I’m all ready to go. Suit on, hair brushed, teeth cleaned, the works; my mum would’ve been proud. People are milling about outside. I can sense the tension; the excitement of a big day, like match day. I pace, backwards and forwards, waiting.
Eventually I hear the sound of a key in a lock; the scraping of metal on metal.
‘Ready?’ asks Mike.
I look in the mirror and smile my best smile, that smile I used to give Mum when I was a kid and she was angry at me. ‘Ready.’
I can see Dad from where I sit; he’s crying. The chair next to him is empty and I swallow hard, forcing my gaze down towards my feet.
‘You feeling okay?’ asks Mike.
I nod. ‘Just a bit queasy.’ Queasy – that word my mum always used.
‘It’ll be all right.’ Mike pats me on the shoulder and our handcuffs clink noisily, forcing my own arm up in the air. I can’t understand why he’s being so nice to me, then I realise that my face is wet and I’m crying.
I can’t stand up when they read out my name, my legs shake uncontrollably. Mike helps me. I remember back to when I was a kid and how I used to tell Mum there was a monster under my bed; she would let me stay up late, would sit and hold my hand. I pretend she’s holding my hand now, telling me it’ll be okay.
The judge’s voice is muffled, sounds far away. I can see through blurry eyes, a woman standing in the jury box, the piece of paper in her hands wobbling as she faces the court.
I rush out of there as soon as Mike has unlocked the handcuffs and find Dad standing outside, waiting for me. I feel my initial happiness melt away, feel my muscles tense as I look at him.
‘I know you killed her,’ he says.
I turn to walk away.
‘You’re a monster!’ he cries.
I don’t want it to take control, try to breathe deeply as Mum always said I should, but the anger courses through me like it did that day, taking possession of my arms, tightening my fists. I turn to face him, but all I can see is a blur of colour, a target for my rage, as she had been then.
I close my eyes and swallow. When I open them again, Dad is being pulled away. A camera is thrust in my face; a microphone is pointed at me.
‘How do you feel?’ they ask; a barrage of press. I take a deep breath and smile my best smile, that smile I used to give Mum when I was a kid and she was angry at me.