The judge leaned back in her chair, contemplating the papers stacked untidily before her. Her office was silent but for the tick-tocking of the antique clock on the wall. How many times had she sat in this same chair, waiting? How many years running?
It wasn’t like she had to keep notes, but she did, a hold-over from long ago days as a lawyer. Sometimes, she missed those days. Right now, for instance.
Closing arguments had finished at noon, turning the fate of the defendant to a twelve member jury of his peers. But could adults remember and understand the works and meanings of a boy’s mind? Did they remember? Did she?
Peers, no. Parents, maybe.
She’d been watching juries all her adult life and every single one of them had been angered at the stupid waste of life. This whole trial was about wasted lives, lives torn apart by one foolish act. Butterfly wings rippling unheard round the world.
Kids didn’t understand. Then again, when had ‘love,’ insert ‘puppy,’ made any sense? Jealousy ranked high on the ‘why’ chain of life; nothing new to those on the bench. She’d heard every possible ‘why’ in her years.
Two boys fighting over a girl. Well, not really boys. The defendant was 17. The deceased 18. She knew boys much like both, both in her courtroom and in her private life. Every time she presided over a boy’s life it reincarnated the memory of Todd. She thought of him every day and yet she never thought of him, conspiracy between heart and brain, one knowing the truth and the other unwilling and unable to accept. Pretending her life away.
Once she’d thought sitting the bench would make the hard memories go away. Once. It wasn’t fair but then life wasn’t fair. Never had been, never would be.
She glanced at the clock. Ten hours so far…. who knew how long to go. She should shower, eat, try for sleep, but she didn’t. She wouldn’t, as if each act of normal human life was a betrayal to the terrified defendant in the cell below.
Had Todd had been alone like this boy? Had anybody sat like she sat, wondering about him, sorry for that one messed-up moment, wanting to hold him and reassure him and make things right? She never gave in to those urges, of course, just like no one had for her son.
Nothing would ever be all right. Not for either of these boys. Not for her son. Ever. Amen.
Far in the distance, the whine of a siren startled the night. A fist tapped her door.