Read An Accidental Life Online

Authors: Pamela Binnings Ewen

Tags: #Fiction, #Legal, #General, #Historical, #Christian, #Suspense

An Accidental Life

BOOK: An Accidental Life
12.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

An Accidental Life, Digital Edition

Based on Print Edition

Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Binnings Ewen

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

978-0-8054-6432-0

Published by B&H Publishing Group,

Nashville, Tennessee

Dewey Decimal Classification: F

Subject Heading: ABORTION—FICTION \ LAWYERS—FICTION \ TRIALS (HOMICIDE)—FICTION

Publisher’s Note: The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

To the Survivors

Prologue

Why did she exist, if not
for the news that she was waiting to receive? She glanced over her shoulder at the silent telephone on the credenza behind her. Then she turned back to the document on which she’d been struggling to focus her thoughts.

Rebecca Downer Jacobs mulled the question over as she sat at her desk in her office on the sixteenth floor of the law firm of Mangen & Morris gazing out over the Central Business District of the city of New Orleans. It was May of 1982 and she’d been waiting for this day to arrive for six years. She supposed we are all seekers of some ultimate goal and light—we all have a human desire to understand and find our singular purpose. And then make it count.

Hers was about to be fulfilled. For now, at least.

Glancing again at the phone, she willed it to ring.

In the resulting silence she leaned back, winged her elbows and clasped her hands behind her neck, acknowledging her worst fault—a driving ambition that sometimes tested her patience. And, she was conscious that sometimes she had a tendency to drift toward the glitter, the false lights. But those moments were small rewards, the riches that kept the difficult challenges entertaining. She fought always to keep her primary focus on her latest goal.

Now, waiting for the phone call that would change her life, she sat gazing through her office window at the windows in the building across the street. She guessed it would be difficult to know when you’d finally made it to the top, because so far, each time Rebecca had won what she’d been seeking, something better popped up ahead and she found herself at yet another crossroads, with yet another decision to make, yet another difficult choice turning her life upside down.

That’s one reason she and Peter had agreed there’d be no children in their marriage.

She swung the chair around and stared hard at the phone, blaming it for the churning in her stomach and the billable hours that she was wasting. With a glance at her watch and a sigh, she swiveled back to the desk and picked up the contract that she’d been reading, staring down at the black type. With an exasperated click of her tongue, she reread the paragraph her client had decided that he now wanted to renegotiate. Here she was waiting for that phone call and teetering on the edge of an abyss or great success—and she was forced to try to focus on this minutia.

If she’d been certain that someone was listening, she would send up a prayer for patience. Still, she wondered if it was true, as Peter sometimes mused, that prayers unspoken might also be heard.

This made her think of Amalise—Amalise Catoir, her closest friend. There was a woman who knew how to pray. Amalise was certain that when she prayed, someone was listening. Abba, she called him: Father. That relationship between Amalise and her God was tender; one she’d often wished that she had too. But you can’t force your mind to accept ideas that your heart shuts out. Still, she recognized that Amalise derived comforting strength through her faith. And, assisted by her husband, Jude, Amalise seemed to have achieved balance between her career, and her marriage and raising their son, Luke.

Amalise and Rebecca began their careers practicing law together at Mangen & Morris, the first women lawyers ever hired by the firm. And now, here they were six years later and both up for the same prize. A sudden thought made her heart race. What if Amalise had already gotten the call, and she did not? Surely by now she should have heard.

The thought made her shut her eyes.

When she opened them again, the sunshine pouring through the window made her blink. Amalise was her best friend, but there were limits to loyalty. She loved Amalise, in the strange way that friends who are also competitors sometimes do. But if, in fact, the partnership choice today came down to only one between them, she had to win.

To keep things in perspective, she ticked off prior wins in her mind one at a time. High-school homecoming queen, “most beautiful” girl in her class, and valedictorian at graduation. Magna cum laude at Newcomb College. Her grades in law school at Tulane ranked in the top five percent.

But, Amalise’s class ranking had been close to hers at Tulane, she had to admit.

Still, it was Rebecca, and not Amalise, who was described by the magazine
New Woman
as one of the IT Girls to watch this year. That cover was now framed and displayed on the wall outside the large conference room on the firm’s executive floor. The reminder made her smile. She swiveled back to the desk and looked at the document she’d been reading. Of course she would get the call.

But—if not?

The nausea rose again, and she dropped her head into her hands. How would she tell Peter, if the call didn’t come? The husband she adored was certain, unwavering, waiting to congratulate. He was fast approaching his own goal, already a Senior Assistant District Attorney for Jefferson Parish. The Parish, as it was called, equaled the power and wealth of the city of New Orleans, to which it was geographically attached.

No. She couldn’t think that way. Not yet. For Peter, and for her, their careers were their lives. They’d agreed to this from the very start of their relationship. Together they’d reap the rewards of their hard work, unencumbered; free to travel on a whim, to live the way they wanted to live. A child would be a hindrance. Work, love, and marriage were enough for them, they’d both agreed.

She glanced at the silent phone. There was too much to lose to fail now.

Rebecca looked down, twirling her thumbs in her lap as a shadow she’d been forcing from her mind for over a week slipped through to a conscious level. A different problem altogether and one she’d not yet mentioned to Peter.

Annoyed by the intrusion, she yanked open the bottom drawer in her desk and pulled out a mirror. She touched the corners of her lips, smoothed her hair; told herself that she was worrying for nothing, that such injustice could not exist.

Just then the telephone rang.

Part One

Secrets

1

Amalise stuck her head into the
office and Rebecca, who’d been lounging with her feet on the desk and hands clasped behind her head, reliving the day, looked up.

“You certainly look comfortable.” Amalise laughed as she leaned a shoulder against the door jamb. Glancing at her watch, she crossed her arms. “Are you coming? It’s six thirty and I’m going home to dress for tonight. Jude’s already gone for the sitter.”

Rebecca smiled and, lifting her feet, dropped them to the floor. She sat up straight and ran her hands back through her hair. “I’ve brought clothes,” she said. “Peter’s picking me up here in an hour.”

Amalise’s face lit. “Can you believe this, Rebecca? We finally made it.”

Rebecca laughed. She curled her fingers and looked at a cuticle near her thumbnail. This would have to go before tonight. “Always knew we would.”

When Amalise had gone, she stood up and went to the closet in the corner of her office where she pulled out the clothes she’d brought to work in that morning.

Changing into the dress she’d bought for this occasion, a long-sleeved, knee-length black velvet sheath with a V-neckline, she turned, inspecting herself in the long mirror hanging inside the closet door. Comfortable now that partnership was a certainty, she smiled, thinking of the look of sheer joy she’d just seen on Amalise’s face. In her stocking feet she turned one way, then the other, smoothing the velvet over her hips, musing on how different her life was from Amalise’s.

Amalise was a mother now. She shook her head at the thought of how time had flown since Amalise had first met Luke. He’d been a foster child, an orphan rescued in 1975 during the Vietnam War. She’d married Jude four years ago, and they had adopted Luke, who was somewhere around twelve years old right now. Not much was known about the child’s life before he’d found Amalise and Jude.

Even with a child, Amalise had been a tough competitor in their race up the ladder at the firm. Fleetingly the thought crossed her mind that perhaps she’d been lucky the firm had chosen both. But Amalise had held on through the years because always, always, Jude was there for her—he had her back. Before their marriage, Jude was a river pilot down at the mouth of the Mississippi. But he’d rearranged his life for Amalise and Luke; had given up one job for another to share the responsibilities at home. And now, today, Jude was a successful contractor in the city, his own boss, with flexible hours, freeing Amalise for the long hours her own work required. Unlike Peter, whose days were scheduled minute by minute on trial dockets.

Rebecca adjusted the folds on the neckline of her dress and turned away from the mirror, satisfied.

BOOK: An Accidental Life
12.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
Magdalene by Moriah Jovan
The Last of the Savages by Jay McInerney
Heart of the Incubus by Rosalie Lario
The Baking Answer Book by Lauren Chattman
The Clergyman's Daughter by Jeffries, Julia
The Vampire Next Door by Santiago, Charity, Hale, Evan
Teresa Medeiros by Whisper of Roses