Authors: Sydney Aaliyah Michelle
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A bead of sweat made its way down my butt crack as I wrapped my hand around my seven-year-old’s spare inhaler. It would work if my throat closed up, right? Holding the plastic contraption offered some comfort as I sat in my boss’s office waiting for him to fire me.
I stared at the portrait on the wall. My boss, Adam Coulon, sat stiff-back and uncomfortable with his mousy wife and two ordinary looking children. I eyed the divorce papers sitting in the middle of his desk. I knew they were there because I drafted them. He didn’t fit in. I guessed that was part of the reason they were getting a divorce.
Adam was hot, for a forty-year-old southern lawyer. While I caught him checking out my curves, he treated me with respect. So the fact I was willing to give him a little something, if it would save my job, showed my desperation.
I don't mean that.
The something, something part, not the desperate part. I was desperate. I didn't want to start all over again.
I worked for Adam part-time throughout law school and full-time during the summers. He changed so much in those years, so did I. Mrs. Coulon, did not. Another reason he was moving to Arizona and she was staying here.
Shit, I'm stuck here, too. What does that say about me?
My eyes focused on the sadness in his wife’s eyes. They met in elementary school. I wondered if he knew in the second grade that she would turn into the woman in the photo.
“Hey, Carrington, I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” Adam shuffled in wearing baggy jeans, tennis shoes, and an untucked golf shirt. The baseball hat completed his casual look. He dropped a few boxes behind the desk and fell into his chair.
At least he could have dressed up to send me packing.
Adam started his own law firm after he graduated from law school. He grew up in Tallahassee, worked his way through school, and built his career around sports and Southern charm. He would say the key to being a good lawyer was to be in the right place at the right time and have the right people notice you.
Mr. Griffin, my son’s grandfather, respected the hell out of him because he graduated from FSU. I liked him because, despite several attempts, Mr. Griffin couldn’t hire him. He built his business from the ground up and ten years later, he had law firms fighting over him.
Hence the reason for my sudden unemployment.
“So, have you been to Arizona? What do you think of the place?” he asked.
“No. I’ve never been. I heard it’s hot in the summer.” I bit my tongue to stop myself from continuing.
Is he really asking me for my opinion of his new hometown? Unbelievable!
“Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.” He chuckled.
I shook my head as he emphasized the absurd cliché about Arizona heat.
“Yeah, no humidity, but no beach, either.” Maybe I could convince him that Phoenix sucked. Not that he spent much time at the beach. Neither did I.
“True, but the firm is great. Have the right areas of practice to get involved in some interesting stuff.”
“Great.” My hands tensed, but I removed them from around the inhaler. Perhaps, if I passed out, he would take pity on me and not fire me.
Every time I got my life back on track, something out of my control threw it off its axis.
I headed off to FSU seven years ago, ready to start my adult life and within a year, I got pregnant and my boyfriend killed himself.
A year later, with optimism and a newfound ambition, I headed back to FSU ready to claim the man I should have been with in the first place. Jokes on me; he already had a girlfriend. Even though he ended it with her, when I found out he slept with both of us on the same day, I dumped him.
That’s the story I am going with.
I got through all of that, graduated from undergrad and law school, and found a great job. All the while taking care of my son without relying on anyone’s assistance, and now I had to start all over again.
“On my last trip, I thought I would find a place in the city, but then fell in love with Paradise Valley. It’s only a twenty-minute drive to the office, and the golf out there is beautiful. You play golf?”
“No sir, I never had time to learn with a five-year-old running around. Jack’s been with his grandfather, though.”
Oh shit, why did I mention Mr. Griffin?
Mentioning my son's uber-rich grandfather was not the right approach. My goal was to emphasize how losing my job would be a great hardship on me ... and my poor child ...who I raised ... all by myself.
“But you can’t beat Florida for the variety of golf courses.”
“Yeah, but Phoenix is beautiful. I’m looking forward to doing some hiking. Besides, working with the Cardinals, you know what that means?”
“Season tickets." He grinned.
My heart rate sped up as the conversation turned toward NFL talk. Anything football-related soured my mood. I hated that ‘Are you ready for some football?’ song. I used to love football. Now, it gave me a headache, which wouldn’t be so bad if my son wasn’t a football fanatic.
"Plus, the Super Bowl is going to be held there in two years. Perfect timing.”
Why is he rubbing it in?
“Yeah, perfect timing.” I grinned and suppressed the urge to throw up. For him, perfect timing, but for me, the timing couldn’t be worse.
“I’ll be working closely with the Cardinals. The firm has worked with the owner’s family for over forty years.”
My mind wandered as he babbled on about Arizona. Four years later, my heart ached with the mention of anything that reminded me of Jackson Mitchell. He was the one who got away or the one I pushed away, depending on who you asked.
Since the reunion experiment that blew up in my face, we have spoken maybe six times … in seven years. In contrast, he spoke with my son Jack all the time.
And no, I'm not jealous.
I got a text when I graduated from law school as neutral and non-emotional as the one I left him when he got drafted.
I answered his text the same way he answered mine.
I assumed he knew about my life, but he stayed away. Mr. Hotshot NFL quarterback had no time for his mentally unstable, friend, enemy, …I had no clue what Jackson and I were to each other.
He maintained his good godfather status by spending time with Jack every chance he got. Jack insisted on watching every game. Jackson was his godfather and explaining to my son the complicated relationship dynamic between Jackson and me was
for a child.
I pushed my feelings aside and did the right thing. I never denied him a chance to see Jack. I went as far as to allow Mr. Griffin to take Jack to a few games.
I shook my head.
“What’s wrong?” Adam asked.
“Oh, nothing, what were you saying?”
Come on Carrington, the least you can do is listen while your boss is firing you.
“Well, like I said, the firm has offices in over ten cities, and they want to pursue business with some other franchises, as well. Not just in football. Anyway, I’ll be doing a lot of traveling and visiting the kids in Tampa once a month, so I’ll rely on you. You’re my eyes and ears when I’m out of the office. It will give you a lot of access, but the pace is similar to here, so you will have plenty of time with Jack.”
“Are you listening to me at all?” Adam asked.
“Yes, travel a lot, eyes and ears, yeah, I got it.” I blinked and sat up. “Wait, what?”
“I’m offering you a position at the firm in Phoenix.”
“I’m sorry, what?” I tilted my head and leaned in closer, gripping the arms of the chair. It wasn’t sinking in. I had my brain all set to hear bad news. “Really?”
“Yeah,” his eyes narrows, “but I’m starting to forget why?”
A smile crept up at the corner of my mouth; I cleared my throat and breathed a little easier.
“Because I am a great lawyer and because you can’t get along without me.”
“Something like that.” He laughed and stood up from his desk with an envelope in his hand. He came around to sit in the worn-out brown leather chair. “Carrington, you are a damn good lawyer and you like to do all the stuff I hate to do, like read. I think you would do great in Phoenix. We could both use a change of scenery.”
He blinked away the pain in his eyes as his eyes peeked at the portrait of his family.
“You don’t have to answer me right away. Read over the offer letter and let me know if you have any questions." He handed over the envelope and returned to his side of the desk. " I need an answer in one hour.”
“I thought you were firing me.”
“Technically, I am. Coulon and Associates no longer exists.” He gripped his desk and nodded.
He was moving onto bigger and better things. Change, whether you want it or not, was never easy.
Answer: Chanel suits and Prada heels. Question: what’s the biggest different between practicing law in Tallahassee and practicing law in Phoenix, Arizona?
The firm was a bit more diverse than my previous work environment with a few other African Americans, but I was the only African American woman. Besides those two factors, everything pretty much felt the same; I had no life. I worked, made sure Jack had an attentive mother while in his presence, and tried hard not to screw up.
Adam traveled three out of five days and enjoyed the benefits of being a partner while in town. Perks included six-hour golf lunches while a team of four associates, including me, did all the work. As the senior associate in our practice area by a year, I had seniority, which meant, I was the only one who had worked for Adam before. The team looked to me to translate his eccentricities. At this time, I wondered where the rest of the group went as I sat in a conference room off the main lobby well past six o’clock waiting for him.
Sorry for the vague pronoun, I am not ready to say his name.
Two hours ago, I received a frantic phone call.
"You still in the office?" Adam asked, out of breath, screaming into the phone.
"Yes." I said and groaned wishing I had ignored the call.
“The player should arrive around six, you can stay right?” Adam’s way of telling me that yes I could stay. “He needs to sign the contract before reporting to training camp tomorrow morning.”
“If he just needs to sign it, a paralegal could handle that. Hell, Maria could handle it.”
“The assistant you told me to hire last week. Although, she thinks she doesn’t have a boss considering you haven’t been in the office for more than two hours a day since.”
“Are you keeping her busy?”
“Of course, which is why I don’t understand why I have to wait for some overpaid athlete’s autograph.”
“Come on Carrrrrrr.” When he drew out the r’s in my name, his major begging muscles emerged, and I knew I would say yes anyway.
“Okay. I’ll stay.”
“Great. I sent you the contract. Review it with him and if he has any questions, you can handle it. Pretty standard. Hey, you might know the guy. He went to Florida State, a few years ahead of you.”
My computer beeped with the incoming email, and I clicked on the attachment. I read the name at the top of the contract and blinked. I closed the computer, hung up on Adam, and sat with my hands in my laps. Goosebumps popped up on my arms. I rubbed them and reached out to open the computer, but my fingers went numb and I placed my hands back on my lap.
I must have had him on my mind. I had been finalizing player's contracts all week with the start of training camp. I had football on the brain. It was natural my mind would drift to the football player I was once in love with.
Perfectly normal, right?
I lifted the top of the computer and the locked screen illuminated. I typed in my password, and my eyes fixated on the name at the top of the document.