Emilie generally knew how the rest of the day was going to end up based on the eyes staring across from her. As far as she could recall, this skill was cultivated on the first September 11th. She was an 18-year-old clerk at a perfume counter, but remembered the spending early hours staring into the main part of the mall where she worked. She watched people, picking up on whether they were ignorant to the world around them or not based on their eyes. The people who knew had a darkness about them that never exactly left.
She didn't realize this skill was unique or really beneficial until she was older and realized that the only reason she was ever really able to escape her hometown was that she could read people quickly and adjust her mannerisms, speech, and the beliefs she chose to share accordingly. She was the product of a poor family who scrapped together every dime they had to send her to the best schools possible. She grew up in a rough neighborhood, yet spent her days in school surrounded by wealth. Her thrift store clothes and the fact her parents couldn't afford to send her to any sort of extra curricular activities made her an outcast. She spent most of her time reading books and watching people. As a result, Emilie was a self taught student of human nature. She could “read” thoughts and course correct appropriately. In college, she was just as comfortable slumming a thrift store shopping with friends as she was dressed to the nines for a fraternity formal. The ability to relate to everyone while withholding judgment made her an effective cop out of college, and when she finally got through law school an admirable attorney. She often thought had she had less personal integrity she would've made a great con woman. Or a flea-market psychic.
This ability was now used to plan her workload as an appeals attorney at the Service Tribunal. She knew whether she had a chance in hell out of getting someone's son or husband out of Marine Echo about ten seconds into the meeting. Granted, she may not get them out of China, but she did sometimes have the ability to get them into a better branch. On a really good day, she might even get someone into the Air Force. She fought for her soldiers to be as she felt an affinity towards them. She herself was something of an outsider, finishing her formal legal education too late and despite her best efforts a bit too socially awkward to get picked up by anyplace else. She was intelligent enough and scraped together enough personal polish to be considered one of the more formidable attorneys at the Service Tribunal. As far as the legal profession was concerned, she was at the top rung of the stepladder.
She looked at the eyes across from her. Bright, deep blue like an autumn sky. Quizzical. The solider was trying to figure her out too. Intelligent, but arrogant. She knew she would have a hard time keeping the soldier's mouth shut during the proceedings. The intelligence/arrogance combo was what had him slated for Echo. They liked people who were smart enough to employ strategy into their firefights while brave enough to fire with abandon. Emilie looked over his record.
“Manslaughter. How did it happen?” She knew already the “if” part wasn't debatable.
The eyes looked down. Embarrassment at the word manslaughter. Then up. Remembering.
“A guy hit my boyfriend. I hit back. He fell. Hit his head just right. Died.” The eyes looked up. Angry.
“How's your boyfriend?”
“Broke up with me after the state mentioned Echo.”
Emilie already sensed that, but wanted to get it out in the open. She found it helped if her client acknowledged that they were there because of Echo. “Well I am going to do everything I can to get you reassigned.” From her read on him she meant it this time.
“I don't want reassignment.” He had mumbled before. Now his voice was as clear as his eyes.
Emilie shuffled her file around on her lap as if looking for a piece of paper. She was stalling for time. She reminded herself she was the one in control and she was there to help.
“Um. . . Mr. . .”
“Daniel. Skip the mister. I'm the one in the jumpsuit here.”
“Okay, Daniel. I am here as the United States government guarantees due process.” She was beginning a speech that had been delivered to many parents, spouses, and clients before. “Your assignment to Echo is still under review. You have a hearing under the government Service Tribunal in one week, it is my job as your attorney---”
“To respect your clients' wishes.” he cut her off. Emilie noticed that the bland gray jumpsuit and his sparkling eyes clashed in such a manner that it reminded her of some meteorological event. She struggled to remember the term while attempting to maintain control of the situation. She drew her lips into a tight line as she remembered the term. He reminded her of a wall cloud.
She realized then that despite her efforts, she would learn nothing more about the client than he wished to have known. The initial report and trial may have been a complete sham just like so many others she had seen -— misguided efforts to avoid a draft, mostly -— but her newest client with the clear blue eyes would not fight it.
He wanted to fight something else entirely. What it was, she couldn't tell. She stared at Daniel for a moment, hoping to gain some additional insight. When she looked into his eyes she didn't see ignorance or wariness or fear or defiance. She saw a plan. This meeting was merely a step in the plan. Her role was simply to exist. While this saddened her slightly, she knew she couldn't argue with it.
Emilie sighed, closing the folder in front of her.
“Good luck in Echo, then.”
© 2009 Lisa Marie G. Kupfer (@blondie80)