Brandon waited for the sound of a pin dropping.
Silence like this had to be pierced at some point. He prayed for anything besides his wife's breathing next to him, besides the clink of her pearls as she fiddled with her necklace. The jury was eyeballing him with a mingle of sympathetic looks and scowls. The sympathy outweighed the anger, which was why he'd be getting his son back again.
The gavel had been struck. Soft murmurings started up as people finally became mobile.
"I know he did it."
"That boy's going to get killed."
"Wait to see it in the papers."
Heavy doors creaked open somewhere behind him. Brandon stared up at the judge and hated him, hated the way he looked down at him, the way his thoughts were written all over his face. I can't wait to land your ass in prison next time.
You wish, fucker.
His wife put a hand on his arm. Her fingers were delicate and dainty. The engagement ring he'd given her so long ago glared up at him, condemned him. He wanted to take her pretty little hand and crush it between his fists. To bruise her eyes and leave the imprint of his knuckles along her lovely face. She'd deserve it. Deserve every little bit of it.
"Come on, sweetheart," she murmured. "We won. Let's get out of here."
Their lawyer smiled at them as they walked past. Perfect teeth, perfect hair, and the reek of pricey cologne. The best con money could buy. He followed them out to their car and opened the door for his wife.
"That was a great victory today. I'm so glad for your family. I hope you'll contact our firm with any furth-"
Brandon put it in drive and pressed the gas. Deb gasped, the door on her side shutting awkwardly as she tugged it in. The lawyer stood behind them, dumbstruck back to that plastic smile, polished leather shoes glinting on the asphalt.
"That was rude," Deb said. Her voice was like nails being driven into his eardrums. "He's done a lot for us."
Brandon's teeth clicked together hard. It hurt down to the roots and he clenched harder. He merged onto the highway past a minivan that blared its horns angrily, gunning it up to eighty, then ninety.
"It's sixty," his wife pointed out. Her voice was tense, her shoulders pale and borne through her red dress. It was a ridiculous thing to wear to a trial. She looked like a slut, not like some saddened mother whose son had broken a leg. An arm. A son that had had bruises often enough the nurses of his private school called protective services.
They'd showed up at the hand-carved door of their sprawling house with grim faces. Their son had watched from the staircase with his teddy in hand, wide-eyed and wondering.
The blue on his cheek had been steadily turning yellow. It'd be gone by the time they picked him up, like it'd never happened. But it had, everything had, and that truth would never go away.
"The speed limit is-"
"Shut the FUCK up!"
He whipped around a semi and she shuddered, turning her head away with tears in her eyes. He didn't care. He couldn't bring up even a single shred of empathy, not anymore. Enough was enough, and he'd had his fair share. His hands tightened on the wheel and he imagined choking the life out of her slender throat. He imagined it and wished he had the balls to carry it through.
She'd earned a taste of her own medicine.
"I'm not covering for you anymore," he rasped.
Deb didn't answer. She turned her face away, watching the cars whiz by, worrying her hands in her lap.
"If you ever touch our son again, I'll fucking kill you."