Author’s Note: There will be more mojo later on. Trust me, I wouldn’t write this without satiating my own mojo appetite. didn’t mean to make part of this in mimi’s pov. It just turned out that way.
The sound of the automatic coffee maker stirred her from her waking trance. Joanne blinked and looked over at the clock on her stove - 6:30am. She sighed as she lifted herself from her kitchen chair and crossed the kitchen into her bedroom to her closet.
You don’t need to go to work today. No one is expecting you there. They all think you’re on your honeymoon. Then again, everyone has probably already heard about the fiasco yesterday. As good an assistant as Chloe was, that girl could not keep her mouth shut. And of course her parents had invited all of their lawyer friends. If anything spread faster than wildfire, it was gossip in the New York law community.
Finding a navy blue pinstriped suit, Joanne mechanically set about finding a proper blouse to wear.
Fuck what they think. I’ve never cared about that before so why should I now? Just because I’ve ruined one part of my life doesn’t mean my career has to suffer too. It’s the only consistent aspect of my life that I can depend on. Besides I can’t just stay in the apartment all day.
As she got dressed Joanne knew that the only reason she was going into the office today was to distract herself from the emotions she was still feeling from yesterday’s events. When she was at work something inside her head switched and it was as if she could place everything else aside and focus solely on whatever case was preoccupying her mind. The moment she walked through her office door or into a courtroom she became the all-business, no bull-shit, Harvard Law graduate Joanne Jefferson. She was always the first person there (even before Chloe) and the last one to leave. The intellectual hurdles presented to her everyday kept her sharp and provided her a constant challenge. That’s what she loved about being a lawyer. Many called her a work-a-holic, but she didn’t mind the label.
It was better than the ‘gay, black, woman lawyer.’
This morning was different though. She wasn’t going to work for the intellectual challenge of solving other people’s problems. She was avoiding her own. Normally, Joanne took the subway to work, but this morning she preferred the privacy of a taxi.
“4th and 14th please.”
Just get through the day. Ignore the stares and the whispered comments.
“Maureen. Maureen, honey, wake up.”
Maureen stirred. She felt a hand on her shoulder, gently rubbing.
“Maureen, wake up. It’s almost 2 o’clock in the afternoon, sweetie.”
The light blinded her as she opened her eyes.
“I’m awake, I’m awake. God, can you turn off the light, Meems? It’s so bright,” slurred Maureen as she threw the blanket back over her head.
“That’s the light coming in from the window. Besides, I can’t turn the light off, I don’t have power to them on.” Mimi laughed bitterly as she said this, throwing the blanket off of Maureen.
Rubbing her eyes and squinting horribly, Maureen sat up on Mimi’s couch. “What time is it?”
“Oh man. My head is fucking killing me.”
“Well, we didn’t get back from the bar last night until almost 4 in the morning. And you were a little drunk. I’d say that was a well-earned hangover you’ve got there.”
Suddenly the previous night was beginning to flash in Maureen’s mind. She, Mimi, and Angel had all gone to some bar last night and ….what. It was all blurry. I must have had a lot to drink ‘cause I can’t even remember what we did last night let alone how I got here last night.
Then she remembered yesterday. Mimi saw the look in her eyes as the recollection swarmed over her face.
“Oh shit.” She buried her face in her hands, rubbing her temples.
Mimi decided to give her a moment, then she ventured gently, “You wanna talk about it?”
Her face flushed red. Suddenly she was feeling very hot and nauseous. “I just need some air, Meems. Do you wanna get outta here? Go for some lunch?”
“Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. I’ll just run up and tell Roger that we’ll be gone for a little while. Why don’t you get cleaned up? If you want, you can find some of my clothes to wear.”
“Thanks.” Yeah right. I may be skinny but I’m certainly not gonna fit in any of her clothes.
Mimi gave her a small smile as she climbed over the couch towards the window and disappeared up the fire escape. Looking in the window, she saw roger messing around with his guitar, holding a pencil in his mouth.
Apparently Roger was engrossed in his guitar because he jumped at the sound of her voice.
“Oh, hey. Sorry. I didn’t hear you come in through the window.”
She came up to the couch, hugging him from behind and kissing him on the cheek.
“I just wanted to tell you that Maureen and me are going out to lunch. I’m not sure when we’ll be back.”
“That’s fine. How was last night?”
Mimi sighed, “It was a little rough. She’s got a pretty bad hangover.”
“How is she this morning?” Mimi jumped at the sound of Mark’s voice. She hadn’t noticed him standing by his projector.
“Sorry, Mark. I didn’t see you there.” He just shrugged, seemingly more concerned about her answer. “She’s all right I guess.”
“She hasn’t said anything about yesterday?”
“No, not really. She just woke up.”
He just nodded. His face was neutral, “Well, if she needs anything…”
“Of course. Thanks Mark.”
Picking up his bag he walked towards their door, “AZT, Roger.” He gave a small smile and walked out the door, camera in tow.
“All right, babe. I’m gonna jet.”
“Tell Maureen I said hi.”
After a quick peck goodbye, Mimi disappeared down the fire escape again.
“You ready to go?”
God, I hate this part of the job. So much damn paperwork all of the time. And I just can’t trust Chloe to do this correctly. I fucking need a paralegal.
“Can I help you with anything?”
Joanne jumped in her chair and dropped the pen she was holding between her teeth.
“Shit, you scared me, Chloe,” she snapped, “How many times have I told you to knock when my door is closed? This has to be the thousandth time.”
Chloe looked hurt and innocent, “Um, your door WAS open… so I … just…sorry.”
Looking at Chloe, she felt bad for having yelled at her. “I’m sorry. I thought it was closed. Come in and shut the door.”
Chloe looked like she would rather have entered a lion’s cage at that moment, but she obliged anyways.
“I was just coming in here to check up on you and see if you needed anything.”
“Oh, no. I’m fine, really. Totally fine.” At this, Chloe raised an eyebrow.
Wow, that was a really convincing lie. Probably just as convincing as the fake smile I plastered on my face this morning while walking through the lobby to my office. Walking? Ha! Don’t kid yourself, Joanne. You were practically running. The side glances and stares were much harder to ignore than she had anticipated and they had rattled her.
Rubbing her temples, she was so lost in her thoughts that she forgot about Chloe sitting across from her, “Joanne, you look tired. Maybe you should go home. I can reschedule that appointment you had me schedule for this afternoon.”
“Oh, I completely forgot about that.” Trying to fill her day with something distracting, she had called Chloe earlier this morning and had her schedule a meeting with a new pro-bono case in the afternoon.
“Well, I can reschedule it, if you want. It’s not like it’s Peabody or McCutcheon.”
Joanne normally loved the pro-bono cases. It was the only time where she didn’t feel like a blood-sucking lawyer. With these cases she felt that she could actually do good for someone who otherwise would be left high and dry.
She sighed. I’m really not in the mood to “do good” today.
Taking that as a cue, Chloe stood to leave, “Ok then, I’ll reschedule for next Tuesday.”
“No, wait.” I’ve got nothing better to do today. I might as well just do it now instead of putting it off. “I’ll take the meeting. What’s the client’s name?”
“Uh, Emeric Parker.”
Her brow furrowed, “That’s an interesting name,” she said, more to herself than to Chloe, “When is it?”
Glancing at the clock on Joanne’s desk, Chloe timidly replied, “In 15 minutes.”
But Chloe was out the door before Joanne could finish her sentence. She dropped her head into her hands.
“I need a fucking paralegal.”
Thank God it’s overcast today. I don’t know if I could take the sun beating down on my head.
“So where do you want to eat?” Mimi was bouncing along as we walked. As if dancing along to her own song in her head.
I’m not so sure I feel like eating. “Wherever you want, Meems. Your pick.”
“The diner ok?”
“Yeah, it’s fine.” Normally I would be bouncing right along with Mimi. Both of us singing and twirling, not caring about the stares of the passerby. But today I was in no mood. Sure my head was aching but I knew that wasn’t the reason.
I guess Mimi noticed my demeanor because she stopped prancing and hooked her arm through mine. It was nice to have someone to hold onto. She and Mimi had never been close but she had always felt a certain connection to her. They both were carefree spirits and liked the same things. Whenever Joanne wasn’t in the mood to go out, she knew that she could call up Mimi and she would have a date for the evening. They always had fun with each other. On a deeper level, she knew that by going out and drinking and partying, they were both escaping their inner demons. Perhaps this is why Maureen always felt a special bond with Mimi and why she had invited Maureen to stay with her.
“Thanks for letting me crash at your place, Meems. I’m really grateful and lucky that you’re my friend. I’ll try to find a place to stay as soon as I can find a job.”
Mimi squeezed me tightly into a sideways hug, “Honey, you can stay with me as long as you want. Really. Don’t worry about finding your own place.”
I squeezed her back and smiled my thanks as we entered the diner and sat down. The waitress came to get our order.
“So! What are we gonna get? I feel like French toast with strawberries and syrup and powdered sugar!” Mimi giggled with excitement as she imagined it.
“And I’ll get the chocolate chip pancakes with butter and whipped cream.”
Mimi laughed, “that’s definitely hangover food!”
“Yeah, only I’m gonna gain ten pounds eating it and you’re gonna LOSE ten pounds eating yours.”
They shared a laugh for a brief moment and then fell into an awkward silence. Neither of them really knew what to say or how to bring up what they both knew they were thinking.
“So…are you working on any new protests?” Mimi thought this was a good opening.
Maureen thought for a moment bitterly, My LIFE is one giant protest. “No. I think that I’m just going to focus on finding a job and getting my own place ‘cause I can’t stay at yours forever. As much as I would like to.”
Mimi was looking for a way to get Maureen to open up and tried a not-so-subtle segue, “So I take it that you and Joanne are….done then?”
Maureen thought about this for a long moment. Are we really over? Was this really the straw that broke the camel’s back? We used to fight all of the time. Why is this time different? Maybe we just both reached our breaking points.
“I guess so.”
It was obvious that Mimi was studying her face. Mimi was never good at hiding her reactions. “I think you just need to give it time, you know? Maybe just give each other some space before you throw in the towel. You love her, right?”
Maureen stared into her eyes and said without pause, “More than anything, Mimi. I’ve never been so disarmed by someone in my entire life. I’ve never felt more protected and secure with anyone before Joanne. She takes care of me. She knows exactly how to make me laugh and how to push my buttons. She can just tell by the look on my face what I’m thinking and then tell me exactly what I need to hear.”
As much as I tried to hide it, I was crying. The tears were slowly leaking from eyes and yet, I didn’t wipe them away. “I mean, she even knows exactly how much peanut butter I like on my PB&J!”
I quickly started to lose control. I was coming down in the middle of the diner, “I’ve cheated every relationship I have ever had. I’m an artist, if I’m supposed to feel and experience, then why is it that when I have the opportunity to really let myself experience true love that I run away? I did it to Mark and now I’ve gone and done it to Joanne. Everyone thinks that I am so brave all of the time and that I don’t care what other people think. All I know is that it’s a lie, a big fucking lie! I’m so scared, Mimi. I’m scared of being alone. I need someone, I WANT someone to be with for the rest of my life. I want someone who understands me, who loves me for my perks and my faults. But then why am I scared of being with only one person for the rest of my life? Am I afraid that it won’t be enough for Maureen Johnson? I just can’t help it sometimes! Flirting is like a line of defense for me. It makes me feel loved and confident and wanted. But Joanne makes me feel all of those things too! What am I doing?! I’m just fucked up in the head. I don’t deserve her. I don’t deserve anyone. She deserves so much more than I can give her.”
Maureen was sobbing and Mimi was frozen for a second before she crawled over to the other side of the booth taking Maureen into her arms. The waitress was stunned too and had been standing at the table, food in tow for almost the entire diatribe. She set down their plates and their check and made a quick exit.
“Oh, honey it’s ok. Everything’s going to be ok. You are not fucked up in the head. You deserve to be happy just as much as she does. And if you two are meant to be together, then you will get through this. We’ll just take this slow, ok?”
Maureen took a deep breath, as much as she wanted to believe Mimi right now she felt like the sun just went down and she would never get to feel its warmth again. “Thanks Meems, I love you.” She tried to smile but what resulted was more like a scary grimace.
“I love you too honey. Let’s eat our lunch before it gets cold.” After a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, they turned their attention to their breakfasts.
<over the desk speaker>
Joanne, your 3:00 is here.
Relenting, Joanne pushed the button, “Send them in.”
She took a deep breath preparing herself to meet the new client. This is where she converted into “lawyer-mode.” Her entire demeanor transformed. Her shoulders stiffened, her chin lifted, and her lips pursed. She sat up straighter and began to type mindlessly on her computer.
“Come in.” She continued typing on the computer until the door opened. She made sure that she was typing just up until the moment they entered the room. It was weird, but she always did this when meeting new clients because it made her feel more intelligent and lawyer-like. It was all just part of her façade.
Chloe led an extremely young man into her office, “Ms. Jefferson, this is Mr. Parker.” The look on Chloe’s face showed that she was just as confused as Joanne.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Parker.” She was shaking his hand, studying his face for some sign of what he was doing here. He must be 15 or 16 years old.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Jefferson.” He said this at barely above a whisper. He seemed incredibly nervous and timid.
Joanne gave Chloe a look who in turn, merely shrugged.
“Can we get you something to drink? Water? Um… a Coke?”
“Oh. No thank you, ma’am.” Ok. He definitely was a young one.
“How about some water? Chloe?”
Nodding, she shut the door as she left the room.
Turning back to her unlikely client, she proceeded dubiously.
“So, Mr. Parker—”
“Please, call me Eric”
“Of course. Eric. Please, have a seat.” She walked around the corner of her desk and lowered herself into the seat. “Excuse me for sounding rude but I have to ask, are you here by yourself? I mean, do your parents know that you are here.”
At the word ‘parents’ his face turned from timid to just plain scared. “No ma’am, they don’t. They can’t.” His face was as white as a ghost and he looked nauseous.
“Well, why don’t you tell me why you are here.”
“I need a lawyer.”
“Can you tell me why you need a lawyer?” She didn’t mean to sound patronizing but she was starting to get annoyed with the young man. He’s probably one of those kids who are just trying to sue their parents for an enormous amount of money due to some outrageous abuse like being grounded for the weekend.
“I want to be emancipated from them.” For the first time he seemed to regain the color in his face. The door opened and Chloe entered with a pitcher of water and two glasses.
“Thank you Chloe.” Interesting, this was the first time Joanne had a client like him, with this sort of request, “Eric, how old are you?”
“I just turned fifteen, ma’am.”
“Well, I hate to tell you this but there are no laws providing for the emancipation of minors in New York. Generally children who are in need of this are sent to Child Protective Services and eventually the foster system until they have reached 18.”
“I know that, ma’am but they allow it in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.” He started pulling out paperwork from a backpack. I didn’t see him walk in with that. “I understand that the emancipation of minors statute in Connecticut requires that you be a resident of the state but Pennsylvania’s doesn’t require it. Now, I’ve checked and I am in compliance with all of the requirements that are stated in the statute but I need a lawyer to help represent me in court.” Although his voice was shaking, he seemed resolute in his decision.
“Do your parent’s know that you’re here?”
He looked down at the papers in his hands, “No.”
“Eric, generally when applying for emancipation, the parents are involved. It’s rare that emancipations are granted without the parent’s permission. Courts aren’t exactly keen on taking away children from their parents without good reason. Even then, they rarely allow that child to be responsible for themselves.”
His eyes never left the papers in his hands. He was clutching onto them as if they were his only hope. He looks so beaten and defeated. God, I know how he feels.
“You know what? I’ll see what I can do, but I need you to be very frank with me and honest about your reasons here.” He nodded. “Ok. Let’s start from the beginning.”
He still looked so scared. When he started speaking his voice was shaking,
“I live with my mother and my stepdad. My father died when I was 3 years old so I don’t really remember him at all. I call my stepfather Dad mostly because he’s been in my life for so long. I’m not close to him at all, or my mother for that matter. My parents are Presbyterians and they are extremely religious. They raised me Presbyterian too but I hate it. My stepdad is really strict and he makes me go to church with him everyday. I work everyday right after school and they take the money I earn and give it to the church. If I complain they get mad and make me spend more time there. I’m not allowed to do anything except go to school, go to work, and go to church.”
He paused for a long time. Joanne thought he was going to continue talking but when a minute passed by without even a glance up, she spoke, “Well, I’m sorry to say this Eric, but that’s really not grounds for an emancipation.” She waited for a reaction. If he had heard what she said, he gave no sign for it. “Eric?”
He finally looked up, “I just need to get as far away from them as possible. Especially my stepfather.” I could tell his eyes were starting to tear up. He looked like there was more he wanted to say, but he was preventing himself. “That’s why I came to you, specifically. You’re the only lawyer I thought I could trust.” As he said this, he began rolling up the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Joanne thought he was just warm at first, “I don’t understand. You came to me specifically?” A pro-bono case coming to me particularly? That’s odd. Normally the DA’s office just hands me a couple of them and I pick and choose. Trust? What does he mean by tru—
He paused about halfway up his forearm. Suddenly Joanne was on her feet leaning forward over her desk to get a better look.
There were bruises up and down his arm and a very distinct handmark still grabbing his forearm. She felt anger starting to build up inside of her. “Who did this to you? Did you stepfather do this to you? Eric? You need to tell me.”
Eric only nodded and added in a whisper, “and Reverend Green.”
Joanne was shocked, “Jesus. We need to get you to a hospital. Are you all right? Is anything broken?” She had come around the desk by now and was crouching down to inspect his arm better. Before she could get a good look at it he pulled it away, protectively, “No, no. It…it’s fine, just sore.”
“Eric, I’m going to need to call CPS on this. This is abuse.”
He jumped to his feet, surprising Joanne and sending her to her feet as well. “No! You can’t do that. You can’t call them. I can take care of myself. I just want to be myself, away from THEM. I don’t want to go to foster care! I don’t want to be in the system. I can’t. I won’t!”
It was then that he finally broke down. His entire body became engulfed in his sobbing and his face was drenched in his tears. Joanne took him up into her arms and cradled him. He buried his face in the space between her neck and her shoulder. His vulnerability reminded Joanne of her own and to her surprise she felt a tear fall down her cheek.
He pulled away from her, wiping the moisture from his face and nose and still sniffling, “I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to do and I guess I just thought that you could help me.”
She discreetly dabbed the moisture from her face too, hoping that he didn’t notice. This is so unprofessional of me. But despite her conscious telling her this, she didn’t really believe it. There’s something different about this case. He’s not the average client, besides the fact he’s only 15. “Ok. I’m going to help you. We’ll get you through this, ok? We’ll find a way.”
He looked up at her and for the first time he smiled. “Thanks.”
“How about some water now?” The smile she gave him was kind and welcoming. As she poured them each a glass, she remembered her last question. “Eric, you said that you came to me particularly. Why? I mean, I don’t generally specialize in family cases or abuse cases. My specialty is corporate and contract law. I don’t see how I would be more able in this case than any other lawyer.”
Looking down at his fingers, he said rather sheepishly,
“Because I’m gay.”
Ok. Comments would be much appreciated. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts. Here are some of mine. So I wrote and re-wrote this chapter a hundred times and finally just went with the best one I could come up with. I don’t like that so much of the beginning is in Mimi’s POV. There will be more Maureen POV. Also, I promise that there will be more mojo fluff in here and more mojo related stuff in general.