Chapter 4: Caroline
Cass sat down at her screen again. “Click clack” resounded on the marble floor. Not daring to look around, Cass shifted down in her chair. “Click clack, click clack, click clack, click clack”. Cass decided that there was something exceptionally important that she needed to find in her bag under her desk as the sound got rapidly closer. “CLICK CLACK”. Cass peering through the gap under her pod desk saw the reflective snarl of the red-soled black heels in the white marble floor.
“What on earth are you doing?” barked the owner of the shoes.
“Oh Caroline! I did not see you there,” Cass said casually as she could while crawling out from under the desk. “I needed to check the connection of my computer.”
“It is on,” Caroline sneered.
“Great,” said Cass dusting herself off and smiling sheepishly. “I must have fixed it.”
“You look like you enjoyed Christmas,” said Caroline looking Cass up and down critically.
Cass decided to ignore her, “Did you and Toby enjoy Christmas?”
“Oh yes, I have pictures of him on my phone.”
“I would love to see them,” Cass tried to say convincingly.
Suddenly Cass was confronted with various images of a black pug dog with a drool bogey in a jolly Christmas bow tie so tight that the hound’s eyes seemed to protrude more than usual.
“Isn’t he sweet,” Cass responded mendaciously. “Is he with the dog minder today?” hoping to God that the darling little nuclear fart machine did have care and was not coming into the office to drown out every telephone call with his breathing.
“Yes, it was a struggle though. It is so difficult to get a sitter this time of year, and Toby is so particular about whom he likes. I assume Jane is not in today. I don’t see why she gets special treatment because she has children. I don’t get special treatment when Toby needs me. His psychologist says that he has separation issues.”
Before thinking Cass asked, “Do you go together to the meetings?” Cass pulled it back just in time. ”I ask because my Mum has just got a new dog and it appears to have similar issue.”
“I knew you were a dog person,” said Caroline with disconcerting warmth. “I will email the details over to you. It is so nice having someone with similar interests in the office. I just find that Jane is so distracted and does not seem to be up to speed since coming back from maternity leave. In all honesty I don’t know why she is back. We’ve got no worries about that with you, thank goodness. By the way I need to talk to you about that paralegal, she is under-performing. Get HR to check how long she has been here for me, will you.”
“Do you know her name?” Cass tried to swallow down the sick feeling that was welling up. “We have a few paralegals.”
“I do not know, young looking, blonde, stupidly smiles a lot and said good morning to me the other week.”
“Becky? She is a bit slow but she is getting better. She is good with clients, has a nice manner and she has not actually done anything dreadfully wrong. It is her first job out of University. I think I was a bit rubbish and made a few mistakes when I did that transition too, but I soon sped up.”
“That is very noble of you, Cassandra,” the normal reptilian glaze returning to Caroline’s face. “But if you are ever to make partner you will realise that stats mean everything. Best that this Becky learns that the hard way now at the beginning. I will be doing her a favour. She is probably not meant to be a lawyer anyway. Also gives a message to the rest of the new starters, don’t you think?”
“Yes Caroline, can I get you a coffee?”
“No, I am de-toxing,” The menacing click clack went off down to the glass office at the end of the hall.
Cass got up quietly, walked to the toilet, getting there in time to be violently sick.
Cass learnt early on, a legal profession full of glamour and painfully earnest morality is a fiction. Successful barristers may have this luxury. Most barristers are poorly paid actors with a histrionic personality disorder, tarting up to lowly solicitors, to get work. Partners in big Solicitors Firms are mainly sociopaths with a dangerous inferiority complex, taking it out on the worker ants.
At the beginning of her career Cass had tried blame this phenomena on the long hours and pressures of running a business. She generously put down the loss of perspective on wealth and human dignity to this culture.
Now she knew most partners created this culture to desperately show that they “as Partners” were some sort of Uber Mensch. She had realised a long time ago this show was to quell their own insatiable insecurities.
Cass often mused if partners were capable of self-reflection, it might make things better for the lesser beings, that had the misfortune to work for them. But who has time for soul searching when you have to pay the mortgage on that villa in Tuscany, the flat in London, the house in Surrey and that troublesome Buy to Let in Bristol.