Exercising the craft—September 23, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: The One-Minute Writer Flash Fiction Friday, in which writers receive a prompt and must complete it within 1000 words.  The question below comprises the prompt, and story I wrote follows it.  The title of today’s prompt: “The Trial.”


Question: You are called to court to testify in a murder trial. The defendant is your best friend. Do you do it?

“So you decided not to testify.  Why?”

Lauren pressed the phone to her ear.  Of all the questions people had asked her afterward, no one—not a single one—had thought to ask her that.  It seemed like such an obvious question.  But apparently no one else thought so.

“Because Michelle’s my best friend.  I just couldn’t…I mean, I didn’t want people to find out about Rick.  About his—his—”

“His hobby?”

She squelched the momentary anger she felt.  “Only a man would call it that.”

“Do you really think most men would consider it a hobby?”

“Does Playboy sell magazines?”

“Touché.  But the women in those magazines pose of their own free will, and Rick didn’t ask any of the women he spied on and then photographed.”

Lauren shrugged.  “I guess.  But I still didn’t want to testify and bring all that out at the trial.”

“Lauren, he photographed you.  He spent months following you and tracking your movements so that he could catch you when you were getting undressed.  Then he took hundreds of photos of you.  I know you didn’t want to hurt Michelle, but Rick did this to other women too.”

“I know,” Lauren said softly, her eyes trying to find something interesting on the table in front of her.  “Believe me, I know.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“It doesn’t matter now anyway, does it?” Lauren asked, bristling again.  “Everything’s done; finished.”

“That’s one way of looking at it.”

“That’s easy for you to say!  You don’t have to live here for the rest of your life!  You don’t have to question—for the rest of your life—whether you could have made things better faster!”

“Isn’t it better to live here than the alternative?”

Lauren rolled her eyes.  “Do you really believe that?  Can you honestly tell me that spending my life this way should make me happy?”

“Maybe not happy, but at least you know Rick will never hurt you or any other woman ever again.”

“Yeah, kind of hard to do that when you’re dead.”

“You don’t sound too remorseful about Rick dying.”

“I don’t have to sound remorseful!” Lauren cried as she threw up her free hand in the air.  “He’s dead, and he deserved to die.  He was a pervert and a jerk, and he treated Michelle like crap, and it’s his fault she’s dead!”

The silence from the other end of the line told Lauren she had said too much.  This man had offered her the only olive branch available, and she had tossed it back in his face.  Did she really want to do that?

“I’m sorry,” she said after a few minutes, her cheeks warm with embarrassment and—she had to admit it to herself—a shot of fear.  What if he took this to mean that she had had some sort of malicious ambitions—what the prosecutor had called “premeditated intentions”—about Rick?

Lauren did what she’d done every day since the sentencing: she searched her heart and soul.  Had she thought about what she was going to do that day seven months ago?  On the surface level she always responded the same way: no.  But maybe some part of her subconscious had egged her on, had told her that Michelle’s spirit wouldn’t rest until Rick met his deserved end.  Maybe she felt guilty on some level, as though she had led Rick on, had almost willed him to follow her in his car and track her social events through Facebook.  Maybe she had wanted Rick to take those pictures of her; maybe in some twisted, sick way it had turned her on.

No.  She always circled back to that emphatic “no.”  She hadn’t led Rick on.  And he had definitely deserved to die for his actions.

But she didn’t have to say that out loud.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Sheldon,” she said, looking him squarely in the eye.  She couldn’t project any shame, but she didn’t want him to think she was hiding something.  “I shouldn’t have yelled like that.  I guess I—I’m just mad because they’re making me wear orange like everyone else.”

She tried a smile at her bad effort at humor, and she managed to elicit one from Dr. Sheldon as he looked at her through the glass.  He loosened his grip on the phone at his ear and then tightened it again.  Lauren didn’t know if the gesture meant something or if Dr. Sheldon felt antsy and wanted to leave the correctional facility already.

“So I guess we can start our sessions from there,” he said.  “I’ve got clearance to come see you twice a week and we’ll still have to use the phones for a while, but at least they’ll give us the booth down at the end where less people are likely to hear.”

She nodded, trying to look grateful.  “Sounds good.  So when do we start?”

“Next Tuesday.  I guess we’ll just wrap it up here today then.”

“Okay,” Lauren said, feeling her heart dip.  She could tolerate the orange jumpsuit and the constant noise of the prison, but as she said goodbye and hung up the phone Lauren felt her heart drop almost to her shoes.  She got up and went back to her cell, facing the fact that for the next several hours she had nothing to do but remember the trial and her conviction for killing Rick.

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