Rachel was twelve years old when she discovered that she could put someone in jail.
Bill Lotznica was chattering on the TV about how the bucket-dumping rain had caught him off guard. He had only yesterday given the entirety of Greenville County the go ahead to plan their Labor Day picnics.
The apple berry pie didn’t taste nearly as good to Rachel sitting in the middle of the living room as it would have on a picnic bench fending off ants. She lifted the fork, pressing her tongue into the prongs to extract every smudge of the sweet sauce and flaky crust. Holding it up to inspect her work, she caught sight of old Bill on the screen trying to smile his way out of his mistaken forecast yesterday; the prongs of the fork gave the impression that he was behind bars.
She grinned—realizing that she had just put someone in jail. For a moment she sat there imagining him behind bars, serving a life sentence, his only bail or bond was telling the truth. Of course, he would be in there for life—weathermen never told the truth. Even when she thought of him as her father, whom he would be when he got home, she still didn’t feel the least bit enticed to lower his cage. She had learned to never trust him—his smile was just as charmingly sweet when he was lying at home as when he was lying on TV.
She frowned; he looked much too happy behind the bars anyways, so she laid back against the couch. But how good it felt just for that minute to see the bars across his face, with her looking in and him looking out.
Twenty years later.
It just feels good, you know?” Rachel pushed past an orange jumpsuit clad man being escorted into the court room, and then reached into her leather side bag to retrieve a cup of Yoplait yogurt.
“You need to find a new phrase.” April, her best friend and assistant struggled to keep up with Rachel’s stride. “You say that after every case.”
“And it’s still as true.” Rachel tore the tinfoil top off the yogurt and began eating.
April rolled her eyes. “I’ve never seen anyone so excited about people goin’ to jail. You aren’t suppose to have food in here, you know.”
Rachel grinned, looking over her shoulder at her assistant. “You need to get a new line. You say that after every case.” She raised her container. “Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses, and yogurt for me." She popped another mound of the fluff in her mouth.
“Okay, Willie." April rolled her eyes. "Just don’t forget you have that meeting with the new client today.”
“I know, I know.” They pushed through the doors to the autumn sunlight and crispness waiting just outside.
“I love this weather” Rachel tilted her head back. “I’m gonna dig out my scarf this afternoon--the purple one.”
Back at the office, Rachel plopped down. Court dates invigorated her, but left her crashing right after. Even with her confidence, she still sweated through three layers of jackets and shirts.
Five years she had been working as a domestic issues lawyer, dealing mostly with battered women wearing snot-stained shirts, holding little snotters on their hips, and dodging the ogres whom had driven them to her office—-ogres who didn’t see or chose not to see the priceless treasures they had married.
It was usually abuse; verbal, mental, and physical—abuse was abuse to Rachel. She looked up at the corkboard on the wall. April always carried a small Kodak camera with her to capture victory shots after Rachel’s cases. The board was covered in snapshots of happy faces with empty eyes. As if they knew they had won the battle, but ultimately had lost the war.
Of course, she had handled ‘cats’ too—-of all kinds. Some wanted money, others wanted children, houses, or revenge. But after all the party line junk about making people happy, Rachel wanted something else-—truth. Something she had rarely been given in life.
“He’s here.” April’s chirpy voice interrupted Rachel’s thoughts.
“He who?” Rachel tried to remember, but nothing was coming. “Your new client. I told you he was coming.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “I totally forgot.”
“What! You, forget something?” April’s sarcasm melted into a smile as Rachel eyed her.
“Don’t forget who writes your check, pal.”
“Yeah, well you don’t forget who keeps your life together enough so you can write that check!”
Somehow they always reached a stalemate; they both needed one another. “I don’t have time for an afternoon of lies.” Rachel groaned. She jerked the gray suit jacket from the back of the chair and stuffed her arms in the sleeves.
“Someone is going to tell you the truth someday, girl.” As April walked around the desk to help with the jacket, she asked gently, “Are you going to be able to believe them?”
Rachel turned her back to her friend, letting April fix her collar. “That’s my worst fear.” Rachel stared out the window absently. "That I'll have to trust someone."
“Well, you trust me enough to believe that I’m not going to stick a 'kick me' sign on your back.”
“That’s different, April. You’re a woman.”
April laughed at her friend’s prejudice. “You don’t hate, Mark.”
Rachel grinned at the sound of April’s husband’s name. “No, but I’m glad he’s yours.”
April shook her head in exasperation. "How long are you going to stop judging all men by your father's faults?"
"When men stop being men, that's when." Wanting to change the subject, Rachel shrugged her shoulders one more time to get settled into her jacket. “All right—send in the clowns. I’m ready.” She let out a deep breath and settled back in her chair, assuming her most intimidating pose.
She heard April greeting him in the lobby and pointing him toward her office.
When he walked in the door, Rachel saw that he was young, early thirties, with thick dark eyebrows and freckles and a artifical confidence that would shatter under one line of her biting sarcasm. Rachel turned on a professional smile and stuck out her hand.
“Thanks for agreeing to meet with me, Miss Lotznika."
Rachel cringed. “Please call me Rachel. It always sounds like people are choking on razorblades when they say my last name.” Pleasantly surprised at the comfortable laugh that followed, she motioned for him to sit in one of the leather chairs, eager to get to the point. “So what do you need me to do for you?”
He settled back in his chair, and blinked twice before stating, “I need a little peace in my life.”
“I don’t keep an extra dose of that lying around.” Rachel folded her hands on the desk. “A house divided is sort of my job.” She shrugged. “However, I can get you just about anything else, short of blood.” He raised his eyebrows. Yeah, she knew she was good.
“It’s not about what I want. It's just sort of about--the way things are.” He blinked a few times as if they were stinging with tears.
She immediately warded off an urge to pity him. A man was a man; they couldn't be trusted.