Brian and Justin decided that they would be getting married on September 15, which was Gus’s sixteenth birthday as well as the sixteenth anniversary of the day they first met. The birthday boy himself insisted the couple have their wedding on that day, saying it was the best gift that they could ever give him… but if they also wanted to buy him a car, like a new Dodge Charger or Challenger, he wouldn’t be opposed. Emmett was hired to plan the grand ceremony and reception at Britin.
In the weeks leading up to the trial with Curtis, Melanie spent many hours preparing her case. She had tried to hold off as long as she could to file subpoenas for her witnesses to appear, waiting for Curtis’s attorney to file his and see who his witnesses would be. About six weeks before the trial date, Melanie received her copies of the opposing counsel’s subpoenas.
Melanie had to hold back her extreme outrage when she saw that Turner had subpoenaed both Lindsay and Michael to testify as witnesses for Curtis. She was hoping that the opposition wouldn’t stoop that low, since Turner knew that she had personal connections to those particular witnesses, but she knew that they were the only two people who could and would air Justin and Brian’s dirty laundry on the stand.
Melanie had no choice but to call in some help. She was Facebook friends with the founding partner of her old law firm, Albert “Al” Kurtzman, whom she was aware had retired a few years back but still took on pro bono cases. Two of his specialties had been family and contract law, so he would be perfect for their case. She hadn’t actually spoken with the old lawyer since she quit the firm prior to moving to Toronto, but she took a chance and sent him a brief private message.
Al replied to Melanie’s message almost immediately and they were soon on the phone with each other. Melanie explained what was going on, telling Al that she needed another attorney to partner with her on Justin’s case, primarily to cross-examine Lindsay and Michael. Luckily Al’s schedule was fairly clear leading up to the trial and he would be available for the trial itself, which the court had given three days to be held on.
Melanie, Justin, and Brian had a meeting with Al at his very fancy home in Pittsburgh a few days later. Al was well into his seventies but was still as sharp as a tack, and Justin liked him immediately. Brian wasn’t as quick to accept the old Jewish lawyer, but the scales were tipped in the right direction after Al confessed to never having a positive opinion of Lindsay.
“Now, I only met her maybe twice before at office parties, but I wasn’t very impressed,” Al confessed.
“Why, what was wrong with her?” Brian asked.
Al shrugged. “I thought Melanie could do much better. All looks, no brain, and very self-centered. Total bimbo.”
Melanie, Justin, and Brian laughed, and Brian decided right then that Al was the perfect addition to their legal team.
Melanie and Al decided that they would file subpoenas for the two EMTs in the ambulance who heard Daphne tell Justin that she wanted him and Brian to raise Keegan, as well as ones for Debbie, Ben, Emmett, and Gus. They would call Debbie, Ben, and Emmett to impeach Michael as a credible witness, though they may end up needing only one or two of them depending on what Michael had to say on the stand. Gus would be called to impeach Lindsay, along with having him testify to his experience of being raised by same-sex parents and as a character witness for Justin and Brian. Debbie would also make an excellent character witness. Of course, Justin and Brian would testify on their own behalfs. A payroll person from the hospital would be called to introduce Curtis’s timesheets into evidence, which would really help to hammer home Curtis’s inability to properly raise Keegan due to his busy work schedule.
Melanie’s knew one thing that would undoubtedly hurt anything that her estranged wife would have to say against Justin and Brian: the fact that Brian had used his cellphone to secretly record the entire conversation/argument he had with Lindsay in the park. Brian had hidden his phone in his shirt pocket beneath his trench coat and it had picked up every ugly thing that Lindsay had said clear as a bell, since she had been standing very close to Brian and was shouting throughout most of their conversation. Melanie wished that she could have used the recording as her ace in the hole at the trial, she but was required by rules of discovery to provide a copy of the recording to opposing counsel. It would show Lindsay’s questionable mental state and her bias against Justin to the court.
After hearing what Lindsay had said in Brian’s recording, specifically the part where Lindsay told Brian that he should throw Justin out and marry her, Melanie wanted to file for divorce immediately. Unfortunately, in order to file for divorce in Pennsylvania, she would have to wait until she had lived in the state for a minimum of six months. She could file in Ontario, Canada anytime she wanted, but divorces were much harder to come by in Canada than they were south of the border. Ontario required that she be separated from Lindsay for no less than one year in order to file, since there had been no adultery that she knew about and no physical or mental abuse. Melanie’s obvious course of action was to wait a few more months and file the divorce papers in Pennsylvania.
Melanie learned through Debbie that Lindsay had not returned to Toronto and was instead living on Michael’s couch in a tiny apartment near his comic book store. Debbie, as a favor to Melanie, had gotten Lindsay on the phone and learned that she was hoping that Brian would come to his senses and do what she had requested, and she didn’t want to be too far away.
Melanie and Brian talked about Lindsay later that evening in his office at Britin after Debbie had dropped that bomb.
“She actually thinks that I’d leave Justin for her?” Brian asked. “I love Gus and would do just about anything for him, but is she out of her fucking mind?”
Melanie nodded. “I honestly think she is. She’s moved past desperate and straight into delusional. She doesn’t even seem to care about me and JR anymore; her only focus is on you and Gus. I guess she has forgotten that I am legally just as much Gus’s mother as she is, and I would throw a huge ax in her little dream family if you were crazy enough to actually do what she says.”
Once she was able to file for divorce, Melanie planned to request full legal and physical custody of both of the kids. This would allow her to ask the court to reinstate Brian’s parental rights to Gus if the court ruled in her favor, since Pennsylvania did not have third-parent adoption. Even if the court ruled against Melanie and awarded Lindsay joint custody, Brian still intended on exploring his options to become Gus’s father in the eyes of the law again.
When Melanie and Brian later told Gus about their plans, the teen came up with an idea.
“What if you adopted JR?” Gus asked his father.
Melanie chuckled. “Yeah right, like he’d ever do that.”
Brian was offended, since he had already been thinking about asking Melanie if he could adopt JR and had previously mentioned it to Justin, who thought it was a great idea. “What? Why wouldn’t I want to adopt her?”
“Why would you want to adopt my daughter? You only just started tolerating me, so why would you even care if she had two parents?”
“For your information, I have always cared about JR and no matter how much she shit-talks me, we all know how much she loves me and wishes that I was her Pop, too,” Brian informed Melanie. “She’s my son’s adopted sister and it’s not her fault that her real father is a piece of shit. She needs two parents who love her. Besides, I’m her godfather, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” Melanie said. “But-”
“And I’ll have you know that I started a college fund for her shortly after she was born,” Brian added.
Melanie was stunned. “You… you did what?”
“It doesn’t look like you and she will be moving out of here anytime soon. According to my fiance, he of the hair and heart of gold, the two of you can stay here at Britin forever. He loves JR as his own and would be devastated if you girls ever left. If you’re successful in your suit against Lindsay and I’m able to have my parental rights to Gus reinstated, you and I will already legally share one kid… why not two?”
Gus threw his arms around his dad’s shoulders. “That would be so tight.”
“Yes… totally tight,” Brian agreed.
“And after you and Papa J get married, he’ll be our step-dad,” he added. “When you adopt Keegan, he’ll legally be our brother, too.”
Brian nodded before asking Melanie, “What do you say, Ima? Do you want to share these kids with me?”
Melanie, who was crying by that point, nodded her head and joined the boys in their group hug.
“Can my last name be Kinney?” Gus asked.
The two adults agreed that Gus could take Brian’s last name if he wanted to.
“Yes, and JR can be a Kinney, too!” Gus said happily.
“Oh, I won’t go that far,” Melanie said. “Marcus is a good, strong name.”
A social worker came out to Britin a month before the custody trial to check out the house and observe Keegan’s living environment. The social worker, a nice older lady named Charlotte, had been very impressed with the sprawling and tastefully-decorated mansion, which Brian informed her had originally been an engagement present to Justin over a decade before. They explained how they had not gone through with their original wedding but were planning a ceremony at the house later in the year on the anniversary of the day they met. Charlotte had found their love story to be very heartwarming.
They had shown Charlotte the nursery, and Brian proudly pointed out the mural of Daphne on the ceiling and bragged about Justin’s artistic accomplishments, including his recent art show where every piece had sold. Charlotte was impressed with the mural, remarking that it was beautiful and looked exactly like the photograph of Daphne sitting on Keegan’s dresser.
Gus and JR were both present during the visit, dressed to impress and on their best behavior. Gus had even shaved his scraggly facial hair and borrowed one of Brian’s ties, making him look even more like his father. The older siblings both told Charlotte about how much they loved Keegan and hoped that they would soon be a family, legally and permanently.
The home visit couldn’t have gone better, and Keegan had been happy and smiling the entire time as Justin carried him around the house.
Melanie and Al were confident that they could handle anything Turner threw at them, as far as trying to defame Justin and Brian and their parenting abilities. They only wished that they had more dirt to pin on Curtis. Daphne’s sister Delia was the only other person besides Justin and Brian to whom Curtis had confessed his affair during Daphne’s pregnancy, and they would call her as a witness to that confession if necessary. Brian planned to tell the court about his short meeting with Curtis just days before Daphne’s death where Curtis had told Brian that he was having cold feet about becoming a father. Curtis would be testifying on his own behalf, and Melanie couldn’t wait to get him on the stand and ask him why he wanted to raise Keegan.
Two weeks before the trial, Melanie received a private message on Facebook from a lady named Amanda Crawford. The message asked: You are Justin Taylor’s lawyer, correct?
Melanie looked at Amanda’s page and saw that she was a very pretty blonde who appeared to be in her mid-twenties. Melanie read that her occupation was listed as “student” and that she was attending the University of Pittsburgh. She had 523 friends.
Melanie replied to the popular student: Who wants to know?
Amanda answered that she was Curtis Anderson’s girlfriend and needed to talk to her about the custody case.
Melanie had Amanda on the phone a minute later and asked her to tell her story. Amanda explained to Melanie that she had been seeing Curtis since November of the previous year, having not known until a few weeks after their first date that Curtis was married and expecting a baby. She was a third-year medical student and an aspiring orthopedic surgeon, having been placed under Curtis’s instruction in September.
“I never planned on having a relationship with him, I swear,” Amanda insisted. “I had just broken up with my last boyfriend, so I was kind of lonely. He never wore his wedding ring at work or had any pictures of his wife in his office. Plus, Curtis is such an amazing doctor and is so… charming and handsome. He looks kind of like Ryan Gosling, who I’ve loved since The Notebook.”
Melanie rolled her eyes. “But you did start to have sex with him, right?”
“Yes,” Amanda answered shamefully. “He asked me out to coffee and I said no… at first. Eventually I said yes and things moved pretty quickly.”
Melanie continued to look through Amanda’s Facebook page on her laptop as she talked to her. Amanda was not friends with Curtis and had no pictures of him. Melanie assumed that Curtis had told her to keep their relationship private on social media so it would not hurt him professionally.
“And you continued to have sex with him after you found out that he was married with a baby on the way, right?”
“Yes… I had fallen in love with him by that point,” Amanda confessed. “I mean, I was pissed when I found out the truth, but Curtis said that he was going to leave Daphne after she gave birth.”
Melanie grabbed a nearby legal pad and wrote that down. “Did he say he was going to file for divorce after the baby was born?”
“Yeah, he promised me he would and that we could be together for real then. He even gave me a diamond ring for Christmas, sort of like a promise ring. I accepted it, but it kind of freaked me out since we had only been seeing each other for a couple of months at that point.”
Melanie left a note for herself to get Amanda’s address, so she could send her a subpoena. “Did he have any plans for his son with Daphne? Like, was he still wanting to be involved in the baby’s life?”
“He told me right from the beginning that the baby wasn’t actually his, that he was sterile and they had used a sperm donor. I let him have sex with me without a condom, since I knew I couldn’t get pregnant. He even showed me the results of his fertility test that showed his sperm had very low motility and concentration. It was still a stupid thing to do, since he could have given me an STD without a condom... God, I’m so fucking stupid.”
“But did Curtis say that he didn’t want anything to do with the baby after it was born?” Melanie said, trying to be patient as she plied the information she needed out of Amanda.
“He said that it was Daphne’s kid and that she could do whatever the fuck she wanted with it after they split,” Amanda finally said.
Melanie pumped her fist in the air, knowing that Justin’s case was as good as won.
“But why has Curtis changed his mind?” Melanie asked, trying not to sound too excited. “Daphne’s dead now, so why does he want to raise her son?”
“He said that he has his reasons and that he will tell the judge what they are. He made it sound like whatever he has to say at the trial would make the judge give him the baby.”
Melanie waited a few seconds to see if Amanda had anything else to offer. “That’s the only thing he said?”
She sighed. “Yeah, he doesn’t like to talk about it too much.”
“Tell me Amanda, what was Curtis like after Daphne’s death?” Melanie asked, digging for more.
“He didn’t talk to me for like a week after she died. He sent me a text letting me know about the accident before she had actually died. I called him to get more information, but he didn’t answer. I found out the next day at the hospital that she died during surgery and that the baby survived, and Curtis didn’t answer my calls or messages for a few more days. Then suddenly, he showed up back to work. He did seem kind of sad, but he refused to talk about her. After another week or so, he seemed like his usual self.”
“Did you know that he didn’t go to Daphne’s funeral? I was there, because Daphne was a friend of mine. His family, plus a ton of people from the hospital and people Daphne probably hadn’t seen in years were there, but Curtis wasn’t.”
“No, I didn’t know that. Wow… that’s really shitty of him. He must not have loved her very much, if at all.”
Melanie asked the question that was really bothering her. “Amanda, why are you telling me all of this? Has something happened between you and Curtis, something that has made you angry or vengeful?”
“He wants me to marry him and expects me to give up my career to raise the baby if he’s granted custody,” Amanda answered. “He says it’ll help his case, since you’re planning to say that he works too much to raise a baby as a single parent. I refuse to do that; not for him or anyone. I have worked hard to become a doctor and I’m not just giving it up. I don’t even know if I want kids and if I ever do, it won’t be for many years down the road. I especially don’t want to raise someone else’s baby; he’s not Curtis’s or mine. I don’t think I’d want to marry Curtis either, since he’s sterile and cheated on his last wife. If I do ever want kids, I’d want my husband to the father, you know?”
“That’s all very understandable,” Melanie agreed. “Are you still with Curtis?”
“Sort of… things have been really tense over the past couple of weeks. A social worker went by his house and he made me come over while she was there. It was so awkward. He introduced me as his ‘potential nanny.’ I had never even been to his house before, because he always came to my apartment. You can tell that a woman definitely used to live there, but he had taken down all of her pictures and gotten rid of her personal things. The nursery was all set up, which just felt so weird to see. His wife had made that nursery for her son and now she’s dead… it was creepy. There was a really pretty mural on the wall of jungle animals and the social worker asked who painted it. Curtis said that Justin did it and the lady just kind of nodded her head, like she already knew. There were a few other paintings and drawings on the walls around the house and Curtis said that Justin did those, too.
“After the social worker left, he asked me to move into the house with him, and I said that we should wait to see what happens with his lawsuit. Honestly, I could never see myself living there. The house is really nice, but I felt like I was intruding, like his wife was going to come home at any minute and demand to know what I was doing in her house. We had a fight last night and I told him I needed some time to think. I’m pretty sure he sees other girls than me, and that was the main thing we were fighting over.”
“Do you know if he was seeing other girls when you and he first started dating?” Melanie asked.
“I know he was,” Amanda answered strongly. “He has quite a reputation around the hospital… he’s been sleeping with other interns and nurses for years. It was actually one of the nurses who used to date him who told me about Daphne. He claims that he’d be faithful to me if we got married, but why would he be faithful to me when he wasn’t even faithful to his previous wife? He was even planning on having a family with her, but he still passed his dick around.”
Before getting off the phone, Amanda agreed to testify against Curtis at the trial. Melanie could hardly contain her happiness and immediately ran over to the main house to tell Justin and Brian about their new witness.
The three of them had a champagne celebration.