"Hold the elevator!" Jamie called as she raced to the end of the hall just as the doors closed. "Shit," she whispered, rolling her eyes and standing back. Just as she retreated to press the button again, the doors opened. Jamie frowned as she came face to face with Eugene. "What was that?" she asked him. He shrugged silently as Jamie walked into the elevator. "Did you press the button?"
"Of course I pressed the button," Eugene answered.
"Hmm," Jamie shrugged, leaning against the back wall as the doors closed. They hadn't been descending long before the elevator stopped again. Jamie and Eugene stared at the doors as they refused to open. "They do usually open, right?" Jamie asked, more to herself than to Eugene.
"That's the theory," Eugene replied, stepping forward and hitting the 'open doors' button. They opened. Eugene stared straight into the face of a cement wall complete with a couple of cables braced down the sides. Calmly, he hit the 'close doors' button and the doors slid shut. "Let's not do that again," he stated.
"Is there a phone? I don't think mine gets reception in here." Jamie asked as she remained leaning against the back wall. Eugene fiddled around with the emergency phone box before he got it open. The phone was still there, Jamie noticed, that was a start, but as Eugene put it to his ear he shook his head.
"It's dead," he announced, hanging it back up. He pressed the 'open doors' button again, and this time it didn't work.
"Must um, must be the storm," Jamie replied. Eugene nodded to himself as he carefully closed the box. "What now?"
"Ellenor's still up there," Eugene answered. "She'll try to leave soon."
"How soon is soon, do you think?" Eugene turned back to look at Jamie as he heard genuine trepidation in her voice.
"Soon," he nodded. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Jamie smiled. "Fine." Eugene nodded and sat down, stretching his legs out along the ground beside his briefcase, watching as Jamie carefully sat down. She was wearing her black suit, and Eugene knew the skirt didn't have much give in it. He smiled to himself, remembering the great relief they had both felt one night several months ago once they managed to get it off. He easily remembered the feel of Jamie's legs wrapping ar-
Eugene stopped his thoughts right there before they caused any trouble. He glanced at Jamie, but she was staring at her lap, her eyes closed.
In the silence that followed, Eugene took the opportunity to examine Jamie while she wasn't aware of it, or if she was, while she didn't particularly care. She was looking down, her shoulders were rounded, her hair fell across her shoulders, obscuring his face from his view and she gently tapped her short, neat nails on the elevator floor. He couldn't remember her speaking a word to him all day, now that he thought about it.
"Eugene." Spoke too soon, Eugene smiled to himself.
"Yeah?" he asked. Jamie looked up and smiled.
"This thing can't...move, can it?"
"We're not going anywhere for the moment," Eugene answered.
"No, I mean..." She gave Eugene a knowing look, one that said, 'This elevator isn't going to plummet ten floors now, right?' Eugene looked at her carefully.
"As long as I don't start jumping up and down, we should be fine," he smiled. Jamie rolled her eyes, grinning. "Never been stuck in an elevator before?" he asked, taking the opportunity from her eye contact to engage in conversation.
"You have?" Jamie asked, curious and surprised.
"When I was ten," Eugene answered. "It was an old building, there was a blackout, we weren't going anywhere."
"How many of you were there?"
"Just one of me," Eugene answered with a twinkle in his eye. "My friend from across the street and her dog." Jamie smirked.
"Noelle Robbins," Eugene smiled. "Moved away that summer and I never saw her again."
"Must've broken your heart," Jamie continued.
"No," Eugene answered, shaking his head. Jamie's eyes snapped to his as she caught the tone in his voice. "Ten year olds recover most of the time." Jamie nodded thoughtfully.
"I uh," she began after a moment's silence. "I'm sorry if I offended you yesterday." Her eyes flicked to Eugene's as he thought. "Saying you'd be appointed to the bench because you were black."
"I thought that was only part of it," Eugene answered.
"It is," Jamie recovered, nodding.
"You're right though," Eugene continued, and was met with silence. Jamie already knew that. "I guess uh, are you looking for work?"
"Yeah," Jamie sighed. "It's hard."
"Why?" Eugene asked. "So many firms around here would have you. I could give you some names-"
"It's not that," Jamie smiled. "Thankyou though. I might take you up on it. It's just...it's hard imagining not coming here every day." Eugene nodded.
"I haven't spoken to you much lately but I've been meaning to ask, really, are you okay?" Eugene waited as Jamie looked up at him with confused, almost sad, eyes.
"Why do you ask that?" she asked, her brow creasing.
"You're quiet all week, and then yesterday you jumped down my throat when I asked you to type up a one page letter. You look okay but...you've been quiet, that's all. You seem more stressed than usual." Jamie smiled, touched.
"There have been things on my mind, a lot of things," she admitted. "But they're not important."
"Obviously they are," Eugene replied. "If it's affecting-"
"It's not affecting my work," Jamie insisted quickly. "Not that it matters to you any more anyway."
"Nothing's definite," Eugene continued. "And that's not what I was going to say. I was going to say that obviously it is important if it's affecting how you interact with other people."
"Oh," Jamie blushed slightly. "Well it's not, not really." Eugene raised his eyebrows. "What, you want me to tell you all my troubles? What are you going to do?" Eugene shrugged.
"I'll listen," he said.
"Okay, I'll try," Jamie answered after several minutes of silence. "But don't judge me."
"I learned not to do that a long time ago," Eugene chuckled. "No pressure just, if you want to get something off your chest or maybe, get some advice... No one here but you and me for God knows how long." Jamie nodded, twisting her hands together as she pulled her knees closer to her chest, thinking.
"I uh, I don't really know where to start."
"Talk about work," Eugene suggested, knowing that he himself found it easiest to focus on work and then lead onto other things when he was troubled.
"Okay I uh... I do think it's great you're getting this opportunity." Jamie paused, and Eugene sensed the 'but' before he heard it. "But I...I like this firm. I never gave too much thought to the type of place I would work when I graduated. I had experience at Hollings, for a while, but I...I discovered I liked the atmosphere here. It was comfortable. It's something I wouldn't have found anywhere else. And now all I can think about is how, in a month's time, I'll be working in a cold office, and going home to an empty apartment, and how I'll never see my friends any more unless we're opposing counsel."
"No wonder you're depressed," Eugene shook his head, disbelieving.
"I never said anything about being depressed!" Jamie exclaimed.
"Well you sound depressed," he countered. Jamie sighed. "All right then. What else?"
"You remember that doctor? The malpractice case I handled with Ellenor."
"The caesarean doctor?"
"That's right. I slept with him."
"You what?" Eugene asked.
"Like you're so surprised," Jamie pointed out boldly.
"Yeah I'm surprised," Eugene replied. "When did this happen?" Jamie shrugged.
"The next night... You don't have to look so aghast Eugene, I initiated the whole thing."
"So what happened?" he asked.
"I thought that was obvious," she replied dryly.
"No. If you brought it up, obviously it's bugging you." Jamie stared at him, before her resolve dipped and she sighed, breaking eye contact.
"I wasn't in the best emotional state, I guess. The client was happy, but I couldn't stop the damages getting thrown out. The client was happy, but I lost this doctor's job, his life. I started thinking about how I would feel if I got thrown off the bar, and I asked him out for a drink. To apologise. One thing lead to another, as it turns out, he felt bad for losing his temper on the stand and we made up."
"You made up," Eugene repeated.
"You know what though?" Jamie began, turning her head to look at Eugene. "I cried." Eugene remained silent, his silence urging her to continue. "Afterwards, I went into his bathroom, shut the door, and started crying," Jamie continued, feeling somewhat uncomfortable beneath Eugene's stare but in some ways it gave her strength, and she kept talking. "Stupid, I know. I don't know why I did it. We ended up having a huge fight because he thought I fucked him out of pity, and I thought he was upset because I started crying, for God's sakes."
"Why?" Eugene asked.
"Why did you cry?" Jamie shrugged. "Jamie-"
"Fine," Jamie sighed, glancing at her watch. "Look it's complicated."
"We have lots of time." She looked over at Eugene. "If you don't want to tell me, just say so," he urged.
"I want to tell you because...you're part of the problem."
"I'm saving you till last though," Jamie smirked. Eugene smiled slightly.
"Go on," he mumbled.
"Right well, you see...it's all about control."
"Okay," Eugene narrowed his eyes, confused.
"I'm not myself because I've lost control at work, I don't know what's happening with my job, and it's something that I've needed, for a long time."
"Everybody needs to feel like they're in control of their lives, Jamie. It's normal," Eugene reassured her.
"You see though a year and a half ago I was in control and I was happy. Then...I asked you out. I made the first moves."
"I kissed you first," Eugene whispered.
"Well, after that," Jamie smirked. "But somewhere along the way, I lost control of me. The night before I decided to end it, after we'd made love for the last time, I was lying there and I realised I had no rational thinking on that."
"Did you usually?" Eugene asked dryly. If he didn't know Jamie well enough to realise this was a serious conversation, he might find some of her logic amusing, but he kept a straight face for both their sakes.
"Well, truthfully, yes," Jamie answered. "With, other men, I always made a conscious, rational decision to have sex with them; I didn't just start ripping off their clothes." Eugene frowned. Jamie took a deep breath, her voice lowering. "Of course, there was a time when almost no rational thought went into anything I did, I know that, but there's a line which I very clearly crossed-"
"You did not cross that line of your own will," Eugene interrupted, his jaw clenching as he once again thought of the man who caused her to doubt herself in this abhorrent manner. It disgusted him.
"It doesn't matter how it happened. Since then, the men I slept with, I knew I was sleeping with them. Yet months into our seeing each other, and me practically living with you, I realised I hadn't thought about making love much at all. Or rather, I had thought about it, but not for very long. I just went right ahead and did it."
"Do you, do you feel like I pushed you into it? Is that what you're saying?"
"No!" Jamie exclaimed loudly. "No, no, don't get me wrong Eugene. No way. This has absolutely nothing to do with you. I promise." Eugene nodded. "When I realised I'd lost control of that part of me, that part that... The thing is, sometimes I don't feel like a whole person." Eugene was about to interrupt when she held up her hand. "Just hear me out. A part of me isn't complete Eugene, it's in my psyche, I'm damaged and I'm getting better but it will always be there. And sometimes I feel it more strongly, and the week I ended it, I was feeling just like that. It's mostly self-doubt. When I realised I no longer controlled that part of me most associated with...what's lacking...I got scared, because I needed that rationale to get me through that week, and I didn't want you to see that part of me, and when I..." Jamie sighed, choking back tears and talking quickly as Eugene sat silently near her. "When I realised how much I loved you I knew I couldn't keep going, I had to go before you saw that I couldn't give you what you wanted because I don't have what you want Eugene, I don't, and I'm sorry, but I-"
"Shh," Eugene interrupted as Jamie covered her face with her hands, taking a few deep breaths as she calmed herself down. After several minutes, she looked back up at him, wiping her eyes.
"I got my control back, no matter how much it hurt you, and I was doing fine until Alan's antics became a bigger problem, and I realised that something was going to snap. When I lost that case, or won it, or whatever, and Robert and I had such a nice night out I...propositioned him, just like old times I guess. The control was there, but for the first time in my life, it didn't make me feel better. I just felt empty and used, and then he told me he was the one who felt used and I...I just didn't know how to react. I felt like the slut that everybody always knew I was. I don't know what this means for how I live my life. I have no control over my personal life, I have no control over my work life, but I don't even know if that's what I want any more." Jamie shrugged. "I just don't know." She looked over at Eugene and laughed when she saw his face. "I told you it would be complicated."
"Simpler than you realise," Eugene answered.
"Oh really," Jamie smiled through the tears shining in her eyes. "Maybe you can explain it to me Your Honour." Eugene rolled his eyes.
"When you talk about the doctor, or other men, you said you had sex with them, or slept with them." Jamie nodded. "But in your words, you made love with me," Eugene whispered. "Is that what it was? Do you love me?" Jamie took the easy way out and shrugged helplessly. "You know that loss of rational thought, you weren't the only one there experiencing it."
"Really?" Jamie asked softly.
"Really," Eugene answered. "And it's completely normal for a couple to be that comfortable with each other. You don't need to think about it because you've already thought about it a dozen times before and I have never hurt you, right?"
"I understand though, why you did it. If you'd just talked to me, I would have changed your mind then and we wouldn't be having this conversation-"Jamie smirked. "You haven't lost control of work. If anything you've got control. You can do whatever you want now Jamie. You can apply to whatever firms you like. You can take control just like Jimmy took control, or just like Alan, though I'd prefer if you were like Jimmy." Jamie chuckled as Eugene smiled. "It's all to do with your perception."
"My perception," Jamie repeated, testing the words on her tongue.
"Take this doctor," Eugene continued. "You felt used, you felt like a slut." Jamie's eyes met his cautiously.
"You know my past Eugene. You spoke to my friends. I-"
"Don't you dare say you are," Eugene cut her off impatiently. "You were a wild kid, but you're a decent, kind woman now and you don't need to be dwelling on all the sex you had growing up."
"Yes sir," Jamie teased, comforted by his defence, even if there was a good chance he was just saying all of this for her benefit. So he wasn't stuck in an elevator with whining Jamie, or maybe just to give him something to focus on. Jamie was grateful, at least, that he had given her something else to focus on.
"Did you ever consider," Eugene continued, oblivious to Jamie's thoughts. "That this doctor used you? I'm sure he was feeling sorry for himself. If you were that upset, he shouldn't have picked a fight with you, but he doesn't know you Jamie. Not really. He didn't know."
"I know," Jamie sighed, nodding. "It's my fault I should have told-"
"It's not your fault, and you have no obligation to tell anyone anything, unless you want to."
"I know," she repeated. Eugene drifted into silence and Jamie glanced at him. "Eugene?"
"I know your good opinion, once lost, is lost forever-"
"Hard to laugh at the propensity to hate everybody," Eugene teased. Jamie glanced at him, surprised. "Are you telling me you don't remember us sitting there and watching Pride and Prejudice for an entire day?"
"As I recall," Jamie replied. "We found other activities to do that day also." Eugene nodded. That we did, he added to himself. "And I do remember you telling me you read the book in school."
"Continue," he urged.
"I know you probably don't think much of me any more, because of what I did you ever forgive me?"
"I already have Jamie," Eugene answered softly. "You hurt my pride, my ego, but on some level, I knew you weren't suddenly disinterested, and I...knew that you would tell me if and when you were ready."
"And a big part of you thought that would be never," Jamie concluded.
"Yes," Eugene added. "But I'm glad I was wrong." Jamie smiled softly.
"What's your advice?" she asked.
"One. Start really looking for work. I will help you if you like. A HR department might not recognise you, but there are some lawyers I know who could be more effective, if that's where you want to go. Either way, try to pick a firm that will make you happy, where you can do the kind of legal work you really want to do. You're not a constitution-buff like Lindsey, you're not a criminal attorney like Ellenor, at least not at heart, I know that. And you don't have to be."
"What am I then?" Jamie asked.
"You don't know?" She shrugged. "You care about people. When Ellenor wanted to drop the malpractice case because of the cap, you wouldn't let her. When you walked into that hospital late one night you pushed past men twice your size to help a client. That's who you are. It might not be the glamorous ideal you had in law school but maybe that ideal is wrong. You should be in a position where you can genuinely make a difference Jamie. That was in this firm, and it's in another one, you just have to find it." Jamie nodded.
"Well first of all, don't sleep with any more strange men. It's dangerous and you're better than that. If you needed to make yourself feel worse I'm sure we could find an assortment of soda or ice cream or...whatever you women like to do to drown your sorrows...just no sex."
"At all?" Jamie asked, mocking mortification. Eugene rolled his eyes despite the sense of satisfaction in seeing her tease.
"Secondly, you have to realise that you didn't achieve control by having sex. You might've had control over him, but you couldn't possibly have made a rational decision about that. You probably felt so bad because you were controlling him and losing control simultaneously, and you didn't feel safe."
"He's a doctor, of course I felt safe," Jamie answered. Eugene glanced at her plainly.
"You could've sat there and had this conversation with him, you were that close?" he asked. Jamie bit her bottom lip, giving in. "There was a point, with me, where you didn't feel safe, and that's when you made the decision," he continued. "Do you remember when or what it was?" Jamie nodded.
"It's going to sound really stupid," she warned softly after thinking for a while.
"I don't care," Eugene shrugged.
"It was night time, we were in bed. You were on your side turned away from me, and I had this feeling that you were still awake, lying there facing away from me, so that I would think you were asleep. And then I started asking myself what would you be waiting for? And I couldn't sleep; I got so scared I climbed out of bed and sat in that chair in the corner for a couple of hours, watching you. You'd been asleep the whole time, of course."
"Jamie," Eugene whispered.
"I know, it sounds, so, so stupid," she continued, running her hand down her damp cheeks. "I guess I was also a little scared because I...I kept thinking that one day you were going to wake up and realise you didn't want a long term relationship with me because I'm white, and I'm blonde, and I'm younger than you by more than a couple of years."
"I like you just the way you are," Eugene answered. "White or blonde or not, although if you dye that hair I might just have to change my statement." Jamie smiled.
"I'm not going to dye my hair."
"Good, because I love it," Eugene continued without thinking. Jamie smiled genuinely. "Do you want to try to work this out? Is this what you're telling me tonight?" Jamie thought.
"I'm lonely, Eugene," she stated.
"So am I," he added. "Maybe I could come over for dinner?"
"To my place?" Jamie asked, surprised.
"You want some control, right?"
"I don't think you want me to have control in the kitchen. Trust me, you're the cook, I'll do the washing up." Eugene shook his head, amused. "I um, I never needed much control with you Eugene," She continued softly. "I mean, occasionally, yeah, but you never minded and I don't know, it seemed less like control and more like natural behaviour."
"That's because it is natural behaviour," Eugene deadpanned. Jamie rolled her eyes.
"Give me a break. I...enjoy being with you and not worrying about what I'm thinking, because most of the time I can't hear myself think around you anyway, and because...I don't know, I like having that joint control. When you come home and you call out for me, or when I go out in search of you...I haven't had that to the same extent as you, ever, I don't think, so maybe I felt a little overwhelmed."
"What about now?" Eugene asked. "Would you be okay now? We could go back to the start and-"
"I don't want to go back to the start," Jamie answered. "Not entirely. I missed you," she smiled, a smile Eugene easily returned. He reached out for her hand and she shuffled closer to him until they were beside each other, their hips touching. "Thankyou," Jamie added.
"Okay," Eugene shrugged it off.
"You don't even know what I'm talking about do you?" she asked with a smile. Eugene frowned down at her.
"You think I told you all of this because I felt the sudden urge to get it off my chest?"
"It's kept my mind off the fact we're stuck in an elevator."
"Oh yes, we're going to plunge to our deaths," Eugene teased. Jamie reached up and pinched him through his suit, hard on the upper arm. "Ow!" Eugene rubbed his arm as Jamie pulled back.
"Don't even joke about something like that," she stated. Eugene softened as he read her expression easily.
"Do elevators in particular frighten you or is it more the enclosed space?" he asked.
"Both, actually," she whispered as Eugene took her hand in his once again. "Lucky you kept my mind on other things or I would've been freaking out by now." Eugene smiled.
He'd known she was claustrophobic from the minute she commented on the doors opening, and maybe this was strategy on his part, but he was grateful for it nonetheless and he wasn't about to let her know.
Eugene wrapped his arm around Jamie's shoulder and pulled her close, setting a kiss on her forehead as he felt her wrap her arms around his middle, snuggling into his side.
"Come over tonight?" he asked. Jamie nodded against him, placing a kiss on his stomach through his white shirt, closing her eyes and taking comfort in the familiarity of his scent and his warm embrace.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"Don't be," Eugene answered. "I learned more tonight than I ever expected, and I... Thankyou." They pulled each other closer.
Just as Eugene closed his eyes, there was movement above them. Jamie flinched but smiled as the elevator started chugging back up slowly. It stopped, and both Eugene and Jamie held their breaths, but the doors soon opened to reveal a frustrated superintendent and a flustered Ellenor.
"Are you both all right? You must've been in there for hours!" Eugene and Jamie stood, pulling each other up as Ellenor carefully examined Jamie's flushed face as Eugene checked his watch. "Jamie are you all right?"
"Fine," Jamie answered. Ellenor resisted the urge to roll her eyes. That girl spent too much time with Eugene. Why were they always fine, dammit? She shook her head. It didn't really matter, and by the looks of things, they'd been in there talking about much more important issues. Like maybe why they weren't fine, she hoped. "Why didn't you use your phones to call for help?" Ellenor added.
Jamie and Eugene both looked at each other, before starting to laugh.
"Oops," Eugene chuckled, reaching into his pocket and fishing out his mobile phone. "Oh, it's dead anyway." This time Ellenor did roll her eyes.
"Doesn't matter," Jamie answered, shaking her head. She and Eugene shared a glance, both smiling. It was worth it.