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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Attorney Client Privilege by Liz Lafferty

My attorney was the best dressed man at the courthouse, in spite of the scorching heat outside and the tension building between me and my soon-to-be ex-husband seated in the plastic chair opposite.

They said he was the best attorney in town. Throughout the entire proceeding Mark had been calm and cool, offering the best advice without a hint of recrimination or sarcasm.

My husband stood and stretched. He’d lost weight since this started and I’m sure the county employees in the clerk’s office admired his thirty-five year old self. When he walked away, I felt a stream of tears budding and then the slow seep of pain trickle down my face.

Before I had a chance to wipe away the wetness, my attorney handed me a white hanky. I clutched it and dabbed at my eyes.

“You’ve made it this far. It’s almost over.”

“If you had ever married, you’d understand how it feels to waste your love and your youth.”

“You’re still young and there will always been someone else. Other opportunities.”

“How long have we known each other, Mark? Three months?”

“Four months, two days and twenty-two hours,” he said, while searching in his briefcase for an ink pen and a business card that he plucked from a small, silver holder.

I laughed. “That’s why you are a good attorney. Always precise.”

Mark never looked at me like a man looks at a woman, even now, he scribbled on the note card unconcerned that in twenty minutes, or whenever the judge saw fit to call us to his chambers, my life would changed irrevocably.

Still, I had the sense he could describe me to the inch, including every outfit I’d worn since the day we met, four months, two days and twenty-two hours ago.

“I never said thank you.”

“You’ve said thank you every time you’ve been in my office and every time we had lunch.”

“That’s not what I mean,” I said.

He turned his serious gaze toward me, catching and holding my devoted stare. Had the circumstances been different, I might have flirted with him, but it just didn’t seem right since I was still married and he was my paid legal aid. Those facts never stopped me from wondering though. There was a good looking man behind those suits.

“What do you mean?”

I shrugged, and turned away from his sudden intensity.

“I mean that you’ve done more than two thousand dollars worth of work and I appreciate all of your help. I didn’t think he was going to be so difficult about this.”

“One never knows how it will go when there are hurt feelings and money involved.” He smiled then and leaned toward me. “But I was surprised he had the balls to say someone of the things he did when he had two mistresses and one hundred thousand in gambling debts.”

“I must have been a fool.”

“Fools in love are the biggest kind.”

“How would you know?”

His eyebrows winged and he gave me one of those one-sided smiles. “Been there myself.”

The hearing went quickly, the judge ordering a fair division of the assets and an even fairer distribution of my husband’s debt. Mark had done his work and my ex-husband had been careless.

The judge pounded his gavel and it was over.

At the top of the staircase on the third floor of the county courthouse, Mark stopped and faced me. “So this is it.”

“I guess so. Thank you again.” We shook hands a little longer than necessary. I think it was because I couldn’t imagine letting loose of the lifeline he’d provided.

“You’ll probably be dating in no time.”

“Not for a couple months. Three months, at least. Maybe not even then.”

“I know you will. Three months, huh?” He reached inside his jacket and pulled out the card he’d been writing on earlier. “My cell phone number is on the back. I don’t give that to just anybody.”

I’d never seen him hesitant before. I accepted the card and stared down at his handwriting.

He cleared his throat and shoved his free hand in his pocket. “Since I don’t work for you anymore, and if you do decide to date, I’d like you to call me in three months. I’d like to go out with you. Sometime.”

I turned my face upward to gaze into his face. He bit at his lip, but said nothing else.

“I don’t know what to say.” I didn’t have a clue he’d even thought of me as anything other than a client.

“I promise I’ll be celibate until then.”

He turned away and took the stairs in a quick clip, turning the corning and disappearing while I still stood staring at his card. Three months?

The business card hung on my refrigerator, clamped in place by a chicken magnet. Every time I opened the fridge, I thought about Mark. A rather insidious need built up. He said he would be celibate. I knew I was, and rather than try to imagine his finer qualities, those of professionalism and perfection, I could only imagine him without his clothes -- a very difficult thing to do when I’d only ever seen him in his suit and tie.

I wondered if three months meant ninety days? Or the fifth day of September?

When I called, he answered on the first ring. “Julie, I’m glad to hear from you.”

“I wasn’t sure.”

“Are you doing anything today? I was going to take the boat out.”

“Sure. At Powell?” I never thought I feel like a teenager again, but I was near giddy when I hung up the phone.

He greeted me wearing shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and sunglasses, looking relaxed and not at all like the Mark I knew.

He pulled me into his arms. “I’m not waiting.”

The kiss was well worth the three month wait. The sailboat was a great place to end a three month vow.

About the Author: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. She has several short stories published, and loves writing historical romance novels.

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