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Cupid, Inc.

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“Fantasia!  The phone is ringing again!”

Fantasia heard the distant voice calling from far below her office, barely perceptible but shrilly insistent.  She looked up from her spreadsheet and sighed.  Elsbeth was certainly one of the most talented members of her team—it’s the only reason she had decided to assign her as the lead on the almost-impossible case of Alicia Florrick.  But as usual, Elsbeth was having a little bit of trouble blending in.  For her last performance review, Elsbeth got high marks for her creativity and her track record of success.  Her ability to remain inconspicuous, on the other hand, garnered a tactfully understated “needs improvement.”

Fantasia closed her laptop and dematerialized abruptly, shimmering into full view in Elsbeth’s nearly empty office.  “Please don’t yell, Elsbeth, we’ve talked about this before.  It’s much better if nobody other than you ever hears my name, since you’re the only one who can see me. How are things going?  We haven’t received your report on the Will Gardner problem yet. You needed to have it filed by COB yesterday.”

Elsbeth looked apologetic. “Sorry.  I couldn’t figure out how to log onto our new mainframe system. I’ll do it tonight, for sure. Well, Will isn’t going to be indicted.  Our strategy worked.  But I’ve just gotten word that after all that, he was sanctioned by the Bar Association and voluntarily accepted a six-month suspension from practicing law.  I’m not sure how any of this is supposed to help me with Mrs. Florrick. Why did I waste all that time on Will if he was just going to roll over the next day and let himself get suspended?  And how did all that happen so fast, anyway?  It doesn’t really make much sense. That Bar Association is one efficient organization!”

Fantasia regarded Elsbeth severely.  “You know how it works, Elsbeth—we don’t get the big picture in our department.  We’re just Ways and Means. We make sure that what’s supposed to happen ends up happening.  What we do is important. If the plan all along was for Will to get suspended, then saving him from the indictment made that possible. Somehow, having Will out of the office for six months is going to be important to Alicia, and that’s all we need to know to do our jobs.”

Elsbeth looked away for a moment, her eye caught by the dancing lights sparkling off of Fantasia.  But then she remembered what she had been planning to say.  “Sometimes that’s not enough for me. I need to know where all this is going.”

“We can talk about your career path in a few months.  But for now, you need to concentrate on helping the people that are important to Alicia.”

Elsbeth looked serious. “I don’t know if we’re going to succeed with Mrs. Florrick.  She has one of the most closed-off and damaged hearts I’ve ever had to work on before. And have you seen her hair lately?  Someone really needs to talk her into getting rid of those side bangs.  They’re not working for her.”

“That’s why  I gave her to you. Your . . . methods have proved effective, even if you don’t always follow corporate policy.” Fantasia regarded Elsbeth fondly.  In the couple of centuries they’d been working together, an understanding had grown between them.

Elsbeth smiled. “If only it really did just take an arrow, the way these people think.  Imagine that—one arrow, boom, home in time to catch some of the reality shows that have been piling up on my TiVo for the last ten years.”

“Well, if it were as easy as all that, both of us would be out of a job.  Getting anyone ready for love takes a sharp wellness team.  Getting someone who’s been hurt the way Alicia’s been hurt, well, that requires something extra.”

Elsbeth was exasperated. “But how can we be sure what we’re doing is really helping Mrs. Florrick? I know we just get the assignments from the Potential Pairings department, but I’m worried that someone is dropping the ball somewhere.  Sometimes I think I know where her story is going, but then everything suddenly changes, and I don’t have any idea what’s really going on, or what the master plan could be. I had some hopes for her when she was with Will earlier this year, but that just ended up making her even more unhappy. What was the point of it all?  Why get them together, only to end it so suddenly?”

Fantasia looked a little uncomfortable. “We all just have to trust that the Arc Department has a handle on everything.  They haven’t really let us down yet, have they?”

“No, not really.  But I’m concerned. Sometimes I can’t even find Mrs. Florrick—she’s just plain not where she’s supposed to be.  Last week someone tweeted me to bump into her near a coffee cart, just to check on how she was doing while Will was dealing with the Bar Association thing.  And would you believe that she showed up twenty-one minutes late?  I mean, what’s that about?”

“But she did show up—that’s the important thing.”

Elsbeth was clearly getting increasingly frustrated.  “Sure, only to drop completely out of my sight for another two weeks, with no tweets from anyone at the company and no word on what I was supposed to be doing with her.  It’s very hard to help Mrs. Florrick when whole weeks go by without seeing her.”

Fantasia looked stern.  “Well, we have more work ahead of us, so that’s not going to be happening for awhile. You’ll be concentrating on Kalinda Sharma next.”

Elsbeth smiled. “I like that one.  Have you seen those boots?  What’s up with her?”

“Ostensibly tax problems, but of course it’s finally an excuse for Alicia and Kalinda to have some of the conversations that they’ve been avoiding for a year. Kalinda is key to mending Alicia’s heart.  Your job is going to be to do whatever it takes to make sure that Kalinda can do that.”

“Will I be her lawyer?” Elsbeth asked this eagerly She loved being a lawyer, arguing in court.  It was the best thing about the Alicia Florrick assignment.  The corporate suits always gave them whatever knowledge was necessary to perform an assignment,  but someone had blessed her with more legal information than was strictly necessary for this one  And it was really fun to use it.

Fantasia shook her head. “No, not this time.  Alicia will actually be Kalinda’s lawyer, and that’s going to be a big reason that the two will be forced to talk to each other. Alicia avoids difficult conversations more than any other human being I’ve ever met, but she’ll do anything for her clients.  Kalinda is a client now.”

Elsbeth appeared a little wistful.  “I was really making progress with Mrs. Florrick during her first two years at Lockhart Gardner.  But once she found out about Kalinda and Peter . . . we were much worse off than we’d been at the beginning of the assignment. I’ve always thought . . . there must have been something that I could have done . . .”

“No.  there wasn’t.” Fantasia said it sharply, even as Elsbeth looked doubtful.  “There wasn’t. We needed all that to happen. Alicia needed to be broken down entirely so we could reconstruct her heart from scratch.  A patch job just wouldn’t have worked in her case.  She needed her heart shattered completely.”

“And Kalinda?  We broke her heart, too.”

Fantasia looked regretful for an instant. “Collateral damage.  It’s unfortunate, but it happens.  And of course, Kalinda was hardly blameless.”

“She didn’t deserve what she got.”

“No.  But one thing I’m certain of is that Alicia and Kalinda are a package deal: we can’t help one without helping the other. That’s why I need you to turn all of your attention to Kalinda for the next couple of months.  Those months are going to be crucial. Whatever else happens, they need to be friends again before either of them can move forward.”

Elsbeth nodded. “I’m on it.  By the way, have you heard anything else about what might be in store for Mrs. Florrick down the road?  If we’re successful, if we help her accept people again, love them again, what then?  Who will she be with?  Will?  Kalinda?  Someone else?”

Fantasia started shimmering out of sight.  “You know that’s not our problem, Elsbeth.  The OTP Department works all that out.  I stay out of it.  There’s a lot of math involved, and I’m just middle management.  Good luck, and keep in touch this time!“