‘Be careful what you want. You just might get it,’ her mother used to say. Ruth had wanted money and prestige and the stability that came with them but hadn’t realized how much she would have to sacrifice to have them. She loved Eric, as much as she could love anyone, but she was driven by the shadows of her childhood. Ruth’s eccentric, highly educated but voluntarily impoverished mother had envisioned an exciting life for her only child, populated by exotic characters like those in the French novels her mother loved. Ruth had other ideas for her own future. At twenty-one she decided she wanted nothing more to do with second hand clothes, dingy apartments and frivolous, directionless people. She chose the law as her road to affluence and security. Twenty years later she was rich and successful, with next to no life outside the firm. With arduous determination, she had charted her life’s course straight to a deserted island.
The day faded into night without Ruth noticing the silence around her until the janitorial staff began vacuuming. She checked her watch, saw that it was eight-thirty and dialed Eric’s cell.
“I’m out the door. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Right,” he replied, dryly, then hung up. In the office next to hers, Andrew Roberts, senior partner at Roberts, Schaeffer and McKinney, was still at his desk laboring over a case. Unable to pass his open door unseen, Ruth said, quietly, “Goodnight, Andrew.”
“Ruth. Good. You’re still here. Would you come in for a minute? I’d like to clear up a couple of details on the Vitello case.”
“I was just on my way to a dinner engagement, Andrew. Can it wait until tomorrow morning?”
He furrowed his prodigious, white eyebrows and looked up at her from under them.
“I’m flying to Chicago tomorrow morning. This will only take a minute.” He lowered his head again, having issued an order, not a request.
“I’ll go get the case file.” As she gathered the file from her desk, she felt powerless, having become a slave to her own ambition. She wouldn’t bother calling Eric, knowing he would have another scotch at the bar, wait until nine then go home to a microwave dinner. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d stood him up. Tomorrow she would call and apologize. He would forgive her as he had so often before. Or not.