And so she made her case. Her heart pounded in a flurry of anxiety as her attorney related her side of the story to the judge. His voice was flat, empty and devoid of the emotion she felt pulsing through her veins. There, on the stand, her husband of a decade, the man she believed in, trusted and loved, stood, smirking, a twisted look of insane malice dancing in his eyes, a diabolical gleam in them, and evil plastered onto his face.
She remembered, transparently, the night when she returned home from her second job and discovered all the lights extinguished. She had thrust open the door, calling out her children's names frantically, yet in vain as she received no response. Terror seized her overworked, frail body. "Kris! Kathy!"
She tore through the house, then paused suddenly as she detected the tiniest sound caused by the slightest of movements. Her chest tightened worriedly. "Kathy?" She flung open the bedroom door to find her 9-year-old daughter, whimpering and cowering in docile fright, sobbing, mumbling inaudibly. Relief washed over her like a wave as she grasped her only little girl in reassuring embrace. Kathy was still trying to speak, but her words were choked with a flood of tears. Finally, a discernible word escaped from Kathy's cracked lips, one that filled her with terror: "Kris."
In an instant, she was petrified, her body frozen in motion, her feet rooted to the ground as Kathy pointed a trembling finger at the closed bathroom door. She swallowed her fear and approached the ill-fated room. She could almost foresee the horror, the dread that was about to greet her. Inhaling deep into the pit of her stomach, she pushed the door open.
A scream rippled across the hallway, shattering the sacred silence of the black night. It echoed endlessly, bouncing off the walls and floor, surrounding her weakening, grief-stricken body. She realized in an instant that she was the one screaming, releasing all her enraged sadness, and all her crazed fury, in that one screech of pure agony.
There, draped over the sink, lay a deformed body, mangled beyond repair, its face scarred and mutilated beyond recognition, the limbs struck out at awkward angles, twisted and wrung out, limp and broken. The grey shirt she had bought her son the previous year had been ripped apart, blood-soaked and slashed open. The white tiles on the wall were swathed in blood, splattered with rusty brown. She sank to the floor, a quivering wreck, sobbing over Kris' broken body, her hysterical shrieks muffled as she buried her face in his hair...
The next day, she found herself arrested by the local police department for the murder of her son. Next thing she knew, she was sitting in the interrogation room, her fingers clenching and unclenching, her knuckles white from holding her fists too tight, her palms sweating, tears streaming down her face.
"Mrs Tennant, your husband states that your daughter Katherine called him at 7 o'clock that evening saying that you had thrown a fit and murdered your son. No one could confirm your whereabouts at the time. Katherine has given a statement that you did lose it and throw yourself upon Kristofer," the officer had insisted.
Her fingerprints were found all over the bathroom, stained in blood, and over the handle of the knife used to commit the gory deed. The case had been presented before the judge. It took little time to decide. They had a case.
"The prosecution calls Mrs Karmen Tennant to the stand..."
She jerked awake from her thoughts, vigorously shaking the unpleasant, depressing memories out of head just in time to register that she was being called. Her lawyer looked at her with absent-minded concern as she mustered what little courage remained in her and strode, escorted by two guards, to the stand.
The merciless prosecutor spoke boldly, her voice full of accusation as she questioned her with a taunting edge in each word. Slowly, she switched from asking her what she was doing at 7 o'clock (which she could not really recall) and moved on to questions about her family life. Was Kris a rebellious son? Did he cause problems? She answered with a trembling voice, oblivious to her husband's sneers. Then the prosecutor asked her a question she was unprepared for: How was her relationship with her husband?
All of a sudden, her mind whirled and flashed with images of her husband beating her with the lamp when she picked him up five minutes late, of when he locked her in the closet when she did not cook his dinner precisely on time, of when he threw her on the floor when one of his shirt collars was not ironed properly...
Then, for her, it was all black.
Everyone in the courthouse witnessed an extraordinary thing that day. Her deep grey eyes suddenly faded and seemed to blacken and she leered at everyone with intensity in her gaze. Her slouched, slumped back straightened. Aloof, she leaned back in the chair with luxury. Fright left her eyes and she smiled, her eyebrows twitching with amusement. The frail, vulnerable lady was gone, and she spoke clearly instead of in mumbles, replying with crude words and with a deep, booming voice that she could not care less of the husband.
In an instant, the courtroom was in an uproar, and even the judge hammering his gavel down and shouting angrily for order could not quiet the spectators and jury. Flustered, he slammed the mallet-like object down and announced that court was adjourned.
The next day, as she slumped in her seat in court, her attorney called for Katherine. Her heart lurched. Since when was Kathy on her side? She watched her little girl shuffle up to the stand, eyes darting from corner to corner of the room, looking so tiny and brave. Kathy had changed her statement drastically: "A man came to our house, and he was wearing a mask. K-Kris told me to go and hide. H-He confronted the man. The man got angry and he t-took a knife from the kitchen and..." Kathy's voice trailed off, then regained strength. "Daddy told me that I must tell everyone that Mummy hurt Kris." Kathy's voice faltered again, but she continued, "He said that if I told anyone the truth he would hurt me and Mummy."
At the other end of the court, her husband stood up suddenly and raged, yelling that they were all lies. The whole room exploded with muttering. The judge was once more slamming his gavel. However, she did not see any of this. Her head was spinning, and slowly everything else faded away.
The court was silenced when a chair was thrown from across the room and struck her husband on the face. The spectators turned around to see her being wrestled to the ground by the guards, her mouth filled with curses and expletives. She was unrecognizable, even to her own daughter, who began to sob and wail in fright.
That was a fortnight ago.
Today, she sits in the courtroom again, but this time she is confident, her voice steady and calm, a slightly mad smile etched across her face. The previous day, she had visited a psychiatrist. When she entered the office and introduced herself as Karlos, the problem was apparent. She suffers from dissociative identity disorder. On one side, she is the gentle, docile, frightened and abused Karmen. On the other side, she is a he, a strong, egoistic, confident and fearless man named Karlos.
When she learned of her condition, there was one main thought that flashed through her mind. She told the specialist that once she had conquered him, she would like to help others with similar conditions. After all, who better to assist those with multiple personalities than one with her own? "Like an agent of change," she had stated.
Her psychiatrist had laughed at that, and joked her, "You already are an agent of change – literal change, that is."
To this day, she does not remember where she went the night of the murder, but he does. He, the soul possessing her body, knows exactly what took place.
He had taken her home to rest, that was all, but that meddling boy had blocked his way. He could not get her safely into her room. He had to protect her so he took the knife, gripping it in his bare hand, and struck Kris over, and over, and over, and destroyed him. Realizing what he had done, he fled, leaving her to find the ruin he had caused her.
Nobody knows the truth, except he. The verdict is simple. She cannot be condemned for having this condition. She is therefore, not guilty by reason of insanity. She, with he standing beside her, feels elated, a weight lifted off her shoulders, a burden eased off of her heart. She is free. He is free.
And so they rest their case.
A/N: This essay won Silver in the 2011 Commonwealth Young Writer's Awards.