The Fugly Girl Incident: Chapter Four Part One
Chapter Four: The Truth
“I call Branwen Spinx, Princess of Sanguin, Duat to the witness box,” Lorraine announced with a smile. She had saved Primrose’s cousin Branwen for last because she knew that the girl had no choice but to back up her cousin’s story whether it was true or not. The other witnesses had been just as hopeless as she had expected them to be, and Sandwich’s cross examination had been devastating but Lorraine hoped that she would be able to turn things around with Branwen.
As the princess made her way to the witness box, Lorraine noticed that Scully was looking vaguely in her direction. I’ll get you for this, you nosy old man, she thought making sure to keep her expression passive. At the same moment Scully’s eyes focused and Lorraine thought she saw the corners of his mouth curl upwards into a smile. Was the old demon laughing at her?
“Miss Leydon, would you please begin putting your questions to the witness?” with displeasure at having to call Lorraine back to attention.
Suddenly coming to her senses, Lorraine looked around, Branwen was already sitting in the witness box and everyone on the stage was staring at her. Apparently, she had blanked out for a few minutes. Lorrain stood up and pulled down her blazer, pretending to straighten it out to buy herself a few more seconds to recover from her surprise. Was the crafty old witch using his power on her? Lorraine did not have time to speculate, this was her last chance to win the trial, she had to make the most of it. She had already burned too many bridges to come out of this empty handed.
“Princess Branwen, you were with your cousin, the Lady Primrose on the day of the incident, is that correct?
“Yes,” Branwen confirmed, looking down at her hands. Branwen was a few months younger than the more confident Primrose and had always looked up to her as an older sister, following her lead. Now she had followed her right into trouble.
“Can you please tell the court, what occurred on that day?”
Branwen sighed and related the story Primrose had instructed her to tell. Primrose had gone to ask her advice on her behalf. Bishop had been annoyed and called Primrose ugly. Tristen and even eventually their Imperial Prince Sa-Ankh had turned on them and Primrose’s life had been a nightmare ever since. Her final year at the academy had been ruined and worse, she now had no hope of ever getting a good marriage.
“How did the incident make you feel?” Lorraine asked, knowing that this answer would at least be completely authentic.
“It made me feel afraid,” Branwen replied honestly.
“Why were you afraid?” Lorraine questioned barely able to suppress her excitement.
“There are very serious consequences to what happened.” Branwen sighed, speaking vaguely.
“Thank you,” Lorraine said nodding as if she had made her point. “I have no additional questions for this witness your honour.”
“Ok,” Scully acknowledged. “Lord Sandwich, do you have any questions?”
“Yes, I do your honour,” Sandwich said standing up, as Scully gestured for him to get on with it.
“Princess Branwen, you’ve testified that your cousin approached Bishop to ask his advice on how you should go about asking a boy you have a crush on to the Cupid’s Day Dance. Is that correct?” Sandwich asked with a knowing smile.
“Yes.” Branwen cleared her throat and shuffled uncomfortably in her seat.
Sandwich’s smile grew larger, “In that case, who was the boy you had hoped to ask out?”
“I’d prefer not to answer that question,” Branwen said, looking at Scully in desperation.
“Your honour, please order the answer! This is a school trial, and her response is fundamental to the case against Bishop. Not only is he a prince, he’s Mr Alliance Junior and third chair of the student council. Princess Branwen doesn’t have the right not answer simply because she would prefer not to,” Sandwich argued.
“Princess Branwen doesn’t have to answer the question if she doesn’t want to, your honour,” Lorraine said, standing up and trying to appear sympathetic. Branwen never had the chance to ask the boy out so she shouldn’t have to reveal his name. That would be unfair?”
There were murmurs of agreement to this from the crowd. The Cupid’s Day Dance was no laughing matter. Asking someone to the dance was as good as asking them to marry you. Grandparents paid close attention to who their grandchildren asked out and baring some other arrangement, hurried to make an official match. It was one of the favourite past times of the Blessed Ancestors, the club for grandparents. No one thought it would be fair for Branwen to reveal the name of the boy she had hoped to ask, but at the same time most of the audience was curious to know who the boy was.
“Unfair”? Scully asked, as if puzzled by the meaning of the word. “You mean as unfair as it was when you were up here revealing everyone’s secrets and disrespecting them?”
Jaws dropped throughout the auditorium. Lorraine’s conduct had been unfair, especially as the President of the School Council but was Scully Golgotha really clashing with a teenager like this? What madness! What entertainment!
“You could have stopped me, but you didn’t,” Lorraine whinged, making no effort to deny the accusation.
“Excuse me?” every voice in the auditorium said at the same time as all eyes turned to look at the girl who had clearly forgotten herself.
“I could have stopped you?” Scully asked incredulously.
“That’s right,” Lorraine replied, throwing caution to the wind. “Aren’t you supposed to be the highest judge in the Alliance? Why am I, a mere schoolgirl having to tell you how to do your job? As a judge you could have stopped me at any time, but you chose not to, so don’t try attacking me now.”
“But wait, look at this nasty young girl!” Scully exclaimed, looking at Lorraine in horror. “Are you crazy, child? This is an official school trial. It’s not for me to teach you basic decency and manners. Your mere was supposed to do that instead of having her face plastered all over the Alliance of re-runs of the Jorge Show.”
“Don’t try to blacken my mother’s name!” Lorraine snapped back.
“Listen you facety child, I might be a witch but even I’m not powerful enough to blacken the abyss.” The sound of gasps of surprise and laughter rang out from the audience, drowning out Lorraine’s angry retort. Everyone knew about her mother Lady Charlotte.
By the time the laughter died down, Scully was angrily demanding that Ta-Shra take over for the rest of the case. Turning to Branwen he snapped, “Listen girl, just answer the question!” To Lord Sandwich he angrily demanded, “Hurry up boy! I don’t have time for this!” Outwardly Scully appeared to be angry but inside he could not have been more pleased. His grandson attended Adhara Academy and more than once had come home claiming that Lorraine had made him cry. It was a long way to go but he had been planning to reveal Lorraine’s true colours and have her removed from the school council and polite society ever since. Scully had even begged the indulgence of the president of the Alliance, Sexzia Thanthee and she had made it happen. Now Scully owed her a favour, but it was worth it.
“Who was the boy you wanted to ask out?” Sandwich asked for the second time.
Branwen signed and glanced over at Primrose who had been sitting demurely at the complainant’s table. She really looked as if she were innocent. Sorry cousin, Branwen thought to Primrose, I can’t lie for you anymore. “There wasn’t one,” she mumbled under her breath.
“Could you please repeat that a bit louder?” Sandwich asked, smiling maliciously at Lorraine.
“There wasn’t a boy I wanted to ask out,” Branwen said louder this time. “It was a lie.”
Obligatory gasps were heard around the auditorium but for the most part, the onlookers were silent, waiting to hear what would be revealed next.
Sandwich smiled, unsurprised by the revelations, “If there wasn’t a boy you wanted to ask out, why did you and your cousin approach Bishop on the day in question?”
“Primrose wanted to excuse to talk to Bishop.”
“Why did Primrose want to speak to Bishop?”
Branwen held her head down, avoiding her cousin’s eyes as she spoke “She wanted Bishop to call her pretty.”
“I see,” Sandwich said nodding to himself, “Did Primrose specifically want Bishop to call her pretty or did she want to be complimented by the other boys in Foundation?”
“Why was that?”
The girl hesitated for a moment before saying, “I don’t know.”
Scully sucked his teeth with annoyance, “Princess, this is a school trial. If you are found to be lying you could be expelled from the academy. It’s in your best interest to be truthful.”
“Yes, your honour,” Branwen replied sorrowfully.
“Why did your cousin specifically want Bishop to call her pretty?” Sandwich asked more forcefully this time.
“Primrose hoped that if Bishop’s fiancée Lavender found out, the betrothal would be broken off. The main objective was to at least make sure that the match wasn’t finalised at the Cupid’s Day Dance this year. Primrose thought that if she could stop that from happening, she might have a chance of breaking Bishop’s relationship and getting him for herself.”
Pandemonium broke loose in the auditorium even before Branwen had finished speaking. Scully allowed the uproar to continue for a few minutes before calling the court back to order.
As soon as the onlookers had quietened down, Sandwich asked. “So, it is your testimony that Primrose approached Bishop under false pretences in the hopes of breaking his betrothal?”
“Yes, it is,” Branwen said, sighing deeply.
“And when her plan didn’t work, what did Primrose do?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean.”
“When Primrose couldn’t get Bishop to call her pretty, what was her next course of action? Did she walk away? What did she do?”
“Oh,” Branwen exclaimed as understanding dawned on her. “ Well Primrose said that Bishop had called her ugly.”
Sandwich nodded at this and then asked, “And after Tristen the Fair tried to defend Bishop, what did Primrose say to him?”
Branwen’s purple cheeks reddened with embarrassment and she looked down at her hands, “Primrose insulted him.”
“What did she say?” Sandwich asked, more forcefully this time.
“She said that Tristen was only defending Bishop because he was a fanboy. Then she said that his hair looked crappy and that he was delusional if he thought that he looked anything like Bishop.”
Outraged gasps and boos came from the onlookers but Sandwich pressed on, “How old is Tristen the Fair?”
“He’s about 15, I think.”
“And how old is Primrose?”
“So your cousin was bulling and insulting a younger student?”
“Yes, I supposed so.”
“And when Primrose was relating her version of what had happened to curious students, did she make any mention of that?”
“Thank you,” Sandwich said smiling. “Your honour, I have finished questioning this witness.”
Before Scully could acknowledge what Sandwich had said, Ta-Shra stood up and requested permission to clarify something from Branwen. She was loathed to do it but remembered what Scully had said in the council chamber. If the Student Council weren’t seen to do their best for Primrose, it would end up badly for Bishop even if he won the case. In light of that Ta-Shra hoped that was in some way helping him.
When Scully gave his approval Ta-Shra asked, “What exactly did Primrose say to Bishop to get him to call her pretty?”
“Oh!” Branwen gasped, surprised by the question. “She said, “I’m ugly, aren’t I?””
“And what did Bishop say in response to that?”
“He said, “Yes, you are.””
At this, loud, vulgar laughter rang out from the otherwise silent crowd and the vague image of someone being bragged from the lower seating section of the auditorium could be seen from the stage. Ta-Shra waited until the person was gone and the laughter could no longer be heard before turning back to Scully and saying. “Your honour, that is the end of our case against Bishop, Prince Moonstone. I believe that we have shown that regardless of Primrose’s motive when approaching him, Bishop did in fact state that in his opinion, Primrose is ugly.”
“OK,” Scully acknowledged, “Lord Sandwich would you please present your case.”
Sandwich nodded and came forward, speaking to the jury he said, “You have heard evidence that after approaching Bishop under false pretences in a attempt to break his engagement, Lady Primrose stated that she was ugly and asked Prince Moonstone to agree, but no sooner had the prince obliged her by agreeing with her statement than she set out to ruin his life out of desperation and revenge.”
“I will now prove that Prince Moonstone was only being a dutiful grandson and obeying his grandmother’s instructions to him and his brother. Your honour, I would like to call my first and only witness, Her majesty Zhēnzhū, Queen Emeritus of Gondor.”
Gasps of surprise filled the auditorium as the former queen of Gondor made her way to the stage. Queen Zhēnzhū or Queen Pearl as she was called in Hubba-Lubba, the common tongue of the Alliance, rarely made any public appearances since her husband had abdicated in favour of their son, the current king and yet here she was about to take the stand in a school trial. Something like this had never happened before.
When Queen Pearl reached the stage, she stepped into the stand with the aid of Sandwich. At a mere 3 foot 5 inches, the top of her head was barely visible over the top of the witness box until she levitated herself into the seat and then effortlessly levitated that off the ground as well so that she was clearly visible.
“Thank you for being here, your majesty,” Scully said, bowing his head to the monarch. He was the chief of his tribe on Thoth, but Queen Pearl had been the queen consort of the entire planet of Gondor. Even as the former queen she was still his social superior and elder. Queen Pearl turned her head slightly and smiled at Scully before turning back to look pointedly at Sandwich. Scully gestured for the young lord to begin his questions and Sandwich started at once.
“Your majesty, did you ever give your grandsons Prince Diamond and Prince Moonstone any advice about what they should do if a girl approached them and seemed to be looking for compliments?”
“Yes, I did.”
“What, if you don’t mind telling us, did you advise your grandsons to do?”
“I told them to never disagree with a lady about her looks. No matter what she says, just agree.”
“Why did you feel the need to do that?”
“To keep my grandsons out of trouble. They’re both very popular and handsome boys. I didn’t want them to get into any trouble for expressing an opinion that could cause offense or controversy.”
“So, in short you were telling them to keep their opinions to themselves.”
“So, if you heard that a girl approached one of your grandsons and said, “I’m ugly, aren’t I?”, what would you expect his response to be?”
“I would expect him to say, “Yes, you are,” because that’s what I told him to say.”
“So, if one of your grandsons replied in that manner it could be seen as following your instructions and not an expression of his true opinion on the matter?”
“Thank you, your majesty,” Sandwich said with a bow. Turning to Scully he reported that he had no further questions to ask and returned to his table to sit down.
An almost impenetrable stillness filled the hall as everyone held their breath waiting for Ta-Shra to put a question to the former queen of Gondor. What would she ask? What could she ask? Bishop had been following his grandmother’s instructions, it was as simple as that. At last Ta-Shra got to her feet and said, “Your honour, I have no que…” but before she could finish Lorraine leapt to her feet and interrupted, “I have questions.”
The silence in the auditorium grew deeper as the crowd waited to see how Scully would react to Lorraine’s outburst. Ta-Shra seemed frozen on the spot and Primrose was trembling and crying. She pulled on Lorraine’s hnad and whispered for her to apologise to Queen Pearl, but Lorraine shook her off and snarled, “Get off of me, this is all your fault so why are you crying now?
Lorraine’s voice rang out in the auditorium and students of the academy opened their eyes and mouths wide with shock. Even after all of Lorraine’s antics during the trial, they still had not quite believed that she was being herself. Most people believed that Lorraine was merely trying her best to help Primrose as the student council president, now they had no idea what to think.
Scully inhaled deeply, “Thank you Princess Ta-Shra,” he said choosing to ignore Lorraine. Turning to Queen Pearl he said, “Thank you, your majesty. You may…” but before he could finish his sentence Lorraine interrupted him.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t hear me. I said that I have some questions for the witness. Are you going to deny my client the right to present her case in this serious matter?” she asked, a crazed look on her face.
Primrose stood up, her face pink with tears, “Please your honour. I don’t wa…”
“Shut up!” Lorraine snarled and pushed Primrose down in her seat. “You started this entire mess and now I’m going to finish it. At least have the decency to be quiet.”
“Stop it, Lorraine!” Ta-Shra ordered, finding her voice at last. “Have you gone mad? What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” Lorraine asked smirking at Ta-Shra, “I’m about to win the case.”
“Please your honour, I request a break,” Ta-Shra requested, looking desperately at Scully.
Scully glared at Lorraine with displeasure. “I think that would be for the best,” he said. “We will take a short break. The case will resume in fifteen minutes.” Scully rose and walked into the wings, the tiny statue in his official wig swaying slightly as he walked. No one noticed the slight smile on his lips as he passed behind the curtain, the entire auditorium had already exploded into gossip.