A meeting was called by her firm’s board of directors at Green, Burg, and Staten Associates legal firm in San Francisco, California. Claire Stevens sat in a plush chair in the gray and navy-blue carpeted board room with her fellow co-workers. Claire earned her right to be one of their youngest and brightest attorneys who achieved Senior Lawyer last week.
The new business cards sat on her desk. The box was unopened. When she left her office, the window engraver people arrived. She assumed they were changing her title in the glass door.
After the big announcement meeting, Claire sat stunned as her fellow compatriots patted her shoulders in congratulations.
The firm was opening a new office in Los Angeles and several of the lawyers from the San Francisco branch were being transferred to the LA office.
Los Angeles was the last place on earth that Claire wanted to work. She watched as three other lawyers sat at the table as dumbfounded as her. She knew the air miles between the cities was approximately three hundred forty-seven. The distance might as well have been two thousand.
Claire saw the expensively dressed Mr. Oliver Green and his senior advisers leave the room. She followed them in her navy-blue suit with a white silk blouse and navy-blue high heels. She went to the biggest and grandest office on the top of their building. The view of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge against the morning sky was stunning. She ignored the view, adjusted her jacket, and coughed to get their attention.
“Claire, you have followed us because the news about our new office has excited you. Congratulations on your transfer,” said the CEO.
“Mr. Green, I appreciate your vote of confidence in me for our new office. However, I was never consulted regarding my preference for location. I prefer to stay in San Francisco where my clients and friends live. I’m used to this city and enjoy being here. There are the wharf and the art scene not to mention great food and entertainment. Why don’t you ask George Bittman to move?”
Mr. Green dismissed his colleagues who left the two of them alone.
“George declined the move because he has three children. Moving to Los Angeles would be a hardship. I even offered him a hefty raise beyond our typical amount.”
Claire knew this was Mr. Green’s final answer. She didn’t like the word hefty. Her promotion included only a three percent increase in pay. Now was not a good time to complain about pay inequality.
“Sir, I think there is a mistake. I know you didn’t like my disagreement with George regarding our last law case together, but in the end, I was right about how we should proceed, and he was wrong.”
Mr. Green sat down, and his secretary came into the office. He held up his hand. His secretary stopped in her tracks.
“You are correct, Claire. Your powerful thinking is why we want you to go to Los Angeles. You will be over an hour away. Come visit this city at any time. Now if you don’t mind, I have other matters of importance. Your move package has been placed on your desk and all the new contacts required in Los Angeles should keep you busy. You are dismissed.”
Claire walked back to her office and sure enough, a large binder and package were on her desk along with a bouquet of flowers from the CEO. She went through the binder and took out four pages of pertinent information. The binder went in the trash.
The flowers were dyed carnations. She hated dyed flowers. Claire picked the white and purple flowers and smelled. She could smell a faint scent. She dug out a small carnation that was missed from the dye job and cut the stem. Claire put the tiny carnation in the lapel of her navy-blue business suit. The rest of the bouquet was thrown in the trash.
She sat down in her chair and considered the ramifications of the move to Los Angeles. Claire knew LA was where a lawyer from her past lived. She wasn’t sure what firm he worked or if he moved on and found a different type of job. The last thing she wanted to do was run into the man either in a courtroom or on a street.
“Oh, what am I going to do? I’m so miserable and my head is pounding.”
She put her head on her desk and wanted to cry. Instead, she popped two aspirin in her mouth and drank some water from her green company cup. Claire threw the cup in the garbage. She threw her green ink pens as well. She pulled the stationery out of the copier and her business card box went in the trash can with a loud thunking noise.
She found a second garbage can. Claire pulled open her desk drawer and started throwing the tape dispenser, the stapler, large clips, and other stuff in the trash. When that garbage can was full, she shook her head in disgust. The floor was littered with tiny pieces of paper, dust balls, and red-toned paperclips. She took the yellow sticky pad and wrote a couple of notes.
“For Destruction Immediately!”
She slapped the yellow stickies on the towers of garbage.
The other three lawyers who were stunned by the announcement meeting filed into her office. They were part of her team. Her junior lawyer offered his congratulations. The two senior lawyers stood silently. They knew Claire better. Her office was usually neat. The mess on the floor was a bad sign.
“Don’t offer me congratulations; please stop. Two of you know how I feel about moving. However, I have no choice. A year or two years from now, I can try to change things.”
Two lawyers agreed, and her junior lawyer decided to sit down. All realized that none of them knew any other options available to them. The loss of contacts was huge for senior lawyers. Their families and circumstances prevented them from joining another firm or going out on their own.
“Let’s do this move. In a year, my daughter will be done with her four-year degree. I might be able to contact someone that I know. He might want to be an investor. Someday we can have our own firm. Sweet revenge keeps the world turning around.”
Mary and Dennis weren’t sure about Claire’s change in attitude. Kenner looked confused.
The three lawyers left her office. Claire knew contacting Saul Estevez might be dangerous for her. She needed to try, but not yet. Estevez’s contact informed her that he might be out of jail soon. She fingered the card and turned it over. On the back were Estevez’s home address in Chicago and his new private phone number.
On a whim, she dialed the number. A woman answered. Claire quickly hung up. She knew the woman was Angela Berry. Ms. Berry was Saul’s top legal counsel for the past two years.
“Over twenty years ago, I made a mistake. My whole life since then has been trying to survive.”
Claire thought about her daughter’s reaction regarding a move to another large city. Her daughter might be fine and usually went along with her mother’s decisions. Claire wasn’t sure she made the correct choices in the past.
“I tried my best.”
Claire watched the cars moving below on the freeway. The vehicles became a blur as old memories regarding Argentina flooded her mind. She could see a younger Saul riding his favorite creature called Black Horse. He stopped beside her on the beach, held out his hand, and pulled her onto the back of his horse. They rode along the sandy beach with the surf pounding to his ranch.
Her affair with Saul and another young man all those years ago might come back to haunt her again.
Claire read the four pages from the move packet and looked at the time of her airline flight. She dialed her daughter’s cell phone.
“Hi, Mom, what’s up?”
Claire sorted the papers until she reached the new office address.
“How would you like to finish your final college year in Los Angeles?”
Claire could hear her daughter’s laughter.
“I love LA. Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe we are moving. What happened?”
Claire told her daughter about the firm’s new plans for an office in The Angels city.
“I need to be there in two months for my job.”
“This is perfect. I haven’t signed nor paid tuition in San Francisco for next year. I’ll need to go online and apply to one of the Los Angeles universities. I must figure out which one I should attend. Any idea where we will live?”
Claire was glad her daughter delayed paying the tuition from her college fund.
“I’ve already contacted a realtor who has recommended some apartments for us. I don’t want to buy a house. I’ll send you the areas where she said there would be good housing for us. I’m flying there this weekend to meet with her and do some business.”
Claire hung up. She drove home, packed, and called the chauffeur service. Her first-class ticket was in her briefcase.