AN: I thought I'd put it in but in case I didn't DBT stands for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, used most often with young people, deemed effective in PTSD too.
Ana paced the therapy room, it was a week before Christmas, and Carrick and Carrie the prosecutor in Elena and Eric's case was coming by Westpoint to talk to her about going to court. Lorna was with her, ready to support her through this, but there was so much more at stake too. Lorna and Ana had set a home visit day for Christmas day, it would mean she would be allowed to leave Westpoint in the morning and wouldn't have to return until dinner time. But it all depended on how she handled this today, if things went well and she managed her behaviour appropriately, she would be allowed to tell Christian she was coming home for Christmas, if things went bad and she behaved inappropriately, she would know she wasn't ready to leave the premises and the support and supervision of the staff.
Sandra showed Carrick and Carrie in and Ana nervously wiped her hands down the front of her jeans. She'd made sure to make herself look presentable today, knowing that Carrie was coming, she didn't want the prosecutor to see the fragile and vulnerable young woman she was right now.
Carrick greeted her with a hug, it was the first time he'd seen Ana since she'd been at Westpoint and he was glad to see her looking so well. Grace had been telling him how much better she'd been looking but it was hard to imagine until he saw her himself.
"Why don't we sit?" Lorna suggested when it was obvious Ana wasn't sure how to handle the situation.
Lorna and Ana took the chairs, an extra chair had been bought in for this meeting, and then Carrick and Carrie took the couch. The pair were total lawyers, immediately removing legal pads from their briefcases and setting themselves up to take any notes.
"Ok so Ana, the case is due to start on the fifth of January." Carrie said and Ana nodded. "As things currently stand, Eric and Elena will go to trial together unless Eric accepts the deal on the table."
"I want to see him." Ana said firmly, she had every intention of seeing Eric and persuading him to take the deal.
"Ok, we can set that up." Carrie tried not to look too pleased, the testimony against Elena would be vital to secure a conviction.
"Between Christmas and new year." Ana said making her terms clear, she didn't want it to happen before Christmas, because she knew it would be tough and she didn't want to put barriers in her way that may prevent her from getting home for Christmas.
"Ok." Carrie scribbled on her legal pad, she would arrange that meeting as soon as she got back to the office so she could send the date up to Westpoint. "So now we need to talk about your testimony."
"Ok." Ana nodded glancing at Lorna, she was relying heavily on the psychiatrist for support, this was going to be a tough discussion, she knew that.
"I would like you to be the first to testify." Carrie said. "That way you're free to attend the court and hear the rest of the testimony if you want to." She glanced at the psychiatrist apologetically, she didn't know what the conditions of Ana being at Westpoint were but she thought the young woman deserved to know her options in regards to the trial. "I will keep it simple, I'll just ask you to tell your story and I'll only ask you questions if I feel you need prompting or if you seem to have left something important out from your police statement. I'll also show you the pictures that we found in their house, I will ask you if it is the first time you've seen them and then I'll ask you to confirm your identity and to point to Eric and Elena in the images, plus ask you about anyone else in the pictures." Ana gulped at this, the thought of seeing those pictures, she knew of their existence but she hadn't really thought much about them and now she was being told she'd have to look at them on the stand and confirm her identity. That was tough going. "Then after I've spoken to you, you will be cross-examined by the defence attorney, now he's going with the defence that you're mistaken about who attacked you and you're lying about who is in the pictures. He will bring up your mental health as you've been court-ordered, you being here is public record."
Ana reached for Lorna, she couldn't help it. The news that they would bring up her mental health shook her. Carrie waited a moment, while Ana took a deep breath.
"We need your consent, to ask Mary and Lorna to both testify about your mental health." Carrick added knowing that it coming from him would probably be easier.
"Why?" Ana asked, it felt like a violation to think they'd get on the stand and talk about her.
"Because it's what they're going to attack the most, they're going to say you've made up these memories because Elena told you to leave Christian. We need to be on the offensive. They're currently trying to get a judge to sign off on a court-appointed evaluation, if we have Mary and Lorna testify, we can use their evaluations and not have to put you through the pain of another one." Carrie explained and Ana sighed and looked at the ceiling, this was something that she truly wasn't comfortable with.
"What will they want to know?" Ana asked awkwardly, they were seeking her consent, so that meant she could say no, but she understood now that would also mean having another evaluation from another shrink and she wasn't sure if she could handle that.
"So we won't be allowed to discuss anything that you've told us directly. Details you share in therapy and things are completely confidential." Lorna said feeling that she was probably the best person to explain this side to Ana. "It's privileged information and the judge will stop them from being able to ask any questions that relate specifically to your therapy."
"But what will you be sharing?" Ana asked because that's what she needed to know the most, not what they wouldn't be sharing but what they would.
"Your mental state." Lorna replied. "We will have to tell them about the PTSD, the anxiety, the Stockholm…"
"The suicide attempts?" Ana asked and Lorna nodded, that would likely come up and Ana needed to be prepared for that.
"They will come up whether it's your own psychiatrists or a court-appointed." Carrie said. "The court-appointed will be allowed access to your records, the judge will order their release to the person they appoint."
"So it's just easier if it's Lorna and Mary." Ana sighed.
"Easier yes, also safer, they know you better, they're better equipped to be able to contradict any of the questions that the defence will ask." Carrick said knowing that Ana was finding this difficult, she was wiping her hands over her jeans repeatedly and he could see her nails digging into her knee caps when she held them.
"Ok." Ana nodded.
"I'll need you to sign that you agree before we leave." Carrie said gently and Ana nodded and glanced at Lorna again, she was getting overwhelmed now and she wasn't sure if she could bring this to an end without appearing as though she was shutting down or pushing herself back and she didn't want to lose her Christmas with Christian.
"The other thing is we've been slowly tracking down the other victims in the photographs." Carrie said and Ana nodded, she was aware that there weren't just photos of her and that Elena had been with other underage people. "However, the judge has ruled as you were the youngest victim, the only one who was kidnapped, your case is too unique to the others and therefore must stand alone."
"So that means the charges at this trial will only be against me?" Ana asked and Carrie nodded, glad that Ana was understanding.
"I thought you'd want to know." Carrick started bringing Ana's attention to him. "Christian has made a statement to the police."
"He has?" Ana asked in surprise, Ana knew he'd refused to do so before, he'd said it would have damaged his business if it ever came out.
"He said that… if you could do it, could tell them what they'd done to you then he owed it to you to be equally as strong and come forward." Carrick said and Ana pursed her lips and nodded, her heart was beating hard now, she wanted to speak to Christian about this, to hear it from him.
"Is that everything?" Ana asked and Carrie nodded, they'd covered everything they needed to.
"Do you have any questions Ana?" Carrick asked knowing she was likely overwhelmed and may have had a whole load of questions to ask.
"What happens if Eric takes the deal?" Ana questioned, because at the moment she knew they were talking about a trial with both Eric and Elena as co-defendants.
"We'll get him into court before the 5th of January to change his plea and elocute his crime." Carrie said. "It means he will have to stand in front of the judge, not only admit guilt but explain what exactly he did so it will be a matter for public record. Then he will have to testify in Elena's trial. You will have the opportunity to do a victim impact statement at his sentencing hearing too. It means you can address the court, the judge and Eric about what you experienced and what effect it has had on you but that's optional, you don't have to do that."
"Ok." Ana nodded, she wasn't sure about the victim impact statement but it was good to know what could happen, that way there would be no surprises which she knew were the things most likely to set her back in her progress.
Ana didn't see Carrick and Carrie out, instead she stayed sitting in the therapy room while Lorna took them to the door. She needed time to process everything that they had said and mentally prepare herself for what was to come.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Lorna asked and Ana shook her head, she didn't, not right now. "Ok."
"Can I go and see the horses?" Ana asked and Lorna nodded, she knew that Ana liked going to the horses and had been with Jason a few times over the last few weeks. "Will you come?"
"Of course." Lorna said surprised to hear the offer extended to her, she knew Ana had been quite open with Jason the councillor who took care of the horses, so Lorna wasn't worried about Ana escaping her thoughts when going out with him, so she was pleasantly surprised to hear Ana ask her to come to the horses with her.
Ana went to pull on her coat, boots, hat and gloves and when she came down Jason and Lorna were waiting for her by the backdoor. They walked in silence up to the stables, Ana slightly ahead of the therapists the entire walk, her mind a million miles away from Westpoint. At the stables, she was given space, she confidently went into Maxwell's pen and she smiled when she found him lying down on the floor and he looked up when she came in.
"Hello beautiful." She muttered feeling a little self-conscious that Jason and Lorna were nearby, though they'd both gone over to the other horses together to give her the appearance of privacy if nothing else. Ana sank to her knees beside Maxwell and he immediately bought his head round to her, as though he wanted to pull her closer to him. Ana's hand went to his head, she felt so comfortable with him, she could tell the horse anything and he'd never judge her, as he kept his face across her body, she buried her nose into his neck and cried quietly. Maxwell didn't move, as though he knew Ana needed his comfort, he nodded his head softly along to the stroking of her hand on his head, but he allowed her time to cry into his mane.
"Christian's gone to the police." She said as she pulled away just a little to wipe her cheeks. "I never thought he'd truly admit that what had happened to him was wrong, he compared his abuse to mine all the time and because he consented, he thought it was ok." She was talking through her thoughts with the horse because it helped her make sense of them. Lorna, hearing the young woman's voice made her way to the side of the pen. She could barely see Ana, only her legs sticking out from under the horse's neck. She knew Ana wouldn't see her from where she was eavesdropping. "The woman is pure evil Max." Ana shuddered. "I just need her to be found guilty, I need the world to know what she did." Ana said still relishing in the comfort the horse was bringing her. "I guess, I'm worried if I don't see Eric and he doesn't take the deal, she won't be convicted. I can't think about her not being convicted, or I won't make it to the trial, I need to have that belief to be able to have the strength to get up on that stand and tell them all what she did to me."
Lorna smiled sadly as Jason came to her side so he could see what was going on. He chuckled to himself seeing Ana, the young woman had been so terrified of the horse the first time she had been there, seeing her now, literally engulfed by the horse was amusing.
Ana continued to stroke Maxwell, it bought her peace, she knew he was listening to her but never judging her and the way he would look at her sometimes, as though he saw and felt all her pain. She'd made a best friend here and she knew it.
"You know Maxie-boy, cuddling with you here is much better than cutting." She said chuckling to herself. "It would be so easy right now, to be cutting… the thoughts are there, the feeling is there and it's so strong. I'm glad I've got you to come to." Maxwell did his little huffing snort that made Ana giggle, it was as though he was agreeing with her and she snuggled her face into his neck again and breathed deeply.
Lorna's eyes met Jason's and he took her hand in his own and gave it a little squeeze. They both knew that what Ana had just said was proof of how far she'd come, but it also showed how far she still had to go too. Maxwell pulled his head back from Ana and rolled onto his side. Ana couldn't resist laying down beside him, she didn't care about the hay or the dirt on the ground. She laughed when Maxwell bought his head into her neck and she had no choice but to put her legs onto the top part of his front legs. She still hadn't noticed Lorna and Jason watching her. She lay there, stroking Maxwell's cheek, he was such a loving horse and it was like he knew Ana needed his comfort and was doing all he could to give it to her.
"You know Max, despite everything, it's all good." Ana said softly. "We're here, we're ok, Elena can't hurt me anymore, she'll never hurt me again. For years, she had power over me because I didn't remember who she was, I never knew if she was out there, coming after me, still looking for me and wanting to get me. The minute she grabbed me that day and forced me to remember her, she took all that power away and I realised I was the powerful one. It took a while for me to realise it, and get over the fear of knowing who she was and where she was. But I had the power and I used that when I went to the police, I outed her for what she was, a child molester. She took so much from me, but she doesn't get to be the end of me." Maxwell snuggled his head into her neck and bobbed his head as if he was agreeing with her completely. Ana breathed deeply, and smiled, whatever happened with court, Elena had no power over her anymore. "Maybe I should write it all out one day, put it into words and let the world truly see the evil inside her. Right now, my identity is kept a complete secret, the media aren't allowed to tell the world who I am. But maybe one day, I'll want them to know, maybe one day I'll feel strong enough to shout it from the rooftops that I survived Elena's abuse and everything that came after. Though what came after still needs to be worked on, I need to decide how to confront my foster father, and those who raped me in the transition house…" Tears prickled at her eyes and she let them fall, it was cathartic to cry.
When she was finished crying she was distracted by the noise of the pen opening. Maxwell pulled away from her and Ana saw Lorna smiling at her.
"It's lunchtime Ana." Lorna explained and Ana nodded before climbing to her feet. Maxwell copied and she couldn't resist giving his nose a gentle kiss.
"Thanks Max." She whispered.
As they walked back down to the house, Ana linked her arm with Lorna. Maxwell had given her the opportunity to talk through some of the stuff on her mind, but he hadn't been able to answer any of her questions, he'd calmed her but he couldn't stop the thoughts that circled her mind. However, she knew Lorna could do that and what speaking with Maxwell had given her was the words she needed to voice these thoughts to Lorna when she could. Until then though, she would keep her shrink close today, just for when that moment came and she would be ready.