I haven’t been sharing anything about my new project because I wasn’t (and still am not) sure it was going to take off… but sometimes you just have to put your author pants on (or take them off? Authors don’t like pants!) and stick your neck out there. So I’m sharing a snip today. Hope you like it!
*All the usual stuff applies… unedited, subject to change. Or not see the light of day.*
My plans were interrupted by the shrill ring of the phone, sitting across the yard where I’d left it. I laid the shovel down next to the garden bed and strolled across the lawn, grabbing the phone up before it rolled to voicemail.
“Gibson Kincaid,” I answered, dropping into one of the chairs placed around a glass topped patio table.
“Uhm…hello. ” I recognized her voice right away, even over the phone line. Most of my body came to attention at the sound. “I… uh… this is Vanessa Jackson. We met earlier today, at Kincaid?”
“I remember. I hope you’re calling to discuss your case.”
I had no idea why I was even offering to help her. Deadbeat and low paying as the cases were, I had plenty to keep me busy. Maybe it was her eyes, or the cloud of disappointment and dejection that surrounded her as she came out of Mother’s office, but something compelled me to reach out to her.
Background noise, which sounded like a bar, almost overpowered her voice as she answered. “I was, actually. And I’m sure you spoke to Sylvia after we met, so you know all the details and I want you to know that I’m not looking for a handout. I’m in a situation and I need legal help to get out of it.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to ask for a handout. And I didn’t speak to my mother about you.” Which wasn’t really a lie. We quickly moved on to her usual grievances during our meeting. “So, why don’t you tell me about your situation and how I can help.”
“Well,” she began with a sigh. The noise behind her quieted, then disappeared as I heard the soft thunk of a door closing. “I’ve been separated almost a year. Not legally— my husband… left. He’s moved on. But we’ve made almost no progress with dissolving our marriage. Things are getting ugly so I need to move as quickly as I can without compromising support for my daughters. Sylvia seemed hell bent on going after money and assets and…”
She sighed a soft breath into the phone. “That’s not really what I was looking for.”
My eyebrows rose at the mention of her daughters. “You have children? And he’s not providing for them?”
“Yes, two. He sees them when he feels like seeing them, which isn’t often. The bigger issue is that there’s no support order because either he won’t agree to anything or he threatens to file for bankruptcy so there won’t be any money to pay a support order —”
“Vanessa,” I gently interrupted. “Hang on a second. First, it’s not up to him. If he’s telling you that he controls the amount he pays or even if he pays support, he’s talking out of his… well, you know. If he’s left the family home and he’s living with someone else, has begun another relationship, we have a case for abandonment. But this is separate from a divorce action.”
“Oh… I…” The line was quiet except for the barely detectable hum that told me she was still there. “I didn’t know that. He said…” She huffed. “So, I could have filed for support a long time ago?”
“Let’s not worry about what you could have done. The past is lived and we can’t go back. Let’s talk about the future and what I can do for you.”
By the time I finished talking to Vanessa, she sounded more hopeful, less terrified and desperate. Her almost ex-husband was a piece of work— the lies he fed her kept her right where he wanted her, just below the surface, scrambling for air, poor and scared to make a move. She barely knew which way was up.
The sun was a crimson, glowing line along the horizon. The evening was growing cooler and the breeze coming off of the lake was chilly. I pulled myself up from the patio chair and ambled toward the doors, sliding them open and stepping into the house. I worked my gardening boots off of my feet and left them at the mat that I kept near the door.
“I’d like to you to review some documents and fill out some paperwork so we can get started. We can also discuss my fee.”
“Wait… does this mean you want to take my case?”
“It’s more a question of if you want to retain me. This isn’t a quickie divorce but it’s not complicated, either. I promise you, though, that you’ll be a free woman sooner than you think.”
“Wow,” she replied, practically breathless. “With everything that’s been going on, I just thought— I can’t even believe it’s possible right now. Thank you. I mean, really. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. You haven’t seen my fee schedule.”
I laughed and was happy to hear the return of a low, sexy giggle in my ear. I moved to the kitchen, where I pulled a container of leftover steak tips and rice from the refrigerator, placed it in the microwave and set the timer for a few minutes. I leaned my hip against the counter and listened to the fan as the machine warmed my dinner.
“I can’t imagine that you want to come back to the law office to go over paperwork. I’m usually out in the community a few days a week. Is there a place I can meet you?”
“Uh…” A deep, heavy breath sounded over the line. “I’m a real estate agent, so I could be anywhere at any time during the day. But… actually, I had to pick up a second job at my Uncle’s restaurant. I’ll probably be here most nights. Sam’s Bar & Grille? On Broad in Decatur. You probably don’t know the place—”
I almost laughed out loud. “Home of Sam’s famous lemon pepper chicken wings? I sure do know the place.”
She sucked in a breath, which I read as surprise. “How do you know about Sam’s?”
“I take some meetings at Gladwell Books next door. It’s nice in there, but after a while, a man needs something more substantial than a cinnamon raisin scone and fancy coffee. It’s an old fashioned place for sure but your uncle knows how to… how do they say it? Put a hurtin’ on some chicken?”
“Yeah, they say that, but I better not tell him that someone called his lemon pepper wings famous. We’ll never hear the end of it.” Her lightened mood was palpable over the line, now. She was laughing freely, which was a really… nice sound. “So… I’m here from six to nine most nights. Stop in for dinner when you can and we can talk.”
“It’s a date,” is what I said, before I could stop myself. “I mean… I’ll stop in.”
“Sounds great, Gibson. I’ll…I’ll see you soon.”
The line disconnected and I tucked the phone away, then opened the microwave door to quiet its incessant beeping.
“Just another case, Gib,” I mumbled to myself. I dumped the container of beef and rice onto a plate, then headed to the living room and settled into my favorite leather recliner. The widescreen mammoth TV popped on at the press of a button, mid-broadcast of a baseball game.
Just another case. Yeah. Right.