He had a point. Long hours and no social life had become the norm. I was the only junior partner still in my thirties; without a spouse or kids to get home to, it hadn’t ever been a hardship for me to stay late. I was fortunate to be at this place in my career. I remembered how hard it was in the early days—I’d struggled to acquire enough billable hours a year, and hoped I was good enough that the senior partners put files on my desk.
Now I was drowning in work, with more cases than I knew what to do with, and unable to leave for any extended amount of time without the world inside my office walls imploding. Yeah, it was a problem of my own making, but I didn’t know how much longer it could go on. I loved my job, loved the orderly, nonnegotiable balance of the law. It had always been more than enough, until it just wasn’t.
The cup of coffee I’d been nursing for the last hour had gone cold, and I pushed it aside, opening my drawer and counting out change for the vending machine down the hall.
My phone was next to a pile of quarters, and on a whim—and knowing I’d probably be here for a few more hours—I picked it up. There were about fifteen missed calls—many of them from Ziggy—and a handful of texts. The most recent was a text from Liv.
Ziggs wants you to go to her house for dinner.
I’m at work, I typed back. Why didn’t she just text me herself?
You’re at work? WHAT A SURPRISE, Liv answered right away. She says you’re not answering your phone.
Guilt and irritation twisted in me. Ziggs was the last person who should be complaining to Liv about me working too much.
I looked around my desk and then at the clock. The building was silent but for a vacuum running down the hall, and exhaustion hit me like a warm, heavy wave. Dinner at Will and Ziggy’s sounded amazing. I was tired of this chair and the endless emails, stale coffee, and takeout. Ziggy worked almost as late as I did; they would probably just be starting. I texted her that I was headed over and then shut my computer down, shut my phone off.
The giddy levity I’d felt only days ago had already evaporated, and I was right back where I’d started: tired, marginally lonely, and hungry for the warmth of real company.
I parked at the curb and made my way up to the house, noting the way it glowed on the darkened street. Tiny lights dotted the flowerbeds and shone up into the trees; lamps filtered through sheer curtains on the second story. From where I stood I could see into the living room and just down the hall, where my sister and Will stood, wrapped in each other’s arms. Through the open window, a Guns N’ Roses song drifted out onto the street. They were slow-dancing in the kitchen to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
On the porch, the pumpkins were gone, but in their place was a hammered tin planter bursting with fall flowers. On the door was an autumn-themed wreath.
I bent to pet her, ruffling her ears. “They finally let you come home?”
Penrose spun in circles before rolling at my feet for a belly rub. I kicked off my shoes, set them by the door, and followed the dog as she bounded down the hall.
“You came,” my sister said, stepping back from where she’d been dancing with her husband.
Bending, I wrapped my arms around her and pressed a kiss to her head. “Of course I came. I love Will.”
She punched my arm and then walked over to a pile of vegetables on the counter.
Ziggs shook her head. “Just dancing, finishing the salad, you know. Preference on dressing?”
“Whatever you have is fine.” I watched them work in tandem for a moment before telling them about Becky showing up at my house.
My sister turned and gaped at me. “She did what?”
Will, who had been searching through the refrigerator for a head of lettuce, looked at me around the door. “You’re kidding.”
“I guess about forty-five minutes?” I scratched my jaw. “I mean, I basically told her that she was welcome to get it off her chest if it would make her feel better, but it wouldn’t do anything for me. She went on a bit about realizing now that she’d felt too young and like she hadn’t had any adventures yet.”
“Yes, that. She’s—that,” Ziggy spluttered, and my chest tightened with love for my adorably goofy sister and her perpetual need to protect me.
“She’s fine,” I said, picking up a slice of carrot and eating it. “I don’t think she’s evil, just historically not great with the communication.”
“For the record,” Will said, “I think you handled it perfectly.”
“He did, but—ugh. I am so over her.” Ziggy took a deep breath and then looked down at the knife in her hand. “Let’s change the subject before I need to find something to cut.”
Will looked at her with a fond smile and gently took the knife from her. “Good idea. Jens, you up for a run this weekend?”
I reached for another carrot. “Maybe. As long as we go early enough that I can still get in to work.”
My sister turned and stared at me in renewed shock before clapping her mouth closed and turning to pick the knife back up, her shoulders tense.
I watched her for a few seconds. “Is there a problem, Ziggs?”