Anumita brings out the agonising pain of a mother contesting her child’s custody in a courtroom, exclusively for Different Truths.
“Are you ready, June? – the question was just that. A question. No emotions, nothing else. June got up and straightened her dress and took a deep breath. It is today. Today is going to be the end and the beginning. The years of turmoil that she was going through, today would be the day of closure.
June followed her counsel through the double doors and was seated at the desk with the attorney’s assistant. She kept her eyes on the judge, deliberately averting her gaze away from the desk across. She was sure Johnathan will be seated there.
Johnathan, the man she fell in love with. The man who told her the moon lived in her eyes and the stars did not sparkle as bright as her smile. Johnathan, who taught her to love. And that same Johnathan, who took it all away.
He took the moonlight from her eyes and the sparkle from her smile. She did not break, then. But now, he is taking her life from her. Summer, her beautiful baby, was the reason she was here in the court. Nothing mattered, now.
The judge started speaking and June had to try really hard to keep her attention focused. Her hands shook as some papers were slid on the table towards her. It said something with her baby’s name on it. He eyes were not focusing as tears welled up. She blinked and read, slowly. The judge had ordered the presence of the child in the courtroom.
No, her heart and mind echoed it together. She did not want her baby here in this room. Summer has been through enough.
Then she heard the judge call out for Summer to be brought in. June looked up and found her 2-year-old walking in holding the hand of her caregiver. Summer, her beautiful daughter. The same curly hair as hers only the colour of her father’s.
Summer looked at her and smiled, and then turned and looked at the other desk. June kept her eyes on her daughter’s face. She found a similar smile on her lips. It was a like a dagger through her heart.
The judge asked the caregiver to bring Summer near and she spoke very slowly and clearly. She asked Summer, “What is your name?” and the answer came, “Summer Walsh.” She spoke softly and beamed a smile. “Summer, you have a very beautiful name. There are times in the life of the grown-ups that they cannot be friends anymore. Unfortunately, mom and dad are in that situations. I have a question for you. I know it might be confusing and difficult, but still, I do need to ask you. Are you ready?”
That question again, thought June. Are we ready, ever?
The judge asked, “Summer, who would you like to live with Mom or Dad?”
Summer’s eyes turned towards June and then with utter confusion towards Johnathan. June felt her heart contract. She held her hands tight together. What was she doing? Why is she putting her life in such pain? She was asking her baby to choose between her and Johnathan.
Time seemed to stop. June could not do this anymore. More than a year of bitter battle with the divorce and child custody, yet Johnathan had always been there for Summer. June could not break her child’s heart anymore. She closed her eyes and blurted out, “No, stop. Please stop.”
The judge interjected, “Counsel, please advise your client to speak when spoken to or to let her views known through you.”
June’s attorney immediately apologised. He asked for a few mins of the recess to consult with June and whisked June to a small adjoining room.
“Are you out of your mind June?” The attorney spat out the moment the door closed.
June looked at him while wiping her tears, “I don’t want anything. Just end this. He can have Summer.”
“What are you talking? What is happening here?” asked the attorney.
“I can’t have my baby go through any more suffering. She has been through enough. I did not wish her to be here in the court. I cannot make her go through the process of choosing amongst us. Johnathan is a bad man as a husband and has let me down every bit of the way. But, he is not a bad father. I cannot and will not take away that love from her. It would be my selfish love to have her and take him off her life.” June said it all in one breath.
The attorney just looked at her. His eyes were masked and his emotions barely covered. Then he let out a big breath and said, “Ok, whatever you want.”
They walked out and her attorney asked to approach the bench.
He mentioned the change in the situation. The judge looked at June, and phrased the change and asked if she was sure that she was taking this decision without any coercion or pressure.
June affirmed and herd the verdict of Johnathan getting the custody of Summer. June kept her eyes down and soon exited the courthouse.
She reached the apartment she was renting. She entered her room and closed the door.
She slid down the door and sat on the floor.
Slowly, a wave of pain started crashing on her and then she was wailing and crying her heart out. She kept saying to herself that she had done the right thing. Then why was she in such pain. She crawled to the dresser and pulled out a little dress of Summer.
Curling on the floor she hugged the dress and let the pain wash her.
Two weeks later, June walked out of the elevator of her 20th-floor office and walked to her desk. Her coworker Mary, came to her and hugged her. “Feeling better, honey,” she asked. Nodding her head June smiled. She was still coping, but every day is a little better than the one passed.
By lunchtime, June decided to go to one of the cafes across the street from her workplace to have a quick sandwich. Her usual place to feel good.
As she entered the semi-crowded room, one of the girls across the counter, came over. “Hi June, it’s been some time. Hope you are doing well. What will you have today?”
“The specials, please,” June said with the best smile she could muster.
“Sure, darling. By the way, there is this gentleman who is asking for you. He has been in here for few days before too. There he is sitting in the booth,” said the girl with a wink.
June looked at the direction of the booth and her heart stopped. Johnathan.
Her first instinct was to turn and walk out. But, at the same instance, Johnathan looked up.
She walked over. Johnathan stood up and asked her to sit down.
June wanted to ask about Summer, how she was and what she was doing. Was she missing her? June stopped her train of thoughts and looked up again with panic, why was Johnathan waiting for her. Was everything okay with Summer?
Johnathan saw the change in her expression and said, “Summer is doing fine. But, I am not enough for her. We are wrong people to be together. Our life was a mistake, and I know that I made mistakes. But, what you did in the court made me realize that I cannot do another mistake in love again. I cannot bereave my child of her mother’s love.”
What was he saying, thought June?
“I want to have equal custody of our child and have placed the petition with my attorney, and he said that it can be settled out of court. Please June, say yes. Summer needs her mother too. We will try to make arrangements so she can have both of us separately.”
June could not believe what she was hearing. She nodded her head and heard Johnathan thank her and left.
There is always a beginning to an end, thought June and took a bite into the fresh baked bread sandwich placed in front of her.
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos from the Internet
#ShortStory #Fiction #Divorce #ChildCustody #BattleInTheCourt #Court #Pain #Separation #Mother #SaturdayStoryteller #DifferentTruths
Anumita Chatterjee Roy is an artist at heart. She has an eye for the unusual. Her naturescapes make her the quintessential Romantic. She paints, is passionate about photography, creates word images in her verses and loves to write. She cooks delicacies and is a foodie. Born in India, she was brought up in several countries. These strengthened the global citizen in her. She now lives in the Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two sons.