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Colt’s lawyer did a great job of painting him as a good boy, who was being framed by a girl known for her poor decisions. He brought up my stint in rehab and past of partying. He even found a way to use the vulnerability created by my eating disorder to his advantage. He claimed that my mental state made me more willing to seek comfort from others in the form of ***. His exact argument was “when girls engage in ***ual activity, their brain releases a chemical that allows them to feel connected to their partner. Eating disorders come with a component of isolation. It should come as no surprise that she engaged in relations with my client. She has admitted she was under the influence of alcohol, which is known for clouding memory. She consented, and forgot. That doesn’t mean my client didn’t get it”.
He was fantastic at his job, I’ll give him that, but he couldn’t dispute the picture taken and sent from Colt’s phone. He was clearly the one that took it. My lawyer used that to our advantage. She also stated that consenting under the influence of alcohol doesn’t count because it lowers inhibitions. In my sober state, I’d always disliked Colt. There were many reports to that effect. My sudden willingness to sleep with him was out of character, meaning something else must have contributed to it.
Even with our sound arguments, it was still painful for me to watch a man who didn’t know me persuade a jury to believe I was a bad person, unworthy of justice. The jury spent three days deliberating. I did everything in my power to remain calm. When they had finally come to a decision, we were called back to court.
I meddled with my charm bracelet as I sat in my seat, doing my best to regulate my breathing. My stomach clenched when Colt sauntered in. When my eyes caught his, he subtly smirked in my direction. I rolled my eyes in repulsion.
His constant flip-flop between innocent victim and cocky jerk throughout the trial made me sick. He was so sure he’d walk while I was scared out of my mind. I had been dragged through the mud, while he was praised throughout. He was the defendant — he was the one who committed a crime, but for some reason, everyone kept telling me it was my fault.
“Has the jury reached a decision?” The judge asked.
“Yes, Your Honor.” The first juror rose.
“For the first count of ***ual assault, we the jury find Colt Windsor not guilty. –”
My heart sank. His side cheered amongst themselves. I continued to hold on to every word.
“For the count of ***ual misconduct, we find him guilty. –“
“For the count of ***ual assault of a minor, we find him guilty.”
I turned in my seat and smiled at Eliza. She was crying in her brother’s arms.“For the distribution of pornography featuring a minor, –“
“We find him guilty.”
“Mr. Windsor, I hereby sentence you to seven years in prison and a lifetime as a registered *** offender. Court adjourned.” The judge slammed her gavel on the wooden base.
I let out a sigh of relief and smiled. I rose from my seat and immediately hugged and thanked my lawyer. Colt was handcuffed and taken into custody. I went to where my Mom, Everett, Audrey, Milo, and Bosworth were seated.
“You did it!” Aud cheered and hugged me with a bright smile.
“Your husband won’t go to jail!” I told her in a tone identical to the one she used.
She giggled and nodded. “I know. That’s great because Emmy likes him for whatever reason.”
“I’m so proud of you.” B hugged me next.
“I just sat there and hoped for the best.” I replied.
He pulled back and placed his hands on my shoulders. “Standing up for yourself in the first place is brave. I will never allow you to downplay that accomplishment.”
I smiled. “I love you, B.”
He hugged me again. “I love you too.”
“I guess Elle won’t have to start her ‘Free Everett’ campaign.” Everett joked before he hugged me.
I laughed. “It would’ve been a well-organized and very vocal one too.” I pretended to be bummed out.
I made my way to Milo. He beamed and pulled me in for a hug. “I knew you could do it.” He breathed into my hair as he held me close.
“I’m happy you’re here.” I looked up at him as I slid my arms around his neck.
“Me too.” He lowered his lips to mine.
“The worst is almost over.” My mom hugged me next.
“I can’t wait.”
I walked over to Eliza and her family, twiddling my thumbs behind my back.
I was only two years older, but she looked so much younger in my opinion. Her pale red hair, strong eyebrows, and delicate features rendered her both striking and youthful. She was three inches shorter than me. Her eyes darted around the room like a frightened fawn.
I wanted to take care of her, to tell her that she had no reason to be afraid anymore. I knew my words would not undo the pain he caused. He stole her first time. He destroyed friendships she had for the majority of her life. She started having flashbacks that prevented her from sleeping. He left her to live in constant fear. She thought her life was over at fifteen. I hate him more for what he did to her than what he did to me.
“We did it.” I extended my arms to her.
“You did. I couldn’t face him.” She hugged me.
“Yes, you did. You sat here. That was hard. You spoke up. You’re the reason he has more time.”
“I don’t know where to go from here.” She pushed away the tears dribbling beneath her chin.
“Anywhere.” I looked her square in the eyes.
The hazel orbs danced as she fought to keep from crying. She surrendered. Her father engulfed her in a warm embrace.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered to Phil.
“You are not the reason she is crying. I appreciate you trying to help. We all do.” He motioned to his family.
“It was not selfless.”
“Still. I was hard on you when you were the one going through this. You could have taken it out on me.”
“But I like Eliza way more than you, that would’ve been a waste.” I quipped with a smile.
He put his hands into his pockets and grinned. “You have a good sense of humor. That is why I liked you.”
“Don’t get sappy on me.” I pushed his shoulder playfully.
“I think someone misses you.” He nodded to make a reference to a spot behind me.
I looked where he was gesturing. Milo looked away as soon as I did, trying to play it cool.
“Can you blame him? I have been talking to you a lot lately.”
“I get it. Raven has been on my case, going through my text messages.” He rubbed the back of his head.
“I didn’t know you were dating. She always carried a torch for you. I’m happy that worked out.”
“Me too. Take care of yourself, Iz.”
“I will. You do the same.” I waved and returned to the people I came with.
I shared the news of my win with my SMA family as soon as we arrived at Audrey and Everett’s house. All of them were on my level of happiness. Finn and Sami had to call off their revenge plot road trip, which the rest of us were thankful for. Eventually, they would’ve gotten arrested. Senior year wouldn’t be the same if they were in Juvie. Milo left the next morning. His allotted two weeks in New York were over. I knew I would not spend too much time missing him. After all, I would be visiting his home in a few short weeks.