I wondered vaguely if he had talked to Asa and if that was his subtle hint that if I could learn to forgive myself, then maybe some of that dead weight of responsibility and guilt that caged me down on rock bottom would be lifted, and I could start that slow and arduous trek towards something better.
I pushed my hands through my still-unruly hair and blew out a breath. As I exhaled, I felt years of culpability escape from my dense conscience. “I’m so happy you guys found your way back to each other.”
My dad chuckled in his thunderous way and he reached out to put his arm around my mom’s shoulders so he could pull her to his side. “We are, too, because that story has been a long time coming. We wanted to wait until you were in a place to listen, with your head and your heart. We knew if we told you the truth, at the wrong time, it would have you spiraling even more out of control than you already were. You react, Sprite, and while its honest emotion, it isn’t always the healthiest response. Now that all the skeletons are out of the closet, I figure it’s as good a time as any for this family to be under the same roof. The house is a total loss. The outside brick is still standing, but everything on the inside is gone. It would cost a fortune to go in and rebuild from the ground up, and I think the money coming from the insurance claim could be put to better use.”
I let my head fall back so that it thunked against the wall and turned my face up towards the ceiling. “Yeah. Take the money and use it to replace the money you had to take out of your retirement to pay for my bail, and towards the money you’re planning on paying Quaid. I’m not going to let you lose your home and your retirement, Dad. I’m going to find a way to pay you back to cover the bill coming from the Legal Eagle.”
Both of my parents chuckled at the silly nickname I had labeled him with, and I couldn’t fight a grin at how coincidentally perfect it was now that I knew about the eagle he had inked on his perfectly sculpted chest.
They both started to argue about the money and question how I was going to come up with the necessary funds, but it was my turn to hold my hand up and interrupt them.
“Consider this the first step in the right direction. I haven’t done many things that felt right in my life but this” —I pointed between us with my finger— “this feels right. Taking complete responsibility, including the financial part of it, for the mess I made is something I have to do if I’m ever going to be able to get to a place where I can live with some of the things I’ve done.” I took a deep breath and shifted my eyes between the both of them. “Speaking of the things I’ve done and not letting blame and guilt control me anymore, I need to tell you guys my story. I need you to know that the reason I kept screwing up and kept hurting myself had nothing to do with you. I need to tell you all of it, and know that you’ll still be here and still love me afterwards.”
Maybe then I could accept some of that forgiveness everyone was always throwing around.
Knowing what the right thing was did feel warm. It also felt fizzy and exciting as it bubbled in my blood, even as my parents reassured me over and over that they were both there to help me. It felt thick and syrupy as it moved through my veins, pushing out all the recrimination and reproach that lived there.
Knowing the right thing to do felt amazing. Now I needed to break all my old habits and actually do what was right, instead of veering off course and nose-diving into the wrong thing. This time, I didn’t want to crash and burn; I wanted to soar to new heights.
I exited the courtroom with another not-guilty verdict secured and another very satisfied client. This guy was lucky that the jury bought his innocent and confused act, because I would bet everything I owned that he was indeed guilty of luring the prostitute, who was the complainant, into his home and keeping her there against her will for several days. The court of public opinion held a lot of weight with the average person and the jury took exactly three hours to deliberate and decide that the young woman deserved the horrors she suffered through simply because she made her money on her back and took the risk of advertising her services on Craigslist. It didn’t matter that my client had crazy eyes, a previous history of violence against women, and zero remorse on the stand when he was cross-examined. He looked like a soccer dad and drove a minivan. He worked for the local cable company and had an established 401(k), so he was perceptibly the more upstanding and believable of the two of them on the stand. My job was done. I had kicked legal ass and dragged the poor woman even deeper into the mud, and where I would normally want to celebrate a job well done with an expensive Scotch and a more expensive woman, today all I wanted to do was brave the madness of a tiny, pink-haired hurricane and scrub off the film of distaste that covered me in the shower for a hundred hours.
I was sending a text to Avett to tell her I was on my way to get her from her parents’ house when I noticed the detective who was in charge of Avett’s ex’s case waiting for me by the elevators. I slipped my phone back in my pocket without waiting for her response and tilted my chin at the cop in greeting.
“What’s up? Do you have any new information on the fire?”
The detective gave a sharp nod and blew out a deep sigh. He lifted a hand to his face and rubbed his chin. “The fire investigator is calling it arson. There was accelerant poured all over the house and the gas line that ran to the stove was cut. The house was purposely burned down.”
I wasn’t surprised, but I was furious. I hated that Avett and Brite were going through this. I hated that someone was capable of doing something so horrible to another human being.
“That’s what we figured. Did the boyfriend offer up any insight as to why someone would be interested in burning down the Walkers’ home?”
The cop sighed again. “We questioned him. The kid’s a punk. He’s the low man on the totem pole and completely willing to sell anyone and everyone out to cover his own ass. We thought maybe he had one of his tweaker buddies go after the girl in order to keep her from testifying, but he hasn’t had any contact with the outside since his arrest.”
I swore and shoved my hand roughly through my hair, making it stand up wild on the top of my head.
“So where does that leave us?”
The cop frowned. “Well, the tweaker hasn’t had any contact with the outside but his lawyer sure has. Do you know who Larsen Tyrell is?”