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My name is Cali Montgomery, and this is my story. It was almost 3:08 P.M, just two minutes away from the end of the school day being over. The wind outside was blowing hot humid air into my English classroom. The walls in my class looked as if they were painted on with glue, just barley standing up. As I was packing up my things into my back pack, I got a notice to go straight to the office. I walked over, having a feeling in my stomach that this was not going to be a good visit. Looking down at the pavement on my way there, the cement was covered with old bubble gum and muddy shoe imprints. I knew what it was for. I had been planning for this moment for years now. But I did not know that it would go anything like this.
“Come in Cali,” Mrs. Perez, my school counselor in the 8th grade said. “Your English teacher has turned in this essay that you have written. Is there anything you would like to tell me?”
I just looked down at the floor.
“Cali, this is for your own safety. You did not write this for me, you wrote this as a cry for help. Let me help you.”
My eyes started to welt up and I started to choke because I could not talk. Was this actually happening to me? I wrote this essay because I wanted to be heard. This was my moment to say my truth.
“Cali, you do understand that by law, I must call the police, right?”
“Yes, Mrs.Perez, I understand.”
As the police walked into Mrs. Perez’s tiny little office, I knew the next few hours would be difficult. I saw my mom walk into the office right behind the police. She was crying so hard, and I didn’t understand why. My eyes were glued to the floor.
“Cali, I am going to ask you a few questions. Just answer them truthfully ok?” the police man said.
“Did your mother know about what was going on?
“Yes, she knew for a few months now. But she did the right thing; she told me I didn’t have to go back anymore.”
About an hour later, after my questioning was over for that day, I saw the police take my mom into the back of their police car.
I never felt more terrible in my life. I felt this was my fault. All I could do was walk with my head down. I did not pick my head up once for about three hours. My mom did the right thing, she did what she thought was right. How could I let myself tell the police that she knew this whole time? I felt so stupid. As my sister and I drove over in the back of the police car to my brother’s elementary school, everyone outside of school who were waiting for their parents were giving us looks. Some kids looked at us like we were cool, because they thought we did something bad. Others, some who were my best and closest friends, looked at me with sadness and despair, because they knew what had happened. As my brother got into the car, I could not even say hello or look him in the eye.
“I’m sorry Bret, please don’t hate me for this.”
“I don’t hate you Cali.” He knew what had happened too.
That was all I heard my brother say to me for months. After being put into a tiny room for almost 10 hours, my Grandparents finally came to get us. They said we would be staying with them until we were allowed to go back to my mom’s house.
After the first court hearing that Monday, we were allowed to go back and live with my mom. By that time, the word had spread. My friends were calling me, asking me to confirm if the rumors were true. All I could think about though was him.
The next few months were the worst months of my life. I literally felt that my world was coming to an end. All I could do was cry and eat. I would try to go to school, and begin crying so hard in the middle of class I would have to leave. The moment I walked in through the gates, people started talking.
“Is that the girl who…” I would hear people say when I walked past them. Not even my best friend could be there for me. Even people who did not know me were talking. No one understood me. No one saw what I was going through. No one saw what my life was like once I got home. The worst part is, even my family and the court did not understand me. It wasn’t what he did that hurt me; it was the words he said, and the truth that he denied.
Raul was the first social worker assigned to my case. He seemed really nice, and acted like he believed me. He had long black shaggy hair that was always oiled back, with lots of acne scars on his face.
“I’m sorry honey, but Raul has decided to hand our case to someone else,” my mom said.
Peter was the second social worker hired to handle my case. Two weeks into it, he too, quit. Finally, Rebecca came into the picture. Rebecca was the first social worker who believed me, and was strong enough to stand up against him, and write a report concluding that she believed my story. My attorney, Anne, who was appointed by the court, had told me I was making a bigger deal of this case than it really was. But Rebecca; she always took my side.
It was two days before the first mediation, and I was just mailed the court documents. I was ready to see harsh words from him, but I did not know that my entire family on his side also was interviewed. I never thought my family would do this to me, but they did.
His interview read:
Him: “Cali is a liar. Her mother has brain washed her to hate me. She is lying.”
That phrase, “Cali is a liar, was the most commonly used phrase throughout the entire document, from every single one of my family members.
That day at court, the mediation began. The room we were forced to sit in for hours was small and painted beige. It smelled like a doctor’s office, expect here, it was full of mentally sick people.
“Cali, are you willing to see him in a therapeutic setting?” asked the mediator.
“No, I am not,” I said. “I will not see him in therapy or with a monitor.” I did not look at anyone; I only starred at the wall.
Thankfully, my therapist Anita wrote a strong report saying how emotionally unstable I was. It was because of that report that I did not have to go see him with a monitor.
My head was filled different thoughts every two seconds. Some thoughts were dark black, and stayed that way for hours. Some were colorful, and some were a mix of both. My hair was never done anymore, my clothes never matched, and I would never smile. I had finally taken off my mask.
The second mediation day came. We were already one year into the court case. Anita was still writing strong reports for me, recommending that I should stay away from him. She kept telling me to take anti-depressants, but I wanted to overcome this by myself. The court was still trying to push me into seeing him. It was now, more than ever, that I realized that I had to dig my heels deep, and really find inner strength within myself. The room I was sitting in kept getting smaller and smaller and it was lunch break for the court. I hated lunch break. As I walked into the cafeteria, I would hear him say, “Hello Cali.” I just kept walking with my head down. The cafeteria was a place of comfort when I was there alone.
“Two coffee cakes, one hot chocolate, a chocolate chip cookie and a tootsie pop please.”
The cafeteria lady always looked at me as if I was a gigantic elephant.
Around five o clock, just as the court house was closing, we reached an agreement. He signed a plea bargain.
I started going back to school. I had missed nearly four months in a row, due to my horrible depression. Although Mrs.Perez notified my teachers of what was going on, none of them cared.
“Your never here anymore, Cali. Maybe one week you might show up to class for more than twenty minutes,” my history teacher Mr.Mustard said.
My English teacher, Mrs.Spivak, who turned in my essay, avoided any conversation or talking with me for the rest of the year. Finally, the end of the school year came, and I had one final last court date. This was it. This was the day the court would decide if I had to go back and live at his house, or if I could forever stay free of him. As I walked into my attorney’s office early that morning, she looked at me with a disappointed look.
“Cali, I am here to say what is best for you. And I believe that it is best for you to be with him.”
“No, Anne, you hare here to represent what I want, not what is best for me. That is what my therapist is for.”
“Fine, what do you want then?
“I want to never have to see him again.”
As I walked into the court room for the last time, I was ready to be fierce. The judge looked at my sister and I, (my brother was waved from having to appear).
“Cali, is there anything you would like to say before we proceed?” Judge Garfinkle asked.
“No your honor, my attorney is representing me.”
“Your honor, speaking on behalf of Cali, she requests that she keep the current conditions that she not have any visitation or therapy with him,” Anne said.
“Sir, where is your attorney today?”
“I’m defending myself your honor,” he said.
“Well then, please proceed to your closing statement.”
“I would just like to say that people can feel different things. Cali might feel what I did was wrong, but to me it was not.”
That was all he said. No apologies, no regrets, just denial and blame. The judge closed the case by saying I never again had to see or speak to him, along with a restraining order. As I walked out of that court room, I felt 100 pounds lighter. I felt God’s light shinning down upon me, I felt justice come inside my heart. I felt my world turn up again. I had risen above. I didn’t care anymore about the rumors going on in school, or that I was “the girl who…I didn’t care anymore about what people thought, all I cared about was that I, Cali Montgomery, made it through, and I won. Yes, I won.
Four years passed. I wrote him a letter.
I no longer need you to say you’re sorry. I have forgiven you. I forgive you so I can finally move on. I love you because you are part of me, but that is all. I am a victor, not a victim.