CHAPTER ONE

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CHAPTER ONE

Auburn

I squirm in my chair as soon as he tells me his hourly rate. There's no way I can afford this with my income.

"Do you work on a sliding-scale basis?" I ask him.

The wrinkles around his mouth become more prominent as he attempts to keep from frowning. He folds his arms over the mahogany desk and clasps his hands together, pressing the pads of his thumbs against one other.

"Auburn, what you're asking me to do is going to cost money."

No shit.

He leans back in his chair, pulling his hands to his chest and resting them on his stomach. "Lawyers are like weddings. You get what you pay for."

I fail to tell him what a horrible analogy that is. Instead, I glance down at the business card in my hand. He came highly recommended and I knew it was going to be expensive, but I had no idea it would be this expensive. I'll need a second job. Maybe even a third one. Actually, I'm going to have to rob a damn bank.

"And there's no guarantee the judge will rule in my favor?"

"The only promise I can make is that I'll do everything I can to ensure the judge does rule in your favor. According to the paperwork that was filed back in Portland, you've put yourself in a tough spot. This will take time."

"All I have is time," I mumble. "I'll be back as soon as I get my first paycheck."

He has me set up an appointment through his secretary and then sends me on my way, back out into the Texas heat.

I've been living here all of three weeks and so far it's everything I thought it would be: hot, humid, and lonely.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and assumed I would spend the rest of my life there. I visited Texas once when I was fifteen and although that trip wasn't a pleasant one, I wouldn't take back a single second of it. Unlike now, when I'd do anything to get back to Portland.

I pull my sunglasses down over my eyes and begin heading in the direction of my apartment. Living in downtown Dallas is nothing like living in downtown Portland. At least in Portland, I had access to almost everything the city had to offer, all within a decent walk. Dallas is spread out and expansive, and did I mention the heat? It's so hot. And I had to sell my car in order to afford the move, so I have the choice between public transportation and my feet, considering I'm now penny-pinching in order to be able to afford the lawyer I just met with.

I can't believe it's come to this. I haven't even built up a clientele at the salon I'm working at, so I'm definitely going to have to look for a second job. I just have no idea when I'll find time to fit it in, thanks to Lydia's erratic scheduling.

Speaking of Lydia.

I dial her number and hit send and wait for her to pick up on the other end. After it goes to voice mail, I debate whether to leave a message or just call back later tonight. I'm sure she just deletes her messages, anyway, so I end the call and drop the phone into my purse. I can feel the flush rising up my neck and cheeks and the familiar sting in my eyes. It's the thirteenth time I've walked home in my new state, in a city inhabited by nothing but strangers, but I'm determined to make it the first time I'm not crying when I reach my front door. My neighbors probably think I'm psychotic.

It's just such a long walk from work to home, and long walks make me contemplate my life, and my life makes me cry.

I pause and look into the glass window of one of the buildings to check for smeared mascara. I take in my reflection and don't like what I see.

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