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    Drew Payne
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The World Out There - 7. Seven

That night, Liam didn’t go home. Instead, they took him to a Children’s Home, Rokeby House, were he stayed until his trial. He kind of liked Rokeby House: there were nine other kids there and they all seemed to have their own problems, which they would often act out in public, demanding the attention of the staff there and allowing him to just be left alone. Also, he didn’t have to go to school - he could just sit up in his room and read whatever books he could find.

The down side of life there was that he was visited regularly. His mother visited him every Saturday lunchtime for the first six weeks he was there, and then suddenly her visits stopped. He didn’t mind: when she visited him, she didn’t stop telling him all the problems he’d caused her, all the stress she was under from what he’d done, and that the council wasn’t willing to rehouse her. He sat silently as she lectured him on all the things he had done wrong. When she stopped visiting, he was glad that he no longer had to hear her telling him off and shouting at him. As the weeks passed by without any visits from her though, he found himself more and more missing her - she was his mother.

Mark Hiller also visited him regularly. At first, he said he was “checking in” on Liam, though later he told Liam details of what was going to happen, especially about his trial. The things Mark Hiller said only seemed real when he told Liam that his court date was set. Suddenly, he was able to countdown to when his trial would be, when everyone would know what he’d done.

At one of his later visits, Mark Hiller quietly asked him, “Why did you do it? Why did you kill that lad?”

Liam had swallowed down his nerves and his gut feeling to remain silent, and quietly said: “I wanted him to stop hurting me. He was always hitting me and beating me up all the time. I only took that knife to school to threaten him and stop it but… but it went wrong.”

“Was he bullying you?”

Liam just nodded his head in reply.

“Jesus Christ,” Mark Hiller muttered.

His other regular visitor was Dr Harvey, a psychiatrist. She was a plain, middle-aged woman, who wore over-sized jumpers and dark coloured trousers. He never saw her wearing a dress or a power suit. He would meet with her for an hour, every fortnight. They would meet together in the home’s Quiet Room, a small room next to the staff’s office, set aside of the kids there to have meeting like this.

The first time he had met her, she’d briskly said, “The court has appointed me to write a psychiatric assessment on you. I will visit you here every fortnight and ask you some very serious questions which you must answer honestly. Do you understand me young man?”

He had just nodded his head in reply.

She had asked him questions about his mother and how he was at school. She’d questioned him about his emotions and how he was sleeping, and always he’d answered her with a nod or a shake of his head. Something deep inside of himself told him to remain silent, not to talk with this woman. How could he tell her about the nightmares he had, almost every night, where he’d relive killing Rhys Clarke stab by stab, that made him fearful of actually sleeping? How could he tell her about the crippling guilt he felt almost all the time he was awake? He knew this mess was all his fault and he knew nothing he could do would solve it. How could he tell her that most of the time he felt like his emotions had been turned off, that he was no more than a robot walking around Rokeby House? He couldn’t tell her any of that, so he told her nothing - it was all he knew to do.

So often, faced with his total silence, she would snap at him. “You are not helping yourself by this pathetic silence, young man. You have to talk to me because I am the only person who can help you.” He knew that, but it didn’t help. Silence still felt so much safer.

He had one very important visitor there, though she only visited him once. It was two weeks before his trial and Mark Hiller brought her to see him. She was the most glamorous woman he had ever seen in the flesh: she was tall, her figure was almost statuesque, only gentle curves at her breasts and hips interrupting the straight up and down lines of her clothes. Her shiny blonde hair was worn neatly pulled back from her face and held at the back of her head in an equally neat twist. This only emphasised the strong features of her face and her clear blue eyes staring at him. The only make-up he could see on her face was bright red lipstick that drew attention to her almost perfectly formed mouth.

She wore a slim, black suit of matching jacket and narrow skirt over an electric blue blouse, which only accentuated her statuesque figure. When she sat down, she’d elegantly crossed one leg over the other.

 

“This is Mrs Bernadette Stewart-Graham,” Mark Hiller told him as they all sat down together in the Quiet Room. “She’s your barrister.”

Liam thought that her surname sounded like a boy’s name, but he didn’t say anything: her presence was dominating that room. He just nodded his head in reply.

“You’re a quiet one,” she’d said in a voice as commanding as her presence.

He just nodded again.

“Don’t worry. I have no intension of making you give evidence,” Mrs Stewart-Graham said. “I’ve never found that children make good witnesses. I want you to look small and pathetic in the Dock. I need the jury to feel sympathy for you. What am I saying? I need them to feel sorry for you. I’m sure you can do that.”

He just nodded his agreement.

“Mr Hiller, Mark, told me the other boy you stabbed was bullying you,” she said.

He nodded his head - he didn’t want to explain any further.

“That can really help us,” she said.

“Except, the only person who will back that up is one of Liam’s teachers, Miss James,” Mark Hiller added, a heavy note of disappointment in his voice.

“Then we need to work on that,” Mrs Stewart-Graham said to Mark Hiller. “Now Liam,” she continued saying she turned her attention onto him. “I need you to talk to a psychologist I know. He’s called Duncan Loughton and he’s a really nice man. I have worked with him many times. I need him to be able to tell the court, at your trial, about who you really are. The prosecution already has Dr Harvey and I need someone to tell the court the truth about you.”

“We all know about Dr Harvey, the prosecution’s best friend,” Mark Hiller said, with a strong wave of sarcasm in his voice.

“So I need you to actually talk with Duncan. Do you think you can do that?” Mrs Stewart-Graham said, leaning forward in her chair and looking kindly at him.

He nodded his head and quietly said, “Yes.”

“Good. Then we can work together,” Mrs Stewart-Graham said, smiling at him. Her smile made her face seem even more beautiful.

Duncan Loughton had visited him twice there and both times they’d met in the Quiet Room. The first time, Kat, one of the staff at Rokeby House, had brought him down there from his bedroom, where he spent most of his time, but she had quickly left him there.

In the Quiet room he found a handsome man sitting in one of the armchairs who greeted Liam warmly. “I’m Duncan Loughton. Mrs Stewart-Graham asked me to come and talk to you. I’m a psychologist. Please sit down.”

Liam had been hovering just inside the room’s door. The man’s strikingly good looks suddenly made him feel intimidated. When the man spoke, when Duncan Loughton spoke, Liam stepped further into the room and sat down on one of the other empty armchairs.

Duncan Loughton was very handsome. He had thick black hair which was collar length and swept back over his head, with a soft wave to it, giving it body that lifted it off his scalp. His face, with its pale complexion, had strong and elegant features, a strong profile that drew the eyes back to it. His body, sat in that chair, seemed strong and muscular: his arms were thick, and his chest was broad. Both of them were pushing out against his pale blue cotton shirt. He was also dressed in pale tan canvas trousers, not for him a formal suit.

“Now Liam, you don’t mind me calling you ‘Liam’?” Duncan Loughton asked. Liam just shook his head in reply. “Mrs Stewart-Graham wants me to talk to you so that I can make a report to the court about what happened to you that day at school.”

Again, Liam just nodded his head.

“Now I’ve been told you’re rather shy, so I’m going to start asking you questions that you can answer with one- or two-word answers, if you want to,” Duncan Loughton said.

“Yes,” Liam quietly replied.

“Good,” Duncan Loughton smiled back at him.

Duncan Loughton’s questions that day were all about his home life and how he did or didn’t enjoy school. The questions were easy to answer and as he did so, still with one or two words, and Duncan Loughton smiled back at him every time he did.

He didn’t exactly find talking with Duncan Loughton easy, but he did find it rewarding. The handsome man would smile at him and nod his approval. Duncan Loughton would say things that showed he was listening to Liam and trying to make conversation with him. Liam didn’t feel he was being interrogated, the way he did when he had to meet with Dr Harvey.

At the end of that first session, Duncan Loughton had stood up to leave, except he didn’t easily stand up. He’d reached for a pair of crutches he’d hidden away behind his chair. He then held them together in front of himself, almost like an A-Frame, the handles held together, which he used to pull himself up. One hand held onto the crutches’ handles, while his other hand pushed against the chair’s armrest. Duncan Loughton awkwardly pushed himself upright this way, almost pulling himself forward against falling back into the chair. Once upright, he manoeuvred one crutch onto his left arm and then twisted the other crutch around until it was fixed around his right arm. With the crutches firmly in place, Duncan Loughton seemed much more stable and almost upright.

To Liam’s surprise, both Duncan Loughton’s legs was twisted and withered. His knees were pressed together, his feet splayed apart, while his legs themselves seemed so thin and week under his trousers.

“Are… are you okay?” he asked Duncan Loughton.

“I was born with a condition that ruined my legs. This is normal for me. Don’t worry.”

Duncan Loughton walked out of the room, but slowly, as his crutches moved first and then his legs swung forward to catch up with them.

The second time he saw Duncan Loughton, the next day, had been again in Rokeby House’s Quiet Room, but this time Liam had arrived there first, after being told he had an “appointment” by one of the workers. He’d thought it was again with Dr Harvey, so when he’d seen Duncan Loughton slowly and awkwardly walk into the room, he’d felt a moment of comfortable relief.

That day, Duncan Loughton had asked him about Rhys Clarke’s death, though he wasn’t as blunt as Dr Harvey.

“Why did you take the knife to school that day?”

Liam took a moment to answer this question, but he pushed himself to do so: he had to, didn’t he?

“I just wanted scare him off,” he told Duncan Loughton.

“This was Rhys Clarke?”

“Yes,” Liam said.

“And this was to stop the bullying?”

“Yes.”

“And how long had he been bullying you?” Duncan Loughton asked.

“Since Year Six.”

“That’s over a year.”

“Yes,” Liam said. That sounded such a long time, but it had been so long.

“And what happened at that breaktime?”

Liam swallowed hard - he had promised Mrs Stewart-Graham and Mark Hiller he would answer all this man’s answers, but he had kept quiet about those events, pushing them down inside of himself, hoping they would just go away. Though those vivid dreams, almost every night, meant that it wasn’t working.

He looked into that handsome man’s face and quietly said, “He found me in the playground. I tried to hide from him.”

“Rhys Clarke?”

“Yes.”

“And what happened?”

“I took the knife from my school bag and he laughed at me.”

“That must have been horrible.”

“He wasn’t afraid. He dared me to stab him.”

“Is that why you stabbed him?”

“I just wanted to hurt him, to cut him and make him bleed. But the knife just went all the way in. I didn’t push that hard.” He could see the knife sinking into Clarke’s stomach, how easily and quickly it slid into Clarke’s flesh - he barely had to use any force at all. Why was he remembering this? Why did he always remember this?

“Why did you keep stabbing at him?”

“I don’t know,” he said. How could he talk about how good it felt to suddenly have power over Rhys Clarke? How did he look saying he’d enjoyed hurting Clarke for a moment, making Clarke suffer, making Clarke bleed? Did that make him look like he was just as bad as Clarke?

“Do you remember stabbing him again?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember trying to stop yourself?”

“No.”

“Do you remember what you were thinking?”

“No.”

“Do you know what is meant when people say they lost control?”

“Yes… Sort of.”

“Did you lose control?”

“I’m not sure.” He really wasn’t. It had all happened so quickly and so suddenly. The chance to hurt Clarke and make him powerless had taken over.

“It sounds like you did, to me,” Duncan Loughton said.

“I don’t know,” Liam replied. He couldn’t look the handsome man in the face, he felt so ashamed of what he had done.

“It sounds like things got away from you. You only wanted to scare away Rhys Clarke and when it didn’t, when Rhys Clarke belittled you, you lost control.”

“It was my fault,” Liam quietly said.

“But he had been bullying you for so long, he’d made you so afraid of him. Then you tried to stand up to him, he laughed at you. I bet he called you names too.”

Liam just nodded his reply.

“And you simply lost control,” Duncan Loughton continued saying.

Liam nodded again. Duncan Loughton made it all sound so simple. But had it been? Liam looked up at him and found the man gently smiling back at him.

Copyright © 2021 Drew Payne; All Rights Reserved.
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Wow those two psychologist have treated Liam so differently. Whilst what he did was wrong, his lawyer is focusing on the bullying which is good for Liam.

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53 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

Wow those two psychologist have treated Liam so differently.

That was another thing I wanted to include here, that a psychological/psychiatric assessment is only as good as the practitioner. An assessment is only as good as the clinician doing it.

I am also fascinated about how one action can have so many consequences, but what was the motivation behind that action.

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Poor Liam re-lives the horror over and over, in addition to the piled-up powerlessness of getting bullied by Rhys. What prospect of learning any kind of healthy control does Liam possess? I wonder if either psychiatric professional could answer that one. At least Loughton seemed sympathetic. 

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17 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

Poor Liam re-lives the horror over and over, in addition to the piled-up powerlessness of getting bullied by Rhys. What prospect of learning any kind of healthy control does Liam possess? I wonder if either psychiatric professional could answer that one. At least Loughton seemed sympathetic. 

Liam needs really good and professional mental health care but he's not going to find it here. He's in the criminal justice system and everything is gearing up to his trial, not his wellbeing.

Loughton is sympathetic but that is part of his way to get his assessment done. He's not the only healthcare professional who does this.

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