Generation 9, Chapter 2
"Could you please state your name for the record?" Prosecutor Linder was still shuffling through papers as the next witness was being sworn in.
"Travis Rossi," the witness said. Though to the casual observer, Mr. Rossi was calm, Linder could see the slight tremors and hear the hitch in his voice.
"And you were the defendant's college roommate?"
"Well yes, and I was his brother-in-law," Travis's nerves seemed to be calming with each passing minute so Brian kept him talking about his relationship to Seeley for several minutes before really beginning the questioning.
"So, Mr. Rossi, tell me about the defendant - as you knew him..." Brian was leaning against the table, as if striking up a casual conversation, in front of over a hundred witnesses.
"Objection. Relevance?" Seeley rolled his eyes as his attorney spoke up finally. He hadn't actually hired her for her skill as a defense attorney.
"Establishing character your honor. And a series of events that led to the crime," Linder said. The judge seemed to accept this and allowed the prosecution to continue. "Mr. Rossi?"
"Right - well, Seeley was a...um, he brought a lot of...g-girls, back to the room," Travis Rossi blushed slightly and looked down at his hands. "One night stands mostly,"
"Not exactly the kind of person you'd want for your sister eh?" Brian asked. At least half the jury seemed to be thinking of their own family members in the clutches of that type of guy and shaking their heads.
"Well..at the time, my sister was into exactly that kind of guy. In fact she was into anything that would piss off my parents..." Travis cringed and looked over at the judge apologetically. "Sorry..."
"Don't worry Mr. Rossi, I have a daughter in a similar stage of life," he said reassuringly.
"How, exactly, did Mr. Taffity and your sister meet?" Brian said, after the chuckling had died down.
"Well, it was just before a long weekend, in our junior year, I'd made plans to go home because I knew Jenn - that's my sister - was coming home from her first semester in college. I'd thought Seeley had already left for his own trip home but when I went back to our room there was a girl there...I didn't recognize her."
"Seeley?" she sat up from the bed, her hair was slightly tasseled by sleep but otherwise looked perfect.
"Um...he's not here," Travis said awkwardly. He averted his eyes, focusing on the bookcase or the lamp as she shrieked and scrambled to grab at her clothes and cover her tiny frame.
"Where is he?" she asked, as she was buttoning up the shirt.
"Class?" Though he tried to make it a statement, Travis had never been particularly great at lying. He saw the realization cross her face and then the horror. He looked down at the floor and shuffled his feet.
"He...he, just left?" she stammered, shame in her voice now.
"Um..." Travis had nothing to say that would make her feel better so he shut his mouth quickly. She came at him then, moving so fast he was sure he was about to get slapped. Guilt by association or something - it had happened before. Instead she started sobbing and collapsed in his arms.
It took Travis several minutes to calm her down enough to shoo her from the room and hopefully from their lives. Having been lingering around the corner, I sauntered through the room just minutes after the girl had been summarily dismissed. "Good morning Trav!"
"You have got to stop doing that to me. Where do you even meet these girls?"
"Was she clingy, she seemed clingy to me," I said, dropping into the chair at my desk.
"Clingy is a word for it. What are you still doing here, I thought you left for home last night?" Travis dropped the subject of the girl - whose name he hadn't caught - and started tossing a few things into a bag for the weekend.
"Cancelled. Cam is busy with her third thesis," I said with a shrug. "Why haven't you left yet?"
"Had to turn in a paper this morning," Travis said. He seemed to be nervous again and before he could stop them, the words spilled out of his mouth, "ya know, you could come with me. I mean, it would suck being here all weekend..."
I grinned broadly, "Excellent!" I accepted before he had a chance to take the invitation back.
"Wait!" Travis has been fidgeting the whole drive and his face had turned several shades of green in that time. Now that we were standing in front of his house, he pulled me up short and looked at me sternly - or as sternly as he could given the fact that he looked nauseous.
"What is up with you Trav?"
"My sister. You're not going to try and seduce my sister are you?" Travis grimaced.
"Um, seeing as I've never seen your sister, I don't think so. If you don't want me to go there, I won't go there Travis," I said. It was a slight lie - I had seen his sister before, or at least a picture of her. I did not, however, intend to seduce her when I accepted his invitation back to the house.
"Oh goodness Jennifer, what have you done to your hair?" Mrs. Rossi's disgust was evident as she surveyed the damaged fringe that her only daughter was sporting.
"Oh do you like it Mother?" Jenn grinned at her mother's discomfort.
Mrs. Rossi shuddered, "go upstairs and do something about it. And change out of those..." she motioned to the ensemble dismissively, "clothes. I laid out a dress for you."
"You can't be serious Mother! I'm perfectly capable of choosing my own clothes."
"We're having company, your father and brother are both bringing guests and I will not have them see you looking like...that. Now go!" Jenn wanted to protest further but the footsteps on the porch told her that time was up for that so she hurried up the stairs to her room, where a dress was waiting.
Bradley and Janice Rossi were a very well to do and prosperous couple. He worked at some Fortune 500 company as an executive with a generous salary and annual bonus. She was old money who spent most of her life planning the lives of those around her and judging everyone she came in contact with. When she looked at me, she was smiling on the surface but it wasn't until Travis mentioned my name that the smile became somewhat real. "Taffity? Any relation to the president?"
I was marginally impressed with her historical knowledge but merely nodded and turned away from her. That my great-great-great-great-grandfather was the president once upon a time didn't mean much to me aside from the occasional inquiry.
"Where's Jenn?" Travis said, bridging the gap my silence had left.
"Right here," her voice was sweet but there was an edge to it that I liked instantly.
"Oh you look lovely Jennifer," Bradley gave his daughter a light kiss on the cheek, "Jennifer, this is your brother's college friend, Seeley Taffity."
"It's nice to meet you," she said as we shook hands. Her skin was soft, damn! Inwardly I cursed the promise I'd made to Travis.
Thankfully, before I could betray that trust dinner was announced and we all moved toward the table. "Why don't you sit here Mr. Taffity?" Janice said, a deceptive smile on her face as she indicated the seat next to her. She grabbed Jenn's arm and dragged her over as well so we were sitting across from each other.
At the other end of the table, Travis was being subjected to his father and the colleague he'd brought home. Speaking of the colleague, I noticed a slight irritation in Mrs. Rossi's posture when the "he" she'd been expecting turned out to be a "she".
"So, Audrey - what do you do?" Travis asked, attempting to break the chilly mood that had settled over the table once the shrimp cocktail had been laid before us.
"Audrey is one of the new attorneys in our legal department," Bradley looked at the young lady almost adoringly. The look didn't escape his wife's notice and she grumbled a few choice words. I looked over at Jenn and grimaced.
I could tell from the laugh lines that Jenn was trying very hard not to smile or laugh at her mother's expense but she was mildly amused by the situation.
"You recently started at university right?" I asked, trying to tune out the train wreck at the other end of the table.
"Yes," Jenn said. "I'm in my first semester."
"Have you picked a major yet?"
"Jennifer will be going through the business school, it's one of the best in the country," Janice interrupted.
Jenn seemed on the brink of saying something but looked down at her food instead. "Is that true? I mean about business school?"
"Um," Jenn looked briefly at her mother and then shook her head. "No, actually I plan to major in art." Janice looked appalled and was on the brink of arguing when a servant came in and began clearing the appetizer dishes and replacing them with entrees. For Jenn's sake, I'd hoped it would be the end of it and Janice would be distracted by something else.
But she wasn't. "Don't be ridiculous Jennifer."
"I'm not being ridiculous mother. I'm eighteen years old, I can certainly decide my own future..."
"Jennifer," Janice's voice was low but intimidating. "It was decided when we looked at the universities if you recall. We selected it because of the business school."
"YOU selected it for that. I selected because of the art program. I only went along with it because of that!"
Jenn's voice had become loud enough to attract the attention of the rest of the party by now. Travis was looking down at his plate and studiously pretending to ignore everything around him. Bradley withdrew his hand from Audrey's and glared at his wife and daughter. "Is this really the time my dear?" I couldn't be sure who, exactly, he was talking to but had to suppress the urge to remind him that a family dinner might not be 'the time' to bring his girlfriend around.
I think Janice was thinking the same thing I was as she returned his attention with a glare, but she kept her mouth shut. Jenn looked down at her plate and I saw the corners of her mouth turn up in a small smile.
It was clear we were going to get along great.
When the dust and tension had settled a bit, Jenn looked up at me and smiled. "What about you, what's your major?"
"Music. I play the piano," I said, turning to Mrs. Rossi and practically daring her to comment. She didn't.
But Mr. Rossi did. He scoffed, "and what do you plan to do for a living Mr. Taffity?"
"I plan to play the piano," I said, meeting his eyes. "As much as I can."
"I'd love to hear you play," Jenn said, interrupting her father's retort. Within a few minutes, the table was being cleared again and she motioned to the piano tucked into the corner of the dining room. "Please play for us?"
Years of training and a fair amount of natural talent had made me very good - if I do say so myself. Bradley and Janice both listened reluctantly and offered the barest applause and praise but Jenn and Audrey made up for it - to Bradley's dismay no doubt.
The rest of the evening was just as awkward as dinner had been. Travis was the first to grab a bottle of liquor from the bar. Bradley ignored his wife to "discretely" flirt with Audrey - which wasn't discrete at all. Janice attempted to corner Jenn a dozen times to continue the earlier discussion. Jenn, in turn, stayed very close to me - something I was not, at all, disappointed with.
"I've got to get out of here," she whispered. She was looking over my shoulder to where her mother was laying in wait.
"How about you offer to give me a tour of the house and we'll sneak out the back. You have a car here? If not I can call a cab..."
"I have a car...yeah, I like this plan. Should we grab Travis?" We both turned to look toward Travis. He was slumped over in a chair, holding a small glass of alcohol. He was completely out of it and would probably pass out in a moment. "No," we both said together.
A few minutes later, we were running across the back lawn and hopping into Jenn's car. "Where to?" I asked.
"Where do you live?" Jenn asked, placing a hand on my thigh and raising her eyebrows.
"I promised your brother I wouldn't seduce you..." I said as she leaned over me. Her scent was intoxicating!
"Well you didn't. I seduced you," she said with a wink.
"Fair enough," I said with a quick nod and pulled her body closer to mine. It was the first time I allowed the lady to lead the way - but this was not my traditional type.
When the first rays of the sun began peeking through the window that morning, I didn't feel the normal impulse to slip away while she slept. Instead I threw my arm over her waist and pulled her closer to me. Jenn didn't protest, snuggling until our bodies curved perfectly together.
We remained like that, half asleep in each other's arms for another hour. Jenn finally rolled over and looked at me with a half smile on her face. "Thanks for the rescue last night."
"My pleasure," I said with a chuckle. She laughed for several seconds and then hopped up and started looking around for the clothes that had been shed the night before.
"I should probably head out..."
"Or you could stay and have an encore," I suggested as I got out of bed and wrapped one arm around her waist.
Jenn was not opposed to this and soon dropped the dress she'd picked up back to the floor. And we might just have made it to the encore if someone hadn't been pounding on the door and fiddling with the doorknob.
It wasn't until it turned that we all realized it hadn't been locked the night before. A familiar girl stumbled into the room as the door yielded to her touch. "You!" She glared at me for several moments before her eyes fell on Jenn, who was mostly naked and standing there rather coolly all things considered. "Ugh, who is she?!?"
"Who are you?" Jenn asked.
They both turned to me. Jenn, thankfully, looked mostly amused but the other girl was irate. "Um...Jenn this is..." I fumbled around for a name and came up empty, "Brenda?"
Not-Brenda's nostrils flared and she growled at me.
"I don't think her name is Brenda," Jenn whispered with a small giggle. She turned away from the scene to hide her smile from Not-Brenda and started grabbing her clothes again.
"I thought - after the other night - how could you Seeley?" Not-Brenda stammered over he words and tears came to her eyes.
"We just met the other night - it was just a thing..." I really hated when they got all clingy.
"Ooh, bad word choice," Jenn whispered. She was right of course. Not-Brenda started to cry then, her anger dissolving into sadness.
Having gotten dressed, Jenn turned to Not-Brenda and put a comforting arm around her. "Come on, let's go get some coffee..." She looked back at me and winked before steering Not-Brenda from the room.
"Thanks," I mouthed in her direction.
The door had barely closed behind them when it opened again, this time admitting Travis - who looked like he'd been beaten by the alcohol. "You...you ditched me."
"It was your parent's house, it's not like I left you in the alley," I said as I pulled on a pair of pants.
"You left with my sister....Oh no!" He rubbed his temples and then turned his mediocre glare on me, "you seduced her didn't you? You promised!"
"Technically she seduced me..." I pointed out.
"You weren't happy about their relationship I take it?" Brian Linder asked.
"I - Well I didn't really argue with it at the time," Travis said. "In hindsight I wish I had..."
"Because he killed her!" The fire that was rarely seen in Travis Rossi's eyes returned then and was pointed in Seeley's direction. Seeley met the gaze but didn't flinch.
Brian smiled and turned the witness over to the defense attorney, satisfied with the jurors' reactions.
"According to the medical examiner, your sister's death was a result of an infection sustained during childbirth Mr. Rossi. Are you implying that my client was responsible for delivering that infection?"
"No, but if he'd just taken her to a hospital! They could have been saved!"
"Oh, so you were there at the time and he refused to seek medical attention for her?"
"No I wasn't there," Travis said. "I - I just mean..."
"Are you a doctor of medicine Mr. Rossi?" the lawyer shuffled through the papers and shook her head before he could stammer out an answer, "no, no it would seem you're not."