Authors: Abbie Williams
Tags: #Minnesota, #Montana, #reincarnation, #romance, #true love, #family, #women, #Shore Leave
Everheart Books Edition
Copyright Â© 2014 Abbie Williams
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This edition is published by arrangement with Abbie Williams
First electronic edition
Created and distributed by Everheart Books, a division of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd.
THE FIRST LAW OF LOVE
Published in Canada with international distribution.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Michelle Halket
Cover Photography: Courtesy & Copyright iStock: keeweeboy
Because when you know, you just know.
The First Law of Love
May 2013 - Chicago, IL
Rain was spattering the glass just a few inches from my nose as I sat there in the gloom of my apartment. I blew a long stream of smoke in the direction of the five inches of screen near the bottom of the window, cranked open in my attempt to ensure that no one would complain about the scent of the cigarette. I was stressed. I needed the nicotine right now, not a lecture. The city was dismal under the low, weeping sky, an hour or so from sunset. The streetlight a block away went through its paces in a repeating array of blurry color, starbursts of red, green, yellow and then back to red; I watched like one mesmerized. The orange neon L on Papa Leone's Pizza sign needed replacing, as it was zizzing in and out, flickering like the tail end of a firefly.
I closed my eyes then, vividly conjuring up an image of fireflies at dusk, lighting the advancing darkness with their golden-green sparks of light. In the background I could see Flickertail Lake gleaming blue promises and my heart clenched on a hard note of longing.
I hadn't been back to Minnesota, where my mother's side of the family had run the Shore Leave CafÃ© for generations, in over a year. This was nearly inconceivable to me, but what did I expect as a student in the JD program at Northwestern College? Free time? A boyfriend? The ability to see my family now and then?
I had expected none of these things, as my father warned me over three years ago, after I'd been accepted to his alma mater, Northwestern Law. As I had been staying in Chicago with them, Dad and his wife Lanny took me out for dinner at Spiaggia that warm and windy afternoon, and I had felt as though the universe had presented me with an incredible gift, this chance to make something of myself.
Elated had not begun to describe me that evening, buzzed as I had been on my own glory, real and imagined. The
program. Chicago and all its glittery, delightful bustle. Dad's beaming smile. Visions of myself standing triumphant before judges, handling and winning case after important case through the decades of my career swirled madly through my mind as I sipped wine, too revved up for food.
That was the evening I had first been introduced to Ronald Turnbull, a business associate of my father's. It had been only in passing, as he'd paused momentarily at our table to chat with Dad and Lanny.
“Ron, this is my daughter Patricia,” Dad said, and I'd delicately replaced the wine glass on the table to offer my hand.
Ron, silver-haired and stern-faced, intimidatingly confident of his place in the world, produced a smile for me as our hands met, and replied, “Ms. Gordon. I understand congratulations are in order. Your father speaks highly of your academic abilities.”
“Thank you,” I responded. “I plan to prove myself and then some.”
He chuckled at this, seeming amused, and I felt my shoulders squaring just slightly in immediate defense, but then Ron surprised me by saying, “I've got my eye on you, Ms. Gordon. I'll see you in appellate court. And perhaps we can chat next May, when you're on the hunt for summer work.”
I was stunned at this pronouncement, but I'd kept all of that from my expression. Instead I responded smoothly, “I appreciate that very much. Again, thank you.”
Dad couldn't keep from grinning as Ron was led to another table. He leaned towards me and said, low, “I would love to see you ground floor, Turnbull and Hinckley. That's promising, Tish, promising indeed.”
“He sits on the appellate court?” I asked, peering discreetly after Ron. The appellate court was comprised of alumni and faculty; as a first-year student I would present mock cases before them, arguing against fellow students. The thought filled me with prickles of nervous anticipation.
“Alumni,” Dad confirmed. “And Ron is an old friend. I've talked about you for years, honey, but you'll prove yourself.”
That he thought so sent a warm glow through my heart. Dad was an expert schmoozer; a sincere compliment from him was a rarity, and so I let myself bask in the one he'd just bestowed.
“Favors,” Lanny said, caressing her wine glass. She had not yet touched the appetizers either, but for different reasons than me; she didn't remain a size two for nothing. My stepmother wasn't exactly the evil witch I'd once believed, though she had broken apart my parents' marriage once upon a time. I still found her shallow as a wading pool, but she was my father's wife; I was mature enough to be civil to her, if not outright polite. She elaborated, “Favors are what get you ahead. You scratch Ron's back now, he'll return the gesture.” Her full, candy-tinted lips plumped into a speculative pout as she regarded me for a moment. I studied her flawless eyebrows, her false eyelashes (she had the kind that a cosmetologist painstakingly applied, the kind you didn't remove for weeks at a time), as she added, “It doesn't hurt that you're young and beautiful, either.”
I wasn't sure if I should thank her or consider this a smoothly-delivered insult. Implication: that's how a woman gets ahead in the corporate world. Certainly she had used her own considerable talents in that department to hook a successful lawyer like my father. Dad noticed my rising temper and said, calmly teasing me, “Ron does have a very eligible young grandson.”
At this I had to laugh, rolling my eyes, and Dad winked at me and refilled my glass. He added, with a nod at his wife, “Lanny's right in regard to favors. People don't take them lightly. And Ron is as old-school as they come. You can't go wrong on his good side, honey.”
I had to acknowledge the truth of this. I said, “All right then. I'm not eyeing a corner office just yet, but it's good to know there's even a remote possibility.”
And I had done my damnedest. Both summers, rather than fly home to Landon to indulge in summer on the lake, I had completed externships at Turnbull and Hinckley. Ron's firm was elegant and understated, gleaming with the prestige afforded one of the top law offices in the city. I'd been so jazzed to step through the revolving doors onto the marble floor of the main entrance, overwhelmed and impressed, rabid to prove myself worthy, that it had taken me a few days to realize that everyone around me was competing. Sharks in a goldfish tank, far too confining for them, constantly eyeing the gleaming promise of the ocean just beyond reach. Sharks that offered sincere-seeming smiles, but would sink their teeth deeply the moment your back was turned.
What did you expect?
I asked myself time and again, collapsing into my dorm room after midnight, rising before dawn to shower and hit the sidewalk running. I thrived on competition, didn't I? I was tough. Though a part of me, deeply buried, quivered with fear that I would do well enough, be successful to a degree, but perhaps never achieve real greatness. Never truly matter.
What would it take? Partnership? Your own firm? Rule over the entire city?
I giggled at this thought, imagining myself in a sleek black cape and designer shoes with stiletto heels sharp as ice picks, rubbing my hands together joyously before I ensnared all of Chicago in my power.
s what sleeplessness does to you
, I reminded myself.
Delusions of super-hero grandeur.
The rain seemed unending and I lit a second cigarette with the ember from the first. I would graduate Northwestern in just a few days, the first major goal accomplished. Mom and my stepdad Blythe were coming for the ceremony, and I was going to fly home with them the very next day, for a well-deserved rest in Minnesota. My heart swelled at just the thought of Shore Leave, my family waiting there for me; Grandma promised that half of Landon would be at the celebration in my honor. After three weeks, I planned to come back to Chicago for good (there wasn't a sing-song note of regret in my heart, not at all), pass my bar exams in July, and then (God-willing) accept a position at Turnbull and Hinckley.
I pressed my forehead to the chill of the glass. It was humid outside, muggy with springtime, though cold as a meat locker in our severely air-conditioned apartment. Grace's father paid our utility bill; I had never taken for granted that one of my roommates was a trust-fund baby, though Grace worked her ass off in school, determined to prove herself without overt assistance. And yet here I sat with the window open, wasting energy even now.
, I thought then.
I want to talk to my sister.
My phone was lying on the windowsill and I snatched it up. Camille answered on the second ring, saying, “I knew you were having a bad day. I had a feeling.”
“Hi,” I said quietly, my voice inundated with gratitude that she knew me well enough to understand this even before I spoke a word. Suddenly I missed her so much that a twitching ache formed near my heart.
“What's going on?” she asked in reply. I could tell she sat down, probably at their kitchen table in the cabin that her husband Mathias and his father Bull had made not only livable but gorgeous. They'd added a whole new wing, two bathrooms, and a loft where the six-year-old twins slept. My older sister had four children and was currently expecting a fifth baby in late October, but then again Mathias basically just had to look at Camille to get her pregnant. Millie Jo was nine, Brantley and Henry six, and little Lorie had just turned three. They hadn't let Aunt Jilly tell them if this latest baby was a boy or a girl, wanting to be surprised instead. I pictured the kids (Aunt Jilly and Uncle Justin had three now, Rae, Riley, and Zoe, while Mom and Blythe had Matthew), realizing I would hardly recognize them on the street these days. I was not a very good auntie.
“I'm justâ¦blue,” I said, without elaborating. I studied the rain streaking along my narrow window on the outside world, picturing Landon, no doubt bathed in the soft light of the setting sun. My body craved that sunlight, the feeling of the chilly lake water, the sounds I had missed here in Chicago the past three years. Natural sounds. Wind through the leaves, water lapping the shore, birdsong.
“Do you have Clinty's calendar?” Camille asked then, giggling, and I had to laugh at this attempt to lighten my mood.
“Oh my God, yes, of course,” I said, catching my phone between my shoulder and my cheek. “Ina and Grace have it displayed front and center, just to torture me. They think he's the hottest thing ever. I told him if he ever shows up here they'll have him out of his fireman's uniform before he can say âthreesome.'”
My sister laughed even harder at this. In the background I could hear my niece Millie Jo fighting with one or both of her brothers. I turned to look at my cousin Clint's picture, attached to the front of our fridge with two magnets shaped like chocolate chip cookies. Clint was good-looking, though it was tough for me to see anyone but the dopey boy who had been my best friend in Landon for nearly my entire life. He was more like my brother than cousin and I giggled even harder at this most recent picture of him. Every December the Landon Township fire department produced a calendar featuring their firefighters as a way to raise money for the upcoming year, and because it was just so darn popular.
filled out,” I allowed, feeling better just joking around with my older sister, like the old days. Clint was about six months older than me, having turned twenty-five last November; he was the July Fireman of the Month and was posed wearing his work pants, suspenders, helmet, and a wide grin. Nothing more. He had a heavy-duty ax braced over the top of his shoulders, his wrists caught on the handle on either side, nicely featuring his biceps.
“Oh God, Ruthie posted it on her Facebook page and he's had about seven thousand âlikes,'” Camille said. “Clint was so embarrassed.”
“Oh please, he loves it,” I said. I knew him well enough to know this was true, even having been apart from him for three years. At least when I had attended the U of M in Minneapolis for my undergrad degree, I had been able to journey home almost whenever I wanted. Here, in Chicago, that had been out of the question. Fortunately Dad and Lanny lived just across the city and though Lanny didn't cook, they were gracious enough to take me to dinner when I was able to emerge from beneath the stacks of law books and petitions and counter-suits that had filled my days and nights for far too long.
s been worth it
, I reminded myself.
s all worth it now. All those hours you
ll never get back, all that sleep you
ve lost, will be worth it to have that degree.
“So what's wrong? I'm sorry we aren't getting to the ceremony, Tisha. We'll celebrate next weekend,” Camille said, but in the next second her voice moved away from the phone as she scolded, “Kids, go outside! I can't hear Aunty Tish!”
There was a crash and a shriek, followed by the twins loudly declaring that it wasn't their fault.
“Dammit,” Camille muttered. “I'll call you right back!”
I sat there after she'd disconnected, realizing my cigarette had burned out and that my sister would be unavailable for the rest of evening. I sighed; probably this was a sign that I shouldn't be smoking at all. I tapped the screen on my phone and checked out my Twitter feed; Grace and Ina were at Howie's, our neighborhood bar, and insisted that I get my ass down there as soon as possible. Probably that was a better idea than moping about our dim, empty apartment, but I wasn't sure if I was in the mood for company.
What the hell is wrong with you? Go have a drink. Relax!
Howie's had been our perpetual hangout since living together all of this past year; our lease was up next month, we would go our separate ways, and so I should probably go and spend one last evening there. It was just that I had trouble relaxing; my shoulders had been hunched in a continuous state of tension for the past three years. My screen flashed. Ina had sent a picture of her and Grace, sitting on either side of an empty bar stool, both pointing to it with eyebrows raised. I giggled, heartened at this evidence of my friends having fun; as the image faded out, I texted back,
cu in 5