029. - Lucien
The next few days turn into an unexpected rollercoaster. The case against the agency owner falls through, because we have no way of proving he was there on any of the nights of the accusations, even though there's four of them now. The case just cracks and crumbles and though we don't plan on letting it go, it's still a massive blow to the firm and everyone involved needs to take a few days to start fresh.
The news breaks Liliana, which is completely understandable, and our relationship is rocky. Until one night she sits me down and without looking me in the eye breaks up with me. Saying it's not fair to keep me tied down if she's like this and that's she's not sure if she'll ever be whole again. I try to argue that I don't care, that I will be with her every step of the way even if the dynamic of our relationship will change forever, but she's having none of it. A day later all her things are gone from my apartment, leaving me more lonely than ever. Matthew is in LA and Gabriel is in Dubai so that leaves me with no drinking buddies, because Audrey understandably wants to be with Liliana. Callum is acting stand off-ish, though I can't determine why, and I suddenly find that I don't actually know any people in this city to the extend that I'm comfortable sharing this with them. I'm staring blankly at my computer screen, at one of Emma's cases, but not a word gets through.
"Lucien?" I look up and see Selene at my door, taking me in with a worried expression. "Are you okay?"
"I... yeah." I gesture for her to come in, pushing my feelings away as my father always taught me to do. "What can I do for you?"
"We can't reach Emmeline Middleton. It's her third sick day and it's company policy to check in daily to see how they're doing and when they'll be back... But miss Middleton isn't picking up her work phone."
"Have you tried her private number?" I ask, frowning. I may not know Emma that well, this seems unlike her.
"We can't." Selene shakes her head. "Privacy violation."
"For fuck's sake. Please send it to me, I'll see if I can contact her." I get up from my desk, knocking over my water glass. I groan, watching the water soak all the papers on my desk. Selene's expression goes from worried to pity.
"I'll have that cleaned up." she promises. "You go smoke. I'll send the number in a few minutes."
Outside I find Callum, non-smoking but busy calling someone. There's a lot of aggression to his tone, though that seems unnecessary if I correctly guessed the client he's talking to. Callum's been off for a few days. Agitated, short-tempered, nothing like his usual social self. I wait for the call to be over and offer him a cigarette, which he declines.
"You know I don't smoke."
"It seems unpolite not to offer." I shrug. "Who was that on the phone?"
"That gigantic prick of a Henry Lane. He's withholding evidence, I know he is." At his sides, his hands are balled to fists. He's pacing. "I will pull it out of him!"
"That's a serious accusation, Callum." I note, as calmly as I can. "Do you have anything to back it up?"
"No!" He shouts. "But I'll find it! And then I'll burn him to the ground, together with everything he loves!"
I wonder that, in his anger, he forgets who he's talking to. Deciding to make a point of it later, I move on to the next subject. "How's Emma doing? I noticed she's been sick for a few days... Do I need to send her flowers on behalf of the company?"
"What?" He turns to me, a bewildered look in his eyes. His hair is frazled and his shirt unbuttoned. I've never seen him this... undone. "Emma's fine. Doesn't need flowers. She'll be back to work tomorrow, no worries."
"I wasn't worrying, I just..."
"I need to get back to work." He cuts in, stomping inside before I can even finish the sentence. I watch him leave, a little stunned, before going back to my cigarette and texting Emma.
Hey, noticed you've been absent for a while. Company can't get a hold of you for check-ups. How are you feeling? L.C.
Nearly two hours go by before I get a reply and I'm not sure if it calms my nerves.
Sorry. Will be back to work tomorrow.
She is back the next day, but like with Callum, something is... off. Maybe I'm just paranoid in the whole midst of things, it's not like my emotions have been exactly stable since Liliana broke up with me. I haven't been able to reach her, but Audrey assures me that she's alive and safe, be it with the urgent request to stop trying to contact her. I'm struggling to comply, worried sick. I look at Emma, hunched behind her computer and completely focused on her work. I have enough on my plate right now, so I let it slide.
Halfway through the day, we see each other outside by chance. She's sitting with her headphones in, completely zoned out. I'm not even sure if she sees me coming, so I tap her on the shoulder. She looks up a little startled, pulling out one of the buds.
"Sorry." she says, sounding a little hoarse. I offer her a small smile.
"Not to worry. I wanted to ask you something: I'm assigning the cases we got in this week and wanted to give you one, but it's a hefty one and I wanted to make sure you're up to it after being sick and whatnot. Your case load is already intense after..."
"After being gone for a few days, I know. It's okay, I can handle it. Thank you for considering me."
For a few minutes it's awkward silence. We may not like each other, it has not been like this for months now. So I decide to overstep my boundaries.
"Forgive me for asking, and don't feel obliged to answer, I'm just... looking out for my employees, I suppose." She eyes me suspiciously. "Are you and Callum okay? He's been... touchy, lately, to say the least. Right on par with you being sick, actually. It's none of my business, but if something happened we can -"
"We're fine." she cuts in, avoiding my eyes. I frown.
"Are you sure? I don't need any details, but we can arrange for you two to work less closely together and it just seems that..."
"Because suddenly you are the expert on healthy relationships?" She snaps. "Because it sure doesn't seem like it, you and that.... that Lily-girl just seem to be together when it's convenient and when she's not here you flirt with anything that has tits."
I clench my jaw, my eyes narrowing. In a split-second, my need to help her has entirely disappeared. Have it your way, then. "In that case you'll be delighted to know that Liliana broke up with me. And maybe instead of oggling someone else's relationship, start looking at your own. Because Callum has been looking at a lot of women, but never you."
It's a low blow, I'm well aware. As a boss, the boundary is so far overstepped that it's a dot. But this wasn't a conversation between employee and boss, this was between two human beings that can't stand each other. I don't watch the expression on Emma's face, or await an answer: I just stomp out my cigarette and head inside.
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