as she almost literally rolled out of bed, creaky and exhausted after spending too much of the night before knitting. She was almost done with the scarf she planned on making for Jake – so she could get moving on the Christmas sweater for Sue. Her cell phone rang – the office with a minor question. She checked her messages. Nothing urgent that couldn’t wait – at least until she showered and dressed.
The morning oblations completed, she trudged downstairs to answer some of her calls and get ready for the day. Luckily, she wasn’t due in court until the afternoon, so there was time to clean up a bit and maybe have a cup of coffee before venturing out into the cold cloudy afternoon. As she put last night’s dinner dishes into the dishwasher, making her morning coffee, she looked through the kitchen window at the view outside. A view that never failed to satisfy, no matter the weather. The back of the house was at the back of a hill; the woods and hills were so peaceful. But the iron grey sky overarched a cloud of cold that chilled the bones. Shivering, she turned on the dishwasher and poured herself a cup of coffee – strong, the way she liked it.
It was December, yet it still didn’t feel like Christmas. She had a sense of foreboding that puzzled her. In the past, she listened to that feeling and she still did now; it usually told her that she had forgotten something: a deadline, a witness interview, something – but work was not the issue. The hearings she had that afternoon were not going to be terribly difficult. Two were not even contested and the one contested hearing would simply be a matter of arguing her point and either getting what she asked for or near to it. No one was going to jail. No one was going to lose any big bucks. “Not in my line of work,” she chuckled to herself. Janet represented children, children who had come to the attention of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services. Their parents were, for the most part, poor, often drug-addicted and/or afflicted with one form of mental illness or another. True, there were some pretty awful people with whom she crossed paths, some thankfully in prison, but for the most part, they were the exception rather than the rule. Their kids suffered in various ways, but in spite of all their troubles, Janet genuinely liked her clients – even the ones who gave her a lot of trouble or wanted to fire her. They had a lot of anger and who could blame them? No, work wasn’t the issue.
She thought about the little get together the night before and smiled. Her church choir had enjoyed a little fiesta in the midst of Christmas rehearsals. Their feisty organist choirmaster had been her usual energetic self, getting them ready for the Prelude they were to perform before the services, prodding, haranging, praising their efforts just when all seemed hopeless. Janet had totally screwed up a few parts, distracted by thoughts of the next day’s work, but overall it had been a great deal of fun. Life for the employees of St. John’s Episcopal Church was hectic at best this time of year, so the little party for the volunteers had meant a great deal. She wondered what Sue meant by that thing she did with the wine. Was it an act of kindness or was she just being absent minded? Janet hoped it was the former, but figured it was probably the latter, given the busy-ness of the season. Just as well, otherwise there would be more things she would have to deal with and right now she had enough going on.
And Darlene’s story about the rudeness of the parishioners as she and Sarah sang the week before at St. Edward’s was hilarious! Janet giggled as she thought about it. Seriously, senior wardens making whoopee cushion sounds? That was putting it politely.
Something George Andrews said? George sang tenor in the choir and had one of its most beautiful voices. Janet sang in George’s section. An alto, she had been relegated to the tenor section to fill a need and to stretch her voice a bit (so she told herself). They had been talking about one of her cases – no names of course – just the situation in general. He said something, but she couldn’t remember what it was. Damn. Oh well, she’d remember it when she wasn’t so rushed.
She got into the car, files in tow, and started off to court. She was making good time when the accident happened. Years later, as she recounted this story, she would say that she didn’t know then that crossing the Patapsco River Bridge would be a far longer journey than she ever imagined.
copyright 2008 P. J. Gavigan