Susan LaFrance wiped her face with a wet towel. The sour acid taste of vomit lingered in her mouth. She had just lost her breakfast in the ladies’ room outside Courtroom B in the Hall of Justice. Getting to the bathroom in time had been touch-and-go. Luckily, lawyers, especially newly created junior partners, always hurried, so her somewhat frantic rush to the restroom had not been commented on.
“Rabbit up and keeled over dead did he, sweetie?”
Susan jumped. Lost in thought, she hadn’t heard anyone enter the washroom. The old woman now facing her was dressed in faded blue overalls and trailing a rather grungy looking mop.
“No,” responded the younger woman, “just a little disagreement with breakfast. And do I know you?”
Old eyes took in the ring-less hand.
“I doubt you’d think so, sweetie, but you sure look to me like you could use a friend. A friend indeed is a friend in need. Somethin’ like that. Anyway, doesn’t matter. Need a Kleenex? I got one of those minty, freeze-your-tongue things if you want, How about an aspirin? No, forgit the aspirin. Shouldn’t take that stuff when you’re pregnant, sweetie.”
“People get sick for any variety of reasons. I don’t mean to be rude, but it really isn’t any of your business. And I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t call me, ‘sweetie’.”
“Sorry, honey. Don’t mind me. Just can’t help helpin’ out, you know what I mean? There’s a vending machine outside. Supposed to be loaded with pure spring water. Hey, I got to remember that one—loaded with spring. Get you a drink if you want. Should drink lots of water when you’re havin’ a baby.”
“No, thank you, I’m fine. I don’t need any water. And I am not having a baby.”
“Whatever you say, sweetie.”
Susan took a deep breath, struggling to hold her temper in check and to recover her lawyer persona.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, that I was sick to my stomach because I am pregnant—which I’m not. Here we are, two perfect strangers in a public washroom. You’ll never see me again and I’ll never see you again. Why should you care?”
“Why not? People go in and out of this washroom all day and half the night. They all got trouble—why else would they end up in the courthouse in the first place? A little carin’ goes a long way I always say. Can’t have enough carin’ in the world, sweetie.”
“You didn’t answer my question. Why do you care?”
“Hypo-whatever speakin’? Make a short story shorter than short. Found a baby on the floor of one of those stalls once. Good thing it wasn’t flushed. Didn’t get here soon enough though. Couldn’t do anythin’. In a better place now but still, a real shame. Don’t want somethin’ like that to happen again is all. No siree.”
“Well obviously I didn’t vomit up a baby.”
“Vomit up a baby. Are you sure I can’t get you somethin’, sweetie?”
“I told you, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me except an upset stomach.”
“Yah, I know, you’re tryin’ hard to convince yourself. And you got it wrong.”
Susan was getting confused, and just a bit frustrated.
“Excuse me? Wrong about what?”
“About me knowin’ you. I see you everyday goin’ in an’ out of the courtroom doin’ all that lawyer stuff. You just never noticed me until today. I guess that proves it.”
“Always figured, sweetie, that trouble makes people see things different than they ever did before. Now that’s a fact, ain’t it?”
Yesterday it was fame, fortune, and a future partnership with the firm of Barnes and Sutherland. Today … No, today will be the same as yesterday. I am not having a baby. I will not have a baby. I just need some Maalox.
“I have to go.” Susan headed for the door, turning her back on the old woman.
“Sure you do, sweetie. Gotta go save some criminals. That’s a good thing, everyone needs savin’, but …”
“Don’t forgit that baby’s worth savin’. Maybe she needs some good defense lawyerin’ too.”
Susan opened her mouth to protest again that she wasn’t pregnant but shut it before the words formed. Reality overtook pretense and wrestled it to the ground.
Time to stop kidding myself. One bad breakfast could be explained, but six in a row?
Susan turned to acknowledge her unlikely mentor’s advice.
The woman was gone.
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