Four weeks after the incident between Charlie and Mateo, Matilda and Brad are in the office of their newly engaged lawyer.
‘Anything else you can tell me?’ asks Oliver. On the desk, he has three pages full of scribbled notes. His laptop is open; next to it lies his mobile phone, the screen of which intermittently lights up as messages, phone calls and emails flood in.
‘Only that we’d like to avoid this going to court. Can’t believe it’s come to this, to be honest,’ Matilda says. She watches as Oliver’s screen illuminates again. This time he glances at the message, and a slight frown appears on his forehead.
‘Well, that’s what we’re here for.’ Oliver smiles as he taps on the key board of his laptop. ‘So, if I’ve got this straight, your son was attacked by…’ he pauses to check his notes. ‘…Mateo. On the way home from school. Four weeks ago? Yes?’
Brad nods. ‘That’s right.’
Oliver continues, ‘And Matilda, you went to the family home, about a fortnight later, to talk things over with Mateo’s mother?’
‘Zara McGregor. Yes, that’s right.’
‘And your presence was not welcomed?’
‘No, she was aggressive. Told me that she’d already got a lawyer, and we’d see each other in court.’
‘And you have seen her since?’
‘Yes, at school.’ Matilda sighs. Her shoulders are knotty with tension; her voice is tight and her throat scratchy. But she’s bursting to tell Oliver what she knows. ‘I asked around at school, with all the mums from the year level to see if anyone had a similar experience. There’s a few who could be on our side.’
‘Let’s not assume anything at this stage,’ Oliver says. He nods, urging Matilda to keep speaking.
‘So, when I spoke with Karen and Tammy I discovered a few ruffled feathers. Apparently, Mateo has been bullying their children, Lily and Nicholas. The school was involved with these incidents, because it happened on school property. There were restorative sessions held, reports written with copies stored at the Education Department, and further action, including shifting classes, will be taken if necessary. Both Karen and Tammy say at this stage, everything’s under control and there’s been no further incidents so shifting classes isn’t on the horizon.’
She reaches for Brad’s hand. ‘But we think, don’t we Brad?’ She looks at him, tears brim her eyes. ‘We think tha—‘ her voice cracks. She sobs.
‘We think,’ Brad finishes for Matilda. ‘That Mateo has simply re-targeted. He’s found Charlie, and because we live so close to each other, he’s an easy target. They walk home together most days…well, they used to…and that’s how it happened. That’s we we think anyway.’
‘Great,’ says Oliver. ‘We’ve got a real case here, especially with the two mothers who can corroborate your version. God knows who McGregor’s lawyers have found to strengthen their report, but leave it with me. I’ll get to the bottom of this all.’
‘Can we avoid court?’
‘Most definitely. This is not the type of civil matter that judges like to see play out in court. If we can’t get their lawyers to agree to an outcome, the judge will look unfavourably on the McGregor case. We’re in a good place.’
‘Yeah?’ asks Brad.
‘Yes. That’s all I need for today. Leave everything with me for now. I’ll be in touch sometime later this week.’ He glances briefly back at his phone before he reaches for it and places it in his suit pocket.
‘Thanks Oliver,’ says Matilda, rising from her chair. She shakes his hand. Waits as Brad does the same.
They leave the office together. Matilda feels lighter; her shoulders relax for the first time in two weeks. She squeezes Brad’s arm, smiles gently at him.