Authors: M A Clarke Scott
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always knew I was a closet shrink.
you’ve been there since the beginning.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Kate O’Day checked her watch,
eager to begin, but they were still missing two important players. Today marked
the beginning of a brand new mediation. She scribbled the date in bold strokes
at the top of the page of her case notes.
She sat back and observed the woman across from her, the immaculately
well-groomed and chic D’arcy Duchamp, her client. D’arcy stared sightlessly out
the window at the grey haze that blanketed downtown Vancouver’s urban skyline,
patently ignoring her mother’s chosen counsel, Sharon Beckett. Not
surprisingly, top dollar.
The sound of the door opening caught their attention and the
young receptionist stepped in. “Excuse me, Ms. Beckett? Lynda from Goode &
Broadbent just called to say, Mr. Broadbent was suddenly called to judge’s
chambers and won’t be able to attend. But they are sending a replacement.”
Their host, Sharon Beckett, sat beside Kate, her tightly
coifed flaxen head bent over her smart phone, jabbing it forcefully with her
fingertip. “I didn’t get any message about this, Carrie.”
Carrie cleared her throat daintily. “Um. No, apparently
it was quite unexpected. They sent their apologies.”
“Well they’d better not keep us waiting. Who’s coming
“Someone named, uh…” she referred to a paper in her hand,
Kate gasped, her body stiffening like she’d been hit with
a Taser right there in her chair.
“Oh, really? All right, then,” Sharon crooned. “Thank
you, Carrie. Let us know when he arrives.”
Kate’s hand jerked up to cover her mouth, her pulse
kicking into high gear at the sound of his name.
“Oh well, these things happen. I’d forgotten he’d
recently changed firms. I haven’t been in touch with him much lately.” Sharon
lifted her head, a small frown creasing her brow. “I assume, Kate, that you
informed Eli of today’s meeting. He won’t know about this change.”
Kate had worked with Sharon before and was familiar with
her reputation. She was a darn good lawyer, but she was rigid, repressed, and
confrontational. Right now, she couldn’t think of a response. Her thoughts were
suddenly scrambled. Had she heard correctly? She swallowed. “Who did you say?”
Sharon made Kate uncomfortable. Sharon reserved a special
tone of voice for her colleagues. Tolerance, iced with a hint of disapproval,
as though she couldn’t be sure you were worthy. With her crisp taupe suit and
primly buttoned sage green blouse, she reminded Kate of a tiny, tightly wound
army sergeant ready to pounce on wayward recruits. One could never fault her.
She was always correct, strictly business, though one came away feeling abused,
“No, I mean–” She couldn’t bring herself to say his name
aloud. Simon. Simon Sharpe. Kate’s breath became as shallow as a gentle breeze
ruffling the surface of a calm lake, upsetting the glass-smooth surface,
tossing a leaf or two into the air like the harbinger of an as-yet unseen
storm. A storm that would soon heave the water of the lake upside down,
churning its muddy, murky bottom into a roiling stew pot of reluctant
rememberings. If she stopped breathing, maybe she could prevent the storm from
left him a message, Sharon,” D’arcy cut in, a
knowing smirk on her glossy ruby lips, like the self-possessed cherubs that
Kate had seen in the Baroque paintings of Rubens.
“Good.” Sharon offered D’arcy a patronizing smile that
stopped short of her icy blue eyes. “Well, well. So we’ll be working with the
charming Simon Sharpe.”
She had heard correctly. But there must be some mistake.
Or maybe it was someone else with the same name. That was possible, wasn’t it?
The thought of him walking into the room any moment caused Kate’s stomach to
clench into a hard, heavy knot of dread.
“You know him?” D’arcy asked, examining the perfect
claret tips of her soft white hands.
Do I ever! He’d touched her body and soul.
“I was in law school with his wife. We’re good friends,”
His wife. Of course, he would have a wife. Why wouldn’t
he? Kate hadn’t seen him in –her mind spun back in time, calculating, counting
the years– fourteen? Fifteen? Since her third year at university.
D’arcy shrugged and reached for her small Louis Vuitton
handbag, retrieved a nail file, made a minor correction to her manicure and put
it back. She tossed the bag onto an empty chair.
As if from a distance, Kate observed the way her hands
fluttered about like doves in a cote, in direct contrast with her serene
countenance. She was a strange mix of cool confidence and nervous energy. And
now so was Kate, aware that she felt breathless, her pulse racing. Adrenaline
flushed her body, her head and chest suddenly hot, sweat breaking out on her
Kate frowned, taking in the cool, glossy black lacquer
table, the spare modern leather and chrome chairs and stark white walls. A
too-loud hum emanated from a grill vent in the ceiling and the view from the
eighteenth floor window was flat and faded by cloud covering the sky. She had a
sudden image of herself fleeing, flying out the window like a bird and
disappearing into that soft, concealing grey. The ostentatious board room of
Flannigan, Searle, Meacham & Beckett, Barristers & Solicitors, was as
cold as a surgical theatre and too impersonal for Kate's liking. As soon as
she'd won her clients’ trust, she'd suggest a move to her own, more homey,
Her muscles tightened again. But she couldn’t have
D’arcy cleared her throat and spoke in that peculiar
accent that was uniquely Montreal-bilingual, neither the lilting cadence of a
Quebecois Francophone nor CBC-Radio English, but something in between. “I’m
dying for a cigarette.”
“Are you nervous, D’arcy?” Kate asked, distracted. “Today
will be just an informal introduction. Nothing too serious, yet.” Not for
D’arcy rolled her khol-rimmed round eyes toward the
ceiling. “No. I’m just in nicotine withdrawal. I’m quitting.” She was glamorous
in a silent-movie-siren sort of way, but dark circles under her eyes betrayed
an otherwise cool, well-contained façade. “I
“That’s an excellent decision, D’arcy, dear. Your mother
will be pleased to hear it,” Sharon said, glancing up from her phone.
D’arcy’s lip twitched, barely suppressing a sneer. “I suppose
you’ll be discussing that with her, too? Would you like to know what I ate for
Sharon clucked her tongue and went back to her phone, her
teeth clicking. “What’s taking them so long? We can’t wait all day.”
Kate pulled herself together and bent over her notebook
to jot down a few impressions while they were fresh. She wasn’t known for
following the norm — such as meeting clients individually prior to the first
group session — and she had chosen not to this time as well. Her unconventional
style involved feeling her way through based on the people and their raw
reactions, affording her a glimpse into their inner nature. She glanced up, her
eye drawn to the sweeping arc of a red umbrella in an impressionistic
Mediterranean landscape on the wall opposite her. The gash of red against blue
sky provided the only spots of color in the sterile room.
Today’s introductory session was just that, an
opportunity for her to get to know her clients, D’arcy and Eli. And,
unfortunately, their lawyers. Kate had to stay calm and keep her wits about
her. Focus on the clients. Right. Just ignore the lawyers. Both of them. As if
she could ever ignore Simon Sharpe.
Sharon pulled a notebook and pen out of her briefcase and
silently made notes. Kate tried to smile at D’arcy, who offered a weak smile of
“When did you last speak with Eli?” Kate asked her.
Her face sullen, D’arcy searched around with an
exaggerated air. “A couple of weeks ago, maybe.”
Sharon flipped a few pages in her notebook. “It was
September seventeenth. The night of the…” her lip lifted in a sneer, “… party.”
D’arcy’s eyes turned glassy, and Kate fervently wished
she could do her work without the interference of lawyers.
Clients came to her because they hoped for a resolution
to their conflict that was as congenial as possible, usually in the context of
a complete communication breakdown. She looked up, pushed a loose strand of
hair behind her ear. Success for her was nothing short of reconciliation,
healing broken relationships. The better she understood their strengths,
failings, and fears, the more effectively she could help them.
Her cell phone jangled in her bag. Damn, she forgot to
turn it off. “Excuse me.” She picked up the phone and squinted at the screen,
her irritation rising at the interruption as she silenced the ringing.
Jay. The last person she wanted to hear from right now.
Guilt swamped her, her finger hovering over the “busy”
button, recalling her last conversation with him. Her phone buzzed in her hand.
Hey, Angel. How about dinner tonight?
She thumbed a quick response.
In client mtg.
Another text buzzed.
She clenched her jaw and put her phone away without
looking at it. She was going to need to call Alexa tonight, if she made it
through this afternoon, not Jay.
She knew what he wanted and she didn’t want to deal with
it. Jay had been the perfect companion. Their two year relationship was a
record for her. He was gorgeous, talented, fun, sexy, easy-going and lacked the
capacity for self-examination. In other words, he was a long, long way from
thinking about commitment. Or so she’d thought. Lately he’d begun hinting about
the future, spoiling everything.
Kate studied the shell-shocked D’arcy, trying to imagine
what a couple as young as she and Eli were thinking, getting married in their
early twenties. No wonder they were having trouble. On the other hand, she
thought with sympathy, they must have been wildly in love. Perhaps they still
were. She remembered what that felt like.
Now all Kate’s relationship skills went toward helping
her clients sort out their problems and providing them with happy-ever-afters.
That was enough for her, since she wasn’t ever going to get her own.
Most people needed a prod to their self-awareness, and
help clarifying their goals. Unlike Kate, who, through counseling, already knew
herself far too well. If Jay knew everything there was to know about her, he
wouldn’t want to push for more.
There were too many ghosts in her past that made intimacy
hard, if not impossible. And yet, nothing less than true intimacy could induce
her to spend the rest of her life with one man. There had been only one man
that had made her feel that way. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling
was about to enter the room.
The truth was she didn’t need the complication of a man
in her life at all. Jay distracted her from her work and somehow made her feel
guilty for devoting herself to what she loved most. Except… at thirty-five, she
did, in theory, want to settle down and have a family, too.
The three women sat in silence, fidgeting and avoiding
eye contact, the minutes dragging, until the annoying whine of the HVAC system
began to grate on their nerves. D’arcy rolled her eyes to the ceiling with a
What was taking them so long? It was like waiting on
death row. Kate just wanted to get it over with now.
She cleared her throat. “I understand you went to McGill,
D’arcy. Did you like it?”
“What’s not to like? It was my hometown, you know. All
the local kids went there who didn’t have a plan.” D’arcy lifted one round
shoulder. “I did figure out what I wanted, eventually.”
“Political science, wasn’t it?” pressed Kate gently.
“Yes. And history. Daddy thought I should study
journalism. Maybe work at one of his magazines until I met Mr. Right.” She
pulled her mouth tight. “But it wasn’t my thing. I organize people better than
“Sharon mentioned you worked as a campaign manager for a
while,” Kate said, nodding. “What happened? Did you enjoy it?”
“I loved it!” D’arcy paused, considering her hands again,
while a wistful expression stole over her features. “Eli happened, I guess.
When he came along, it was obvious he needed me more than Minister Bradley ever
could.” A breathy laugh escaped her lips. She paused, gazing past Kate.
“Anyway, I fell hard.” One side of her full lips quirked up.
She knew what that felt like. Interesting, Kate thought.
So, D’arcy was one for causes, including the struggling artist Eli.
“Looks like you should have stayed in Montreal.” Sharon
said with a drawl. “Where are Eli and Simon, I wonder? It’s nearly two.”
As if on cue, the door opened again, and Carrie entered.
Kate’s pulse kicked up again, her eyes locked on the door, feeling an
irrational but powerful urge to leap out of her chair and run like hell.
“Mr. Benjamin is here,” she said with a flicker of a
smile, then slipped back out the door. Kate let out her breath. Not him. Not
A young man entered and scanned the room through narrowed
eyes. He made a point of not looking at D’arcy. Flopping himself into the chair
to Kate’s right, he draped his agile frame over it like a blanket. Ignoring
both his wife and her lawyer, he settled back and assessed Kate from under
hooded lids, while she studied him in return. She could feel the tension
vibrate between husband and wife like a plucked cable, though they didn’t
acknowledge each other.
“Hello,” Kate said, realizing the others weren’t
“Hey. Nice to meet you, Kathryn O’Day,” he said, tossing
her a careless smile, his dark espresso eyes smoldering. Ebony waves grazed the
shoulders of a weathered brown leather jacket. He emanated sexual heat.
A bad boy? She held her face as neutral as she could to
conceal her reaction, piercing him with her x-ray stare. “You can call me Kate.
Good morning, Mr. Benjamin.”