San Francisco, Brando's Bar, Monday Night, 8:45 pm
Kate sat at the bar waiting for Justin. Brando's was a very "hip", urban "hot spot" – popular with established, successful lawyers and other professionals. The interior was sleek and modern – dark plum colored walls with chrome fixtures, blond hardwood floors, lots of shiny glass and high end art offset with large and small vases of brightly colored, exotic flowers placed strategically throughout the space for their best display. The crowd was mostly 30's and above who were "established" – or at least on their way. You'd hear Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Ella Fitzgerald, Buble', Harry Connick Jr. and old standards playing there for the most part, the kind of music the parents and grandparents of the current crowd would have listened to – in its actual prime. The younger set had rediscovered the former era's finest talents, making it all "cool" again.
Kate brought her and Justin's divorce papers to the bar. They had agreed to meet, sign the papers, have a drink and finalize the thing already, instead of dragging it out any longer. It was certainly time – it had already been 5 months since they legally separated and divided their shared assets. Kate had taken a bad settlement, which Justin (honorably) pointed out, but she didn't care. At the time she just wanted - no needed - a radical change in her life – she felt like she was suffocating and she didn't care if it cost a little more than it had to if it bought her freedom. Besides, her larger fortune, her inheritance from her father, was intact, in a trust fund. Justin had no claim to it. Although, he wasn't the kind of guy who would even try to get a piece of it. He had too much integrity and he simply wasn't driven by money.
Within the plain, manila envelope in front of her was the last bit of "marriage" between her and Justin. It was just paperwork finalizing the end of their union. She felt overwhelmingly sad about it, but knew it had to be done – dispatched as it were – regardless of her current feelings. Sometimes the right thing really "sucks" but it is still the "right thing". Kate was concerned though - Justin was already 45 minutes late – which was so not like him. He would typically call if he was going to be late or had to reschedule. Maybe he was "freaked out" by this whole thing, though. Very possible. Kate tried calling Justin's cell and it went directly to voicemail. "That can't be good", she thought.
As she sat there – her scotch nearly untouched in front of her – lost in thought – a man suddenly walked up to the bar. Making sure that she saw him, he openly smiled at her – saying to the bartender, "Plymouth and tonic." Kate, said simply, "Check please," deciding it was time to leave, since Justin was clearly not coming and she was attracting unwanted attention.
"Do you always come in the door leaving," the man asked. Kate looked at her bill, not wanting to be offensive, but not wanting to talk to the man either, and said "It is just not my scene," half smiling. "Really? He asked. "Well, either you were born on that bar stool or you're disguised as a woman looking for attention," he taunted her. "And you're wearing a three thousand dollar suit with a pocket square" Kate retorted, a little sharply. He smiled, enjoying getting a rise out of her. "I believe my motives are clear," he said smirking assuredly and sitting on the bar stool next to her. "Sorry, it has been a while since someone offered to buy me a drink," she said apologetically, realizing she had been a bit rude. He raised his eyebrows, "Really, did the world go blind? He said in genuine disbelief, since she was by anyone's standards, a "beauty". "I'm married", Kate said. His expression changed to guarded, then respectful. Kate continued, "Was married. Now I'm not. The Ex was on his way to sign the – whatever", she said gesturing at the envelope in front of her, "but he has obviously blown me off," she finished, shaking her head. "Well, it's just as well, he would have changed his mind," the man said, flirting. "Nice try," she replied. "Maybe it will feel – normal – someday," she said, signing her credit card receipt and shrugging.
"Do you believe in fate?" He asked. "Is that a line?" Kate asked. "It's a question. It takes the edge off picking up strangers at bars," he replied, watching her carefully. Kate looked at him intently, intrigued. He was interesting and kind of sweet, in a weird kind of way, for someone who was obviously trying to pick her up.
Kate sighed. "I'm 29, nearly divorced, recently orphaned and more recently out of a job. My life is in this kind of unexpected place, so yes, I believe in fate. And I think she is a fickle, fickle bitch," Kate admitted openly. "You seem broken," he said, raising his eyebrows, looking impressed, "I like that". "And you're a 'fixer'', Kate "shot" back. "No," he said. "Yeah, yeah…." she continued. "No," he said adamantly, shaking his head. "I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear," he stated. "We'll, at least you're honest about it. You don't see that much," Kate replied with a small laugh. "Oh. You must be a lawyer," he said cocking his head to the side. "School teacher," Kate said, unconvincingly. "Okay, well then, I'm a decent guy and you're a school teacher – so, here's to honesty," he said raising his glass, to "toast" her obvious lie. Kate raised her glass to his – clicking lightly. Draining her glass, Kate shuddered involuntarily at the strength of the liquor and looked at him, "And, good night," she said, picking up her "divorce envelope" and walking past him.
"Is truth the way to your heart?" He asked suddenly as she swept past him. Kate turned sharply, looking a little pissed off. He raised his hands, in mock surrender. "Sorry, counselor. We have not established that you have a heart," he said teasing her. Kate walked up to him, drawing close, so that her nose was almost touching his nose and her mouth was within a half inch of his mouth. He looked a little startled, but didn't move. "The way to my heart," she said earnestly, "is to do everything and to say nothing, no foreplay, no negotiation, no strategy, just be who you are and take me…." Before she could finish, he placed his hand behind her neck, pulling her to him, kissing her long and hard. Kate leaned into him and kissed him back, unexpectedly. They pulled apart and looked at each other, both surprised by the intensity of the kiss.
He put his arm around her waist. "I'm Ben," he said. "I'm Kate," she said. He kissed her again. "Kate, would you like to get out of here?" He asked. Kate looked at him. He was handsome, well-dressed and a really good kisser. It would be nice to forget about Justin and everything else for a little while. "Can you be a charming distraction for me, Ben, with no complications?" She asked him. "I will be anything you want right now Kate," Ben replied. "Okay then. Yes, I want to get out of here," Kate replied.
Tuesday morning, 6:46 am, Ben's Apartment
Beep. Beep…..Beep. Beep….. Beep. Beep….. Beep. Beep….. Beep. Beep
Ben reached over and turned off the alarm. "Sorry," he said. Kate, turned towards him and asked, "What time is it?" "It's my usual wake-up time - 6:46 am", Ben said apologetically. "Oh, my God", Kate said, rolling over and grabbing a pillow, burying her face in it. "Do you have any appointments this morning?" Ben asked. "No, I don't have anything until 1 pm," Kate replied. "Really? That's about the same for me. I guess we could have slept in a little," Ben said, running his index finger from the base of her spine to her neck. Kate turned over, facing him. "Yeah, that would have been nice," she said pointedly. Ben smiled, leaning in to kiss her.
Tuesday morning, 11:55 am, Reed & Reed offices
Kate walked up to Leo's desk. "Hey," she said smiling, much more enthusiastically than Leo expected for a Tuesday morning (or any morning, lately, for that matter). He looked at Kate suspiciously. "What did you do?" Leo asked. Kate reacted immediately, "What? Nothing! Well, okay, nothing, much…..I met someone." Leo looked a little shocked. "Wow. Okay, not what I expected." Kate looked quizzical. "What did you expect?" "Not sure – maybe a nice breakfast, or something - but definitely not that," he replied.
"Well, it was great, especially since we'll never see each other again. No complications," Kate finished, smiling. "You know I never do this kind of thing, but it was so awesome to forget about Justin and all that for a little while," Kate said, sounding relieved. Leo smiled, "Well, whatever it takes to make you happy, Kate," he said assuredly, "I'm behind it."
Tuesday afternoon, 1:00 pm, Reed & Reed offices
Kate walked into the conference room. She shook the clients' hands as well as the opposing attorney, Bob Mahoney, who she already knew from previous dealings. He was also a family connection, since he had known her father for years. The clients' attorney had his back to them as he prepared his coffee. After a minute, he turned around for introductions.
Ben and Kate faced each other and both found themselves momentarily speechless.
Bob Mahoney, noticed their obvious pause. "Do you two know each other?" He asked politely.
"Kind of," Kate said carefully. Ben shook his head affirmatively, "Yes, briefly, but memorably," he stated flatly. "Kate settled a case for me, before, with better results than I expected," Ben concluded, in a very professional tone. Kate, tilted her head, saying sweetly, "Glad to hear it. I don't always get feedback - on a case," she said smiling. "My pleasure," Ben said simply.
Bob Mahoney smiled, sensing the room was "comfortable". "Okay, glad everyone knows each other. Should we get started?" He asked looking at Kate. She nodded her assent and everyone took a place at the table. Kate and Ben looked at each other, briefly, discreetly, and Kate said, "Okay. Everyone, I'm Kate Reed and I am your mediator today…"