This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.
Ben flipped through the appointment book, grimacing as the paper sliced across his finger. He stuck the finger in his mouth, tasting blood.
“Yes, we have a meeting at 3:45, Mrs. Anderson. You were right. Glad you called to confirm.”
Since I just set up an appointment with Arthur Jenkins at the same time and now have to call back and reschedule.
“Oh, good and what paperwork did I need again?” the elderly woman on the other end of the phone asked.
Ben slid a pen behind his ear and reached for his now cold cup of coffee on the end of his desk. “Just the deed and any mineral rights paperwork you have.”
Mrs. Anderson thanked him, and they said goodbye just as the phone rang again and he switched lines to answer it.
“Staying busy at work, kid?”
“Dad, hey. Yeah. Very busy.”
“Not so easy without a secretary, is it?”
Ben sighed into the phone and sipped the coffee, wincing at the bitter flavor and the coldness of it. “No, but I’m managing.”
“You did the right thing, though. I know it meant so much to Cindy having these two weeks off before Bill‘s treatments start.” Ben heard the creak of the chair at his dad’s office at the courthouse. “Have you given any more thought to call Judi Lambert in on a temporary basis?”
Ben rubbed his hand across his face. “No, I haven’t honestly.” Pain throbbed through his head, and he squeezed his eyes shut. “Right now, I’m just trying not to overbook.” But failing at it. “It would help if this concussion would heal. I didn’t even think I hit my head that hard.”
“It doesn’t take much to rattle your brain in there,” Maxwell said. “I’ve got someone here who wants to talk to me, so I’ll be there around 6 to pick you up. That work for you?”
“Dad, yeah, but I’m going to have to do things on my own at some point. I can walk to my apartment.”
“I know and I agree but your mom is worried about you. She wants to keep an eye on you, and I think she might be right this time. Still having dizzy spells?”
Ben propped his elbow on his desk and leaned his cheek against his hand, wishing he hadn’t had that dizzy spell in front of his parents and sister the other night at dinner.
“Minor ones here and there, but they’re better. I know I can’t drive yet but I can —”
“Pass out in your apartment and not be able to call for help, so I’ll see you around 6. I’ll also keep asking around to see if we can find someone to help you out until Cindy gets back.”
Ben thanked his dad and hung up, leaning back in his chair, and thinking how, yet again, his dad was taking care of him, cleaning up his mistakes. He spun the chair toward his computer and grabbed the side of the desk as the room kept spinning.
The dizzy spells were getting better, but there were still times they threw him off balance. Occasional blurry vision was still plaguing him too, almost a month after the accident. His foot was healing but definitely still broken based on the pain that shot through it when he tried to walk on it without the protective boot. He had backed off the narcotic painkiller, though, worried he could become addicted to it as easily as he had alcohol.
The one good thing was that Judi’s insurance company was covering the repairs on the BMW and he should have it back in another couple of weeks.
He had three clients coming in later in the day and hadn’t yet found their files. Cindy had filed them perfectly; it was his fault they were missing. He’d placed them somewhere in the office, maybe a drawer in his desk? Or maybe his briefcase. Opening the case, the photograph he’d tucked there fell out and he glanced at the floor, at the bright blue eyes staring back at him.
Those eyes took him back to the night he learned of her existence and that she was growing fast in her mother’s womb.
“It wasn’t like I was the only one involved in this, Ben. You get that right?”
He’d poured himself a half a glass of bourbon and sat on the couch. “Yeah, I get that, Angie. I know how it works. I’m just saying I thought you were on birth control.”
Angie had been standing across from him, wavy dirty-blond curls draped across her shoulders and back, one hand resting on her slender hip, the other pressed against her forehead.
“I missed a couple of days, okay?” She’d tossed her hands out to her side in frustration. “I didn’t know I could get pregnant from just missing a couple of days. I tried to catch up, but I guess things got thrown off or something.”
He’d downed the alcohol and slammed the glass on the coffee table, cracking the glass. “We can’t afford a kid, Ange. I’ve still got classes to finish and the bar to finish studying for. I told you I didn’t want to get married right now and you think I’d want a kid?”
“No, I didn’t think you’d want a kid, but it’s happened, and we have to figure out what we’re going to do.”
He’d scoffed. “No. I don’t have to figure out what to do.” He’d pointed at her aggressively as he stood. “You have to figure out what to do. I don’t want to be a father and you’re definitely not qualified to be a mother.”
The memory of his words stabbed him in the center of his chest. He lifted the photo and noticed his hand was trembling.
Tasting bile at the back of his throat he jumped up, gagging on his way to the bathroom and vomiting the small breakfast he’d been able to manage that morning, his entire body trembling now, head pounding.
He’d been going to church more in the last year, praying for God to forgive him for his past words and actions. Maybe God had forgiven him, or would forgive him, but he knew he could never forgive himself for the things he had said and done that night and the days afterwards.
He knew Angie couldn’t offer him forgiveness either and he didn’t blame her or want her to. He didn’t deserve it. It was high time he stopped asking God for something he didn’t deserve, including a chance to get to know the daughter he’d told Angie she should kill so their lives wouldn’t, as he had put it back then, “be ruined.”
He heard the phone ringing and wiped his mouth and splashed his face with water before stumbling to answer it, grateful for the interruption to the memories.
“Oliver! Thought you were dead, man!”
Ben raked a hand through his hair and tried to gather his thoughts. “Mark, hey. Nope. Not yet anyhow.”
The lawyer on the other end of the phone laughed but Ben knew this wasn’t a wellness check. Not really.
“I thought you might be out longer based on what I heard in the grapevine. Totaled the BMW huh?”
“Yeah, but it looks like it can be fixed.”
“It’ll never be the same, though. You know that. Better off scrapping it and getting a new one.”
“We don’t all have the money you do, Mark.”
Mark scoffed. “Get yourself a couple of corporate clients and you will. I’ll hook you up sometime, but for now I’m sure you know why I’m calling.”
Ben stood and poured the rest of the coffee from his cup down the sink in the bathroom. “I do and I also know you won’t be very happy with my answer.”
“Oliver, now come on. It’s a fair offer.”
“It isn’t a fair offer for my client. Not at all. Mrs. Henderson is not entitled to more than half of what Mr. Henderson is worth, I don’t care what she thinks. She will accept what he has offered to her, or we will pull back our offer to let her have the house and property in full without her paying him for his half.”
“Ben, how hard did you hit your head in that accident? What your client is offering is completely out of line with standard practices and Mrs. Henderson is entitled to much more than what her husband is offering after the mental anguish he put her through.”
Ben’s jaw tightened. “With all due respect, Mark, she’s getting full custody of the kids in this matter. The fact she’s demanding even more money is making her look pretty greedy at this point.”
Mark laughed ruefully. “Don’t even give me that. They were married 25 years. He cheated on her. She has every right to demand more from him. And he is also being granted visitation rights. She’s never been against that.”
Ben leaned forward across the desk, tapping it with his finger as he talked, which might have been intimidating if Mark could see him. “Let’s be clear, she alleges he cheated on her. He denies that and there is no proof. She’s taking his children away from him. Isn’t that vengeance enough? No, Mark. I’m not going to let my client agree to these terms.”
Something thudded on Mark’s end of the phone and Ben wondered if he’d punched the desk. Or maybe a wall. “Then it looks like we’re going to be seeing you in court. I was hoping we could hammer this out amicably but apparently that’s not possible.”
“Apparently not. Thanks to your client.”
“See you in court, Oliver. Hope you’re ready to lose.”
“I won’t lose, Mark, but, yes, see you in court.”
Hanging up, Ben took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair, folding his hands behind his head. That had felt good.
He’d been worried the concussion had addled his brain to the point he wouldn’t be able to fight or his clients anymore, but that conversation had just shown him that it hadn’t. He might be horrible at personal relationships, but he was spot on when it came to being a lawyer.