Ben yanked at the knot of his tie and thought about puking. He’d never been so scared of anything as he was of this. He swallowed hard, but that didn’t make it any better. He’d been fine, holding it together, right up until the judge walked into the room.
She was an old woman with the kind of expression he might see on Mrs. D. If that weren’t bad enough, her black, judge- type robes billowed around her like bat wings as she strode across the room, and climbed up on that pedestal seat thingy judges sit on.
It was kind of like a throne, that seat. The thought of someone like Mrs. D. sitting there like a queen, with the right to decide the rest of his life, gave Ben the willies.
She kind of messed around with stuff – her robes, and papers, stuff the secretary guy handed her – while everyone stood there. He didn’t know why they were all standing, just that some guy by the door said they had to.
“You may be seated,” the judge said at last.
Mom sat next to him on the bench seat. She took his hand and gave it a squeeze. Dad and his lawyer sat behind the other table and looked at him like there was something wrong with holding his mother’s hand.
For a minute Ben considered letting go. Then he changed his mind. He liked holding Mom’s hand. So what if Dad didn’t like it? The worst thing he could do was take him from Mom and put him in the crazy house, and he was going to try to do that no matter what Ben did.
Mom didn’t have a lawyer. At least, there wasn’t one with them, though he knew she’d been talking to one for a long time now. She kept looking at the door as if she expected someone to come through it any minute, but it might have only been Drew she was looking for.
“Nervous?” The judge said, speaking directly to Ben.
He swallowed hard, then nodded. If he tried to talk now, his voice would squeak, which would be really embarrassing.
“Don’t be. We’re here to see to YOUR best interest today. I’ll be sure to let you have a say in the matter.” When she smiled like that she looked at lot more like his principal than like Mrs. D.
“Thank you,” he managed to croak.
“The case before me is a custody hearing. The plaintiff, that would be Robert Hammacker, has requested full and exclusive custody of Ben Hammacker, currently residing with his mother Suzan Hammacker. Is this correct?”
Everyone said it was.
“Please tell me briefly, in your own words, Mr. Hammacker, why you feel it is necessary to bring the custody of your child into court for the third time?”
“The first time was part of the divorce.”
“Yes, I’m aware.” The judge glanced at the papers on her desk thingy.
“The second time was because the divorce settlement wasn’t fair at all. I didn’t have a good lawyer then.” Dad put his chin out, but the judged didn’t know to call him on it. “This time it’s because his mother is endangering his life.”
What? Mom was endangering his life? Hardly! But the judge looked like she believed him. She leaned back and moved some papers around, her mouth all tight, and all of a sudden Ben was deathly afraid she’d make a snap decision that he would regret for the rest of his life.
“I object!” Ben jumped to his feet. He didn’t mean to shout something so stupid, but it was the first thing to come to mind. And now everyone was staring at him and he had to say something. “Dad doesn’t want me at all! He’s planning on sending me to Mendota as soon as he gets full custody. I know, because I heard him say it to Mrs. D.”
(to be continued, of course)
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