When Alice arrives home, the apartment is warm and smells wonderfully spicy. The pizza on the table is still steaming, the lights are on, and Nancy is buried nose-deep in a stack of case files. Alice lets her keys clatter into the holder by the door, and all at once the weight of the courtroom lifts from her shoulders--in exactly the way it didn't when Trish dragged her out drinking.
"Have you ever really examined section 307?" Nancy asks, and Alice can't even find words. She just shakes her head. Trish asked after Ian tonight, and Alice only said it didn't work out. She still hasn't gotten around to explaining why.
Nancy picks up her dog-eared Criminal Code and shakes it for emphasis. "I might end up paying eight thousand dollars on a two-thousand dollar claim," she says. "That's a criminal rate of interest, Alice! It's nearly six hundred percent!"
Alice leans back against the door. The mess across her kitchen table is comforting. It reminds her of law school and the days on end she spent studying, wearing nothing but pyjama pants and old wash-worn t-shirts. Nancy's calculating interest rates out loud, tapping her Criminal Code against the palm of her opposite hand, pacing. Alice is pretty sure there was a time she rolled her eyes whenever Nancy started ranting, but now there's only amusement, and this still-surprising affection that bubbles up and makes her grin. "Didn't you try that case this afternoon?" she interrupts, and doesn't add, and lose?
"Yes. That incredibly annoying friend of James' got sent to jail." Nancy drops the book into the spread-open files on the table and shakes her head, almost remorsefully. "I watched him go and I was glad, Alice. He deserved it. For a while I thought that made me a bad defense lawyer, but then I realized something."
Alice shrugs out of her coat and toes off her shoes. She dumps her briefcase and snags a piece of pizza--the cheese is stringy and burns her tongue on the first bite. "Whazzat?" she asks, with her mouth full, dropping on to the couch. She was sure she'd do nothing more than fall into bed tonight, but she loves to watch Nancy when Nancy's ranting, and the pizza is delicious in that horribly unhealthy way that makes it all the better.
Nancy follows her into the living room and stands in front of her, like a school teacher, or a dictator, or a supervillain. Someone scary and strict and about to launch into a monologue. Maybe it shouldn't be as cute as it is, but Alice is too busy keeping tomato sauce off her suit jacket to worry about how her standards have changed--or about letting her family know that they have.
"I realized," Nancy says, and there's a faraway look in her eye, a narrowing of her expression that makes her look almost evil. And absurdly cute, Alice thinks again, and she smiles around a bite of pepperoni. "It's no good helping the stupid people who won't accept my advice. Cameron fired me to represent himself; and look what he gets. Jail time. That's only fair. But I can try the usury case when I get a sane client who's willing to listen to me. And I will win."
"When you get a sane client," Alice says, deadpan.
"Yes!" Nancy says, ecstatic. She doesn't notice Alice's quirking eyebrow, or the way she's holding back her giggles. Nancy's daydreaming, picturing the whole case unfolding: the Crown's direct, and Nancy's own devastating cross; she's submitting to the Law Review, she's buying a new copy of the Criminal Code, the one that incorporates her revolutionary updates. She's happy.
She sighs and sinks down on the couch. Her shark-hungry cheerfulness fades, and she smiles at Alice--tired, but incredibly sweet. For a second, Alice thinks of Trish, and everything they didn't say to each other at the bar ("You're going home with Jack Angel? Isn't he a little...old...for you?" "Old is a state of mind, Alice, that's why you've been middle-aged since you were fifteen."). When she finishes her slice of pizza, Nancy leans forward, and brushes a dab of sauce from the corner of her mouth.
It's amazing, how quickly Alice catches her breath, how suddenly she's not tired at all, after that touch. She hasn't told Trish yet, not about this, but then she hasn't seen Trish a hundred percent sober since it started; that's her excuse right now.
She lets Nancy kiss her; she tastes pepperoni and jalapenos. It's warm and comfortable and Alice lets it all happen. She pushes Trish out of her mind. She knows what she's doing. She'll worry about the interest payments later.