Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

“Smile when you’re scared. Laugh when you’re angry. Never tell what you’re really thinking. Cordelia Simms was always a quick study. Her brilliant mind and dysfunctional family prepared her perfectly for a career in the snakepit of an Old-South, old-money law firm, but she took a few detours along the way. Now the shameful secrets in her past put her future – and her child – at risk.” Previously… Richard upped the ante from conspiracy to outright blackmail. Henry Norris sued the firm — and Cordelia personally — for defrauding his mother’s estate. Cordelia decided to turn down a date with Scott and go to a 12-step meeting with her sponsor instead.

Episode 12

The meeting’s in a historic church that’s a bit worse for wear. Angela knows a few people. I’m glad I don’t. I don’t feel like talking.

Afterward, Angela plops on a bench in the iron-gated courtyard and lights up. “So, give.”

The garden’s gotten tatty in the summer heat. I sit down and try to find shade. I start off with a real Facebook Fakeout, all about my great job and how Bella’s a twenty-two-pound genius. Then it starts coming out: Mom, Anthony, the Norris Trust, right up to Richard’s skeevy arm-rubbing.

Angela streams smoke with a grimace. “Yeah. It’s a bad day when an old john turns up.”

“Eww, Angela!” I twist away from her. “It wasn’t like that.”

She tucks her chin into her ropey neck and rolls her eyes up at me. “So what was it like?”

“They were just parties. It was all very…informal.”

“How many unionized crack whores do you know?”

“I never did crack.” I’m on my feet, pointing at her, vehement. Until I hear myself. I sit down with a sigh. “Yeah, it’s a bad day.”

I rub my face. “I’m really good at goals. I had a healthy baby. I passed the Bar. I got a job. But it’s like leaving law school all over again. I finished my list. I don’t know what to do now.”

Angela grates out a chuckle. “Now you enjoy it, baby girl.”

I shrug and shake my head.

She pats my arm. “You gotta know who you are. Then you’ll always know what to do.”

“That’s the problem,” I tell her. “I’m a screwup.”

“Well…” She takes another drag. “Who do you want to be?”

* * * * *

By three o’clock, I’m wishing I’d stopped for takeout. Lois munches microwave popcorn as she grudgingly prints off her email tree for the Norris discovery. I won’t bother asking for a bite. She’d probably spit on it.

Tasha leans over Lois’ cube. She’s fighting tears.

“Tasha!” Lois grabs her arm. “What on earth, honey?”

“Are you O.K.?” I ask.

She shakes her head and makes a patting motion. She breathes deep through her nose and settles on her elbow, one hand covering her mouth. She flicks her eyes at me but speaks to Lois.

“That new client with Marj?”

“The Holleys?” Lois pulls a page from her print stack. “I just got the conflict report.”

Tasha nods. Those little nods, real fast, that make a pretty woman scary. “After I shook hands with the son, he did like this.”

She mimes cleaning her hand down the side of her leg.

Lois gasps.

Something in my head goes fritz. “But…I mean…did you just put on lotion or something?”

They both swivel to stare at me. Tasha’s eyebrows are up in her hairline.

Yep, chuckles Trouble. You did just say that. Great job, Klu Klux Klutz.

I sputter. “But surely…there aren’t still people who…” I lose the thread entirely. “In public?”

Tasha gives a half-laugh. “You weren’t gone that long.”

Lois clatters her keyboard. “Wouldya looka here. We can’t represent the Holleys. The firm’s adverse.”

Tasha glances over the page in her hand. “No, we’re not.”

Lois hits print. “We are now.” She hands me the printout. “Room A.”

I scan it. “But won’t she just ask the other partner to waive the conflict?”

Lois points. “Not Dick Demarest, she won’t.”

I crinkle the page nervously. “Look, it’s horrible. But Marj needs new clients, or we’ll get canned.”

Tasha and Lois exchange glances. Lois’ lip curls.

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