What if you lost everything you ever wanted, and had just one chance to get it back? Hotshot attorney Cordelia Simms needs a do-over. She spent her whole life being perfect, and it nearly destroyed her — now she’s got a long to-do list, and “perfect” isn’t on it. She negotiates a minefield of old money and modern office politics while family conflict and dangerous secrets threaten to drag her down for good. Previously… Cordelia’s mom broke her promise not to get drunk while babysitting Bella. Cordelia decides to ask her brother to step in, so she can put in a respectable first day on the job.
My brother answers on the second ring. “Simms Electric.” He probably still keeps his cell on a belt-clip.
“Bella’s with Mom and she’s lit.” A grammatical nightmare, but I can’t afford to bury the lede.
“I don’t have time for gossip, Lia.”
“Please, Anthony, can you go get her?”
He doesn’t even think about it. “No. I’m due on site.”
“Look, I finally got a decent job. I just started.”
“You wanted to be a mommy. Go be mommy.”
I can feel my voice rising, so I tamp it down. “Look, I’m sober. I have a job – a real W-2, 401-K job! What do you want from me?”
“What do I want? I want my share of Dad’s estate. I want to not pay Mom’s mortgage on top of my own.”
“Oh, it’s about money? Well, consider today an investment. I’ll be happy to pay you back if I can just keep this freaking job long enough.”
He makes a weird coughing noise. Was that a laugh? “You really don’t get it. You think Medicare paid for those fancy rehabs you ran away from? They took everything Mom had to live on. The house was paid off years before Dad died. Mom mortgaged it to help you, and you pissed it away.”
“I already made my amends with Mom. We’re okay.”
“You’re okay? Sure, because I made it okay.” He takes a deep breath. His voice gets quiet. “How much of me you think there is to go around? I got my kids’ college to think about. I got our house. Betty’s diabetes is gonna get real expensive someday. Now I’m keeping Mom, too? I’ll never retire. Never.” His voice is muffled, like he’s rubbing his face. “You stole from me. You stole my future.”
Oh, God. The silence gets long.
“I’m so sorry. I’m…” What can I possibly say? There’s not enough Step Nine in the world for this. “I’m doing everything I know how, to take that load back from you. But I can’t walk out my first day because of personal problems, or I’m right back where I started.”
“So you make your own decisions. Like a grownup.”
“But Bella’s just a baby. Anthony, if I can’t spare her our childhood, I got sober for nothing.”
Now it’s my turn to listen to silence.
He grunts. “Okay. I’ll see if our church daycare has a spot open. But you’re paying for it.”
“Yes! Yes. Oh, thank you.”
He’s not done. “But listen, Lia. If I wind up responsible for Bella again, it’s for keeps. That child needs stability, not bouncing from one emergency to another.”
Ha, ha, says Trouble. Your whole life is an emergency. I put my head down and try to keep the sobbing as quiet as possible.
I don’t even hear the guy until he’s right behind me.
“Cordelia? Scott Chastain. Marj said…”
I beat the world record for the sitting high jump.
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