After The End
Disclaimer: Nothing related to ATTWN—not even the Russian movie version, which this fic is based on—belongs to me. Some may protest to seeing an AU of the one version that gets it right, but oh well; you can't please everybody.
The atmosphere of the office was cold and stifling. The only sound was that of the clock hanging on the wall going tick-tock. Two men sat across one another, trying to make eye contact, but inadvertently avoiding it. One of those two men was an accused rapist, who denied having ever done anything wrong. The other was the man's lawyer, who had no desire to know of his client's innocence or guilt.
The lawyer, Carl Hutchins, cleared his throat. He looked away from the circled red date on the calendar—which clearly indicated today was the nineteenth of September—and into the eyes of his client and said, "So, Mr. Lombard, the good news is, you still have plenty of time to prepare yourself for the trial, which will be held off until sometime in early spring. It may take longer than that, but these cases vary."
Philip Lombard could only say stiffly, "Well, that's good, I suppose." Good for someone who was accused of rape by some bitch who doesn't enjoy rough sex, that is, he mentally added.
He felt the need to say something: "I assure you that this is all just one big misunder—"
"Please," said Mr. Hutchins, holding up a hand. "I request that you not tell me of your innocence or guilt."
"Why?" asked Lombard. "To make your job easier?"
Mr. Hutchins smiled faintly. "No, Mr. Lombard," he said. "To make my life easier."
Vera Claythorne wished to be anywhere but where she was at this particular moment: In the office of her lawyer, Michael James, going over how difficult the trial proceedings may or may not be. Apparently, there were so many things that could go wrong. She was beginning to wonder what the use of pressing charges had been if it was going to be this difficult.
"So...so they could just let him off?" she said. "Just because there weren't any witnesses?"
"They could," said Mr. James. "This is one of those trials that may be won or lost. On the one hand, there is enough evidence to show that intercourse did indeed take place, and that it was most certainly not gentle; on the other, his lawyer may argue that you consented to it and that things only got a bit out of hand."
"What's the use, then?" said Vera bitterly. "If he's just going to say it was my fault, and the judge believes it?"
"I know this all sounds discouraging," said Mr. James gently. "But I assure you, the physical evidence will be enough to bring this case to trial, which is a huge accomplishment. Everything else is left in the hands of fate. Just relax. You should anyway, given your condition."
Vera's hand rested on her flat stomach. She had found out just last week, after visiting the doctor, who had informed her that her vomiting, fatigue, overly-emotional state, and missed period was not from stress, but from pregnancy. Even so, she hadn't entirely taken the news in. She just walked on through in an almost dazed state, not taking the realization that she would soon be responsible for a new life into mind or heart. "Right," she said. "My condition."
"Have you given any thoughts as to what you will do?" asked Mr. James. "I understand being pregnant under such circumstances must be horrible for a young woman."
How could you understand? thought Vera angrily. How can you say that when you yourself have never gone through what I'm going through?
Outside, she said, "No, not really. I'm still in shock."
"Do you have any more questions?" asked Mr. James.
Yes: Why did I have to leave my room? Why couldn't I have just stayed where I was instead of wandering off to his room and get myself...and why is it that I can say the word out loud when reporting him, but I can never say it in my head? Why am I so weak? And what should I do about the baby? I can't be a mother, but I can't abort it, nor can I give it up. What to do?
"No," said Vera, shaking her head.
"Very well," said Mr. James. "You may go."
Vera silently got up from the wooden chair and made her way across the room and to the door. She was barely aware of the cold, hard brass her hand was turning until she was already out of the room and into the hall, where her mother had been pacing back and forth.
"Well, sweetie?" she said. "What did he say?"
He said there's basically no hope of the man who did this to me ever getting convicted, so I might as well drop the charges now and save myself the embarrassment.
"He said this may be a difficult trial," said Vera.
Mrs. Claythorne gave Vera a sympathetic smile. "Do you want to go home now?" she said. "Or would you rather go elsewhere in town, to temporarily take your mind off this?"
Yes. To heaven and permanently take my mind off this.
"Home," said Vera. "I feel tired."
Mrs. Claythorne gently took her daughter by the hand, the only area she allowed to be touched, and the two women began to walk down the hall.
Lombard took a walk down the stone steps and inhaled the autumn air of the late morning. He had his worries, yes, but he kept telling himself that this was just another challenge he could overcome without so much as a scratch. After all, if he could survive Nigger Island, then he could survive anything!
Lombard laughed and thought, Thank God Morley was willing to come bail me out. His first sixteen hours off the island had been spent in a jail cell. It wasn't as bad an experience as he had expected, but it was still infuriating to think he had ended up there all because of a stupid misunderstanding.
Obviously, Vera Claythorne was a troubled young woman...but to actually accuse him of rape...
"May the bitch get what's coming to her," he muttered before taking the long walk home.
Vera stared out the car window, trying to take her mind off her nausea while her mother drove. It was funny, how she had never taken the time to stop and notice the world around her—how it looked as she passed by in her car. Then again, she couldn't really take her eyes off the road.
Even so, when driving, couldn't she at least have appreciated the cars ahead of her?
No, of course she didn't; she was too busy envying the happy couples who walked down the streets and held hands and whispered sweet nothings to one another.
"I know this is difficult for you," said Mrs. Claythorne suddenly. "But I think we should eventually talk about it."
How oxymoronic of you, mother. To first say you know how difficult this is for me and then say you think we should talk about it. It just goes to show: You really don't know how difficult this is for me at all.
"I'd rather not," said Vera, her attention focused on the passing trees.
Mrs. Claythorne only said to that, "Well, when you're ready to talk, let me know."
Vera counted seven cars passing by.
Lombard slammed the door shut as he made his way into his house. He knew this wasn't that big a challenge, he knew this was just another potentially damaging obstacle he'd be able to overcome with barely a scratch...but why have to face it at all?
He marched into the kitchen and began to prepare himself lunch when he heard a knock on the door. Deciding to leave lunch for later, he walked back over to the door. He was neutral towards the person standing in the doorway.
"Morley," said Lombard courteously.
"Lombard," replied Charles Morley, his voice as smooth as his dark hair. He had been the one to come bail Lombard out, for Lombard knew instinctively Morley would presume his innocence. Even so, Lombard got the feeling Morley was having his doubts.
"I was just making myself some lunch," said Lombard. "Care to come in?"
Morley walked in as Lombard closed the door behind him. "So, how'd the meeting go?" asked Morley.
Lombard walked into the kitchen. "It went all right," he said. "Hutchins appears to be just as good a lawyer as you made him out to be, even if he's like the rest who presumes me guilty," he added bitterly.
"I should've warned you," sighed Morley. "Hutchins is an absolutely brilliant lawyer, but he is also a decent person. You see, Hutchins is a good man who became a lawyer simply to prevent innocent men from going to the gallows. However, I've also heard he was on the drink for quite some time a couple years ago."
Lombard raised an eyebrow. The sandwiches were almost done. "You don't say," he said slyly.
"It was the Stevenson case," said Morley. "The one with the child murderer. He had made the mistake of allowing his client to inform him of his guilt beforehand. It didn't affect his performance in court any less, but it affected his personal life a great deal. Even when Stevenson was found guilty and executed, he had trouble forgiving himself for defending a child murderer. He's sober now, but he refuses to know of his client's innocence or guilt ever since. So don't take it personally; that's just how he is."
"Good to know," said Lombard stiffly, giving Morley his sandwich.
Just my luck, thought Lombard bitterly as he took a bite out of his sandwich. Of all the lawyers, I get one who is sentimental. Just my luck.
"Do you feel nauseous, dear?" asked Mrs. Claythorne as she and Vera made their way inside Vera's house, which was small but liveable.
"A bit," admitted Vera. "But I'll get over it soon."
"Just lie down for now," said Mrs. Claythorne, leading Vera over to her couch and laying her down. While Vera was lying down, Mrs. Claythorne asked, "So? Is Mr. James as good a lawyer as Evelyn said he was?"
Maybe he would be, if there weren't so much that could go wrong, so what's the use of having a good lawyer at all?
"He seems like it," said Vera. "He is at least very intelligent, which I suppose is good."
Mrs. Claythorne smiled. "Better to have an intelligent lawyer than an imbecile one to represent you in court," she said.
Vera closed her eyes and slowly breathed in and out. The wave of nausea disappeared almost as quickly as it had appeared. Her eyelids fluttered open. She yawned, "I think I'm going to go take a shower."
"Do you want me to prepare lunch?" asked Mrs. Claythorne.
"No," said Vera, getting up off the couch. "Afterwards, I think I'll take a nice, long nap."
And God only knew, she needed it.