I reach the other end of the hall by the time the door to the office clicks closed. He doesn’t come after me. And I don’t wait for the impossible to happen. I get in the car and ask Kenneth to drop me off at a motel close to the jail.
The day is already drifting away, the moon starting a slow slide into the sky. My call to Ruby goes unanswered, and there’s no reply to my text: I need you. Sitting in a dark room, my hope begins unraveling like my sanity as I try to remember the night of the accident.
Making love in the afternoon.
Trevor trying to ruin the party.
My birthday gifts.
Joshua—dark blue suit. Soulful eyes. Kindest heart. I love you’s shared in the middle of the night. That smile . . . the smirk that he still used when he wanted his way. He got it, every single time.
Staring at photos of us on my phone does nothing to remind me of that night. Did I not take pictures? Not share anything on social media?
Just after nine, my phone buzzes on the pillow next to my head. I sit up when I see who’s calling, frantically answering through my sobs, “Ruby, I need your help.”
That’s all it takes to have her coming to my aid. She’s here before midnight, making calls that all go to voicemail but making the effort anyway. Comforting me the best she can, she tries to help me remember, but nothing works. “The kidnapping is a bogus charge,” she says, lying next to me on the bed. “He wasn’t drunk. They’re not going to drop reckless unless you remember otherwise.”
“But reckless is minor compared to the other charges.”
“And you don’t know who his attorney is?”
“No.” I feel sick that he doesn’t have someone defending him who has Joshua’s best interest in mind. He’s another case. Another number. Just another . . . Not to me. He’s my everything.
She turns to me, holding my hand. “We’ll go tomorrow. I’ll take the stand as a witness, and we’ll get the charges reduced. He’ll probably get probation, but that will be a win.”
I try to find reassurance in her words, in her commitment that this will work, but doubt has a vise grip on my stomach as all the what-ifs play through my head. “If he gets probation, he’ll be free, and I get him.”
“I hope all that happens for both of you.” Her gaze falls to her lap. “I’m sorry I misjudged him like the guys I’ve dated. I know he’s different. I just wish I could make it better for you, but I believe in my heart that everything will work out how it’s supposed to.”
Daylight sneaks through the musty drapes, waking me. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but my body aches as much as my head, my eyes swollen from crying and chest heavy with the fate of Joshua today.
Ruby is already dressed when I get up. She says, “Thought you could use the sleep.”
“What? No!” I check the time. “Oh my God, Ruby. We have to go.” I refuse to let him go through this alone. I’ll stand by his side today and every day after.
At the courthouse, we check in, nervously waiting in the courtroom for him to be brought in. I keep looking around, expecting to see at least one familiar face if not three. “Why isn’t Patty here? Or Todd or Bryant?”
She side hugs me as we wait in the room full of strangers.
I’m not sure how much time passes, but I finally stand between cases. “Something’s wrong. I can feel it. I want to check the docket.” She follows me out, and we find it hanging on the wall. Running my finger down the paper, it stops when I find his name . . . scratched out. “That’s not right.” I hurry to a nearby desk, and ask, “My boyfriend’s name is scratched out? On the docket? There’s a line through his name?”
I don’t even know what I’m asking, but she seems to understand. “Yes, some cases were heard earlier this morning.” She smiles. “The judge’s wife is having a baby today.”
“Yes, she is.” She nods politely. “It’s a scheduled delivery.”
Tapping her desk, I lose my patience. “No, I mean, what happened to him, to my boyfriend. Joshua Evans.”
She starts typing, staring at the computer screen. “It’s a matter of public record. He pleaded guilty.”
“But he’s not. I’ve been here, waiting. I’m a witness. Ruby’s here as a witness as well. He’s not guilty.”
The shrug she gives isn’t cruel, but it feels as hopeless as I do. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you. The plea was entered on record.”
That’s what is wrong, what I felt deep inside. Clamping my eyes closed, I can see him so clearly in my mind. Why would he do this? Why would he confess to something he didn’t do?