"Not too late," I replied breezily. She grinned at me, her wrinkles emphasized by the motion.


"Have a good day," I heard her call, as I pressed the door to the stairs and headed for the fourth floor.

The fourth floor, or power floor (as referred to by the staff) was set up into three different wings, one for each partner. Each partner had two secretaries, two paralegals, and one intern. Brad De Luca was the exception, with four secretaries, and three paralegals. I remembered from Orientation that his caseload doubled that of any other attorney, including the other two partners. Browards' secretaries were Sheila and Beverly - neither of which, judging by their empty desks, arrived till 8am.

Broward was already in his office, phone to his ear, when I passed his closed door. I waved at him through the glass, and entered my office. Setting my purse by the door, I switched my cell to silent and then started in on the pile stacked on my desk. I was halfway through the first brief when Broward appeared in the doorway.

"Good morning," he said distractedly.

"Good morning."

"Did you make coffee?" His question caused me to look up from my computer.

"Coffee?" I stalled. Is that part of my duties?

"Yes, the kitchen is on the third floor. I'm sorry, I didn't give you the proper tour, but thought they might have covered that in orientation." A phone began ringing in his office, and he glanced back at me with mounting agitation.

"Yes, I'll get it now." I stood quickly, and smoothed down my dress. He disappeared, and I heard him answer his phone a few seconds later.

Coffee. Okay, I can do this. Are Trevor and Todd brewing freaking coffee?!"

I found the third floor kitchen without too much trouble, and stared at the complex stainless steel coffee pot. I come from a non-coffee family. I have never had any desire to attach myself to a caffeine habit, and have treated coffee the same way I treated cigarettes, drugs, and, until I was nineteen, sex. I stayed away from them, and they stayed away from me. Therefore, my coffee education rivaled that of a newborn. I weighed my options. Admit weakness and ask Ancient Dorothy for help? Nope. I started opening drawers in the kitchen, hoping for a user's manual for the coffee pot.

My butt was saved by a short, round woman with spiky red hair and an "I love my Labradoodle" sweatshirt. My mind wondered sarcastically if the sweatshirt classified as business attire until my sub-conscious smacked it across the face. Who was I to judge salvation?

"Good morning!" Labradoodle woman chirped happily, bustling past me and settling her orange and blue polka-dotted lunchbox in the fridge.

"Hi!" I blurted out enthusiastically. Probably a little too enthusiastically, she gave me an odd smile before heading to the sink to wash her hands.

I cornered the Labradoodle-loving stranger by the sink. "My name is Julia," I said. "Today is my second day, and Broward just asked me for coffee, and I've never made coffee before, and can't find a user's manual for the coffee machine, and don't know how it is supposed to tasteā€¦" my rush of words faltered and I looked at her in desperation. PLEASE, have some COMPASSION!

She beamed at me and patted my arm reassuringly. "Now, now - that is no problem! I don't drink a lot of coffee myself, but I'll show you how to fix it!" With a purpose, she bustled over to the cabinet, and pulled out a jug of ground coffee. "Now, the way I fix it is to put 3 teaspoons of coffee grounds in, and then fill the water canister to 8 cups." 3 teaspoons, 8 cups - sounds easy enough.

I followed her instructions, and had a pot of watery brown liquid brewing in no time. I didn't trust myself with a taste test, but poured Broward a cup and stuck one of the prepared containers of sweeteners, creamers, and stirrers under my arm. I carefully navigated my way through the halls, to the elevator, and used my elbow to press the button. The doors opened to Todd Appleton's perky good looks. His glowing skin and enthusiastic "good morning" spoke of a night well rested. I stepped on the elevator with him and watched his eyes travel up my legs and stop on my shaky coffee cup and creamer selection. I had already sloshed at least a fourth of the coffee around the rim, and could feel some drops running down my fingers. Great.

"Making coffee for the office?" he teased, his gaze finally reaching my face.

"Very funny, " I responded. "Did you know our duties include coffee prep? Something I have never attempted before," I added dryly.

"Maybe for you," he shot back. "De Luca has Le Croissant bring up a full spread every morning, with coffee, fruits, and a bunch of pastries. They delivered at 8am," he paused glancing at his watch. "Hence my early arrival - want to get some while they are fresh!"

The elevator pinged and stopped at the fourth floor, doors opening slowly. Todd bounded off, apparently never being taught by his doting mother that ladies go first. I exited carefully, trying my best to keep every last remaining drop of coffee in the cup, and traversed the three turns and two straightaways until I stopped in front of Broward's door. I knocked gently with my knee, and then pushed the door in.

I could feel tendrils of my hair coming out of my french twist, and felt completely out of sorts when I tried to gracefully place, and more like dumped, the cup and ceramic container on Broward's desk. He was on a call, discussing what sounded like a DEP issue, and held up one finger to indicate that I should stay. I choose one of the two heavy leather chairs facing his desk and sat, waiting on his call to finish.

While he droned on about the environmental impact of what sounded like a nature trail, I discreetly checked out his office. It was decorated in the heavy, ornate, masculine fashion that all of our offices seemed to be modeled after. He had stacks of files everywhere and file boxes lining any free space on the edges of the walls. Six file cabinets lined one wall, and a six-person conference table took up the right side of the office. It was a large office, more than twice the size of mine, but what I would have expected for a firm partner. The table didn't look like it was used for many meetings - ever inch of it was covered in stacks of papers, with hundreds of small and large post-it notes decorating the stacks. My head spun with the enormity of his work load. I had naively assumed that I was making some headway with the measly 14 hours I had put in yesterday. I grew stressed just sitting in this office.

His desk was the cleanest place in the office. He had three legal folders on his desk, one open to the file he was discussing on the phone. He had a large digital clock on his desk, no doubt to help him keep track of billable hours. He had two framed photos next to his phone - I couldn't see what they were from this angle, but I assumed they were of his wife and kids. Those photos were probably the most he ever saw of them. My snooping was cut short by the sound of his phone handset being returned to its rightful place. I looked up and into his blue eyes.

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