“You’re right; there’s no excuse for my lack of commitment. I promise I’ll do better. Thank you for this, Professor Barnes.”
“I’m sure you will.” He went to gather his belongings. Nodding, I turned and walked out of his office. Disappointment burned through me. I’d failed myself. The one part of my life that I should’ve had under control was falling apart. The hard work I’d put into my studies was what defined me.
Angry with myself, I felt the tears build as I left the building and began my brisk walk home. I wanted to call Marcus and wallow in my self-pity, but he had bigger problems. The last thing I wanted was for him to stress over mine as well. With that, I called the only person I could think of that was used to my whining: Jeremy.
“Oh wow, Mia. Don’t cry. I know you’re taking this hard, but I know you. You’ll get back on track.”
Breathing out a heavy sigh as I continued my walk home, I swiped a tear away. “I just can’t believe I allowed it to get this far, Jeremy. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.”
“Life. You finally got one. Before, you were so immersed in your studies that you didn’t allow anyone or anything else to enter your life. Now, you have Marcus and your mom is back in your life. You’ve been occupied with them. It’s understandable. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“But, this is my future, Jeremy. Without this, I have nothing.”
“I know how much it means to you, Mia. From here on out you just need to put everything around you on hold and focus on your studies as you used to do.” He was right. There were only a few weeks left in this semester, and I needed to focus all of my attention on studying for my exams. “Mia, you can do this. I know you can.”
I can do this.
I can do this.
I can do this.
After repeating it over and over, I felt a bit of relief, “Thank you, Jeremy. Can you do me a favor?”
“Please don’t tell Megan. I don’t want her to slip and tell Marcus. He has a lot going on right now with work and personal issues; I just don’t want him to worry about me as well.”
“You were great, Mr. DeLuca.” Troy Jefferson exclaimed with a huge grin as he reached out to shake my hand.
“Thank you. You were great as well. You followed the directions and answered all of the questions just as we rehearsed.”
“So what happens next?”
“After Peirce handles the defendant’s deposition scheduled next week, we’ll order the transcripts for both depositions. The opposing counsel and our firm will, of course, go through them. We usually sit back and wait for an offer. If we feel the offer is low, we’ll deny it and prepare for trial.”
“If we do go to trial, will you be the trial attorney?”
“No, I’m sorry. Peirce is the attorney handling your malpractice claim. He’ll be the one at the trial. Don’t worry, Mr. Jefferson. You’re in good hands.”
“I surely don’t doubt it. Thank you again.” He shook my hand one last time, stood from the chair, and left the conference room.
The deposition took longer than expected, and it was close to one. My mother was due to be at the office soon, which left little time for much else. I quickly gathered the documents, shoved them in the file, and headed toward my office.
When I walked into the office, my mother was already there, early as always, sitting by the bookcase. She was flipping through a magazine. Her head popped up. “Hi honey.”
“Hey, I’m just going to use the bathroom, and then we can go. Do you know where you want to have lunch?”
“I thought of the tiny bistro just down the street?”
“Yes, that’s fine. Give me a few minutes, and I’ll be ready.”
“Take your time.”
We were seated by a private table for two in the far back of the bistro. My mother ordered a glass of wine, and I settled on water. She sipped on her glass as we sat awkwardly in silence. There was a lot I wanted to know, but I wasn’t going to push her, so I waited. Hell, I waited until the silence was unbearable. “Mom, you wanted to talk.” I reminded her.
She snapped out of her daze, “Yes, honey. I’m sorry. This is just so difficult. I don’t know where to begin.”
“Try with what began the affair.” I suggested in a sarcastic tone.
She wasn’t thrilled with my response, but didn’t argue against it. Instead, she straightened in her chair and went on after a curt nod. “Marcus, before I explain, you have to understand that I loved your father very much.”
“That’s very hard to believe.”
Her lips quivered at my harsh remark, and then she pressed them together. “Well, I did. It may not seem like it to you now, but I did. There was nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for him. He was my first love, my first everything. I knew no one else but him. I was young, naïve, and allowed him to bring me into a way of life that I would be against today. It wasn’t easy at first. I accepted it, though, because I loved him, and I was prepared for all of it. At least, I thought I was.”
She wiped away a tear that ran down her cheek and then continued, “It wasn’t until Jimmie was born that I knew enough was enough. I begged him to leave that lifestyle behind because I didn’t want my little boy to be influenced by it. Your father promised me numerous times that he would walk away from it all someday, that he was just waiting for the right time.” She slightly shook her head. I listened intently as she continued her confession. “But the right time never came. After I had you, it got even worse. He would use money as a way to justify it all. He said that he wanted a better life for his boys, for me. We constantly argued. I thought we had more than enough money, but to him, it was never enough. I think in the end, because it was the only lifestyle he knew, he didn’t want out, because if he really did, he would have left.”
“It’s not that easy,” I blurted, wanting to take it back at that moment. Her head tilted aside, as her eyes grew with curiosity.
“No, no it’s not, but there’s always a way out, Marcus.” She went silent for a moment and then went on. “A couple of months before your father’s suicide, he had Lou around you boys and me more often.” The sound of his name raked at my skin and boiled my fucking blood. My nostrils flared, and I tried to control the building anger as she continued. “There was a bad exchange. I didn’t know much about it, but there was a threat against your father and his family. So Lou was around to protect us, I guess. I wasn’t sure how it all began, but it did.” A sob escaped her as she confessed to being unfaithful to a man she claimed to love. “Lou satisfied the void that your father failed to fulfill.” Tears began to stream down her face as she sniffed a few times. “Oh God, I know it was a terrible and disloyal thing to do. I felt sick about it, and I prayed every single night and day for forgiveness. When your father found out about the affair and then he committed suicide a week later, my heart shattered into a million pieces, Marcus. I blamed myself every single day since his death. Every day.” I leaned back in my chair and watched as my mother broke out into soft sobs.