52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 42
Another snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. The loss of her longtime protector, mentor, and father-figure, Willis Benson, blindsides Olivia Chandler.
An hour late, Olivia strode past Margot’s desk, her eyes focused on her office door.
Margot watched her pass, unhappy with what she was about to do. Setting her workstation to away status, she followed her boss into Olivia’s office.
Olivia appeared not notice Margot’s presence and fumbled around, pulling out her laptop and opening file folders.
Standing near the door, Margot folded her arms across her chest… and waited. She watched Olivia move folders around her desk several times before placing them in their original positions.
Lost in thought, the attorney remained standing at her desk, head bowed. When at last she looked up, Olivia was startled at seeing Margot.
“You tell me, Olivia. You’ve been in a fog since you got here… late. You’re never late.”
“We all have off days, Schultz.”
“You don’t. Not when it comes to your job.”
“Well, guess I’m due then, huh?”
“Maybe. Olivia, what’s-”
“How’s the day shaping up? Bowers custody hearing at one, right? Does Louis have the background check done for the Nealy case?”
“Yes, the background check is back… and on your desk,” she gestured at the mess Olivia had created, “somewhere. Mr. Bowers has asked for a thirty-day continuance and Mrs. Bowers isn’t arguing against it. Judge Whelan is ready to grant it as long as you don’t have a problem with the custody arrangement for the kids.”
“I have no problem with the custody arrangement.”
Margot glared at her boss as her patience wore thin.
“I haven’t told you what the arrangements are yet, Olivia.”
A pained look marred Olivia’s features. She fell back into her chair… silent.
Margot turned and closed the office door. Her brow knitted with worry, she took a seat in front of Olivia’s desk.
“Talk to me. Olivia, what happened?”
“I’m fine, Margot. It’s an off day. It hap-”
Leaning forward, the office manager’s voice hardened. Her eyes bored into Olivia.
“You were late. You didn’t take any of my calls or texts. You haven’t taken any of Bruce’s calls and the man is crazy with worry. He drove by your house twice last night and wanted to call the police when you weren’t there. You don’t want to talk about it, fine. But we care about you, Olivia, and we don’t deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.”
Margot stood and walked toward the door, still talking. “Please let me know how you want to proceed after you read the Bowers custody arrangements.”
Olivia’s shoulders slumped, shame bearing down on her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. As Margot reached for the doorknob, Olivia called out but for all her effort, her voice was low, soft and quavered.
“Margot, I’m sorry.”
The offended woman stopped, leaving the door closed but she also didn’t turn around.
“You’re right. I’m being unfair. I-I… don’t know why I have such a problem processing-”
Margot whirled around. “Olivia, dammit! What happened?”
Grief and anxiety won. Olivia wilted deeper into her chair as the first tear fell.
“Willis died last night.”