2010-07-26: Nondisclosure



Date: July 26, 2010


Nondisclosure: failure of a party to tell facts or hand over relevant documents in a legal procedure



The FBI therapist’s office is typical, really. More personal than Sydney lets her office be. There’s paintings. Posters. Children’s artworks. The blonde therapist crosses her ankles as she sits on the patient sofa. That’s what she is in this foreign and all-too-personal space, a patient, a client. Someone to to conquer. She stares at the dark-haired woman in front of her, they call this victim’s assistance, specifically for traumatized victims. Always the traumatized victims.

“So… Dr. Falkland, is there anything I should know about in your past before we discuss what transpired in this most recent… altercation?” The other woman is deadpanned in her speech. Seriousness, really. Doctor Amelia Newheart is here to help victims find their voice and to assess the particular mental health of this shrink.

Pursing her lips together, Sydney uncrosses her ankles before stepping towards one of the child-like drawings on the wall. “Kid you know? Or a patient?” Slowly, purposefully she steps about the room, examining each of the pictures in turn. She doesn’t feel like talking, hasn’t felt like talking. But this is mandated, something that's supposed to help her, apparently.

“Dr. Falkland,” the words are said firmly. “Sit down.” It’s commanding and actually brings Sydney back to her seat, ankles crossed. “Is there anything else I should know before we proceed with this session?”

Sydney stares at the other woman rather openly as she considers the question, letting it weigh heavily on her mind, rolling it over like marbles on her thoughts.

Eight weeks.

Eight weeks until go-time.

Eight weeks until that infamous walk down the aisle.

Powdered up. Cream-puffed. Layers of tulle.

Brides are supposed to be upbeat, excited, anxious, perhaps.

This Californian bride is none of these things. Sitting cross-legged on her twin-sized bed in her pink nightshirt amid squares of tulle cut specifically for wedding favours, blonde-haired Sydney Falkland feels nothing. No excitement. No thrill. And no anxiety. The stickiness of the bedroom doesn’t implore her to rise or move or even feign movement, instead she remains frozen, staring at the pink walls covered in girl-ish posters (and one death metal band), things of a childhood long past; things she’d be putting away in eight weeks. Not that she lives in this room anymore, it feels like a lifetime since she was here, it’s only been a couple of years. A single hand is moved down to her leg, pulling the nightshirt up just a little. Round circular burns that have begun to scab line the top of her one thigh. A single finger moves to press on one of them, only to stop and result in a tug on the nightshirt, covering the evidence. Leaning her head back against the wall eyes meet tulle drawing a rather sharp, irritated growl, pulling her out of that numb feeling and into something more determined. Forcefully, she pushes herself off the bed only to rip the blanket away moments later, creating a large mess of tulle and candied almonds on the carpet of the room.

Twitching, she stands at the door, her hands reach for the doorknob only to continue their ascent to her hair which she pulls into a tight ponytail using an elastic she always has on her wrist, generally worn as a kind of bracelet, black and bland, but present for when she needs it. Slowly she sucks in a deep breath before reaching for the doorknob and turning it.

The floor creaks underneath her as she steps— each step with purpose, each step more decisive than the last. The hardwood floors and dark wood panels of the house have an almost gothic look, it’s not homey, but then it never really felt like home. Eyebrows furrowing, she slows as she comes to the stairs, a hesitation hangs as she finally steps on them, slower, less purposeful, she’s losing her nerve. Once at the bottom she presses against the wall, the voices in the kitchen echo. Her grandparents. Bryce. Squinting her eyes closed, she just waits. Hanging there pressed against the wall, listening.

“Well, it’s like we told you, Bryce, that girl needs a heavy hand. She rebels. We don’t know why~ but she does,” Mary Harding’s voice echoes through the rather hollowed halls, only causing Sydney to wince.

“Hey! The heavy handedness is the way I was raised— “ Bryce interjects “— ‘N don’t ya deny, she’s a spitfire, that one!” Again the words draw a deepened frown from Syd. Uncomfortably, she hugs herself tightly, willing some objection from these people who raised her, an objection she doesn’t hear.

“Ehn,” a different voice. Someone who hadn’t bothered speaking until now seems to shrug off Bryce’s words. “All women are spitfires. They all need heavy hands. That fiance of yours is spoiled, and you know it Bryce-y boy.” Sydney’s face pales. The best man. Or, Bryce’s best man, anyways. Not the best in this house, this block, or this neighborhood. In fact, it’s an altogether misnomer in her opinion; particularly with how incredibly frightening he is.

“Mary is right. Sydney has a free-spirit and she lives in the impractical. When we left her to her own devices she began painting her face, wearing those black clothes, and smoking that marijuana— “ Dwight’s voice carries louder than the others, but Syd doesn’t hear the rest. She sinks back to the stairs, hands clamped over her mouth and tears filling her eyes as she virtually darts up them, she hears no creaking even though the stairs do, indeed, creak, and disappears into her room.

As she closes the door, she leans against it, the tears that threatened to come out fall down her cheeks, and she whispers to herself, “I’m a big girl… I can take a lot…”

Seven weeks.

Seven weeks until go time.

Seven weeks until that infamous walk down the aisle.

Back to work at the New York diner, Sydney places several plates of food down on the table in front of her, and issues her customers a rather bright smile. It’s large, dimpled, but never quite touches her eyes. Her own personal distress remains hidden underneath a rather calmed exterior. The scarf around her neck hides more of her secrets, and looks like she’s just chosen to accessorize. It’s a facade, really. Disappearing into the back she issues her boss and the cook a quick wave before stealing into the ladies’ room. After bolting the door shut, she inhales a deep breath and closes her eyes. Shuffling to the mirror, she takes another deep breath. Hands clutch both sides of the sink. With yet one more deep breath, she manages to stare at her reflection in the mirror. Slowly, her hands are pried from the sink and are put to work, removing the scarf.

Her eyes close again when it’s finally off. Finding her courage, she opens them. The bruising down her neck is long. Five bruises, one for each of Bryce’s fingers. Sniffling, Sydney sucks in another breath and fights her now quivering chin. Shaking her head, she hardens her features and ties the scarf around her neck again, tenderly, taking care not to increase her injury or pain.

Quietly, she murmurs to herself, “I’m a big girl. I can take a lot.”

Six weeks.

Six weeks until go time.

Six weeks until that infamous walk down the aisle.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?!” Bryce yells. His stance is aggressive, knees bent, shoulders forward, arms out. His face is hard, there is no kindness, no joy, and certainly no compassion to be found in it. And to Syd, this is what love is: that face, staring her down, making her feel small, just like every other person who proclaimed to love her.

But Sydney is quick to defend herself, she’s used to it really. Her hands instinctively are raised into the air, and she enters a much more submissive posture. “It was just a ride home! Nothing happened! It was just a ride! I swear! I thought it was better than riding the subway alone, it’s late, coming off my shift and it just seemed— ” A hand is raised to the scarf she still wears to hide that little bit of bruising, she knows worse is coming, this has damaged Bryce’s pride.

“Seemed what!? Like a good time to cheat on your fiance?! You fuckin’ whore! What were you thinkin’?! Were you thinkin’?!” Bryce takes a step towards her. “Did you or have you ever had a thought in your brain?!” His eyes flash with a sadistic kind of anger while his lips twitch with that same rage. His hand reaches for that mess of blonde curls, just out of reach.

Sydney takes a step back, increasing that personal space between them, her face flushes bright red as she does so, only to find herself back up against a wall. Her heart races and her eyes widen as she presses tighter against it. There’s no avoiding this; there’s no easy escape. He’s between her and the door. Her hands remain raised as her lips quiver with emotion she can’t contain. She gasps loudly for air, fighting against what threatens to spring forth, but it’s useless. A single tear cuts down the contour of her cheek. “I… I… Bryce… please… I won’t do it again… I swear… I swear I won’t do it again… please… please…”

Again, Bryce fills the gap, stepping forward. His hands tangle in her hair gently. Only to yank it hair, bringing a loud shriek of pain to Sydney’s lips as she follows it, trying to incite some slack, trying to stop the pain. The tears that welled in her eyes fall in giant sobs. “STUPID BLONDE BITCH!” he yells louder now, his free hand balls into a fist and connects with his fiance’s face. Once. Twice. Three times. All amid loud pleas and sobs for some relent. He clutches her hair and shoulder, dragging her to the kitchen table. Her face is thrust against it. Once. Twice. Three times. The tears and sobs don’t make him relent. They just goad him on, angrier, more upset, and more determined to beat the betrayal out of her.

Finally, still angry, he releases her hair, allowing her to fall into a pathetic puddle of tears on the floor. She finds the fetal position, sobbing harder, pained, disconnected, empty. “Look what you made me do!!” he yells again. “Geez Sydney, can’t you do any fuckin’ thing right?!” With a loud gagging kind of sound, he spits on her before stamping to the door and disappearing through it.

Sydney doesn’t move. She sobs. Louder now that he’s gone. Her own pain echoing through the halls of the small home the pair share. After minutes turn to an hour she finally peels herself off the floor. Her face is bloodied and swollen. Her body broken. Trembling and still crying, black mascara lines her face, she rises woozily. Reaching for her left ring finger, she tugs the ring from her finger, throwing it on the ground before continuing to sob and hobbling to the door. She’s not coming back. Ever.

Looking at the door frame, she finally whispers amidst her tears, “I'm a…" her mantra fails, turning more desperate than determined "… this is more than I can take…"

Five weeks.

Five weeks until go time.

Five weeks until that infamous walk down the aisle.

Beaten and bruised the blonde sits across from a young man— only a couple years her senior, a volunteer here at this shelter, a psych student. Her gaze remains on the floor. The faded blue jeans and over-sized red t-shirt are borrowed clothes, even if they belong to her now, there hadn't been enough time to collect anything to let her feel like her life still belongs to her; she's borrowing someone else's life here and has been for a week now.

"Syd? Sydney? Did you hear anything I just said?" Oliver clears his throat as he adjusts in his seat, leaning forward to peer at her. His dark hair and kind eyes reflect a kind of pity that the blonde doesn't want, but receives regardless, especially now. She looks a mess. And has been sweeping it under the rug for months.

She nods. It's small but it's there, and it certainly doesn't instill confidence that she heard anything.

"Okay," Oliver pauses as his eyes narrow, not quite believing the nod, particularly with its lack of firmness. "Look. You have choices here. You can press charges. There's photographic evidence, you talked to a doctor, and I think there's a good case here." Clearing his throat he watches her intently, "And you can stay safe. We're willing to pay for a greyhound to get you home to your fam— "

"NO!" the word is simple enough as Sydney adamantly shakes her head. "No. I can't go there— you don't understand, they're not… they don't… my grandparents aren't…"

Oliver holds up a single hand and nods. "Alright, alright, it's okay. Take a deep breath." His fingers lace together as he thinks. "You can stay in New York. It's a big city, but you need to be careful, especially if you choose to press charges. We can keep you in our housing for awhile." He hmms quietly. "I'll walk you to class every day. Will come pick you up. And we'll keep you safe."

Sydney nods slightly, her gaze finally moves from the floor to study Oliver. Dark eyes look for hints, trying to piece him together. "I deserved what I got. I screw things up, and I'm just not perfect enough for— "

Oliver doesn't wait for her to finish, it's not therapeutic, but then he's not a shrink, he's a volunteer and a student. "—Sydney. Listen to me. No one has a right to hit you. No one. Ever. None of us are perfect. All of us make mistakes. You can't expect to be perfect." There's a pause as Ollie adds, "He took your power. And you don't have to press charges, but it's a way to get it back."

The words are left to sit between the pair as Sydney stares out the window leading to the more public area of the shelter. So many women here, many with children; it's almost reassuring in a way, but disconcerting in another. Voice quivering, she queries, "Am I destined to love losers and creeps? I mean… is every guy on the planet a liar, a cheat, or a hitter?"

This earns her a kind of good-natured smile and a shake of Oliver's head. "Nah. We all fall for losers and creeps sometimes. We just need to learn to move on from them. And… I'm not a liar, a cheat, or a hitter. In fact, I think I'm pretty cool sometimes." He winks. "But Syd, you just need to learn to see the good and the bad, to be… more guarded. Heck, the last guy I dated was a lying liarface, and I'm learning to adjust." He leans back in his seat. "We just need to help ourselves out of the patterns we live. How we do that varies, people have different strategies…"

Silently, Sydney nods. "Alright." Beat. "I'll press charges." That will be her strategy; her own personal way of giving up the liars, cheaters, and hitters. There's a short pause before she adds, "I need to… make a call… to cancel… my wedding…"

The wedding was canceled.

A year passed.

A different kind of 'I do' was to be uttered.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" the court officer's voice whines loudly.

"I do," Sydney's voice cracks before sliding her hand off the Bible. Her hair is particularly curly today, pinned back in the front, and, by the prosecutor's design, adds to the twenty-year old's appearance of innocence. A short sleeved, mid-calf chiffon floral patterned dress and string of white pearls further the image, a stark contrast to her former wardrobe of fishnet stockings, black halters, black wigs, and black-lace gloves.

The small-sized wood-paneled courtroom, almost reminiscent of Sydney's grandparents' house, filled quickly, leaving Sydney all the more unsettled. Various familiar faces are in this crowd. Her eyes scan it carefully and her gaze lingers on her own betrayers longer than she intends; her grandparents are here.

The prosecutor asks her a question, but it comes out as nothing more than white noise to the blonde as she outright stares at Bryce. A hand travels to her jaw where fingers run over the former fracture caused by him bashing her face into the table. She knows it'll always feel different; he's left a permanent mark on her body, not just her soul.

An embittered hardness consumes her face. Her body tenses, her jaw clenches, and her eyes watch only him. Even as the lawyers begin to stand-off because of her silence, she watches only him, powerless to do anything. Her mouth opens to speak, but nothing comes out. Finally, she's being pulled from the stand, forcibly removed, firmly, but not harshly, by an officer of the court.

Finally, Sydney, still staring at the other woman, raises a hand to her throat and rests it there. She arches an eyebrow at the other therapist, considering her life a little more.

“There’s nothing.”

“Alright. Then let’s proceed…” Dr. Newheart states.

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