Authors: Scott Turow
Tags: #Psychological, #Legal, #Fiction
As Rommy's lawyer, it would have been improper for Arthur to call Gillian to console her. And he was far too hurt to do that anyway. As he could best recall, she had not even apologized. Perhaps, he told himself, if she had made some effort to express her regret for so deceiving him, perhaps then there might have been some path through the incredible thicket of conflicting obligations to his client. For days, he reviewed his voice messages every half hour and even left the office at lunch on Monday to check his mail at home. Perhaps his rebukes had been too stern, especially the parting shot he'd immediately regretted about her 'case history/ Possibly, she was held back by the imperatives of the legal situation. Most likely, she had simply given up, now that her prophecies of doom had come true. Three nights ago, amid stormy dreams, he awoke with a cold fear that she had returned to drink. Then, in a minute, he remembered that drink was not the problem. By now his fantasies had turned gruesome, dim images of Gillian on rain-soaked streets disappearing in dark entryways doing God knows what.
When they reached the city, Arthur parked near the IBM Building, but he hesitated as Pamela and he were about to enter. It suddenly struck him that he was no longer Rommy Gandolph's lawyer. Despite his disappointment about the civil case and the disappearance of the fortune which, being his father's son, he'd never truly believed would come to him, he experienced in this instant a sensation of clean release. He'd shouldered an enormous burden, staggered under it at times, but carried it to the end, and for many reasons was entitled to be relieved.
In front of the revolving doors of the office building, Arthur kissed Pamela's cheek and told her she was a great lawyer. Then, in a state of dread and anticipation, he marched the four long blocks to Morton's.
Gillian was not at the counter. Argentina, her colleague, leaned across the glass case, careful not to touch it and leave prints. She told Arthur quietly that Gillian had not been in all week, neither here nor the Nearing store.
"The reporters are goons," she whispered. "I think Gil quit."
"That's what somebody said. They don't expect her back. Supposedly, she's leaving town."
As he walked back down Grand, with its magnificent shops and tall buildings, Arthur considered his options. He had absolutely no experience as a strategist in matters of the heart, and even now, he was too hurt to be certain what he wanted. But he was, after all, himself. Arthur Raven was a master of neither subtlety nor style. He knew only how to go forward at a steady pace.
At least one person in Duffy Muldawer's house was delighted to see him. Spying Arthur through the window of the side door, Duffy lit up, even while he was fiddling with the chain.
"Arthur!" the old man cried out and threw one arm around him, as Arthur moved into the tiny entry. He didn't let go of Arthur's hand and clearly would have relished the chance to hear the details of the last week, engaging in the fraternal joy of defenders who had rare occasion to celebrate. But Arthur's eyes had already fallen on Gillian, who in response to Duffy's noise had appeared at the bottom of the stairs. Apparently, she'd been cleaning and was dressed in casual attire Arthur would have bet she did not even own, her thin pale legs emerging from a beaten pair of shorts. A T-shirt was rolled up at the sleeves. She was wearing rubber gloves and-a first in Arthur's experience with her-hadn't bothered with makeup. Behind her, he saw a suitcase.
"It's over," he said. "He's out."
Gillian said congratulations and stared up in the weak light of the short stairwell, then set a foot on the bottom step. Somewhere along, Duffy had had the good sense to disappear.
"May I hug you?" she asked.
When perhaps a full minute passed, they let go of one another and sat on the stairs. She held fast to his hand. Gillian, who never cried
had cried, and Arthur, ever tearful, had merely savored the intense pleasure of having her close to him again. Sitting, he discovered he had an astonishing erection. Gillian, too, felt desire, but at the core of his embrace she had experienced a sense of consolation pure enough to be brotherly. Neither of them had any idea what would happen now.
"Are you okay?" he asked at last.
She threw up her hands futilely. "Not stoned, if that's what you're worried about. Duffy's seen to that."
"I have to, Arthur. Patti Chong, a woman I knew in law school, has agreed to hire me as a paralegal in her firm in Milwaukee. Do research. Perhaps, in time, if all goes well, as you suggested, I could reapply to the bar. But I have to get out of here." She shook her head. "Even I finally feel that I've taken enough, Arthur. I had to send Duffy to the store for me yesterday to pick up a prescription. That picture!" She wrenched her eyes closed at the thought. Taken when Gillian was at her lowest point, sleepless most nights and ravaged by despair, the photo in the paper made her a bleary hag. Her hair looked wild. And of course her eyes were dead.
"I'd have appreciated a call," he said. "It would have been terrible if I came around here eventually and just found out you were gone."
"I couldn't, Arthur. I couldn't ask you for sympathy when every lash I took benefited Rommy. Besides," she said, "I was much too ashamed. Too afraid of your reaction. And too confused. I can't stay here, Arthur, and I knew you'd never go."
"I can't leave," he said. "My sister."
"Of course," she answered.
He was glad he had said it, because in him something opened like a gate. What he had told her was not true. He could leave. The people at the Franz Center would help Susan cope. His mother might finally find a way to be useful. And if all else failed, he would move Susan up there. The firm even had an office in Milwaukee. That could work. It could all work. Even the two of them. The best and most impregnable part of him, which always hoped, was again in charge.
"I don't know why I do things, Arthur," she said to him. "I've been trying to understand myself for years-I think I'm getting better, but I have a long way to go. But I really believe I was trying to protect myself. It's been as bad as I thought it would be, too. You have to admit that."
"It would have been easier with someone standing by you, Gillian."
"It couldn't have been you, Arthur. That was part of the problem."
To him that sounded like an excuse and she could read that in his expression. But she was clear on this much.
"I know what it feels like to want to hurt someone, Arthur. I know that very well. I swear my purpose wasn't to cause you pain."
"I believe that."
"I'm sure you were far more interested in hurting yourself."
"Now you sound like Duffy."
"I'm serious. You keep undermining yourself. It's really remarkable."
"Please, Arthur. I can't handle any more analysis of my character. It's not the kind of thing I want to take on alone. This has been very, very hard, Arthur, this period. There have been some white-knuckle evenings around here. I had forgotten what it felt like to yearn for intoxication."
Arthur considered that. Then he continued.
"I want to be with you, Gillian. Leave with you. Live with you. Love you. I want that. But you have to see how hard you've worked at destroying yourself. So you don't do that to us again. If you can promise that you see that and will wrestle with it for both our sakes -"
"Please, Arthur. I'm neither dumb nor blind. I know exactly what kind of bleak Quixotic quest I'm on, rising so I can fall. But it's hopeless, Arthur."
"Not hopeless," he said. "Not at all. I can give you what you need."
"Which is?" She yearned to be skeptical, but because he was Arthur she believed him at once.
"Me. I'm your man. I can say something to you, which I don't think you've really heard before." He took both her hands. "Now, look at me and listen. Listen."
He watched her elegant slender face turn to him fully, the blond lashes and perfect intelligent eyes.
He said, "I forgive you."
She watched him for quite some time. Then she said, "Please say it again."
"I forgive you," said Arthur, as he held her hands. "I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you." He said it several more times after that.