HER RED-LIPSTICK BRIEFCASE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two rival lawyers meet in the court room. One last case decides who wins the battle over one man.

Submitted: December 23, 2013

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Submitted: December 23, 2013

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If anything could go wrong, it did go wrong.  Or whatever that expression was. My day was just beginning and already it was bad.   Sarah, our six-year old girl, became sick at the table, projectile sick at the table.  Someone had to clean up the mess.  And, that was me.  My husband had an irrational fear of completing housework.  His Jewish mother was fanatical about keeping a house clean; and no one ever met her fastidiousness benchmark.  This pushed my schedule back by fifteen minutes.  It didn't help that I was eight month's pregnant.  

After I cleaned up the vomit and the breakfast dishes, I found Sarah in her bedroom having a fashion meltdown because the only pink hairclip that could coordinate with her pink outfit was lost.  I convinced her, through lawyer speak, that Vogue fashion magazine just announced that pink-on-pink was too matchy-matchy.  She needed another color that would make her hairclip "pop".  Just to prove me right, I grabbed her bright orange hairclip and stuck it my hair.  

"See, orange hairclip and black suit work well together.  It's like enjoying Halloween in the spring time."  

Sarah laughed.  I'm not sure if she was laughing at me or because she was over her tantrum.  I didn't care.  I was late and needed to get my darling fashionista to school.

My husband, of all days, decided to take the Mercedes E350.  We named it our We’ve Arrived car.  Steve looked great behind the wheel of our luxury car.   I knew he was entertaining clients today and needed solid transportation that screamed he was successful.  I was left with the Toyota Camry.  We dubbed this car our Republican car.  Steve's father was Protestant, conservative, and believed in hard work. My father-in-law and the Camry were kindred spirits.I put my little girl in the Camry.  The fuel gauge in the car read empty.  Now, I had to stop for gas. Filling the gas tank was another irrational fear that Steve had.  I remember several month's back complaining to my mother how my mother-in-law Ida treated Steve as if he were God - he could never do anything wrong. My mother assured me that when my baby boy was born, I would look at him and think he was Jesus Christ. Well, that gave me a new understanding as to why my mother always treated my only brother as if he walked on water.

I stopped at the gas station, then drove Sarah to her elementary school.  The secretary behind the bullet-proof window frowned at my late arrival.  She didn't have to say anything.  Just by her disapproving scowl, she was giving me the "Bad Mother Award". 

Finally, I got onto Route 30 toward the Bryn Mawr courthouse.  Now, I am one-half hour late for court. Thankfully, there was an open spot for me to park closely.  Naturally, the car parked next to the open space was a Mercedes S550.  That car belonged to the defense lawyer.  My stomach ached as if I were back in elementary school and had a mean teacher that I hated.  The presiding judge had little tolerance for lawyers who were late. I was never late.  I was always the good, little Catholic girl that obeyed all rules dictated by wise and stupid adults.  Needing to please was part of my makeup.  Speaking of makeup, I checked mine in the driver mirror.  I added just a bit more lipstick and blush.  I could only do so much with a body that looked like one of the Macy's Parade balloons.

I needed to rush but I couldn't rush if I wanted to.  My protruding stomach prohibited me.  This was a big baby growing inside of me.  I walked through the court doors. The judge caught my eyes.  He looked at his watch.  I smiled. Judge Shapiro wouldn't fine me for being late.  He was distantly related to my mother-in-law.  If Ida found out that her second cousin once removed fined me, she would not hesitate to call him up and make his ears bleed.  

Then, I saw her.  Defense Lawyer of the Decade.  Immaculately dressed in Chanel.  Hair perfectly coiffed. Makeup applied so naturally to enhance her beauty.  Nails polished a pearly pink and not a single chip.

Daniella Castelucci was a triathlete.  She was a piranha of a woman, a female predator to the male species. She was a shark of a criminal lawyer.  Who knew inside that hard-as-shell exterior and fabulously fit body lay a broken, little girl. Steve, my husband, once told me that she was paying a debt she never owed.  He wouldn't elaborate what that meant.  

 

Daniella hated me.  Perhaps with good reason.  Daniella, Steve, and I all started our careers at Morgan, Lewis law firm the same year.  Daniella set her eyes and heart on Steve from the first. They were the perfect couple, destined for greatness in the lawyer world.  I never interfered.  I swear!  However, Steve confessed to me one evening when he and I were working late that he felt Daniella was too high maintenance for him.  I took that comment to mean that Steve wanted someone to stroke his ego, not the other way around. When Steve dumped Daniella and began dating me, she made my life a living hell and destroyed my reputation as a lawyer.  I was lucky to even get a job working as a paralegal with the ADA.  In spite of this,  Steve never left me.  Instead, he married me.  No matter how Daniella tried to hurt me personally or professionally - and she did - Steve created for us a loving environment and perfect family.  All the men in the Philadelphia area law firms talked about Daniella behind closed doors.  Steve was patted on the back amongst the male lawyers because he belonged to that elite club of having the status of Daniella’s boyfriend at one time.  Most men didn't make it past the third date before Daniella moved on.  The men admired her.  She was Hillary Clinton and Angelina Jolie all rolled up in one.  We women lawyers talked about her openly.  She was called a slut, a home wrecker, and all sorts of nasty words that should never be repeated in front of polite society.  I remember once trying to gossip with Steve about her.  He took my small hand into his large hand and spoke softly.  "I don't ever want to hear any disparaging comments about someone I once had an intimate relationship with.  I don't tolerate anyone disparaging you either."  Which was Steve's way of telling me don't trash-talk his ex-girlfriend because he won't allow anyone to trash-talk me because I'm a lousy lawyer.  The only positive trait we female lawyers found redeeming in Daniella was that she was gorgeous.  We were jealous enough over her to try to keep pace.  She set the bar high on appearances.

Daniella slowly let her eyes slide over me from toes to head.  I saw her admiring approval of my Manola Blahnick shoes, she puckered her lips at my big tummy, and then her eyes bugged out at my hair.  I self-consciously touched my hair.  I was still wearing the bright orange hair clip.  I smiled at Daniella and spoke,  "A gift from our little girl."  I knew that comment would hurt her.  When she and Steve were together, Steve didn’t want children.  That all changed when Steve began romancing me.

I reached my desk and put my scuffed briefcase on the top.  I loved my scuffed briefcase.  My in-laws bought it for me as a birthday gift some years’ back.  I just had to sneak a glance at Daniella.  She reached under her desk and pulled out her red alligator briefcase. Everyone in the lawyer world of Philadelphia Area knew that was her signature "I gotcha by the b*lls"  gesture. In that briefcase was information that she had on either Steve or my deceased client.  I knew there wasn’t any dirt on me.  I was as close to a saint as Mother Theresa.  

She sent me a clear message:  I was doomed.  While I hoped to leave in a blaze of glory, I would be slinking away with humiliation.  Again.

"Ms. Castelucci, are you ready?"  

"Yes, I am, your Honor."  Daniella spoke to the jurors how wrongly accused her client was.  His girlfriend dying in his penthouse suite was an accident.  The alleged victim - my client  - was emotionally and unhinged already.  "My client would never-"  

My cell phone buzzed and vibrated on the table.  Normally, we are not allowed the use of cell phones in the courtroom anymore.  However, since I was so pregnant, a special disposition was made for me in case I went into labor.  I was hoping that it was my daughter’s school calling.  I wanted the secretary and Sarah's teacher to know that despite sending my daughter to school with a temperature and sick stomach, I still could earn the "Good Mom Award" by being available - even during a sensationalized trial such as the one I was doing.

"Mrs. Wainwright."

"Sorry, your Honor.  My daughter's school may be trying to reach me."  I looked at the text message on my cell that was from Steve.  It said:  heard that Daniella devoured another lawyer last night.  She confessed that she was worried about this trial.  Go get 'em, Tiger.  I love you, Steve.

Did Steve have to use the word devoured when he spoke of Daniella?  Now, I was getting all sorts of thoughts in my head about her and what devoured meant.  I sent a reply back:  But she brought her red-lipstick briefcase.  How can she be worried? What do you mean by devoured? Winning this case is so important for me.  This is my last case before I deliver.  After this baby boy is born, I'm done.  I just needed to win to restore my credibility.

"Mrs. Wainwright?"

"Yes, your Honor?"

"Are you ready for your closing argument?"

"Oh."  I eased my big body out of my chair and walked over to the jurors.  "Please, don't tell me that anyone would believe Ms. Castelucci could possibly use the insanity defense.  Did she have to reach into her bag of tricks and try to convince you this is Gary Heidnik?"  Gary Heidnik is an American murderer who kidnapped, tortured, and raped six women and kept them prisoner in his Philadelphia, PA basement in the 1990s.

"Anyone who hires Ms. Castelucci is not insane.  He is sly as a fox.  So sly that he needed her sexpertise to help..."  I kept on speaking, despite hearing two young associates snickering.  "Without a doubt, Mr. Haines is guilty.  I trust you, the jurors, will find him guilty as well.”

The jurors left for lunch after I spoke.  I grabbed my briefcase and handbag and walked to my car.  I needed a nap.  I wobbled toward the Camry and noticed two of the female jurors getting into one of their cars.  They waved.  I took that as a good sign as I waved back.  I took my nap and returned to the court.  It only took the jurors two hours to deliberate.  They shuffled in. 

"Before we state our verdict, we would like to give Mrs. Wainwright a present.  Here."  I couldn't help the big smile plastered on the face.  The courtroom clerk walked over to the jurors and retrieved my gift.  

"We find the defendant not guilty of the murder..."  I lost.

Steve never replied to my earlier text, so I didn't let him know I lost. He would find out anyway.  Law firms were incestuous pools of gossip.  

I picked up Sarah from the school bus stop, walked us both home, and prepared for dinner.  Steve came home and found me at the kitchen sink.  He wrapped his arms around my big belly and kissed me on the neck.  

"I heard you beat Daniella."  

"No, I lost.  I didn't get the murder conviction.”

“That’s not what I meant.  I heard that it was a showdown between my ex-girlfriend and wife.Apparently, you used words like ‘sexpertise’, ‘she devours’, and referenced her case file as that ‘red-lipstick briefcase of extortion’. It also didn’t help when the jurors gave you a baby present.  When has that ever happened?  If you wanted revenge, you got it.”

I turned around in his arms.  “Is that what you think I did?”

Steve kissed me on the lips.  “It doesn’t matter what I think.  All that matters is if you feel good about your performance today in court.”

I couldn’t hide my guilty smile, “I did.”

 


© Copyright 2019 E M Bahnsen. All rights reserved.

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