Hand in Hand | Verso.ink

Hand in Hand

Book of Ages

By Cassiopeia Fletcher

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Short Story 2
Hawaii - November 2014

“I assure you Mrs. Halawa, we’re taking your case quite seriously.” Alexa spun her pencil between her fingers with one hand while holding her phone with the other. She had her bare feet up on the empty desk, her nude pumps kicked off nearly fifteen minutes ago, and her slate-gray pencil skirt had ridden up to her thighs. She wasn’t worried; both Misters Daniel Hanson had left at noon for a lunch meeting and the paralegals knew not to bother her with the door closed.

Are you
? Emrys said. Because it looks to me as if you could not be less serious about anything.

Alexa threw her pencil at him and brought her feet back down.

“I don’t think you are,” Mrs. Halawa said, her strong voice fluctuating between alto and soprano with every word. “I know my rights. I spoke with my neighbor, Tom, and he said I should already have a settlement.”

Closing her eyes, Alexa switched the phone to her other hand to hide her sigh.

“Mrs. Halawa, we’re working closely with both the legal representative of Monster Burger and the health department. Everyone is very concerned about this,” Alexa shuddered, “Band-Aid incident, and we are determined to ensure that it comes to a satisfying conclusion for all involved.”

“Then I am getting a settlement?” Mrs. Halawa asked. “How much?”

Alexa gripped a hand in her hair; what she wouldn’t give for a punching bag right now. “A dialogue is in place, Mrs. Halawa, but these things take time. I promise I will contact you as soon as I hear word.”

“Well, all right. But I want at least ten-grand, you hear me? Not a dime less!”

“I understand, Mrs. Halawa,” Alexa said, wishing she hadn’t thrown her pencil at Emrys because now she had nothing to play with. Her phone didn’t even have a cord. “Have a good day, ma’am.”

She barely waited for the woman to say goodbye before hanging up and slumping back into her chair with a groan.

“Please shoot me.” Alexa tapped her temple. “Right here. Nice and quick.”

You believe she put that band-aid into her sandwich herself
.

Alexa gagged. “Yeah, but we can’t prove it until the DNA testing comes back, and that’s still at least a week away.”

Considering you are her legal representation
, would it not be better for the results to come back negative?

“That is the general idea, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Threading her toes into the carpet, Alexa kicked her chair into a spin before tucking herself into a ball. Her office streaked around her in a blur of browns and reds before resolving into dark wood furniture and a prodigious array of books. The most immediately necessary, and entirely irreplaceable as they had previously belonged to her father, were in the glass-doored mahogany breakfront behind her desk. The hutch itself likely cost more than a year’s rent, but Mr. Hanson Sr. hadn’t thought twice about leaving it in her office.

“My display-case, more like,” Alexa muttered, putting her feet against the desk to stop her spin. It had been almost three weeks since she had arrived in Honolulu, but she’d known her very first day of work that Daniel Hanson Sr. hadn’t hired her for her grades or recommendations or even her looks; he wanted her name.

Even after six—almost seven now—years, the King name was still both well-known and well-respected in the world of Law. And really, she shouldn’t be bitter about it. Maintaining her father’s legacy was the reason Alexa went to law school in the first place, but she had hoped to make her way up the ladder by her own merit.

Silly though it may seem, she’d wanted to start out in a cubical stacked with manila case files stuffed messily with notes and research she’d never actually use because the lawyer-in-charge would take the credit himself with, maybe, a gracious mention of her name in his victory speech on his way down the courthouse steps. Instead, Alexa came to Hanson and Hanson to find they’d cleared out a corner office just for her, complete with a shiny nameplate beside the door, under the strict order that she not handle any cases except the ones specifically given to her. She couldn’t even do Pro-Bono without permission.

“At least I don’t have to worry about begging Saturday off to unpack the rest of my stuff.” Alexa had every weekend off.

If you are talking to me
, please make your intentions more apparent. If you are talking to yourself, you may wish to consider taking advantage of the generous benefits package provided by your new employer.

“Ha, ha.” Alexa pushed out of her chair to recover the pencil she’d thrown earlier. “And for the last time, I’m not getting a shrink. Do you have any idea what people would do to me if they ever found out about you?”

Do you?


“Well, no.” She nudged her pencil out from under a mahogany end table with her bare toes. “But I’ve seen enough movies to guess that it wouldn’t end well.”

Emrys snorted. Yes, because Hollywood would never misconstrue reality in any way.

“Exactly.”

You need not mention me, you know. In fact, I am the least of the burdens you carry. What you truly need is to speak with someone who has no emotional connection to you or the accident. Despite my continued willingness to offer my support, I am too close to you to produce a truly objective opinion.


“Hmm,” Alexa said in passive agreement. With her pencil pulled out from under the table, she bent over and scooped it up. As the only writing utensil she currently had, she couldn't afford to lose it. On her first day of work, Mr. Hanson has apologized for not having office supplies or even a computer for her yet. He'd only just put in the order that morning, so it would be several weeks before everything arrived.

“But in the meantime,” he had said, holding out a single, blunt pencil and an unopened package of yellow legal pads, “these should tide you over.”

Alexa has taken them with a good-natured chuckle. It wasn't until Mr. Hanson patted her shoulder and left her newly emptied, lemon-fresh office that she realized he was serious. What sort of work he'd expected her to get done with so few supplies, she couldn't fathom. Of course, that was before she realized he didn't plan to give her work in the first place.

The feeling of being watched pricked the back of her neck, raising the hairs at her nape. She straightened and turned to face the pristine glass doors of her breakfront, one eyebrow quirked in challenge.

“Were you just checking me out?”

Most certainly not,
Emrys said both too quickly and far too defensively. That would be ungentlemanly and highly unprofessional.

Alexa snorted but let it go. She’d noticed Emrys checking her out more and more often over the last few years, and his interest had only spiked after what happened with Parker. Of course, seeing as Emrys wasn't real, his interest in her was likely due to her mind compensating for her lack of a boyfriend. Apparently, those who can't come by attention in the real world have to make up for it with the help of imagination and mild insanity.

“I'm thinking of joining a martial arts dojo,” Alexa blurted as she tucked the pencil into her pinned-up curls. “I'm starting to itch again.”

Unsurprising as you are accustomed to a much higher level of activity than you currently indulge.
He paused for a moment, and Alexa knew he was searching for some sort of counter.

“But?” she prompted and was treated to the sensation of Emrys shrugging.

But,
he said, stressing the word. I do not believe you should divide your Time any further than you already have. It would be better to concentrate more fully on your work and gain the experience necessary to transition into a better, and more active, position elsewhere.

“That…is an irritatingly reasonable suggestion.”

Thank you.


Alexa snorted. “You would consider that a compliment.”

Was it not?


“I don't know.” Alexa sighed and flopped back into her chair. “Maybe?”

She considered for a moment, lazily twisting her chair back and forth with one foot as she stared at the silver-framed photo she'd propped up on her empty desk. It showed her and her family during their vacation to Greece. It was the last picture they ever took together.

“Yes,” she said. “It was a compliment. You've always been better at focusing on the end goal.”

But?


“But I have to do something.” Alexa drew her knees to her chest, winding herself into a tight ball. “I’m suffocating in memory, Emrys. Everywhere I look, they’re there. This morning, I swear I heard Mom at the door to wake me up.”

I had wondered why you suddenly called to her,
Emrys said, his voice solemn.

“Why?” Alexa demanded, digging her nails into her crossed arms to stave off the tears she felt pricking at her eyes. “It’s been almost seven years, Emrys. Seven. So, why does it still feel like it happened yesterday?”

He was silent for a long time, and the pressure in her chest built with every drawn-out second until she nearly gasped for each ragged breath. Her vision swam, but she stubbornly blinked the tears back. She wouldn’t cry; not here. Not in this place where she was already seen as a hopeless little girl.

Emrys stepped closer and took her hand, gently prying the nails from her skin. He ran a thumb over the marks left behind and placed a whispered kiss on her fingertips before pulling her to her feet. Alexa unfolded herself begrudgingly only to sit back down almost immediately when Emrys took her place in the chair and pulled her onto his lap. Nothing should have changed, she wasn’t actually sitting on him after all, but even though she could feel the smooth leather upholstery beneath her, she could also feel a pair of cloth-covered legs. Twisting to the side, Alexa situated herself so she was perpendicular across Emrys’s lap and laid her head against the back of the chair where his shoulder would be. She felt soft cotton beneath her cheek and nuzzled into him.

I wish I could change things, that I could go back and save you from this, but Time doesn’t work that way. Even if you did go back, it would never be the same.


“So you’ve said.” Alexa breathed a heavy sigh against his chest but didn’t move. Maybe if she sat here long enough…yes. Emrys was stroking her hair. Reaching back with one hand, Alexa plucked out the pins holding her curls in place and let them tumble down over her silk-clad shoulders as the pencil she'd forgotten about dropped to the carpet. Immediately, Emrys’s fingers burrowed into her loosened locks and gently combed through them.

“What would it be like, do you think? If we didn’t go to Greece that summer, where do you think I’d be right now?”

Mt. Olympus,
he said at once. You had a theory on the Origin of Greek Mythology and felt you would find evidence of visitation there. A…shrine of some sort built within the mountain rather than atop.

“Really?” She couldn’t think of anything from her studies at either of her universities that would trigger an idea like that. Especially since the current consensus amongst archaeologists was that the Ancient Greeks never climbed Olympus. At least, not much farther than Agios Antonios, one of the mountain’s lesser peaks. Of course, if everyone just assumed that the Greeks never made it to Mytikas or Stefani, then any expeditions taken to examine the top of the mountain would be tainted by scholarly bias.

“Would I find anything?” Alexa asked, not sure which answer she was hoping for, or why she even cared. It’s not like he could really know how her life would have been. Right?

Yes,
he said, so softly she almost missed it. You find something.

Surprisingly, the pieces of her broken heart cracked; she’d thought them too small to take any more damage. One tear broke loose than two before she gave up altogether, buried her face in Emrys's shoulder, and cried. It was a stupid thing, crying over what could have been, but Emrys didn't chide her or even shush her, he just held her, running one hand across her back in soothing circles while the other combed softly through her hair. It actually felt good to cry. In fact, Alexa couldn't remember the last time she had cried for her broken life.

Had she ever? She honestly didn't know.

The tears didn't last long, maybe five minutes at most, before she took a shuddering, stabilizing breath, and sat up. Emrys let her go, his hands sliding from her head and back to trail down her arms and finally cup her hands with his.

Better?
he asked, compassion in his voice, and Alexa nodded.

“Sorry if I got snot on you,” she said with a cheeky grin and a hard sniff.

You're hilarious,
Emrys dryly returned. Alexa's eyebrows went up.

“I must be if you're using contractions. That usually only happens when I'm annoying.”

Are you ever not annoying?


She nodded in acceptance; that was fair. “Intentionally annoying.”

He chuckled softly before bringing a hand up to stroke her damp cheek. Your mascara is running.

Alexa groaned and reached around the back of her chair for the package of tissues she kept in her purse. She used one to dab at her face and was irritated but unsurprised when it came back heavy with makeup. “I'm suddenly remembering why I never cry in public.”

In my experience, you never cry in private either.


“Can you blame me?” She tossed the used tissue into the trash before grabbing another. “It's exhausting. I'm seriously ready for a nap right now. And some water. Water would be great.”

Unfortunately, the water bottle in her purse was empty, which left the fountain between the restrooms as her only option, and there was no way she was walking through the bullpen with her face a mess of teary mascara.

She sniffled again, blew her nose, and tossed the tissue into the trash with the first. “I should probably invest in waterproof.”

Only if you intend to make this a habit. Not that I mind, of course.


“Of course,” Alexa returned. “Why would you? You never mind about anything.”

He was silent for a moment—debating?—before: Only when it comes to you.

“Oh!” Alexa glared at the back of her leather chair with a blush hot enough to toast a marshmallow. “That's...that's just not fair.”

How could he make her blush like that? He was her. But then, maybe that was the answer in and of itself. After all, who would know how to get to her better than herself?

Emrys chuckled again before patting her knee. Not that I am not enjoying this, but my legs are falling asleep.

“Please.” Alexa scoffed. “You're just tired of being pinned down.”

You know me too well.
The smile in his voice made Alexa smile in return, but she did as asked and stood. She could use a stretch herself.

“Of course, I do,” Alexa said as she stood. “We're the same person.”

Similar,
Emrys corrected. But hardly the same.

Alexa waved a dismissive hand. “Semantics. Now, what do you say we get out of here for a bit? I'm starving.”

I am amenable to that.


“Excellent.” Making use of her last tissue—and mentally reminding herself to pick up a new pack—Alexa dabbed her face one last time and turned with a grin. “How do I look?”

Again, Emrys waited before speaking, and she could almost feel his eyes tracing her face.

“Well?”

Perfect,
he said. You look perfect.

Not knowing how to respond to that, Alexa offered her imaginary friend a shy smile and slipped on her shoes. He reached for her as she opened the door, and the pair left the sterile confines of her office hand in hand.

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About Cassiopeia Fletcher

I wrote my first book when I was six-years-old about a fat cat named Stephanie who wandered around the city looking for her family, and I never looked back. As a writer, my goal is to continually move forward, learning from my past self, as well as others, in an effort to become the best I can at my chosen craft. I’m blessed with a wonderful, loving family —Mom, Dad, six brothers, one sister, and five sisters-in-law—that has supported me every step of the way, even if they don’t always understand what I’m trying to do. And while I believe life is education, not everyone always agrees, so I’ve made pursuing a formal education a huge priority. Currently, I have an MFA in Creative Writing and am attending grad school for the second time pursuing an MA in Mass Communications. Eventually, I’ll get my Ph. D., but who knows if that will be before or after I settle into a job teaching Creative Writing to undergrads? Life is a mystery, and I’m happy to discover it all, one day at a time.

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