Monday, July 19, 2010

Binding Precedent - Part 2

This is Part 2 of a Serial Story.  The story began here.

I took a long drink of my soda. It quenched my thirst but failed to cool my temper. I guess there’s just so much that Dr. Pepper can do. “I was about to thank the jerk for helping me up, but before I could he tells me that I better not try to sue the funeral home for my fall or else…whatever that means,” I said. I leaned back in the tall booth and flicked the moisture beads on the red soda glass with my index finger.

Belinda watched my fingers nervously. “Maybe he’s just tense about the lawsuit against his employer,” she said. She looked around the restaurant for the dozenth time and fidgeted in her seat.

“No, he’s just being his usual jerky self. I hoped that he had matured a little, and that being a jerk was something he had grown out of. Won’t make that mistake again,” I said.

The server arrived with our food and Belinda nearly jumped out of her seat. “What is wrong with you?” I asked her.

“I’m a little tense,” Belinda admitted, patting her frizzy blond hair with a shaky hand.

“You are the tensest person I have ever met,” I said. “How you managed to finish law school and pass the bar exam is beyond me.” I jammed a fork into a piece of steak from the fajita platter and dropped it onto a tortilla.

Belinda used a spoon to smear a dollop of sour cream across the top of her enchilada. “I wasn’t always like this,” she said pathetically. “But working at the law firm makes me nervous.” She looked up at me, her blue eyes wide and intent. “Have you talked to Mr. Drake about the changes planned for the firm?”

“Not yet. I’m supposed to meet with him this afternoon. What’s it all about?”

Belinda looked around yet again then leaned across the table. “They going to change the firm by changing the associates,” she whispered.

“They’re firing us?”

“No! They’re going to change us to be like them.”

“Pale and anti-social? Huh. They can try,” I said wryly. I took a bite of fajita. The steak was perfect today, tender and juicy. Glad I didn’t order the chicken.

Belinda shook her head. She looked close to tears. “You don’t understand. But you will,” she said sadly.

“Look, Belinda, if you’re not happy then quit and go to another firm.”

“I don’t think they’ll let me quit. I know too much.”

I laughed out loud; I couldn’t help it. “Do you hear yourself? Belinda, we’re sitting in a nice new Mexican restaurant with layered stone walls and tile tables, lots of natural light, and floor to ceiling fountains in the entry-way. We are not sitting in a smoky bar nursing glasses of cheap gin while secret agents next to us pass microfiche to each other in folder newspapers. We’re associate attorneys in a successful law firm, not secret agents. Whatever is going on at the firm its not the crisis you’re making it out to be.”

“Uh, Maryanne-“

“If you don’t learn to relax you’re going to give yourself stomach ulcers.”

“Maryanne-“

“What?” I asked. Belinda pointed behind me. I turned around and was hit in the face by a wave of ice cold water.

I wiped my face with my napkin and opened my eyes. Charlotte Hawthorne stood with an empty ice pitcher in her hands and a furious expression on her face.

“How can you do this to my brother,” she demanded.

“Are you kidding me? Charlotte, I’m soaked. And so are the tortillas,” I said, looking at my food. “Thanks a lot.”

“How can you talk about tortillas when you’re ruining my brother’s life?”

“What’s going on?” Belinda asked.

“Belinda, Charlotte. Charlotte, Belinda. Belinda is another associate attorney at Dietrick, Egbert & Drake. Charlotte is the younger sister of Matt, the guy who acted like a jerk this morning. When she’s not throwing water in my face she’s a drama student at the university,” I said. “Excuse me,” I called out to a nearby waiter, “Can I please have some extra napkins?”

“Nice to meet you,” Charlotte said to Belinda. “This is the meanest, lowest thing imaginable,” she said to me. “Matt loves his job, and you’re taking it away from him. How can you be so cruel?”

“Excuse me,” Belinda said timidly. “Maryanne isn’t involved with the case. Mr. Egbert is the lead attorney in the case, and Olivia is the associate helping him.”

“There, you see? I have nothing to do with it,” I said. “Wait a minute, Olivia’s assisting Egbert? She was just sworn in. She’s barely a lawyer at all!”

“Olivia was willing to change,” Belinda said significantly.

“You could stop it if you wanted to,” Charlotte insisted.

“No, Charlotte, I can’t. It doesn’t work that way.”

“Your brother’s boss did mess up,” Belinda said gently to Charlotte. “Good funeral directors don’t lose bodies.”

“Wait, what?” I asked.

“Mr. Shanks said there was something unusual about the cause of death and he wanted someone else to examine the body. It’s not his fault of the body got lost in transport,” Charlotte said.

The server walked over and handed me more napkins. “Will you be joining them for lunch,” he asked, looking at Charlotte. Only he didn’t just look at her, he checked her out. Men always check Charlotte out. She causes a scene in a restaurant in the middle of the lunch rush and guys come over to check her out.

“I wouldn’t eat lunch with her if she was the last person on earth,” Charlotte said, handing the server the empty pitcher. She glared at me and said with perfect enunciation, “I’m not speaking to you.” She stalked out of the restaurant.

And Charlotte’s my roommate for the summer! Life in the silo apartment just got awkward.

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