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Beginnings:Chapter 1 – Veronica

Kategori: Genel

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The easiest decision of my life had been to undertake a law degree; the most difficult had become deciding what to do with it. In spite of three years of relentless study, locked away in a law library with little on my mind beyond the obsessive desire to obtain a first class honours degree, when I eventually achieved that ambition I realized that I had no real idea what to do next. It was the summer of 1993. My mother, on the other hand, had no such doubts and was insistent that I should go into the legal profession. I was not so sure. I considered that her seemingly rabid enthusiasm for this was almost certainly based on two factors, neither of which involved giving my personal happiness a hint of consideration. Firstly, as she never tired of reminding me, she had sacrificed years of her precious life and spent a queen’s ransom on a private education to give me the best possible start in life, and she was not going to see it go to waste without a considerable fight. If that meant plucking incessantly on my well-tuned guilt strings, so much the better so far as she was concerned. Secondly, she had experienced at first-hand, during the course of her own divorce from my father three years earlier, the significant sums of money a lawyer was able to earn. As much as I reminded her that most of this was actually money made on the sad back of miserable life experiences, she nevertheless felt perfectly happy to see her youngest daughter become a moving part in what at that time I had come to regard as a perpetual misery machine. However, my protestation that I needed more time to think about my future was seed which fell on stony ground. Nothing if not proactive when it came to organizing other people’s lives, my mother then had what she considered to be the ‘perfect idea’, and she revealed it to me at the breakfast table one Friday morning in mid-July. “What you need, Lucy,” she said with the slightly arrogant air of a puffed-up celebrity agony aunt, “is some practical experience in a legal firm. You would also make some useful connections, I am sure.” “That sounds a good idea,” I lied disinterestedly, mumbling into my coffee cup and hoping beyond hope that my half-hearted lip-service would somehow placate her and serve to end the conversation rather more quickly. “I’ll write some letters when I get a few minutes, maybe next weekend.” There was a slight pause. “Oh, there’s no need to do that,” she chimed. Her controlled and upbeat tone made it clear, once more, that something unpleasant was crouching ominously up her sleeve and was just about to pounce into the light of day. I wasn’t mistaken. “I’ve managed to arrange something for you already.” I half-choked on a mouthful of lukewarm filter coffee. “What?” I barked. It was somehow as though all of my teenage hormones had suddenly returned with a vengeance, bringing a few others along for the ride. “What do you mean you’ve ‘arranged something already’?” “Well, first thing this morning I took the liberty of making a telephone call to Veronica Hamilton and asked her whether you could possibly spend a few weeks during the summer working at her firm. She said she is quite busy at the moment but she will see what she can do. She has suggested meeting with you to discuss it.” “Veronica Hamilton? Are you joking?” I could tell by the self-satisfied look that had settled comfortably on my mother’s face that she wasn’t. “You expect me to go and work for several weeks with your divorce lawyer?” “What I expect, young lady, is for you to take your life and your career seriously. I made a lot of sacrifices to give you the kaçak iddaa best opportunity to make a success of yourself, and I expect you to do just that.” “I don’t believe it!” I snapped. “I’m twenty-one, not twelve!” “Then you need to start behaving like it.” “But I have no interest in family law,” I protested. My mother said nothing. She just gave me ‘that’ look; the one that she always used when she was intent on getting her way, and that for some reason withered me inside like a fallen autumn leaf and always had. It felt as though my summer, as well as my life, was being planned for me and that the idea that I had any control whatsoever over it was nothing more than an illusion. Veronica Hamilton was one of the family law partners at Berman Bruce, a leading firm of solicitors in Brighton and at that time, and at just thirty-nine years old, had already secured for herself a formidable reputation as an uncompromising, if not ruthless, divorce lawyer. I had never met her before, although I had spoken to her once, very briefly, on the telephone during the course of my parents’ divorce. The experience had been rather like feeling a sudden and heavy glacier moving quickly over me. My mother, however, had nothing but unmitigated praise for the way Veronica had handled her divorce, although I know this was not a sentiment my father shared. One thing, however, was clear: I was not looking forward to spending six minutes, let alone six weeks, with Berman Bruce or Veronica Hamilton. My mother had arranged for me to meet Veronica at the firm’s offices that later that same day. Although it had turned out to be another sultry, sticky summer evening, I had decided to play it safe in terms of my choice of wardrobe: a smart black fitted skirt suit, a white blouse with a serious look, and some black, heeled pumps of the kind which my feet had always struggled, unsuccessfully, to get themselves accustomed to. I knew I was going to feel intimidated enough as it was and I wanted to give Veronica Hamilton no additional motive for making me feel thoroughly inadequate. I arrived at the firm’s modern and airy offices at half-past four that evening, in good time for my appointment fifteen minutes later, and I was asked by the receptionist to sit and wait in what was an impressively plush waiting area to the side of the imposing reception desk. A heavy, glass-topped coffee table was immaculately decorated by a host of quality, high-shine magazines which were arranged with such precision that I felt slightly afraid to disturb their regimented array. I smiled to myself as my eyes scanned them, pondering whimsically whether there was any chance that I would find any bridal titles among them. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t. I watched the silent fingers of the chrome clock on the wall of the waiting area tick their steady way to quarter to five. The office was still relatively busy as purposeful-looking lawyers, overburdened secretaries and concerned clients passed through the reception area. The clock made its way to five o’clock and then quarter past. Whilst my instinct in a situation like that would always have been to begin to feel a mixture of exasperation and indignation at being made to wait, I began to wonder whether it actually afforded me the rather attractive possibility of telling the receptionist that I understood entirely that Miss Hamilton was a busy woman, and helpfully offering to re-arrange the appointment for some other time, preferably in several weeks! As I began to stand up to put this idea into effect, the entrance door of the office swung open reverently as a kaçak bahis woman dressed in an intimidatingly expensive charcoal grey skirt suit and menacing, black shoes with heels resembling thin pencils made her entrance. She was carrying a bulging, black lever arch file under one arm and a bulky black leather brief case which was slung lazily over her left shoulder. She reached the reception desk just as I had made it to my feet. I watched as she had a brief conversation with the receptionist behind the desk, whose look of polished professional competence had turned to one of pious deference in the presence of this woman. After a moment, I saw the receptionist look towards me, smile nervously and point in my direction. I began to realize that my perfect escape plan had somehow been tragically interrupted by karma, as it struck me that the woman that the cowed receptionist was talking to was none other than Veronica Hamilton. “You must be Lucy,” she said. As she approached, I suddenly felt the moisture in my mouth evaporate almost instantaneously. I was somehow almost immediately overwhelmed by the disconcerting sensation of beginning to lose myself within the swirling pools of a pair of powerful, deep green eyes which were looking directly into my own. If eyes could have the ability to radiate intense heat and cold at one and the same time, then Veronica’s did. That first meeting of our eyes may have lasted only seconds, but nothing I can ever remember had left me feeling so utterly vulnerable and defenceless . I nodded and somehow managed to produce what I suspect was an embarrassing smile. “Here,” she said, smiling coolly and thrusting the lever arch file towards me. I nervously took it in both arms, holding it carefully into my body like a newborn baby. She glanced down at her wristwatch. “It’s been a long day. Let’s go and find somewhere quiet and comfortable, and have a chat, shall we, Lucy?” I followed Veronica through the reception area and out of the main office door, into the still stifling early evening sunlight, tottering gracelessly under the weight I was holding in my arms and three inch heels that my feet were not forgiving me for what I was putting them through. Fortunately, Veronica was clearly barely aware of my mental and physical discomfort; we were barely through the doors before her state-of-the-art phone was in her hand and she was tapping the screen purposefully. Within seconds she was engaged in conversation with someone, obviously discussing one of her cases. I was left in no doubt that she was not a woman to say ‘no’ to lightly. “Well,” she said, “I can tell you this. If I don’t see that consent form on my desk by first thing on Monday morning, we both know what is going to happen, don’t we. Now have I made myself perfectly clear?” She tapped the screen abruptly, ending the call without further ado. “People usually end up seeing things my way eventually, Lucy,” she said, swivelling smoothly towards me and smiling faintly. “They usually find it makes life so much easier for them in the long run. I am sure you will find that out as we get to know each other a little better. Here we are.” She pointed towards some hazardous looking stone steps which spiraled downwards towards the door of a quiet-looking wine bar. I followed her cautiously down the steps, one nervous hand gripping a cool metal handrail for support, the other clutching the bloated file of papers, negotiating each precarious stone step as though it were covered in a smooth sheet of treacherous glass. “The Water Hole” was a wine bar I had only visited once before, some illegal bahis three years earlier, when I had been out with some friends on a night out before leaving for university. It was one of those quiet, rustic places with low beams and low light, and with intimate booths that were hidden from one another by wood and opaque glass partitions. Veronica selected a booth, slipped the brief case from her shoulder onto a chair and motioned for me to sit down. “What would you like to drink, Lucy?” Her eyes met mine and once more I inexplicably found my ability to form coherent responses to simple questions had abandoned me. “Erm, could I possibly have…….I don’t know….a fruit juice?” Another half-smile played across Veronica’s lips.” “You do find making decisions a little difficult, Lucy, don’t you. How about you just let me decide for you?” I nodded again, with a feeling of dependency and vulnerability washing over me like an inevitable tide once more. As Veronica left to get the drinks, my mind started to question itself all over again. Why had I always been so timid? Why did I find making decisions so difficult? Why, in spite of my academic success, did I have so little confidence in myself? These and other similar questions had haunted my thoughts for years, without any sign of resolution. I had managed to reach the age of twenty-one without the hidden depths of my life and thoughts being seriously challenged by anyone. As I sat there, waiting, the most intense feeling arose in me that all of these questions were probably going to be brought quickly to the surface in the company of someone like Veronica Hamilton, and that I was going to be challenged in a way that I never had been before. I was brought back from the swirling mist of my thoughts by the sound of a wine glass being placed on the table in front of me. “I thought we’d have red,” said Veronica, sitting herself in the booth opposite me and placing her own glass down on the table in front of her. “Thank you,” I said. “That’s perfect.” Veronica’s eyes were fixed on mine again. “Well?” she said. I was confused. “The wine; aren’t you going to try it?” “Oh, of course. Yes.” I lifted the glass to my lips and took a long sip. I felt the smooth, red liquid coat my lips and ease its way down inside me like a languid dream. “It’s delicious, isn’t it, Lucy?” I nodded. It was. It was the first alcohol I had tasted in probably nine months. I was no expert, but I realized that the wine was both expensive and treacherously potent, and I knew that I was going to have to be careful. “Your mother tells me that you got a first class honours degree at university, Lucy. What a bright girl you are, aren’t you.” Veronica’s tone made it crystal clear that she was, in actual fact, singularly unimpressed by whatever academic success I had recently earned. “She also tells me that in her opinion you need to be given a lot of guidance. Is she right about that, Lucy?” Veronica lifted her wine glass to her lips and took a sip, her eyes looking intently into my own. It felt as though she was somehow managing to silently play with my head, and I had no answer to it. A glossy sheen of ruby red liquid shimmered on her full lips, and the glistening tip of her tongue then slipped over them. Again, for whatever reason, I was unable to form coherent words in my mouth. An embarrassing smile formed on my lips, which I quickly tried to cover over by taking another, long, sip of wine. It was at that moment for perhaps the first time, in the quiet half-light, that I began to realize that not only was Veronica a supremely confident and intimidating woman, but also a stunning and arrestingly attractive one. “You don’t need to answer that,” she continued. “I can see for myself that I am going to have to take you firmly under my wing.

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