May 18th, 1998
The weeks between her second hospital visit and
today had been confusing for Joni. Isaac and Kaitlynne had explained everything to her about ten times over, but yet she was
still confused. Today would be the most confusing day of all. This was the day Lynda and Jacob’s divorce case went to
court. Since the argument on the second of May, Lynda had been staying with a friend.
Joni sighed, as she pulled her hair back into
a neat ponytail. She studied herself in the mirror for a moment. She looked like she was going to a funeral. She cursed the
way she looked right now. Almost every night for the past two weeks, she had managed to sneak in a couple of drinks before
going to bed. Last night, she had had one too many, and it showed.
A knock came to her bedroom door. “Joni?”
It was Kaitlynne.
Joni cursed under her breath. She knew Kaitlynne
was going to notice the slight hangover. “Come in.”
Kaitlynne entered the room, dressed, and ready
to leave. “We’ll be leaving in fifteen minutes. The Hansons are coming too. Isaac, Walker and their bodyguard
have to testify.”
“Fuck,” Joni muttered. The last thing
she wanted was for Isaac to notice she’d been drinking again. She looked over at Kaitlynne to see if she had heard the
curse, but there was no sign of it. Her sister did however, notice the hangover.
“Have you been drinking again, Joni?”
Kaitlynne approached her sister.
Joni looked away. There was no need to answer
the question; it was as plain as the nose on her face.
“Maybe we should stay home,” Kaitlynne
said. “I can tell Uncle Jacob that you were sick… He’d buy it with the morning sickness stuff–”
“No, Kaity,” Joni interrupted. “I’m
fine, I’ll be fine.”
Kaitlynne looked anything but convinced, but
didn’t press the matter any further. Joni had been edgy and moody since her trip to the hospital, and the last thing
Kaitlynne wanted to do, was get Joni upset. She left Joni to finish getting ready, and went downstairs. As she passed the
mirror in the living room, she checked the bruise. It had now turned green; it wouldn’t be too long before it would
disappear for good. She remembered when the bruise had gotten dark. Lord did it hurt. Not to mention Taylor had been trying
to find ways to help her with things. She had been flattered by it, but it got a little annoying after a while. She dreaded
this day; she had to testify against her own aunt, while being watched by her sister, the Hansons, and the rest of the court.
She did love Aunt Lynda, and deep down inside really didn’t want to have to do this, but she had no choice. If it wasn’t
for her, it was for Joni. If Aunt Lynda stayed in her sister’s life, Joni would only end up doing something drastic.
Joni came down the stairs a few minutes later.
She still didn’t understand what was all happening; all she knew was she had to go to court, testify against her aunt
for something she didn’t even see, watch her sister testify, and wait to see what happened next.
They got to the courthouse in downtown Tulsa,
and met the Hansons and Jason inside. Joni tried to avoid Isaac in hopes that he wouldn’t see that she had been drinking
the night before, but it wasn’t Isaac who noticed; it was Zac. He left his mother’s side and approached Joni.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Joni nodded quickly, still trying to hide her
face from Isaac, who was talking with Jacob at the moment. “Yeah, Zac, I’m fine.”
Zac knew better. He pulled her aside so no one
else would hear them talking. “Joni, have you been drinking again?”
Joni shook her head. “No, I’m just
tired. I’m fine, Zac.”
Zac wasn’t convinced. “Tell me the
truth, Joni. Have you been drinking?”
Joni sighed. There was no fooling this boy, as
young as he was. He was smart one. And very concerned. “I had a couple too many last night before going to bed.”
Zac looked over towards Isaac.
“Don’t say anything, Zac, please,”
Joni begged. “He’s already got enough on his mind, I don’t need him worrying about me too.”
Zac sighed. He knew he had to tell someone. With
her drinking the way she was now, she would hurt the baby. But she was right about Isaac. He had to testify against Lynda
today, and that was weighing on his mind; he didn’t need Joni’s drinking too. He nodded. “Alright, I won’t
say anything. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
Joni smiled. “I’m fine, Zac, don’t
worry about me.”
Zac nodded, and gave Joni a hug. “I just
don’t want to see anything happen to you… or the baby.”
Joni sighed. “You sound like your brother.”
Zac laughed. “I know.” He withdrew
from the hug. “But it’s true, I don’t. I like you, Joni. You’re a cool person to have around. You’re
in love with my brother, and you’re a friend of the family. Not to mention you don’t really care who we are.”
Joni smiled. “Of course not. You guys are
who you are, and I couldn’t ask for more.” She looked up at the two families as they chatted. To her, the Hansons,
Uncle Jacob, Kaitlynne and herself were all one big family. “Now, let’s go join the family.”
Zac nodded, and they went to where everyone else
was. Zac knew it wouldn’t be long before Isaac would notice Joni. He just hoped the big brother instincts would stay
They waited for a couple of hours before they
entered the courtroom for the trial.
Kaitlynne looked up at Taylor. “I don’t
understand why they’re making Joni testify; she wasn’t even there when everything happened. This is too much for
her, Taylor, it’s too much.”
Taylor wrapped his arm firmly around her shoulders.
“Shh, it’s okay, Kaity. Joni will be alright, and so will you.” He led her to a bench, and sat down, letting
her head rest in the crook of his neck. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
“How do you know, Tay?” Kaitlynne
asked, not looking up at him. “I’m just afraid they’re going to ask Joni something that will get her upset,
and I don’t want that. She’s got enough to think about with the baby, and–”
“Kaity,” Taylor cut her off. He brought
her head up so her eyes met his. “I know you’re worried about your sister; we all are, but she is going to be
fine. Don’t worry about it. Let’s just take things one minute at a time today, okay? Just take it as it comes.
And pray for the best.”
Kaitlynne nodded. Taylor leaned down and gave
her soft kiss, then brought her head down to rest on his shoulder again.
Isaac could tell Joni had been drinking, but
thought it best not to say anything to her about it. She had enough to think about today, she didn’t need his worry.
He led her to sit beside Kaitlynne and Taylor. Zac sat beside him, while the rest of his family sat behind them.
The judge came into the court room and everyone
rose. They sat back down with the judge, got the basics from the judge and waited to hear who would be the first witness to
Jacob’s attorney stood first. “I
would like to call Joni Donnahue to the witness stand at this time.”
Joni hesitated. She still didn’t understand
why she was being called as a witness; she didn’t even see the actual incident happen.
Isaac gave her a hug. “Just tell the truth.
Everything will be fine.”
Joni nodded, and stood up. She slowly walked
up to the witness stand, and after giving the oath to tell the truth, sat down.
Jacob’s attorney, Karl Hopkins, paced slightly
before beginning his questions. “Ms. Donnahue, I understand you were not present at the incident during which your sister
was struck by the defendant?”
Joni nodded. “That’s correct, I wasn’t.”
“You were in the hospital right?”
Joni nodded. “That’s correct.”
Please don’t ask the reason, please don’t ask the reason, she prayed.
Attorney Hopkins nodded, and didn’t ask
about it any further. “But you and the defendant had a confrontation last month, if I understand correctly.”
“Yes, we did,” Joni answered shortly.
“And what was it about exactly?”
Joni froze for a moment. She didn’t know
how to word it. She looked at Kaitlynne, who nodded. Joni took a breath. “It was about my pregnancy.”
Attorney Hopkins nodded. “Uh huh. And what
was said during this confrontation?”
Joni thought back to that night. “She overheard
me telling Kaitlynne that I was pregnant, and she wanted me to get rid of the baby.” She thought it best not to mention
the fact that the baby was not going to grow up with its biological father in hopes she wouldn’t be questioned about
it. To her relief she wasn’t.
“I also understand you and the defendant
didn’t get along too well?” Attorney Hopkins asked.
Joni shook her head. “No, not really. I
didn’t know her that well.”
Attorney Hopkins nodded in normal attorney fashion,
pacing slightly again. Satisfied with how Joni had answered his questions, he turned to the judge. “No further questions,
Joni sighed silently in relief. But now, she
had to face her aunt’s attorney. This would prove interesting. The attorney, Kevin Sanderson stood up, and approached
“You just said that you didn’t know
the defendant very well, is that correct?” Attorney Sanderson asked.
Joni nodded. “Yes.”
“But she is your aunt right? How could
you not know her very well?”
Joni cursed the attorney. She knew this was not
going to go over very well. “I only ever saw her and my Uncle Jacob once a year at Christmas.”
“I see,” Attorney Sanderson mumbled.
Joni didn’t like that mumble. That could only mean another question was going to spawn from her answer. “And there
was little or no communication during the year?”
“Not between myself and them. My father
spoke with my Uncle Jacob,” Joni replied.
“Uh huh… And yet, you and your sister
moved here from Toronto and are now living with them?” Attorney Sanderson asked.
“Yes. They took us in when our parents
“Oh? And how did that happen? How did your
parents die?” Attorney Sanderson asked.
Joni swallowed. She really didn’t want
to answer the question. She was forced to think back to Christmas Eve last year. She looked up at Kaitlynne, and the sad,
sympathetic look in her eyes tore her apart. She looked at Isaac, at her uncle, anywhere but her aunt and the attorney questioning
“Tell us, Ms. Donnahue,” Attorney
Sanderson said. “How did they die?”
Joni tried to blink back tears. The memory was
still fresh in her mind. “They were hit head on by an eighteen wheeler.” A couple of tears escaped her eyes. “It
was Christmas Eve, and they were coming back from getting our gifts wrapped.”
Attorney Sanderson nodded. “They were hit
by an eighteen wheeler on Christmas Eve?”
Kaitlynne wanted to strangle her aunt’s
attorney. She could see the pain in Joni’s eyes from being forced to remember that night, and now have to retell it
to a judge, in front of her family, boyfriend and aunt and uncle’s friends. She clenched her fists, trying to resist
the urge to stand up and give the attorney what for. Taylor noticed this, and gave her a light kiss on her forehead, hoping
she would calm down. He brought her closer to him.
Isaac watched in silence, while Zac sat restlessly.
“Why doesn’t he stop?” Zac asked. “Can’t he see it’s hurting her?” Isaac looked
over to his brother, but said nothing. He turned back to his girlfriend and the attorney.
Joni wiped tears from her cheeks. “I just
said that.” Her voice sounded choked. “They were hit by an eighteen wheeler on Christmas Eve.” She wanted
to punch the attorney for making her repeat what she had just said.
“Did the truck lose control, or–”
“I don’t know,” Joni snapped.
“All I know is my parents are dead.”
Kaitlynne couldn’t take it. She stood up.
All eyes were on her. “Leave her alone. I don’t see how this is significant to the case. She already has enough
to think about with the baby. She doesn’t need this too.”
Taylor took hold of her hand, and gently brought
her back to sit beside him. He didn’t say anything; he just brought her into a hug.
Attorney Sanderson looked back to Joni, who had
managed to recompose herself. “Oh yes. You mentioned earlier that you are pregnant.”
Kaitlynne kicked herself mentally for mentioning
her sister’s pregnancy.
Joni growled inwardly. She wanted to leave this
bench now. “Yes, I am.”
“How far along?”
“A little over a month.”
Attorney Sanderson nodded. “And that was
the topic of the argument that you had with the defendant at the end of last month?”
“Yes,” Joni answered. “She
believed my boyfriend–”
“And who is your boyfriend?”
“The defendant believed Isaac was the father,”
Kaitlynne glared at the attorney. To her, he
was one of the biggest bastards she’d never had to meet.
“And is he?” Attorney Sanderson asked.
Joni was ready to just get up and leave. She
didn’t know how much more of this she could handle. “Biologically, no.”
Attorney Sanderson cocked his head to the side.
“Biologically no? So, you’re saying another man is the biological father of your child, yet Isaac is going to father the child?”
“And why did the defendant blame Isaac?”
Attorney Sanderson asked.
Joni rolled her eyes. “Good God, I don’t
know! She just jumped to conclusions and blamed Isaac. I tried to tell her it wasn’t him, but she wouldn’t believe
me! She didn’t give me a fucking chance to explain!” Tears streamed down her cheeks. This was too much.
Isaac shot up just then, having heard enough
of this. He didn’t care if he was stepping out of line; he had to get Joni off of that witness stand. He headed up to
where Joni sat, giving the attorney a hard glare. “You’re not asking her any more questions.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Hanson,” Attorney
Sanderson spoke. “I’m not finished with the witness.”
“You are now,” Isaac snapped. “I’m
not going to let you torture her any longer.” He wrapped his arms over Joni’s shoulders, and he led her out of
the courtroom. Diana and Zac followed.
The judge said nothing. Everybody was now talking
amongst themselves. He regained order in the room. “I am going to call a thirty minute recess. Session will continue
Everyone left the room. Kaitlynne broke out of
Taylor’s grasp to find her sister. She found her sitting on a bench with Isaac, her face buried in his chest. She was
sobbing loudly, while Isaac was trying desperately to calm her down.
“I knew we should have stayed home,”
Isaac didn’t say anything. He just wanted
to wring the attorney’s neck for the way he treated Joni.
Joni managed to calm down after a few minutes,
but didn’t leave the safety of Isaac’s arms. She wished she knew what was going on. She didn’t know how
her life had gotten this way, nor did she really want to know. She wished none of this had ever happened.
The court session continued again at two-forty-five,
with Kaitlynne now on the witness stand. She was questioned in much the same fashion as Joni had been, but more about the
confrontation during which Lynda gave Kaitlynne the bruise. Kaitlynne kept her answers as simple as possible. She didn’t
want to be up there. She told the court about the fight, and whatever else she was asked, trying to keep down her anger towards
Taylor noticed the perturbed look on Kaitlynne’s
face, and wished like hell the attorney would just let her go. He now knew why both Kaitlynne and Isaac had lost their cool.
He picked at a piece of loose string at the bottom of his shirt, trying not to lose his temper at the attorney.
Finally, Kaitlynne was allowed off of the witness
stand. She went back to sit beside Taylor.
“God, I could kill that damn attorney,”
Taylor didn’t say anything; he just held
Kaitlynne’s hand, trying to tell her everything would be fine.
Isaac was next called up to the stand. He was
asked about the relationship he had with Joni, and the confrontation at the beginning of the month. Isaac told both attorneys
what had happened, including when he had yelled at, and insulted Lynda. He told it like it was, only leaving out the parts
he felt were insignificant to the case. Attorney Sanderson tried to dig into Isaac as well, but the boy wouldn’t let
him. Once Attorney Sanderson had his fill, he called Walker, then Jason, the Hanson bodyguard up, who answered questions relating
to their only involvement; the argument.
Last to testify against Lynda, was Jacob, who
gave plenty of reasons why the divorce was taking place. They hadn’t known each other well when they got married; Lynda
was always insisting they visit their friends in Oklahoma City; she was the reason he didn’t get up to Toronto to see
his brother and his family; and the ever-so-famous dispute about children – he wanted them, she didn’t. She didn’t
even want to take in Joni and Kaitlynne, but had been won over by Jacob.
Lynda was the very last to speak. She went against
everything that had been said against her. She was, however, lying, and it showed.
Kaitlynne watched her aunt speak, disgusted by
the lies. “She’s a terrible liar. Why doesn’t she just admit to everything?”
“Because she’s an arrogant bitch,”
Zac cut in.
“Zac,” Diana leaned forward. “Language.”
“But it’s true, mom,” Zac protested.
“She is, and you know it.”
Diana sighed. She had to admit, she had never
been too fond of Lynda Donnahue herself. She didn’t say anything more, and waited for the judge to call a recess so
everything could be figured out.
Lynda was let off of the stand, and everyone
left the courtroom. Taylor and Kaitlynne went out to grab some lunch, while the rest of the family stayed at the courthouse.
Kaitlynne was frustrated and it showed. All the
way to the McDonalds a block away, Kaitlynne’s arms remained folded in front of her, and her jaw set. She was almost
ready to hit something; anything to release her anger.
Taylor ordered their lunch, and brought it to
the table Kaitlynne had picked; a table for two in the back corner away from everyone else.
“I don’t understand it,” Kaitlynne
started before Taylor sat down. “She’s a horrible liar. Why didn’t she just admit to everything? It would’ve
made everything so much easier. It’s all her fault Joni’s the way she is now, it’s her fault the argument
happened in the first place… she got Joni upset, and now Joni’s drinking again–”
“What?” Taylor cut her off. “Joni’s
drinking again?” This wasn’t good. He knew what alcohol could do to an unborn baby.
Kaitlynne nodded. “She doesn’t know,
but I’ve seen her go downstairs to the basement and have a few drinks.” She picked up her burger, but set it back
down. She was hungry, but didn’t feel like eating. She looked up at Taylor; he hadn’t touched his food either.
“I’m surprised Ike hasn’t noticed,”
“He has,” Kaitlynne answered. “He
noticed when we met at the courthouse, he just hasn’t said anything. I’m glad he hasn’t.”
Taylor studied Kaitlynne for a long moment. He
knew this was hard on her. Hell, it was hard on him too. He didn’t know what he would do if he lost his parents, and
had to watch one of his siblings succumb to alcoholism. He could give Kaitlynne all of the comforting words he could muster,
but he knew they wouldn’t give her any reconciliation. He decided to try anyway. “Kaitlynne, everything is going
to be fine.”
Kaitlynne shook her head. She knew better. “No,
it’s not, Taylor. Even if Uncle Jacob wins this, Lynda is going to get the house. Joni and I will have to move away…
and Joni is going to blame herself for all of this.”
Taylor gave Kaitlynne a questioning glance. “What
do you mean she’s going to blame herself? It’s not her fault.”
“I know, but she thinks with everything
that’s happened with her getting pregnant and her dinking, that she’s caused all of this.” Kaitlynne closed
her eyes for a moment, trying to blink back tears. “Taylor, she has so much weight on her shoulders. She’s always
carried my troubles as well as her own. She’s always tried to protect me, and never had anyone to protect her. She needs
someone, Taylor… I just wish I could help her out with everything, but I know she won’t let me–”
“Isaac has been trying to help her.”
“I know, and I appreciate that, but she
needs more than just Isaac.”
Taylor placed his hand over hers. “Kaitlynne,”
he soothed. “Listen, I know this is hard for you, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard all of this is on
Joni or your uncle, but everything is going to be fine. You are going to get through this; Joni is going to get through this
too. Isaac is going to help Joni, and I am going to be with you every step of the way. We are all going to get through this
Kaitlynne wasn’t sure if she believed Taylor,
but she needed something to hold on to, even if it was just those words of comfort being offered to her. She nodded. “I
hope so. I hope to God it will be.”
Taylor leaned across the table, and captured
her lips with his. “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.” He checked his watch. Thirty minutes had
passed since they had left the courthouse. “Now, c’mon, we should get back before they wonder where we’ve
Kaitlynne smiled slightly, and taking their lunch
with them, they headed back to the courthouse.
They got there, just in time to hear the verdict.
Kaitlynne looked over at Joni; she looked like she’d been crying. She wanted to wrap her arms around her sister and
not let her go. They all sat back down in the pews, and awaited the verdict.
“Upon hearing the statements from both
parties, the divorce filed against the defendant is finalized, and legalized. I give the plaintiff full custody of Joni and
Kaitlynne Donnahue. The defendant, due to the fact that the house is in her name, keeps the house,” the judge declared.
Lynda showed no remorse or sadness, only anger
towards her now ex-husband and two nieces. She was first to leave the courtroom.
Kaitlynne fell against Taylor, relieved everything
was over. She only wished she knew what Uncle Jacob was going to do about finding another place to live.
Joni sat, trying to make sense of everything.
First her parents died, then she moved to Tulsa with an aunt and uncle she rarely saw, then she adopted an alcohol problem,
was pregnant, and now she, Kaity and Uncle Jacob would have to move, and Lynda was no longer her aunt. She blamed herself
for everything. “This is all my fault,” she sighed.
Isaac turned to her. “No, it’s not.
None of this is your fault.”
“Yes, it is, Isaac,” Joni said. “I
started drinking, this baby…That whole confrontation happened because of me. Lynda forbade me to see you, and you had
to take me to the hospital, so she saw you, and you and Kaitlynne got mad at her, and she slapped Kaity. It’s my fault.
If I hadn’t have started all of this, my aunt and uncle would still be together, Kaitlynne wouldn’t have that
Isaac brought her close to him. “Shh, Joni,
it’s okay. It’s not your fault. If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s Lynda’s. She wouldn’t
listen to you when you tried to explain your pregnancy. It’s not your fault. Don’t think that it is.”
“But I can’t help but think that
it is.” Joni rested her head on his shoulder. “I wish none of this had ever happened. I wish I was still in Toronto
living with my parents… I wish things were they way they used to be.”
Isaac sighed. He too wished that for Joni’s
sake, but if it hadn’t have happened, he wouldn’t have met her. “But then I wouldn’t have met you.”
Joni didn’t say anything. She knew he was
right. They probably would have never met if she was still at home in Toronto. She was glad she had met Isaac; he was the
best thing that had ever happened to her, with the exception of having Kaitlynne as a little sister. She hoped that her life
would stop getting so confusing once everything was settled. She then thought about where they were going to live now that
they no longer had the house. She raised her head from Isaac’s shoulder. “I don’t know where we’re
going to live. Lynda has the house now…”
“We’ll find a place, Joni, don’t
worry,” Jacob said.
“You can stay with us,” Diana said.
“What?” Joni asked. “Oh, no.
We don’t want to bother you–”
“Nonsense,” Diana answered. “You’re
family, and family is welcome whenever they want. We’d be happy to let you live with us until you guys find another
Jacob had no choice but to accept. “Thank
you so much, Diana.”
Diana smiled. “No problem.”
Everyone left the courthouse, and gathered at
the Hansons’. Joni was quiet all evening. She still couldn’t make sense of everything that was happening. Diana
had put a couple of records on, as everyone talked. The talking ceased however, when D-I-V-O-R-C-E by Tammy Wynette drifted
through the speakers. Nobody moved, or spoke while the song played. Isaac felt Joni move closer to him, and gave her a hug.
Taylor held Kaitlynne’s hand, while Jacob sat in silence, thinking about everything that had happened. Jacob had loved
Lynda, and had wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, but when the discussion about having children came up, things
were getting stressful, and had reached the breaking point when Joni and Kaitlynne had been brought to live with them. He
had had a few arguments with Lynda about it. Divorce was the last thing he wanted to have happen, but he had to do it for
the sake of Joni and Kaitlynne.
The song finished, and it took a moment before
Diana spoke up.
“I’m going to make a pot of coffee,”
she said. “Does anyone want a cup?”
Isaac, Taylor, Walker and Jacob put their hands
up, and Diana disappeared into the kitchen.
Isaac looked down at Joni. She looked like she
wanted something. “What do you want? Do you want anything?”
“A stiff drink,” Joni mumbled.
Sad looks were passed around the living room
between Isaac, Jacob, Kaitlynne, Taylor, Walker and Zac. Isaac sighed. He wanted to make her feel better, even if it did mean
getting her a glass of rum and pepsi, but he didn’t want to make her want to drink even more.
Jacob sighed after a moment, and nodded. “Let
her have one,” he said softly.
“Are you sure?” Isaac asked. He didn’t
want anything to happen to Joni because of it.
Jacob nodded. “Mix her a rum and pepsi.”
Isaac got up, and went to the liquor cabinet.
“What are you doing, Ike?” Diana
“Mixing Joni a drink,” Isaac answered.
“Jacob said it was alright to.”
Diana nodded, despite her disapproval of that
decision. “Okay. Just don’t make it a strong one.”
Isaac mixed Joni a drink, and handed it to her
as Diana handed out the coffee.
Joni gave a sigh of relief when she took her
first sip. There wasn’t as much rum in it she would’ve liked, but she accepted what was given to her.
Night came relatively fast, and after getting clothes for a few days, Joni, Kaitlynne and Jacob got settled into the
one bedroom not occupied by a Hanson family member. Sleep came restlessly for Jacob and Kaitlynne, but not at all for Joni.