"Mr. Stern, I have your next case; are you ready for it?"
Ulrich sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It had been a long week and he was ready to be finished with work for the day. With thoughts of Yumi and the baby constantly on his mind, he was finding it difficult to concentrate on anything else.
"Sure, you can send them in. Thank you."
It was definitely something, he mused as he waited, that no matter what age they were, the gang never failed to do things as a team. He chuckled to himself and leaned back in his chair. They grew up together, they graduated from Kadic together, and they lived in the same area so they could continue to be together. There was no splitting the gang up. Although, Ulrich never imagined that their togetherness could go so far as all three females going through pregnancy at the same time…
His thoughts were interrupted by the door to his office opening and the firm's secretary, Katherine, ushering in his next case. He was surprised when he looked up and met the gaze of a girl who looked no older than fifteen.
"Mr. Stern, this is Charlotte." Ignoring his questioning glance, Katherine turned to Charlotte and offered her a gentle smile, "This is Mr. Stern; he will be representing you. Don't worry, sweetie, we're going to take good care of you."
Charlotte gave a small nod, but continued to stare at the floor. Once Katherine left, the room was silent. Ulrich studied the girl curiously. She appeared to be very nervous. She had a mess of curly blond hair pulled back into a loose ponytail and was wearing a blue cheer leading uniform and an overcoat. Ulrich guessed she had just come from school.
"You can have a seat right here, Charlotte," he gestured to the seat in front of his desk, "it's nice to meet you." She timidly plopped down in the chair, but did not make any verbal sign that she had even heard him.
"So…what is it that I can do for you?"
The girl finally looked up to meet his gaze, and after a moment of hesitation, said, "I don't know. To tell you the truth, I don't really want to be here."
Ulrich was hardly taken aback by the gentle declaration, but could not help his curiosity from getting the better of him.
"Well Charlotte, if you don't want to be here, then why are you?"
"In all honesty, I didn't really have a choice," she spoke slowly while taking off her pink jacket in attempts to make herself comfortable, "it's just that, well I mean, I guess I did sort of have a choice in coming here, but I…" Ulrich was not able to catch the rest of what the girl was saying because in that moment, his eyes were fixated on a huge, purple welt on Charlotte's left arm that was revealed with the removal of her coat.
"Mr. Stern...? Is everything okay?"
He frantically searched for her file in the mess of papers lying haphazardly on his desk, barely aware of Charlotte's questioning concern. He finally found the manila folder. With shaky hands, he tore open the file and looked at the first page inside in wide-eyed horror.
Name: James, Charlotte A.
DOB: July 22
Seeking emancipation or change of custody.
Victim of domestic violence/abuse.
Ulrich's mind went blank.