"Polly!" The assistant batting coach ran to catch the elevator behind her the next afternoon. "I think we're both headed to the same floor this morning." He smiled as the door closed. "I must offer you my hardy thanks and congratulations. You are one hell of a lawyer."
"Thank you, John. I was just doing my job though." Polly flashed him a smile then returned to watching the floor numbers change, willing them to go faster. Her 'win' still hadn't sunk in, still didn't sit right, and she somewhere in the middle of the night, as she lay in bed watching her husband sleep, she wasn't sure it ever would considering who her opposing counsel had been. She loved when they would play their games, object when the other would say something, play devil's advocate when the other was preparing for trial, but actually facing him in court hadn't been the rush she thought it would be.
John gushed, oblivious to how uncomfortable he was making her. "That was some job. I mean, when Mike called me that Saturday and told me what had happened, I didn't know how we were going to fix it. I mean, this was big."
"Wait, Mike called you?" She felt a knot forming in her stomach, and not the good kind. "I thought Mike called Jed, which is why Jed called me."
"No way. Mike and Jed don't exactly see eye to eye. Jed tolerates the kid because he's a damn good catcher, but I don't think his contract is going to be renewed next year. So, I doubt that Mike would admit a fart to Jed much less knifing his wife."
That knot became a wave of nausea that Polly swallowed down with a forced smile. "Oh. I guess not. So, you called Jed?"
"Yep, and he called you, and you worked some magic in that courtroom so we can repeat. Thanks!" He pat her shoulder as the elevator stopped and he stepped off, leaving her there shocked.
The executive conference room was filled with board members and front office higher-ups and Polly wanted to run away. Did they all know? If not, who knew what? Why hadn't they told her? What had she done? It didn't matter. What was done was done. She took a deep breath, put on her best smile, and worked the room full of testosterone like she was back on stage. It wasn't the first time she'd been burned, it wouldn't be the last, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Mark had been none too happy about a high profile loss, but Peter, for the first time, didn't care. Polly had put on a damn good case that even had him believing the kid was innocent so it was no surprise that the jury acquitted. Her work in the courtroom was nothing short of a gift. He'd sat in the gallery during her trials before and she was compelling, every eye followed her around the room, even when she didn't have to dance, he smiled to himself. "Hi." His smile widened when she picked up her phone later that night. "It sunk in yet?"
"No, I don't think so." She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing, willing the tears not to fall. She never should have answered, but she needed to hear his voice, she needed his light. "You on your way home?"
"In about an hour. I have one more brief to draft."
There was usually a quip about how he was a boxers man when he made statements like that, but none came. "Polly, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's been a long week. I'm just tired." The first tear fell down her cheek as she stepped inside their condo and she put her head against the front door, forcing a smile so he wouldn't hear it.
Her voice was off and it was more than exhaustion. "Are you home?"
"Just walked in."
"OK, well, don't make anything. It's Friday night. We'll go out."
"Mmhmm, sounds good. I'll go jump in the shower now and be ready for you."
"Polly, I love you."
"I love you too." She felt her body hitch as the tears streamed down her face, now beyond her control at the sound of those three words, and she covered her mouth so he wouldn't hear as she hung up.
There was something wrong. Now he knew it. She never hung up that fast and there'd been a sound right before that he couldn't identify. The damn brief would wait. His wife, his Birdie, was more important, and he threw things into his briefcase. "Yes, Anna?" He barely looked up when his assistant walked in.
"Nagel, Dawson, and I are headed over to Molly's to kind of lick our wounds. You're welcome to join us."
"Rain check. I'm headed home."
"Everything OK?" There was a look of panic on her boss' face.
"I," he thought as he pulled his bag onto his shoulder, "don't know. I'll see you Monday." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his billfold and handed her a ten. "Buy a round on me."
"Thanks." Anna looked at him confused as he took off down the hall.
Peter tried to race uptown, barely slowing for red lights, grateful he'd decided to take the car that morning instead of the train. "Polly?" He dropped his briefcase on a living room chair next to hers. The place was eerily quiet. Polly didn't do quiet. There was always music going or the TV on. A sense of dread was rising up in him as he ran down the hall. "Birdie?" He called again.
The tears had started again when she heard his rich baritone voice carrying through their home and she covered her mouth to keep from screaming again as her body hitched. She had to pull herself together because he wasn't going to want her if he asked her what was wrong because she wasn't sure she could keep it inside any longer. What she'd done, what she'd done to him, felt like it was eating her alive.
He opened the door to the master bath and saw his wife on the floor, her knees pulled to her chest, and her face red from crying. "Oh my god!"
"I'm sorry." Her body hitched uncontrollably at the sight of her sweet husband and the concern in his eyes. "I didn't know. I'm so sorry."
"It's OK, Polly. It's going to be OK." Grabbing her robe from the back of the door, he wrapped it around her naked body and took her into his arms as he joined her on the floor. "Whatever it is, we'll get through it." He stroked her hair as she wailed, the tears stinging his eyes as he held her as tight to his chest as he could with her trembling so violently. "I love you, Birdie."
"You know what my earliest memory is?' She tried to speak using lungs that were over-extended and felt like they were on fire. "It's of my mother plying her trade. I was ten. She'd sent me to play outside, as usual, when she had over one of her 'friends', but we lived in a housing project and nothing really worked right so, I jiggled the handle to our door, unlocked it, and pulled out the chain that wasn't properly fastened. It was raining and I wanted to watch TV not be outside waiting for her."
Peter felt his skin crawling, but knew that this was something she had to say, so he stayed quiet, continuing the stroking of her hair as she spoke.
"I heard strange noises coming from my mother's bedroom so I went to go look and there was my mother, on her hands and knees, allowing some guy to shove her head down on him by the hair. It was repulsive, and when they were through, my mother wiped her mouth with a smile, walked the guy to the door, and took his twenty dollar bill for services rendered." The silent tears started falling down her cheeks again. "I swore I was never going to let anyone do that to me. I was going to be better than she was, worth more. No one was ever going to get me on my knees and devalue me but, it turns out, we all have our price."
"Polly," he fought nausea, "did someone hurt you?"
"Not physically, but they did the same thing." She wiped the tears from her cheeks. "A hundred thousand dollars. They gave me a bonus of a hundred thousand dollars after knowing…after not telling me…"
"It's OK. I understand." Privilege prevented her from telling him exactly what she was telling him by not being able to say the words. "I'm so sorry."
"Why? You were right."
"I wish I weren't."