Four hours later, they pulled up outside the courthouse and slipped into the back entrance. It still remained imperative that the press were not to catch wind of anything until papers had been signed and everything was finalised. Even then, Stevie knew that she would be highly protective of that little girl and she was looking forward to just enjoying her all to herself for a little while.
“What are you smiling about?” Karen asked.
“Oh nothing, it’s nothing...”
As they made their way along the hallway towards the family courtroom, Brenda appeared out of the crowd and embraced them both. Dressed in a navy pant suit and with a leather case file tucked under her arm, Stevie suddenly felt very relieved that Brenda would be representing her.
“Are you ready to get yourself a baby, Stephanie?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be!”
Brenda led them through into the stalls of the courtroom and checked her watch.
“We should be up next,” she whispered to Stevie, who gulped nervously in response.
All three women watched curiously as the preceding case began to wrap up and the judge was about to deliver his ruling. His booming voice echoed around the dark wooden walls of the great room. Stevie could see the young woman’s shoulders shaking as she stood to hear the word of the judge.
His words were followed by the smacking of his gavel against the block and by a poignant howl that escaped the lungs of the poor young woman who had just lost her custody case. The sound sent shivers down Stevie’s spine and she gasped in horror for the poor woman.
Karen turned to Stevie and saw that she had turned a ghostly shade of white. Stevie could not tear her eyes away from the sight in front of her; the woman begged the judge to reconsider and when she became too hysterical, she was forcefully escorted out of the courtroom by security.
“The court calls the case of Ms Stephanie Nicks, represented by Brenda Collins, for the custody of ‘Baby A’,” the speaker announced.
Stevie took a deep breath and followed Brenda towards the counsel table to be sworn in.
“Permission to approach the bench,” Brenda asked of the judge, gaining his acceptance and handing over the custody file.
Brenda then turned to Stevie and gave her an encouraging smile.
The judge seemed to scrutinise every last detail of her file; the longer nothing was said, the more Stevie shook like a leaf. She could hear her own heartbeat thumping in her ears.
“Please state for the court, Ms Nicks, your motives behind your filing for the custody of ‘Baby A’.”
“Your Honour, there is nothing in this world that I want more, than to be a mother. When I first met the child, she had just been abandoned by her birth mother. She was alone in this world and I bonded with her instantly. I believe that I have so much to offer a child; she would always be the most important thing in my life and I would love and protect her as if she were my own.”
After she had begun, Stevie felt as if she could have talked for hours, but took Brenda’s little wink as her sign to stop talking before she began to waffle on and on.
“Thank you, Ms Nicks. Now, it’s my understanding that you are a music artist. Does your profession demand that you spend a lot of time away from home?”
“It has in the past, your Honour. But what is important to me now is to have a family, so I would be slowing down to devote more time to that life.”
When the judge seemed to have accepted her rationale, he redirected his attention back to her file.
All of a sudden, his brow furrowed and he looked at Stevie over his glasses that rested on the end of his nose.
“Am I correct in saying that you spent some time in rehab for an addiction to the class A drug ‘cocaine’, Ms Nicks?”
The breath hitched in her throat and she threw a glance at Brenda who willed her on.
Stevie knew she would have to tell the truth, there was no denying it.
“Yes, your Honour. But that was three years ago and I am a better person for it now,” Stevie rambled nervously, trying to defend herself somewhat.
The judge eyed her sceptically. A silence so profound had fallen over the courtroom that you could hear a pin drop.
“I also see here that in the year 1977, you underwent a voluntary abortion. Am I to believe that is correct also?”
Stevie’s heart stopped. She searched for the words.
“I… yes, your Honour, that is correct,” she said quietly, hanging her head in shame.
His interrogation was relentless.
Bit by bit, piece by piece, hope by hope, dream by dream… Stevie felt that baby girl slipping further and further out of her reach, and she was helpless to stop it.
The seconds rolled into minutes and before she knew it, twenty minutes had passed. Brenda fought her corner with great gumption, fending off the judge’s questions with practiced ease.
As they all felt the hearing draw to a close, judge handed the file to his clerk and asked both counsel and party to rise to deliver his ruling.
Stevie held her breath and felt her strength disappear all-together.
“Thank you for your time today, Ms Nicks. However, the court requires further investigation into this case. I am calling for another hearing to take place in exactly three weeks’ time. Court is adjourned.”
The judge’s words were spoken with finality. It almost felt as though the smacking of his gavel against the block was the driving of a stake through Stevie’s heart, crushing all of her dreams in one fell swoop.
Too shocked to even speak, Brenda wrapped her arm around Stevie’s waist and led her outside the courtroom where Karen was already waiting for them.
“Stephanie, are you alright honey?” Brenda asked worriedly.
Stevie could not even speak. Karen gave her a hug but still, she said nothing.
“Come on Stevie, we knew this would be difficult, didn’t we? This is just another little speed-bump in the process. Let’s just try to stay positive, hmm?”
Karen’s supportive words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and she looked over to Brenda in desperation.
“Are they always that ruthless?” Karen asked with a tut in disgust.
“It depends entirely on the case, I’m afraid,” Brenda replied, running a hand through her hair. “You know what? You guys should go home. Get some rest. Leave this to me…”
“What are you going to do?” Stevie suddenly piped up, her voice low and husky.
“I’m going to fix this.”
A/N: I hope you guys are still enjoying this! I have a busy few days coming up but hope to still upload a few updates between now and the end of the week!