Chapter Eleven

 

It’s been five months since I graduated, Summa Cum Laude. Justin also graduated with a distinction. Tom didn’t. He received a creditable pass and, as predicted, appeared more than satisfied. “At least I managed to maintain a decent social life,” he said.  

 

Campus, on graduation night, had been rowdy, the air filled with the celebratory sounds of students breaking free from the chains of academia. I joined the celebrations without restraint, the first time since entering law school that I allowed myself to let go. 

 

“We fucking made it!’ Tom yelled as he popped the cork on yet another bottle of champagne, the last in the case he’d managed to smuggle onto campus. He guzzled from the bottle before passing it to Justin, who drank and, in turn, handed to me. "To freedom and success," he said. I grinned, endorsing both Tom's and his comment, then raised the bottle and drank deeply.

 

I left the party in the early hours of the morning with Crystal, who’d been invited by someone else, not me, and spent what little was left of the night in her bed. I woke before her and hauled myself up, anxious to return to my apartment to do the last of my packing and go home. Crystal didn’t wake when I tried to rouse her, so I rummaged around until I found some paper and wrote her a note wishing her luck because she, too, would soon be leaving Harvard.

 

I ran into Justin in the hallway as he was taking out the garbage. He looked nearly as bad as I felt.   “I made coffee; do you want some?” he asked. 

 

“Sure,” I muttered gratefully and followed him to their apartment.

 

“Tom isn’t back yet,” Justin informed me as he handed me a mug. Their door slammed shut before I could respond, and Tom sauntered in, looking the worse for wear.

 

“You look like shit,” I commented as he threw himself onto the sofa.

 

“That’s what spending the night with three drunk, horny women will do to you,” he smirked, swiping Justin’s mug from the table.

 

I chose not to respond. I didn’t want to hear the details that, with the slightest encouragement, Tom would almost certainly have expounded on. “I should go,” I said instead, then shook hands with both as we exchanged good wishes and promised to keep in touch. I knew it was nothing but platitudes; we all did because none of us held any illusions of a lasting friendship.  Our only common interest, our experience at law school, had come to an end.

 

Glad for the presence of my family and the permanent comforts of home and my own bed, I allowed myself a week to unwind. I spent time with Mom, Dad, and Cait, collectively an individually, something I hadn’t done in ages. Mom and Dad were over the moon about my results. Their pride filled me with a sense of satisfaction, but I couldn’t allow myself to be complacent because I had one more hurdle to clear. Before I could become a prosecutor or, in fact, practice as a lawyer in any capacity, I had to gain admission to the bar. And so, after a boozy night at the pub with Matt and the guys, I hunkered down to prepare for yet another exam.

 

Then, more than ever, I felt vindicated that I’d ignored the advice of so many and sat for the MPRE early. Most of my fellow students, Justin and Tom included, opted to wait until after graduation to sit the exam designed to test the knowledge and understanding of the standards that govern lawyers’ professional conduct. Passing it is a prerequisite for sitting the bar exam.  “What’s the rush,” Justin had asked. “Why add unnecessary pressure? Take the bar exam in February like everyone else,” he'd said, but I didn’t want to wait.

 

In Massachusetts, bar exams can only be sat in July or February, and it seemed senseless, given the years of study I’d already put in to drag out the process for another nine months. So I gave up what little free time I had, studied for and sat the MPRE and, thankfully, passed, which, after graduation, left me free to concentrate solely on the bar exam.

I sat the test in July as planned, and, in the twelve weeks it took for me to get my results, I underwent the character assessment exam, another necessary step before I could apply for admission to the bar. In October, I, finally, received notification that I'd passed the bar.

I intend gaining admission to the New York bar also. It may come in useful, I'd rationalized when first hatching the plan. In truth, my motivation had been more about making an imprint, small though it may be, in the place Adam Winston called home. I'm in no rush, though. Right now, I want to enjoy my achievements. For the first time in years, I’m allowing myself the luxury of looking back rather than forward. 

I won’t lie. Law school had been hell at times, particularly that first brutal year—those first few months, especially—when I wondered what the hell I’d taken on.  But I made it and got through the endless, endless hours of study. At times, I felt as if the library had become my second home. The second and third years, though not a walk in the park, had proven less stressful, not only because of the lessened workload but thanks, also, to the conditioning as One L’s. Many fellow students made the most of the flexible programs to participate in several extracurricular activities. Like them, I welcomed the reprieve but chose to limit myself by competing in moot court and, along with Justin, joined the debating team. I enjoyed the intellectual stimulus of both, and, to me, the combination of the two seemed the perfect vehicles to test and hone my legal and oratory skills.

I avoided the official sporting teams, and what free time I had, I devoted to fencing, something I discovered and grew to love while in college. I find it both physically and mentally testing, and I enjoy the company of Nick Burns, my instructor. I, especially, appreciated the time away from anything law or campus-related.

Justin and Tom returned to rowing and tried to convince me of its merits, saying when I refused, that I could spare the time. "You're on top of everything," Justin insisted, but I remained steadfast, pointing out that I was managing because of my limited activities. That had been true, but there’d been another reason I refused.

Before starting my undergrad degree, when visiting Harvard, I was shown the Trophy Room. Among the victory regalia and photographs, one, for some reason, drew my attention. A particular face stood out. I recognized the all-too-familiar jawline, the shape of the nose. His hair had been light brown, almost blond, his eyes light— gray or blue—nothing like mine, yet I knew. I knew before reading the plaque that Adam Winston had once been a member of the heavyweight rowing team. The inscription was dated fifteen months before my birth, and I'd wondered whether he’d already met Eleanor by then. Had he already decided to take advantage of her?  Rage and disgust had burned through me at the sight of his carefree, smiling face. It took everything in me not to smash my fist into the glass. 

I chose Harvard, knowing he’d been an alumnus.  I wanted to prove myself his equal in the place he’d probably hoped to graduate from. I had no intention, however, of replicating every facet of his time there; quite the opposite, in fact. I had, then, and still have no compulsion to participate in something Adam Winston had so obviously enjoyed. And that, other than not wanting to get sidetracked, had been why I refused to join the rowing team.

That night, more than a year after Charles Adams handed them over, I asked Dad for the letters Adam Winston had left me. I’m not sure what I hoped to find—some redeeming quality, perhaps, or something to ease my hurt and anger. I found no such thing.  All reading those letters did was add Eleanor’s pain and sense of rejection to my own. I hated the bastard even more.

Each word of those letters is imprinted on my brain. Even now, seven years later, I recall every one.

Dear Adam,

 

I’m confused and hurt. I don’t understand why you left, why you refused to speak to me after my news, and why you didn’t leave a number or address. I loved you. I still do, and I thought you loved me.

 

I know my pregnancy came as a shock. Believe me; I was shocked too. I don’t know what happened, but surely you must accept that it wasn’t my fault? Not entirely. I was naïve and made a mistake. We both did, but I couldn’t do what you asked. I couldn’t kill our baby. 

 

So, in less than three months, I’ll give birth. I don’t know if it will be to a son or daughter, but I feel sure our baby’s a boy. I don’t know why; I just do. When I read your note, I was determined to do this on my own, and I’ve managed so far. But my doctor said I have to slow down. I can't work two jobs, and I can’t work double shifts. If I do, I’ll harm our baby.

 

I have no one else, so I’m asking you for help, Adam, please. Not for me, but for our child. Just enough to see me through the birth and until I can work again. I’m not asking for anything else, I can’t help hoping and praying you’ll change your mind, and that you’ll want to be involved in his life. I just know that if you see him and touch him, you’ll love him. I already do. I did from the moment I learned of his existence.

I’m begging you, Adam, for our child’s sake.  We need you.

 

Yours,

Eleanor.

 

I hadn’t cried for Eleanor in nearly a decade at the time of reading her words, but I admit to crying that night. Not for me, not for the photograph of the baby attached to the letter, one she must have sent after my birth. I cried for her and for the pain I read between those lines. But I was also so fucking mad.  How, having known what abandonment felt like, could she become addicted drugs and leave me?

 

His letter, though, made me put my fist through my bedroom wall.

 

Adam, he wrote.

 

I have no idea how old you’ll be by the time you read this, but I hope you’ll be old enough and man enough to understand. I wondered long and hard about what to tell you, what the right things to say would be, and frankly, I’m no closer to knowing, so I’ll just go for the truth.

 

I was born into a family with great wealth, a family with status in society, a place that generations before me have strived to improve and uphold. It would be highly unacceptable for anyone in our family to marry outside of our social circle, and it would be unthinkable to father and admit to having a child out of marriage. 

 

My relationship with your mother was never meant to be more than a brief affair, but, unfortunately, things got out of hand, and she fell pregnant. In hindsight, I realize that I shouldn't, have pursued her because I knew there would be no future for her with me. But Eleanor was extraordinarily lovely and innocent, so different from any woman I knew. I succumbed to temptation, and when things imploded, I did what I thought was best and left. I hoped she'd take my advice and move on, but she didn’t.

 

I was angry when I learned that she’d decided to go ahead with the pregnancy, and I refused to help when she all but begged for assistance. I was callous, but it was best for everyone concerned. Eleanor would move on, marry someone, and she and her child would be taken care of, and I would live the life I was meant to.  And I did until some years ago, when watching my son and my daughters, I found myself wondering about my other child. Yes, I never doubted that you were mine; Eleanor was untouched when I met her.

 

I paid an investigator to trace your birth. That’s all I wanted to know—when you were born, whether I had a son or daughter so that, one day, I could try to compensate for my actions. 

 

I wish you well, Adam and hope you live a productive life.

 

Mom and Dad both rushed into my room when I hit the wall.  I expected Dad to be angry, disappointed at the very least; but he took one look at me, at the crumpled letter on the floor and wrapped his arms around me. “It’s okay, Son, I’ve got you,” he said, over and over as I gulped for air, trying to contain the torrent of tears to clear my head of the red haze of anger.  Mom rubbed my back.  “I fucking hate him. I hate him,” I sobbed. Neither admonished me for swearing; and Mom, when I told her to destroy his letter, said she would.  She took it and Eleanor’s and the photograph and returned a short while later.

 

They left when I calmed down. “We’ll talk when you’re ready,” Mom said and kissed me on the forehead, and we did; the next day. Both my parents reminded me that they love me, that I’m a Thorne.  “I hate that I have his name. Why did she call me Adam?” I asked. 

 

“You’re a better man than he ever was, Adam. The fact that you share a name doesn’t diminish who you are. It’s Eleanor’s legacy to you. It was her way of nullifying his rejection,” Mom said.

 

“Make it count; make it stand for more than he did.  Be a better man than he was; than he ever could have been,” Dad added.

 

“Screw him,” Cait said when she heard.

 And now, without knowing exactly how smart Adam Winston had been, I feel I’ve, at the very least, come close to matching his academic achievements. I’ve proven that the child he wanted aborted is as good as he was; the equal to anyone from his privileged background. For me, that's enough for now. I’m within spitting distance of achieving my goal of becoming a prosecutor, and I’ll spend my life advocating for the victims in society and ensuring that I’m nothing like him.

My two summers of internship have paid off because, when hearing that I’d passed the bar exam, Bill Watts invited me to interview to fill one of two ADA vacancies. ‘You understand that even though you’ve worked here, we’re compelled to go through the process, don’t you, Adam?  It wouldn’t be fair to the other candidates otherwise. That said, your academic results, coupled with your track record here, should stand you in good stead,’ he said. I thanked him for the opportunity and, in the days leading up to my appointment, tried to quell my excitement, reminding myself not to become over-confident.

I was surprised and momentarily confused when, on the day, I entered the meeting room, both Bill Watts and the DA, Mr. Beazley, were present. “Adam, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve invited myself.  I make it a practice, whenever possible, to sit in on final interviews,” he said before I could apologize for interrupting.  

“Of course not, Sir.” I tried not to appear too awestruck. Gerard Beazley is an imposing man. Tall and thickset with dark brown almost black hair, and piercing blue eyes, he has an impressive prosecutorial record.  I should know; I read up on every one of his cases when joining as an intern.  I’d seen him around the office, of course; he’s hard to miss, but I’d never had the opportunity, before that interview, to speak with him. I took a calming breath when Bill Watts waved for me to sit and waited for the first question.

Mr. Beazley didn’t say much. He listened and, occasionally, asked me to elaborate on a response, but I remained keenly aware of his presence. I tried not to let it distract me and concentrated hard not to think about how my answers would shape the DA’s impression of me. I told myself to draw on my knowledge and to answer frankly. It took me some minutes to settle down, but I did and, in the end, I felt I did okay.

“Thank you, Adam; that was interesting,” Mr. Beazley said at the end. I thanked them both and left, wondering whether ‘interesting’ is a good or bad thing.

Eight days, that felt like a month, passed before Bill Watts called to say I’d been successful, and, contingent on my admission to the bar, they’d like me to start at the beginning of December. I quickly assured him that I could and would be happy to start sooner, but he interrupted.

“You’ve spent the last seven years studying, and I doubt you’ve had much time in the last three to really relax. Forget about the law for a while. It will benefit both you and the department in the long term,” he said decisively.

I was disappointed at the time, but now days later, I acknowledge he’d been right. The law had consumed me.  When Mom and Dad heard about my job offer, she suggested we travel to Europe, something we’d spoken about doing for ages.

“You and Cait have both finished studying, so the timing’s perfect. Neither of you has to spend the entire time with us, you could go off on your own whenever you choose,” Dad added without question, which made me think  that he had Mom had already discussed the holiday.  Cait immediately started planning, of course 

“Don’t you want to go, sweetheart,” Mom asked when seeing my hesitation.

“ I do. It’s just—I don’t want to make any plans until I know whether I’d been admitted to the bar or not.

“You will be, Adam,” she assured me.  

“I’d rather not count my chickens,” I said.

“What’s the worst-case scenario, Son?” Dad asked.

“I’d have to retake the exam.” He smiled, having already known the answer.  “So, in the unlikely event that you have to resit, when would you be able to do so,” he asked, again, knowing that I’d have to wait until February.  

“Exactly,” he answered before I could. “So let’s plan our trip.”  We did.  We talked about visiting London, Paris, and Rome. Mom and Dad wanted to see Ireland and Scotland, so Cait and I decided we’d stay on in London for a week longer and then meet up with them in Paris after spending a week in Spain.

Matt, when he heard, asked if he could meet up with Cait and me in London and then travel with us to Spain.“Sure,” I said, “but you’ve never wanted to see Europe before?” I asked because he’d always spoken about South America and also because he seemed uncharacteristically embarrassed or nervous. I couldn’t determine which because Matt avoided meeting my eye, something else that struck me as unusual.

“I just think it would be great to see those places with you,” he said.

“Cait will be there too, so if you’re expecting to pick up girls, forget it,” I warned because Matt is a bit of a player, worse than I’d ever been.

“I know that.” He'd looked and sounded irritated.

“I’m not trying to be a dick, Matt, but I won't do that around Cait,” I told him.

“Nor would I,” he said, glaring at me.

“That’s settled then,” I told him, and so Matt was included in our plans. I expected Cait to complain about our time together being spoiled, but she didn’t.  In fact, she seemed more than pleased. I found it strange because Cait had insisted that our time alone would be good for rebonding.  “I miss the way we used to be,” she’d lamented after I’d left for law school. Preoccupied with waiting for news from the admissions board, I thought no more of her and Matt’s odd behavior.

Finally, the day I’ve been working toward for seven years arrived—well, eight, depending on whether I choose to count from that pivotal moment in Ariane’s office or the day I started my undergrad degree. This morning, I received official notification that I’ve been admitted to the Massachusetts’ Bar.

In two weeks, I’ll attend the formal admissions ceremony at Faneuil Hall, where, in an actual session of the court presided over by a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, I’ll take the Attorneys Oath, sign the Roll of Attorneys, and be presented with my license to practice law. 

 

Three days after that, I’ll fly out to London with my family, and, later, Matt will arrive. He and Cait, my two best friends, will join me for our first European adventure. Right now, I feel extraordinarily blessed. I’ve come a long way from that little boy, who watched my mother’s decline into drugs and prostitution and who, later, learned that his father had wanted him aborted. Thanks to the dedication and warm heart of Emma Thorne, who could have written me off as just another welfare case, I’ve been given a new and better life.

Things could have turned out very differently for me; I know from what I'd evidenced during my pro-bono stint and internship. Learning about the deplorable crimes perpetrated against the weak and vulnerable has strengthened my resolve to make the most of the advantages I’ve been given. In January, when I start the new phase of my life, I’ll do everything I can to win justice for the victims of crime. After all, I could so easily have suffered their fate.

 

                                                    

 

— The End —