Justin stood close to the large glass wall that looked out over central park from 57 stories above ground. It was a spectacular view. He tugged on his expensive finely made silk shirt under his Brook Brotherís suite. The room was huge with only a large custom made modern glass table and eight leather white chairs all around it. It was all about reflection and space. In New York City space was a sign of wealth. Reflection was all illusion. This room with the vast open view and the strake furnishing screamed New York City wealth and deceitful expression. It should. It was the conference room of one of the largest law firms in the city, Kirkland, Ellis, and Stent.
Justin was early. He wanted time to just look out over the city and ready himself. The young lawyer had planed things out over and over just waiting for this meeting. In the lower pool of hundreds of 30 something aged lawyers Justin had managed to push his way up. Not so much by hard works as planned work. Planning and judging how others would react and respond.
With a light brush over his smoothly shaved face and exactly trimmed hair he thought about the senior lawyer on this job. Mr. Samuel Connelly was old and set in his ways. His weakness being easy to see and manipulate; time and convince. That why he was in the will and testimony department. He was just biding his time until he could sit in his condo outside of Miami. Justin had spent the last eight months getting close to the man. Who would have guessed crossword puzzles and sweet rolls would get him so far? Who would have guessed Justinís red hair and Irish looks would make a culture connection.
With Elise it had taken more but had been much more fun. The hardest and expensive part was getting to meet her and making her notice him. He realized her potential while trying to find a way to get into her fatherís account, one of the biggest in the law firm. Elise was perfect. He tried the clubs but could hardly get near her. He spend way too much time plotting and figuring where she would go only to sit in some way over priced loud party scene affording nothing but water. He still could not get over the fact they charged over ten dollars for a glass of ice water, tiny one at that.
But Justin was a planner and he spent hours figuring out her likes, schedule and putting himself there whenever he could. He knew it would happen, and it did. One day while trailing her that small little rat dog thing jumped out of her bag and Justin saved it. Yes, he couldnít have planned better as he picked the thing up off the road right in front of a city bus. A hero. Justin grinned as he remembered and looked out the window.
From there it had been easy. Just enough attention, not too strong, just the right dates and presents, just the right support and longing, and Justin was right where he wanted to be; Elise Gemma Savoir, lawyer and lover at the reading of her fatherís will.
The only unplanned part was that as hard as Justin tired he could not get a copy before this meeting. He would have liked to know all the details. The wife was secured in legal piles to maintain in some high priced rehab center upstate. There were so many easy loopholes in those documents Justin was sure in a matter of years she would not be a problem. But he couldnít get a good read on Eliseís feeling for her mother. Sometimes she would cry about the plight of the poor woman and then she would forget about her for weeks. It wasnít like she visited.
At the last minute Justin had sifted through the outgoing mail schedule and approved visitor list to the firms meeting rooms to find someone scheduled that didnít match. There was a possibility someone else was attending this reading. Still, Justin had plans.
He shifted to catch the late afternoon fall sun as it warmed the room slightly. Elise did not do anything before 2 pm. He purposely kept his face toward the Manhattan side of the city. Justin never looked toward the north side and the ruins he climb out of. Justin clawed his way from bruised painful abused poverty childhood to stand ready for what he deserved. He didnít rise from his past he eliminated it. With deep scares he ignored and spent years covering, he never accepted his past. Never.
Justin had planned it that way.
Startling, emerald green eyes peered up, and up, toward the very top of the glass and steel monstrosities that surrounded her on all sides it seemed, to the comparably tiny rectangle of cold blue sky over head. Otsana didn't care - not even a wit - that any jaded New Yorker passing by would think her just another odious tourist in the Big Apple. No one but a mind-reader could have possibly known how utterly unimpressed she was with all the trappings of success around her: the sleek, shiny black cars and innumerable cabs, containing all the beautiful people who emerged from them or disappeared into their luxurious folds, men and women dressed in richly tailored suits and pristine leather shoes, the price of even one article enough to feed a hundred Somali orphans for a year. All these beautiful people walking importantly about their terribly important business, their eyes never once diverting from their conversations or their smartphones to take in the magnificence of mankind's technological genius because that is what lesser beings did, those not blessed from birth with wealth, prestige and unassailable status.
As she watched that azure spot overhead, all that consumed Otsana's thoughts was the near overwhelming desire to fly away from all this useless, meaningless dross - to sprout wings and flee, to fly fast and free and never, ever return.
It was the kindness in his voice that kept her here. The unexpected gentleness of a lawyer, of all creatures! Connelly - Mr. Samuel Connelly, but please Miss Zuniga, call me Sam. Your father did, and he was one of my very best friends...
Sam couldn't possibly have known how it hurt, to hear yet one more thing about the late Andrew Diogenes Xavier Savoir that she never knew. That he had a best friend out there somewhere, and that his best friend was an attorney with a heart of gold, rather like laying hold of a unicorn really, if you thought about it long enough. Who knew? Certainly not Otsana. But Sam had gone on in that gentle voice, telling her all the stories Andrew ever told him of her: about her college graduations, first for her bachelor's degree, her master's - and then even her Ph D. How he'd bragged to his old friend, about his daughter the doctor - and there was nothing ironic in his words at all, nothing condescending about the fact her father was as proud of her anthropology doctorate as if she'd been a medical doctor.
Not so proud, of course, that he'd ever attended a single graduation, much less been there to take a cheesy prom with her pimply, sweaty date, or even wave to the videocamera for a single birthday from the time she was twelve-years old. But that wasn't Sam's fault - not at all - and so Otsana didn't hold it against him. Charmed, genuinely touched as she'd been, that voice had been the only thing that could convince her to come to this, the reading of the Last Will and Testament of the billionaire Andrew D. X. Savoir, hotel and restaurant mogul... And her father, once upon a time.
Otsana walked through the great glass doors reaching some twenty feet above her, to the mahogany and quartz reception desk. "Kirkland, Ellis and Stent. I have a 4:00 appointment."
The pinched little woman behind the desk raised a single, vaguely suspicious eyebrow. "Name?"
"Otsana Zuniga, to see Mr. Connelly."
If such a thing were even possible, her faced pinched tighter still, thin hard lips screwed up in disapproval as she nodded toward the elevators. "57th floor, Ms. Zuniga," she quipped in a quick stacatto before returning to whatever pressing matter might be worth her time. Otsana simply nodded and turned toward the direction the bony little talon had pointed, weaving her way through the cold sea of professionals and the underlings that catered to them.
But something told her that these people wanted her to feel small and shabby as they watched her walk toward the gleaming steel elevators, the heels of her barely brand-name boots clicking impertinently against the black and white marble, the edges of her gray off-the-rack coat waving like a rebel's flag off the back of her legs. Long, dark brown hair not primped or styled at Ted Gibson's on 5th Avenue, but braided down her back - by herself, no less - was left to sway as it would, a swinging wolf's tail marking her every step. You don't belong here, their stares said wordlessly, You never have - you never will! And so defiantly, Otsana gave not the least satisfaction, her shoulders back, chin tilted jauntily in the air as a small, knowing smile upturned her lips as she waited for the elevator.
Otsana was finally, firmly ensconced in its tasteful wood-paneled interior, the doors only just beginning to close when a man's meaty hand slipped inside the door. "Let me get that for you, Ms. Savoir."
"Oh, thank you David. You are such a doll!" In a whirl she entered the enclosed space, a presence that consumed all the oxygen and light about her, to radiate outward once more in a plume of charisma and all the confidence born from a lifetime of knowing just how wonderful the whole world was, and how much every last person in it simply couldn't help but love you.
Elise Gemma Savoir barely noticed the mousy little creature in the corner of the elevator, though when she did she turned to grace the poor woman with a spectacular, approving smile. "Oh, Twenty-sixth floor? Thank you," she said with a voice made for champagne and raspberries, as if Otsana's sole purpose for existence had been to ensure she need not threaten that impeccable manicure by mere button pressing. Pulling the compact from the side of her couture dog bag, Elise was far too absorbed with primping at her impeccably coiffed blonde hair fussily, to notice the precious little pomeranian within had popped it's equally coiffed head from the confines of the bag. Tiny little teeth bared, it growled throatily at Otsana.
Perfectly safe from her notice, as absorbed as she was in her reflection, Otsana watched her sister - well, half-sister really - with all the clinical interest of an ornithologist catching sight of a new species of exotic bird. Nothing... There was virtually nothing at all between them that would speak to the least family resemblance. Where Otsana was merely average in height, Elise gave statuesque a whole new meaning, with legs to her throat it seemed, accentuated by impeccable balance on heels a geisha might have found formidable. Shoulder-length blonde hair fairly shone with a golden light all its own, her skin bronze and luminous as a demi-goddess just stepped from heaven's clouds, tender and brushed with dew.
And then Otsana caught a glimpse in the compact, what she couldn't have seen in that quick flash when Elise entered the elevator - green eyes. They both had green eyes - a true green, not some muddy hazel, or the leafy green that might turn with an overcast day. Otsana shrugged, only vaguely amused that of all things in this world she could have had in common with her one and only sibling, the very woman she'd seen for the first time in all her life, it should be something so inconsequential.
Otsana's emerald gaze turned slowly toward the pomeranian, still growling at her with its wee little teeth beneath that sassy little sky blue bow - the perfect match to Elise's pencil dress - and smiled. Widely.
The little dog yipped in alarm, and disappeared back within the bag. "Ava!?" Elise's attention snapped toward the dog even as the compact snapped shut, peering into the bag to croon some nonsense baby syllables to the strangely shaking little boopy-kins. The elevator doors opened and, without another look toward the dark little woman she'd already forgotten existed, Elise strode toward the offices where JJ waited for her.
That picture-perfect rose-colored smile slid across her face, as it always did when she thought of him. She waved nonchalantly to the receptionist - "Hello Miss Savoir - Mr. Jameson is waiting for you in Room 5713" Well of course he was, wasn't he? She traveled the length of the quartz and glass lined hallways in long-legged strides, a Parisian special-blend eau de parfum in her golden and azure wake.
"JJ?" Elise called as she entered the room, setting the dog bag absently in one of the sleek leather boardroom chairs as she crossed the room to wrap her arms tightly about his shoulders. "Miss me?" she asked oh-so-warmly before planting a long, tender kiss on his lips, without even waiting for his reply.
Really now, what else could his reply have been, but Absolutely Elise, every waking moment without you is an unbearable ache?
Elise never even noticed the dark woman who slipped quietly into the meeting room with them, to sit against the far side of the massive glass-top table.
Justin greeted Elise with his warm smile and outstretched hands. It was easy. She was always a beauty to greet. And he could accept her kisses just as effortlessly. Anytime Justin began to have even a sliver of doubt he just looked at her and her bank account.
He noticed someone else slip into the room before his attention was needed to focus on Elise. He was sure that she was some random cleaning woman. He forgot about her during the exchange of affection. He kept the kiss a short sort of peck Elise had perfected with others. Putting both his hands on Elise’s hips he smiled and pushed her back. “Now remember,” he wiggled her hips. “Mr. Connelly doesn’t know I’m your lawyer. Let’s limit our affectionate displays until tonight.” He nipped at the tip of her cute little nose and then put his arm around her to guide her to the seat. He wasn’t sure how Sam would react. Justin never told him he was dating Elise and he was pretty sure he older lawyer would feel lied to by remission. They had talked about the Savior estate and its wealth management many times. Justin could have mentioned his relationship. Of course, there were reasons he had not. Sam would see that right away. Too bad, but it was too late.
It was only as they were walking to the table that Justin really saw Otsana. She was sitting down. A cleaning woman sitting at the… “Excuse me,” He let his eyes squint slightly making sure she understood his questioning approach, “Are you…?”
“Well, bless my soul, you made it.” Sam Connelly entered the room with a briefcase and a big smile. “Delighted, delighted.” He moved toward Otsana looking the woman over intently but warmly as well. “I am Samuel, Sam of course, Connelly. I am so glad you found it in yourself to make this trip. You will not regret it.” He then turned toward the other two.
“Elise,” He placed his briefcase on the table and reached to take her hand. “How are you doing my dear?” Justin stepped back but noticed the older man’s eyes glance to him. Of course Elise was her perfect grieving daughter actress with her very slight painful sigh and her nod that she was holding up all right. He held a chair for her and she sat.
“And Justin?” He turned asking why he was here without really asking.
“Ms Elise Savoir has retained me to represent her.” Justin answered. Sam squinted to Justin and then turned to Elise.
“Dear, you do not need a lawyer for this.” Sam said.
“I just feel better,” Elise reached for Sam’s hand and patted it gently, “having him here. Do you mind?”
Sam held his breath a minute and then shook his head as he moved to the other side of the table slowly to sit opposite Elise and Otsana. There was a seat between the two sisters and Justin was temped to sit there close to the new person who was clearly supposed to be there. But he caught himself and instead sat on the other side of Elise.
“It is my pleasure and duty to introduce the two of you, sisters.” He paused only a second, “Elise Savoir meet your sister, Otsana Zuniga. Ms Zuniga this is your sister Elise.”
'Well, that could have gone better.'
For all that Otsana had admired Sam's gentle, kind words to her on the phone - he'd been the veritable Pied Piper of Relucant and Estranged Children to Will Readings, after all - well, he certainly hadn't gone very easy on poor Elise. For her part, Otsana had known all her life that somewhere in this great wide world, a half-sister named Elise existed. Even after Ama was gone, and she went to live with her 'Mona and Ait'xi, she'd known there was someone else out there with a little of piece of her walking about. As an adult, all she'd ever had to do was peek at the tawdry magazines lining most any grocery store rack, to see the golden-haired angel grinning contentedly at her from the cover, from some breathtaking setting in London, or L.A.. Milan or Paris or once, she was pretty sure, even Tokyo.
And why wouldn't Elise be eternally content? Happy, radiant and positively glowing? Her life was simply charmed, blessed by all the benevolent gods and good fairies from birth. Every minute of every hour of every day was spent surrounded with all the very best anyone could possibly want - up to and including even this ridiculously good-looking red-headed lawyer boyfriend in the Brookes Brothers suit and the silk shirt, obviously level best to keep that precious golden angel from exploding right there in her seat.
Now THAT was a VERY impressive stream of creative obscenity, to flow from such pert, pretty, pouty lips! Vaguely the young woman wondered - if Elise's head finally did explode? Should she expect to be spattered by meat and bone like the common rabble kept in their skulls, or would she be showed with glitter stars, fairy dust and perfumed crepe streamers?
A tiny, slow half-smile tilted one corner of her lips at the thought, though one ivory white tooth bit the inside of her cheek softly to keep that smile from spreading. Otsana fought back mightily against the near-irresistible, rather ridiculous urge to ask Elise if this meant they wouldn't be spending Christmas Eve or Easter together after all?
Instead, Otsana merely continued to sit right where she was, long fingers folded neatly in her lap. Her legs remained crossed beneath long, dove gray skirts, the toe of one boot swaying slowly, casually in small circles. Those large emerald eyes were solemn, unassailable, as she allowed all Elise's abuse, her boyfriend's cajoling words and Sam's stunned, ashen-faced, open-mouthed gaze to simply wash over her, like so much rushing water in a summer stream.
"So... So... There was a DNA test, I assume!? Or did my father just decide to leave this Jerry Springer mess for ME to un-fuck after he kicked off!?" Elise was on her feet now, her chair toppled to the floor where she slammed it some moments before against the wall. A shame that, about the leather...That was DEFINITELY going to leave a huge gouge. Even so, Otsana couldn't help but admire her sister's facility in those heels - how in the hell Elise managed to move so gracefully, even in the throes of abject fury, was a mystery for the ages.
"Years ago," Sam replied, recovering some of his quiet dignity - or at least, as best he could. Otsana felt more than a little sorry for the elderly man. She was quite sure Sam never - not ever in a million years - could have imagined this scenario playing out before his very eyes today. "But... But just look at you two? I mean right next to each other? There's some obvious differences but the similarities are just - "
"Stop!" Elise growled, one perfectly manicured fingernail pointed shakily at the elderly lawyer, those rose-colored lips pulled back tightly over perfect teeth in a feral snarl. "Stop. Right. There! There is nothing between us, do you hear me? NOTHING between me and... And Oh - Son - Uh or whatever the hell that name was. Nothing between my mother and some blow-by streetwalking whore that managed to get herself knocked up by MY father - "
Otsana stood to her feet, slowly, her dark presence the shadow to her sister's stilll-golden light, demanding attention all her own. "My mother died, nearly twenty years ago," she interrupted, her voice dangerously low, a sobering counterpoint to Elise's rather profane histrionics. Elise's voice trailed off to nothing.
"She hung herself, when the man she loved beyond all reason told her he was leaving her forever, to return to his wife. Say whatever you will, sister, about our dearly departed sperm donor. I couldn't work up a 'give a damn' if I tried. But if you say even one more word about my mother, I will drag you to the top of this building by your goddamned hair, and toss you screaming off the roof. Yes, that was a threat. You can have your lawyer explain all the details to you later, hopefully before he gets done screwing whatever brains you have straight out of your head tonight, hmm?"
Otsana took a deep breath, savoring the sudden silence for a moment longer before turning once more to the stricken-looking Mr. Connelly. "Please Sam, if you would?" she began softly, almost pleasantly as she settled into her own chair, one leg crossed over the other, fingers intertwined in her lap once more. "I don't mean to seem rude or terse with you - I think we've had more than enough of that for one day, haven't we? Please, could we come to the business we're all here for? I've never been fond of impromptu family get-togethers."
Justin could not believed all this. He hadn’t planned on this. Not on the way Elise totally lost control. Not on the idea that there was another. A sister? A daughter? That old man hid a mistress and her bitch child all these years? So why bring her out now? As he listened to Elise rant and rave he sort of answered that. He said nothing. He just leaned forward his arms on the table and stared at this other woman.
“Impromptu I highly doubt. You knew of this so I would think allowing from someone caught off guard to adjust is not too much to ask,” Justin directed his level controlled voice right at Otsana. He looked for signs of Elise in her and although they were different he could see the trace of family in the eyes. Oh ya, it was the eyes. Elise’s sparkled with excited fleeting interest and this woman’s were more calculating intelligent and serious. But still the color was dramatic and mesmerizing.
Justin had to pull his eyes away from Otsana and he motioned for Elise to sit back down. He leaned toward her as she huffed and swore and sat. “Don’t worry we have lots of things to question and ways to go. Relax.” He put his hand on her back as if to steady her. She didn’t needed steadied at all of course. She needed a good swift kick but not from Justin. Not yet.
Sam sighed and realized things were just as bad as he always knew they would be. After his fees from this fiasco he was out of the city and on a beach in Florida. Enough of this messed up family friend or not. Let Justine screw them both for all he carried. He was terribly disappointed though. He had liked the lad. But if he was being manipulated so easy it was time for him to go.
Opening his brief case, Sam pulled two white fine envelopes from his leather briefcase. One he handed to Elise. It was sealed and her name was typed on top. Slowly he pushed the other across the table to Otsana. “Your father wrote and sealed these personal letters to each of you. I am assuming it is his explanation. I have not seen them or read either one. It is not the will.”
He then pulled a brown folder out and slowly unfolded the legal document. Putting his glasses on slowly he began the legal boring long drawn out beginnings as in any will defining who was who and when it was made and parts of the estate.All parts were listed and there were many. On and on and on……..
Justin listened but only because he had studied and read these sort of things before. It took a long time to get to the real important part. And by that time it was hard to separate what was really being said. Until Justin’s whole body snapped up. “Wait, read that part again.”
Sam glared at Justin knowing this was when the fire would start. “Upon the assessment of four estates listed above and their contents, the value of my investments and cash assets I bequeath two thirds of the value to my daughter Otsana Zuniga one sixth to my wife’s care and one sixth to my daughter Elise Savoir.”
Justin felt his air catch in his throat.
The sisters wept, though they may as well have been miles - nay, continents apart - in their own personal worlds.
Otsana's small, smug smile only widened when the boytoy lawyer there - what had she called him? JJ or something equally juvenile? Ha! - when he'd tried to shame her for her flash of anger. If he only knew how incredibly rare that was, he might have held his tongue. If he had even the slightest idea, how endless and deep the hole in her soul Ama left behind?
Hmph. Foolishness. Just look at how he glared at her, so indignant and self-righteous! This one wouldn't care at all, now would he? This was no man, but the lovely, God-blessed, fairy-kissed Elise's toy, every bit as much her pet as that ridiculous little rat-dog she toted about like a living, breathing fashion accessory.
And so that defiant smile stayed planted right where it was, until poor, kind, blind-sided Sam finally spoke, and then... He slid her an envelope. Those emerald eyes softened, that infuriating grin slipping away silently as if it had never existed as Otsana's long, suddenly trembling fingers reached toward the oddly familiar ivory parchment envelope. The handwriting, strong masterful strokes in each letter, elegant and yet masculine - she knew these letters.
How many of these letters did Ama have in her drawers, bundled lovingly in deep purple silk ribbon, her favorite color. All the letters her father ever sent her, this creamy expensive parchment, the elegant handwriting with Ama's name, each treasured like an incomparably precious jewel. Otsana had never read them - not a one - though she had never thrown them away either. How could she ever open a single one, much less toss them with the garbage? They were the blessed, most-beloved secrets of her Ama's heart after all - they bore her name. They were Ama's alone, as private as her living thoughts.
But now Otsana had one, for her own. A love letter of sorts, that bore her name, from a man she both loved and hated with all the passionate depths of her heart. Otsana's fingers wrapped slowly about the envelope, knowing exactly how it would feel to the touch. She brought the letter to her chest, unopened, and wrapped her arms tightly around herself. Head bowed, the fierce woman wept, silent tears rolling down her cheeks unheeded. Sam's voice faded to a soft drone, she heard not a word he said, not a single word at all, as she clutched that one precious letter meant just for her.
"Did you hear what she said to me JJ? Did you hear her?" Elise allowed Justin to soothe her shattered nerves, her full, rose-colored lower lip quivering with emotion as she sank into her seat. "'Ways to go?' 'Relax?' Really?" she pouted, her mind reeling. Very nearly numb now with the all the unaccustomed emotions raging through her head, Elise took the coolly- addressed typewritten envelope from Sam. She read her name, blinking softly for several seconds, and then set it to the side for the moment. There was more, still more to come, everything that would make all this stress, all this anxiety and hurt and shock pass away - better yet on a beach in the Virgin Islands, JJ there to rub in the oil on her back. She'd read how much her father loved her there, how dear she was to him, precious beyond all things in his world, his little girl, and smile and laugh and lift some fruity umbrella drink lovingly to his memory. All she had to do was breathe... Just a little longer...
Sam's words came to her as if he were speaking underwater, warbly and soft, and it took a moment or two for them to sink into her thoughts, to make anything resembling sense - because they definitely did NOT make any sense. God. No. None. Not at all.
Elise leaned forward, stunned even beyond obscenity, shocked straight out of yet another tantrum, her emerald eyes wide with disbelief. "Yes Sam," she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper now. "Please... Please do read that part again?"
Again? Sam looked to Elise and knew he could not deny her so yet again he read the part he knew would shake her world. As Justin heard the hard cold words again he leaned back in his seat and looked over Elisa to Otsana. His eyes were not friendly but the glare he had given her changed. He was calculating. He saw the woman touch the folder tenderly with tears on her cheeks. It did not seem to be happy tears at the news she was a very wealthy lady. No there was pain in that face.
He watched her as Sam read again. She did not look like she understood value, simple clothes, she blends in. He would have to learn much more about her. Know her before he took everything away. Because there was no way in hell she was getting everything Sam listed. He could beat her down. Sitting there watching her cry he knew he could and that resolve helped him with the disappointment of months of work.
Damn old man Andrews. Justin was sure the greaser knew exactly what he was doing and was smiling at the fact he could screw with their lives. He was also pretty confident the man tied things as tight as he could. He would have known Elise would fight this, or hire those who would. And although Sam was simple and soft he was not stupid.
Still Justin was sure he could make little miss crawl from the gutter and steal what was his, life as hard as possible. Yes, he kept his eyes on Otsana, she will throw her share at them when he is done with her. She had no idea who she was messing with. Besides she might not even understand what she was just given. He could take half and she not even miss it. A new direction, that’s all. Justin tired to push down his anger. But shit, he had been so close, so god damn close.
Sam was finishing again. And he folded the paper making sure they realized he would not read it a fourth time. He looked over to Ostana not sure she had heard or understood what she just received. Sam cleared his throat and directed his council to her. “Ms Zuniga, your father understood that there might be legal aid needed on your behalf. He thought you would require immediate funds in the case of counter legal action. So he has set up this account separate from the estate for your use until things are settled.”
Justin’s head snapped back to Sam. “I will legally contest that, values can not be distributed until all assets are assessed.”
Sam sighed. “If that is your course of action then I am required to begin to recant Elise’s living allowance.”
“WHAT?” Elise screamed and knocked down another chair. “But I have a huge midnight pool party planned!”
Justin raised one hand. “Let me read over everything. We’ll meet say, in two days? Pencil me in and have Suzie call me.” Suzie was Sam’s assistant and Justin wanted to make sure Sam remembered Justin knew these tiny details of the man’s life. Justin pulled his phone from his fine suit pocket and buzzed. He leaned into Elise and whispered to her, “Don’t worry. We will work this out. I am here for you. You just have to let me work this. Go ahead and I’ll meet you at The Fifth’s.” The Fifth's was their name for a high calls bar at 230 Fifth Street. The door of the room opened and Elise’s entourage stood ready.
Justin looked to Ostana and waited. He was going to have a private meeting with the lady.
Otsana wiped at her eyes with her fingertips, likely smearing what little mascara she had bothered to apply for today, but she honestly just didn't care. She'd heard - finally - all that the beleaguered, elderly lawyer finally had to say about the unspeakable insanity of her true inheritance. But the amount, the true worth - it was beyond her understanding, impossible to wrap her head around at the moment, as stunned as she was - and so Otsana honestly didn't even try. If Elise's reaction was anything to gauge by, she wouldn't be seeing anything of any worth for God alone knew how long into the future.
Honestly, Otsana didn't even have it in her to muster up even "mere amusement" at Elise's latest outburst, yet another expensive leather chair falling to her ridiculous, towering temper tantrum. She really just wanted to go home, and never, ever lay eyes on this place again. She was almost looking forward to the drive back. It'd be about six hours or so, in her little dark green Honda Civic, a 5-speed manual transmission that still got great mileage, ran like a dream, even if the six-figures on the odometer had rolled by years ago.
Six or seven hours, to just... Drive. Drive and not think, maybe stop at a Denny's and have some meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy - her favorite since she was a very little girl - and then go home, the satellite radio she'd installed singing to her the whole way. Collect her cats from Mrs. Demarco next door - no, no it'd be far too late to bother that kind soul. She'd miss their warmth and comfort, but Geri and Freki would be just fine without her 'til morning. Morning, when she'd steep a cup of black tea, and finally open one of those rich, expensive envelopes, and read her father's love letter.
Still clutching that precious missive to her chest in one hand, Otsana rose to her feet, walking about the table toward Sam. A small, sad smile on her lips, she kissed his surprisingly soft cheeks, one at a time, the way her grandparents might have done in the Old World. "Please, just forward all that information to me... Later. Or have someone call... I don't know, tomorrow perhaps? Next week?" She laughed humorlessly, shaking her head. "You are kind, and a good man, and I do thank you. It's all just... A bit much to take in, if it ever happens at all apparently." A small, meaningful nod of her head toward where Justin stood, glaring holes into her skull, she was quite sure. "You know where to find me - I'll not be disappearing into thin air any time soon. Not from you, at the very least. Enjoy your retirement Sam. I think after today, you've more than earned it."
For the first time in what seemed a small eternity, Sam smiled with a small, respectful bow of his head. "It was my pleasure, Ms. Zuniga," he said softly, taking her free hand between both of his own, giving it a gentle squeeze before he too left the conference room, with far less fanfare and noise than Elise Savoir had mustered.
Emerald green eyes followed the elderly lawyer, staying fixed where he'd been long after Sam disappeared past the door. Otsana sighed softly, feeling the weight of the man's eyes on her shoulders like an unspeakable weight. Slowly she turned, still clutching the envelope to her heart, as if it could somehow give her the strength she needed, to go just a little further, a little longer, on this impossible day of days. One eyebrow raised in a pretense of curiosity as Otsana's gaze fell on Justin, the vaguest hint of a warning in their depths, akin to the steel-grey turning of the leaves before a coming thunderstorm.
Justin stood as Sam left noticing the touching moment between the old on the way out lawyer and the into the new riches gold girl. Yes, very sweet.
“Otsana? Was that your name? May I call you that?” Justin did not sound overly friendly as he moved from his seat to stand closers to her. “It’s a very unique name. Was it your mother or her apparent adulterous lover that pinned that upon you?”
He shook his head as if he didn’t mean it to sound as hitting as it might have. Of course he did. Still he had better control his delivery. “I am sorry.” He brushed his hand over his nicely placed hair and messed the neatness of it some.
“I am sure we could go round and round but let’s not. Tell me what you want. How much do you need? This could get tired up in courts for years. But if you say what it is you want to get we might be able to work something out without a fuss.”
He judged her to be not very well off. If he could offer her a certain amount then maybe she would sign over everything. Sometimes, well actually often, those who do not have think in smaller terms. She might shoot back that she wants a million dollars and he would have to look shocked and hurt and then explain that he would try. Just to make things easy. Just to help her along, even though that was a lot of money. Even though to agree to that would most likely take some awful hard convincing to Elisa. Maybe he could work that. He would try. To make thing easy. For her as well of course.
He looked at her and waited knowing his future rests now upon this strangely named green eyed chick.
Otsana sighed. The exhausted little tilt of a smile at the one corner of her lips didn't even remotely make its feeble way to her steady, emerald gaze. "Please, don't waste your breath with 'sorry,' when you're obviously anything but. Though I have to admit, hearing a grown man make fun of someone's name and parentage in the space of a few sentences, is both unexpectedly childish and vaguely amusing."
The woman shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, though the effort to keep this facade was costing her by the second. The bone deep weariness was gnawing at what was left of her tattered composure, slowly yet surely. "No matter. I know all lawyers are liars, but as a courtesy? One professional to another? I should probably let you know, you're particularly shitty at it... Whatever-your-name-is... JJ? That's cute," she continued, with absolutely no sincerity whatsoever. "It does make me wonder though, is this how you've made it so far in your career? Good looks and a devastatingly handsome smile, smooth charm and something that just might pass for wit in your Manhattan social circle with the only people who really matter? With just the right girlfriend and just the right connections to keep you all the way up to the 53rd floor of a skyscraper overlooking Central Park?"
"No, the question here isn't 'What do I want?' Not really. The question standing between us is, what do you want JJ?" Otsana's eyes narrowed dangerously, though that tight humorless smile only grew. A smoldering anger kept her upright now. How stupid this arrogant man must think she is! "If I heard Sam correctly, two-thirds of my father's estate is now mine while... Oh, what was that number again? Ah yes, a mere one-sixth goes to the precious golden princess. Granted my specialty is anthropology - folklore, at that! But if I'm doing the math right, two-thirds is still far larger than one-sixth."
"Or... Or maybe I've got it all wrong here!" Otsana sneered relentlessly, willing her words to be daggers if only she could! "Is golden Elise suddenly shining merely one-sixth as brightly as she did this morning, when you rolled out of her bed? And is there a sister somewhere in your sights, with a weird name and a questionable heritage, suddenly glowing two-thirds brighter than you ever imagined possible?"