At Lafayette’s insistence, Sookie called the lawyer that Eric Northman had given her while she was drinking her second cup of coffee. She’d been forced to leave a message since the office did not open until nine. Honestly, she didn’t think she would hear back from them today, if at all. To her utter astonishment, a secretary had called her back within fifteen minutes of the office opening telling her that they had an appointment that afternoon if she would like to come in. Sookie had been so stunned that she said yes without thinking. She had roughly five hours to sober up and get her shit together so she didn’t walk in their smelling like a pirate after a week’s stay in Tortuga.
Thanks to Lafayette and Tara, Sookie pulled into the parking lot of the office building where Desmond Cataliades’ office was located fifteen minutes before her meeting looking as if she was fresh from the salon, and hadn’t spent the night drowning inside a few bottles of tequila. After showering for what seemed like an hour, Sookie had let Tara style her hair in a low knot at the nape of her neck while Lafayette worked his magic with a makeup brush. Sookie has been wearing makeup since she was thirteen years old, but even she didn’t know all the tricks and tips that Lafayette pulled out to make her look the way she did. You couldn’t see a single imperfection on her face by the time he was finished and she looked well-rested, not like a washed up sailor.
They do say appearances are deceiving.
Sookie had chosen to wear an all black dress that she had purchased to attend a funeral. She certainly felt like she was attending a funeral as she stepped out of the elevator and towards the receptionist desk.
“Can I help you miss?” A professional looking woman sitting behind the desk looks up at Sookie, a polite smile on her face as she waits for Sookie to respond.
“I’m sorry; I think I’m on the wrong floor. I’m looking for Mr. Cataliades,” Sookie replies quietly and tries to retreat back to the elevator.
“You’re in the right place, miss. This is the law offices of Desmond Cataliades,” the receptionist responds with a warmer smile.
“Oh,” Sookie utters quietly as her eyes dart around to look at all the hustle and bustle taking place in the cubicles and offices behind the glass wall that separates the reception area and the offices. “I didn’t realize there were so many lawyers here.”
“Mr. Cataliades owns the firm, but there are many lawyers here; all specializing in different areas of the law,” she replies brightly. “Did you have an appointment with Mr. Cataliades?”
Sookie shakes her head. “Yes, I’m Sookie Compton.”
“I’ll let Mr. Cataliades know that you are here. Would you care for something to drink while you wait?” Sookie shakes her head no and moves towards one of the sofas in a cozy seating area. She still feels slightly queasy from the night before, and of course, her own nerves aren’t helping her feel any better. There aren’t butterflies in her stomach; it’s a herd of stampeding elephants.
How am I gonna afford all this? I shouldn’t have come here; I’m wasting this poor man’s time. What if Bill finds out I consulted a lawyer and gets mad? Sookie’s working herself into a panic over all the thoughts swirling around in her mind. She stands up, ready to run from the office and avoid all of this, but a young woman in a shockingly bright lime green dress with even more shockingly fuchsia pink hair stands at the door with a pleasant smile on her face.
“Mrs. Compton? I’m Diantha, Mr. Cataliades’ assistant. Won’t you please come this way?” However, the way the woman talks makes all of this sound like one long word. Sookie struggles to understand what the woman said but the wink and head jerk from the receptionist let Sookie know that she is supposed to go with the woman standing in the door. Sookie smiles gratefully at her before she hurries towards the brightly colored woman.
Diantha leads Sookie down a long hallway of glass-walled offices, every office increasing in size until she leads her to the one at the far end of the hallway. There is another woman sitting at one of the two desks in front of the door marked as Desmond Cataliades. This woman is also as equally bright as her counterpart, though she is wearing an electric blue dress with purple hair.
What is it with the bright colors?!?!?!
Diantha knocks softly on the open glass door and the man sitting inside gestures for her to enter. With unsure steps, Sookie walks inside the office. Diantha closes the door softly behind her, and Sookie whirls around in a panic. She feels trapped; she needs to escape.
“Mrs. Compton,” a man says congenially as he rises from his chair to circle the desk. Sookie swings around to focus on the man approaching her. “I’m Desmond Cataliades.” He offers his hand to Sookie in greeting. His large warm hand engulfs hers, making her feel tiny. The lawyer gestures at the seating area of his office. “Won’t you please have a seat?”
Sookie sits uneasily on the firm leather sofa as she looks around at the tastefully decorated office. Looking at the artwork and other items decorating the office, Sookie can tell that Mr. Cataliades does very well for himself, which means he will cost a pretty penny. It’s not that Sookie doesn’t have money, but given that she is going from two incomes to one, she will need to tighten her belt and limit her expenses. An expensive attorney, unfortunately, isn’t in her budget.
Sookie rises abruptly from her seat, clutching her purse tightly in her hands. “Mr. Cataliades I’m so very sorry, there’s been a mistake. I’m sorry to have wasted your time; I shouldn’t have come here today.” Sookie tries to walk around the coffee table and make her way out of the office, but the portly lawyer hurries to stop her.
“Mrs. Compton, with all due respect, the only mistake would be in leaving my office today. From what little I know, you are in need of representation and protection during this difficult time,” he offers in a gentle tone so as not to frighten her.
Sookie tears up hearing his words. “I don’t know what to do,” she utters helplessly as the tears begin falling in earnest down her face. Desmond quickly grabs the box of tissues from the table and offers them to her. Once she has one in her hand, he sets the box down with a thud and guides her back to the sofa. Sookie collapses on the leather surface, burying her face in her hands as heaving sobs rack her body.
The attorney does not say anything while Sookie has her emotional release. He patiently waits for her to regain control. Desmond Cataliades is sensitive enough to know that this is a highly traumatic time in anyone’s life. When Sookie finally gets herself together, the lawyer offers her another tissue. She smiles gratefully though she is ashamed of her outburst. It’s one thing to let go in front of friends and family; it’s something completely different when you do it in front of a stranger.
“I’m so sorry to break down in front you like that.” Sookie wipes at her face trying to fix the damage of her tears. Thankfully, she knew Lafayette had used waterproof mascara, so she hopefully didn’t have any black tracks running down her face. Of course, her foundation and blush are probably damaged beyond repair.
“There’s a mirror over there,” Desmond offers kindly as he points helpfully towards an open door in the office. It turns out the door leads to a private bathroom, to which Sookie makes quick use of. She stares in disgust at her face; it’s red, blotchy, and swollen from her recent crying jag and no amount of cold water on her face is going to fix that. She looks around the bathroom, hoping for a way to escape, but alas there are no secret passages or windows for her to use. With a last deep breath, she opens the bathroom door. She finds the attorney standing beside the seating area which now has a tea and coffee service on it.
Desmond looks at her with concern. “Are you alright my dear?”
Sometimes the hardest thing to bear when you are down and out is the kindness of strangers. Sookie takes several deep breaths trying to keep control of her emotions. The last thing she needs is to start crying again. “Not really,” she manages to squeak out.
“Please have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink? I have tea and coffee here, but if you prefer something else I’ll be happy to get it for you.” As a true gentleman, Desmond waits until Sookie sits before sitting himself. Once he is seated, he unbuttons his jacket to get comfortable.
“Coffee please,” she mutters weakly. The gracious host that he is, Desmond quickly hands her a small china cup and saucer filled with the dark liquid. She’d foregone cream and sugar due to her unsettled stomach. Desmond also pours himself a cup of coffee though he adds more cream than coffee to the cup, and the amount of sugar in that cup is enough to rot at least five teeth.
“I have a fondness for sweets,” Desmond says with a conspiratorial wink when he notices Sookie staring in horror as he stirs his beverage with the spoon. My wife doesn’t let me have sweets at home. Doctor’s orders,” he says patting his rotund stomach. “She’s even gotten my assistants to side with her, though Gladiola and Diantha are my nieces, so they side with her more out of familial concern. The only time I get anything sweet is during client meetings. I hope you’ll keep my secret.” Desmond winks at Sookie as he brings the sugary drink to his lips.
“Of course,” Sookie replies automatically. She takes a sip of her own drink. When she sets the cup back in the saucer, she leans forward to place it on the table. “Mr. Cataliades, I’m so sorry to have broken down on you like that.”
“Nonsense,” he replies with a wave of his hand. “And please, I insist you call me Desmond.”
“Desmond,” Sookie begins only for the attorney to cut her off.
“May I call you Sookie?” She nods her head and Desmond continues. “Sookie, what you are going through is one of the most life-altering experiences a person can go through. Thousands of people a year go through divorce, but no two people go through it the same way. I’ve been a divorce attorney for over thirty years, and while many situations have similarities, no two have been the same. How can they be the same when you are involving people’s emotions and lives?”
“I appreciate that. Lots of people have been tryin’ to tell me they know what I’m goin’ through, but I feel so alone. I feel so lost,” Sookie admits in a choked voice.
Desmond leans forward and pats her knee reassuringly. “And that is why you have me, my dear. I am here for you. As my client, I have your best interests at heart. Everyone else will try to offer you their opinions, but unfortunately, what is always just or right, isn’t necessarily what is allowed by the law.”
“Desmond, I don’t think I can afford your services,” Sookie retorts in a small voice. In a short period, this man has done more to make her feel better about her situation than anyone else in her life. It’s heartbreaking to realize that she’s finally been given a lifeline, but can’t take it because of money.
Desmond pats her knee reassuringly again. “Don’t worry about that; we’ll figure something out. From the details you gave my assistant on the phone, you need someone like me in your corner to deal with your spouse. To be honest, I’ve been waiting for you to call.”
“WHAT? How do you know anything about me?” Sookie looks at the lawyer baffled.
“Eric Northman called me a week ago, asked me if I would represent you. It’s a good thing he gave me your name. Your spouse called my office Wednesday last week seeking an appointment. Gladiola turned him down citing a conflict of interest.”
What color Sookie had in her cheeks drains away. She doesn’t know what shocks her more; that Eric Northman called the lawyer on her behalf or that Bill called last week seeking legal counsel. Was the fact that Mr. Cataliades office turned him away the reason that he took everything out of the house? If they are supposed to be doing this amicably, why is he looking for legal counsel? Sookie’s head swirls with all her questions.
“Why would Eric Northman call you about me?” That’s the first question that Sookie latches on to.
Desmond chuckles slightly as he picks up his coffee and then takes a long sip. “He was calling in a favor, and I agreed. However, after listening to the recording of Gladiola’s conversation with your husband, I am willing to take your case pro bono. I shall enjoy making sure he gets everything coming to him.” The congenial expression on his face disappears and Sookie can see a vicious demon in its place. It is easy to see why Desmond is so successful in the courtroom if he looks like that. He’s intimidating as hell! All he’s missing is the ability to shoot fire from his hands!
As if remembering where he is, the dark expression disappears from Desmond’s face to once again be replaced by a friendly smile. “Finish your coffee, my dear. We’ll get down to business once you’re ready. I’ve had the girls clear my schedule this afternoon so that we have all the time that we need.”
Nearly three hours later, Sookie walks out of the office building feeling somewhat better about her situation. It’s hard to feel good about her divorce, but at least she feels comforted by the information that Desmond provided her with. The first thing that he cautioned her to do is change the locks on the house as well as the alarm code. Sookie cannot deny Bill access to the house since his name is also on the mortgage and the deed, but she can restrict his access to it on the grounds of feeling unsafe given the way he came in and took everything he wanted when she wasn’t there. Desmond also suggested filing a temporary restraining order against Bill, though Sookie said she would have to think about that. He’s never been violent towards her in the past, but who knows what he will do now?
Desmond also recommended contacting all the companies that Sookie and Bill had joint accounts with to let them know that they are going through a divorce. One of the common things Desmond said he sees during divorce proceedings is where one tries to ruin the credit of the other. Sookie had panicked hearing that, but Desmond reassured her that it’s only been a week; Bill cannot have done that much damage in such a short period. Desmond had Sookie list all the accounts that they had jointly; other than the house, bank, and time shares, Sookie and Bill had maintained separate finances. Bill did not have access to her personal checking account, but Sookie did have access to his, as well as their savings accounts. Desmond had requested Sookie access the account information while she was there to verify the savings account had the proper balance in it; thankfully it did. She spoke with the bank to flag the account so that Bill could not withdraw all the funds and close the account without her knowledge.
It was something at least.
From this moment forward, her attorney had advised her to have all communication with Bill come to him. It will prevent situations from escalating out of hand.
That’s the theory anyway.
Walking down the steps of the office building, Sookie reaches into her purse to pull out her cell phone. She’d promised Lafayette and Tara that she would call them as soon as she had finished with the lawyer. The two of them are probably freaking out because they haven’t heard from her by now. Plus, she should probably call Gran and let her know what has happened in the last twenty-four hours. Maybe then Adele Stackhouse will understand that there is no saving Sookie’s marriage.
Sookie tries dialing the number for Lafayette first, but the call does not connect. She tries multiple times and the same thing happens. Next she tries Tara only to have the same problem. Maybe it’s poor cell reception so she decides to fire off text messages to the both of them, letting them know she’ll call them later. However, the group text message says it cannot be sent; delivery failed.
“What the hell is going on?” Sookie presses the button on her iPhone so that she can close out all her applications and then shuts off her phone. Pressing the button again, she waits impatiently for the electronic device to start up. Only when she inputs her security code does she see the message in the upper left-hand corner indicating no service.
“What the hell?” Sookie repeats herself, but is completely baffled. She knows she had service before her meeting because she sent Lafayette a text to let him know she arrived safely.
Sookie rushes back inside with the epiphany banging around loudly in her mind. She’s too agitated to wait for the elevator and takes off running up the stairs. When she arrives at the receptionist for Mr. Cataliades law firm she is huffing and puffing but she manages to blurt out to the worried woman manning the front desk, “He shut off my cell phone!”
Pamela Ravenscroft is sitting in her office trying to tie up some loose ends from the day since her group had been short-staffed. She doesn’t mind pitching in to help, especially knowing what Sookie is going through. Pam had listened to the rambling voice mail from Sookie several times before she understood the gist of what happened. She wished that she were a witch and could send every curse known to man to Bill Compton. He is an ass of the first order for putting Sookie through all of this. Pam had disliked Bill from the moment she met him. She’d never told Sookie this, but Bill had tried to proposition her the night they met.
Did she mention the night they met was the night of Sookie and Bill’s engagement party?
Pam never understood what it was that drew Sookie to Bill; in Pam’s eyes Sookie deserved someone better.
Someone like Eric if he could get his head out of his ass, though Pam didn’t have high hopes for that.
“What are you still doing here?” Eric leans against the door frame of Pam’s office with his hands in his pockets.
“I’m trying to finish this up so Sookie won’t have to deal with it tomorrow. She’s got enough on her plate without having to deal with the idiotic comments this client sent,” Pam says without looking up from typing away on her keyboard. Customer service is a thankless job; you’re stuck trying to please the client all the time and it doesn’t help when the client is too stupid to read what is right in front of them. The email Sookie had sent the client with the attached documentation clearly outlined where everything was and when they could expect the remaining information that was pending. Of course the client didn’t read any of that and asked question after question about where the rest of the data was and when they would receive it.
“How is she?” Eric steps further into the office and drops down in one of the chairs across from Pam’s desk. It’s been eating him up all day that there is nothing he can do to help Sookie. When Pam told him why Sookie wouldn’t be in today, Eric had been ready to rush out of the office and drive to her house, ready to wave a sword around like a knight in shining armor. It was only Pam’s interference that had kept Eric at the office all day. He’d been so worried about Sookie that he’d been checking in with Pam every half hour to see if she had heard anything. Pam had gotten so annoyed with him that she’d told him to get the fuck out of her office and she didn’t want to see his skinny Scandinavian ass again unless he had something work related to discuss.
Why hasn’t he fired her yet?
“You can’t fix this for her Eric,” Pam cautions him as she stops typing. Eric opens his mouth to protest but she shuts him down. “I know you want to save her, to be her knight on the white horse, but you can’t. She’s going to wonder why you got involved with the lawyer as it is.”
“How did you know I called Desmond?” Eric’s skin darkens with embarrassment. He hadn’t told Pam that he called the attorney; he didn’t even do it from the office! Eric swears she’s planted listening devices and cameras everywhere to keep tabs on him. Pam knows far too much about his life.
“Pillow talk among girls,” Pam smirks as she begins collecting her belongings to go home for the evening.
Eric rolls his eyes as he stands up from the chair. “Which one of the flowers are you dating? I can never keep them straight.” While Pam gathers her belongings, Eric walks back to his office to grab his jacket. He doesn’t carry a briefcase; if he wants to work from home he can use the company’s servers from there. It’s very rare he works from home though; if his first marriage taught him anything is that he needs to have definite separation between home and work. His late hours and dedication to his job were among Yvetta’s chief reasons about why she sought comfort in the arms of another.
Sought comfort, spread her legs: same difference.
“Gladiola,” Pam purrs as she flips off the lights for her office and then pulls the locked door shut behind her. “She has a tongue that should be in the pussy licker’s hall of fame!”
Eric smirks and shakes his head ruefully. “Is there such a thing?”
“Of course; I’m the founding member,” Pam retorts which earns a chuckle from Eric. She has more to say but the ringing of her cell phone stops her and they both freeze hearing that particular song. David Bowie’s “Little China Girl” plays loudly from inside Pam’s purse and she hurries to get to the call in time.
“Sookie? What’s the matter?” Pam’s face looks stricken as she listens to whatever it is Sookie is telling her. Eric hovers close by, trying to hear every word that is coming from Sookie, but he cannot make out much due to her crying. He clenches his fists, ready to go find Compton and pound him into the ground for making Sookie cry. Eric feels so helpless! All he wants to do is take care of Sookie, make all of this ugliness go away so that she can get back to being the sunny, carefree woman he fell in love with.
“Alright. You sure you’re OK now? Good. You can take tomorrow if you need it too; there’s no need to push yourself.” Sookie must not like that because Pam hurries to reassure her that she’s more than welcome to come back to the office tomorrow. The conversation ends quickly and Pam slips her phone back in her bag. Her expression look murderous and the suspense is killing Eric.
“Well? What happened now?”
“The clit-beaked, cunt-faced, ass hat cut off her cell phone!”
“Excuse me?” Eric isn’t sure he heard her correctly. What the hell does a clit-beaked, cunt-faced, ass hat look like? You know what, doesn’t matter; it definitely applies to Bill. “Did you say he cut off her cell phone?”
“Yes; the bastard didn’t even tell her he was going to do it. She found out when she left Desmond’s office. I swear to God someone needs to dump his body in a swamp and let the alligators have him,” she declares darkly.
“I agree,” Eric affirms. His expression turns to worry. “Is she OK?”
Pam lets out a deep sigh. “The shit just keeps piling up. I honestly don’t know how much more she can handle before she snaps.”
That’s what Eric is afraid of.