The office was small-ish, and a little dusty, when she opened the door. One lone fan whirred slowly and lazily on the ceiling, but–
Elle grinned. "I'll take it," she said, turning to the real estate agent behind her. "It's perfect."
The night of her graduation from law school, Elle Woods took a few minutes to sit down and take stock of the whirl of emotions running through her head. She was ecstatic, of course, and excited for what lay ahead; she was nervous for what might be just around the corner; but most of all, Elle Woods felt liberated. She stopped at that, wanting to think about that for a moment. “Liberated from what?” she asked herself. “All that work?” But that didn't feel quite right. She thought back to all that she'd done over the last three years, to the person she'd been upon her arrival at Harvard and all the changes she'd gone though in that time.
She'd won, before she'd even started her second year of law school, one of the highest profile murder cases of the last few years. She'd gone from the worst student in her class to being voted valedictorian. She'd convinced Emmett not to wear white after Labour Day. (An act of malum in se, she thought, chuckling to herself, remembering studying with Emmett back during her first year.)
That was it, Elle decided: graduating from Harvard Law marked the final chapter of her transition between who she'd been and who she had become. Proposing to Emmett – the Elle Woods who'd arrived at Harvard would never have done that, she told herself. She'd have waited and waited until he decided to propose himself, convinced that it was the man's role to do so. How far I've come. That proposal, as much as anything else, marked her as an independent woman ready to announce to the world her partnership in all things with Emmett Forrest.
An independent woman. Elle smiled at the darkening sky through the window as she thought about what might just be around that next corner. She took a sip of her organic chai oolong tea and realised that she knew exactly what she wanted to do tomorrow, and the day after, and for as many days after as she could.
After, she reminded herself, making a face, she passed the bar.
Elle scrubbed at the grime collected on one of the windows of her new office space. She was a lawyer, she reminded herself. She'd passed the bar. She was working her ass off trying to get ready to start seeing clients. And no amount of dirt was going to defeat her.
"Special delivery!" said a voice from the open doorway. Elle turned with a happy squeal and launched herself at the newcomer. "Hey, hey, watch the Starbucks!" Emmett warned, laughing, and Elle pulled herself up short.
"When did you get in?" she asked, stepping forward and pulling him into a more sedate hug instead, deftly avoiding the two cups of coffee Emmett was carrying, one in each hand. "I thought you weren't going to be back in town until next week!"
Emmett shook his head. "The case ended early. I'll tell you over dinner. I'm just glad to be back."
Elle reached for the coffee cup in Emmett's left hand – she'd learned over the years that he always carried his own in his right, whenever he was carrying two – and took a sip. "You remembered!" she exclaimed, as the flavour burst over her tongue.
"Of course," Emmett said, giving her an odd look. "I mean, you've only ordered the same thing every time we've been in Starbucks in, what, the last three years?”
"Yes, but-" Elle flushed. "I wasn't sure you'd remember if I wasn't there to order it myself."
"No-whip extra-hot soy venti hazelnut raspberry half-hot-chocolate half-latte," Emmett rattled off. "It took me at least three weeks to learn what you were actually saying, you said it so fast, but once I'd deciphered it it was pretty easy to remember. “ He grinned and reached over with his free hand to bop her gently on the nose. “Seriously, hazelnut and raspberry?"
Elle laughed and took another sip. "Yeah, whatever, Mr. Black Americano," she retorted. "Go out on a limb some time and try something a little more exciting." She waved at the half-empty office space. "I'd offer you a seat, but..."
“But you haven't actually had any furniture delivered yet,” Emmett pointed out, grinning. “It's okay. I'm not here for long, actually. I've got to stop by home first before heading back out to the office.”
Elle set her coffee down on the window-sill – the only available flat surface – and pulled Emmett down for a kiss. "Knock 'em dead," she told him, grinning. "You totally rocked this last case, didn't you?"
Emmett laughed and leaned back down to steal a kiss of his own. "You'll find out at dinner," he said. "Le Tresor d'Argent at seven?"
"Don't you need to call, like, a month and a half in advance to get a reservation?" Elle asked. "I mean, I'd love to, but-"
"I know someone, don't worry," Emmett explained. "He owes me a favor. So, seven? Meet me there, or want me to pick you up?"
Elle considered for a moment. "I'll meet you there," she said. "There's a stop I'll want to make first, and,” she drew out, gesturing at the ratty clothes she was wearing for cleaning the office, “obviously I'll need to head home before that."
"All right." Emmett smiled at Elle before glancing down at the ring on his left ring finger. "I'll see you there at seven." He pulled back and with a last, "Love you!" over his shoulder, he left the small office space. Elle heard the elevator door ding as it opened down the hall, and then he was gone.
"Love you, too," Elle whispered into the dusty air. She looked up at the ceiling, where the one lone fan still spun lazily, doing hardly anything at all to stir the air. "Okay, next thing I'm doing is getting you replaced," she told it before pushing her sleeves back up her arms and getting back to scrubbing the windows.
"But honey!" Horatio Woods exclaimed. "Why do you want to take the bar exam in Massachusetts? I've got thirteen of my closest friends simply clamouring for you to come and work for them in their law firms here in California!"
Elle rolled her eyes at her father before trying to explain again. "I told you what happened with Callahan," she said slowly. As much has she loved her father, she couldn't help but feel sometimes that talking to him was like speaking to a young child, one who didn't yet have the greatest understanding of cause-and-effect. Or about much of anything else. "I don't want to deal with anything like that again. And I'm Elle Woods – I won one of the highest profile murder cases of the last decade. I don't want to end up as some big-headed partner's prize pawn piece to throw around at any case he thinks needs publicity.” Elle's eyes grew distant as she continued speaking, looking into the future, seeing her plans coming to fruition. “I've got some money saved up from that paid internship last summer, and I'm going to use that to rent out office space in Boston and open my own law firm. Sure, I'll be alone at first, but I know I'll grow larger! I'll get more and more cases, and I know that I'll find other lawyers who will want to join my practice. There's the new Delta Nu law school scholarship, after all, named in my honour, and it's bound to bring more new students my way!”
Elle's father smiled at his daughter. “Well of course you should do it, then!” he insisted. “Anything you need, honey, you just ask for!”
“That's just it, Daddy,” Elle pointed out. She leaned up to give her father an affectionate kiss on the cheek. “I'm not asking for anything. Just... Thank you. For always being you.”
Horatio looked down at his daughter, a stunned expression on his face. “Well, of course, honey! Now, you just let me know when you're all set up, and your mother and I will come up and visit, all right?”
Elle grinned at her father and threw her arms around him in a tight embrace. “I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Emmett had a table by the window, Elle saw, as she walked up to the entrance of d'Argent. He waved at her as she passed, and she smiled as she waved back. “I'm meeting someone,” Elle tossed over her shoulder at the maître d' before sweeping past him and over to the table Emmett was holding for them. “Hi, babe,” she said, brushing her lips against Emmett's before taking her seat opposite him. “I hope you weren't waiting too long?”
Emmett shook his head and grinned. “Not at all,” he confirmed. “I just sat down a couple of minutes ago myself.” He waved vaguely at the menu in front of Elle. “I hear the glazed duck is good.”
“I'm thinking something lighter tonight,” Elle admitted as she opened the menu. “Maybe one of their paninis.”
As if on cue, their waiter came over, introduced himself, and took their orders; as he walked away, Elle smiled. “So is there any particular reason you asked me out to dinner tonight? Although I'm perfectly happy for this to be just because.”
“Well, first things first,” Emmett said, pulling an envelope out of his briefcase. He laughed as he handed it over to Elle. “The firm's semi-annual offer of employment. assume you're going to issue your traditional refusal?”
Elle made a face as she took the envelope. “You'd think they'd know by now,” she groaned. “This is the fifth offer?”
“Sixth,” Emmett said. “Remember, they offered you that internship right after you won the Brooke Wyndham trial?”
“ Oh,” Elle said, reminiscing. She rolled her eyes. “Right. Anyway, I haven't accepted the first five offers. What makes them think I'm going to accept number six?”
“Probably the clause on page seventeen wherein you get twenty-four/seven access to a Swedish masseur named Klaus,” Emmett explained, barely covering his smirk. “I wish I were kidding.”
“And to think,” Elle said, “three years ago, that might have convinced me.”
Emmett grinned broadly as he joked, “Maybe you should take the job anyway. Last case had me stressed enough that my back is one giant knot. You could get Klaus to work the kinks out for me.”
“ Damn,” Elle said, “and I just signed the lease on my own office space.” She tore the envelope in half, contents and all. “Well, maybe next year!”
“Other than that,” Emmett continued, “I've just been gone for a while. I missed you, and I was too tired to cook so it was easier to take you out instead. So I suppose I'm just after the pleasure of your company. Oh!” Emmett reached into his briefcase again. “Before I forget,” he added, pulling out a folded newspaper, “I've circled some ads for office furniture in the classifieds. Don't know if it's anything you'd like, but I figured it couldn't hurt for you to check it out, if you wanted.”
Elle took the paper and grinned. “Thanks, Emmett.” She glanced over the listings before folding the paper once more and setting it aside. “It's nice to get out. I've been so busy lately with trying to get things set up that I haven't really stopped at all. I should take a few days, I think. Call Vivienne and Enid, catch up, that kind of thing.”
“Find some clients. Pay your share of the rent.”
Elle stuck her tongue out at Emmett. “I need to find some chairs for them to sit in, first.”
“This last office is...” Andrea Schulz, commercial real estate agent, hesitated. “It's a little bit older. Has character, I suppose.” She led Elle up to the front of the building. “It's not as large as the other ones we've seen, and the building's older, too, but there were some relatively recent renovations – everything's up to code, especially the wiring, and the suites come pre-wired for internal inter- and intranet access.”
Elle nodded. The tile in the building's lobby was old, too, she could tell, as she walked through the door and into the sweltering heat. “No air conditioning?” she asked.
“Window units only,” Andrea explained. There was an elevator standing open; Andrea led Elle to it and pushed the button for the fourth floor. They travelled in silence until the elevator dinged open, then down the hallway to suite 407. “This is it,” Andrea announced, keying open the lock and swinging the door open, gesturing for Elle to go first.
The office was small-ish, and a little dusty. The walls had wood panelling halfway up, and off-white paint on the top half. One lone fan whirred slowly and lazily on the ceiling, but did little to stir the air in the room. The windows were grimy with the collected dirt of years. Elle grinned. "I'll take it," she said, turning to the real estate agent behind her. "It's perfect."