Authors: Trisha Wolfe
Broken As Me
© 2016 by Trisha Wolfe
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell
Of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever
Should come near.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Skylark and Adonais - With Other Poems
he leather belt
bites into my wrists. It creaks as I twist my arms, trying to wriggle free. The tingling in my left shoulder increases as circulation is cut off, the strain from having my arms forced behind my back aching in my muscles.
I ignore the carpet burn, my skin numb from the blast of AC licking my naked body. All but my underwear and bra. They’re drenched with sweat from the struggle.
He’ll be back soon
Just feet away, my cell phone illuminates. The vibration rumbles the device on the desk, drawing his attention from the other room.
The prong of the belt buckle digs into my flesh as I attempt to jerk one hand free, but it’s too late. He’s picking up the phone and reading the name on the display.
Then, with measured steps, his shiny black shoes echoing through the dark office, he advances and kneels before me. I turn my head away and try to push the gag covering my mouth off with my shoulder.
His hand sinks into my hair. Soft, tenderly, his fingers too smooth as he strokes, conflicting with the rage brewing in his stony eyes. He grips a handful of my hair and yanks my head back, forcing me to stare up into those eyes as he towers over me.
With his other hand, he tugs the gag off. Before I can summon the strength to scream, the bite of cold metal touches beneath my chin, the lethal influence of it tilting my head back farther, clipping my already struggling breaths.
My lips tremble. Against my will, tears sting my eyes. And he loves this. Lowering the gun, he only sets it aside long enough to grab my phone and press it to my ear.
Make him believe it
. My only chance to protect him.
He licks his lips before curling them into a smile. “It’s time, Alexis. Make the call.”
Time. Time. Time.
Always against me. I close my eyes, allowing the salty tears to leak free. So much time already wasted wondering what I could’ve changed, had I only known the outcome ahead of time.
There’s no cheating fate. I understand this now. But this time…this outcome, I have the power to change.
I have the power
It’s down to a choice.
I open my eyes.
ime is relative
. In theory, if I traveled fast enough, I could bend the space-time continuum. I could reach into the 3D space of cyberworld and grab ahold of the email I just sent and erase it from existence.
I see it now. Little ones and zeros, bytes of digital information that seem so harmless, flying through space at supersonic speed and detonating on impact, imploding Julia’s inbox and sucking us all into a black hole.
My heart gallops, knocking against my chest in sync with the
click click click
of the continuous mouse tapping from the girl at the desk next to mine.
I wipe at my brow, taking measured breaths, trying to see the world as a normal person would.
This is not a big deal
I am not panicking
No one cares
Only I care. And since I can neither move faster than the speed of light, nor does my mentor live on a summit of a mountaintop where our two points in time are relative…in the one-dimensional construct of time, I have relatively five minutes to flee the office before Julia opens that email.
While everyone in the office is focused on the news broadcast, their eyes glued to their computer screens awaiting the verdict, I shut down my computer and gather my things, tucking my binders to my chest. Everyone is so invested in the outcome of the case, they won’t notice if I slip out fifteen minutes early.
I’m weaving a path toward the door, mentally counting down the seconds like a ticking time bomb, when a crack of applause erupts, making me drop the binders. Excited shouts fill the sixth floor, and I know we’ve won.
Well, Chase Larkin, god of lawyers, has just won.
I kneel down and stuff one of my binders close to my chest. Reaching for the next, I stall, my gaze landing on the screen across the office. There he is, in all his lawyery glory and sex appeal, standing beside an acquitted Malcolm Bates as he deflects questions from the press.
I didn’t work on the case personally, but I do feel pride for our law firm. Just as quickly, though, shame gathers within me, remembering the despondent expressions of the victims.
Now more than ever, I better get my shit straight. I work for a prestigious practice as a first year paralegal, and I need to push all thoughts of victims and the pursuit of truth aside. It’s not about the truth—or even justice—it’s about what you can prove.
Julia taught me that the first day of my internship, and I’ve been reciting it all day, prepping myself to send that damn email with an attachment—my submission that needs to
just how good I am at my job.
But it’s not so much that I need to prove it to her, Julia, my mentor—it’s proving myself to Chase Larkin that has my hands shaking. I curse as I drop the binder I just picked up.
And as if he can only ever witness me at my worst, the man himself, dressed in his Armani courthouse finest, strolls through the interoffice hallway just across from me, congratulatory praise trailing in his wake.
I shrink into myself, curling into an unnoticeable ball on the floor, hoping to sneak out once the celebratory commotion moves on.
But just as the tide is drawn to the moon’s gravitational pull, I’m sucked into his orbit, his gravity reeling me in. Relatively, we move at two different speeds, in two completely different time zones. He’s the larger than life quantity to my puny existence, and the world slows to a crawl when he’s near. Time stalls, and I become spellbound by the phenomena.
A pair of sheer stockings appears in my vision and blocks my view. I glance down at my binders, and a black Prada pump nudges the stack closer to me. “Alexis, a word?”
The annoyance in Julia’s tone is in such sharp contrast to the elation circling the office that it draws the attention of my coworkers. As I get to my feet, attempting to straighten my blouse while situating the binders, I realize I’ve gained more than their notice.
Chase stands at his office door, his black suit stretched attractively across his broad shoulders, dark hair tussled in sexy disarray by the wind, his cool blue gaze directed on me. “Is there an issue, Julia?”
Atoms collide. The space-time continuum collapses. I, the observer, am thrust into his gravitational field where I don’t belong…and the world spins off its axis.
“Miss Wilde has decided to
her application for the open paralegal supervisor position,” Julia says, her pert mouth tight with irritation. “After deadline. On a Friday afternoon, no less.”
I can feel the stares of my colleagues on my back. God, but why did I send it at all?
“Take it up in your office,” Chase says, opening his door. “This shouldn’t be difficult for you to handle, Julia. Should it?”
“No, sir,” she replies, every bit of frustration wiped from her appearance and voice. She raises her perfectly sculpted eyebrows at me. “Well, then. Follow me.”
In the animal kingdom, survival of the fittest isn’t a goal; it’s a rule. When an animal senses a weakling amid its pack, instinctively, it knows to remove the frail creature before it becomes a threat to the rest.
Office politics operate much like a pack of wolves. At this moment, as Julia leads me toward her office, I feel as if I’m being dragged by my neck to the kill zone. Her canines sunk into my jugular, claws bared. The leader of the pack, the alpha wolf, has just given her a directive to eradicate the weakling.
“Shut the door,” she says as she leans against her cherry oak desk.
I do, but I don’t move far, as I doubt this will take long.
Her phone beeps with a message that she quickly checks. Placing her phone on the desk, she clears her throat, her countenance more than agitated. “You know, Alexis, when your internship was over, I was against hiring you on.” She pauses for dramatic effect, those eyebrows that I’m sure she spends a great deal of time and money on hiked toward her layered blond bangs.
When she doesn’t continue, I scour my brain for the proper response. “Thank you,” I say, then shake my head. “I mean, thank you for taking a chance on me.”
Her ruby red lips smirk. “It wasn’t my call. Mister Larkin approves and denies all interns, and does all the hiring personally. I didn’t feel you were a good…” her eyes drag over me “…
for the firm. But Mister Larkin has peculiar tastes.”
I furrow my brow at her word choice.
“Peculiar tastes in his selection process,” she clarifies. “I didn’t believe you were ready to take on a position beneath a partner nine months ago, and after your most recent evaluation, I’m still not convinced. But,” she says, taking a step toward me. “Regardless if I’m not the one who will advance you, it’s still within my power to either recommend you for the position, or to dissuade Mister Larkin. And believe me, I hold a lot of sway.”
My mouth pops open, but I’m at a loss as to what to say. Honestly, I’ve never felt comfortable around Julia, but this is veering into an alternate dimension of the bizarre. Even for her.
“Don’t say anything.” Julia smiles, no teeth. “You’re required to come to the company party tomorrow night. Prove that you can be a team player. And then we’ll see what happens by Monday.”
Unsure, I raise my hand.
She huffs a clipped laugh. “You don’t have to ask permission to speak. At least, not from me.” Her lips twist into a slanted smile.
“I’m sorry, Julia. But I’m really confused. How am I supposed to prove I’m ready for this promotion at a company party?”
Her head tilts as she scans my outfit. “First, you should probably take the rest of the afternoon to shop. Find a more befitting dress for a supervisor position.” She fans a hand down her own stylish dress. “You know that saying, Alexis. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”
. Dress like I’m trying to seduce my way to the top.
This shouldn’t surprise me coming from her or this firm. The only thing missing from this exchange is a slicked-back hair lawyer holding an Old Fashioned cocktail while puffing a cigar.
The thought makes me smile, but Julia’s stern assessment washes it from my face. “Of course,” I say, turning to leave.
“And, Alexis,” she says. I pause, hand clutched to the doorknob. “Handling the clientele is an important aspect – probably the most important. It’s one thing to research cases, but it’s how you finesse that research from our clients that’s crucial.”
I nod. “I understand that.” And I understand in that regard, I’m probably the most ill-suited paralegal for the job. However, I can’t let my insecurities interfere. I somehow summoned the courage to apply—even if it was a momentary lapse into desperation—I can will myself to become another person for this position. I
It’s an opportunity that I might not get again. An opportunity to repair the damage. Money can fix almost anything…and enough of it might even rid me of my guilt.
Before I leave, Julia says, “Just out of curiosity. Why are you suddenly interested in the position? I’ll need to take that into consideration, of course.”
My heart constricts. I hang my head, gaze aimed at the binders in my arm. “Time,” I say.
I look up. “It’s just time.”
Her smile is almost sincere. As I exit her office, I can feel the fabric of time slipping past my fingers as if it’s tangible, wishing I could turn it back. Just a few years, before I created my own destructive paradox.