“Danielle is great, Nee. Don’t stress about being able to have a life and work.”
“Says the man who works a hundred hours a week.” I can hear her eyeroll.
“Which one am I going to be today? The pot or the kettle?”
“It should be special. Maybe I’ll take her to Tokyo in the spring when we have the Bennington case.”
“You’re going to propose on a work trip? Now you do sound like me.”
She barks laughter into the phone so loud I have to pull it away from my ear. “Definitely, only minus the proposal.”
“You want some big brother advice?” I zip up my bag and carry it to the front door of my penthouse.
“Tough shit, it’s just you and me, kiddo, so I’m gonna give it to you.”
There’s a pause and an image of our parents the last time we saw them flashes in my mind.
“Don’t let fear make your decisions.” I say the words tattooed on my ribcage and put my hand over the spot.
“The last time you told me that I knocked out my two front teeth.”
“Eh. They were baby teeth.” I hear her laugh, and I grab my keys, knowing she’ll make the right choice.
“Thanks, Devin. Be safe.”
On the way out I see my extra key hanging next to the door and I grab that too. I never know how long some of these negotiations will take so I usually ask my neighbor Betty to keep an eye on things for me.
When I moved into the building a few years ago, I was told the penthouse floor was split in two. One door on one side and one on the other, and the opposite side was occupied by an elderly woman.
In my mind I’d pictured my neighbor as this frail Miss Havisham type that remained behind her locked door until her death. I couldn’t have been more wrong about Mrs. Betty.
She might be older, but nothing about her is old. She’s constantly coming and going all day long with stuff to do and friends to see. The day I moved in she brought me a bottle of Scotch and told me if her music was too loud not to call the cops. She’s never met a stranger, and although I do worry about her being alone sometimes, for the most part she’s the one always looking out for me.
I knock on her door and a moment later she swings it open and smiles brightly at me.
“Hey, Betty, do you mind keeping an eye on the place for me? I’ve got to make a quick trip to Paris but will hopefully be back by Monday.”
“A quick trip to Paris, doesn’t that sound fancy.” She pretends to look off in the distance wistfully and I shake my head.
“You know you’re always welcome to come with me.” I hand her my key and she’s already shaking her head.
“Who would call the Friday night bingo numbers? Do you have any idea how long it took me to get that job?” She waves a hand away at me like I’m ridiculous. “Besides, I’m having my guest room redone this weekend, so I’ll need to be here to boss around those sweaty construction workers.”
“I don’t want to know.” I shake my head as I grab my bag and hit the button for the elevator. “But I’m going to have security checking to make sure you don’t get into trouble.”
The elevator opens and I step inside. She laughs and calls out to me right before they close. “You should be the one worrying about trouble.”
I take the elevator down and my driver is waiting for me by the curb. I can feel my smile leave my face as soon as I exit my building. It’s not that I’m unhappy, I’m just not generally cheerful when it comes to my line of work.
After I became an attorney, I decided to specialize in international law. Renee is two years younger than me and it didn’t take much convincing for me to talk her into doing the same. Our parents worked for the United Nations and traveled all over the world. They made a lot of connections that helped Renee and me get started and grow our business into what it is. I take what I do very seriously and I’m lucky that I have little glimpses of happiness in my life that give me some sense of normalcy.
Our parents died at sea when Renee and I were in high school. It changed our lives irrevocably and after that I always carried a sense of responsibility to make sure Renee was taken care of. We were raised by our aunt, and although she was kind, she wasn’t invested in the two of us like our parents were. The moment we were able to leave, we did.
Today Renee and I own one of the largest global law firms in the world, and we’re damn good at what we do. We have a team of attorneys working for us, but sometimes on jobs as important as this one, I have to be there in person.