You want to escape. You can barely take it.
Jury duty and taxes are the same. Both unavoidable. You went there, said the right thing thinking it was the wrong thing, and now, here you are.
The other cases were basic. Petty theft, vandalism, trespassing. Those cases were over before they even started.
Then there was this one. Murder.
You were intrigued. Excited, even. This day was supposed to be the most interesting one you had had in awhile.
So far, it hasn't been not interesting.
Quite the opposite, unfortunately.
You wish you had thought to prepare. You wish you had bothered to find your reading glasses and looked at the court papers instead of mumbling ’Yes… uh huh… I do not know the defendant…”. You wish you had asked around. But no. You went into this blind.
Twenty-three minutes earlier, you had strode into the courtroom, your anticipation bubbling up, overflowing. Your heart was racing, running a 2 minute mile. Impossible, yes, but there you were.
Then, everything changed. In an instant, in a snap, in a flash of light.
When you saw who was being tried, your heart paused, tripped over its own feet, and face planted.
Her eyes are bloodshot, laced with hairline cracks of red. Her sweaty grey t-shirt is sprinkled with grease stains. Her posture is kinked like a broken slinky.
But she's still the same old Lisa.
You nearly broke your neck as you struggled to avoid eye contact. Why was this happening? What had you done to deserve this?
A lot. But still.
The judge, a sour-faced man who looks like he's just choked down a whole lemon doused in citric acid, lazily bangs his gavel against the grainy wood of his desk. "Order in the court, order in the court," he rasps, covering the courtroom in a blanket of semi-silence. There's still some noise left. The shuffle of feet. A cough. He ignores it all.
"We are gathered here today to try the defendant, Lisa Trent, of manslaughter of the third degree."
The room itself seems to gasp at this. Apparently, the other unprepared members of the court did not expect a woman who was 5' 1" and weighing in at about 105 pounds to be capable of something so deplorable.
"The date of the incident was August 14, 2019, and the time was roughly 8:45 p.m.."
This can’t be real.
With the unfolding of the date, you know Lisa is innocent.
You are her alibi.
And worst of all, the evidence, the end all, the turnaround, is nestled in your back pocket.
It won't save her. It will just weaken the blow. And you will be dragged down with her.
“Do you all swear that you do not know the people involved in this case, or witnessed the mentioned case?” A chorus of “yes’s”, toppling over like dominoes, follows. When the wave crashes into your area, your tongue is a rock, weighed down by deception.
“Yes. I swear.”
The judge begins emitting a string of undecipherable legal jargon, which from experience, you know it will swallow most of the remainder of the case.
Your eyes drift back to Lisa. This is a big risk.
She's staring blankly ahead, her arms limp at her side. It looks as if her mind is elsewhere. Until her head swings wildly and her gaze lands on you.
Recognition. Fear. Hate. It's tattooed across her face, in sharp slashes.
She knows, but not enough. She is unaware of the monster living in your pocket.
You stare down at your lap. Your palms are sweaty, your throat is dry. You try to concentrate on the bland papers perched atop your knees.
"She's so guilty, I don't see why they're even having a trial." The woman squeezed in next to you has an elaborate beehive that is obviously fake. Her doughy legs are straining against the denim fabric of her pencil skirt. Her words are coated in a layer of intense disgust.
You emit a sound that is neither an agreement nor a disagreement, and go back to shrinking yourself out of existence.
Day one eventually ends.
Day two: You can tell where this is going, but maybe if you hold out long enough, you'll change your mind.
Day three: Can't.
Day four: Take.
Day five: It.
Day six: Any.
Day seven: More.
Day eight: The decision is unanimous, except for you, but you pretend to agree. The same circles of evidence are being drawn over and over. The guilt, the inner demons, the truth. It drives you toward the end point.
You knew from the moment you saw her that this was going to happen.
"Your honor!" You burst out. The judge narrows his eyes, scowling. "I do not approve of disruptions in my courtroom, especially by the jury," he says. "Do it again and I will not hesitate to kick you out." He adjusts the glasses that sit on his bird beak nose. "But do tell me what was so urgent that you had to interrupt."
You take a deep breath. Your life will be over. You'll lose so much.
But not as much as Lisa.
"I, James Burk, would like to present evidence proving Lisa Trent's innocence."
"This is unexpected. No matter. Bring it up here."
You walk up to the judge, feeling like you're going to be executed.
Your phone is burning a hole in your pocket. You pull it out, fingers shaking.
It's surrounded by passwords. Passwords to prevent others from seeing. Ironically, you're the one who has chosen to show it. They swirl around, and you disperse them, like mist.
A triangle. On its side. Do it. Don't think. Do it. Save Lisa.
Two figures, you and Lisa.
A date, 8/14/19.
A time. 8:47 p.m.
Twin matches, alight.