MANTRA. Part three

20 May

Ellie Hutchinson

“I know we’ve got them Alex, but this case has to be watertight” Yawned Lucia.

“I get that, but it’s time to go home, it’s 10pm”. Alex could never get used to the nocturnal ways of his boss, in his mind, Friday night was not made for double and triple checking testimonies.

“You’re right” she sighed, stretching cat like in her chair “Now, get out of here and I’ll see you Monday”.

Smiling, Alex picked up his coat and made to leave.

“Oh, before I go, as always, it’s been great watching you in action”.

“No bonuses till Christmas!” Lucia laughed.

Alex was a good kid, hardworking, loyal and dedicated. She knew she was lucky to have him in her team. The feeling was mutual. Straight out of law school, Alex was thankful Lucia had given him a chance. She was one of the best, smart and sharp, she had a wicked sense of humour. Street wise and tough, she didn’t suffer fools gladly but her kindness and generosity made her a great boss. As his stomach rumbled, he bid her good night.

Rubbing her eyes, Lucia suddenly felt exhausted. She’d been working non-stop on this case for weeks and she needed a break. “Right you” she said to herself, “time to go home”. Checking her mobile as she packed away, a new text message flashed up. “HOW DOES 7.30 AT MARIOS SOUND? x”. Lucia’s face lit up, it was from Charlie, her oldest and closest friend. They’d been through it all together, the highs and the lows. Both incredibly ambitious, they’d supported each other since University and Lucia knew of no-one she’d rather see on a Saturday night than Charlie. Razor sharp with a quick wit, she always brightened her day.

“GREAT! CAN’T WAIT x”she texted back. A night out with Charlie would be the perfect respite from the office. As she went to shut down her laptop, a new email flashed up in the corner of the screen. She loved her job, the intensity of the day, the comraderary with her team, but Alex was right, it was time to go home. But ever the hard worker, Lucia reluctantly opened it.

Ms DeMelles,

My name is Brent Stone and I’m a freelance journalist. I have been following the Morton Global case on behalf of Gloss and Sheen and I wondered if you would like to take part in a new series I am developing. I am hoping to speak to ten of the most successful women in the city for the July edition of the City Times Sunday supplement. My previous work in the city was an expose of the fashion industry, and I am well aware of the pressure placed on women. I feel you would make an excellent subject for this series of profiles. I understand that you may be busy at the present time, but if you feel that this is something you might be interested in, please contact me.

I look forward to your reply

Regards

Brent

Brent Stone? She whispered, the name sounded familiar. Her lawyer’s brain kicked into action. Time for some research. Opening up her search engine, Lucia began the slow process of piecing together Stone’s history. She was flattered to be asked to take part, but she’d had run ins with the media in the past. A high profile sexual harassment case last year had resulted in an onslaught of media coverage. One that focused more on her dress sense, hair style and single status than the case itself. “Luscious Lucia takes Harket Inc by the Balls” was one headline that stuck in her mind. “Furious feminist takes on ‘harmless fun’” was another. It was not an experience she wished to repeat.

Scanning the articles she quickly saved them to her desktop. So far, so impressive, she thought. A year with the troops in Iraq, six months in a refugee camp in Palestine, a month working in a young offender’s institution, and the very impressive expose on the fashion industry made up her mind. She would meet this Stone and find out what he was really after. As a prosecutor she had a sharp streak of cynicism running through her. She’d seen the worst in people, and she had to remind herself that not everyone was in it for themselves. It’s only a dog eat dog world because we make it so. Her Friday mantra.

Replying, she asked to meet Stone on Sunday, her week was so full it was the only time she had free. If he was serious about this, he’d be happy to work a weekend she thought. A hard worker, Lucia had high expectations of everyone – too high some said. Over the years she’d been repeatedly told that not everyone could meet them. Or even wanted to.  Switching off her laptop she said loudly It’s only a dog eat dog world because we make it so, and with that, she left the office for the weekend.

*********************************************************************************

Alex made his way through the Friday night crowds to the sushi bar on the corner of Main Street. After a long week, he was looking forward to letting off some steam with his partner, Jeff. Having been together for the last two years, Jeff was not only his partner, but also his best friend. He could tell him anything. Approaching the sushi bar, Alex turned to look back at the office. An imposing building of glass and steel, he saw a lone light flicker. Lucia. Still at it.

He couldn’t believe his luck working for such a great woman, all the shit she got for being hardworking and ambitious. The names she got called by other firms, he’d heard them all. “Ball breaker”, “feminazi”, “man hater”. Since Alex’s sexuality was made public, a new one had recently been added “fag hag”. Lucia handpicked her team carefully, the toughest, brightest and hardest working young graduates surrounded her. She knew what it was like to make it in this world. A world that didn’t look kindly on anyone who wasn’t a white heterosexual man. Those who wanted to take her down, and there were many, poked fun at her ‘discriminatory’ ways, all of her team were either women or gay men. Talking it over one night, Lucia had been clear that all of them got there by merit. It was her job, she told them, to ensure that other people got to climb the ladder too. The old boys club had had its day. Alex agreed with her passionately, as a black gay man, his life had been a struggle. He’d experienced casual racism and homophobia in the legal world from the day he started studying, and it was a relief to be amongst colleagues who didn’t put up with that shit. He owed Lucia everything.

Taking one last look at the office, he noticed a solitary figure sitting on the bench. With a hood drawn close to their face, and a large coat hanging off their frame, it was hard to make out any features. The figure seemed to be looking at the office. Pausing, Alex stood, thinking through his next move. Should he call Lucia and see she gets in a cab? Should he approach the figure? He breathed a sigh of relief as the figure called out-

“Alex! Where are you headed?” It was Je’anne, his colleague and confidante.  Alex shook his head; this work had made him suspicious.

“I’m just off to meet Jeff” he replied warmly. They had started at the firm on the same week, and had become quick friends.

“Mind if I join you?” she asked. “I’ve been stood up. Again” she rolled up eyes in dismay.

“Sure, it would be my pleasure” he answered, throwing his arm around her shoulder. “Now, why don’t you tell Uncle Alex all about it?”

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