“Daddy was hurt. There had blood all over his shirt”
“Could you tell us where your daddy was hurt honey?”
The little girl pointed to her chest. Then she pointed to her neck. And then she finally pointed to her arm.
“I’d like to bring to the jury’s attention evidence exhibits 12 B and C. You will see that the wounds on Mr. Stephens neck, chest, and arm are photographed here.” With a soft look of concern the attorney’s attention went back to the little girl. “Who hurt daddy Nelly?”
“OBJECTION! The witness was not present at the time of the alleged confrontation your honor.” The defense attorney’s professional demeanor was eloquently laced with indignation for his client.
“Your honor.” The Prosecutor approached the bench. “The witness was hiding for her own life just feet behind him as the defendant came at him with a knife. I would say she was present enough to ascertain and give testimony as to who she believes most likely caused the wounds to Mr. Stephens.”
The judge looked at my daughter. I was in the general audience and watched as he looked at my ex-wife’s attorney. “Over ruled.” I breathed a sigh of relief.
The prosecutor looked back at my baby girl, and asked. “Can you tell us what happened darling?”
As Nelly spoke. I relived my own memories of the trauma.
“WHO IS SHE!” Jane slammed her fist on the break room table.
Nell jumped at the outburst and got out of her chair to run somewhere behind me.
“Jane look. It isn’t any of your business but there isn’t anyone else.” I demanded.
“YOU TELL ME WHO SHE IS YOU SONOVABITCH! I WANT TO HEAR YOU SAY IT!” I already knew the name she wanted to hear. She wasn’t interested in the truth at this point.
“There’s nothing going on between me and her.”
“JENNIFER! SAY HER NAME YOU COWARD!”
Jennifer had been one of the girls at the store. She was a good worker and I didn’t even think we had talked much before my wife started getting jealous. She all but demanded I fire the girl the second day she saw us working. Her jealousy continued to grow no matter what I did. The divorce didn’t help, the restraining order didn’t help. Jane wouldn’t let a little piece of paper stand between her and whats hers. In this case, me.
The slap came hard and fast. Jane had always been in excellent physical shape. It hit the side of my cheek and turned my head. The sting of it was hot on my face. “Stop it!” My voice rose. Behind her I could see a few people looking through the door window to the back room we were in. I held my hands out in a defensive manner. I wasn’t going to let her just wale on me. Nelly started to scream. I looked behind me to hear it coming from the cabinet under the sink. I couldn’t believe Jane decided to show up here with our daughter to confront me. I knew shared custody was a bad idea.
“The court decrees you maintain a distance no less than 1000 yards from Mr. Richard Stephens, except in the cases of exchanging custody of your daughter Nell L. Stephens.” What a loophole.
By the time I looked back it was too late. Jane had taken a step towards me. I threw my hands out against her and pushed her away. There was no chance of just holding her back this time, I needed to get her away and out of here. She stumbled back and fell against the counter on the other side of the room. She looked at me with blind rage in her face. “Jane STOP!” I said.
“FUCK YOU AND YOUR WHORE!” She reached over and took a knife out of the cutlery block the staff used to prepare lunches.
She lunged at me and struck. My arms held her back, but the blade found its way into my chest. The bite of the steel was hot and frightening. I’d never been cut so deep before. I could feel my ribs spreading as the knife was stopped with their pressure. The knife came out as I took a step back and she swung her arm at me again as my right hand came to cover my chest. I tried to move. The knife slid against the side of my neck. It sliced through the skin and down to my chest before her reach had to recoil. My left hand pushed her back again. “JANE!” My voice barely rose above Nelly’s screams behind me. I looked at Jane and caught her gaze one last time. I had no doubt. My ex-wife meant to kill me today. She came forward again, the knife coming down from above in one final, stabbing, thrust.
I rose my arm to catch her blade hand but the knife buried itself in my forearm instead. She struck so hard it penetrated completely through my arm and came out the other side. Doctors said that was what stopped the whole thing. The blade of the knife was squeezed and bent by the bones in my arm and couldn’t come out. Jane yanked at it a few times before she was grabbed from behind by a few of the guys at the store. They’d decided enough was enough. I’d always asked them to stay out of it. I was grateful for their disregard of my wishes.
“How does the Jury find the defendant in the charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon?” The judge asked.
“We the Jury find the defendant, guilty.”
I closed my eyes in relief. The decision was broken by the laughter that rang from the right side of the court room.
“You fools.” Jane said after her laugh. The judge banged his gavel.
“Order in the court!” He looked at my wife. He was not amused.
“Jane Lydia Stephens, based upon the actions you have been found guilty of, and the manner of your conduct in my court. I feel compelled to give you to the maximum allowable sentence. To be served at the State Mental Institution until you are deemed fit for general incarceration.” He banged the gavel one last time with a finality I would equate with freedom. She continued to laugh, even as they led her away.
I pushed my sleeve down over the scar. The 3 inch long mark and damage underneath it had finally fully healed. There was still some pain, but I had medications if it got really bad. I stuck my hand out and grasped the other mans. “Hi. I’m Richard. Nelly’s dad.” I said. “Hi Richard, I’m James, and this is my wife April.” I smiled and talked to Maya’s parents for a while before deciding they were good people. I watched my daughter run off to change into her swim suit, and gave her one last hug after she came back out.
“Be a good girl baby doll.”
“I will daddy.”
With a final kiss, she ran from me, and jumped into the pool with the other kids. I waved to James and April, and decided to get Jane completely off my mind before I got home.