Sorry for the delay in posting. I know I promised to wrap up the story last week, but with one thing and another, I didn't get a chance.
However, it's almost finished! After today, there's one chapter left and then I'll be preparing for the 'official' digital and paperback release.
Thanks for joining me on this journey, and enjoy the final chapters.
Onto chapter 25...
Chapter Twenty-Five | Rhia
It’s two weeks before Sabrina and Piper are due to move in, and we’re finally getting a chance to decorate Piper’s room. I’ve cleared the guestroom out, sold what we don’t need, and put what we might need, someday, into storage.
Under Piper’s direction, the room is going to be painted in two shades of purple; lighter for the longer walls, darker for the shorter walls. It’s early on Saturday morning, so we can work all day, and me and Sabrina are in the bedroom prepping the walls and taping off the skirting boards, and electrical switches. The girls insisted they wanted to help too, but right now, their help consists mostly of keeping Diana, who seems unusually curious about what’s going on, out of the room.
From the floor, where she’s taping off the skirting boards, Sabrina gazes up at me and says, “As you’re taller, do you want to paint the top half and I’ll handle the bottom?”
“Sure,” I reply, making sure the ceiling, which I painted white last weekend, is masked off.
Once everything is masked off, we get started, and thanks to quick work, we’ve done the first coat by lunch. Sabrina has bought takeout from the restaurant, so she pulls that out of the fridge, and puts it in the oven to heat up. While the food is re-heating, I call the girls to wash up.
Sabrina is just making some side-salad when her phone rings. She frowns as she gazes at the screen. “It’s Mrs. Connolly, I hope everything is okay,” she says, as she answers the call from her lawyer.
I finish the side-salad and lay the table, while Sabrina speaks to her lawyer, and I wonder what Mrs. Connolly wants. It’s unusual for her to call on a weekend, and I hope that doesn’t mean something has gone wrong with the parental responsibility case.
The girls rush in while I’m setting the table, but don’t seem to notice Sabrina’s on the phone, as they race to the bathroom.
After a few minutes, Sabrina ends the call and turns to me with wide-eyes. “They want me to appear in court on Monday to give evidence against Elliot.”
“That’s weird. Parental responsibility cases hardly ever call on the parents to give evidence. Did Mrs. Connolly say why?”
“Yeah, because of Elliot. He’s hired some hot-shot lawyer to stop me apparently, and his lawyer thinks it’s necessary we’re both there, so I guess I’m going to court.”
“Do you want me to come with you? I’m sure I can get the time off from school if you need moral support?”
“Do you think you could?” Sabrina says, biting her bottom lip and wringing her hands. “I wouldn’t usually ask you to take time off work, but I think us going together would show the courts a united front, and that we’re both prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure Piper grows up with the best life possible.”
I put down the cutlery I was laying on the table, cross the room, and pull Sabrina into my arms. “Of course I can. You’re right, we should show the courts a united front, and I won’t let anyone say you’re not an amazing mother.”
“Thank you,” Sabrina replies, tilting her head up to press her lips to mine.
We eat lunch and then get back to decorating Piper’s room, but the afternoon is filled with unspoken tension as we both worry about how the court appearance will go on Monday. By evening, the second coat of paint is drying in Piper’s room and it’s almost ready for her and Sabrina to move in.
Sunday is spent putting the finishing touches to Piper’s room, including the array of posters Wilson that Sabrina bought for her, and soon everything is ready for next weekend. Me and Sabrina also take the time to clean out my room and make space in the closet and drawers for her.
Sabrina and Piper spend the night, like they do most nights now, even though they haven’t ‘officially’ moved in yet. After dinner, I call the principal, and ask for the following day off, apologizing for the short notice, and explaining an emergency situation has come up. Thankfully, the principal is understanding and says they’ll call a sub in for tomorrow’s gym classes.
“Everything will be fine tomorrow,” I say, pulling Sabrina into my arms, as we snuggle on the couch after the girls have gone to bed.
“I hope so, but you know what Elliot is like. He just will not let me be happy.”
“Well, he’ll just have to accept it. Because tomorrow, you and I are going to fight for your happiness.”
Sabrina tilts her head up to press her lips to mine, whispering, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I reply, then deepen the kiss.
Monday morning starts like most weekday mornings do, with me and Sabrina getting the girls ready for school. The difference is, instead of me dressing in my usual sweatpants and school-branded jersey, I dress in a business suit. Sabrina is dressed in a similar way, instead of the more casual clothes she wears for her job at the bakery.
When we come down for breakfast, both dressed in suits, the girls raise their eyebrows.
“What’s going on?” Piper asks.
“You look like you’re about to star in Men in Black,” Teagan teases.
Sabrina drops onto a seat next to Piper. “Actually, we have to go to court today. They want to see me about the parental responsibility case, and Rhia is coming to support me.”
Piper’s smile is instantly replaced by a frown. “What did dad do now? It’s because of him you have to go to court, right?”
I sit down beside Teagan, and Sabrina and I explain about the phone call Sabrina received, and our determination to present a united front and prove to the courts we’re committed to giving Piper the best life possible.
“I know you will because you’re the best Mom ever,” Piper tells Sabrina, wrapping her arms around her mom and kissing her cheek. Then she turns to me and says, “And you’re the best…”
She trails off, unsure what to classify me as, and we all laugh, the tension that had arisen from speaking about the court case evaporating.
I kiss Piper on the forehead and say, “I promised you the other day, I’ll do my best. Now come on, or you’ll both be late for school.”
Teagan and Piper finish their breakfasts and grab their school bags, as Sabrina reaches across the table and takes my hand. “Whatever did I do to deserve someone like you?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe ran across a sports field in heels and stole my heart!”
Sabrina giggles, and then we both get our things together. As there’s no way we will get both girls to their separate schools if we travel together, we agree that, I’ll take Teagan and Sabrina will take Piper, and we’ll meet at the courthouse.
As I drive Teagan to school, she turns to me and asks, “Piper’s dad won’t take Piper away, will he?”
“Not if I have anything to say about it. Sabrina is a great mom, and deserves to be happy.”
“I’m glad we met her, and that she makes you happy. It’s not far we lost Mom when I was a baby, but having Sabrina and Piper living with us makes things better. I like having a big family.”
When we stop at a traffic light, I take the chance to quickly squeeze Teagan’s hand. “I like having a big family too. And I know your mom would approve of Sabrina and Piper. I dreamed about her, you know, and she gave me and Sabrina her blessing.”
“I know. I dreamed about her too, and she told me.”
My eyes widen. “You dreamed about her too?”
“Yeah,” Teagan says, but I don’t get a chance to question her anymore, as we pull up outside the school, and Teagan jumps out of the car and races up the pathway to school.
With Teagan safely at school, I drive across the city to the courthouse, where Sabrina is waiting in the parking lot. On the other side of the lot, I see Elliot getting out of his car, and make a point to ignore him. Instead, I meet Sabrina as she’s getting out of her car, and pull her into my arms.
“Ignore him,” I say, kissing her lightly.
“Oh, I plan to,” Sabrina replies, then takes my hand, and together, our heads held high, we walk into the courthouse.
After signing in, we’re told to wait in the waiting room until a court secretary calls us in when our case will be heard. Unfortunately, that means we have to wait in the same room as Elliot, but luckily, he seems to have the sense not to approach us. I assume Elliot knows if he makes a scene in the court waiting room, he’ll lose any chance of winning his case, and instead they wait silently.
Eventually, we’re called into the courtroom for Sabrina to plead her case as to why she should be granted full parental responsibility for Piper, and Elliot should have no contact with his daughter until Sabrina either deems he’s changed his ways, or Piper turns eighteen and is able to make the decision for herself.
“Thank you for appearing before the court today, Ms. Thompson. I have read the reports written by both your lawyer, and Mr. Anderson’s lawyer, but I’d like to hear from both of you as to why you believe you should have sole parental responsibility for Piper, or in Mr. Anderson’s case, why he should still be a part of his daughter’s life. If you’d please state your case before the court.”
Sabrina cleared her throat and glanced back at me. I gave her what I hoped was a reassuring smile, and Sabrina turned back to the judge and began speaking. “Elliot left me when Piper was only eighteen months old. Since then, his involvement in her life has been irregular without any set schedule. He often breaks promises and backs out of pre-arranged meetings or visits at short notice. I put up with that until recently, thinking I was doing what was best for my daughter. But since her recent eleventh birthday, I’ve come to see Elliot’s involvement in Piper’s life does more damage than it does good. Piper has said as such herself.”
“What happened on Piper’s eleventh birthday that made you realize Elliot’s involvement in your daughter’s life did more harm than good, the judge asked.
As Sabrina gave her answer, I studied Elliot to gauge his reaction. He’s clearly suppressing his rage as Sabrina tells the judge about Elliot’s use of a homophobic slur against me, and then his subsequent complaint to the CPS.
Finally, Sabrina ends her speech by saying, “Rhia and I love each other, and are committed to raising both Piper and her daughter, Teagan, in the best way possible. In fact, we’re moving in with Rhia this coming weekend. Not only is Rhia a source of support and encouragement to me, who has inspired me to make my life better, but she’s doing all she can to be a positive influence in Piper’s life. Additionally, she and Teagan are inseparable. We’re going all we can to provide a good life for the girls, but Elliot has only ever shown an interest in Piper when it suited him. He always prioritizes his new wife, Scarlet, over Piper. As you can see, Scarlet isn’t even here today, but Rhia insisted on accompanying me so we could present a united front.”
At this point, Elliot couldn’t keep his temper in check and stormed to the front of the court where Sabrina was standing. Instead of waiting his turn to give his case, he interrupted Sabrina, raging, “You’re just jealous that Scarlet is a better wife than you ever was, and that you’re so bad at keeping a man, you’ve been forced to shack up with that dyke back there.”
I don’t know if it was Elliot’s interruption, his use of the word dyke, again, or both, but it was enough to tip the case completely in Sabrina’s favor.
“Please be seated, Mr. Anderson,” the judge began in a clipped voice. “Typically, I don’t agree with limiting either parents’ relationship with their child, as I believe every child deserves to have both parents in their life. However, in light of your outburst, it’s clear Ms. Thompson’s claim that your influence in Piper’s life does more harm than good, is completely valid. Therefore, I grant Ms. Thompson full parental responsibility of Piper until either she reaches eighteen and can decide for herself that she wants a relationship with you. Or until you can prove to the court, with the appropriate professional documentation, that your behavior and lifestyle have changed so that your influence in life is no longer detrimental to her emotional well-being.”
Before the judge had even finished, Elliot stormed from the courtroom. I quickly left my seat to come to Sabrina’s side, wrapping my arms around her. As the judge finishes his decree, she sighs against my chest.
“It’s what I wanted, and I know it’s best for Piper, but I still hoped Elliot would prove me wrong, and show he could be a decent father.”
“I’m sorry he’s not capable of doing that. Maybe this will be the kick up the butt he needs.”
As we leave the courtroom, Sabrina shrugs. “He’s been failing her for eleven years, I don’t see that changing soon.”
“No, maybe not. But you and Piper have me now, and I know it’s not the same as her having her biological father in her life, but I promise I’ll do everything in my power to be a good parent to her, and a good partner to you.”
“I know, and I love you for it,” Sabrina says, then rises up on her tiptoes to press her lips to mine.