A week into my mother’s binge, my court date was coming up. My anxiety was not skipping a beat, my mother not slowing down or passing up every opportunity to get high and go to the bars all night. Yet, I was going to school and was asking my teachers to write character statements to bring to court, trying to figure out how this was going to play out.
All I could picture is walking into the courtroom in front of the judge with my mother hung over and looking like she hadn’t slept in days or even worse still being drunk or high. No matter how many different ways this played out in my head, my life would be the only one affected.
I remember sitting in the living room with my wheels spinning trying to figure out what I was going to say to the judge while watching her on the front step waiting for her dealer to drop crack off. I would stare at her with such disgust and just remind myself I would never be like her. How could she not be concerned with what I was about to face? I guess if I got thrown in juvenile detention then she would truly be free, not like she wasn’t but I’m sure there was still an ounce of responsibility left in her for me.
So it is the day we go in front of the judge. I have all the letters that speak to my character and I am dressed up to show I have potential. My mother looks appropriate, she is on the sober side but I can still smell the alcohol seeping from her pores. We sit with my public defender, he tells me that the charges are serious and he has been working on my file and thinks we can get a lot of it dropped. I have no choice but to trust him at this point.
We go in front of the judge; all my charges are read off and the judge sits there with a scowl on his face. My public defender asked for a continuance so that we can have more time to speak about what really happened, he believes that I was dragged against my will and did not participate in the acts that I was being accused of. The judge runs his eyes down the paper file in front of him. He lifts his head and stares back at us.
He says “did she drive without a license?” My public defender responds “yes, your honor but she was on private property and we do not believe that the place of business wants to press charges as she is employed part-time there.” The judge asked, “did she try to run someone over?” “No, your honor she was merely trying to protect herself.” This goes back and forth for a little while; I start to go into a daze and then I quickly snap back when I hear the judge get louder as if he knew I was in a daze and he was trying to get my attention back on track. He said well I feel these are serious charges and I feel that Desiree should be placed in Hartford juvenile detention center!
My neck snaps up and before the words reached my lips, tears were pouring down my face. “Your honor you cannot place me there, well you can but I beg you not to PLEASE!” I pleaded. My attorney telling me to be quiet and calm down. He quickly speaks up and tells the judge he does not believe that is necessary, he will take personal responsibility and believes I should be put on house arrest while we sort this out.
Eyes filled with tears I stare at the judge, he calls my mother up, my heart sinks. Mrs. Conroy, do you take responsibility for your daughter? Will you ensure that she is in school every day, home by eight every night unless she is with you, and stays out of trouble? You would think I would just know her answer but I had doubt on what would come out of her mouth next. I take a deep breath and her response was yes.
If this judge had the slightest clue of her character he would have known that I would be better attesting for myself, that I am the one who tried to keep order in the house, that I would be in the house after school as she ran the streets all night breaking the law. Regardless though, on paper, I looked like the criminal and I was just happy that the judge agreed to the terms that my attorney suggested.
I spent the next month sitting in the house only leaving for school. I am there to answer the phone at night when my public defender calls. My mother still living her dysfunctional life day in and day out, Harley still staying at the house and the only one working at the time. My mother would come in at all hours of the night sometimes alone and a few nights with a stranger that she would embarrass herself gushing over while still trying to keep her balance so they could make it to the bedroom.
One afternoon I got home from school and my mother was in the Livingroom smoking pot. The house smelled so bad but I guess I was happy that it was pot and not crack. A knock at the door! Again, I go into a full panic as I am the one that is under a microscope. I am thinking a neighbor called the cops due to the potent smell. I peak out the front window and it is WORSE! I know what is worse than the cops?
My public defender that is who. He is also acting as a probation officer and was there to check in. I tell him that the front door is blocked and ask him to go around. I am freaking out and my mother is laughing as she sprays a bottle of Febreze all over the house, which does not take the smell away. He arrives at the back door and I am on the verge of tears. He doesn’t say anything, but he knows that I know he can smell it. He continues to talk to me.
So have you been to school every day? Yes, sir. Have you been home every night by 8:00 p.m.? Yes, sir.
Is there anything that you think we need to discuss? Yes, I ask him what he thinks that the turn out of this case is going to be? He tells me he is still working on it and I am to have no contact with Dale at all. He plans to push the blame to Dale and get most of it dropped. He then asked if I would be willing to take a voluntary drug test. I immediately respond absolutely. My mother jumps up from the couch “Desiree, are you sure?” she says, you do not have to.
I look at her with fury as she was the one just sitting on the couch getting high and is probably the reason that he was triggered to ask. I respond to her Yes! I am sure! I roll my eyes and grab the cup and go in the bathroom to pee in it. I bring the cup back out to him and he said thank you and left. I think he was starting to see the roles in our relationship and picking up on the unspoken behaviors of my mother.
He calls me the next day and tells me the drug test came back negative. I knew that it would, but he tells me to keep it up and I will be a model candidate to go in front of the judge again. He continues to show up and check on me weekly, but he starts coming to the school instead of my house. I believe he went with ignorance is bliss scenario. If he kept coming to the house, he was bound to see something with my mother that he would not be able to unsee and that would put me at risk of going to the detention center.
I continue to see my probation officer every week for months to come. He wanted to show several months of good behavior before we went back in front of the judge. So much was happening behind the scenes that this matter in my life seemed so insignificant at this point. My mother continued to get worse, believe it or not. We were evicted and living in a hotel. She was still out all the time, Harley was still with us and now he was selling weed to try to help bring money in.
I finally go back in front of the judge, wondering if the detention center might be a better option. My public defender/probation officer put me on display to the judge. He tells him how I voluntarily offered urine samples weekly, I was in school every day, I was getting good grades and I stayed out of trouble. After going back and forth the judge agrees to drop all the charges except one. The worst felony Attempted to Vehicular Homicide. He said that this charge was going to stay on my record for the next year and I would continue to be on probation. I was no longer on house arrest but I would still have my weekly check-ins and still needed to stay out of trouble. If I were to get into trouble again within the next year all of the charges would come right back and stand if I did not get in any trouble all charges would be dropped and sealed at the end of the year.
Living in the hotel, my mother has not been back in a couple of days. A little nervous but kind of relieved. When she was around, I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t look at her barely standing or listen to any more of her slurred words. I had no patience for it and honestly, it had been a rough couple of months, and I was still not back to normal. The relationship was growing between Harley and I and I was just focusing on what was best for me.
I was drawn to him, he understood what I was going through, he had been there from the first night and watched my mother’s behavior unwind. We could talk about different experiences that we both had but they were very similar. There was no judgment, and he was the only person I had in my corner who said they had mine or our best interest in mind.