*two weeks later*

"All rise," said the uniformed security guard at the front of the courtroom. Judge Patterson strode in with confidence and sat down at her place in the front of the room without a word. When she had settled herself, he continued, "You may be seated. We are here today for the trial of Landon Mathison, accused of second-degree murder. The defendant, Mr. Madison, and his lawyer, Derrick Lawson." He pointed to Landon, who quickly lowered his eyes. "And the opposed, Michelle Carter, represented by her parents, Mr. Daniel Carter, Mrs. Samantha Carter, and her sister, Leslie Carter, and their lawyer, Matthew Tyson." He pointed to the table where Michelle's family sat. "Landon Mathison is being accused of second-degree murder. Two weeks ago, he killed his girlfriend, Michelle Carter in her home. He was under the influence of alcohol." Finished, he lowered the paper and stepped back. Judge Patterson raised her eyebrows and stared Landon down.

"And how do you plead, Landon?" she asked in an even tone.

"Gui-" Landon started to answer.

"I OBJECT!" Landon's lawyer jumped up.

"Denied, Mr. Lawson. Please sit down." Judge Patterson turned her steely glare on him. Mr. Lawson quickly shut his mouth but remained standing.

"Once more, Mr. Mathison, how do you plead?"

"Gui-" Landon began again.

"Wait!" interrupted his lawyer, "I call for a break."

"Denied. Now please sit down." Judge Patterson was feeling very annoyed at this lawyer.

"Just hold on one second. You're not supposed to ask him that. He's not even supposed to talk. You're supposed to ask me!" protested Mr. Lawson.

"Mr. Lawson, if you can't calm down and sit down, I'll have you removed from his room." Judge Patterson raised her gavel and slammed it on the desk once for effect. "Now, Mr. Mathison, let's try again. How do you plead?"

"Guilty." Finally, Landon got the word out. He lifted his eyes up and met the judge's gaze. "I never meant to kill her. Two weeks ago, I was failing a couple classes and it got me kicked off the rugby team. My friends, in an attempt to cheer me up and make me feel better, gave me bottle of vodka. After that day, I began to rely more and more on the vodka. I never realized what effect it would have on me. If I had known, I would have stopped myself. I loved Michelle. Everyday, ever since I realized I had done it, that I had killed her; I have relived the horror over and over again. She used to call me every afternoon, you know. Just to make sure that I wasn't asleep and that I was awake so I could start dinner for my parents. I miss her so much. I have her voice on my answering machine at home and I'm never going to erase that tape. I have a whole box full of notes from her. I'm never going to throw them out. I have teddy bears from her, t-shirts, fake roses, cologne, everything. I will cherish every memory I have of her. Yes, I plead guilty. I killed the one girl I loved and nothing's going to change that, not even 10 years in jail." After baring his soul to the judge, the jury, and everyone in the room, Landon felt at peace with himself. He dared to sneak a quick peek at the judge and saw that there were tears in her eyes.

After a moment's pause, she looked up at him.

"The verdict stands, Mr. Mathison, no matter what. You understand that, right?"

Landon nodded, feeling his heartbeat pick up.

She looked over to where the jury sat. "Would the jury please excuse yourselves to go decide on the verdict?" Without a word, the 16 people got up and left the room.

"The court is on hold. Court will resume in 30 minutes."

Landon felt his insides go limp. He had to wait 30 minutes. He knew what his fate was. He'd pleaded guilty. Screwing his eyes shut, his mind began to wander, back to dates with Michelle, her hugs, her kisses, all the happy memories.

"Landon." A voice cut into his thoughts. He opened his eyes and looked up. It was Leslie.

"Leslie," he acknowledged her.

"That was some speech you made," she said quietly.

"It was my feelings, my soul, my everything," he replied, his voice shaky.

"I know. Landon, you killed my sister. What's more, she was my twin sister. She was the other half of me. I feel so empty and lost now. You killed her. I thought you loved her. Look at my parents, you've torn our whole family apart." Landon looked up at her. Her eyes were cold, hard.

"I'm sorry, Leslie. I know I shouldn't have taken the vodka but it made me feel better. Now, I have to live with the consequences my actions caused. At least, now, I feel at peace with myself, for telling the whole room that I'm guilty." His voice cracked and Landon struggled to remain in control.

"So be it, then. Goodbye, Landon." With that, Leslie turned and walked away.

"Court is now back in session. All rise." The guard motioned for everyone to stand up. "Bang!" The door flew open and in walked Judge Patterson. Behind her was the 16 members of the jury. They all took their places and faced forward. "You may be seated." He stepped back.

Judge Patterson cleared her throat. "May I have the verdict, please?"

A man with graying hair stepped up and handed her an envelope. Judge Patterson opened it and read the verdict. It seemed like hours before she looked up and opened her mouth to speak. "The verdict stands as is. Landon Mathison, you were charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 18-year-old Michelle Carter. You pleaded guilty, and the jury found you guilty. The sentence is 10 years in jail, with a possibility of parole. Also, there is a restraining order. Under no circumstances are you to go within 100 feet if the Carter family, do you understand me?"

"Yes." Somehow, Landon found his voice and the courage to look up. "I understand."

"Good. The court is now adjourned." Judge Patterson stood up and left the room. The uniformed security guard stepped up to Landon and handcuffed him.

"Wait, sir. Can I have just one moment with my parents?" pleaded Landon.


"Please, sir," he begged.

The guard glanced around. "Okay, fine. One minute." He stepped away, but left the handcuffs on.

Landon turned to his parents. They were staring at him, their faces stony.

"Mom, dad. I guess this is the last time I'll be seeing you for awhile," he began.

"No kidding! Look what you did! Look what you did to Michelle's poor family! And us! You've embarrassed us! We brought you up to obey the laws! You know you're not allowed to drink!" shouted his father.

"Dad, calm down," said Landon quietly, "I only have a minute, let me finish."

With a huge effort, Landon's father struggled to calm down.

"I'm sorry I brought shame to our family. Believe me. I'm really sorry. I killed Michelle. Nothing's more punishment than the truth. I have to live for the rest of my life, knowing I killed the one girl I loved. Don't you think that's punishment enough?" By now, Landon's tears were flowing freely and he didn't care who saw him. "I loved her! You guys were never there for me! You were always off at some party or gathering or something. Michelle was the only who cared about me. She was the only one who made sure I stayed on top of my grades. And now, she's gone! And she's gone because I killed her! That's enough punishment!" shouted Landon.

The guard walked up to him and took him by the arm. Landon looked wildly at him. "No! I want another minute!" he shouted. The guard shook his head and began to lead him away. Landon realized what was happening and turned around to face his parents even as the guard proceeded to drag him out.

"MOM! DAD! I'm really sorry! Please, forgive me! I loved her! I really did!" he yelled back, his voice hoarse from crying. "I LOVED HER!"

The last thing he saw before the doors swung shut was an image of his mother collapsing into her father's arms and his arms encircling her protectively. His life, as he knew it, was over. Now, he faced the next 10 years in jail. Without Michelle. He stared at the doors. It was like a symbol of his life. Doors closing. The doors were closing on the life he knew. Now, he didn't know what he was anymore. Michelle had shaped his life for him. Now, she was gone. Forever.