Day’s Verse:
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.
Romans 4:16

Walking into the attorney’s office, Faith shuddered. The opulence of the building and its hallways only seemed to emphasize the shabbiness of this grim office; gleaming clean halls suddenly gave way to worn and unpolished hardwood floors. The dark mahogany doors and plush carpeting along the hallway ended abruptly as she entered Suite 205, virtually home-away-from-home since Lance left her for that slut Charmin. No sense in dwelling on that, though; now Faith needed to focus on this harried, overworked attorney and his questions. Perhaps he would win the settlement she needed to restart her life as a single woman.

Faith nodded to the gum-popping blonde secretary, who motioned her through into the inner sanctum. The office sported faded brown and orange carpet not seen outside of the 1970’s atop the neglected, scuffed hardwood, but only one small alleyway of it remained clear anyway. Boxes and stacks of papers and books occupied the rest of the floor space, defying the law of gravity in their precariousness. The vast, rickety-looking wooden desk fared little better; Faith had not actually seen its surface since she had started coming here weeks ago.

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Hard to believe that mere weeks had passed since she lived so comfortably in that big, new home in Bellevue. Then she had hardly imagined that Lance and that secretary of his had been rutting like wild animals for the last year. In the locker room—in the bathroom—in Lance’s car—in his and Faith’s bed! And now here Faith stood, alone in this cluttered office with only a lawyer of dubious scruples and even more questionable ability to guide her through the complex maze of divorce law.

“Have you heard anything from Lance—Mr. Robertson’s lawyer yet?” Faith asked the small, balding, rather scrawny man behind the desk. The stacks of papers and lawyerly paraphernalia rather dwarfed him, making him look to Faith’s eyes like a child pretending to practice law. She hoped no child could ever have that terrifying look of cunning and worldliness combined into one face.

The lawyer never returned phone calls from current clients, and the concept of a computer seemed totally foreign to him. The gum-popping secretary handled all those details, but as far as Faith could tell all she did was play Solitaire and talk loudly on the phone about sordid love affairs involving herself or her friends. The long and short of it was that Faith had, once again, taken off at lunch in a frantic rush to speak to her legal representation in person. At least he always seemed to be in the office.

He had the nerve to look up at her with surprise in his dull grey eyes. “From Mr. Robertson’s lawyer? Ho… Hmmm… McCab & Bain, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Faith assented, surprised that he recalled the name at all. Her husband’s—ex-husband’s—own law firm, litigating his divorce. Perhaps her life would one day be featured in the secretary’s tales of sordid and depressing failed love.

“Hmm…yes… Now that you mention it, I do seem to recall a correspondence of some sort…” He looked around hazily, as if expecting the pertinent letter to extricate itself from the reams of its abandoned companions.

“What did it say? Can I see the letter?” Faith wished, for the thousandth time, that she had chosen a different lawyer. Any different lawyer—one from the phone book would surely have turned out better than this.

“Oh, um… They claimed—now mind you this is preliminary—they claimed in this letter… which seems to have vanished somehow; can’t imagine how,” with a heartless plucking at the first few papers in a stack wobbling taller than his head, “they said Mr. Robertson would settle for nothing less than keeping your house, your car (which you unwisely left in his name alone), and paying you no more than $5,000. Essentially nothing—”

The rest of his monologue receded into a dull buzzing around Faith’s ears. Nothing? Her car? Faith already had nothing, her home taken from her and her job a living hell. Who would want to spend their days writing and editing obituaries? There was, Faith had learned, only so much you could say about most dead people. Lance’s excuses and slippery lawyer tactics frustrated and confounded her at every turn. But she would at least win something from him, what she deserved for a year of unfaithfulness and lies and a dozen years of love wasted. She must.

“…did you?” Those eyes looked a little less vague now, perhaps even keen or penetrating.

“Did I what?” Faith would never admit to daydreaming, but the last few minutes certainly seemed to have slipped away from her in the haze of lawyerly hemming and hawing.

“Know and approve of Mr. Robertson and Ms. LaSoure’s relationship before your husband left you?”

What kind of question was that, Faith wondered. “He didn’t say that in the letter, did he?” But now the scrawny man sitting before her shut up tighter than a miser’s fist, leaving an awkward silence to stretch out like an old rubber band. So eventually Faith said, “No,” with the pain, the shock of surprise, and the horror of finding lance not only unfaithful but unrepentant tightening around her chest.

“Well,” said the half-hidden personage behind the desk, and even that little word sounded somehow reassuring to Faith’s aching heart. Clear evidence of her desperation, Faith thought, that this lawyer could ever sound warm or reassuring. “I will continue… erm… to press… for the settlement we discussed…. Um. But likely it will take some weeks or months (ahem) for us to resolve anything…”

Faith noticed, rather detachedly, that his sentences always seemed to trail off at the end. But at least she had mastered the emotions that momentarily raged unchecked at the thought of “Mr. Robertson and Ms. LaSoure” together. Charmin LaSoure! What kind of person would go through life with such a name? Surely her parents hadn’t endowed her with it? And how frustrating, to have killed her lunch hour to hear this little man tell her he would keep doing the same nothing he’d spent the last weeks doing? But he was also she could afford right now, this hopeless lawyer somehow reflecting her own hopeless suit.

“Thank you for your time,” Faith said, and managed to squeak it out politely. “I’ll be back next week to see what’s changed. Call me if something happens before then. This is my number.” She wrote it down for the tenth time, knowing that piece of paper would join its brethren in a dusty pile, to be recycled fifteen years from now untouched. Perhaps writing it on his shiny pate would help, so every time he looked in the mirror he would think of her plight.

But he had already vanished into the oblivion of paperwork, hidden behind the leaning tower of Pisa sculpted in papers. Faith visualized toppling the piles, spilling the papers fluttering like city pigeons to settle again in new layers. Maybe one day she would, when she had new legal representation; until then, the lawyer and his secretary made up her best hope for justice. Terrifying.

Faith let herself out, nodding to the gum-popping secretary in the anteroom and noticing that the secretary seemed to have switched to Hearts. Footsteps muffled in the musty carpet, Faith left the office feeling very glum as she assessed her situation. Rummaging through her pockets and walking down the glowingly white hallway and out onto the reflective marble of the bui
lding’s entryway, she had to admit to herself that life looked fairly grim right now.

For one thing, the lawyer didn’t look like he’d entered a courtroom in thirty years, let alone won a lawsuit in all that time. Lance’s firm was the most prestigious in Seattle; the job offer that had drawn him and Faith to the Northwest in the first place had puffed their chests out for weeks. Months. Mom and Dad had been sorry to see Faith leave, although they hardly shed a tear for Lance, but they understood the draw of a starting position with McCab & Bain. No; the lawyer didn’t seem too hopeful, not going against that big-guns firm. For another thing, Faith’s job could hardly be worse, unless they fired her completely or reduced her to actually printing the damn paper itself.

And that’s when Faith realized that James P. Quinlan had died a week ago, his wake was at 12:45 at St. James Cathedral on Ninth Avenue. She was covering that funeral, and it had started fifteen minutes before, and she was across the lake and at least an hour away. “This really isn’t my day,” Faith muttered as she wondered if taxis took credit cards. If she could find a taxi in any decent time; all self-respecting Eastsiders drove SUVs the size of small tanks and would certainly not stop to pick up a desperate hitchhiker. Pulling out her old Nokia, a Christmas gift from her parents, who told her at the time they thought one day she’d need it Lance or no Lance, Faith first called the operator. “Taxis in Bellevue,” she requested. Then she waited, called the taxi number, and waited again.

When the yellow and white Ford Crown Victoria pulled up, Faith imagined that the taxi driver had probably had been out in Issaquah drinking coffee with his best friends. And all of those best friends would have worn turbans to match her driver’s as they spoke with an impenetrable accent that inevitably left Faith feeling confused and afraid she’d never reach her destination. But this taxi driver, at least, knew where St. James Cathedral was. He chattered on the way; Faith caught “Microsoft,” “startup,” “India,” “dot-com bust,” “seven years driving a taxi,” and “six children.”

Looking out across Lake Washington through the taxi’s dirty window, Faith thought about her life before. “Before” somehow had a terribly permanent ring, like the final toll of a funeral. They had lived well, paying the mortgage on a new home in Bridle Trails, owning their two cars outright, going out for walks and talking about whether to get a dog or a cat. Eating at that Indian place down the road, brushing shoulders with unassuming millionaires, sitting in traffic listening to NPR and the slap of windshield wipers pushing the rain away. Faith could almost see herself, her shoulder-length brown hair neatly wrapped into a chignon, the new manicure fresh on her slender fingers as they rested lightly on the gray steering wheel of her new Toyota Camry, as she drove to meet Lance at the Melting Pot for their anniversary dinner.

But instead of fondue, Faith had only the possibility of funeral food to look forward to. Shaking out of her reverie, Faith forgave the smelly, unvacuumed interior of the old Crown Victoria and the driver’s patter as they pulled up twenty minutes later in front of the golden-stoned church. She even tipped him generously, pleased that he took credit cards and not caring that the service charged $2 a mile.

She thanked all the gods she didn’t believe in that James P. Quinlan had lived a very wealthy and influential life, one that mandated an endless parade of business associates, entrepreneurs, friends, and family members to speak at his funeral. Faith had long ago decided that the dead didn’t care about their funerals, but at least they sometimes made good news. She settled in a back row, scanning the crowd for her wayward college-age photographer. He had probably snapped two pictures and gone off to smoke pot somewhere; that’s what Faith would have done ten years ago in his position.

But this funeral deserved some photographic representation, because even from outside Faith had recognized this was a big event in the funeral world. Black Mercedes SUVs had jostled with rented limousines and sleek Lexuses (Lexii? She wondered idly) in the church parking lot. Somebody had draped even the outside of the church building with black bunting, while the inside seemed an endlessly dark pit lit only by candles and two spotlights: one for the speaker, the other for the corpse. Even in the dim lighting, Faith made out wonderfully swooping hats perched atop expensively coiffed hair, black Armani suits and the glitter of gold and diamond jewelry. Surprising getup for Seattlites, who Faith had found preferred khakis and blue button-down shirts, but then it wasn’t every day the founder of the largest coffee store chain in the area died. Quinlan’s Cup of Seattle stores outsold both Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee, with some extra thrown in.

Slipping out her notebook, Faith began painting the scene in words. Maybe this funeral, featuring the elite of Seattle society—what elite Seattle had to offer, anyway—would make more than the last page of the Local News section. Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.

Not NaNoWriMo-related: Today marks my 1,000th post! It seems appropriate to start NaNoWriMo and this new epoch in my blog with one fell swoop. And I left my wallet on the train this morning, only realizing it when I tried to pay for a ticket on the way home.

2 thoughts on “Romance Novel: Day 1

  1. Keep it coming! I talked to your Mom briefly at BCS today. I was bringing the Madrigal costumes from storage–but that’s all I’m going to do on that, I swear.

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