I’m lying again. It’s not the first time and it’s certainly not going to be the last time. This is wrong, so wrong, but I so can’t help myself. Lindsey and I have al-ways been close, and now I’m treating her like she doesn’t mean anything to me, as if she suddenly turned into a distant acquaintance, just a coworker.
After all, she is a very good secretary and I respect her, but my father is stand-ing right in front of me and the lies are necessary to save my own arse. She can always get a new job, but I can’t lose my father’s respect. He is a cold hard man who is always so overbearing, treating me like I’m beneath him.
“I don’t know anything about that meeting, Mr. Harrison. I have no knowledge of this client. I’m sorry if I missed putting him on your daughter’s schedule,” Lindsey mumbles, looking at me with those large brown eyes. The truth is that I’m a coward; I’m willing to sacrifice this friendship for some sem-blance of respect. I’m like a dog begging for scraps; I’ll do anything for one tiny morsel.
This is my only chance to tell Dad what happened. I did have a meeting with George Wilkinson penciled in for this morning. I promised to discuss his case over breakfast, but I was out partying the night before and I completely forgot about it. There was just no way I could have attended, not after I woke up with the nastiest hangover I have ever had in my entire life.
Lindsey is going to hate me for what I’m going to say next.
“No, I specifically told you to put it in my calendar. This is one of our most important clients,” I say, feeling shitty about this whole thing. “Dad, you know that yesterday evening I was working on Singh’s case, and things got out of con-trol. If I had known about the meeting, this whole thing could have been easily avoided.”
Lindsey opens her mouth, probably to argue with me, but no sound comes out. She pales, but I ignore her, pretending that she is the only person that my father should blame. That tiny voice in my head is screaming at me to tell the truth, to save her job. This isn’t a joke. George Wilkinson was Dad’s most signif-icant client, and when I didn’t show up this morning to discuss his divorce case, he was furious and threatened to take his business elsewhere.
My father exhales sharply and the muscles around his jaw begin to throb. He built his law practise from scratch, even when he had to sacrifice time with his family. When I was younger he barely noticed me. He and Mum were divorced for years, but I always hoped that he would come around and start giving her some of his valuable time.
“Lindsey, you can pack your stuff. You’re fired. George is one of our most important clients and if you think that being forgetful is acceptable in this prac-tice, then you can find a job elsewhere,” he states, obviously forcing himself to remain calm, but I know that deep down he’s ready to explode. Crap, this is all my fault. At least I should attempt to defuse the situation.
“Dad, no, come on. Isn’t that a bit harsh? Lindsey is a fantastic paralegal. It’s a simple mistake,” I say. Panic seizes my lungs. I can’t lose Lindsey, not when I’m in the middle of this big case. I need to show her that I’m still willing to fight for her.
“No, Dora, you need to find yourself someone else and I have to try to repair the damage. I’m disappointed, Miss Connelly. I’ve always believed that you showed tremendous potential,” Dad adds, shaking his head, totally unaware that it’s not Lindsey’s fault, but mine. He shoots me an angry look and storms away, walking towards his corridor, leaving Lindsey and me alone.
This is going to be awkward.
“Dora, we both know that you didn’t tell me about the appointment. You know that I wouldn’t dare to forget something so important. Why did you just lie to your father?” she asks with an icy cold tone of voice. I look away, wanting to close my eyes and imagine that I’m on a sunny beach somewhere in the Baha-mas. Oh God, I’m such a bad person.
“I did tell you, Lindsey, and these accusations are terrible. I would never lie to my father,” I say, feigning annoyance in my high-pitched tone. The guilt bruises my integrity, but I always keep my head high. I find it easy to lie; in fact, I rarely tell the truth, and I know I will have to change that someday.
“Stop it, Dora, stop lying. You do that all the time—make stuff up, lie until you can’t remember your own story,” she hisses, stepping closer and grabbing my elbow, so this time I can’t do anything but look directly into her eyes. “I thought that we were friends, not just coworkers. This isn’t a joke. This is my life. If you have even a shred of integrity left in you, then you’ll go to your father right now and tell him the truth.”
Her words are hurtful, but I’m panicking, even now, at the thought of facing my father again. I’m too weak for the truth.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lindsey. We were never friends. I need to go and find a new paralegal, so please leave me alone,” I tell her, pulling away from her grip.
“The lies will catch up with you eventually, Dora, but by then it will be too late,” she calls after me as I walk to my office, trying to hide.
My breathing becomes short and shallow and my palms are sweaty. What if she’s right? What if there is a place in hell for me already, and the devil is wait-ing? I need to let this go, not get into my head. She stares at me for a while, then vanishes into the bathroom, probably to cry a little. A cold shiver runs down my spine. It’s a shame that all the offices on this floor have glass doors. I can’t even escape my father’s angry stare. He is watching me from the other side of the floor and I have a feeling he knows that I lied to him. This isn’t the worst day in my life, but I’d say it’s in the top ten. Word about Lindsey will spread fast and by this afternoon people will know that I didn’t even try to save her job.
I shuffle the papers on my desk trying to appear busy, trying to push away the panic attack that is building, the fact that I can’t take being the bad person. Something has to change. It’s not easy to keep going the way I am.
Lindsey appears half an hour later, with puffy eyes. Another secretary helps her pack while I work. They whisper solemnly to each other, glancing at me from time to time. At least I should try to talk to her, but I’m a coward. I can’t even give her five minutes. An hour later, all her stuff is gone, and I know that the next few days without her will be manic. I have so many cases that need to be pre-pared and without her I’ll get lost.
Years ago when Dad decided to remarry after he divorced Mum, he moved to London. When I graduated from Braxton University he asked me to work for him. I had just ended things with Jacob, the man that I loved, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Things were difficult, and I was drowning. My depres-sion hit its lowest point, and I needed a change. I hated Dad’s second wife, I hat-ed the fact that he paid more attention to her than he ever did to me, but in the end I took his offer.
Many people in his practise thought my job was handed to me on a silver platter. It took me a while to prove to them that I was a good solicitor, that I hadn’t wasted my time at University. Real life was hard, though, and I knew I would disappoint my Dad if I sometimes made mistakes, and so it was easy to lie, to make stuff up to cover my failings. When I wasn’t telling the truth, Dad paid attention and he interacted with me more, and I felt like we finally had a connection. The truth was too raw, too real, too much of an embarrassment to him. The fake me was better than the real me.
“Hey, loser, there’s a party in Chelsea tonight. You coming?” Mike, one of the associates asks, popping his head into my office several hours later, after I have recovered from the