“Which is your right,” Ames told her. “They can’t just keep information from you.”
“Actually, they can,” Sawyer said, wiping some crumbs from his mouth. “Really, the best thing you can do for Peyton is let him serve his sentence with as little interference as possible. He needs to keep his head down and do what he’s told. It’s the only way he has a chance of any time being shaved off.”
“I’m not interfering,” my mother said.
“Of course you aren’t.” God, Ames was such a suck-up.
“It’s important for families to feel involved,” Michelle added. When we all gave her our attention, she blushed. “It’s better than helpless.”
“No offense, miss, but I’ve been working in the law twenty years. I’ve seen a lot of clients in this situation. There are things that make it harder, and things that make it easier.”
“I think we should have dinner,” my mom announced, getting to her feet. “Just give me a minute. Sydney, a little help?”
I followed her into the kitchen, where she yanked open the stove a bit harder than necessary. “You okay?” I asked.
“Of course.” She took off her pot holder, picking up a spatula. “I just think we have to explore all options, in and out of the box. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Sawyer, however, disagreed, and continued to do so throughout dinner. He sparred with my mom, Ames, and a flustered Michelle while my dad kept his head down, eating the biggest slice of lasagna I’d seen him consume in recent memory.
“The basic fact,” Sawyer was saying at one point, long after I was done eating, “is that no matter what Peyton does, there’s always the truth of his case. The facts. You saw the paper this week, I’m assuming?”
“Let’s not—” my dad began.
“Totally biased piece,” Ames said.
“Biased?” I said. Now everyone looked at me. “How can you . . . It was all about that boy.”
“Yeah, but the way they wrote it.” He waved his hand, as if somehow this completed the thought and sentence. “I’m just saying.”
What was he saying? Never mind, I was sure I didn’t want to hear it.
“Of course we feel awful for that boy and his family,” my mom said. “But Peyton is our son. Our responsibility. We’ve got a duty to look out for him.”
That sounded familiar.
“You can only do so much now, Julie,” Sawyer said. “You need to accept that.”
“Well, I think you’re wrong,” she said simply. My dad and I exchanged a look. “Who wants dessert?”
It was, in a word, excruciating. After dinner, Ames went out to smoke while my dad took Sawyer up to his office to show him some new computer he’d just gotten. My mom and Michelle camped at the kitchen table with their coffees.
“Everyone that’s part of this process has a different viewpoint,” Michelle said to her, patting her arm. She seemed more comfortable now, one-on-one. “That’s why we need many voices. So we can have a conversation and keep it going.”
My mom sighed, running a finger around the rim of her mug. “I just . . . This is so hard. I’ve never felt so out of control.”
“It’s normal. You’re a mother. It’s been your job to protect him. You can’t just quit that, even when someone tells you to.”
By nine p.m., both Sawyer and Michelle had left. Ames remained, sitting at the table having a conversation with my parents, although my mother was doing most of the talking. The irritation she’d barely managed to mask earlier had now blown up into a full-on rage, with Sawyer as the target.
“You’d think, with all the money we paid him, he’d be more supportive,” she said at one point, taking a bite of the leftover cheesecake right out of the pan. “I mean, defending someone shouldn’t end the second a trial does.”
“Sawyer’s done right by us,” my dad said. “He just sees things differently.”
“Well, then maybe it’s time to look around for someone with a fresh view. I’ve heard great things about Bill Thomas.”
My dad sighed, clearly not convinced. Ames said, “The main focus has to be Peyton. We can’t lose sight of that.”
“Exactly,” my mom said, pointing her fork at him. “Thank God someone agrees with me.”
Not for the first time, I wondered if this was the reason I was so obsessed with David Ibarra and his aftermath and story. Someone had to carry the guilt. If my parents couldn’t—or wouldn’t—it was left to me.
“It’s still early,” Ames said to me, once my mom had gotten up to finish cleaning the kitchen and my dad disappeared upstairs. “Want to go out for some fro-yo? My treat.”
“Oh, that’s nice of you, Ames.” My mom, drying her hands on a dish towel, smiled at him. “I know this was not exactly the way Sydney wanted to spend her evening.”
In fact, she knew what my preference had been. I said, “Thanks, but I’m kind of tired.”
“Come on,” he said. “Are you really going to turn down a free hot-fudge sundae? Not to mention great company?”
“I’ll tell you what,” my mom said, reaching for her purse. “I’ll treat you both.”
“I’m really not in the mood,” I told her. “Thanks, though.”
My mom looked at me, raising an eyebrow. “You okay?”
“Fine. It’s just . . . a long week.”