Love on Trial

Chapter 6

I didn’t get a wink of sleep Thursday night. Between the anxiety of competing in the mock trial, and the excitement of getting a new car, I tossed and turned all night. I would lay awake for what I thought was and hour; but when I would look at the clock, only ten minutes would have passed by.

Dad had taken me to a men’s clothing store at the mall a week ago to get a suit for the event. It was a blue, three-piece suit. It was the first suit I had ever owned that had a vest. My father said it was important for me to look professional.

“Mom,” I whined as I entered the kitchen. “Can you help me put on my tie.”

She turned and smiled. “Well look at my little boy,” she said admiringly.

“I’m not a little boy anymore,” I responded.

“Of course, not.” She walked over and started helping me with the tie. “You may live to be a hundred, but you’ll always be my little boy.” She leaned in and kissed me on my forehead.

My parents became upset when I didn’t eat any breakfast. I was able to drink a small glass of orange juice. With the butterflies flying around inside my stomach, I was afraid I‘d throw up anything I ate.

I drove my new car to school. Do you have any idea how a kid with his first new car feels the first time he drives it alone? I kept rubbing my hand over the dashboard, making sure there was no dust on it. I spent most of the time adjusting the stereo. I had to make sure it was set just right. I like a lot of bass. It has a factory stereo, which means it is a piece of crap. I plan to get a job soon, so I can afford to put a new system in. Maybe I’ll also put new rims on it.

I pulled in behind Jason and Stephanie. His mouth dropped when he looked over and saw me waving at him when we parked. He jumped out of his car and circled mine.

“Don’t tell me this is yours?” he shouted excitely as I got out.

“Yep,” I grinned. “All mine.”

“Why did your folks get it for you?”

“They think I’m a wonderful son,” I said jokingly.

“My parents think I’m wonderful too,” he frowned, “but all they got me was this piece of shit.” He pointed over to his older model car.

“Then I guess I’m a more wonderfuller son,” I laughed. He frowned and walked away with Stephanie clutching his arm tightly.

I was surprised when the principal, Mrs. Cox, wished the mock trial team good luck in our competition. She gave the students some background on what we would be doing. I blushed when she read the list of students who would be performing. It was strange to hear my name being said over the PA system. Usually, she would give praise to the football or basketball team.

We were to meet Mr. Anderson outside the school at nine. The competition would begin at ten. I couldn’t believe it when a white stretch limousine pulled into the front of the building. Mr. Anderson jumped out of the back with a big grin.

“You kids ready?” he asked.

“Holy Shit!” Jason shouted excitedly as he jumped in the back of the limo. Stephanie climbed in behind him. An image of them having sex in the back flashed through my head. I quickly put the thought of my mind.

We were like kids in a candy shop sitting in the limo. I had never seen anything so lavish in my life. Mr. Anderson explained that he rents it out when he wants to make a grand entrance at the courtroom- especially if news cameras are around. Jason had to mess with every button in the back. When he found the one to the sunroof, he stood, stuck his head out and waved to people passing by.

When we arrive at the courthouse, we had to register and fill out some forms. We were told to wait until we were called.

Twenty-two schools would be competing. There were four courtrooms available. The competition was expected to last all day, and most of the trials were expected to be at least and hour and a half.

Shortly before ten, they called the advisors into a room to give them their assignments. My palms were wet with perspiration. I don’t think I had ever felt so nervous. I looked at Jason and he seemed to be in worse shape than me. Stephanie kept trying to kiss him, but he would turn his head away. I was glad that Cynthia was sitting beside me. She noticed my nervousness and tried to keep me calm by talking to me.

The door opened and Mrs. Mason walked over to us. She looked over at me sadly. I knew what that look meant. “We will compete against Madison High at 2:00,” she said. She looked over at Jason and smiled. “We’ll be acting on behalf of the defendant.” Mr. Anderson walked over and rubbed my back.

I was devastated. I had spent the past month preparing endlessly for the event. I knew there was a fifty-fifty chance that I would get a chance to compete; but it still hurt when I was told I wouldn’t.

“Good Luck, Jason.” I walked over and extended my hand. “You’ll do really well.”

“I’m sorry, Tay,” he replied sadly. “I was really hoping it would be you.”

“Nonsense, Jason,” huffed Stephanie, giving me a smug look. “You worked hard for this. You deserve it.” As if to put salt on the wound, she leaned in and gave him a prolonged kiss. She then looked at me and grinned.

Cynthia walked up and pulled me away. “I hate that bitch,” she muttered angrily. I started chuckling. It was the second time she had cussed, and both times it was directed at Stephanie.

We were told that we were free to leave until our scheduled time. They suggested that students who were going to participate should not watch other performances because it might influence their own.

So once again, Mr. Anderson led us to the limousine. He instructed the driver to take him back to his office.

I’m really not sure you could call it an office. It was more like a palace. He belonged to a very prestigious firm, and they leased the top floor of the largest building in town. I suddenly stopped when we got off the elevator at the 18th floor.

I looked out at shiny marble floors and beautifully textured walls. It looked like a picture in my world history book of a Greek palace. Mr. Anderson showed us around and introduced us to several people. It was obvious that he was well respected by the way people addressed him.

His office was decorated in the same lavish style as the rest of the floor. One wall contained a mahogany bookshelf filled with reference books. He had a large, ornate desk in the middle of the room with two brown leather chairs positioned in front of it.

He had us sit at a huge mahogany table with wing back chairs. I felt dwarfed by the size of them. He sat judiciously at the head of the table and smiled at us. Jason was sitting across from me with an utter look of amazement.

“Not too bad for a fag, huh?” I thought to myself as I looked at the expression on his face.

“Are you hungry?” he asked us. I looked at my watch, and it was almost noon. With all the excitement going on, I had forgotten about eating anything. Surprisingly, I was hungry. I guess knowing that I wouldn’t be competing gave me back my appetite. Mr. Anderson picked up the phone and told the person on the other end that we were ready.

Within minutes, several people entered with eight pizzas from a nearby restaurant. We were also provided with soda and potato chips. I thought Jason would probably not be hungry, but he devoured one of the pizzas by himself. Stephanie would glare at me each time I would look over at him.

After we finished eating, Mr. Anderson stood and asked to speak to me alone. I followed him out of the room while everyone watched. Once outside, he put his hand on my back and ushered me down the hall to another room that looked very similar to his office.

“Are you all right, Taylor?” he asked worriedly. “You put in so much effort on this. I was really hoping you’d get to represent the plaintiff.”

“Yes, Sir,” I said honestly. “I’m glad Jason gets the chance. I’ll be all right.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re taking this so well.” He walked over, sat down in a chair and motioned for me to sit.

“I’ve grown very fond of you,” he said. “You’ve become like a son to me the past month.”

“Thank you, Sir.,” I replied.

He started laughing. “You never will call me Bernie, will you?”

“Probably not, Sir,” I quipped back.

“I don’t want today to be the last time I see you,” he said sincerely.

“It won’t be, Sir,” I grinned. I knew I was beginning to annoy him by saying ‘Sir.’

He rose, walked over and held out his arms to me. I got up and gave him a hug. “Anytime you need someone to talk to,” he assured me, “you call me or Thomas.”

“I will, Si..” He stepped back and frowned. I started laughing. “I will, Bernie.” He pulled me into another hug.

We left Bernie’s office at 1:30 for the ride in the limo back to the courthouse. This time Jason didn’t hang out the top like he had earlier. I kept looking over at him. I had known him all my life, and I could tell he was very nervous about competing in a half hour.

Stephanie kept trying to console him, but he would look out the window and try to ignore her. One time he did it, and she looked at me and I smirked. She may be his girlfriend, but as his best friend, even I knew when to leave him alone.

When we got back, Mrs. Mason went to one of the officials, and she was told that we would be performing in Courtroom 4. On the way to the courtroom, I saw my mother and father approaching. I knew they would be disappointed when they found out I wouldn’t be competing.

“Hey, Champ,” said my father as he pulled me into a hug. He saw Bernie and extended his hand.

“Bernie,” he said. “Good to see you here helping Taylor.”

“I’m not competing, Dad,” I blurted out. He looked at me with a sad expression.

“But you’ve trained so hard for this,” responded my mother who was standing by my side. She reached out and held my hand.

“Only one side can participate,” informed Bernie, “and it’s the defense. Jason will be defending the case.”

“What will Taylor do?” asked my mother.

“Unfortunately,” explained Bernie, “he’ll just be an observer.”

“Good,” I heard Stephanie say sarcastically. I’m not sure anyone else heard her, but it angered me. If so many people had not been around, I probably would have retaliated with some angry words.

Bernie explained to my parents how the mock trial system worked. I had mentioned it to them, but because of the intense preparation, I was sure I would be able to compete. It really hadn’t entered my mind that I would just sit back and watch Jason, Stephanie and Chris perform.

We went into the courtroom and sat behind the defense table. Because we were members of the team, we were permitted to sit in the front row. I was sitting directly behind Jason. I could tell he was nervous because he kept fidgeting in his chair. At one point, Bernie got up and talked to him quietly. Jason seemed to calm down after that.

The judge entered and the competition began. There were several people sitting around the courtroom that would judge the various participants. Each member would be judged separately, and then the team as a whole. The school with the highest tally would win.

Jason’s role would be the one that would be judged more intensively. He would receive points for his opening and closing statements, his questioning and cross-examination of witnesses, his understanding of the law and his spontaneity.

Witnesses, who for our team would be Stephanie and Chris, would be judged on their characterizations, preparation and spontaneity. Then as a team, they would be judged on their courtroom decorum and presentation. It was important that all three perform well.

Ordinarily, I would have been rooting that Stephanie would trip and fall while getting on the witness stand, but I knew it would hurt Jason’s performance. Even though I wasn’t able to compete, I was silently hoping that he would win the overall performance award.

My heart started pounding when the judge hit his gavel on the bench, calling the court to order. Like in a real trial, Jason began with his opening statement. He stood, cleared his throat and then walked over to the students who were acting as jurors.

All eyes were on him as he began explaining how the White Star Line could not be held liable for damages to Mr. Hans Jensen because he himself had been the contributing factor of his own death.

He went on to explain how Mr. Jensen had, in fact, been given an opportunity to leave the sinking ship. However, he had taken it upon himself to help the crew control the panicking passengers. Jason told the jury that he would be introducing witnesses to back up his claims.

I watched as he paraded confidently in front of the jury box. The jury was listening intently to everything he said. They seemed to hang on his every word. I knew he was scoring big with the judges for his performance. I looked over at Bernie and saw a smile on his face.

When he finished, Jason walked back to his seat. Before sitting, he looked at me and smiled. I gave him a thumbs’ up, letting him know he had done well. He smiled and nodded.

The plaintiff’s attorney seemed nervous. She stumbled over her words a few times, and at one point, she had to go back to her table and look at her notes. It was disappointed because I knew that I could have done a much better job had I been able to participate.

Jason called Chris as a witness. He was the lieutenant who had insisted that Jensen get on the boat and not assist his staff. He did a good job, but he mispronounced a few names. I knew he would be deducted points for his mistakes.

When he called Stephanie to the stand, she walked past him and touched his hand briefly. I knew that her action would be a big deduction because it would appear that the attorney and witness were romantically linked. It would also give the appearance of her being a prejudiced witness. I knew she was just trying to reassure Jason, but to the jury and judges it would not appear that way.

During her performance, she seemed to be flirting with Jason. This again, did not bode well for our team. She had completely fallen out of character. She was supposed to be a witness on the ship who had overheard the conversation between Jensen and the lieutenant, but she was doing everything she could to make Jason look good. Several times she even left the script and ad-libbed some lines. I looked over at Bernie and he just shook his head.

Under cross-examination, she became upset anytime the plaintiff’s attorney would say something negative about the defense attorney. It didn’t take long for the student to capitalize on her behavior. When she finished asking questions, Stepanie stormed off the witness stand to her seat.

I had a feeling that no matter how good Jason’s performance was, Stephanie’s had resulted in major point deductions that would cause us to lose the competition.

I watched with pride as Jason gave his closing arguments. Again, his performance was spectacular and flawless. He managed to capitalize on several mistakes his opponents had made in presenting their case. He would receive high points for spontaneity. When he walked back to his seat, he stood and looked down at me with a big smile. I smiled back admiringly.

After the plaintiff’s attorney gave her closing argument, the jury was ushered into a side room to deliberate the case. They were given only twenty minutes to reach a verdict.

When they announced their decision, we rose and cheered. They had found in favor of the defense. Jason turned around and gave me a big hug. Stephanie rushed up, grabbed him and gave me a scornful look. She then gave him a kiss in front of everyone in the courtroom.

Since we were the one of the last schools on the schedule, we didn’t have to wait long to find out the results. Mrs. Mason attended an adviser’s meeting in one of the courtrooms. She emerged fifteen minutes later with a frown on her face.

She took us down the hall and showed us the results. We had placed ninth on the list. Jason, however, had come in second for defense attorneys, and Chris had placed fifth as a witness. Stephanie’s performance had earned her thirty eighth place. We would have done well as a team had she not participated.

She started crying when she saw her score. Jason took her down the hall and tried to comfort her. I watched as he pulled her into a hug and held her. Bernie saw the sad look on my face as I stood and watched. He grabbed my arm and led me away.

“You all right?” he asked worriedly.

“It’s just stupid,” I replied sadly. “Here he does really well, and we should be congratulating him. Instead, he has to be over there comforting her because she screwed up.”

“Someone sounds jealous,” Bernie laughed.

“I guess I am,” I admitted. “Is my whole life going to be like this? Will I always love someone from afar?”

Bernie grabbed me and turned me so that I was looking into his eyes. “You’re a wonderful young man. Someday Mr. Right is going to come riding in on a white steed and sweep you off your feet.”

“With my luck,” I said sadly, “he’ll probably be on an old mule carrying a shovel.”

“Taylor!” Jason shouted from down the hall where he was talking to Chris. I walked slowly over to them.

“Chris is having a party tonight,” he said excitedly. “The rents are gone for the night!”

“I’m not much in the mood for a party,” I responded.

“Come on, Taylor,” he whimpered. “It won’t be the same without you. We prepared like a team, now we have to party like one.”

I turned to Chris and asked, “What time?”

“Eight,” he replied.

“Yes!” Jason shouted. He turned and ran down the hall, putting his arm around Stephanie as he led her to the limousine for the trip back to school.

“Just great,” I thought. “Now I get to spend an evening watching him and Stephanie make out.”