“Do I have to call another twenty witnesses to say he's one of the happiest kids?” Peter asked. When Justice Brenner told him the teachers' evidence had certainly been damning, Peter fell on an old standard line – no one understood Dash like he did. “The picture painted here is totally inaccurate,” he said, his air of bemusement crawling on my skin. “They don't even know Dash.”
To my plea that Dash be ordered to undergo a psycho-educational assessment, Peter pulled Dash out of his hat. “I assure Your Lordship, Dash will not go to any psychological assessment,” Peter said, and those twelve words sunk us. Dash was thirteen now. Of course he wouldn't be forced to go. Brenner shifted in his seat. Then just move him, I begged, as Jamie pleaded the same with the judge. Move him and I will work with him. We can get an assessment later. Just give us time to start his healing. Let him live with a healthy family. Let him learn what unconditional love feels like. Don't let him lose this chance. Soon it will be too late. Give me custody. My family is committed to healing this damaged boy. I will hire any expert I have to, any counsellor, any tutor. I will take him anywhere. Please don't make me watch him simply fade away.
But Peter knew his judge. He knew his system. He pulled out his reliable trump card: If you shift him, Judge, he will run away. Oh, he won't. He won't. Don't believe them, I willed. But it sealed the deal. It was over. Brenner wasn't going to write another failed order. He wouldn't be our super parent. Brenner said he wouldn't go against what he had found at the trial – that Dash was happy at his dad's home and wanted to stay there – and he wanted to talk personally with Dash before he decided what he should do. Oh, God, I put my head in my hands. This is a child who lies like a corpse on the floor of his classroom! How much more can he take? Though Jamie remained the gentleman he is, I saw a look of disgust cross his face and then a kind of sad, muted resignation. How can this be happening, after those teachers sat there and said “potential suicide”?
I wanted to finally, after all these years, dissolve into a fit of screaming. I wanted to be mad and bad and to express the disbelief, outrage, and hysteria that I had so often felt sitting in these rooms, to break down for having to colour within the lines all these years and get nowhere. For having sat in front of a dozen judges who did nothing. For having to think of every solution and hand it to them on a silver platter for them to ignore. I wanted to let it all out and show them all what battling this maniac for my son in this hamstrung institution had done to me. I was in court when I should have been home with Mimi, the boys, and the husband I was neglecting. Instead I was here again, banging my head against this brick wall. How many chances have you people had to do something that helps this child? I wanted to shout, “I'm not the only one Dash is slipping away from. Peter is going to lose him, too!” But as I watched Peter grandstand, Justice Brenner demur and murmur, and Jamie struggle, I said nothing. I stayed in my seat, my face reddening from the effort of keeping my frustration inside me. Neither Jamie nor I did any shouting. I looked down at my palms, which showed red half-moons where my fingernails had pressed into them. I crumpled into my seat. Unable to vent my rage, I simply went numb.