“I like where you’re going with this.” Will nodded. All the pieces of the case were falling together nicely. Someone people found that to be a bad omen, but Will wasn’t superstitious like that. He felt stronger when things were going well. “Keep me posted on what you find.”
“Will do. I should have my report done by the end of the week.”
“Even better.” Will smiled. “I’ll walk you out.” He stood up and started walking towards the elevators. “Oh great.” He said as the doors opened. “I’d like you to meet my partner.” He raised his hand and gestured for Diane. “Diane Lockhart, this is our ew ballistics expert, Kurt McVeigh. You’re going to love him.”
“Oh.” Diane said stopping short. “My god. Hello.”
Will tilted his head as the energy around him shifted. “Do you two know each other?”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Kurt said, his face stoic until a small smirk crossed his lips when Diane rolled her eyes.
The three stood silently until Alicia appeared behind Will, clearly her throat slightly. “Sorry. They are ready for us, Will” She said holding up a file folder.
“Can you stall?” Will grinned.
“No.” Diane aid quickly. “Go.”
“Fine. But I’ll be back.”
“Would you like to go into my office?” Diane asked. She silently lead the way down the hall when Kurt just shrugged his shoulders.She sat down at her desk, motioning towards the chair across from her. urging him to do the same.
“So.” Kurt said finally breaking the silence. “You’re Diane Lockhart now?”
Diane bit her lip, trying to formulate how the conversation should go. Deciding the truth was the best option, she nodded slowly. “I always have been.”
“I just needed a break.”
“A break?” Kurt asked, surprising himself when he laughed. “That’s what you are calling it?”
“For lack of a better term. Maybe running away is more apt.”
“I’m sure you had your reasons.” Kurt nodded. “Look, I have to get going.”
He put his hand up. “I have somewhere I need to be. I’ll talk to you later?”
“Okay.” Diane nodded. “I would like that.”
Kurt nodded and stood up. Diane watched him leave, jumping up as he reached the door. “I came back. I was going to tell you the truth.”
Kurt smiled. “I’ll see you around, Natalie.”
Chapter 2: 1977
The rejection letter was sitting on the seat beside her taunting her as she continued to drive. She had read it a hundred times. Every time she though she was overreacting the opening paragraph ran through her mind.
The Committee on Admissions has completed it’s Regular Decision meeting, and I am sorry to inform you that we cannot offer you admission to the Class of 1980.
I am sorry to inform you.
I am sorry to inform you.
So she just drove. She didn’t know where she was going, or what she was going to do. So she drove, until her stomach growled as she noticed the fuel gauge eased towards E.
“Ann Arbor it is.” She said aloud seeing the sign for the next exit.
“Hmm.” Diane looked up and met the worried eyes of her waitress. She couldn’t help but be taken back by the concern on this stranger’s face.
“Is everything alright?” The waitress asked again. “I know it’s none of my business, but I hate seeing people sad.”
“No, you’re not. But you don’t want to talk about it. I get it. But for what it is worth, I’m a really good listener.”
“Thank you, Sara.”
“Oh! My name is not Sara. I just started here and this is the only uniform that fit me. My name’s Sophie. Well actually, Sofia, But I am so not a Sofia.” She laughed. “Maybe in a few years when I get my shit together and want to be mature.”
“Let me know if you figure out how to do that. Get your shit together.”
“Oh honey, is that why you’re so sad? Cheer up! No one our age has their shit together. And the great thing is we have a few more years left before anyone really cares.”
“Yeah?” Diane laughed. “I don’t know about that.”
“I do.” Sophie said putting her hand on her hip. “I can tell. You just need to give yourself a break. Ease up on yourself. You’re going to fine. You’ll see.”
“Miss? I’m still waiting on my coffee.”
“Oh! Sorry.” Sophie called out. She turned back to Diane and lowered her voice. “Hopefully I get a uniform so I don’t loose my job when they get all the complaints about Sara.”
Diane laughed as Sophie skipped away from the table. As she continued her lunch the ‘I am sorry to inform you’ that that had been running through her mind for days was slowly replaced by ‘give yourself a break.”
As she started to leave her eye caught the large cork board on the wall. It was covered with papers advertising everything from housing, jobs, and piano tuners.
“Are you looking for a place or a job?”
Diane tuned and smiled when she saw Sophie standing beside her. Give yourself a break. “Both actually. I am not from around here.”
“Well to start.” Sophie said ripping a paper off the board. “This place is great. It’s a big house. You’d have your own room. You’ll have to be interviewed, but I know they’ll pick you.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I live there.” Sophie laughed. “Kurt picked the last time, it’s my turn to get final say.”
“Yeah. He’s a student at State. The room is right next to his, so you’ll luck out. He’s quiet as a mouse. My room is beside Kyle’s. He thinks he is a big rock star. One day I might go to jail for breaking his guitar in a fit of rage.” Her face fell. “Oh! But he’s nice! You’ll like him. And Lindsay is the other one. Suck up to her. She makes the best pie.” She held out the paper. “If you come around 6 we can do the interview and you can move in tonight.”
“Yeah! I mean if you want. You can keep looking if you want . But it’s a nice house, and I just know we would be great friends.”
“I do.” Sophie smiled. “I am an excellent judge of character.”
“Okay.” Diane nodded. “I’ll be there at 6 o’clock.”
“Great. I am so excited. Oh! What’s your name?” She laughed. “I should at least have that if I am going to sell you up to everyone.”
Give yourself a break.
“Natalie.” Diane said. “Natalie Clark.”
“Well, nice to meet you Natalie. I’m so glad you came in here.”
Diane smiled. “Yeah, me too.”
Diane said on a her chair and faced the couch, where her potential new roommates sat. There was Kurt, who she learned was currently a student at Michigan State. He was clearly the more serious of the group, looking more adult than the rest of the group. Sophie was next to Kurt grinning. Kyle, the musician. Who looked like he was wearing a uniform of what a rock star should look like. And Lindsay, who worked in a daycare, which Diane found interesting as she was clearly stoned.
“Do you have a job?” Kurt asked.
Sophie sighed. “That's your question?”
“You said she was new in town. We need someone that will pay rent.”
“I don’t have a job.” Diane interrupted. “But I have enough savings to pay the first month. If I don’t find a job in that time, I’ll leave.”
“See!” Sophie grinned.
“Where are you from?” Lindsay asked.
“Why’d you leave? Are you going to State?”
“No. I’m not a student.” Diane said feeling her stomach flip saying the words out loud.
“You didn’t answer why you left.” Kurt pointed out.
“I needed a change. Things.” She sighed as she trailed off. “Things weren’t going as I had planned, so I need to get away.”
“How big is your trunk?” Kyle asked.
“You have a car. Does it have room for a speaker?”
“She’s not moving in to be your roadie.” Sophie said rolling her eyes.
“You might be able to get a speaker in there.” Diane smiled. “Not enough room for drums though.”
“Oh, no need.” Kyle said waving his hand. “I don't do bands. Too much hassle. It’s just me, and my guitar.”
“Okay. My turn.” Sophie said clearing her throat. “What is your favourite colour?”
“That’s can’t be your question.” Kurt sighed running across his beard.
“Yes it can.” Sophie said looking at Diane, urging her on.
“Blue I guess.”
“I knew it!” Sophie grinned. “You are such a blue.”
“What does that even mean?” Kurt snapped.
“Shut up. You have science, I have art.”
“Let’s vote.” Lindsay said clearly over the interview. “Natalie, do you mind waiting in the kitchen.”
“Oh. Sure.” Diane said almost forgetting her new name. She pointed to the door. “In there?”
Diane stood in the kitchen waiting her fate. She smiled at the room. The mix matched chairs at the table. The peeling wall paper, covered by colourfully painted cardboard. Everything about this house was different from what she was used to. She found herself taking comfort in that.
“You can come back in.” Sophie said opening the door. She looked disappointed and Diane felt her heart sink, suddenly realizing how much she wanted to live here.
I am sorry to inform you.
I am sorry to inform you.
Diane stepped back into the living room unable to read the faces staring back at her, until Sophie let out a squeal. “You can move in!”
“Yeah! I was trying to trick you, but I’m so excited. Kyle was worried you have a crazy ex you are running away from. But I said Kurt could just shoot him if he comes after you.”
“Yeah. He’s a gun guy. That’s why he’s studying, bullets.”
“Ballistics.” Kurt muttered. He tilted his head and looked at Diane. “That an issue?”
“No!” Diane said realizing she answered too quickly. “No. It’s fine. Interesting.”
“And there is no ex.” Diane said. “I didn’t leave Chicago because of a man.”
“Great.” Kyle grinned.
“Don’t be gross.” Lindsay said smacking his arm. “So here are the rules. Rent is $90. You give it to Kurt at the start of the month. No smoking in your bedroom. There is a kitty in the kitchen. Everyone adds to it and we take turns cooking. If you have an overnight guest stay more than two nights a week, they need to pay rent. And no cats.”
Diane nodded. “Okay. Sounds fair.”
“Let me show you your room.” Sophie said grabbing Diane’s hand.
Diane looked up from her book and smiled. “It’s okay, you don’t need to run away because of me.”
“I just didn’t realize anyone was up.” Kurt shrugged. “I was hoping there was pie.”
“Oh! You’re the late night snacker!” Diane laughed. “Lindsay always blames me.”
Kurt held up a fork. “Since you’re getting blame anyway?”
Diane smiled. “Sure.”
“So what are you doing him so early?” Kurt asked placing the blueberry pie down on the table, then handing Diane a fork.
“The bar was dead. The new girl gets sent home first.”
“And how are you enjoying life as a bar keep?”
“I like it.” Diane smiled. It surprised her every shift how much she enjoyed waitressing. The bar was not the type of place she was used to spending time in, but she enjoyed the group of regulars. She was also shocked to realize she was a natural at waitressing.
“Is it your first job?”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean that as an insult.” Kurt smirked.
“I’m not insulted. I’ve had a job before.” Diane sighed as Kurt just raised his brow. “But it’s my first waitressing job.”
“You don’t say.” Kurt laughed.
“You think I’m a snob?”
“I think you don’t know who you are.”
“Um.” Diane bit her lip, unsure what else to say. Instinct told her to disagree, but yet she couldn’t bring herself to do so.
“What are you reading?”
“Oh.” Diane said grateful for the chance in subject. “It’s something about vampires. I don’t know. I just found it on the table. It’s not really my thing.”
“And what’s your thing? All finished The Brothers Karamazov?”
Diane didn’t bother hiding the look of surprise on her face. “Hmm. You don’t seem the type to be up on your Russian literature, cowboy.”
“Well, everyone’s not all that they seem.” Kurt said. He glanced up and met her gaze. “Are they Natalie?”
She shook her head slowly, unsure if he knew that was not really her name, or just knew this was not her real life. He remained silent, but kept his gaze locked on her. She shifted slightly, but didn’t try to look away. If he knew something and wanted to talk about it, he was going too have to be the one to break.
He sat and watched her face. He had never seen such a mix of playfulness, and sadness in someone’s eyes before. For a split second something else had crossed her face. Fear. It was as clear as it had been brief.
“It’ll be okay.” The words were out of him mouth before he realized he’d been thinking them, as his hand reached for hers.
Before Diane could respond, the front door slammed and laughter from the other room spilled into the kitchen. Kurt slipped the fork from her hand and smiled. “I’ll hide the evidence before we get caught. You go distract them.”
“Hey, you free?” Will asked leaning on the doorframe of Diane’s office.
“Yeah.” Diane said waving him in. She was impressed he had managed to wait as long as he did before coming to question her about Kurt. “Get to the point.”
“I was just coming to say hi.” Will smiled sitting down and leaning back in his chair. He noticed Diane shake her head slight, and sat up, realizing he wasn’t going to get a rise out of her. “Look - I want to know what’s going on, but I know you. You’re about to get all huffy and secretive. So just tell me now if I need to get a new expert.”
“I have no problem with you hiring Kurt.”
“Kurt.” Will laughed slightly. “Okay, if you’re sure. I just don’t want to have to get a new witness mid-trial. It won’t look good for the client.”
“You won’t.” Diane assured him. “At least not because of me.”
Will nodded, satisfied with her answer. He grinned slightly. “So, are you going to tell me?”
Diane bit her lip, pondering what exactly to say. She knew Will well enough to know if he didn’t get some sort of explantation he would continue to question her, maybe even ask Kurt. “I knew Kurt a long time ago.” She said finally. “A different life time really. Before I went to law school.”
“During the infamous gap year?” Will asked leaning forward, his interest peaked even more.
“I don’t know how infamous it was.”
“You never talk about it, and the fact you wanted longer than a day to finish law school makes it mysterious.”
“That’s me.” Diane smiled. “A woman of mystery.”
Kurt looked over his shoulder as he opened his lap top. He was being ridiculous. His assistance wasn’t going to come look over his shoulder. But still, he ensured he was alone in his office.
He opened a browser and typed Diane Lockhart into the Chumhum search engine. Taping his fingers on the desk he took a deep breathe before clicking on the top hit. It was a basic bio, listing her schooling, awards and favourite causes. It was a public article, he told himself.
He chuckled slightly when he saw she was a Wellsley under grad. Diane had something in common with Natalie. Glancing over the list of awards, it was clear she was very successful. Which was no surprise, she ran a law firm.
“You’re being an idiot.” He muttered to himself as he went back to the search page and typed Diane Lockhart + married. He clicked on a link to an interview with a woman’s magazine.
Having it all is something that comes up all the time when people speak of successful women. You are not married, and are childless. Was this intentional? Can women truly not have it all?
“I don’t know that I am the right person to answer that.” Ms Lockhart smiles. “Being married and children were never really a priority of mine. I may have subconsciously pushed them aside to focus on my career. It was nothing I intentionally talked myself out of, and certainly not because I didn’t believe I could do both.”
I asked if she ever met someone she had thought of marrying and having children with.
“Oh, maybe. A million years ago.” She answers with a smile. “But my career had nothing to do with that not working out.”
“What?” Kurt asked slamming his lap top shut.
Miranda grinned. “I was going to say I was leaving, unless there was something you needed done. But now I am intrigued about what you are up to.”
“There is nothing pressing for the day. You can go. Thank you.”
“What ya reading?”
“Nothing.” Kurt said, hoping the look on his face relayed exactly how much he did not discuss the matter further.
“Is everything okay?”
“Fine.” Kurt nodded. “Thank you.”
“Kalinda, do you have a moment?” Diane asked as her associates cleared out of the room.
“Sure. What’s up?”
Diane remained silent, second guessing herself. She sighed, shaking her head. “Never mind.”
“It’s nothing. Just, uh. How would someone without your, uk, skills, find out what a person had been up to the last 40 years or so?”
Kalinda smiled slight. “Ask them?”
“And if that is not an option?”
“They’d hire me.”
“Right.” Diane smiled. “Thank you. I’m just being nosey. It’s not important.”
“Right.” Kalinda nodded. “Got it.”
“Hey!” Diane said smiling as Kurt and Sophie walked into the bar. “Sit anywhere. Kyle is going to set up in that corner.”
“It was nice of you to get Kyle a play to play.” Sophie grinned. She elbowed Kurt. “See, I told you Natalie was a nice person.”
“I never said she wasn’t,” Kurt said wide-eyed.
Diane laughed, shaking her head slightly. “Do you want a drink?” She looked over her shoulder quickly. “It’s early, I won’t have to charge you.”
“I’ll have a beer,” Kurt said. “But I will pay for it.”
“You’re so noble,” Sophie said patting him on the shoulder. She grinned at Diane. “I will have a Sloppy Sophie.”
“What on Earth is that?”
“It’s the drink I invented,” Sophie said proudly.
“It’s a shot of everything I can comp her and two cherries,” Diane explained.
“It’s disgusting.” Sophie laughed. “But if I drink it fast enough, it’s perfect. And I’ll need it if I am going to pretend I think Kyle did a good job tonight. But heavens, will it be a treat to hear him play more than one song over, and over, and over.”
Diane smiled as she watched Kurt roll his eyes as Sophie started to dance around the room. “Come on, I’ll get your beer.”
“I am surprised to see you here.”
“Because I don’t have fun?”
“No,” Diane said stopping short. Is that what he thought they thought of him? “No. Because you typically work Wednesdays.”
“Although.” Diane smiled. “Since you brought it up, do you ever have fun?”
“Yeah. Just not like that.” Kurt smirked tilting his head towards Sophie.
“No one has fun like that.” Diane laughed.
“Thanks a lot, Natalie,” Kyle said quickly giving Diane a hug.
“I should thank you.” Diane smiled. “You were great, and this was the most tips I’ve ever gotten on a weekday. We should go into business together.”
“I’m coming.” Kyle grinned. “Rita. Her uncle works for a label.”
“Good luck with that.” Diane laughed. “And remember who gave you a gig early on when you get famous.”
“I’ll write a whole son about you.” Kyle winked, pulling his guitar strap over his shoulder.
“Where is Soph?” Kurt asked scanning the room.
“Oh, she’s in love.” Kyle laughed. He patted Kurt on the shoulder. “You know how that goes. I don’t know what you put in that drink Nat, but she was flying.”
“And you just let her leave with a stranger?” Kurt sighed.
“I’m not her father.” Kyle shrugged. “Rita is waiting. I’ll see you guys around.”
“Bye.” Diane waved. She looked back at Kurt. “I have to clean up, but if you want to wait, I have my car.”
Diane shrugged and started clearing the tables. She was sure the novelty would wear off, but she really liked being a waitress. She’s had a summer job in her father’s office, but he’d insisted she spend her energy on school. And look where that had gotten her.
“You look a million miles away,” Kurt said. It was a similar look, usually fleeting, but frequent. He assumed it was when she was thinking about the world she let in Chicago. “If you want to talk about it.” He left the rest unspoken, the silence hanging between them.
“I’m fine,” Diane said forcing a smile. “But thanks.” She rested the urge to roll her eyes when he just shrugged. He would be a good person to talk to. Someone who rarely spoke would have to be a good listener.
“Diane shook her head slightly when she realized she’s been staring. She looked around the bar. I had cleared out quickly, and they were the only two left. “Want a drink?”
She didn’t wait for an answer and walked around the bar. She quickly looked at him, before reaching up and grabbing a bottle from the back.
“It’s Ned’s. He drinks it when we’re closing. He left early, so if I have to clean up we might as well drink it.”
She poured two liberal glasses and sat down on the bar stool. She flashed Kurt a questioning look, gesturing towards the stool next to her before taking a sip, smiling as the liquid burned its way down her throat.
“Are your parents proud of you, Kurt?” She asked as he sat down next to her. She didn’t look at him, instead kept her head down watching the amber swirl around her glass. “I mean, they must be.” She continued when he remained silent. “You’re in school. You have a plan. They must be proud of you.”
“I guess they are,” Kurt said finally. He took a sip, grimacing slightly, the drink stronger than he was used to.
“My mother would likely have a heart attack if she knew I was working in a bar.” Diane laughed.
“Natalie?” He frowned when that seemed to make her laugh harder. “Are you okay?”
“Did you want to go into ballistics all your life?” She asked finally looking up from her glass.
“I didn’t know it was a job. But I’ve always liked science.”
“My Dad and Grandpa would take me hunting as a kid. I liked it.”
“Hmm.” She nodded, before taking a bigger sip. “My father loathes guns.” Another sip. “You’re not drinking?”
“I’m not a big scotch drinker.”
“I use to sneak into my father’s office and try his,” Diane said, smiling when Kurt took another sip. “I wanted to learn to like it.”
“To be like your Dad?”
“To be like the men,” Diane said surprising herself slightly by her answer. She drained the rest of her glass as she formulated a way to elaborate. She smiled when Kurt just sat silently waiting for her to continue. “I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought of it as part of my training to be able to fit in with the men. If I was working late, I wanted to be able to hold my own if they asked me to join them for a drink. Be part of the ol’ boys club.” She eased herself off the stool, the one drink already hitting her more than she expected. “But you know what they say, man plans and God laughs.”
She walked back behind the bar, flicking on the radio before grabbing a broom. “I had a plan, but it didn’t work out.”
“Let me help,” Kurt said suddenly beside her. He reached for the broom.
“This was not part of my plan.” She continued, letting him take it. “But you know what?”
“I like it here. Maybe plans aren’t all they are cracked up to be.”
“I mean look at Sophie,” Diane said, swaying slightly along with the music. “I don’t think she’s ever had a plan in her life.”
“Probably not.” Kurt laughed.
“And look at how free that makes her. That’s why everyone loves her. Right?”
“I guess.” Diane laughed. “You don’t need to play dumb. I am not going to say anything. I heard you and Kyle earlier.”
“What?” He shook his head, chuckling slightly. “Me and Sophie?”
“No,” Kurt repeated. “Why do you think I came out tonight? Why I stuck around?”
“Because of Kyle, and I have a car.”
“I don’t like Kyle that much,” Kurt said stepping closer to her. Before she could respond he leaned in closer, smirking slightly before covering her mouth with his. The broom crashed to the floor, when she immediately responded, her hand quickly reaching her way to his hair, urging him closer to her.
She smiled when she eventually pulled back. “Oh.”
Diane slipped on her glasses and looked up at Kalinda. “What is this?” She asked taking the manila envelope.
“How did you.” Diane started to ask, before quickly cluing in, quickly glancing at the office across the hall. “Will?”
“He said you used to know each other. Wanted me to find out how. I assumed if you wanted him to know, you would have just told him.”
“Thank you,” Diane said looking down at the envelope. “Then what is this?”
Kalinda smiled slightly. “Well, I also assumed he was who you were talking about earlier.”
“It’s just the basics. Read it, or don’t. It’s up to you.”
“Thank you,” Diane repeated. “Did you find out how we knew each other?”
“No. I don’t care.” Kalinda shrugged before turning to leave.
Diane shook her head, laughing slightly. She tapped her fingers on the envelope. Did she really have any right to know what was inside?
“Nothing,” Diane said, grimacing at how quickly she’d answered. “Nothing important, just some research. What’s up?”
“Not much,” Will smirked.
“Just say what you came to say.” Diane sighed.
“Things are moving along well with the Davidson case.”
“Good. How was jury selection?”
“Normal,” Will said waving his hand. “I’m having a meeting about the case. Want to sit in? Your boyfriend will be there.”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“But he was, right?”
“I don’t know,” Diane answered, willing her face to remain neutral. “Why don’t you ask him?”
“Maybe I will.”
“Hmm.” Diane nodded hoping he wouldn’t call her bluff.
“Do you want to sit in?”
Diane shook her head. “But good luck. I hope he has something useful for you.” She rolled her eyes when he smirked again. “About the case.”
“Me too. Did you know he’ll quit the case if he thinks Davidson is guilty?”
“Yeah, it’s why he’s so cheap. Don’t go breaking his heart again, I like this guy.”
“Well feel free to ask him out.” Diane smiled. “I am not going to stand in your way.”
“And you’ll testify to this?” Will grinned.
“I will.” Kurt nodded.
“Great. This is going to be a huge help, Mr. McVeigh. Thank you.”
“It’s just the facts.”
“Well, it’s refreshing the facts help my client.” He leaned back in his chair. “And I do appreciate your help. You know, considering.”
“I’m not sure I follow.” Kurt frowned.
“It’s okay,” Will said leaning forward, crossing his hands on his desk. “Diane and I have been partners for a long time. I think of her almost like a sister.”
“So anything you want to say.”
Kurt nodded slowly, understanding where this conversation was going. “Is there something you would like to ask me, Mr. Gardner?”
“No.” Will sighed. “I apologize. I’ve met people Diane knew in law school, even childhood friends. No one really knows anything about the year she took off. Except it would seem, you.”
“I see.” Kurt nodded, as he collected his paperwork. “Well let me know when you need me to testify, Mr. Gardner.”
Diane noticed Kurt as he stood up, and looked down quickly - she didn’t need him, or Will to see she’d been watching them. She wondered if he would just leave or stop by her office. Deciding she didn’t want to risk the latter, she grabbed her phone and walked into the hallway, head down.
“Oh, sorry!” She said as she almost walked into him. She looked up and smiled. “Oh. Hi.”
HIs face gave nothing away, but she assumed he realized this was not a chance run in. “How was your meeting?”
“Fine.” Diane nodded. Long winded conversations were clearly not something he’d take up in the last forty off years. “Good.”
“Your partner is nosy.”
“That he is.” Diane sighed. “He didn’t grill you, did he?”
“No. I assume he doesn’t know about Natalie Clark?”
“No! No one does.” She rolled her eyes when he smirked slightly. “Well you do, obviously. I’ve never told anyone about Ann Arbor.”
“It just seemed too.” She trailed off, unsure how to finish the sentence.
“You don’t owe me an explanation.”
“It saved my life.”
“Natalie,” Kurt said before catching himself. “Diane. Sorry.”
Diane smiled. “It’s okay. I know that sounds like bullshit, but it’s true. Wasn’t in a good place, and I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t stop at that diner. That’s why I left. Sophie saved me. Natalie Clark didn’t exist, so going back to being Diane could save her. That’s why I never told anyone.”
She exhaled slowly. There was more to say, but this wasn’t the place. Plus, it was selfish to unload on him if he wasn’t ready, He had every right to hate her. To not want to give her a chance to fully explain.
“I understand; it wasn’t real.”
“Just my name,” Diane said softly. “Everything else was real.”
Kurt smile, happy he could still stop her from over thinking with a single word. “This doesn’t seem like the place to have this conversation. I’m staying at the Westin. Meet me at 8 o’clock?”
“Yes.” Diane nodded.
“Okay. I’ll see you then.”
“Wait.” Diane frowned. “Staying at the Westin? You don’t live in Chicago?”
“Nope.” Kurt shrugged, turning leave without bothering to elaborate.
“So,” Diane said shifting slightly in her seat. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”
“Yep.” Diane mimicked with a nervous laugh. “Go ahead.”
“I googled you. To see what you’d been up to.”
“Really?” Diane smiled. “My investigator put together a file on you.”
“Find anything interesting?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t read it. I didn’t even think of just Googling you.”
They were stalling. They both knew it. Neither cared.
“So, you never got married? No kids?”
“No.” Diane shook her head. “How about you?”
“You really didn’t read that file.” Kurt laughed. “Lindsay and I were married for almost five years.”
“A lot happened after you left.”
“So it seems,” Diane said taking a sip of her wine. She frowned when Kurt laughed as he shook his head. “What?”
Before he could answer the waiter came to take their order. HIs cheerful ramblings of the specials grated on Diane’s nerves. When he finally left, Diane shot Kurt a pointed look, urging him to continue. She rolled her eyes when he just laughed. “Care to explain the joke?”
“You left Diane. I didn’t know who you really were. I couldn’t have found you. You don’t get to be mad.”
He was right of course. And she wasn’t really mad. She was jealous. Which was just as ridiculous.”
“I know.” Diane nodded. “I’m not mad. I’m not. I’m just surprised.”
Diane reached for her wine. Maybe this was a mistake. The past belonged in the past. Maybe they should have just wished each other well and moved on.
“What were you running away from?”
She looked up and met his gaze, there was just genuine interest. No judgment. After all this time, he deserved to know the truth.
“I didn’t get into law school.” She laughed slight at how that sounded. “That’s the short answer. I decided I wanted to be a lawyer at 7. I had it all planned out. My mother wanted me to be a nurse, marry a doctor. The day after I got my rejection letter she bought home pamphlets for nursing school. She wanted me to lunch at the country club. She felt she'd won. My father had tried and lost. So she got her turn to plan my life. Or at least that was how I saw it. I couldn’t handle it, so I got in my car and drove.” She ran her hand through her hair and leaned back in her chair. “I must sound like such a spoiled brat.”
“No,” Kurt said taking a quick sip of beer. “Maybe that’s why you never told anyone about Natalie. I was there. When you arrived at the house you were lost. It was obvious. Everyone just assumed it was a breakup.”
“Yes.” Diane nodded. “In retrospect, it was an over exaggeration. But that day I just needed to drive.”
“How’d you end up in Ann Arbor?”
“I ran out of gas. I was hungry, and ended up at the diner and met Sophie. She was so, well you know.”
“I do.” Kurt laughed.
“That was when I decided to stay.” Diane brushed her hair from her eyes. “That energy, I’d never had that. I wanted to be near it.”
“Where’s the fake name come from?”
“No. No.” Diane said shaking her head, the relief obvious on his face. She resisted the urge to blurt out he was the one she’d ever come close to telling the truth to. “When I met Sophie she wearing the wrong uniform.”
“Oh right.” Kurt laughed. “Sara.”
“Yeah. When she asked me my name I didn’t feel like Diane, so I just said, Natalie.”
A silence fell over the table as the waiter arrived with their meals. Diane smiled, far less annoyed with the man.
“Did you keep in touch with anyone?” Diane asked. “Other than Lindsay.”
“No, Kyle and I were never really friends.”
“What about Sophie?”
Several times Diane had thought about looking up both Kurt and Sophie. She was just never sure what she would say when she found them.
“Diane,” Kurt said softly, waiting until she looked up. “Sophie died. About 6 years after, uh, after everything.”
“Oh,” Diane said straightening her posture slightly. “Oh.”
“I tried to let you know.”
“Of course,” Diane said letting the rest of the sentence go unspoken. He would have no way of finding her. She took a sip of her wine. She’d mourned her time in Ann Arbor over the years. Did she really have the right to be upset that she did not get to say goodbye to someone she hadn’t made an effort to see in forty years?
She grimaced slightly as she looked up at Kurt. “Did she?”
“No,” Kurt said, not needing her to finish her question. “Drunk driver. She was the passenger. They said it was quick.”
“Hmm.” Diane nodded, desperate to change the subject. “Where do you live?”
“You said you don’t live in Chicago, so where do you live? Are you still in Ann Arbor?”
“No. I left there right after graduation. I have a farmhouse, ‘bout an hour out from here.”
“Oh,” Diane said trying not to show how pleased she was he was so close. “How’d you end up in Illinois?”
“I don’t know.” Kurt shrugged. He smirked when Diane just raised her brow. “I guess I assumed you ended up back in Chicago.”
At that, Diane didn't try to hide her smile.
“God, Natalie.” Kurt panted.
“Don’t call me that.” Diane said stilling herself. She smirked at the inevitable look of confusion on his face. Not wanting to ruin the moment, she leaned down, crashing her lips against his. Happy she seemed to have distracted him she continued to move her hips. She was close, and based on practice his movements had become, she could tell he was too.
Unsure who else was home, Diane bite down on her bottom lip to silence herself as she came. She smiled when Kurt followed soon after, less mindful of their roommates.
She exhaled as she played down next to him, trying to catch her breathe. This was not how she’d expected the evening to go when she’d left for work. But the evening wasn’t really over, was it? Was she suppose to go back to her room? Stay here in his bed? She was suddenly incredibly self conscious.
Kurt mumbled something she couldn’t make out, as he pulled her closer to him. He kissed her hair, and for a second she thought he’d fallen asleep until he reached down to pull up his sheet.
A wave of guilt washed over her. This didn’t feel like a one-night stand. She didn’t think she wanted it to be. But how could this turn into anything serious when he didn’t even know her real name?
“Just go to sleep,” Kurt mumbled, running his hand along her shoulder. “You think too much.”
She laughed slightly; he had a point.
The sun was shinning in Diane’s eyes making it impossible to continue sleeping. She looked over at Kurt, he was out old, completely unfazed by the open curtains. She probed her head up and watched him sleep. The rise and fall of his chest surprisingly hypnotic.
The slamming of the front door immediately snapped her out of her daze. If it was Sophie, it would not be surprising if she popped into Diane’s room to recount her evening. Easing herself off the bed, she quickly crossed the hall to her room. She sat down on her bed and sighed. Suddenly she hoped Sophie would appear with far more details than needed to be shared. Anything to distract her from her own night.
When Sophie didn’t appear, Diane quickly changed and headed downstairs in search of a distraction.
“Hello, Natalie!” Sophie sang out, as she danced around the kitchen.
“Morning.” Diane smiled.
“Is it ever.” Sophie laughed twirling around. “If I sit down, I’ll fall asleep. And I’ll miss work and get fired.”
“Oh my god, Natalie! It was the best. He’s so great, you should see him naked! I think I am in love.”
“That’s nice.” Diane smiled. Over the last two months, she’d lost count of how many times Sophie had been in love.
“I should see if he has a brother or friend. You need to get laid, Nat.”
“You can only pine over that asshole for so long. It’s not healthy to not have sex. It can make you a serial killer.”
“Is that so?” Diane laughed. “Really, I’m fine.”
“I’m sure Kyle would sleep with you. Maybe even Kurt.”
“So, tell me about the guy you love,” Diane said praying she was not blushing. “What’s his name?”
“Brian.” Sophie frowned. “Ryan? No, Brian.” She shrugged. “Whatever. He’s a really good kisser.”
“Hey,” Kurt said walking into the kitchen. Unfazed he maneuvered around a dancing Sophie to get to the coffee maker.
“Want me to ask him?”
“No!” Diane said shaking her head. “Go to work, you’re going to get fired.”
“Shit.” Sophie sighed. “I gotta go.”
“Ask me what?” Kurt asked as Sophie ran out of the room.
“To sleep with me.” Diane laughed. “Apparently I need to have sex or I’ll become a serial killer.”
“Is that what happens? You didn’t tell her?”
“God no,” Diane said, immediately regretting ho quickly she answered. “It’s not like that.”
“No, Kurt, I just wasn’t going to talk to Soph before I talked to you. Someone says hello to her and she’s in love. If I told her what happened she would skip work to start planning our wedding.” She rain her hand through her hair. “I didn’t know what last night was. If you regret it and want to pretend it never happened, she is the last person who should know.”
“What?” Diane frowned.
“I have to get to school.” Kurt shrugged. “Let’s have dinner.”
“Um, okay. Yes.”
“Okay.” Kurt nodded. He grabbed his coffee and started towards the door. “I’m happy you’re not going to become a serial killer.”
“Hello Ms. Beckett, it’s Diane.”
“Hello, sweetheart. How are you?”
“I’m good. Really good actually.” Diane smiled wrapping the phone cord around her hand. “Is my father available?”
“Diane.” The secretary sighed. “Must we play this game? It’s nice of you to call and check in. But let us not pretend you actually want to speak with your father. You know he is not available.”
“How is he?”
“He is worried about you.”
“So you said.”
“I’m just not ready to come home yet. I was drowning there. I feel above water right now.”
“I understand honey. And I’m happy to update your father, but think about calling when you know he’ll be in. And call your mother.”
Diane sighed. “I’ll try to call when he is in the office.”
“You’re her only child, Diane.”
“She’ll give you one of her lectures, but it’s only because she loves you.”
“I’ll think about it. Thank you, Ms. Beckett.”
“I’m happy you are above water, honey. Keep it up.”
“Thanks, I’m trying.” Diane smiled as she hung up the phone. She stared at the payphone for a beat. “Fuck.” She sighed before picking up the receiver. She was out of change, so dialed the operator to call collect.
“Diane? Is it really you?” Her mother asked after accepting the charges.
“Oh thank God.”
Diane furrowed her brow in confusion. Her mother sounded like she was crying. Other than when her grandfather died when she was 11, Diane couldn’t recall a time she’d ever heard her mother cry. “I’m okay.”
“Yes, I get the weekly updates from your father. So nice of you to check in with his damn secretary.”
“It’s just easier this way.”
“Easier? Diane, what is happening? You won’t even speak to your father.”
“I just needed to get away.”
“It’s been two months. How are you living? You’re not using your credit card. Do you need money?”
“No, I have a job. I’m okay.”
“A job? Doing what?”
“I am a waitress. And don’t worry, no one knows my real name, so I won’t bring shame to the family working some blue collar job.” She frowned when that didn’t get a response. “I was joking, Mother.”
“How is Bluebell?”
“Don’t change the subject. The damn cat is fine. He’s a cat.”
“Was I really that horrible of a mother?” Before Diane could that wasn’t why she left, her mother sighed. “My only daughter is in such crisis she needed to run away, and she thinks my main concern is her damn job?”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Diane aid softly, her eyes welling up.
“Right. Well, it was said.”
“Are you safe? You’re not living in your car or anything like that, are you?”
“No, I have a place to stay. I have roommates.”
“And they are good people?”
“Yes, I like them a lot.”
“And this waitress job, you like it?”
“For now. I don’t plan on doing it for the rest of my life.”
“Well, I would hope not. I’m sure it’s hard work, but you are not a waitress, Diane. You are a smart talented girl. You need to be challenged. You can apply again to law school, or you have other opportunities.”
“I’m not finished. You suffered a blow, I understand that. But you need to get back up. You’ve never backed away from a fight. I say that as someone you have fought against your entire life. Stay away as long as you need t, but come home when you’re ready to fight again. And please continue to call and let us know you are safe.”
“I will. I promise.”
“Very well. And Dian?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Mom.” She hung up the phone, exhaling slowly willing herself not to cry in public. She leaned against the wall and watched as the students walked by. A pang of jealousy nagging at her. She loved school. Loved studying. September had always been her favourite month. She bit her lip slightly as she looked around the hallway, slowly nodding her head.
“Guess what?” Diane beamed rushing down the hall to meet Kurt.
“I got a job!” Diane laughed. “It’s only part-time, and I think I am being underpaid. But it’s a job!”
“What kinda job?”
“I’m basically a glorified tutor.”
“A tutor. Where?”
“Here.” Diane smiled. “At the University. I got here early and I saw all the students walking around, and got sad I wasn’t one of them. So I went to registrars office and pitched myself.”
“Are you qualified to be a tutor? A tutor of what?”
“What do you mean?” Diane frowned, stepping back from him. “Do you think I’m just some dumb waitress?”
“Of course not. It only takes a few minutes talking to you to know you are smart.”
Diane nodded. She was being overly defensive. He knew nothing about her. His questions weren’t that unreasonable. “I graduated from Wellesley last Spring.”
“Wellesley?” Kurt laughed.
Diane tilted her head. “What is that suppose to mean?” She asked, her hand automatically going to her hip.
“No,” Diane said shaking her head. “You’re not getting out of this that easy. What’s so funny about Wellesley?”
“Nothing. Just, what was your major? Protest signs?” His laugh trailed off when he realized she was not amused. He ran his hand across his bread, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t realize you went to such a liberal school.”
“Is that a problem”
“No. I mean if that’s the kinda of stuff you want to believe.”
“It is,” Diane said firmly. “It’s not what you believe?”
“No. I’m a Republican. Is that a problem?
Diane shook her head slowly. “No.”
“You have to talk to Kurt.”
Diane looked up as she slipped off her glasses. “Hello. Have we met? You look a lot like my partner, but he knows better than to march into my office and tell me what to do.”
“I’m serious Diane.”
“What’s going on?”
“Two days into the trial,” Will said, lowering his voice when he caught Diane’s glare. “He just called. He is going to quit the case.”
“Why?” Diane asked straightening her posture. She hadn’t spoken to Kurt since their dinner, but it has seemed to go well. The goodbye had been slightly awkward, but not to the point he would refuse to work for her firm.
“He thinks she’s guilty,” Will said as he started to pace the office. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“It’s your case, Will. I don’t know enough about it to persuade him she’s innocent. How is having me talk to him going to change anything?”
“You know him.”
“I knew him 40 years ago.” Diane sighed. “And if he won’t testify because he thinks she’s guilty, again, I fail to see how I could help you on your case.”
“I guess I assumed you had an interest in the success of our firm.”
“Hey!” Diane snapped. She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. She was willing herself not to say something she would regret. Mid-trial stress was not foreign to her. “In the best interest of the firm, I suggest you go fin another expert, because your tactic of having me seduce your old one back won’t work.”
“Unless the rest of that sentence is ‘I’m sorry I was just such an asshole’ I think you should get out of my office. You know the interest of the firm an all.”
They both looked towards the voice, surprised to see Cary and Kurt standing in the doorway. As usual Kurt’s expression was unreadable, so Diane was unsure how much of their conversation he’s just heard.
“What are you doing here?” Will asked.
“He might have found our reasonable doubt.” Cary grinned. “Kalinda is checking it out.”
“Please me something good.” Will sighed, putting his hands together. He started for the door, but stopped suddenly, looking over his shoulder. “Diane.”
“I know.” Diane nodded. “Go. Good luck.”
Diane neatly filed the last folder on her desk and looked at the clock, She couldn’t remember the last time she’d cleared her desk in time to have dinner at a regular hour. This small miracle called for a celebration before leaving. She reached into her bottom drawer and retrieved the aged scotch that resided there.
“I take it your father was a lawyer?”
She looked up and smiled, as Kurt was again standing in her doorway. She hadn’t been watching him, but also hadn’t noticed him leave. If she was being honest that was the reason she was in no rush to leave.
“And this is what you were building up your tolerance for?”
Diane smiled, both at the comment and the fact he even remembered that conversation. “I don’t normally drink alone.” She held up a glass in an offering. “Or do you still not like it?”
“I’ve developed a fondness.” Kurt laughed moving into the room.
“Well you seemed to have cheered Will up, that deserves a drink.” She poured a shot into the glass and slide it across the desk.
“Is everything okay? Things seemed,” He paused. “Heated.”
“That’s just Will,” Diane said waving her hand. “I’ve learned to not take anything he says during a trial personally. I will say you gave him quite a scare when you said you wouldn’t testify.” She resisted the urge to roll her eyes when he just shrugged and took a sip of his drink. “You only testify when you think someone is innocent?”
“Unless I am hired by the other side.”
“I lied once. I didn't care for it.”
A silence filled the room as Diane realized what he was referring to. “You thought she was guilty?”
“Didn’t you? Isn’t that why you left?”
“I didn’t know what to think. I didn't want to believe she was guilty. That’s why I left, it would cast doubt.”
“Always the lawyer.”
“I suppose.” Diane nodded, refusing to see that as an insult. “Plus, I was being selfish.”
“If I stayed, I would have needed to tell the police my real name. I would have had to explain why I’d be lying for months. They didn’t deserve to the hear the truth first.” She looked up ensuring he was understanding the unspoken part of her explanation. “Plus, I didn’t want to cause trouble for my father.”
“What did your father have to do with it?”
“It was an embarrassment his only child had run away. If I was involved in a murder investigation, it could have destroyed him.”
“And really made it hard to get into law school.”
“No. That wasn’t it.”
“I wasn't thinking about that,” Diane said more adamantly this time. He needed to know the truth. “I had re-applied to law school, but if I didn’t get in again, I would have been okay. I had figured out there were other important things.”
“And yet, here you are.”
“Well, I never had those things after I left.” Diane shrugged, draining the rest of her glass.
Diane ran her hand through her hair and exhaled slowly. She read the receipts again, still not understanding half the terms.
“Everything okay?” She turned and saw Jeff smirking in the doorway.
‘It’s my turn to cook.”
“I don’t really know how to cook.”
“You don’t say,” Jeff said pushing himself off the doorframe. He shook his head slightly. “You really had us fooled with all those grilled cheese sandwiches, Nat.”
“I thought I would be more adventurous this time. But I don’t know what I am doing. What the fuck is a whisk?”
Jeff laughed. “You grow up with servants or something?”
“I wouldn’t call them that,” Diane blushed. “But, I had a cook.”
Jeff looked at Diane for a moment, before slowly nodding his head. He reached behind her into the open door. “This is a whisk.” He said placing it in her hand. “I can help you. It benefits me if this is edible. Besides, we can’t be held responsible for how we grew up, can we?”
“Thank you,” Diane said, thankful for the help, but also that he hadn’t forced her to defend how she’d grown up.
“What do we have?” Jeff said grabbing the recipe, nodding as he looked it over. “Okay. We can do this. Why don’t you chop the vegetables? You know how to do that?”
“Move a knife up and down?”
“Basically.” He laughed when she grabbed a bread knife. He pointed to the counter. “Try that one. It will be easier.”
“Sure.” Diane shrugged swapping out the knives. “So how did you learn to cook?”
“Necessity. Not unlike today, if I didn’t help out I didn’t eat. My mother worked a lot.”
“What does she do?”
“She’s a secretary for this huge asshole. After my Dad left she started cleaning his house till my sister and I moved out. So after school, my sister would clean the apartment and I’d make supper.”
“Sure.” Jeff laughed. “You do what you have to. You must get that. If you grew up with a cook you didn’t expect to work in a bar.” He shook his head. “Just cut the onion, don’t kill it.” He stepped behind her and put his hand over hers. “Like this.”
“Hello, Kurt.” Sophie sang out as he walked through the front door. She sat on her knees tapping the back of the couch. “Natalie has a secret.”
“Well then we shouldn't know it.” Kurt shrugged.
“I would be mad at her for keeping it from me. I mean, I am her best friend. But I am just so happy for her. She needs to be laid.”
“Natalie and Jeff.” Sophie grinned. “I saw them in the kitchen. He was all over her.” She frowned slightly when Kurt slammed his books down on the coffee table. “What’s wrong?”
“Is supper ready?” Lindsay asked coming down the stairs. “I’m starving.”
“I have peanuts.” Sophie offered.
Lindsay sat down on the couch and tilted her head as she watched Kurt. “What’s your problem?” She asked reaching for Sophie’s bowl.
“Nothing. I’m hungry too. I’ll go check when it’ll be ready.”
Diane turned as the kitchen door opened, smiling when she saw Kurt. She was about to great him but stopped, practically feeling the anger radiating off of him.
“What the fuck did you do to her?’
“What?” Diane and Jeff asked in unison. “He’s just saving you from my cooking.” Diane laughed.
“Then why are you crying.”
Diane reached up and touched her cheek. “Oh. I am learning how to chop onions.”
“Yeah, I think that’s enough of a cooking lesson,” Jeff said. “You should know I’m not that guy, Kurt.” He patted Kurt on the shoulder before going out into the living room.
“What’s going on?’
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Why are you so angry? It’s my turn to cook, but I don’t know how to. Jeff was just making sure I didn’t give you all food poisoning.”
“Were you just cooking?”
“Yeah, what else would we be doing?”
“Sophie saw you. She seems to think you and Jeff are together. Then I walk in here and you’re crying.”
“It’s the onions.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t know that.”
“Well, now you do. And Sophie is far from a reliable source. If I took the same elevator as a man she’d think it was romantic.” She tilted her head. “And what does it matter to you anyway?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Exactly what I just said. You come by the bar when you know no one else is around, get coffee at school because we’re the only ones there. You wait till everyone's gone to bed before you sneak across the hall to my room.”
“So you have a thing with Jeff too, is that what you’re saying?”
“No.” Diane sighed. “I guess I am asking what thing I have with you, Kurt?”
“How long does it take to make grilled cheese?” Lindsay demanded walking into the kitchen.
“I made real food this time,” Diane said proudly. “It should be ready now. We can eat.”
“Oh wow,” Lindsay said opening the oven. “This smells good.”
“Hopefully it tastes okay.”
“I’m so hungry, I’ll eat anything.”Lindsay shrugged. She grabbed five plates from the cupboard. “Help me set the table, Kurt.”
“Yeah sure.” He nodded. He started to follow her but immediately turned around. Before Diane could realize what was happening he pulled her towards him and kissed her hard. “It’s whatever you want it to be.” He said releasing her as quickly as he’d grabbed her.
Diane looked over the applications and ran her hand through her hair. The Yale form laid on the table, tainting her. She had a better plan this time. She wasn’t putting all her eggs in the Yale basket. It had been naive of her to be so cocky last time and only apply to one school.
She spread the papers out, three law schools, two teachers college. Those who can’t, teach. - she thought with a laugh. She really enjoyed working at the school. And if she was accepted at Michigan State, she could stay in Ann Arbor. Stay with Kurt.
She’d never been one to make plans to please other people, let alone a man. But this was a time for a new plan.
She knew if she was accepted into law school she would go. And that would mean she’d need to tell Kurt who she really was.
You’ve only lied about your name, she told herself hoping if she said it enough she’d believe it before she expected Kurt to.
She looked up and smiled when she saw Kurt leaning in the doorway. “Hey.”
“You look busy. Want me to come back?”
“No, no. Let me put this away. We only have a few hours.”
Between his classes and jobs, and her two jobs, the more serious they became the less time they seemed to have together.
“I don’t know what you keep that job.”
“In a word, tips.” Diane shrugged. “Plus, I like it there.”
“Yeah, I have fond memories of my first job too.”
“Won’t work.” Diane smiled. She quickly put the applications in her bag before crossing the room. “I already told you, we only have a few hours.” She said kissing him. “You’re not going to get me all worked up.”
“So I shouldn’t tell you about the protesters I saw on the lawn by Dempster Hall?”
“No.” Diane laughed. “Are you off Saturday? I’m free we could go to all the rallies.”
“Sounds fun.” Kurt laughed. “Come on, let’s get you some food.”
“Oh, here we go!” Diane said pointing to the newspaper. “We can go to rally for Joe Tucker.”
“Joe Tucker?” Kurt said shaking his head. “Please tell me you are not thinking of supporting that nut job. Even you must have limits. If Joe Tucker becomes mayor, this city will.” He stopped when he said Diane resting her cheek on her hand, grinning at him. “You just said that to watch me get angry.”
“Maybe.” Diane shrugged, but she was still grinning. “You’re cute when you get all indignant. Your lip does this curl thing.”
“Indignant?” Kurt said shaking his head. “You’re lucky I love you, or.” He stopped suddenly realizing what he’d said when her eyes widened. “Sorry.”
“I didn’t mean to say that.”
“Oh.” Diane nodded. “Okay. No big deal. I know it’s going to seem like I’m upset when I get up and leave, but I need to get to work.”
“Natalie.” Kurt sighed. “Wait.”
“No. It’s fine.”
“Jesus.” Kurt sighed running his hand through his hair. “I really messed that up. I just blurted it out without thinking. I meant I didn’t mean to say it like that. Not that I didn’t mean it.”
“Oh yeah?” Diane smiled.
“Say it how you wanted to say it.”
He grabbed her hand. “Natalie Clark, I love you.” He noticed the look of sadness he hadn’t seen in a while flash across her eyes, but she continued to smile. “You’re one of the smartest, most beautiful people I’ve ever met. You drive me crazy, but I love you.”
“Wow, that was a good way to say it.” Diane sighed. She ran her thumb across his hand. She appreciated that smart proceeded beautiful. She just wished he’d called her her real name. She released her hand from his and moved it to his cheek. Looking him in the eyes she smiled. “I love you too.” She kissed him quickly, nowhere near what a deflation like that deserved. “I really do need to go. Will you be up when I get home?”
“If I’m not, wake me up.”
Kurt watched as Diane slowly ran her finger along the edge of her wine glass. Her lip had been firmly between her teeth for the past five minutes as she stared past him.
"Did you want to reschedule?" He asked finally.
She looked back at him, knitting her brow. "Why?'
"You seem distracted. If you have somewhere else to be. I'll understand."
"No." Diane said shaking her head. "U know nowhere else to be."
"OKay." Kurt nodded. He waited for a beat. "What's wrong?'
"What are we doing?" She laughed slightly when he just tilted his head. "You will be done with Will's case soon. And then what? I live here, you don't. Do we exchange numbers? Pretend we'll stay in touch, then call each other less and less frequently, until we just go back to not knowing each other?"
"Is that what you want?"
"Is it what you want?" Diane countered.
"You're the one who brought it up, Diane." Kurt sighed. "I have no idea what is going to happen. But, if you have it all mapped out, fine. Just fill me in."
"Right back at ya." He frowned when she started to laugh. "What?"
"Your lip." She smiled. "You still curl it slightly when you're annoyed at me."
"Yeah? Well, you're really annoying."
"I bet," Diane said finishing her wine in one long sip.
Diane quickly scanned the room before flicking off the light. She reached for Kurt's belt, frowning slightly when he stopped her, quickly reaching over and turning the light back on.
"It's been 40 years." She reached for the light again, but he grabbed her wrist.
"I know. I've been waiting 40 years to do this again. Leave it on."
"Hmm." Diane practically purred as she stretched her arms above her head. She stifled a yawn as she sat up reaching for her dress, quickly scanning the room for the rest of her clothing.
"What are you doing?" Kurt asked propping his head up with his hand.
"I'm exhausted," Diane said. She turned and flashed him a grin. "Take that as a compliment."
"I will," Kurt smirked. "But, what are you doing?"
"I was going to go home." She was not really up to date on the protocol for going back to your ex's hotel room. Staying seemed too intimate an assumption. While leaving seemed juvenile, it was also the less awkward.
"Seems silly. You're tired and on a bed. Lay down and get some sleep."
The idea of just laying back down did have its appeal. But what did it imply? She could use work as an excuse - an early client.
"Lay down, Diane. You think too much, always have." His voice implied he was as tired as her and was done talking. To drive the point home he reached over and turned off the light, darkening the room.
Diane nodded and slowly laid down.
"You can get under the blankets."
As they settled into place Diane felt a wave of familiarity wash over her. Same spots on the bed. Same positions. Kurt still refusing to have the sheets cover his feet. They had given up so much time together. Maybe now would be their chance. Or maybe they wouldn't have lasted then, and will again lose contact.
"As long as you keep answering, I'll keep calling," Kurt said, as though reading her mind.
*** Just a heads up, chapter 14 and 15 were posted today =) Sorry for the delay - thanks for still reading! ***
"Who is Diane Lockhart?"
"What?" Diane said immediately blanching. She took a deep breath before entering her room. Sophie was sitting on her bed, Yale application in hand.
"Yale Law School?" She seems pretentious. "Why does she need a tutor?"
"She just wanted a second opinion," Diane said grabbing the papers. "And what makes you think she's pretentious? Because she wants to be a lawyer?"
"No. Just that essay. It's not how people talk. It sounds like someone screaming 'I'm smart!' instead of just saying something smart, and letting people figure it out on their own." She smiled. "Like you. Huh, maybe Pretentious Diane does need you as a tutor, Nat."
"Yeah." Diane smiled. "Maybe."
Sophie tilted her head and studied Diane, a deep frown settling on her features. "You like her. Is she your new best friend?"
"It's okay. I get it, she's probably a lot smarter than men. I barely made it out of high school, let alone going to college. But you never seemed to mind I was dumb."
"You're not dumb!" Diane said, perhaps a little too forcefully. "You're my best friend, not Diane." She resisted the urge to laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement. But she didn't want to see the sadness in Sophie's eyes.
"Yes, I am." Sophie shrugged. "But it's okay. I have other qualities." She put her hands on her breast, pushing them up slightly for emphasis.
"Stop it." Diane snapped, surprised to find her eyes filling.
"There is so much more to you than that." She picked up the clay sculpture off her desk. Sophie had made it for her. She'd been embarrassed by the gesture at first. It was so beautiful, a faceless woman with long graceful limbs. "Do you think just anyone could make this?"
"Kyle said it was creepy."
"It's one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me," Diane said. "Same as the day we first met."
"What, introducing you to Kurt?"
"No, just talking to me." Diane said wiping at her cheek. " I had no idea where I was going, but you were just this mass of energy, and you were nice to me. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew instantly I needed to stay here. I needed to be neat that energy."
"I just wanted a friend."
"I know. And that's part of why you're so special. You just brighten things up without trying."
"Hey." They both turned towards the voice. "Sorry to interrupt," Kurt said leaning against the doorframe. "Soph, there is someone at the door for you."
"Oh," Sophie nodded. "Alan."
"Sophie." Diane sighed.
"He's nice. He works at the bank. He might help me get a loan. I could have a show." She ran her hands through her hair, fluffing it up. She took a deep breath and smiled at Diane. "I love you Natty." She kissed her cheek quickly. "Bye Kurt."
"Bye," Kurt said moving out of the way as Sophie skipped past him. "Everything okay?"
"I don't know." Diane shrugged. "I hope so. I just want her to know she's more than just someone's date."
Diane frowned. "What's that suppose to mean?"
"I agree with you," Kurt said putting his hands up defensively. "When she first moved in she was different. Calmer. But then something changed. Some of the guys she brought around." He shook his head. "We didn't trust them in the house. Plus, she seemed miserable. I tried to talk to her."
"How'd that go?" Diane asked, already knowing the answer.
"She thought I was hitting on her." Kurt shrugged. "And when I said I just didn't want her to get hurt, or killed, she yelled at me and told me she already had a Father."
"Hmm." Diane nodded. She looked out the window, watching the car back out of the driveway. "Maybe I shouldn't have let her go."
"She's an adult, Natalie. You can be a friend, offer advice, listen, but she needs to make her own choices."
"Yeah," Diane said softly, still watching the car as it made it's way down the street. "I guess so."
“God.” Kurt panted, his eyes closing.
Diane looked down and immediately decided she never wanted this to end. As long as he was there and kept touching her the way he was at the moment, she didn’t need to be a lawyer. She could be Natalie Clark. She could be happy.
“Look at me.” She whispered, smiling when he locked eyes with her. “I love you.”
“I love you,” Kurt grunted grabbing her hips as he came hard. He reached up and tucked a start lock of hair behind her ear. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” Diane smiled. “I’m just really happy.”
“Good. You know this isn’t really the best time for laughter though. Not a really a boost to the ego.”
“You have nothing to worry about there, cowboy,” Diane said kissing his shoulder as she curled up next to him. “What are your plans for after graduation?”
“I don’t know. Still a ways away. Why?”
“I don’t know.” She said absently running her fingers along the sheet. “I’ve been thinking about going back to school.”
“Really? That’s great. You’re certainly smart enough to be teaching people instead of just tutoring them.”
“So you don’t have plans for where you’ll go when you’re done?”
“Well, where do you think you’ll go to school?”
“Depends where I get accepted. If I get accepted.”
“You’ll get accepted,” Kurt said with more assurance than she felt. “And when you do, we’ll figure it out.”
“Okay.” Diane smiled.
“People have guns everywhere, Natalie. I can get a job where you are.”
Diane closed her eyes. She was still unsure of her future, but for the first time since arriving in Ann Arbor, she wasn’t scared of it.
Diane sat up immediately waking as a loud bang cut through the silence. She looked over at Kurt and sighed when he mumbled something inaudible and rolled over. Knowing she wouldn’t fall back asleep without investigating. She reached down and grabbed a shirt and pants off the floor. She contemplated walking Kurt but didn’t want to annoy him. It was probably nothing.
Finding the house dark and empty, she opened the front door and almost screamed when she saw Sophie standing on the stoop.
“You scared me.” Diane laughed putting her hand to her chest. “What are you doing?” She frowned when Sophie remained still, staring forward. “Sophie?”
“Oh. Hi, Nat.” She said turning her head.
“Hi. What’s wrong?”
“I told him to stop, Natalie. He should have just stopped.”
“I said to stop.”
“Okay.” Diane nodded. She reached out and touched Sophie’s shoulder, pulling her hand back when it touched the sticky warmth. “Oh my god! Are you bleeding?”
Sophie looked down and frowned. “Blood.”
“Sophie, what the hell happened?”
“You seem so happy with Kurt,” Sophie said with a sad smile. “You’re so pretty and so smart, of course, he loves you.” She sighed. “I thought maybe you were right.”
About what? Diane asked. She was trying to be patient, but she wasn’t making the connection about how her relationship with Kurt lead to Sophie a dazed bloody mess on the porch.
“I thought I could have a boyfriend. A real one. Not just someone I fuck and never see again. Natalie, I told him to stop.”
“Alan?” Diane asked starting to the pierced together when Sophie nodded. “Okay. What happened when you asked him to stop?”
“He kept touching me. I just wanted him to stop.”
“I know.” Diane nodded. “what happened?”
“I needed him to stop.”
“Sophie look at me,” Diane said putting her hands on her shoulders. “What happened?”
“I shot him.”
“Shot?” Diane said dropping her hands. She turned her head and for the first time noticed the car parked beside hers. “We need to call an ambulance.” She said starting towards the car.
“He’s dead, Natalie.”
“How’d it go?” Will asked as Diane stepped into the hallway.
“Fine.” Diane shrugged. “What about you? I didn't expect to see you back so soon.”
“Jury is out. But I feel good. We had a good case, thanks to your friend.”
Diane rolled her eyes but smiled. “Good.”
“I can keep hiring him if you want to keep him around.”
Diane shook her head. The thought had crossed her mind. She would see him less once the trial was over. “Thank you, but no.” Hire him if you like his work, but not for me.” She was not about to start paying someone to spend time with her.
“I do like his work. HIs reluctance to testify if he thinks someone is guilty is a little troubling. Noble, but from this end, troubling.”
Will tilted his head slightly, studying his partner. “Was it you?”
“Was what me?”
“My office. I don’t want to talk about this in the hallway.”
“Okay.” Diane frowned, following Will into his office. “Was what me?” She repeated as Will shot the door.
“The one he lied for. He said he lied for someone guilty once and that’s why he refuses to do it now.”
“You think I know Kurt because he once helped me get away with murder?”
“You’re the one that jumped to murder. I was thinking something less felonious. But if we’re going to talk about this, I have no idea how you know Kurt. Just that at times it seems as though you were close, and other times he seems to be struggling to remember your name.”
“He didn’t know my name was Diane until you introduced us.”
“He didn’t know your name?”
“He thought it was Natalie.”
Will sighed when she didn’t elaborate. “Obvious question, why?”
“That’s what I told him my name was.” She sighed. “Sit down.”
Will sat down and gestured for her to continue. “Go ahead, Natalie.”
Diane rolled her eyes. “I didn’t get into law school. Well, not the first time I applied.”
“Hence the infamous gap year.”
“Yeah, I didn’t really take it well. I didn’t know what I was going to do. One day I just packed up some clothes and got in my car and drove.”
“I didn’t know. But I ended up in Ann Arbor. I met this girl who had a spare room for rent in the house she lived in and I decided to stay. When she asked my name, I said Natalie.”
“It seemed like the answer to the question. Most of my life I planned on being a lawyer, and suddenly it looked like that might not happen. I didn’t feel like myself.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Will nodded. “And that’s where you met Kurt?”
“Yeah, we were roommates..”
Diane laughed. “No. If I stayed I probably would have married him.”
“Married?” Will laughed. “You?”
“It was a different time.” Diane shrugged.
“But you left, to go to law school?”
Before Diane could answer Cary knocked on the door. “Sorry to interrupt.”
“If it’s not an emergency go away,” Will said as Diane laughed.
“The jury is in.”
“Already?” Will questioned looking at his with. “It’s been less than two hours”
“You must have been convincing.” Diane smiled. “Or really fucked up.”
“Go,” Diane said standing. “Good luck. “
“Diane?” Kurt said surprised to open his door and see her standing there.
“I didn’t shoot him.”
Diane slipped off her sunglasses and looked Kurt in the eye. “When I left. It wasn’t because I shot Alan.”
“I know,” Kurt smirked. “You drove out here to tell me that?” He moved out of the doorway, gesturing for her to enter.
“Yes. Something Will said.” She shook her head slightly. “I just had to make sure you knew that. Know that all this time you didn’t think you lied for me.”
“I lied to protect Sophie.”
“It was self-defense. You didn’t lie.” Diane frowned. How had they managed to go this long without discussing that night? “Clearly I am missing something.”
“You left to protect her. I lied to protect her.” Kurt said a wave of sadness crossing his face. “This whole mess started because she thought no one could love her. If she only knew.”
Diane took a deep breathe and prayed she was done throwing up. She looked back and exhaled slowly.
“We have to call the police.”
“No,” Sophie said quickly. “No, Nat. We can’t.”
“I can’t go to jail.”
“They won’t arrest you. It was self-defense. You didn't mean to kill him.”
“They won’t believe me.”
“We can’t just leave a dead body in our driveway Sophie. He has a family. They need to to know what happened to him.”
“Look at this car, Natalie,” Sophie said her voice becoming more steady. “He’s rich. His parents aren’t going to let some trash waitress get away with killing their son.” She ran her hand through her hair. “We’ll drive his car to the park. Call the police from the pay phone or just leave him till morning.”
“He’s in the driver’s seat. How are we supposed to drive his car?” Diane said. “And I am sure I am not the only one that woke up when the gun went off. You’ll go to jail if you lie.”
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” Sophie muttered.
“My grandmother used to quote the Bible all the time. Look, Natalie, you might have grown up where everything was magical and worked out. But when you ran away you came to the real world. And in the real world, poor people like me don’t have things work out.”
Diane straightened her posture refusing to let Sophie’s words hurt her. “I’ll get you a lawyer. A good one.”
“What what, your tips?”
“I’ll call my Father,” Diane said. Everything was crashing around her. She would have a lot to explain to everyone. But there was a dead body a few feet away from her. She couldn’t just do nothing. This was more important than her name.
“What are you two doing out here?” Kyle asked walking up the driveway.
“Shit. Shit.” Sophie sighed.
“There was an accident,” Diane said. “Sophie was about to call the police.”
“Oh my god,” Kyle sad his gaze looked on the car. “Is he?”
“Dead.” Sophie nodded.
“Call the police,” Diane said firmly. “I’m going to get Kurt.”
“Everything will be okay,” Diane said to comfort herself a much as Sophie. “Everything will be okay.”
“Why don’t they want to question us?” Diane asked. “Shouldn’t they question us?”
Kurt remained silent, but put his hand on her knee, trying to still it.
“What would we even say?” Lindsay asked. “We were asleep and someone was murdered in the driveway.”
“Where did they take Sophie?” Kyle asked.
When the police had arrived a young officer had told them to sit on the couch. He had then gone back outside where the others were speaking with Sophie. That had been over an hour ago.
“They probably took her to jail.”
“Lindsay!” Diane said shaking her head.
“What?” Lindsay shrugged. “Isn’t that what they do with murderers?”
“Sophie’s not a murderer.”
“So he just died of natural causes in our driveway?”
“Will you shut up.” Kyle sighed. “I’m going to go see what’s happening.”
Before Kyle could get up, the same office that had told them to sit on the couch re-entered the room. “We’re all set. The car has been removed. We just ask you don’t disturb the area. We have it all marked off.”
“Great. I’m going back to bed.” Lindsay said.
“Where is Sophie?” Diane asked.
“We’re bringing her with us to the station.”
“Told ya so.” Lindsay sang as she climbed the stairs.
“Why?” Diane demanded.
“We just have a few more questions for her. It’s routine. She’ll be fine. Go take a shower, Miss.” He said pointing at the blood dried on Diane’s arm. “Your friend will be fine.”
Kurt put his hand on her shoulder. “Let him go, Natalie. We’ll deal with it in the morning.” he turned towards the officer. “Thank you. We won’t disturb the scene.”
“Thank you. I know it’ll be hard, but your friend had the right idea, trying to get some sleep.”
“If you won’t let me see her will you at least give her a note?”
“Miss this is jail, not detention hall. Your friend murdered someone.”
Diane rolled her eyes. “It was self-defense. And I am aware of what happened, I was there. And she has the right to legal representation.”
The desk sergeant looked Diane over, smirking slightly. “While I am sure you are a great lawyer, Miss, your firmed already has one.”
“She does? Court-appointed?”
The sergeant had gone back to barely paying attention. “He’s on the phone over there. Maybe he’ll pass along your note.”
Diane moved over to the pay phone, eagerly waiting for the man to get end his call. He was wearing what appeared to be an expensive suit. An Armani briefcase was at this feat. It was similar to the one her father used. This was not a court-appointed lawyer. Diane frowned. Sophie regularly struggled to pay rent on time, how was she affording this lawyer?”
“What?” Diane asked startled.
“I’m off the phone. It’s all yours.”
“Oh,” Diane said shaking her head. “I was actually waiting for you.” She held out her hand. “Natalie Clark. I’m Sophie Thompson’s roommate.”
“Harvey West.” He chuckled under his breath, but still shook Diane’s hand. “What can I do for you, Miss Clark?”
“How is Sophie doing? They won’t let me see her. She seemed in shock last night.”
“You say her last night?”
“Yes, the gunshot woke me up. When I found her she was stunned.”
“Did the police question you?”
Diane shook her head slowly. “Why?”
“What did you say your name was again?” Harvey asked pulling a small notebook out of his pocket.
“And you were at the scene of the crime?”
“I was,” Diane said. She could practically see the gears moving inside his head. She nodded, reaching the same conclusion. “It was just me and Sophie.”
“How do you know Sophie?”
“I am her lawyer.”
“Yes. And she’s a waitress. That suit is more than a month’s pay. She couldn’t hire you.”
“I work for her father,” Harvey said. “She hasn’t been home in several years, but he’s happy to help his daughter get back on track.”
“Would you give her a message for me?”
“Tell her I love her, and to listen to you, and do whatever she needs to do.”
Diane put the envelope down on Kurt’s pillow and sighed. She had packed everything from her room, minus the bloody shirt from last night. She exhaled slowly. Leaving was for the best. She’d made up her mind, and needed to get in her car and drive before she second-guessed her choice.
“Hey Natalie,” Kyle sighed as Diane walked down the stairs. “Are you going to work?”
“I might have to swing by. A drink could probably benefit us all.”
“Yeah,” Diane repeated letting out a laugh. She shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s a weird 24 hours. I don’t think any of us know how to act.”
“Yeah.” Before she could stop herself she leaned forward and hugged Kyle. “Bye.”
“It’ll work out,” Kyle said hugging her back. “I know it’ll work out.”
“I’m going to need you to wash all the linens today, Maria.”
Diane stood in the foyer and waited. She didn’t want to announce her arrival, she would wait for her mother to come to belittle the maid and see her for herself.
“Maria, did you hear me?”
“Diane?” She rushed forward and shocked her daughter with how tightly she hugged her. “You’re home.” She pulled back and frowned. “Why are you home? What’s wrong?”
Diane’s lip started to quiver as her mother ran her hand up and down her arm. “Everything is horrible.”
“It’s okay. You’re home. Everything will be okay.”
Diane ran her fingers across the gun hanging in from her. She knew nothing about guns, but it was the largest she’d ever seen. She was about to ask about it but realized she was just stalling. She sighed and turned to face Kurt. “It’s time.”
“To talk about that night, and what happened after I left.”
“Ah.” Kurt nodded. “Yes, I suppose we’ve danced around this long enough.”
“You say you lied for Sophie. How?”
“Have you ever shot before?” Kurt asked, assuming the answer.
Diane shook her head, unsure what that had to do with anything. Kurt was still a student, surely the police had not gone to him for ballistic advice. He remained silent as he opened a drawer. Diane frowned when he handed her a pair of goggle and earplugs.
“What are you doing?”
“Put them on.” He pointed at a target on the back wall. “Try and hit that.”
“You want to know,” Kurt said loading a small handgun. “I’ll be right here, you’ll be fine.” He pointed to a mark on the floor. “Stand there.” He walked up behind her. “This is an AMT Hardballer. The same gun Sophie used.” He held it out and smiled when Diane just frowned at him. “Take it.”
“I don’t understand what this is supposed to prove.”
“Widen your stance a little, straighten up.” He nodded as she took his instructions. “Go ahead. Try to hit the target.”
Diane took a deep breath and raised her arms. She knew this was considered a handgun. but it felt like the heaviest thing she had ever lifted in this instance.
‘Just squeeze gently.”
“My God,” Diane said as the gun went off. Kurt’s hands quickly grasped her by the waist, keeping her steady.
“Not bad for your first try,” Kurt said taking the gun and quickly putting on the safety.
“I was nowhere near the target.”
“You had no idea what you were doing, and you were scared. That is why I lied for Sophie.”
“I’m missing the connection.” Diane sighed.
“The police asked if I’d ever taught Sophie to shoot.”
“I didn’t need to. She would beg to come with me to target practice. I took her a few times, she was a crack shot.” He ran his hand across this beard. “There was one shot fired the night. The police wanted to know if I had taught Sophie to shoot - more importantly they wanted to know if I taught her how to aim.”
“What did you say?”
“That she was termed of guns. Hated that I had one in the house.”
“So you think.” Diane stopped and ran her hand through her hair. “What do you think?”
“I think she was in a situation she wanted to get out of.”
Diane frowned. “But do you think she murdered him?” She shook her head thinking back to her sweet-hearted friend. “I mean she took spiders outside so no one would squish them.”
“At that moment, when the police were questioning me, no. I didn’t think she was a murderer. I never would have covered for her if I did.”
‘But afterward?” Diane asked. “My god. What happened after I left?”