The rope stretched from the witness stand some 15 ft. across the courtroom to the defense table.
On one end: Cindy Anthony, a sparkling cross strung from her necklace, called to testify on Saturday at her daughter Casey's first-degree murder trial.
On the other: Casey, accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
Cindy and her only daughter never locked eyes, never exchanged words, never acknowledged each other.
And yet there could be no mistaking the link between the two: the intangible, pulsing pull uniquely connecting mother and daughter.
"We always checked in with each other," Cindy testified when asked how often she and Casey would typically speak.
"We always have, our entire lives."
That was before "our Caylee," as Cindy called her, was gone.
Saw Caylee Every DayFor much of her testimony, Cindy spoke about her affection for her only grandchild, the little girl who she saw "just about everyday"; the one whose budding toddler-speak she could easily translate.
"You learn your child's speech, and being around Caylee all the time, I pretty much knew what she said," Cindy told the mesmerized jury.
When prosecutor Linda Drane-Burdick showed Cindy a photograph of Caylee's Winnie the Pooh-themed bed, Piglet depicted sitting happily on Pooh's tummy, Cindy broke down in tears. Casey's eyes filled too.
The rope crackled, charged with a current of emotional electricity.
The Final VisitWhen Drane-Burdick asked Cindy to recount the last time she saw Caylee alive, Cindy said she remembered "like it happened yesterday. It was a very emotional and very special evening."
It had been Father's Day 2008, and Cindy had returned home from visiting her ailing dad – then under Hospice care at a nursing home – with little Caylee in tow. Caylee had toted her coloring book on the outing, and her pink sippy cup, and Cindy had brought her camera to capture the meeting. When the pair got back to the family's Orlando home on Hopespring Drive, Cindy shared the images with Casey while Caylee looked on.
"Casey and I cried," recalled Cindy.
And they did again, mother and daughter, both sobbing silently in the Florida courtroom's air-conditioned chill.
"It was a very special moment that the three of us shared," Cindy said through tears.
Later, after Drane-Burdick inquired about a series of excuses Casey had given as to why Cindy couldn't see her granddaughter – they were in Tampa, Casey told her mom by phone, they were in Jacksonville, they were at a work event – Cindy said flatly, "I realized she'd lied to me."
The rope pulled tense, taut, straining between its two anchors. But it never broke.