Paper cups surround a small notebook of scribbled words on a table. If coffee was able to directly take away pain like alcohol, Grace, a 26-year old woman with unkempt curly hair, would be drunk by now. Her black liquid eyeliner is stapled on her eyes to prevent her from rubbing her eyes in frustration, anger, and tears. She doesn’t have time to think about herself and her emotions; she’s sitting here to study, take notes, possibly anything to win this case.
She finally cups her hands on her face. Her misery is interrupted when her cellphone buzzes on the table. She looks up at the screen. The screen reads “Emerson”.
Grace: *picks up* Whatcha want, Kamalani?
Emerson: Ouch, is that how you pick up the phone for your best friend?
Grace rolls her eyes, and Emerson comments on how he could “literally hear the eye roll through the phone”.
Grace: What do you need, Emerson? You know I’m trying to get this case together.
Emerson: Geez Grace, you can’t just take a break for one second and like– I don’t know– breathe?
Grace doesn’t respond, she just continues to look at the notes in her notebook and sips for umpteenth cup of coffee.
Emerson: I just wanted to check on you; I feel like I haven’t spoken to you in literal ages. You’re always too busy to live your life like you used to…
Grace: *annoyed* Yeah, well shit happens and shit needs to get done.
Silence. After a moment, a deep exhale is heard over the phone.
Emerson: Grace, I know Max leaving was tough on you–
Grace hangs up the phone and goes back to her notebook. She refuses to discuss something that she knows will slow her progress and process down. She angrily flips through the pages of the notebook. She stops for a moment and rubs her eyes. Fuck. The black liquid eyeliner. She scrambles through her bag and in a hurry, she drops her notes and her notebook flies open. She mouths “fuck” and places the compact mirror back in her bag. She bends down and tries to gather her papers. She hears someone speaking to her from above. She doesn’t look up, but she notices a shadow over her as well as a man’s black boots. She looks up to see a man kneeling in front of her.
The man is wearing wire-thin glasses; he’s wearing a white mask on his chin, a gray cardigan with blue jeans and black and white Converse. Grace feels inappropriately dressed with her denim shorts and an over-sized t-shirt that *might* have a coffee stain on it.
Grace: *quickly gathers papers* Sorry, you don’t have to help me, it’s fine–
The guy doesn’t stop helping, he gathers the papers until they both pick up all of them from the floor. They both get up from the floor.
The man hands over the papers to Grace. She takes them and smiles.
Grace: Thank you…
She notices a name tag on his shirt. It reads the name “Jamie”.
Grace: … Jamie.
The guys looks down to his name tag; he smiles at Grace.
Jamie: Looks like you’re working on some case there.
Grave looks down at the pile of papers she just sat down on the table. She rubs her neck in shame; she should be more careful with documents like this.
Grace: *humorously* Yeah, lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon; studying on some files in the middle of a cafe.
Jamie: *laughs* Hey, we’ve all been there before.
Grace raises her eyebrow in confusion.
Grace: Been there? You mean you’re not currently going through this madness? *lightbulb* Wait, you’re a lawyer?!
Grace watches Jamie laugh softly; her face is now flushed in red.
Jamie: Yeah, I’m on a case here for a couple of months. I’ve been a lawyer for about 3 years now.
Grace: *pulls her hair back; stressed* Holy shit, how did you get through this? Like–
Without realizing it, Grace takes her bag out of the chair across from her and pushes the chair out a little. Jamie looks at her, confused.
Grace: Tell me your secrets, man.
Jamie smiles and sits down across from Grace. He looks down at the paperwork and see that a name “Grace Ashmore” is written.
Jamie: Is Grace the person you’re defending?
Grace looks at the paper, she shakes her head.
Grace: No, no, I’m Grace… *another lightbulb* Shit, I didn’t introduce myself; I’m Grace.
Grace’s face instantly gets red again.
Grace: Sorry, clearly I don’t get enough sleep anymore; my manners go away with my sleep schedule.
Jamie laughs, which actually makes Grace feel a bit better.
Jamie: Is this your first official case as a defense lawyer?
Grace: Yeah, my first taste of a case was when I was interning for my current law firm. I got into this huge case really quick. Won the case, but really at what cost?
Jamie takes a sip of his coffee and sets it gently away from the overflow of papers.
Jamie: Those are the worst cases to have. You have to truly go against some of your own thoughts and opinions on the case and just side with the person who’s paying you. It truly does make you think if sometimes you’re helping the guilty be set free just because they give you a nice hefty paycheck if you win.
Grace looks down at the paperwork in front of her; Jamie notices her sudden reaction to his words.
Jamie: *nervously* I didn’t mean to say–
Grace shakes her head in protest, laughing it off.
Grace: I mean, you’re not wrong, it just sounds like we make some shitty people, just siding with the ones that pay us because like, it’s our jobs, y’know?
Jamie: Yeah, but good thing those cases are slim to none, I’m sorry you had to deal with one as your intern case. But, you’re probably are a great defense lawyer because of it.
Grace looks at Jamie and notices his crooked smile. His teeth are straight but still imperfect, but they give him some innocence and softness to his face. She smiles without even realizing it.
Grace: Thanks, I’m trying. Hopefully one day, we’ll see.
Grace sips her coffee while Jamie stares at her, sipping his. She notices him looking, but he instantly looks down when they meet eyes. She tilts her head, wondering what that was all about.
Jamie: So, what’s it just you on the intern case? I remember being with a partner on mine.
Grace shifts in her seat, gathers the loose papers and puts them back into a folder.
Grace: *sighs* No, there was another person working with me. We walked on the case together.
Grace plays with her fingernails, ripping off skin near her cuticles as she spoke. Jamie noticed the sudden change in Grace’s behavior.
Jamie: Did you guys win the case?
Grace: Define “win”. I mean, do we ever truly win when we do jobs like this?
Jamie leans back into his chair, raising his eyebrow and looks at Grace. She crosses her arms across her chest, visibly uncomfortable in her seat.
Jamie: Do you wish you did things differently?
Grace: I mean, who doesn’t? All of our intern cases were absolute shit, I can imagine.
Jamie: But you live and you learn right?
Grace looks straight at Jamie, who is still leaning back against his chair. Grace notices him softly smiling; his bottom lip disappearing and his dimple appearing on his cheek. Grace warily looks at Jamie.
Grace: I guess, but you get some shit along the way in the process.
Jamie: But that’s how you learn. What you learned in that intern case will now be used to get through your first official case. Don’t let your past get the best of you.
Grace says nothing. She remembers spending her days working on the case with her partner, who would then come to her place after work and make out on the couch after a long, hard and stressful day. She remembers how much shit her partner came to her rescue for when she was losing it and not taking care of herself. She looks at Jamie, and although she doesn’t even know him, she feels the calmest she’s been in a really long time.
Grace: Thanks, I’ll definitely try.
Jamie smiles and puts his hands back on the table, he looks down at the papers in front of him and takes the top one and reads it. Grace intently looks at Jamie.
Grace: So, what’s your deal?
Jamie looks up and straight into Grace’s eyes. Fuck. His eyes are the most chocolate brown, and his eyebrows are cocked.
Jamie: Pardon me?
Grace: I mean, you don’t know me, I don’t know you, yet here we are, having coffee, you casually giving me advice like we’ve been friends for years now.
Jamie: *laughing* You’re really interesting, you know that?
Grace is now less tense. Gosh, that giggle.
Grace: Gotta be in this line of work. Does that make you just as interesting?
Jamie’s eyes widen and a smirk is visible on his face. Grace instantly turns red. Fuck, she didn’t mean for it come out as flirty as it did.
Jamie: I did just willingly sit across a complete stranger at a coffee shop without knowing their name. I guess we both got something in common.
Grace smiles until her phone goes off. Fuck, she’s going to be late. She quickly gathers her papers in a rush.
Grace: Fuck, I’m going to be late– I’m sorry for cutting this short, I–
Jamie gets up and helps Grace get up from her seat and gathers her things with her. Grace stops in her tracks; what a gentleman.
Jamie: Good luck with your first case, Grace. It was a pleasure meeting you.
He reaches out his hand for Grace. She hesitantly reaches out for it and shakes Jamie’s hand. He smiles and shakes her hand.
Grace: See you around?
Fuck. Grace. Jamie softly laughs and his smile is now wide. God, he’s adorable.
Grace smiles and walks away towards the front door of the coffee shop. She walks out and stops in her tracks. She Takes a deep breath and takes her phone out of her pocket to make a phone call. The smile she had on her face vanishes.
Grace: *on the phone* Hey, Max… yeah, I’ll pick her up today… give me a half an hour to drop my work bag at my place and then I’ll come get her for the weekend… yeah, okay.
She quickly hangs up the phone and goes back to her home screen; it’s a picture of Grace and a baby with auburn curly hair, sitting on her lap. Grace smiles.