“A shot,” Kalinda said firmly, dragging Alicia out to the closest bar after that first horrible, unending day. It had been filled with easily twice as much whispering, secret staring, and anonymous emails as any of the days since that first press conference, when she had honestly thought it couldn’t get worse.
“What is this?” Alicia stared numbly down at something that might be vodka. “A firm tradition? A post-divorce tradition? A welcome to the rest of your lonely, humiliated life tradition?”
“No,” Kalinda said quietly. “Just a shot.”
Alicia downed three before she let herself think about it.
Kalinda put her hand down before the next refill could approach. “She’s done, thank you.”
“I can hold my liquor,” Alicia protested.
“Not after three,” Kalinda said with four years’ experience. “She’s done.”
“I should get home,” Alicia said automatically, then laughed. “Why? If my kids ever come back to Chicago, I’d be surprised. They both have off-campus apartments. Maybe they’ll let me come spend winter break with them.”
“Will you yell at me if I tell you things will get better?”
Alicia laughed again, feeling the vodka still burning along the back of her throat. “Damn right I will. Things don’t get better, okay? They look like they’re getting better. They feel like they’re getting better. And you relax just a little and decide to try that happiness thing again, and then bam.” The shot glass rattled when her fist hit the bar. “Then conspiracy to fucking murder comes out of nowhere, and it’s divorce courts and bar inquiries and children who probably wish they’d never been born and--" She swallowed hard. She was not going to cry anymore. “Better is just worse lying in wait.”
“Alicia.” Kalinda laid a hand over Alicia’s still-clenched fist. “The firm is behind you. Your kids love you. You are a strong, honorable, beautiful woman. It is going to get better.”
“Have I ever lied to you about the facts of a case?”
Alicia shook her head with a laugh that was half-hiccup.
“Well, I’m not starting now.”
“I can’t decide what’s more surreal, you being the positive one in this partnership or--or calling me beautiful.”
“Someday you’ll believe it,” Kalinda said, and there was something about her tone and the way she looked just past Alicia’s face that made Alicia lean into Kalinda more than the drinks made necessary.
Kalinda leaned right back, and she had a smile on her face that usually appeared just before she obtained unobtainable evidence. “And someday we’ll talk about it. But for now, let’s get you some food.”
Alicia recognized something like disappointment, and then stuffed it away along with a lot of other things to be dealt with much, much later. “And then more drinks, right?”
“We’ll talk about it.”
Alicia smiled her first real smile of the day. “I’ll win.”