Six Months Ago
It’s not enough. Pushing away from my desk, and throwing my glasses down on top of the numbers for the past quarter, I resist the urge to scream.
“This isn’t good enough Bec” I manage to keep my voice low, contradictory to the rage that’s growing inside me.
“I know this isn’t what you wanted to see Mia, but we are trying”
“Not hard enough” I huff, pinching the bridge of my nose in silent frustration.
“I need it to be bigger than this. What ideas have you come up with?”
I pray to god that she has something good. I need this firm to be more than just a high-street pit stop for divorcing couples. I want more. Granted those divorcing couples are always worth a fair few million, they aren’t anywhere near what I envision for Bellucci Law. I can hear the other law firms in London laughing at me, and I hate it. I’m done being laughed at. I want that top spot. Clasping her hands together in her lap, and clearing her throat before starting, Becca has the answer that could change my life forever.
“Well, do you remember a few months ago we had an offer from Hadleigh Solicitors to buy Bellucci?”
“I’m not selling” I hiss through clenched teeth.
“Is that what you want me to do? Give up? If that’s true then you know where the door is” I point towards it, in the off chance she missed it on her way in here.
“Mia. Don’t start being all bitchy on me. Hear me out”
A small pang of regret sits in my stomach. I need Becca, and I adore her, but damn does she infuriate me sometimes.
“Well, I know Hadleigh Solicitors are still looking to expand, I took the liberty of calling them”
“David Hadleigh, the CEO is retiring in the next few months and his son Liam is taking over. I pitched the idea of a merger to them”
Merge? As in make the two companies One? Before my wayward thoughts can muster up reasons why this isn’t a good idea, Becca continues.
“I’ve put together some of their files for you to look at. The numbers look good, if not great. Some of the clients they have are big spenders Mia. David liked the new departments we have here and by combining the two companies we set to become a multi-staffed all round Law Firm. They specialise in Corporate and Business Law, and by combining our Criminal, Family and Media departments with theirs, I honestly think it could be truly amazing” she finishes with a slanted smile.
I take a few minutes, gazing out of the floor to ceiling windows of my office. The world is dark, the jet-black sky shrouded by thunderous clouds. Lightening lights up the sky with thick flashes every few seconds, as rain pounds down on the window. Do I have another choice? If I want to take back what was wrongly taken from me all those years ago, I don’t see any other way. London busies itself below my feet, and I wonder if she’s here, hidden beneath one of the domes of the hundreds of umbrellas on the street. The one person who longer exists in my life. The figure who gave me breath, the poisoned air into my lungs, the pounding heart beneath my once shattered ribs. Does she think of me as I think of her? Does she wonder if I still care for her as any loving daughter should? Only I’m not a loving daughter. I never have been. Banished from mere existence. I turn around and look at my office, it’s not bad in comparison but it could be better. It has to be better. Realisation dawns that my mother will never witness any of my success. Why? Because I said so. So undeserving of the life of luxury after what she put me through. I will never let her break me again. Not if I have anything to do with it.
“Let me see those files”
Staring up at my new office building I let out a sigh, my warm breath forming a cloud around me in the freezing London air. This is a good thing, or so I keep telling myself. In the back of my mind I know this merger is beneficial to both Bellucci Law and Hadleigh solicitors, but something is holding me back from jumping around with excitement. That something is Liam Hadleigh.
I worked my damn arse off to get Bellucci Law where it is today, and I sure as hell am not going to let some pompous daddy’s boy ruin it for me. The merger was agreed months ago, beneficial to both individual companies for financial and economic reasons. Bellucci was at a standstill, even after the development of the new Media Law department and I wanted to push it further, to reach its full potential. While the majority of my cases are criminal, I have a Family Law department that charges well above the average for just an hour of our time, and idiotic millionaires pay it. I didn’t need to have Hadleigh come on board with me, however David Hadleigh, the now retiring CEO of Hadleigh Solicitors, has accumulated many prestigious clienteles over his career, and I want them! Last night I’d stayed up reading over the proposition Liam, his Son, had drawn up for his new Commercial Law department, and I had been impressed. Where Bellucci has progressed to a Regional Law firm, Hadleigh’s is a National Firm, and by working together to form a huge multi staffed office we’re set to be one of the best legal company’s in London, que pound signs.
I pride myself in Bellucci’s ability to provide any legal assistance to pompous arseholes with too much money, I wouldn’t have named the company after myself if I hadn’t planned on pushing it. I have some of the best lawyers in London at my firm, and we’ve made a name for ourselves. However, the fact that Liam is the more successful one of the two of us gives him some headway. I was excited but nervous, thrilled but pissed off. I make a living out of arguing with people and Liam has the audacity to quarrel with me over something as little as a company name. Refusing to have Bellucci included in the new name infuriates me, but what angers me even more is his refusal to meet with me. He’s constantly busy. Or so his personal assistant and automatic emails tell me. I’d signed the merger paperwork anyway after meeting with David. Once the deal was done I wouldn’t have to deal with Liam. Once I was in, there was nothing he could do about it.
The low winter sun glitters off the new building we have refurbished to house the new, nameless company. I inwardly curse at the thought. Every meeting over the past few weeks have seen Liam absent, with David giving us some lame excuse that he will fill him in later. A hint of unease settles into my gut, but I will it away quickly. I know what I’m doing, screw Liam. Smiling to myself, I plan to make this work like hell once we’re inside this building. Fuck him. I can picture him now, smug, a little overweight from overindulging on too much expensive food and drink, mid to late forties, balding. Probably nothing like his father. Ugh. I gather up my pride, and relish in the thought of Liam being a floundering, bubbling mess when he realises who he’s dealing with. Does he not think I know how businesses work? I would never have signed away my baby if I didn’t. Signed on the dotted line, I know I can’t make business decisions without Liam’s consent, but the silver lining here is neither can he. I have my eye on the ball, well the figurative ball being money here. The turnover we expect to make by the end of next year is in the millions and that is my end goal. The building is almost complete, with just a few decorative pieces to finish inside, our move in date is scheduled for a few weeks’ time, hopefully just before the new year. It shouldn’t take much on my doing, the removals company and interior designer can do the little niggly bits. I clutch my hand around my branded coffee cup to try and warm myself up from the chilling breeze when my phone startles me in my bag. Why is my handbag always like a bottomless pit? Shoving aside tissues, tampons and the crumpled up note I shoved in there earlier I find my damned phone.
“Mia! You need to get back here! Liam has just turned up!” Becca, my assistant’s high pitch voice screeches down the phone.
“What? What do you mean he’s turned up?”
“He’s here! At the office! He’s insisting he see you”
I turn my head to the heavens in the hope that, if there is a god he grants me some peace from this infuriating human! With a roll of my eyes and heavy sigh, I will my strong persona to the surface. I’ve dealt with numerous, demanding men in my time and I refuse to kneel at his feet like a dog. The building in front of me is proof enough that I’ve been doing something right for the past few years, granted the things I had to do to get here are things I’d rather forget, but I fought, and I won’t give it away to some snobby, big headed, moron.
“Well, I’m busy right now, he’s going to have to make an appointment” I smile brightly to myself, proudness coursing through me as I put Liam in his place. I’m not going to beat around the bush and say that Liam isn’t successful, because he is. He has solidified his name as an amazing solicitor. Hadleigh has over a handful of FTSE 100 clients, and they don’t just wander into a high street firm. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not good at what I do. Being a barrister has taught me many things, and I never had the help that Liam did. I guess he’s not used to being told NO by someone. He’s going to have to get used to it when we eventually start working together, I take no prisoners when it comes to my baby.
“Miaaaa” Becca groans at the other end of the phone “Please don’t make me do this, you know what he’s like”
“Becca, I don’t care. He shouldn’t assume that I’m at the office. Tell him to make an appointment” with that I hang up. Throwing my phone back into my bag, ignoring the crumpled up note again. I take one last look at the building with a smug smile on my face before jumping back into my waiting car and heading to my next appointment.
I get back to the office around five, shrugging out of my coat and pulling my scarf away from my neck. The office heat sends tingles over my frozen body. Seriously this winter is unforgiving and no matter how many layers I wear, I still freeze. My Italian heritage has done nothing for me living in London. I need the heat! Flittering images of the Caribbean beach I vacationed at over the summer warm my mind, the cocktails, the men…Stop it. I walk past Becca’s desk and quickly hear her clicking heels running behind me into my office, snapping me further out of my wandering thoughts.
“What the hell was that for?” she hisses. I turn to face her, after hanging my things on the coat rack. I rub my hands together to try and get some feeling back into them. Becca has been my paralegal since Bellucci Law was founded. I hired her from the get go, straight out of university. I’ve given her ample opportunity to move up in the business but she’s content where she is. Being a trust fund baby, means she doesn’t need to advance for economic reasons, she’s happy being my assistant. Personally, I think it’s her need to be able to interfere with my life. I love Becca like a sister, the good, the bad and the ugly but her ability to make me feel guilt doesn’t sit well with me.
“What?” I ask before rounding my desk, a little snappier than I should be.
“What do you mean ‘what?’” she says through clenched teeth. I look up at her from my seat, and I can’t help but smile.
“Don’t you smile at me Mia! I swear to god!” she sits herself down in one of the cream leather chairs parked opposite my desk. I raise my dark eyebrows in silent question before she huffs out a breath that blows her long blonde hair away from her face. I drop the papers I was collecting, letting out an exasperated breath of air.
“What? What’s wrong?” I ask her again before sitting back in my chair, giving her my full attention.
“Liam Hadleigh” she huffs, collapsing back into the chair. I wrinkle my brow in confusion, I know she said he was here earlier but what happened? I hadn’t heard back from her all day, and I’d been knee deep in evidence for this new case.
“What about him?”
“He’s the most irritating, big headed, son of a ….” she starts but I hold my hand up before she can finish her sentence.
“What did he do Becca?”
“He didn’t do anything! He’s awful Mia”
“What do you mean he’s awful? You’re not giving me much to go on here” Panic sets in at the idea of already being signed and sealed into a new company with him. Was it a mistake?
“Well he stormed in here like he owned the place, he didn’t even ask if you were here! Just stomped right up to your office demanding to see you! You should have seen his face when I told him he had to make an appointment!”
I stifle a small laugh and cross my hands across my flat stomach.
“Just ignore it Becca. We’re going to be in the same building as him soon”
“Ugh! Don’t remind me!”
“I’m sure it will get better once we’re all settled” I lie, not even believing that myself. I sigh and sit forward reaching for the papers I was sorting earlier when Becca interrupts again.
“How’s the new place looking?”
“Great. The exterior is complete, so just the interior to finish up now. We’re a little behind, but it should be ready for the new year”
“Awesome! I can’t wait for a change of scenery. Even if that idiot will be there every day”
I give her a genuine smile before changing the subject.
“I’ll be heading to Wales at some point over the next few weeks, can you check on a few hotels for me?”
“Sure! I miss your Grandmother” she says sighing wistfully. My grandmother is in a nursing home, a beautiful old country house that’s been converted into a modern living space for those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I don’t get to see her as much as I would like, but I try and fit a visit in as often as possible. “Have you heard any more from…?” she trails off without having to mention any specific name.
I look up at her through my thick lashes, “No, nothing since a couple of weeks ago”
“Okay, well you tell me if you hear anymore. I really think you need to do something about it Mia” she scolds.
“I will” my voice comes out a little too accusatory than I wanted but Becca knows not to push this subject with me.
“Anyway, remember we’re going out Saturday night!” she jumps to her feet, swiftly changing the subject thankfully.
“Okay” I smile at her before she leaves my office, shutting the door behind her. I know I promised her a monthly night out, now I regret agreeing to it! She’d first insisted on weekly but drinks after work and then a monthly girls night was my final offer. My appointment earlier today was for the new case, I met my new client, some millionaire who’s being convicted of murdering his mistress, and I need to fit in a visit to the nursing home before my life gets even more hectic. I haven’t taken a heavy case like this for months, and for good reason. I have other barristers I can pass this shit off on now. Luckily things seem to be moving pretty quickly, the jury selection is underway meaning I could be in court as early as next week if evidence allows. I pull my glasses from the top of my head, that’s right, years of reading papers and evidence files resulted in premature glasses. Nothing to do with your mother plying drugs when she was pregnant with you. Nope. I huff, pushing them onto my nose and grabbing my file.
Combing through the various statements and pieces of evidence due in court for this case, I start to read the statement of a potential witness, when my office door bursts open. I jump in my own skin and see Becca standing there looking flustered.
“What?” I question a little irritated, raising my eyebrows at her sudden intrusion.
“He’s here” she hisses quietly, her hazel eyes almost popping out of her head as she keeps the door partially open behind her. The barricade of frosted glass along the one wall of my office doesn’t give way as to who she’s talking about.
“Who?” I narrow my eyes but keep my voice equally as quiet as she does.
“Liam” she seethes through clenched teeth.
I suck in a breath and pinch the bridge of my nose. I stand up, chucking my glasses none too gently onto my desk, and brushing my pencil skirt down in the process.
“For fuck’s sake!, Send him to the conference room”. I haven’t got the energy for this today! I will myself to think of the lovely bottle of white wine I have waiting for me in the chiller when I get home. If that will ever happen! Most people leave the office at this time, so the place is deserted aside from Becca and me. I wait for a few minutes for Liam to be comfortably situated in the conference room before grabbing my phone and walking down the hall. I’ll miss this place when we move to the new building, I handpicked every piece of furniture here, it made it more personal and mine. The floors are white marble with swirls of black here and there. The walls are a bright white with specks of black and gold. The gold always pops when the sun bounces on it. It felt regal and screamed professional. The space is airy, and I didn’t want to darken the natural light that was let in, the light décor and furniture complement the space. My heels click against the marble, echoing in the silence of the deserted offices. Becca grabs my elbow before I can open the frosted glass door.
“I forgot to tell you. He’s really hard to argue with” I give her my most confused expression.
“This is me you’re talking to” I argue. Did she forget that I’m a barrister? I argue with people for a living!
“I know. But Mia…” she doesn’t finish.
“What Becca? What’s wrong with you?” I narrow my eyes at her. It’s not like her to get so flustered over a man, especially at work!
“He’s hot Mia!” she flushes and chews at her lip. My mouth drops open before snapping shut again. What? The aging, balding man with a beer belly?
“Becca! You’re engaged!” I smack her arm in gently playfulness. Becca has been with her fiancé, Jason for years and he finally proposed last year. I remember how excited she was, I was equally excited because I consider them both family. I could honestly slap her sometimes, but Jason seems to put up with her ‘You can look but you can’t touch’ mantra. Feigning ignorance she leans against the white and gold wall, sighing wistfully.
“I know, I know! But Mia…I just wanted to warn you. Get your head in the right space”
“Oh, shut up! He’s not hot. You can head off if you need to”
“And miss this? Hell no” she chuckles.