The sparse hairs on Mr Fairchilde’s chin did nothing to promote the air of confidence he wore like a bespoke suit. He beckoned Eleni into his office with a small head dip, an echo of past centuries’ courtly bows, a concession to politeness he only expressed in physical gestures. In conversation, Mr Fairchilde was short, although in stature he was rather tall.
Eleni glided in, her feet obscured by her perpetual hippie-skirt. She jingled as she moved, obscuring any sound her feet might have made, giving her the illusion of true weightlessness. The cheap metal bracelets on her arms, peeling fake silver revealing coppery rust flakes, chimed as she swung them to and fro with far more vigour than seemed necessary for such a small person.
She looked around, surveying the tinseled, red and green bannered, generally over-the-top ornamented walls. They reminded her of the gaudy décor that hung at the corner bar, dug out of lumpy, leaking, boxes every holiday season and packed away with sweaty, alcohol soaked hands a week later. Mr Fairchilde’s reputation was sinking in her eyes minute by minute, and though she had no one to blame but her sister for recommending him so highly, she eyed him with the kind of distaste she usually reserved for small critters, hamsters and guinea pigs, which she especially hated.
“Anything to drink, Ms Cooper?”
“No. You get paid by the hour, don’t you?”
“I do. Business it is.”
They sat down, Mr Fairchilde taking his huge brown leather chair – brown, not black, he was sure, made him seem a little warmer than the usual solicitor – and Eleni in the right-hand plastic on plastic affair reserved for clients. She thought it would make more sense the other way around, with the client feeling more comfortable, more apt to waste time and money. It didn’t seem the thing, to consider the client’s need to be reminded that time was short and that any minute over the first hour would be charged as an entire second one. Like parking lots, the whole bunch of them, she thought.
“Why don’t you tell me what it’s about.”
“I told you over the phone.”
“Refresh my memory, please.”
Eleni spoke, telling him the things he wanted to know and watching him make notes on a legal pad which he held up on his knee, so she couldn’t see it. She imagined, as she often did, a film camera coming around her, circling, until it panned onto the lined yellow paper to reveal the punch line – that Mr Fairchilde wasn’t taking notes at all, but was doodling pictures of naked women or genitalia.
Mr Fairchilde, for his part, took notes carefully, meticulously, and more importantly, accurately, just in case Eleni were to claim to have said something she didn’t later down the line. Clients could be fickle, he’d found. His brain was consumed entirely by the task, and he didn’t even notice, not even with a tiny corner of his brain, how much Eleni resembled his ex-wife, nor how the pitch of her voice was similar to the babysitter he’d had when he was nine years old. These things flew by his consciousness as he focused on the chore in front of him, and the only nagging thought in his brain was a sneaking suspicion that, if this was all that therapists needed to do – listen and take notes – he could be making even more money than he was already.