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A Woman in Love

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Walking away from the courtroom, Elle feels strong, centered. Like, woah. She did it. She really did it. The case is over, won, and things with Warner finally seem finished. The battles of the past weeks are over, and she’s emerged victorious and expertly dressed. All she has to do is go home, kick off her Pradas, eat a reasonable and non-excessive quantity of reward chocolate in the bath, and go to sleep. And she doesn’t have class tomorrow except for an evening seminar, so she doesn’t need to get up before nine. She can finally relax.

The thing is, she still feels like she needs to… do something. With this newfound strength, she feels… ready. For something . The feeling is still there by the time she clambers into bed, chocolate consumed and toenails freshly painted, stretching and releasing tired legs. She’s exhausted, and brushes the feeling off. Just leftover adrenaline, probably.

Phi Mu brunch with Brooke and the girls the next morning is great—she missed being around people who don’t confuse Louboutin and Louis Vuitton.

“And she said, where are the letters, and I said, what letters, and she said, they always have LV on them, right?”

Their table breaks out into laughter every few minutes. They drink a quantity of Rosé that is probably more than is strictly necessary, and altogether have a wonderful time. Finally, Elle loads the girls into a couple of cabs to the airport and says goodbye to Brooke, who, alarmingly, is going straight to teach a spin class.

“Won’t you fall off the bike?”

“Elle, it was only three glasses! That’s nothing. I can’t even remember filming Windham Work-it 2!”

Elle isn’t sure how that’s physically possible, but doesn’t ask and instead bids Brooke a cheerful adieu with plans for drinks next Saturday.

She heads home, walks Bruiser, studies for a bit. Doodles little cats in the margins of her notes. Taps the end of her pen on the table for a minute and a half.

She’s still unsettled. Hm. She looks down at her notes, which looked far more professional before the last 20 minutes of her absentminded pen. Ugh. Vivian’s notes would never look like this. They’d be all neat, with that terrifically professional looking blocky handwriting.

Oh! Vivian! She knew there was a loose end, something she still had to do. Elle crosses the room, picks up the phone, and flips her lilac day planner (Emblazoned with “Dream it, Do it!” in sparkly script letters) to the page in the back with Vivian’s number on it. Good thing the interns exchanged numbers.

“Hello?” a voice picks up the phone.

“Vivian! Hi. It’s Elle.”

“...Hi Elle.” It’s not brimming with warmth, but frankly, from Vivian, no outright animosity is a victory in itself.

“So I was thinking, would you like to get together to study with me on Wednesday?”

“Um. Get together?”

“To study.” A pause.

“I’m busy Wednesday…” Well. Elle can take a hint, At least she tried. She’d hoped, after Vivian had said she’d misjudged her, that maybe they could even—

“I can do Thursday though.”

“Oh!” Elle doesn’t think quickly enough to contain her shock. “Well, okay. Amazing! How’s four o’clock at Langdell?”

“Sure. I’ll see you then.” The line goes flat before Elle responds, but she’s not about to take it personally. She’s got a study date with a former enemy, and if she feels a little self-satisfied, well, it’s deserved.

But she still has this energy. Gosh, she’d really thought that was it. But apparently not.

So, though she doesn’t really need to get her highlights fixed up for another two weeks, Elle goes to get her hair done.

“I don’t know! I solved the case, I saw the girls, Vivian and I even made plans to study… I just feel restless.”

“Is it because of what Warner said?” Paulette asks, stirring dyes in a bowl

“No, I’m not really bothered by him. It’s just, now that I know it won’t ever happen… it’s actually like a weight’s been lifted, really. But I also have this-this sense . Sort of edgy… but not bad… but like, I feel it. In my body.”

“It isn’t itchy, is it? My Tuesday dye job got poison oak, just hanging around the park. In the city!”

“I’m pretty sure it’s not poison oak…” Elle sighs. She feels silly for dwelling on something that she’s probably just imagining, and changes the subject. “So how are things with Kyle?”

As soon as she says his name, Paulette looks about ready to burst, but then visibly restrains herself. She put the bowl of chemicals down on the counter so her hands can move freely as she talks.
“He’s… well, we’re having dinner this Friday.”

“That’s amazing. How’s his nose?”

“It’s going to heal up in couple weeks! And, he even said…” Paulette leans in conspiratorially, bashful but clearly so excited, and half-whispers, half-shouts, “it was worth it to spend time with me.

“Oh, Paulette, I’m so happy for you guys! See? I knew it would work, even if wasn’t quite how you planned. The Bend and Snap works in mysterious ways.”

“Elle… The way he was lookin’ at me… and I was lookin’ at him… you know what I mean?” Paulette smiles wide.

Elle stops. The thing is—she does.

Not the drunken dazes or lustful eyes Warner would turn on her but... she knows exactly what Paulette's talking about. In a department store mirror, on a bench in the Cambridge night, in the courtroom, there for her when no one else… And that’s it. That’s the thing! Oh, of course , God, how could she be so slow! This is it!

She checks her watch. She was going to see him later today anyway, but she doesn't think she can wait. It's 2:38. She should have time to catch him before class if she leaves now.

“Paulette, I’ve gotta go.”

“I haven’t even applied your streaks yet!”

“I’m sorry, but this is important! Just charge it all on the card on file and I’ll come back in sometime soon!” She all but runs out the salon doors and heads for Harvard.

 “Elle! Hey, I didn’t expect to see you till later.”

“Yes, well,” She starts off confident, quick, and stops abruptly.

Emmett’s looking at her expectantly. She hadn’t really thought this through in less than abstract terms. Somehow she’d imagined she’d get here, all fired-up and passionate, and say just the right words in just the right way that amounted to “it’s become clear that we should be together and I’d like to start that immediately,” and were followed by a sweeping, dramatic kiss where the bustle of Harvard law school faded around them and they were just them, just Emmett and Elle. She thought interrupting him just before he headed into a class he was TAing for would be romantic. Instead…

“Well?” He prompts. God, he’s so patient. See, this is why they should be together! It’s all so clear!

Well , ” she answers with renewed vigor, voice strong with intent. And then stops again, because she still doesn’t know what to say. How to say it.

Emmett cocks his head and looks down at her, concerned. “Elle, are you okay?”

“Yes. I just—” she pauses, starts again, “even after I got the internship with Callahan, I still thought that maybe, maybe Warner and I might just sort of get back together. I wasn’t still in love with him—or, I don’t think I was, but I had had this idea for so long…”

“It can be hard to let go of stuff,” Emmett says. Scrubs his hand across his forehead. “Look, I hate to cut this short but I’ve got to get to class... but I’ll see you later?”

He starts to turn and she reflexively grabs onto his arm.

“Wait!” she says, too loud. His worn blazer is soft under her hand. She knows she didn’t need to reach out to keep him here, that he would’ve stayed with just the word. But it was instinct, and now she’s holding him, and even though it’s awkward, even though a couple of people are staring thanks to her outburst, she doesn’t want to let go.

She makes herself. “Wait, I’m still getting to the point. Yes, it can be hard to get over stuff. And I thought that if that opportunity ever presented itself, we’d be together and that’s what would make me really happy.”

Emmett smiles, now, like he gets it. Maybe he does. Elle smiles back.

“And now you know you don’t need anyone to make you happy.”

“Oh. Well yes, but. Warner proposed to me.”

“Oh.” Emmett sounds like he doesn’t know where this is going after all.  

“After the trial, he said we should be together. He proposed to me.” Emmett just looks at her. He doesn’t seem pained, or surprised, or happy. He doesn’t seem much of anything. What is going on in his head?! Elle plows on. “And as soon as he said it I just—” She pauses. Meets Emmett’s eyes with hers, tries to communicate that she means what she’s saying. “I just knew it wasn’t what I wanted at all.” Emmett doesn’t respond within the next two seconds, so she continues.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he’s not a very nice person. He was actually a total jerk. And not very smart.”

Now he smiles. “Believe it or not, I had noticed something to that effect.”

“Well, the thing is... you’re not. You’re nice, really nice, not fake nice, and you’re smart, and you like me for me. I don’t even know if Warner ever knew me at all, really. But you do— and being around you makes me better, not worse. And when I was going to go back to Malibu it seemed almost like, like you—well, like you something-ed me, and what I’m trying to say is that I something you, and I think we should be together.”

There. It’s out there, now, and she can’t take it back. She makes herself meet Emmett’s gaze, and when she looks into his eyes, she doesn’t want to. Even if he doesn’t feel the same, or want her like that, she knows now that she’s the kind of person who says what she wants, and does what it takes to try and get it. And Emmett has helped her see that that’s a part of herself she should be proud of.

“Okay,” he says, smile spreading across his face.

“Okay… just okay?” And maybe she sounds a little put out. What’s happening, where’s her k—

“Yeah, that sounds really good,” he says, and he bends down and gives her that moment in the hallowed, questionably renovated second floor Harvard hall, and the throng of trust fund kids and textbooks and ugly cardigans around them doesn’t disappear, but they certainly don’t matter, and standing close and getting closer, Emmett and Elle are just Emmett and Elle, and how could they be anything else, really.

Elle’s vaguely aware that that might not make a whole lot of sense, and maybe it’s not coherent, but can you blame her? Emmett’s lips are touching hers and his arm wraps around to press gently at the small of her back, pulling her closer. She feels so valued, not like a prize or a trophy, he’s not showing her off or trying to be seen making out with the hot blonde. She feels in her bones that he values her as a person, as someone he knows, and wants to keep knowing. Elle wants to keep knowing him too.