“Don’t torture yourself by watching this. We know how it’s going to end.”
She turned to look at her grandfather in his living room in Chicago. She’d been staying with them for the summer months while investigations were going on in Los Angeles preparing for this trial. Best to get out of the spotlight, where she hated to be to begin with.
“I have to know the verdict,” she said.
“You know what it’s going to be,” her grandmother said. “We all know. There is way too much evidence.”
She was aware of that, but her sixteen-year-old mind couldn’t process that her life had changed forever only six months ago. That the life she knew had all been a sham and there would be no going back.
“I need to see it for myself. Mom doesn’t think it’s true. She thinks it’s all a lie.”
The camera zoomed in on her mother in the courtroom, a used-up tissue in her hand, Christian Dior sunglasses on her face. No, Amelia Carmichael would never believe her husband could do something like this.
“Your mother has been naive since the day she spoke her first word,” her grandmother said. “She’s always had her head in the clouds and you know it.”
She didn’t think she was anything like either of her parents. She wasn’t flighty and naive like her mother. She wasn’t a bullshitter and cutthroat like her father.
It was probably best she was with her grandparents now and would fight to stay if she could. Chicago was still a big city and she’d fit in, but with any luck no one would know who she was.
“I don’t understand how she couldn’t see what is right there,” she argued. “I know everyone is shielding me from it, but it’s not possible.”
There was no way she could avoid it. When her father was arrested around the first of the year and charged, he’d been released shortly after on bond, but once he tried to leave the country, he’d been locked up and the trial pushed forward.
It was difficult to go to school daily at the all-girls academy she attended. Everyone knew what was going on and plenty had no problem voicing their opinions.
She’d left the school shortly after and was home-schooled for the remainder of the year.
All those friends she had, they left her in a heartbeat. Just like her parents were trying to do when they were going to flee the country.
No, her mother wasn’t going with her father when he was caught. Or so she said. But she wouldn’t have been surprised if her mother ditched her soon after for them to escape together, leaving her anyway.
Those tears at night in her mother’s room, where she talked to herself and the words carried through the walls…yeah, she knew her mother planned on meeting up with her father again.
Her grandparents had been her rock, swooping in and pulling her back to their home. Her mother never fought it and she didn’t think her mother would if she asked to stay here permanently.
“There is no shielding her with it being such a high-profile case,” her grandfather said, shaking his head.
“They are coming in now,” her grandmother said.
The three of them held their breath as the judge was reading the verdict.
All she heard was the word “guilty” and she picked up the remote and shut it off. There were multiple counts against her father, but she knew enough. He’d be found guilty of them all. There was no way he couldn’t be.
She looked at her grandparents, the tears all dried up months ago.
“What am I going to do?” she asked.
“You’re staying with us. Your mother won’t fight it,” her grandfather said. “You know that.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“We can get you a new identity if you really want it?” Her grandfather looked at her grandmother. She’d brought it up before in passing. “We’ve talked to a few lawyers. Changing your name will help you move forward and you can start a fresh life here.”
She nodded her head yes. She wasn’t Alexa Violet Carmichael anymore. Today had to be the last day.
“I want to be Vivian Getman,” she said.
Her grandmother had always told her she looked exactly like her great-grandmother, Vivian, and she’d loved the name. Why not? Getman was her grandmother’s maiden name. It was a change but not something pulled out of the sky for her to try to remember either.
“Then that is who you’ll be,” her grandmother said, standing up and pulling her in for a hug. “And we’ll start calling you by that now. It’s a new life starting today, Vivian. Make the most of it.”