Kelly Wallace has been working on a memoir manuscript tentatively titled "The Yellow Blanket" since 2010. She blogs about her experience at kellywawa.wordpress.com.
I was in my green, blue and white plaid kilt skirt that Mommy bought special for me at ReRuns for Kids thrift store and a white blouse with a collar from JcPenney. She said I had to testify and be in the same room with Grampa for a few hours in order to send him to jail. I wanted him to be punished for sexually abusing me and I didn’t want him to hurt any other little kids.
Mommy was all dressed up in a dark blouse she called “navy” and a red skirt that touched her knees. She curled her hair in the morning in the motel bathroom with a curling iron that looked like a hair brush. She put on eye shadow, mascara and pale pink lipstick.
We sat at a table in a room in the basement and just waited. There were a few windows and you could see people’s feet when they walked by. The night before the trial Ken came over to our motel room and we practiced questions that he was going to ask me on the witness stand. Ken, Mommy and me sat at a round, brown table and he asked me questions from his long yellow legal pad about my age, name, address and some yucky questions about the abuse. He wrote my answers down, flipped the pages over and they disappeared.
Daddy was an attorney and he had an office he goes to in town and wrote on those yellow pads of paper. He usually has some with him at all times or on the backseat in his light blue Plymouth Reliant.
I was tired of talking about the abuse.
When I told Mommy about the abuse between Grampa and me I didn’t know I would have to talk about it over and over and over.
I talked to:
I colored in my Barbie coloring books. It had the same blue carpet like at the children’s services division where Mommy took me sometimes and we met with a social worker. I colored Barbie’s hair with the black crayon and Mommy and Ken talked legal stuff.
“So Kelly will go up on the witness stand and I’ll ask her questions and then Roy’s attorneys will cross examine her,” he wrote in the yellow legal pad.
“How long do you think she’ll be up there?” she was all serious.
“It could be several hours,” Ken flipped a few pages over and tucked them under the legal pad.
He was dressed up in a brown suit with brown hair and mustache. He wasn’t very tall. He looked over at me and smiled. But not real big. That adult way of smiling where you don’t show any teeth. There was something in the way he smiled that said he knew something I didn’t.
A woman in navy suit and white blouse with a scarf that looked like a flower around her neck walked in.
“They’re ready for you upstairs,” she said all serious.
“Ok. Thank you,” Mommy said.
My stomach got all weird. The same thing happened on my first day of first grade when I had to move and start at my new school.
“Looks like it’s your turn Kelly,” he said.
I pushed my chair in just like we do with the chairs in Mrs. William’s third grade classroom and it made this squeak sound.
Mommy held my hand and Ken walked ahead of us. We had to walk past a bunch of vending machines that had M&M’s and Reeses pieces in them. I didn’t want to have to look at Grampa. I wanted to eat candy out of the vending machines all day. These orange crackers with peanut butter on the inside. The label said “Toms”. If I used the top of my teeth I could scrape the peanut butter off whole in one piece and pretend they were Oreos.
We walked up some yellow stairs, down a hallway to the courtroom and walked slow. The hallway had this funny smell about it. Mommy said it smelled institutional.
When we get close to the courtroom doors there was a long wooden bench and Gramma Opal, Aunt Shelley, Daddy and his new girlfriend Ronda were all there. Gramma Opal had on her bright pink Mary Kay lipstick and her hair was all white.
“Mommy, why is Gramma Opal’s hair all white?” I asked. Normally it was black.
“She probably just let her hair go back to its original color to look more like a Gramma,” Mommy said.
“Why would she do that?” I asked.
“Grampa’s attorney’s probably thought it would help their case,” she said.
Aunt Shelley’s hair was all the way down to her shoulders – just like mine. I loved my Gramma Opal and Aunt Shelley but they were on the opposite team and I’m not so sure they believed me. I got all sad thinking Dad’s side didn’t believe me. There were these big brown doors and the one on the left had a little window at the top.
Mommy stayed behind.
She said she was not allowed to be in the courtroom because she was called as a witness and had to testify yesterday. She said she would
outside the courtroom doors
in case I needed her.
There were a bunch of people sitting in rows when we walked in but I didn’t look at them. The room was all brown; the walls, tables and benches.
The desk where Grampa sat with his attorney’s was big.
We walked past the rows of people and Ken pushed these swinging doors open. They reminded me of the doors in cartoons with Wi-ley Coyote and the Roadrunner where it was a bar and the doors just swung back and forth when you walked in. There was Grampa and his attorneys on the right. Grampa was white hair, one of his attorneys was old with white hair too and the other one was younger and had blonde hair. His attorney’s shuffled papers around and whispered things to each other. They didn’t look my way or look up when I walked past them. I looked over and there was Grampa’s cowboy hat on the table. Grampa and his attorneys were all dressed in grey.
The judge sat up high behind a tall desk over everyone else in the courtroom. He was serious just like Mr. Boucher the principal at my school. He had white hair too and glasses that hung on the end of his nose just like that one guy in, “Cocoon”. The mean man with the bushy mustache in “Cocoon” went swimming in a pool with all these white pod things with these other old people.
Ken walked with me past Grampa and all of his attorneys. My body got cold. The lights were all bright and hurt my eyes. There was a throb in the upper right side of my head. It was all nervy and tense like I needed a children’s Tylenol or something.
“Go ahead and go up to the witness stand,” Ken whispered and pulled out a pen from his coat pocket.
“Ok,” I said and he pulled the legal pad out and started to flip the pages around.
His breath smelled like “Breathsavers” mints. Mommy sometimes had them in her purse. The witness stand was this box like thing next to the judge with a brown chair with a green pad to sit on. There was a microphone on the podium in front of the chair. There was a buzz sound that came from the microphone. I sat down and accidently looked in Grampa’s direction and he was tan skin, puffy cheeks, and the Wallace hazel eyes.
A man in brown uniform came out of a side door by the jury box and he had a gun. His gun was scary and my heart was up in the back of my throat. That’s the man that will take Grampa away and throw him in jail if we win.
A few steps behind the man in uniform was my court appointed advocate, this woman I met yesterday named Jane. She was there to stand next me on the witness stand. Mommy said she could help me but she couldn’t help me answer any questions. Jane was blond hair, big curls that she probably made with a big curling iron just like Mommy’s. She had glasses like her too, a maroon sweater over a white blouse with big collar and a green skirt. She cleared her throat with an “ah-hem” sound and it was echo-ey in the courtroom. She stood next to the witness stand and rested one arm on it. Mommy said if I needed to I could hold onto her hand while I testified.
Jane helped me feel safe but at the same time I was scared because I had to answer all those questions and remember lots of yucky stuff that I didn’t want to talk about. Jane smiled at me but it was a serious smile. She was a nice lady but I didn’t know her very well. There were a bunch of people in the jury box but I didn’t look at them.
Out the corner of my eye Grampa’s white cowboy hat was on the edge of the desk.
I was worried my memory wasn’t very good but I’d forget things because so much time had passed. It had been a long time since Grampa did that to me. Mommy said Grampa’s attorneys pushed the trial back and back and back. It had been a year. I tried to remember every single detail because the judge might think I was lying.
The judge scared me.
I hadn’t seen Grampa in a long time and
he scared me.
The judge had a gavel but he didn’t use
“Come to order,” the judge said and everyone got quiet, chairs stopped moving and papers stopped shuffling.
“Your witness” the judge said to Ken.
“Can you tell us your name out loud,” Ken was in the middle of the courtroom in front of the judge and held onto a yellow legal pad.
“Kelly Wallace,” there were these bright lights that hurt my eyes and made me squint.
“Do you have a middle name?” he was serious, but I knew he wasn’t as mean as the judge.
“Elizabeth,” I leaned forward and said into the microphone. My voice came out loud and extra echoe-y. Near the entrance to the courtroom was Grace, Grampa’s sister.
“And how old are you Kelly?” Ken asked.
“Eight,” I said into the microphone but didn’t get as close. Grace was white hair, dark eyes and lipstick that was red. It was darker than red. She was always serious.
“And where do you live?” Ken walked a few steps toward the witness stand.
“331 N Broad Street, Monmouth, Oregon,” Al, Grace’s husband was sitting in the audience. He had blue eyes like that guy on Star Trek, white hair and dark skin. He told jokes that I didn’t understand but the adults did. He wore a funny hat that was the same color as Grace’s lipstick. Mommy said it was a “Shriner’s hat”.
“Does your Mommy live with you there?” Ken asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Who else lives with you?” he tucked the yellow legal pad underneath his arm.
“My sister, Katie,” I said and there was this little window on the courtroom door with someone looking through. There was a face and some glasses that looked like Dad’s. But I couldn’t tell if it was him or not. I didn’t want him looking in the window. I wanted Mommy to look in the window.
“And how old is Katie?” Ken asked.
“Four,” and really looked at the eyes in the window.
“And what’s the name of your school?”
“Campus Elementary,” that was Daddy but why was he watching me?
“And what’s the name of your teacher?”
“Mrs. Williams,” I said. Grampa’s attorneys only asked Mommy questions about where she lived and what she was doing for a job.
“Have you gone to school there all this year – well, did you start school at this school this year?” Ken walked up to the witness stand and wrote something down on his legal pad.
“Uh-huh,” I moved my head up and down. She said they did this on purpose to keep us separated.
The judge asked: “Kelly, you are going to have to answer these questions because we have a reporter taking this down and it’s hard to put it down shaking a head. So, if you will say yes or no, then it can be properly taken down. Will you do that?”
“Uh-huh” and I was scared that I was in trouble. The judge sat sideways and looked right at me. He had a pen that he tapped, tapped, tapped against a stack of papers.
“Can you say yes?” Ken asked me.
“Yes,” I said accidently too close to the microphone and it came out loud and echo-ey again.
“Ok,” I nodded.
“Please say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from here on out,” the judge said.
“Yes,” I said.
“And what is your mother’s name?”
“What does she do?”
“She goes to school.” Jane’s arm was still next to me. Mommy was outside the courtroom waiting for me to finish up but she didn’t look in the windows like Dad did.
“What I need to ask you is very important, Kelly. Do you know what it means to tell the truth?” Ken asked me.
“Yes,” I said and there was the big pin that held the bottom part of my kilt closed. Mommy said I should focus on different things so I don’t have to look at Grampa.
“Do you know what it means to tell a lie?”
“Yes.” It was like a safety pin except gold, really heavy and I ran my pointer finger along one edge of the pin.
“What happens to people that lie?”
“They get in trouble.” There was the big clock on the far right hand wall.
“And do you know what it is to make something up?”
“Yes,” put my middle finger in the circle part at the top of the pin.
“And if something was made up, it wouldn’t be the truth would it?”
“And do you promise the jury and everybody here that you’re going to tell the truth and the very, very truth today?”