This post has subjects of a sensitive nature.
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“Are you sure you want to do this?”
I pulled my eyes away from the window and looked at my mum. She had a deep V in the middle of her forehead as she watched me intensely.
“Yes, mum. I have to do this.” I hadn’t been to the courthouse since the trial began. Today was the day the verdict came in and I felt like I had to be there for it.
“I hate these damn vultures.” Mum muttered fiercely under her breath.
I turned to look out the window, to see the vultures she was talking about. Standing outside the courthouse were hundreds of people, from reporters to protesters to supporters. The case had caught national attention and everyone had an opinion. The country was waiting impatiently for a verdict.
“That’s a lot of people.” I said as my heart began beating faster.
My mum noticed the change in my breathing and placed a hand on my shoulder to soothe me. “Cara, you don’t have to do this. We can turn the car around.”
I shook my head, “I have to do this. I have to hear the verdict myself.” It was important to me that I was in that court room when Noelle’s fate was decided.
My mum sighed, resigned to my decision. “At least, after today you can put this behind you. No matter what the verdict is, you can’t let it affect your future Cara.”
“I know.” I said as I cracked my knuckles. I always did that when I got nervous.
I took a deep breath and got out of the car. As we walked towards the courthouse, no one noticed us. I kept my head down and away from the camera’s. Just when I thought we were going to escape unscathed someone spotted me and said “Cara, Cara, I have a few questions for you.”And just like that I was suddenly blinded by camera flashes and I was surrounded by bodies. Reporters thrust microphones in my face and screamed questions at me.
“Do you think it was premeditated?”
“How did you feel when you found his body?”
“What verdict are you hoping for today?”
“Is there any truth to the defendants accusations?”
“Do you believe your husband was a rapist?”
The questions were hurled at me from every direction. Each question felt like a punch to the gut.
Suddenly I felt a hand wrap around my arm and I was forcefully dragged towards the courthouse and away from the vultures.
When I finally escaped the hell hole and entered the court building. I took in a deep breath and leaned against the wall for support.
“Are you okay?” the security guard who rescued me asked as he peered down at me. With his white beard and kind eyes, he reminded me of Santa Claus.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thank for rescuing me.”
“You’re the wife?” It was a question but he said it like a statement.
I nodded, waiting for what he would say next.
He studied me for a few minutes before he walked away.
The jury had begun deliberations late afternoon yesterday and they had continued it today. We got to the courthouse at 9am and the verdict didn’t come in till after 1pm.
The courtroom was packed. I could feel all eyes on me and I could hear the whispers swirling around me.
I knew what they were thinking. I had heard all the rumors and conspiracy theories about that night. There were so many speculations. My aunt Beatrice in her attempt to be “kind” emailed me every piece of information that was written about the case. In one of the latest clippings she sent, the author speculated that I was in on it. Apparently, it was too much of a ‘coincidence’ that I had taken sleeping pills that night. Another blog, claimed that I finished him off after Noelle ran away, because I was angry that he cheated on me.
They were right about one thing. I was angry that he cheated on me.
The operative word being “was.” When I played that recording and discovered that Cole had sleep with Aria in our home, the fury inside me was like a living being. I embraced the anger because I knew that if I let go of it, I wouldn’t survive the heartache and the darkness that would follow it.
Instead I enjoyed the anger, I welcomed it. I used it. I contacted Noelle and gave her the USB. I contacted my lawyer and started planning my divorce. I sent the recording to my mum and step-dad and let them know that I won’t be coming home anytime soon if Aria was around.
One good thing came of that though. My step-dad Paul finally realized that his precious daughter was an evil husband stealing snake and he cut her off.
When Cole left for work. I packed my bags, put it in the trunk of the car and left him a note letting him know that my lawyers would be in touch. I drove away confident that I was making the right decision but the further I got away from the house the more my anger faded. It was replaced by sheer panic. I had lived in a fog until I met Cole. His vibrancy, his liveliness , rubbed off on me. Being with him, being near him, made me happy. When I was around him, the blackness didn’t weigh me down. I didn’t feel shackled to an invisible weight that drained my energy and my desire to live.
I had been known as bubbly Cara, happy Cara, always up for an adventure Cara. It was all an act. Underneath that happy facade I was miserable. Most of my life, I had felt like I was drowning in a crowded pool. It felt like I was struggling for breath, struggling to stay afloat, while everyone around me looked on, oblivious to my struggle. Cole made me feel like I could swim. I didn’t have to pretend when I was around him. Cole understood me. He was the one who suggested we turn the spare bedroom into my art studio. He supported my dreams. He made me feel alive.
Yes, sometimes, the darkness encroached on my happiness. Sometimes, I felt like I was sinking in quicksand but when I was with Cole, that feeling never lasted long. The dark feelings never took root when I was around him.
As I drove away, I could feel the despair clawing at my chest. I didn’t know how to live without Cole. I didn’t want things to go back to the way they were before I met him. I didn’t want to feel that complete and utter hopelessness. So, I turned the car around and went back home. I unpacked my bags and tore up the note I left. When he got back from work, I told him that I knew he was cheating on me and I wanted us to go to counseling. I ignored Noelle’s calls and when she didn’t take the hint, I called her and let her know that I was staying with my husband.
Two weeks later I found him dead in our home.
Now here we were, waiting to hear the fate of the woman who had killed him. A side door opened and in walked Noelle escorted by a guard. She looked hollow, like a shadow of her former self. From the dejected look on her face, it was obvious that she did not expect to be found innocent. She had already resigned herself to her fate. I saw a woman seating in one of the front rows behind Noelle and her lawyer. The woman was crying quietly and I could only assume that she was Noelle’s mother. The people surrounding the woman looked just as miserable as Noelle.
The judge came in and banged his gavel and immediately silence descended on the courtroom. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I understand that you have reached a verdict. The clerk will read and record the verdict.”
All eyes turned to the clerk.
He cleared his throat and read. “In the state of Massachusetts vs. Noelle Keller, Verdict Count 1, we the jury, duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oath, do find the defendant as to Count 1 voluntary manslaughter, guilty.”
The courtroom erupted in chatter.The judge banged his gavel and after a few minutes, people finally quieted down.
Turning to the jurors, the clerk asked, “Is this your true verdict, so say you one and all.”
The jurors all replied ‘Yes’ and the chaos resumed as the courtroom erupted in loud voices. The woman who I assumed was Noelle’s mother was bawling. Her sobs racked her whole body.
Noelle didn’t move. She sat stock still as the news that she was going to spend the next 15 years of her life in prison sunk in.
Turning to my mum, I said, “Let’s go.”
She nodded and clinging to each other, we managed to navigate the room. The security guard who had helped me earlier spotted me and let me know that there was a side entrance that I could use.
Thanks to him, my mum and I were able to escape without any of the vultures spotting us.
My mum followed me back to my studio apartment. After the murder, I couldn’t live in the house I shared with Cole. The cleaning crew had done a marvelous job and you would never know that a man had bled to death on the carpet. But, every time I closed my eyes all I could see was blood.
So. much. blood.
I knew I was never going to be able to sleep in that house again. So, I packed my things and stayed with a friend until I found an apartment.
I took the first apartment I saw because I couldn’t stand spending another day with my friend Ella and seeing the pity in her eyes. I didn’t want sympathy, I just wanted to be left alone. But I lived in Boston and rent was expensive and good places at reasonable prices were hard to find.
“You should really think about moving.” My mum said when we walked into my apartment after escaping the aftermath of the verdict. “Why don’t you pull out your laptop and start looking at places online. I can make us something to eat while you do that.”
“I know what you’re trying to do mum.” I said as I rolled my eyes at her. She had the subtlety of a bull. She was scared that if she left me alone, I might fall down that dark hole again. She used every opportunity and found any reason to come over and check on me.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just want to spend time with my daughter after a difficult day.”
“I appreciate you being here for me today, but I’m fine. Really I am. The verdict is in. The case is closed. My husband, who cheated on me, is dead.” I said the last sentence in a flat voice.
My mum looked at me for a long moment before she sighed and said, “Call me if you need anything, okay?”
“I will.” I pulled her into a fierce hug that caught her by surprise but she soon hugged me back just as fiercely.
I fought the urge to burst into tears. I knew if she saw tears in my eyes she would never leave and I didn’t want her hovering.
“Thank you for everything mum. I love you.” I said when I finally pulled away.
She smiled at me and smoothed my hair, “I love you too, honey.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek before she left.
I had a view of the street from my window. I watched my mom get into the car. I watched until the car turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
When I was sure my mum was gone and wasn’t coming back under the pretense of ‘forgetting something” I went to my bathroom and got out the key that I hid in a much at the bottom of my make up bag. Then I pulled out a suitcase from under my bed and unlocked it. Inside that suitcase was a smaller carry on luggage which was also had a luggage lock. I used the second key to open it and inside the carry on was a large envelope.I had gone to extremes to hide it because I didn’t want my snooping mother to find it when she was alone in my apartment.
My hand shook as I reached in to take out the envelope. I hadn’t touched it in over a year. Touching the envelope brought back memories. Memories of things I had to force myself not to recall every day.
When I had woken up and discovered Cole’s body, my adrenaline kicked in and the only thing on my mind was saving husband. When the paramedics finally came, I knew from the looks on their faces that it was too late. Cole was dead. When that realization hit me, I went into a state of shock. The world stopped.
I couldn’t survive without Cole. I needed him. I didn’t want to need him. I hated myself for needing him. But I did.
When I had discovered that he was cheating on me with Aria in my art studio, he not only betrayed my trust, he took away a part from him that brought me peace. My art. My art room had been my happy place. Before Cole, my art was the only thing that made me get up in the morning. My mum had taken me from doctor to doctor. They all prescribed different drugs and all the drugs did was dull my senses.
My art was my drug of choice. My paintbrush, my pencils, my charcoal, my markers. They helped me create beautiful things and I loved the warmth that spread through my body when I finished a piece. It helped to keep the darkness at bay. By sleeping with Aria in my art room, Cole had violated my sanctuary. Art no longer held any appeal. Going through the last two years without art had been like a death sentence.
I stared at the envelope in my hand. Through the thin envelope I could feel the outline of the USB. The video in the USB vindicated Noelle.
My mind flashed back to the shell of a person I saw sitting in that courtroom. Noelle was the embodiment of what I felt inside. That bleakness that I tried to keep buried deep inside me was etched on her face.
The police had asked me if I had seen anything or heard anything. I said no and that was the truth. They questioned me tirelessly, wanting to know anything and everything and still the spy camera never crossed my min.
It was late at night, four days after his death, that I remembered the camera. I had installed it while we were in couples therapy because I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t violating the home we shared by bringing his whores over.
The morning after I remembered the camera, I left Ella’s apartment under the pretense of getting breakfast from the deli. Instead, I drove back to my house and retrieved the small security camera from its hiding spot inside the clock.
I didn’t call the police to tell them about it. I knew they would take it from me, they might have even accused me of hiding evidence. Handing it over meant that we would finally know what really happened and I wasn’t ready to watch the last moments of Cole’s life. It took 5 months to gather up the courage to watch it and what I saw made my stomach churn.
Noelle was telling the truth.
Cole had tried to rape her. It made me sick watching the man I loved forcing himself on a woman and all while I was upstairs in bed. I would never have guessed that Cole was capable of doing that. I didn’t tell anyone about the video. I was selfish. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had been blind to the fact that the man I married was a monster.
I swore to myself if Noelle was found guilty, I would release the video.
I didn’t believe in God, but everyday I hoped and prayed that she was found innocent. If she was, then no one would ever have to see the tape. I wouldn’t be known as the widow of a rapist.
But things didn’t go that way. Noelle was found guilty and now all I had to do was mail it and set her free.
I knew the backlash that was going to come my way once the truth got out was going to be scorching. I would be scorned. The world would turn on me. I would no longer be the widow of a man who was murdered. I would be the widow who had hidden evidence of her rapist husbands crime.
I felt disgust wash over me as the reality of what I did hit me. I had let an innocent woman rot in jail for over a year because of my own selfish wants.
Walking to my desk, I sat down and wrote a letter to Noelle. When I was done I stuffed it in the envelope and carefully wrote her parents address on the envelope.
Reaching into my desk drawer, I was annoyed when I realized that I didn’t have stamps. I didn’t want to go to the post office but now I had to. I wore a baseball hat and a huge hoodie. I definitely did not want to be recognized. I walked straight to the post office and avoided eye contact with everyone as I waited in line to mail the envelope.
I paid for overnight delivery and once the envelope was off my hands, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Once I recognized that what I was feeling was relief, my body tensed. I didn’t deserve to feel unburdened. And just like that, the despair was back in full force. It took everything I had to put one foot in front of the other and walk home when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball in a corner and block out the world.
Pretending to be okay for almost two years had taken a toll on me emotionally. Everyday, I had forced myself to get out off bed and played a part. I had to do it for my moms sake. If she sensed that I was slipping back into that dark place she would have been on the phone with Dr. Harris so quickly. I didn’t want to see any doctor. I didn’t want to take any more medication. The medication never really helped.
When I finally made it home, I went straight for the carry on, which was still opened in the middle of the room. In a small compartment were five seeds that I had purchased online from Asia.
Walking to my desk, I wrote another letter to my mum. It was important to me that she didn’t blame herself. I let her know that she did everything she could. I needed her to know that it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her burden. My issues were solely mine. I just couldn’t go on for another day.
When I finished writing the letter, I walked over to my bed and laid down in the middle. I wasn’t sure how many it would take but I wanted it to be over quickly so I swallowed all five seeds. I hoped it would be quick and painless.
Before I finally drifted into nothingness, my thoughts turned to Noelle. I hoped that she would be able to make a good life for herself and I prayed for her forgiveness, even though I didn’t think I deserved it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, or just needs someone to talk to, there are people who can help. You can find resources and immediate help at Half of Us, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.