This story is by Frances Paul and was part of ‘short fiction break’ 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
CASEY GAZED at him with repugnance. Again, Judge Musgrave had refused to allow in crucial evidence she’d uncovered to help exonerate her client. He hastily overruled all her objections. She could feel her first loss coming. She couldn’t afford to lose this case at this crucial time when she’s being considered for junior partner at her firm. She was representing the son of an important client in this trial and the outcome could determine the fate of her career.
She’s been with the firm for twelve years and through three name changes. She began there as a paralegal and through law school. As she sat there in horror, witnessing her case fall part, various thoughts raced through her mind. Should she be satisfied? Is she pushing the envelope too hard? Why did her supervisor give her this case at this critical point of her career? Was this to test her or devalue her? She took a quick glance at her client’s reaction and he had an expression of displeasure and defeat, probably cursing his father for hiring such an incompetent lawyer.
Quickly relinquishing the self-pity, she rose to her feet, “your honor, you must recuse yourself immediately from this trial.” Her heart raced as she noticed blood slowly draining out of Judge Musgrave’s face. He stared at her repulsed. He quieted the whispers in the court room with his gavel.
“On what grounds?” He inquired.
“Prejudice and bias against my client,” Casey responded unfazed or intimidated by his authoritarian conduct.
“What are you doing?” Her client leaned in and whispered. She ignored him as she intensely studied Judge Musgrave.
“Bias?” Judge Musgrave asked.
“Your conduct indicates a clear bias against the defense. You previously convicted my client’s father, and regardless of his family ties my client deserves a fair trial. Recusing yourself will preserve the appearance of impartiality.”
“Your motion is denied, Ms. Ashworth, I suggest you take a seat immediately or get fined.” Casey began to realize the Hail Mary she just threw to save her case was about to backfire, but she refused to yield. She knew their chances of coming out victorious had shifted from likely to very slim due to her sudden outburst. Casey now wished for a mistrial to save face. Judge Musgrave turned his attention to the ADA and instructed him to continue with his questioning. Casey remained standing to affirm her unwillingness to cooperate. The atmosphere in the courtroom grew restless due to her conduct.
“That’s it Ms. Casey Ashworth, I am holding you in contempt of court and sentence you to a night in lock up and a five thousand dollar fine.” The court officer stepped forward to escort her out of the courtroom. Judge Musgrave struck his gavel, “this court is adjourned until Friday,” and stormed out.
The entire night in lock up she thought about Matthew, her supervisor, and what his reaction would be. He is a senior partner at the firm who believed in Casey and recommended her for junior partner.
“I cannot believe how bad you screwed up….” Casey sat in silence as she listened to Matthew, go on about her incompetence. “You have been placed on leave effective immediately.”
That statement didn’t come as a surprise but it made her question if she made a mistake throwing the case. Perhaps that was her way of accepting defeat. “The case has been assigned to Chris and his team.”
“Of course,” she mumbled. Chris, a competitor in the running for junior partner, my fate is evident, she thought as she smirked at Matthew. There was no need pleading, she left Matthew’s office in acceptance of his decision. It could be worse. She sat awake all night thinking of what to do with her involuntary time off. Thoughts of exotic getaways came to mind, from Fiji to Bali, but it seemed pitiful to go solo on a trip best suited for couples. Maybe she could have an eat pray love experience. She researched all night and considered the dangers, such as kidnapping and murder. The next morning as she watched her neighbors drive off a thought came to mind.
IT WAS MID-OCTOBER and the weather began to change. Casey’s favorite season, she referred to as pumpkin season. Despite the fallen rustling leaves and morning birds chirping away, nothing beats the beauty of autumn. The air is cooler; the skies are clear in beautiful hues of blue and white and the trees start to exhibit stunning kaleidoscope of colors. As she drove off in a rented red Chevy Camaro, Casey began to appreciate the liberty she felt in making such an impulsive decision. She’d no idea where she was headed. She just packed a bag and took off. Her entire life had been strategically planned, from a toddler in ballet recitals to graduating law school. She pleased herself with the beautiful sights of Portland, St. Helen, and old Oregon until she arrived in San Francisco after driving for nine hours.
“IT’S BEAUTIFUL UP here in the fall and our busiest season…” the owner of the bed and breakfast she spent the night attempted to initiate a conversation with her as she read through the menu.
“Any recommendations?” She asked, without acknowledging him.
He judged her manners, a successful girl, probably on her way to a business seminar, “with the food or sights?” He responded politely despite her aloofness.
She finally took her head out of the menu and was unexpectedly dumbfounded by the man who stood before her. They locked gazes, his intense blue eyes bored through hers. She cleared her throat as she struggled to find her voice, “mm…hmm both,” she replied.
Thrilled by Robert, the owner, she smiled and accepted his offer to be her tour guide. Not that she was interested in sightseeing but to get to know the handsome stranger who seized her attention.
From cafes to five start restaurants they wandered for two days enjoying each other’s company. This was supposed to be a quick stop, now, not knowing what she really wanted from this journey or him, she decided to extend her visit. She wondered if he felt any connection between them like she did. They just met, yet all their time spent together felt right. She felt a rush of excitement anytime his body brushed hers. It’s been awhile for her and this feeling felt astounding.
ON A FINE beautiful fall morning, the new friends decided to take a stroll to appreciate nature. Casey elated by the idea, decided to use the opportunity to get personal and closer to him. She listened to him keenly as he spoke fondly about the town. Desperate to change the subject she interrupted him, “So, tell me, why bed and breakfast?” He smiled, intrigued by her sudden interest in him, “my parents owned this place. They passed a few years back and I thought it would be a wonderful idea as my mother loved to entertain. This was my way of preserving her memory. Why law?”
“I love the idea of defending people who can’t stand up for themselves. It started out that way anyway but I soon found out nothing is as it seems.” As she displayed her true passion and anxieties, Robert appreciated her more and regretted initially judging her. They realized at the end of the evening they had a lot in common. Casey loved his laid back attitude and his desire for a fulfilling life and none for this material world. On the fourth day, she received a phone call from her law firm confirming the date she had to return. That moment she utterly considered quitting and following her desire to write. Something she’d dreamt of as a kid. She was inspired by a man she’d only known for a couple of days. His energy and noble personality made her fall in love with a stranger. What she did not know was her splendor and intelligence had raised a cloud of desire for her that tormented him.
SHE SMILED at the reminiscence of the time she spent with him and settled for what now fascinated her intensely and exclusively. “Do you really want to go back to a job you despise?” He said softly behind her. He spent the night before pleading and reassuring her she would be much happier if she stayed in San Francisco with him. She thought it was way too quick and too hasty a decision to make after knowing him for only a week. “It takes a lifetime to know someone, we might as well get a head start,” he joked.
“Unfortunately I do, but I promise I will be back before the season ends,” she said. “Would you like to kiss me now?” She whispered and glanced up into his striking blue eyes. He slid his arm around her, gently pulled her in and softly planted a passionate kiss on her lips. His kiss intoxicated her as she thought, what a beautiful season to fall in love.