Chuck had the patience of a geriatric nurse explaining the concepts over and over as if to a dimwit. "That legal logic may make sense to you," she said, "but not to me. This is not justice."
"It's how the system works. You have to connect all the dots in each case." He peered at the papers on his desk. "And even then, you should be ready for all the possibilities."
"Don't you always tell me to entertain positive thoughts?" Rachel spoke with a forced light tone into the bald triangle on his temple. "Now you tell me not to get my hopes up. Which one is it?"
"I want you to reserve your energy for this last time."
"Sure," she said, sarcasm in her voice. "Trust that nice man--that chauvinistic bastard."
Chuck raised his gaze, their eyes locking. "McGillian knows his law; he'll see the light."
Rachel waited in the reception area while revisions were made to the documents Chuck would file in court. She stared blankly at an ashtray. How appalled she had first been at her inability to keep Wes away from Ellie legally. Her ranting and raving subsided in time as the court battles raged on, but giving up the fight had never been an option. Instead, a black hole had opened inside her with an infinite capacity to suck in emotions. Like now.
Chuck came out and placed the papers before her. He stood over her and wordlessly pointed at the places awaiting her signature.
When she was done, he straightened up. He looked shorter standing than sitting. "I just got a call from Henry Ortman. Wes's girlfriend has moved into his apartment as per Ortman's suggestion. Ortman trusts it should put our minds at ease regarding the Fourth of July visit. It won't be unsupervised."
"Ortman 'trusts?'" Wes's lawyer was as sly as his client. "Chuck, you don't buy it, do you? They've tried it before."
"It's the best we can hope for, for now."
Rachel felt the blood rush through her. "All Wes needs do is to send her to the supermarket or to get her nails done and he'll be back to his old tricks."
"Don't you dare deny him visitation before the next hearing."
"One more denied visit won't make a difference--"
He cut her off. "It would--in McGillian's mind--when determining custody. Especially if you have Ortman's guarantee."
How could she take the chance? Rachel got up and flung her jacket over her shoulders. "Chuck, do we still have this appointment with the Assistant D.A.?"
He nodded. "I've filed the complaint in criminal court. The Nassau County D.A. hates to lose cases. In election year especially, he'll prosecute only if he can win, or he won't touch it."
"Do I have to meet with him too? I can't afford more time off work."
"You'll be back at the office by lunch." He paused. "Vince Carducci still gives you a tough time?"
"How can I explain to him the nature of my court appearances? He'll never understand--"
"No one ever does unless they lived through the justice system," Chuck said.
"He'll hit the ceiling when I tell him I'm taking another day off--even though I'm using vacation time--"
"Be there." Chuck's finger touched a thick brown curl on her shoulder. "Put your hair up, and don't look so beautiful. The red suit is too assertive. And no matter what, please don't cry."
At his words, tears gathered up behind Rachel's eyelids. She would not cry. She would wrestle her hair into a French braid. She would use a pale lipstick. But the pain within her would continue to grow fat on her misery.
At the door, instead of his customary handshake, Chuck kissed her on the cheek. "Go to the beach this weekend. Have a date with Gerald. Whatever. Just relax."
"While I send Ellie to Wes?"
"You have a whole weekend with her before Monday. Enjoy it."
Copyright Talia Carner 2002. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce this excerpt please contact the author at www.taliacarner.com
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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