“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… Cordelia realized she could mine her father’s network of wealthy contacts to bring in new clients and save the department. But when Lois accuses her of spying for her “boyfriend” Richard, she must decide how much of her past to reveal.
My mind spins like Dad’s old Rolodex, looking for a plausible dodge. Angela’s voice echoes. “Who do you want to be?”
I want to be a person none of this ever happened to! Trouble mocks me with a fail-buzzer. Not an option! Try again.
Deep breath. “Okay. I guess Marj told you I’m in recovery.”
“No…” Tasha says slowly. They both lean back unconsciously like I’m contagious. Or ticking.
Awesome! Trouble gloats. You found the bonus humiliation already! Save time later.
Tasha steers me to Lois’ extra chair and perches next to the printer. Lois crosses her arms. I may be in her cube, but not her good graces.
“Yeah, so… my dad died when I was in law school. I couldn’t handle it. I started borrowing prescriptions to get through class.” I stare at my hands.
“When I finished school, I couldn’t see the point anymore. Pretty soon, I was using all the time, anything I could. My family put me in rehab.” I flick a hand. “Plenty of times. Then they quit sending money.”
Oxygen break. Why do they keep it so dang hot in here, anyway?
“I made friends with some people who were very generous with their house and their drugs. They had a lot of friends like Richard, who wanted to meet girls like me.”
They both look gaffed. At least Lois’ arms are uncrossed. “How’d you get out?” she asks.
“I got busted. Did rehab in jail. Thank God that one stuck.” I cross my fingers. “So far.”
I shrug and listen to imaginary crickets.
Tasha leans in. “Are you in a good church?”
I get tickled. I wave my hand and stammer “sorry,” but I laugh so hard the tears run. I collect myself on a sigh. “Alabama.”
Lois frowns. “So you and the Big Dick…”
I nod. Then shake my head. “And he’s…not.”
They both erupt. Tasha claps a hand over her mouth, but Lois just throws her head back and bellows.
She smacks my arm. “Just keep aways from that dirtbag.”
I squirm. “He’s threatened to tell. I doubt the Committee – or the Bar – would laugh.”
Lois grabs my hand. “Honey. He’s blackmailing you? Good night! His wife can’t stand him. If she knew? She’d take everything he’s got.”
I stare. Tasha nods. Mutual Assured Destruction.
“Well, how chummy!” Marj grips the cube wall. How many of those coffee mugs did she have, anyway?
Tasha hops down. Marj points at her, mostly. “Get over to Ms. Ackerman’s and sort her files for discovery.”
Lois hefts a plastic bin stuffed with envelopes. “We got a bunch of mail for the Norris Estate.”
Marj waves her off. “Cordelia, triage.” She heads for the bathroom, squinting and walking very straight.
Tasha rolls her eyes. “Lord knows what those files are like.” She smiles. “I could use a hand.”
“Oh, sure.” My cellphone buzzes. I step out.
“Oh, Cordelia Simms! What a privilege.” It’s an older woman, her formal voice belying her gushy words.
“This is Jeannie Joyner. My Lawrence told me all about you, and he says you’re having a party.”
“Oh!” Tasha peeks out and I give her a thumbs-up. “Yes, ma’am. If you’re free we’d love to have you.”
“I’d be delighted on one condition. You must come for coffee this afternoon. I’ve just got to tell you personally how much your father meant to me and mine.”
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