Short fiction – Defiant Hemlock #7: A Kind of Love You Wished You Had

Image by ssalonso – Creative Commons license

Judge Leigh Gallant ended another frustrating day late. Arraignments were exhausting, as usual. Keagan Gallant threw a temper tantrum, as usual, when she picked her son up late for jazz band rehearsal. She had to help him carry his tuba into the band room, and the 30 kids in the rehearsal all stopped in the middle of a tune to swivel their heads around and stare. This, of course, sent her 15-year-old son into another fit of histrionics. She glared at Mr. Nesbit, the band director, until he waved his horrible baton again and snapped his slack jaw shut. She didn’t have patience for bullshit today. 

If they called her “Your Honor,” she was sure she would have lunged at them and wound up under ADA Fisher’s purview. Disgraced judge assaults high school band teacher. News at 7. 

Then again, she didn’t have patience for bullshit any day. And today, everybody was shoveling heaps of it at her feet, clad as they were in expensive leather Clarke’s. Her podiatrist had recommended them for her collapsed left arch, a problem that had bothered her all her life and only grew worse with her career choices. She didn’t even get Keagan his licorice. 

And now she had a migraine as she put her key in the lock in the front door. The key wouldn’t even turn right. It was an old door. An old house. An old town. For an old judge. Okay, she wasn’t old. But today she felt old. Today she knew what drove Jack Kinzer to his drinking problem. Then she thought about Jack Kinzer, and the knife in her head twisted like a rusty blade. But she didn’t drink. Ex-Mormon and all. She longed for a hot cup of Earl Grey tea. 

Luckily, her long-suffering husband Rick opened the door. He leaned in for a kiss. She quieted her anger with difficulty and met his lips. He smelled like cigarettes. Chain smoking again. Maybe chain smoking with that waitress again. She didn’t have the energy to berate him about it tonight. 

“Long day?” he said. 

“The worst,” she groaned, and kicked off those blasted shoes. How she missed her heels. “Can’t remember what we decided on for dinner. Whose turn?” 

“I took the liberty of making spaghetti,” Rick said.

“Thank you.” She was about to ask where Keagan was but then she heard the video game. She was about to berate Rick for that, too, but she held her tongue. The Xbox had also been Rick’s decision, one to which she had vehemently objected. Overruled, of course. She removed her jacket. He helped her. She wished his touch felt like it used to. Instead, his hand felt cold. Foreign. “How was your day?” 

“Oh, it was fine,” he said. His lips pursed, and he refused to make eye contact. She narrowed her eyes. He was sweating, just like a defendant lying under oath. Then he looked at her, his baby blue eyes earnest. “Christopher Poutine. You know him?” 

“Rick. You know I can’t talk about cases.” 

“It’s not that,” Rick said. “It’s just… I saw him in the diner tonight. With that defense attorney, the slimy one. Kinzer? The one who always smells like vodka.” 

“Nothing weird about that. He’s his client,” Judge Gallant said. Then she shook off the title, and remembered she was home now, and she could be Leigh. Just Leigh. Plain and simple Leigh, with a husband who used to love her. 

“It was just weird,” Rick said. “He was giving him a tarot card reading. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.” 

Then he looked at her, truly looked into her eyes, and saw the disbelief there, somewhere. She tried to show her interest, instead. She smiled in what she hoped was encouragement. She smiled in the same way she smiled at abuse victims giving testimony. You can do it. I believe you. You can trust me. 

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Rick said. He shook his head, with a rueful smile, like it was a bad joke. “Come on, let’s have some dinner.” 

Leigh’s heart sank. She realized, then, how badly she wanted him to take the time to explain. 

//

Defiant Hemlock continues next Wednesday! Read the series here: https://dnruttan.com/category/defianthemlock/ | Like my writing? Here are some ways to support my creative endeavors!

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