As the autumn breeze cooled the air, my heart filled with warmth when John uttered those three words he had said to me months earlier. Not only had he said, “I love you,” but I also knew he meant it. Perhaps it was the fear of his uncertain future, but in that moment I didn’t care.
A month later we were sitting together on a bench outside Courtroom A waiting for John’s trial to begin, neither of us wanting to show the anxiety we both felt. I could sense John’s fidgeting before he stood up and announced he needed to use the bathroom.
I watched him walk away and noticed his usual swagger was absent. From the moment I met John, he had an air of confidence that I knew didn’t always match what he was feeling inside. That day he couldn’t mask the anxiety he was feeling, and I noticed his shoulders weren’t as square as usual.
I sat there wondering what would happen when we walked through those double doors into a courtroom filled with lawyers and police officers and people anxiously waiting a fate that a judge would decide.
This last month we talked over every possible outcome and what would happen if John had to serve time in jail. If our calculations were right, he would be incarcerated over the holiday season. We had no idea how we would explain John’s absence to his mother.
But I couldn’t think about that right then.
I had to stay focused on the day before me. If I just keep my eyes on those tall wooden doors in front of me, I’d be able to get through whatever came next.
I turned when I noticed John walking back from the restrooms and was surprised to see he was standing a little taller. He even had the slightest hint of a grin on his face. When he sat down he said, “I’m pretty sure I was just peeing next to the District Attorney for my case.”
And then he turned and looked at me with a flicker in his eyes and said, “He thanked me for my service.”
I stared at him for a moment; and just before I opened my mouth to ask more questions, the doors swung open and we were summoned inside. I took a seat on the right side behind the defense’s table and watched John walk through the little swinging gate and stand next to his attorney.
I saw her whispering something to John as we were instructed to rise for the Honorable Mr. Judge Somebody. Once he took his seat, the next few minutes flew by with little understanding by me of the legalese spoken between the DA and John’s attorney.
Was I hearing this right?
Trying to focus on what was being said, I was certain I’d heard things like, “Drop the felony charge” and “Community service.” A few “Yes, Your Honor” and “No, Your Honors” later, John and I were ushered out into a side room to have a consultation with his attorney.
She told us the DA was impressed by John’s record of service and was willing to drop the charge down to a misdemeanor with no jail time. In exchange, John would need to provide 300 hours of community service.
John’s attorney asked, “Are you fine with this”?
We were both stunned; but John quickly recovered and said, “Yes, I am.”