It was coming up on six-thirty in the evening when I’d finally been able to leave my new job as a paralegal at Willoughby and Waring. Once I’d altered my resume to use my maiden name and say that I’d attended but not completed Michigan law school, getting a job was easy.
Peyton had come through with one last favor, given me a reference. Legitimized me. Made it easy for the head of the paralegals to offer me a position.
I gritted my teeth when she all but patted me on the head and told me I’d been lucky to be hired given my age. But, she observed, I was getting glowing reviews in just my first week.
I’d worried at first, but not a single secretary or paralegal, associate or partner made the connection between me, middle-aged paralegal, single mother, and Sheila Harrison Grant, first black woman appointed to the federal bench in Cleveland and wanted woman.
No matter, I scolded myself. It was all the grandiose schemes that had gotten me in trouble in the first place. Maybe there was something to what Keith had said. Something to snuffing out my light under a bushel and being a stay-at-home mom. If I’d done it. Done what he’d wanted all along, maybe my daughter would be whole.
She’d be at group therapy now, Olivia. No longer did I deny her the food which was her only comfort. I’d pick her up in an hour when I was done, then treat her to whatever she desired.
I drove the Toyota I’d traded in my Lexus to get. Ten minutes from my windowless office at Sixteenth and Arch streets was the Old Pine Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia’s historic downtown area.
I parked my car on Pine Street and marveled at the church’s beautiful Greek Revival edifice. Though I had been coming here for about a month, this was going to be my first time speaking.
When I got to the church basement, I poured myself a cup of liquid courage, ate a cookie for a jolt of sugar on top of the caffeine, then smiled tentatively at a couple of the faces around her that she recognized. Glenda lifted her coffee in a silent toast across the room. She was right. It was time.
When everyone had taken their seats and the meeting came to order, I walked up to the dais. I smoothed my skirt and spoke the words it had taken me so long to speak. Probably too long.
The words that would be the end of the old and the beginning of the new. I tried not to feel defeated. Instead, I squared my shoulders and drew on that strength I’d gained during my short-lived time on the bench. One more deep breath. Then I was ready.
“My name is Sheila Grant, and I am an alcoholic.”