I haven’t slept since the verdict was read.  They say that insomnia toys with the mind, makes you see things and feel things that aren’t real.  My ghosts are real—they’ve been living with me since that day.  I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon. I should not have taken the case to trial.  I know that now.  I should have bargained with the district attorney a little longer, tried to sweeten up a plea.  I could have made her listen if I had just worked her over a little more, tried another angle, tried anything.

But I didn’t.  I took her case to trial because I’m new and I’m a show off and I wanted a chance to prove myself to the senior partners.  I didn’t even look over the case file before I agreed.  He had me at ‘homicide’.  Finding out my client had just burnt her two children to death only fed my ambition.

They warned me.  My father—my own personal Atticus Finch—told me to take a plea.  He told me flat-out that I wasn’t ready for a capital case, despite what my record said.  My friends regarded my excitement with weary eyebrows and hard swallows before quickly changing the topic.  I should have listened to them.  Maybe if I had, I’d be able to sleep at night.

I’ve tried everything.  For the last two months I’ve been popping sleeping pills like candy.  Nothing helps.  Every time I feel even a flutter of drowsiness, I close my eyes and I see her again.  I see her dark, dead, unfeeling eyes; see her swollen lips pulled back in a triumphant smile when the jury read the verdict.

“We find the defendant not guilty.”

The rest of the afternoon is a blur.  There was a hard squeeze of my shoulder from my boss, an impressed smile from my father, and then she was throwing her arms around me and thanking me profusely.  The touch of her skin against mine made me want to vomit.  I knew I was the only person on my team not grinning like an idiot.

While the partners took the researchers, the paralegals, and the interns out for surf and turf, I went home and unloaded the case file.  I stared once again at the pictures of the deceased.  My client’s two children.  There were school portraits paper-clipped to the post-mortem photographs to identify the bodies.  Had it not been for those, I would never have been able to tell which was which.

I knew I shouldn’t have taken the case to trial.  I should have worked harder to get her to plead out.  I should have walked away the moment I realized she was lying.  But I didn’t.  I set the monster free…why didn’t I realize there would be consequences?

Insomnia seems a small price to pay for the things I’ve done.