Kalinda told herself this would be the last thing she'd do for Alicia -- one final protective act.
She'd had to wait around for hours for everyone to leave. Very little in the way of work had been done at Lockhart / Gardner since the explosion, but no one seemed to be able to make the decision to leave the office and concede that their work-day was a write-off until well into the evening. Eventually, even Diane and Will departed and she was alone. The rather feeble lock on Alicia's office door was only a few seconds' effort for her.
Like most of the things she'd done for Alicia, this was unasked for. There had been no plea for help, scarcely even an acknowledgement in Alicia's eyes, as she'd walked past her through the corridor flanked by security.
Kalinda looked at the debris that had once adorned Alicia's desk scattered on the floor. She set down the cardboard file box she was carrying on the sofa and started work.
She told herself she wasn't here because she was a masochist, as she began to sift through and extract the things that belonged to Alicia and weren't Lockhart / Gardner work-product. She would do a good job of this. She knew which objets d'art were from the firm's collection and which were from some long-ago Florrick holiday in Europe. There would be no screw ups, Alicia wouldn't have to debate whether it was worth the embarrassment of calling someone in admin to get her property back.
She picked up the photo frames that held pictures of Grace and Zach. The glass in Grace's was broken. She pulled the shards out and wrapped them in paper before binning them. There was no point in anyone else getting hurt over this, especially some hapless office cleaner on minimum wage.
Done with the floor she sat in Alicia's former chair and turned to the desk by the window and Alicia's office-supplied laptop. A new USB drive inserted, she methodically searched for anything that might be a personal file and dragged each one onto it. Alicia probably had copies of everything important like photos of her children, but just in case.
Kalinda had sifted through computer hard drives hundreds of times on cases. She was efficient, she knew where to look. She pulled out the small stick, sealed it in a labelled envelope and started software to scrub the computer. No doubt IT's instructions would be to look for evidence of treachery to use against Alicia in a legal action. They wouldn't find it. They wouldn't find Alicia's Christmas shopping list from 2011 either.
Once Alicia's computer was clean, Kalinda hurled it to the floor amongst the scattered papers, enjoying the satisfying crack as the screen broke. Then she smashed a paperweight through the hard drive for good measure. Let someone try to prove how exactly the laptop lost its ability to give up any secrets.
Next were the desk drawers. There were a few suspension files that weren't case-related: the odd piece of personal paperwork; a folder of thank-you cards from clients; receipts for expenses Alicia would need for her taxes. The shallow drawers above had all the mundane bits and pieces one would expect: a bag of makeup; moisturiser to fight against the air-conditioning; a box of tampons, a bottle of Tylenol. She pulled the file box over to the desk and steadily filled it with four years of Alicia's workplace life.
Then she found it. Not tucked in a folder of long forgotten papers with the label "miscellaneous" slapped on it, but in the top drawer under loyalty cards for the coffee places near the different courthouses around Chicago, and a little notebook with various scribbled passwords in it. Things that Alicia picked up to use daily.
10497 North Damen Avenue
Just a small piece of card with her handwriting on it. The edges were soft from fingers handling it.
Kalinda hated crying, hated doing it herself even more than watching others do it. But she couldn't help the tears that began to fall, or the sobs that soon followed. There was no one to see, and for once she allowed herself the self-indulgence.
Alicia had kept it. Had kept it despite the fact that she'd moved to a new desk, in a new office, on a new floor -- just weeks after you slept with my husband. And had kept it still after taking up her partnership and moving offices again -- despite the fact that Alicia scarcely spoke to her anymore.
I miss this.
That night in Minnesota, it hadn't seemed like she'd risked everything by such a simple statement. The months that followed had proven that she ought to have been more cautious to speak of any kind of longing.
But maybe ... maybe ... Alicia missed it too.
It didn't matter anymore -- maybe wasn't enough.
Her sobs increased. She was a hypocrite -- saying all the right things to Will about how they would take down Florrick, Agos & Associates together. When if she'd known, if Alicia had asked her, she would have defected in a heartbeat. If Cary had told her Alicia was part of the deal, she would have dropped her ask. It was proof of how complete the hold was that Alicia had on her -- she'd betray the one person who had actually demonstrated he was her friend for the woman whose actions said she wasn't.
The fact that the card in her fingers was one of two, and the only other in existence had been given to Cary was not lost on her. In this moment she felt lonelier than she cared to admit.
Kalinda didn't try to stop herself. She wept until she was cried out, in a way that hadn't happened since she was Leela. She used one of Alicia's tissues to blot her eyes, too tired and defeated to be bothered with any other repair to her makeup. It was time to finish.
Her final task was to clear the closet of the change of clothes Alicia kept there in case of unexpected all-nighters followed by court in the morning.
She inspected the now-impersonal space. She noticed Alicia's fountain pen peeking out from under the sofa and stooped to grasp it. It was the last thing she put in the box before shutting the lid. She draped Alicia's clothes over her arm, picked up the box, and slipped out into the night.
It wasn't unlike the last time she rode Alicia's elevator. Even bearing a missing Grace as a peace offering, she'd known she wouldn't be welcome. This time, the workplace ephemera of Alicia Florrick were a poor substitute for a mother's own flesh and blood, yet Kalinda walked to the door of 903, set the box down, rang the bell. This time she waited.
She could tell Alicia had been drinking even before she smelled red wine on Alicia's breath. Alicia looked shaken by the day's events. As a lawyer she was used to arguments and adversarial situations, and she must have anticipated that her actions would be viewed as a betrayal, but she wasn't accustomed to violence happening in front of her. Not for the first time, Kalinda noted that for all the similarities that drew them to each other they were separated by a gulf of life experience. A gulf that Alicia probably could never bridge, even if she wanted to.
Neither woman said anything. Alicia's expression was one of confusion. Kalinda inched the box forward with her boot, the sound as it scraped the floor seemed loud out of all proportion. Alicia looked down at it, then raised her eyes again to Kalinda's.
Kalinda just looked at that beautiful face, with what might be a sad smile on her lips. She tried to imagine tomorrow and the day after and every day that followed without the chance of seeing Alicia in the office, glimpsed through glass walls, or across meeting tables. Now the only times they'd meet would be in courtrooms and foyers. She'd already lost the status of friend, but now she'd lost colleague as well, and in future she would probably be classified as enemy.
Kalinda stretched her hand out but hesitated. It didn't matter anymore -- there was no relationship to preserve -- so she continued. The fingertips of her right hand touched Alicia's face gently at the temple and ran down her cheek in the gentlest of caresses. They lingered a few seconds at the hinge of Alicia's jaw before Kalinda's thumb swiped once over Alicia's lips.
Kalinda let her hand fall and took a step back. She swallowed, her mouth was dry, she licked her top lip quickly, instinctively.
Alicia's mouth was slightly parted, but still she said nothing. Kalinda's gesture had answered a question that Alicia didn't want asked.
Kalinda watched Alicia's eyes lose their intensity as defensiveness crept in. For once she wasn't going to take all of this on herself. The pull had gone two ways between them and it was unfair of Alicia to disavow her share of it.
She undid the zip of her jacket and reached into the breast pocket. She withdrew the card she'd placed in there. It was slightly warm to the touch from being next to her body. She placed it carefully atop the box at Alicia's feet, then she turned and walked away. She stood side-on to Alicia as she waited for the elevator doors to open. She kept her eyes forward.
Kalinda watched the numbers descend one-by-one. This was the ending, she was going to get Alicia Florrick out of her brain, off her skin, and be done with her. She'd pull out her phone and dial that massage therapist Genevieve -- the one she'd left in the bar the last time Alicia came calling; needing her help; making her feel like she meant something; was trusted and necessary.
She'd fuck Alicia away. Replace the feeling lingering on her fingers with the softness of another woman's skin. Wash her off with another woman's arousal.
So what if she'd tried to do exactly the same thing before? Eventually she'd have to find the partner that could remove the stain of Alicia Florrick from her soul -- even if it took the rest of her life and every bar in Chicago.