannah, had taught him a thing or two about comforting others.

Roy opens his mouth and just stares at the boy sitting beside him. Roy knows it doesn’t matter how old Jude gets, to Roy he will always be the wonderboy that survived against all odds.

Roy takes in Jude. His presence. He is so different from the person he once was. Jude being calm was odd enough for him to see. Jude being calm after being told something like that was miraculous. Roy chuckles slightly. Here he sits, a grown man that’s experienced things that no one should have to, being comforted by Jude.   

Roy shakes his head and looks down at his hand still embraced by Jude’s. Not that many years ago, Roy’s hand was twice the size, now he was thinner and Jude had grown up.

Roy frees his hand from Jude’s.

“Thank you.” Roy smiles.

“You’re welcome.” Jude returns it.

They sit on the bench for a few minutes. Roy starts coughing, he’s refrain from doing so for as long as possible. Jude looks at Roy’s frame. Roy is thin. Thinner than Jude’s ever seen him. And he’s pale. His eyes don’t look as clear as they once did.

“You… you’ll tell me… right?” Jude’s jaw is trembling slightly and he sniffles.

Roy nods at him. He knows that Jude worries so much. A year ago Roy also worried what would happen to Jude when he wasn’t around anymore. Now, he doesn’t worry. Jude is safe.

“Yeah I’ll tell you. I still got time, it might even be years.”

Jude sniffles again and nods. He presses his lips together in an attempt to keep his jaw from shaking.

Another minute or two of silence. Jude remembers something.

“It was you wasn’t it?”

Roy raises his brow, indicating that Jude has to be more specific.

“On my birthdays, it was you?”

Roy smiles softly.

“Yeah, it was me.”

Roy looks ahead towards the ocean. After a moment, a muffled sound is heard, Roy turns towards Jude.

“What?”

“Th-thank you…” Jude is whimpering and he’s drying tears from his cheeks.

“It meant s-so… much.” Jude speaks in a low voice, trying to get the words out one by one.

Roy doesn’t know what to say, Jude continues.

“You know most years yours was the only one I got… I…” Jude smiles for a second.

“I used to tell myself it was from... them. That they somehow gave it to me… It’s silly I know.”

Roy looks at Jude while Jude breathes through his nose. He hesitates before continuing.

“When things were… bad… I… it helped, knowing there was someone out there thinking of me. It helped…”

Roy flinches thinking about Jude’s bad times. He had told Roy about the train tracks. About the two times Jude had walked over there with the intention to end it all. Roy remembers Jude telling him an… inner voice, something Jude couldn’t explain, had talked him down.

Roy coughs again. Jude looks worried.

“You’ve never told me how you got… sick.”

Roy snorts, eyes on the ocean.

“It’s not exactly a fairytale story you tell a kid.”

“I’m not a kid anymore.”

Roy looks over at Jude. He smiles after looking into deep brown eyes.

“No… no you’re not.”

They keep looking at each other. Roy hesitates. He doesn’t know where to start.

“Please… I want to know more about you.”

Jude gives him a half-smile in a way to try and encourage Roy. It works.

“Alright… alright I’ll tell you.”

Another long pause while seems to be deep in thought.

“You know… it’s been so long since I’ve talked to anyone about it…”

Jude moves closer to Roy on the bench, even closer than they normally sit.

“It started with a boy… or maybe a man but we both felt like boys. Or perhaps we just acted like it…”

Roy’s looking at the horizon, he’s smiling before sniffling once. After a few moments he continues.

“It will be twenty… twenty years ago this summer. We met at a bar. And perhaps that doesn’t sound so romantic but it was… it really was. We talked about the upcoming election. Clinton versus Dole. About DOMA who just had been introduced. We talked, argued and laughed. Can you believe it he was a republican?”

Roy smiles widely and looks at Jude. Jude gets a warm feeling inside. The only time he’s seen Roy nearly this happy was not long ago when Roy had seen Jude for the first time since he woke up in the hospital.

Roy chuckles and looks out towards the ocean.

“We flirted… a lot. He was smart, funny and yes… he was very attractive. In those days that usually meant that the only thing left to decide was if we should go to his place or mine.”

Roy stops himself and looks back at Jude.

“Umm… you’re old enough so I can talk about... things like that, yeah?”

Jude snickers.

“I’m 17 Roy. Not 10.”

Roy looks at him.

“Yeah… yeah you’re right. Sorry.”  Roy knows that in some ways he’ll always look at Jude like the kid he has to keep safe.

“Things was. I didn’t want to. And neither did he. We both felt it. We had to do this right. We had something… something I’d never felt before.”

Roy laughs slightly while revisiting a pleasant memory.

“So we… dated. All through autumn. He sent me flowers. I took him out to restaurants and so on. The whole nine yards.”

Roy pauses a while trying to remember.

”We didn’t have sex until after the election was over. We had a wager who was going to win. You know who won right?”

Jude rolls his eyes.

”379-159.”

”Umm… what?” Roy’s not following.

“Clinton won.”

Roy snickers.

“Yeah that’s right… So what I’m trying to say is that we fell in love… we took the time to do so. Like I said, I had never… never felt anything like it.”

Jude smiles hearing Roy talk, opening up.

“So we moved in together after about six months. Everything was great. And we… we had many great years. At least I had.”

Roy’s smile disappears as he goes quiet. Jude wants to urge him to go on but he doesn’t dare to speak. They sit in silence for a minute or two before Roy goes on.

“I… I had no idea. I was totally clueless. I was still… still so much in love with him when…”

Roy’s eyes are starting to get glossy.

He clears his throat.

“I… I got sick… At first I thought it was just an ordinary cold or something but it wouldn’t go away.”

Jude gulps as he can hear from the tone in Roy’s voice what he’s going to tell him.

“So I had a blood test, as the doctors didn’t seem to know what was wrong with me. That day… November 17th 2004…”

Roy trails off and looks at Jude, knowing he recognize the date by heart.

“I had the results… that day… A-and… and I was stupid enough to drive home. I can’t… I can’t remember much…”

Roy starts to cry and Jude can’t seem to be able to move a muscle in his body. Comforting Roy would be the right thing to do but Jude knows there’s nothing he can say or do.

When Roy finally gets a hold of himself he speaks quickly.

“It turns out that he had run out of love a long time ago and… And he had got the decease and later on infected me. When I got the results I had already developed AIDS.”

Jude puts his hand over his mouth.

“So… yeah. I went from believing I would spend the… the rest of my days with the love of my life to… to having no-nothing… in a day.”

Jude sniffles. He tries to put himself in Roy’s shoes. He realizes that he can’t. He can’t even imagine what it must have been like for him.

Roy is silent, taking heavy breaths through his nose. Jude doesn’t know what to say which normally means that he remains silent.

“What was his name?”

“We don’t say the name.” Roy replies immediately.

Jude curses himself for being so fucking stupid. Why didn’t he remain quiet?

“Sorry…” Jude whimpers and dries his eyes.

Roy shakes his head and turns to Jude.

“No… it’s not your fault. I just… can’t.”

They sit in silence for a while before Roy exhales loudly. He’s mentally drained.

“I think… no I know it was good to talk about it again. Thank you for that Jude. But… can we talk about something else, anything, how’s everything with Connor?”

Jude sniffles and responds.

“It’s… it’s… perfect.”

Roy leans back on the bench and looks fondly at Jude while chuckling.

“So when’s the wedding?”

Jude snorts.

“If it was up to Connor, yesterday.”

Roy laughs.

“He knows what he wants.”

“I’m serious Roy. I’m getting a bit worried he’s going to propose or something. He keeps calling me Jude Stevens and posting honeymoon getaways on my Facebook page.”

Roy laughs again over Jude’s attempt to fake looking bothered but since Jude can’t stop smiling it’s not very believable.

“Ok it hasn’t gone that far yet but I wouldn’t put it past him.” Jude confesses.

Roy smiles. It feels good to smile. Jude didn’t know that he was the only person that Roy really communicated with. Trusting people something he stopped doing over a decade ago. Roy knows that he hasn’t been this happy since before November 17th. Ever since he knew that Jude was safe, Roy wakes up feeling hopeful.

Roy doesn’t notice when Jude goes quiet. After a minute he turns and he sees Jude looking troubled to say the least, scared even.

Jude’s trembling when he looks Roy in his eyes.

“Roy… do you… do you think it can happen to us…. to me and Connor…?”

It takes a few seconds before Roy catches on. Jude looks so fragile. He’s seen him like that many times before but it’s been a while.

“No. Absolutely not.”

Jude doesn’t look convinced.

“Jude you… you and Connor are not… you are not like me… or him.”

Jude sniffles. Roy doesn’t seem to succeed in easing his mind.

“There’s no evil in you Jude. You… you are the kindest person that I’ve ever met. And from what I’ve heard… and seen, Connor’s just like you. Believe me Jude, you two… you are going to make it.

“You sure?” Jude whimpers.

”I’m not just positive. I’m HIV-positive.”

Jude freezes.

Jude and Roy keeps looking each other in the eyes with a serious expression.

Roy starts smiling before Jude and Jude can’t for the life of him fight the smile creeping up on his face. They start laughing.

“That’s a horrible joke Roy.” Jude says while shaking his head.

“I know… but admit it was kind of funny.”

“Yeah… kind of.”

After a moment Roy speaks again. He knows Jude won’t like it but he has to tell him.

“I saw Callie. Yesterday.”

Jude’s eyes widen. His mouth goes dry in an instant.

“Wh-what?”

“She was outside the Stevens’s… after your birthday party. She… I think she wanted to see you.”

“I don’t want to see her.”

“No, I know. I told her.”

Jude nods slowly for himself.

“Good…”

Roy hesitates over what to say next. Jude will most likely be very uncomfortable but Roy doesn’t think he has a choice. Jude needs to know he has someone to talk to.

“Jude… you know… You know I’ve never once asked you what… what happened in that house.”

Like a reflex Jude’s gaze goes down towards his lap and he presses his lips together.

“You know you can talk to me… right? What he… and she did.”

Jude’s body flinches when Roy says “she” and the older of the two notices.

“You don’t need to be alone in this. You don’t-.”

Jude’s gaze finds Roy’s in a heartbeat, Jude interrupts Roy with a steady voice.

”I don’t want you, or anyone else, to know.”

“Why?”

”Because that’s what he would have wanted.”

Jude looks at Roy and lets him know that they will not have this discussion ever again.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

March 2017

Callie opens the door to her studio apartment. With tired eyes she walks towards her worn out couch. The kitchen is a mess. She can’t remember the last time she did the dishes. It’s starting to smell. She makes a mental note that she should probably clean that up when she gets the energy to do so.

She looks at the psychology book on the living room table. She thinks about reading it. It helps. It makes sense. It’s logical. It’s from a class she took almost two years ago at college. Before she dropped out, obviously. There was just no way that she could even think about focusing on her studies after what happened with Jude.

Jude.

Like they do every day the tears form instantly when her brother enters her mind. Callie wish that her mind had somewhere to escape, but she’s run out of places to hide. Before Jude confronted her she always used to think about the time when her parents were alive. Now, she can’t. All she can remember from that time is how that’s when she started to fail Jude.

Even though she knows she won’t find any comfort there her mind starts to reminisce. She was there that day, the day Jude for the first time faced the cruel reality of his unfair disadvantage.

Callie does smile thinking about it. Because she remembers it, how happy Jude was when they played in the backyard together. Jude was 4 at the time and wasn’t known to her by that name. They were sisters playing together as far as Callie was concerned.

She remembers Jude’s wide smile. Callie snickers and dries her eyes. Jude always smiled so much back then. Sh-… he was such a happy child she remembers. Everyone said so. He was different, but he didn’t care or more likely is that he didn’t know he was different.

She remembers the smile, and she remembers the moment when Jude came to a complete stop. His mouth opening up, the smile fading before completely disappearing. He looked at something behind her. The game they were playing long forgot.

She remembers giggling seeing what caught Jude’s attention. The neighbors son was peeing on his mother’s flower arrangements. She looked back at Jude and his eyes were transfixed by the sight. Callie remembers continuing to giggle, thinking that her sister was excited over seeing a penis for the first time. Thinking about it, Callie had been right, but not in the way she thought back then.

Before she knew it their mother came out and took both their hands. Sarah looked worried leading the both of them inside. Today, Callie understands that their mother must have already known that Jude was born different.  

Callie shakes her head. She realizes she’s crying. Doesn’t matter. If anything it feels good, knowing she can feel things.

She stares at the pile of mail on the table. She should probably open it.

She sniffles and torture herself some more. She thinks about Wyatt. She wonders where he is. She knows he’s not coming back. She knows he can’t even look at her after she told him that she gave Jude to Phil to save herself.

The doorbell rings and once again Callie shakes her head to clear it from her recent thoughts. She gets up and opens the door without checking the peephole.

“Caroline Jacob?”

“Umm…” Callie is taken aback from looking at the man in front of her. He has a serious expression and his suit tells her right away he’s not from this neighborhood.

“Yes?” She frowns while answering the man.

“These are legal documents you are required to read.”

The man hands over several large envelops to Callie before saying his goodbyes, leaving Callie speechless. Still feeling confused she makes it back to her couch where she opens the envelops and reads the content.

She skims through the text, her chest hurts reading the information provided. It’s a subpoena to attend court. She’s called as a witness in a trial. The names Adam Stevens and Phillip Thompson flashes before her and she has to stop reading as she’s having trouble breathing.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

Two weeks later

Callie is finding herself sitting and talking to the woman that’s known to her as Adam’s defense lawyer, Mrs. Conway. They are sitting in a room in the courthouse.

She is called in order to shed some light on what exactly happened in the house she and Jude came to some nine years ago. Everything felt blurry to Callie, she’d felt that way ever since she got her subpoena.

She can only think of Jude while the lawyer is mentioning some pictures. Callie figures it’s pictures of Jude and how he looked like after being stabbed. Callie has to fight the tears thinking about her brother and what he had had to endure. She left him there, but she lost him and with that herself a long time before that.

Callie doesn’t care what the lawyer is saying. She’s decided to tell the truth. She’s sick of this. Sick of lying, mostly to herself. She’s got nothing to lose and it’s the least she can do for Jude. She doesn’t even care what will happen to her, she’s got nothing left of herself to care about.

The lawyer leaves after telling her that someone will come and get her when it’s time for her to be heard.

Callie had hoped that Jude would be there but she’s understood that he’s left a written statement that’s been accepted by the prosecutor and defense lawyer.

She sits alone with her thoughts. After a while, she’s not sure how long, a man opens the door and tells her it’s time.

On shaky legs she stands up and walks with the man towards the courtroom. She’s ready to do the right thing. At least she hopes that she is.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

Having sworn an oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth she looks out in the courtroom. She doesn’t recognize that many people. The lawyers and the prosecutor is naturally there. Adam is sitting at the front next to his lawyer Mrs. Conway and further back she sees one of Jude’s fosters moms. Callie thinks she’s called Lena.

No one is smiling. Callie didn’t expect anyone to but it’s not that. There is no joy in the room whatsoever. Callie has never seen or felt anything like it.

Politely Callie answers simple questions about her and Jude’s background, when they came to Phil and the like.

Callie knows the reason for the trial is the lack of unbiased witnesses to what happened between Jude and Phil. No one expected anything else than that Adam would be acquitted but still the trial needed to be held.

“To your knowledge, did Mr. Thompson abuse Jude?”

Callie is being brought back to the present. To the asked question. She’s breathing through her nose, trying to compose herself. She nods.

“I need you to speak up.” Mrs. Conway clarifies.

“Y-yes.”

You could hear a needle drop.

“Mental abuse?”

Callie’s starting to cry.

“Yes…”

Mrs. Conway gives Callie a moment to get herself together.

“Physical abuse?”

With closed teary eyes, Callie nods.

“Yes…”

A few more moments of silence before the lawyer speaks again, voice sounding unsure and resigned.

“We… we need to show some… some pictures. And we need you to tell… to tell us if… to your knowledge… We need you to tell us if this is the work of Mr. Thompson.”

The judge suddenly speaks, startling Callie.

“Clear the room. Like before, only the approved attendees are to remain.”

Callie’s confused as several people sitting in the courtroom leaves. Much to her surprise Adam leaves his seat and is escorted out of the courtroom.

Lena is starting to cry but she remains in the room. Callie’s eyes are drawn to the prosecutor who is covering her mouth and breathing heavily through her nose.

A projector screen is being rolled down.

Mrs. Conway speaks again, unsteady voice.

“Th-this is… these are pictures taken by Jude Jacob… They are all of… they are all of Jude.”

Callie notices that the prosecutor isn’t looking at the screen and neither are a few others present in the room.

“According to Jude’s written statement the first picture is taken a few days after his ninth birthday.”

Callie’s both hands are immediately drawn to her face, covering mouth and nose. Before she got time to protest the projector turns on and the first picture is shown on the screen.

Gasps are heard and Callie’s forced to re-visit memories she wanted to escape even if she didn’t deserve to escape them.

Jude’s taken the picture while he’s obviously lying in his bed on his back. He was very small, only nine years old and looking much younger than that. His chest is so blue it’s almost black. She remembers that he couldn’t walk for over a week afterwards. His lip is busted and she knows that his jaw is broken even if you can’t see it in the picture. Callie remembers that Phil learned not to hit him in the face after that.

“Callie?”

Callie looks over at the lawyer. Everything feels unreal. She has to try and disconnect herself from reality.

“Callie, was this done by Mr. Thompson?”

She answers her without realizing doing so.

“Yes…”

The lawyer gulps and continues.

“Okay… this next picture is-“

The judge interrupts her.

“We… we don’t have to see them all again. Two more.”

Mrs. Conway seems relieved as she nods against the judge. She walks over to the young man handling the projector and whispers something to him.

“Th-this… this is the only picture not taken by Jude. It’s from the doctor’s report at Sharp Memorial Hospital.”

A deep sigh before the Mrs. Conway nods and the picture is shown at the projector.

Callie was already crying but seeing the picture intensifies it. Tears streaming down. She had failed him so many times but this moment she had outdone herself.

It’s only of Jude’s torso, his head and face not shown. A deep red wound going from his belly button up to his right chest. His right chest looks horrible and Callie knows why. Just underneath his chest you can’t see any skin, it’s just blood and gore surrounded by blue going lilac.

Callie has to look away, doing so she notices that the judge sitting to her right isn’t looking at the picture either.

“Caroline… was this done by Mr. Thompson?”

Callie’s crying but she answers her immediately.

“Yes.”

“Are you sure? Because earlier you told the authorities that Jude did this to himse-“

“Yes! Yes… Phil did it.”

Mrs. Conway looks at the judge and at the prosecutor. They all want this trial to end as soon as possible.

“Ok… ok.”

A moment of hesitation before she goes on. Mrs. Conway was all but sure that the young woman sitting in front of her was spared by Jude in his written statement. That was the only thing that made her show Callie the final picture.

“I… I need you to look at one final picture. It’s…”

Callie hears Mrs. Conway sniffling. She looks up at her and sees that the thick-skinned woman is taking a moment, taking deep breaths.

“It’s taken after Jude’s twelfth birthday…”

Lena can be heard crying and several others are looking extremely uncomfortable. Callie looks around. All of the guards present in the room are looking down at the floor. Callie forces down saliva.

“We… we need you to tell us if… if this was done my Mr. Thompson…”

Mrs. Conway turns away from the projector screen.

The screen flickers and an image appears on it. Callie stops making any sounds but the liquid running down her cheeks continue doing so. For the second time in her life she’s petrified by shock and she shuts down immediately.

Jude is lying on his stomach. He’s naked. Jude has bruises and wounds that no child or for that matter no human, should have.

Callie stops looking at the picture. Her gaze sets on a point on the floor instead. She’s not crying. There are others in the room that are.

The courtroom remains silent for a long time after the projector is turned off.

“Was that done by Mr. Thompson?”

Even though she can’t be 100 % sure she still whispers an answer.

“Yes.”

Callie keeps staring at the floor. She’s already decided what to do but she focuses on answering any question coming from Mrs. Conway. None comes.

After a minute of no spoken words, the judge finally says.

“Ok, we… we’re taking a recess. We’ll continue in 30 minutes.”

Callie rises from the witness stand. She doesn’t say a word as she leaves the courtroom. Mrs. Conway tries to say something to her but she’s not the slightest interested in hearing what she has to say.

She walks down the stairs to the courthouse like in a daze. She focuses on breathing and just walking. One sentence and one sentence only keeps repeating in her head.

"I left him there.”

With determined steps she keeps walking and walking until she reaches her destination.

She climbs up on the railing without hesitating. From the overpass she looks down at the railroad tracks.

Callie stops, waiting for a sign. Something or someone telling her to stop.

She receives nothing of the sort and shortly after Callie Jacob takes the last step and breath of her life.