Broken silence, p.17

Broken Silence, page 17

 part  #2 of  Silence Series


Broken Silence

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  His eyebrows shot up. “And when did you turn sixteen?”

  Oh, God. My eyes flicked upwards to Cole. No! Was I going to get him into trouble? I couldn’t. We hadn’t done anything wrong. Cole nodded, telling me to continue. “August. ”

  “Hmm. Your physical relationship with Mr Benson started relatively quickly, wouldn’t you say?”

  “No. I’d known Cole my whole life. I trusted him, and it felt right. For the first time in my life something felt right, and it was completely different to what Frank did; I chose it. ”

  Someone barged into the room and approached the judge, interrupting John’s line of questioning. I looked to Linda to see if she knew what was going on, but she wasn’t looking at me; her eyes were also on the judge. The room fell deathly silent. I tried to listen but could only hear muffled voices. What was happening?

  “We’re going to take a break,” the judge announced. “Mr Bee and Mrs Rake, please approach. ” John and Linda walked over.

  Walter, Linda’s colleague came over to me and gestured towards the exit: “Follow me, please. ” I stepped down and followed him into the room I’d fainted in before.

  “What’s happening?” I asked Walter.

  “I’m not sure. We’ll just have to wait for Linda. Can I get you something? Tea or coffee? Water?”

  “No, thank you,” I replied. This is bad. Why would they stop? Dad must be getting off. It wouldn’t surprise me. He was so well liked and respected. Everyone believed him and looked up to him. Of course he was getting off.

  I sank into the worn chair, and my heart dropped to my feet. Pulling my legs up, I pressed my face into my knees. This can’t be happening. What was I going to do now? Run. I wanted to escape back to Australia. Coming here was a mistake.

  A stray tear rolled down my cheek, and I angrily swiped it away. I was so stupid. Who was going to believe me over a well-respected businessman? At least he couldn’t deny the other charge though. There was evidence of him abusing a little girl when he was in university. Evidence of him and the other people in the paedophile ring. And evidence of him having images of girls on his computer.

  Even if there was now nothing linking him to me and what Frank did, he would still go to prison. He had to go to prison. I closed my eyes and breathed in for five seconds and out for five. Those familiar feelings of panic were threatening to take over again.

  Time ticked by slowly as I waited for news. No one else came in, so I assumed everyone was still in the public gallery, or were not allowed to come in. Walter had been to find out what was going on, but all he knew was Linda and John were no longer in the court room.

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  The door opened, and Linda walked in. It had been almost two hours. Her face betrayed nothing; I couldn’t tell if the news was good or not. “I’m sorry I was gone so long,” she said.

  “He’s getting off, isn’t he?”

  “No,” Linda replied.

  What? “No?”

  She shook her head. “They found a folder on his laptop. It had been very well hidden and was only just found by one highly determined man who knew this was his last chance. He had to call someone in else in to assist it had been that well hidden. We’ve had them re-examining the evidence all week. They found it, Oakley, and brought it straight here. ”

  She still had people looking over evidence? I thought all that would have been left by now. They kept looking and looking. “What folder?” I asked, even though knew what folder she was talking about.

  She placed her hand over mine. “The pictures of you. ”

  I felt like I had been hit by a bus. That folder. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I didn’t even want to think about it. “So what does that mean?”

  “It means your story is proven to be true, and your father is exposed as a liar. ”

  My eyes filled with tears. “What happens now?”

  “The public gallery has been closed. The jury will be shown the photographs, and then the trial will be wrapped up. I see no reason to call your father back to the stand. The pictures speak for themselves, and, surprisingly, John is not calling for him to take the stand again. I thought he would so he could try and help him talk his way out of it. ”

  “Do I have to go back in there?”

  She shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. It seems unlikely his defence will call you back in now this new evidence has come to light. I’ve got to go back, but Walter will take you to your family. ”

  Walter escorted me to the café where everyone was sitting. I paused at the entrance to the café and watched them all for a minute; all these amazing people who had stood by me. They sat around two pushed-together tables in silence. Mum stared at her mug. Her face was pale. Cole spotted me first and jumped up, so I took that as my cue and walked towards them.

  I sat in the chair Jasper pulled over for me between him and Cole.

  “How’re you doing, honey?” Mum asked. She hadn’t moved an inch. It was as if she was made of stone.

  “Um. I don’t know. Do you all know what’s going on?”

  Mum nodded. “Yes. We were told just a few minutes ago. We wanted to come and find you but were told you were with Linda. ”

  “Okay, good. ”

  Why wasn’t Jasper at least celebrating? This was good, right? They found the one concrete thing that backed my version up and proved I was telling the truth. I didn’t want to celebrate because it felt wrong but I thought they would. Did they think something was going to happen? The evidence would be somehow dismissed? That couldn’t happen.

  Cole gripped my hand, and we fell silent again. I felt sick. I didn’t like them being happy about any part of this trial but the fact that they weren’t terrified me.

  After one hour and forty-seven minutes, I saw Linda walking toward us with purpose. In that time we had quietly drunk too many hot drinks and entered in a few light conversations.

  “The jury have reached their decision,” she said.

  Mum jumped up. “Already?”

  Linda nodded once. “If you all want to make your way back. ”

  I stood up and was about to follow Linda when Mum pulled me into a hug. “It’ll be fine. ”

  “Yeah, it will,” I replied, and for the first time I truly believed it was.

  I walked back with Linda and entered the courtroom. I would be allowed to sit with my family, but Linda quickly ran through what would happen and how the judge would ask for the jury’s decision on each individual charge.

  Stepping into the public gallery, I found my mum and brother and sat in the seat between them. I made eye contact with as many members of the jury I could. There was no way they could believe him over me now, but I was still terrified.

  “Have the ladies and gentlemen of the jury reached their decision?” the judge asked, her voice business-like and intimidating.

  A tall lady with long grey hair and bright red lipstick stood up. “Yes we have, Your Honour. ” I took a deep breath. My palms started to sweat.

  “On the charge of administering a substance with intent to commit sexual offences, how do you find the defendant?”

  “Guilty. ” The air left my lungs in a rush.

  “On the charge of trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation, how do you find the defendant?”

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  “Guilty. ”

  “On the charge of controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography, how do you find the defendant?”

  “Guilty. ”

  “On the charge of causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography, how do you find the defendant?”

  I held my breath and watched the lady’s red lips say, “Guilty. ”

  “On the charge of holding indecent photographs of children, how do you find the defendant?”

  “Guilty. ”

  “On the charge of abuse of position of trust:
causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, how do you find the defendant?”

  “Guilty. ”

  “On the charge of sexual assault on a child, how do you find the defendant?”

  “Guilty. ” A sob erupted in front of me, and a woman fell against a man who I assumed was her husband. She must have been one of the women he abused.

  l let out a breath that I felt I’d been holding for years. Guilty on all charges. The jury believed me. They believed all of us.

  Chapter Nineteen


  I watched Cole pour the paint into the tray and couldn’t help picturing this as our house, rather than just his.

  “Ready?” he asked, passing me a paintbrush. After pressing his lips to mine briefly, he dunked his brush in the paint and slapped it on the wall.


  He looked over his shoulder. “Hmm?”

  “I don’t think I like this colour any more. ” His face dropped, making me laugh. “I’m joking. ”

  “Oh, good one,” he replied flatly. “Get to work you. ”

  His whole posture was casual, and he had been playful all day. Tomorrow my father was going to be sentenced. Since I’d given evidence, three weeks ago, Cole had been deliberately keeping me distracted. He let me cry, promised everything would be okay whatever the sentence, but he always had something planned to take my mind off the waiting and worrying.

  I dipped the paintbrush in the Caramel Blush paint and started on the living room wall. Mum was right when she said helping Cole would take my mind of off Dad’s sentencing. I wasn’t convinced at first but I was enjoying doing it now.

  The muscles in Cole’s arms flexed as he moved the brush up and down. Painting with him took so long, but somehow, between the kissing, flirting and play fights we managed to get the first coat in the living room done.

  I smiled at our work. The room looked so warm and inviting already. I couldn’t wait to see it completely finished with the sofas, coffee and TV table and large rug.

  Cole sighed and flopped his arm over my shoulder. “Well, we’re done for today. Shall we go get ready?” We were going to dinner at his parent’s tonight, along with Mum, Miles and Jasper.

  I leant against his side. “Yep. I need feeding soon. Want to share a shower? Save water and all. ” And I needed the comfort and normality of us.

  “Best offer I’ve had all day. ” He kissed the side of my head and grabbed the paint tray and brushes so we could wash them before we left.

  “Oakley,” Jenna smiled warmly, giving me a hug the second I walked into the house. “You don’t bring her here enough,” she scolded her son.

  Cole held his hands up. “We’ve been busy, and you’re often very embarrassing. ”

  “Please, I watched you pee your pants when you were a kid. How much more embarrassing can it get?” I teased.

  He pretended to take offence: “I was four and I’d had a load to drink. ”

  “Uh huh. ” Jenna laughed and pulled my hand, leading me through to the kitchen. Cole followed behind, grumbling.

  That was one of my earliest memories. I was only just three. We were all visiting the Lake District and had taken a long walk. We were told to keep drinking water because it was hot. Cole needed the toilet but refused to do it outside in case a bee stung his ‘winkie’. Bless him he had to walk back commando in my white shorts – the only spare clothing we had.

  Mia sat at the kitchen counter, staring at her laptop.

  “Hey, Mia,” I called.

  She jumped up and off the seat, pulling me into a tight hug. “How are you?”

  “I’m good. ” And I was. Well, certainly doing a lot better since Dad had been found guilty. They believed me and not him. Whatever the sentence was, I would always have that. “What are you up to?” I sat down beside her.

  “Looking for a place. I want a two-bedroom flat with a nice big garden for Leona to play. ”

  “Where is Leona?”

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  Mia smiled. “It’s Chris’ weekend again so she’ll be driving him up the wall instead of me. ”

  “Do you and Chris get along more now?”

  She shrugged. “Most of the time. We’re arguing at the minute because he wants to introduce his new girlfriend to Leona, but I refused. This is the third one this year, and it’s not been that long. I don’t want random women walking in and out of Leona’s life. ”

  I nodded. That sounded reasonable. Mia didn’t have men coming and going so Chris shouldn’t have women. It would only be upsetting to Leona if she got attached to whoever the woman was and then they broke up. “What did he say?”

  “He didn’t look that happy when I said no, but he’s agreed to wait. I don’t care if he’s happy about it or not to be honest. ”

  “You don’t think he would just do it anyway?”

  “No. He wouldn’t do anything that could hurt Leona. We agreed that she wouldn’t meet anyone either of us is dating until we’ve been with them for at least six months. Oh look, this one is nice. ” She pointed to a semi-detached bungalow. It was quaint and pretty with cream-rendered walls and colourful flowers hanging in baskets.

  I grabbed her mobile from the counter and handed it to her. “Call the estate agent. ”

  Jenna gasped. “You found somewhere?” She rushed over to look at the pictures. “Oh, good. It’s not too far. Closer to me than your house, Cole. ”

  “Cut the cord, Mother,” he replied. His arms wound around my waist, and his chin rested on my shoulder as he took a peak at the house on Mia’s laptop.

  I snuggled back against his chest and smiled. Should I love him as much as I did? It was overwhelming sometimes. How I managed four years not seeing or touching him, I didn’t know.

  “Oh, shut up. ” Jenna slapped his arm and turned her attention back to the laptop. “It’s gorgeous, Mia. ”

  What would Jenna do when they had all moved out? She loved having a full house. I was sure they would visit a lot, and she would have Leona to sleep over whenever Mia would let her, but it wouldn’t be the same.

  “You alright?” Cole whispered against my neck. His breath tickled my skin, and I closed my eyes, gasping.

  “Yeah,” I mumbled. I felt his lips turn up in a smile against my skin. He knew the effect he had on me. “Are we painting the bedrooms soon?”

  I felt him shrug against my back. “If you want. ”

  “I do want. You need to decide what colour to do your study though. ” The fourth room upstairs was too small to be a bedroom, so it was going to be his study. I doubted he would use it much.

  “Light blue?” I didn’t know why he asked for my opinion so much. This was his place. He didn’t need me to agree on anything.

  “Light blue sounds good. We can pick some up bright and early in the morning. ”

  “There’s no way I’m leaving the house before ten. ” I’d learnt that early wall-painting sessions, or any painting sessions actually, were not something Cole enjoyed. In fact, they made him whine like a four-year-old. “There’s something I need to do first thing anyway. I’ll pick you up after. ”

  I frowned. “What do you need to do?”

  He shook his head and chuckled. “So nosey. It’s a surprise so you’ll have to wait. ”

  I looked at Jenna and Mia. “Do you two know?”

  Jenna grinned. “Nope. ”

  Liar. I let it go because I knew Cole wouldn’t tell me.

  “Fine. I can wait. ”

  Mum, Jasper, and Miles arrived twenty minutes later. Miles’ hand slid down Mum’s back as they walked into the kitchen, and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. She was letting him in, trusting him, and allowing herself to be happy again. About time!

  “Wine and beer in the fridge, red’s on the counter, help yourselves to whatever you like,” Jenna said, stirring something on the hob while playing with the t
imer on the oven.

  “Good day?” I asked Mum. Clearly a loaded question.

  She glared. “Yes, thank you. ”

  We sat in the living room to eat the home-cooked Chinese food. I loved lounging around at their house and chatting about nothing important. No one mentioned the sentencing tomorrow or Frank’s looming trial, and I was thankful for that. I just wanted to chill for the evening with friends, family, and the man I was crazy about.

  “So,” Cole said, resting his chin on my shoulder as we sat with my back to his chest on the soft carpet. “You know I love you, right?”

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  I frowned. “Yes…” Where was he going with this?

  “Good. ”

  “Good?” I repeated, and he nodded. “You’re strange. ”

  “Happy and in love actually. ”

  “So cheesy,” I teased, wrapping his arms around my waist.

  Cole spent the night, as usual, and I woke up to him sleeping next to me again. He rarely woke first. Reaching out, I gently stroked my fingers down his cheek. “Cole,” I whispered.

  He groaned. “No. ”

  I laughed. “We have to get up soon. We need to be at court in a couple hours. ”

  His eyes flicked open, and he rolled onto his side to face me. He looked wide awake now. I wish I was able to forget like him. From the second I opened my eyes I pictured Dad standing in that room, waiting to hear his fate.

  “How are you feeling about today?”

  What was I feeling? Too many things at once made it impossible to figure out what the main emotion was.

  “I’m not sure. I never thought I would be doing this. ”

  “You never should have had to. ”

  No, he was right, I shouldn’t, but paedophiles, murderers and rapists had families too. They didn’t always live alone. They didn’t have distinguishing features or a tattoo on their forehead. They could be anyone, in any seemingly normal house. They might be charming, loveable, and known and liked by everyone around them. And I was unfortunate that my father happened to be one of them.

  I smiled at Cole to acknowledge his words without having to reply, and got out of bed to get ready.

  Jasper opened the bathroom door just as I got to it. His face was sombre. “Hey,” he grumbled.

  “Hey. You alright?”

  “Nope. You?”

  “Nope. ”

  He leant against the door frame. “I hope he dies in prison. ”

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