"Good morning, Jess," said Valentina. "How goes it?"
"It goes," I replied evenly. "I have a feeling John is going to talk to me today about making you a partner."
"Yes, except I think he's going to be a sneaky bugger about it."
Her delicately arched eyebrows rose a little. "In what way?"
I shrugged. "In some way I haven't anticipated yet, because he likes to keep me on my toes. Has he said anything to you?"
She shook her head. "Nope. Not a word."
I looked at her. Was it possible she was lying? A momentary flicker of doubt...but she saw it in my eyes and leaned forward.
"Jessica, he's not the only one with a plan, remember? Don't underestimate me. I want to make partner, and I want you to be head of litigation so I can slipstream you all the way to the Supreme Court." She sat back. "A wise woman once pointed out to me that men have dominated the legal profession for decades and used their collective power to improve things for other men, both inside and outside of the law. It's our turn now."
"Who told you that? Me?"
"No, my grandmother."
"The one that's a judge?"
"No, the one that's a hairdresser."
"Right." I paused. "So...you're ready?"
"I'm ready, and so are you. Go on your trip and don't let him ruin it by coming along inside your head."
"That's a horrible thought."
She stood up, again appearing to defy the laws of physics. "You're welcome." She turned and walked to the door, pausing once more. "Plus, if you can handle a sixteen-year-old girl, you can handle a fifty-five-year-old guy."
"You would think."
She left, and I swung my chair around and gazed out the window. Across the canyons of downtown Los Angeles was a skyscraper that featured a glass slide on the outside of the seventieth floor. My daughter Emily and I had gone down it once, and I'd been much less scared than I'd expected. The thought of the lawsuit that would arise from dropping a tourist a thousand feet onto a busy stretch of downtown LA told me they'd probably made the slide strong enough to drive a truck down. Emily had stopped halfway down the slide to examine the construction and post pictures to Instagram, and afterwards we'd had one of the few conversations in recent memory that hadn't devolved into an argument about her future. I thought about our upcoming trip to visit colleges, and wondered if we could work something life-threatening into the itinerary every day in order to maintain the peace.
Laurel buzzed me. "Jessica, John wants to see you in his office when you have a minute."
"Alright, let him know I'm on my way."
But I waited ten minutes, because, you know, power move.
• • •