Court reconvenes in thirty minutes. The judge has promised a decision at that time, so we wait.
Jason is comforting Rose, visibly shaken by the ordeal of the trial. I marvel at all my nephew has come through, how he stands tall beside her, protecting as any gallant knight would. Clearly, she holds the key to his heart.
“I need her like I need air, Auntie.” I hear Jason’s voice as if it was yesterday and am drawn down memory lane.
I remember him as a happy, healthy toddler, a wonderful distraction to the demands of my master’s studies in social work.
I remember, too, my sister’s frantic call as he was rushed to the hospital after falling down two flights of stairs. Coming home from a late shift, she had discovered Jason in a puddle of blood while his father slept off a night’s worth of drink, two floors above. She had reached out to me for stability, gradually regaining composure, until the doctor, after a week of testing, concluded that young Jason would remain just that, young.
As the grim prognosis for Jason’s mental development settled on their marriage it became another casualty and they parted ways.
I remember four weeks later, answering a knock on my door, finding this same little boy wrapped in a soft, crocheted blanket, a simple plea for help, in the form of a note, laying on the step beside him; my sister nowhere in sight.
I had soothed Jason’s frightened cries that day and realized my life would never look the same. This fair-haired child held my heart in his pudgy hands and no matter the cost, I would raise him as my own.
Studies put on hold; I set up an office at home, a kindly neighbor helping when I needed to leave.
In a short time we established a comfortable schedule and with my involvement in the Ministry of Child Development, Jason began receiving the help of many experts, passionate in their field of training.
Integration into the public school system had its difficulties, Jason becoming the brunt of many jokes. But what he lacked in intellectual skills he more than made up in personality and charm. Receiving the help of student teachers, drawn to his endearing ways, he was eventually ready to work at a local recycling plant. It was there that Jason met Rose.
“Auntie, I can hardly breathe when I’m with her but my heart aches when I’m not.” Jason had remarked one evening.
I thought their friendship might wane over time but I was wrong. Jason became Rose’s world; he brought her into ours.
An abusive mother had left Rose, born with fetal alcohol syndrome, in the care of her father, who chose to coddle rather than encourage her independence. As friendship with Jason grew, Rose blossomed.
Then Jason’s big announcement, “I want to marry Rose so she can live here with us”, caused the harshness of reality to collide head-on with their fairytale world of love.
As I sought my associates’ advice, Jason asked Rose’s father’s permission only to be ordered out of his home. From there he marched into the lawyer’s office, located near the recycling plant.
Michael Alton, with his “pro-bono” heart, took on Jason and Rose’s case, determined to win them the right to marry without her father’s consent.
One long year stood between that day and now. Michael had worked hard, preparing a solid case and had become a regular around our table.
“Ang… looks like the judge has reached his decision.”
Michael’s voice and gentle touch halt my thoughts. As I follow him into the courtroom, observing his confident walk and broad shoulders, something flitters in my stomach, a familiar sensation of late. Don’t get your hopes up, Angela. This is it. Life will go back to the way it was, minus a reason to see Michael.
The judge enters the room, we rise, then sit.
“After careful study, I have reached my decision. I have based it, of course, on Mr. Alton’s guarantee to follow this couple closely, reporting any concerns. Therefore I rule in favor of Miss Rose Green.”
As the gavel raps on the judge’s desk, Jason jumps a row of chairs to get to Rose’s side.
Before I can speak, Michael’s arms are around me and I’m savoring the feel of his embrace, the scent of his cologne.
In my ear, he whispers, “Let’s go talk about my guarantee.”
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