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Nothing but the Truth
When she was younger, it was easy for Sarah to tell the truth. She knew it was the right thing to do. If there was a problem, her parents had always taught her honesty. But, back then she was supposed to tell her parents if she stole an extra cookie, or if she broke the antique vase in the living room. Now, at the age of fifteen, the situation was, by far, a different story. She was testifying for her brother on the supposed murder of his girlfriend, Caitlin. This time her parents wouldn’t approve of the truth. She was on her own against the people who had supported her most, including herself.
The courtroom wasn’t stuffy, but Sarah couldn’t breathe. She choked on the on the distasteful words that stuck in her throat. Her mother was sitting in the second row of wooden pews sobbing silently into a tissue. She leaned on the shoulder of her husband, but he was petrified and could not even lend her a smile. Jack, Sarah’s brother, wasn’t near them. He was sulking at the defense table in an orange jumpsuit.
Sarah was trembling in the witness seat. Her face was as pale as the ghostly walls that surrounded her. The clerk began walking in her direction, “Miss Johnson, Please raise your right hand,” He said. She did so slowly. Sarah knew what came next, and she thought about it for a moment. Then Sarah had decided that no matter what, she would not let the truth be silent. “Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
“I do,” she said, without missing a beat.
Jack’s lawyer, Jordan, began walking towards Sarah, with a delighted smirk smeared from ear to ear. He thought that everything was going as planned, and that Jack would soon be proven not guilty. But, he did not know the secret she was keeping.
They had been over the questions many times. She was supposed to answer everything he said innocently and politely. She knew only that Caitlin and Jack loved each other, and that they were happy together. There were no problems between the two of them. He would not have killed her.
“I’ve had enough of you!” Sarah heard the words that Jack had said loud, and clear. She heard Caitlin’s pleas echoing in the back of her mind as Jordan drew nearer. She flinched when he drew his hand out to swat a fly.
“Sarah Johnson, how are you acquainted with Jack Johnson?” Jordan asked her, staring at his papers and not her face.
“He is my brother,” she said quietly.
“Could you, please, state that louder for the record?” Jordan asked, firmly.
“He’s my brother,” Sarah uncontrollably shouted. Her cheeks blushed as Jordan looked at her, alarmed. He smoothly pushed his flat hand downward, motioning to her to stay calm.
“So, Miss Johnson, what was your brother’s relationship with Caitlin Reese?”
Sarah knew that this wouldn’t be difficult. All she needed to do was get through this as planned, “She was his girlfriend.”
Caitlin was one of Sarah’s closest friends. They were so much alike that even her brother noticed. They were interested in things that went beyond the present. Both girls were constantly making goals for the future. Caitlin aspired to be a columnist for the New York Times, while Sarah frequently dreamed about her future life as a musician. Sarah and Caitlin were persistent, and determined to never give up.
Caitlin had lived right on the other side of the neighborhood woods for six years. Of course, she was two years older and involved with her brother, but she still treated Sarah with as much respect as anyone else. Even when Jack would insult her for always being around, and “getting into their space”, Caitlin would reason with him to be nice and let her stay. That was the thing about her; she was nice. She was always humble in everything that she did. What had happened?
“Did your brother act unusual around the time of her death?” Jordan inquired, knowingly.
“No,” Sarah said, and she spoke the truth. There hadn’t been any strange behavior at all. Days went on as they normally did. Even though it was normal, Jack still had a temper, and he and Caitlin would fight over the silliest things. Although, when Jack was mad he meant it. Somewhere inside of him he kept a fire, it wasn’t always blazing, but the cinders were always glowing.
“So, Miss Johnson, do you think your brother would have been able to kill Caitlin?” Jordan said slyly.
“Objection!” shouted the district attorney. “This girl is not a medical expert. She doesn’t know the true physical abilities of her brother.”
“Mr. Byle,” the judge said to Jordan. “Please, rephrase.”
“Do you think your brother is a strong boy?” Jordan asked. Sarah could see her brother repositioning solely for this question.
“I think he is. He weight lifts.”
“Is your brother very aggressive?”
“He can get mad sometimes, but he is just like most other boys. He jokes around.” Sarah lied through her teeth. Jack would hit her sometimes if she got his goat, and he would yell knife shaped comments at her. Most brothers would only kid with their younger sisters, but Jack was often serious. Sarah knew when he was mad because he would bite his lip, widen his eyes, and breathe heavily.
“Did he ever injure you, Miss Johnson?”
“No.” Sarah had been hit, but she had never been hospitalized.
“Hmmm,” Jordan didn’t seem sincere; he was practiced, put together, and cocky, which didn’t make Sarah’s testimony any easier. “Had you ever heard of him injuring someone else?”
“Only in football.” A few people in the seats in front of her quietly snickered, but Sarah didn’t.
“Had you ever witnessed any violence, at all, between the victim and your brother?”
Sarah paused. Should she tell the court what she saw? She looked to her left to see the jury waiting in anticipation to hear what she had to say. They knew that Caitlin died with bruising all over. They knew that she had fallen down a flight of stairs. They did not know if it was an accident, or suicide, or murder. They also didn’t know the secret that was growing in Sarah’s throat. They knew what the lawyers had told them.
“Miss Johnson,” Jordan said, and this time he sounded worried. His perfection was unraveling.
“No,” she whispered. “No,” she stated louder before Jordan had the time to ask her again.
“Would you say that he loved her?” Jordan said, trying hard to forget the rigid last statement.
“Yes, I do think he did, if you trust my opinion on love.”
“Well, Miss Johnson, I believe that is it,” Jordan said reluctantly. Sarah could tell that he was not happy with the strange range of emotions she had displayed. Sarah couldn’t just let this go. She knew that the rest of her life would be spent regretting this decision if she didn’t tell.
“I have something to say.” Jordan’s face looked panicked as she spoke. “I witnessed it from the outdoor window.”
“Sarah, what are you doing?” Jordan whispered.
Jack’s bedroom window slammed at 1 AM on a Friday. Sarah’s eyelids popped open at the loud sound. Startled, she got out of bed to see what the commotion was. She saw Jacks shirt tail disappear into the trees. Sarah knew he must be sneaking out to see Caitlin. Even at this late hour they could always find a way to be together. She had a curious nature and couldn’t help but follow him there.
When she reached the house Jack was climbing in Caitlin’s second story window. Sarah didn’t see any cars in the driveway and figured Caitlin’s parents must be out of town. They often left her alone when they went on business trips together, and for some reason they always put great amounts of trust in Caitlin’s judgment.
Sarah tip-toed towards the window until it shut. Then she climbed up the fire emergency ladder outside Caitlin’s window and let her nose rest on the ledge to watch the two of them. She expected to see a scene of romance played out right before her eyes, but what she got was the opposite.
Jack took Caitlin’s wrists and held them like prison bars against her face. Sarah turned away and wouldn’t look at him.
“Hey!” he shouted. “I asked you a question. Why were you with him? Huh?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she cried. He let go of her wrists and slapped her across the face. The sharp smack resonated around the room. Sarah cringed at the soft whimpers that came from Caitlin’s throat.
“What about me? You didn’t think that I would find out!” A tear ran down Sarah’s cheek at the barbaric behavior of her own brother.
“I didn’t see him, Jack,” Caitlin denied. Her usually strong stance had broken down into a pair of fragile knees, and blurry eyes.
“Don’t lie!” Thud! Jack threw Caitlin against the wall. Her body hit it with tremendous force causing the bookshelves above her to collapse on her head. Sarah couldn’t watch this. She was disgusted. When Caitlin slowly emerged from the rubble she was relieved. Caitlin, now on her feet, tried to turn away from Jack. She didn’t want more cuts and bruises.
He threw her back to the ground. She didn’t want to stand back up. She was lying on the prickly cactus of a carpet as if it were cloud, until she felt his foot in her gut. She cringed, pulled her hands to her middle, and sobbed. The tears were daggers into her cheeks. Sarah didn’t know what was worse, Caitlin crying or the fiery punches flying through the air.
“Get out, now!” She yelled at him, walking towards the stairs to show him out.
“Oh, you’re telling me to leave. I’ve had enough of you!” Jack took her by the wrists, without looking in her eyes, and flung her down the stairs. Caitlin was gone.
Sarah caught herself just before she too tumbled down. She burst into silent tears, cautious not to let Jack hear her. He fell to his knees. The guilt had an instant affect on him like baking soda and vinegar. Through his salty tears he wrote an angry suicide note in her hand writing. He explained the destruction of her room and wrote that life had no meaning to her anymore when really life was still a fruit ready to be savored, and Jack had just taken that away.
At the witness stand Sarah was staring at her brother. His face was as white as a ghost and he looked back up at Sarah in horror. All of the feelings she had kept bottled up in her, were about to explode. The hate that she had felt for her brother was breaking the barriers that separated the siblings.
“Jack killed her,” she said. The whole courtroom erupted into astonished gasps, and disturbing sobs. Sarah’s mother wailed and Sarah’s father collapsed onto his knees in depressing anger. Sarah told the story for every witness to hear, and Jack was taken away.
Sarah had given the truth. There were those who begged for it, and those who despised it, and there was no balance to negotiate. It was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.