[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] “Martina, could I see you in my office, please?”

Uh-ho. That didn’t sound like good news. But it would be lying to say that Martina hadn’t expected it. Off she trudged to her boss’s office.

“You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, Martina, come in, close the door. Please sit down.” Her boss was barely older than her, and he was an old protégé of the woman who’d hired Martina, the woman who was friends with her mother. He was dark-haired and had olive skin. He probably had some Mediterranean blood in his veins somewhere, not that she’d ever ask.

“I suppose you have some idea why I wanted to see you?” he said, more as a statement than as a question.

“The Facebook post?”

“Yes. Can you tell me what this is about?”

“Well, I don’t mean to be snarky about it, but isn’t it fairly obvious what it’s about?”

“Your parents, and how much resentment you harbour over how they mistreated you.”

“Yes.”

“And I see you’ve hit a nerve; last time I looked you had over 40,000 likes on that original post.”

“Indeed. And I forget how many more people have also commented. This is a topic where a lot of people have a lot of very strong feelings.”

“You do realize this sort of posting on social media might go against the department’s rules, yes?”

“I did wonder about that before posting it, yes. But I reviewed the terms and I only saw mention of things that were illegal or that would bring the department into disrepute or otherwise affect it negatively. What I wrote is obviously not illegal, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t bring the department anything since it’s about a very personal matter. I’m not saying people here have to like what I say, but in my view I did not write anything that would put me in contravention of the contract I signed.”

“Our lawyers might disagree.”

“Did you ask them?”

“Yes, but they haven’t answered me yet. They’re researching it. Which brings me to my other question: You do realize all kinds of people are going to ask you personal questions about your childhood now, right?”

“Yes, and plenty of people on the internet have already made very unflattering comments about me based on what they read. So?”

“Are you comfortable handling that?”

“So far, so good.”

“You don’t think it’s going to get in the way of you doing your job properly? You are a communications official in this department, it makes it hard for us to have someone famous for other reasons speak on behalf of the minister.”

“I did consider that. All I can say is, so far it’s not a problem for me. If it is a problem for you, I’m open to revising my job description so I’m not so much in the public eye on behalf of the department.”

“Forgive me for asking, but is this personal issue more important than your job?”

“Yeah, that’s a fair question for you to ask, I don’t mind. I did give this issue a very great deal of thought, and my answer is yes, actually, at this point in my life this personal issue as you say is more important than my job. That doesn’t mean I don’t like my job – I do, I like it as much as I did two weeks ago before this trial started. But if my coming out with my personal story costs me my job, so be it. I hope it doesn’t, but that’s not entirely up to me, is it.”

“OK, I understand. Nobody here wants to see you go, but if the lawyers say otherwise I’m going to have to take their opinion seriously. I wanted to give you a heads-up about that.”

“I appreciate that, thank you. Let me know what they say,” Martina said on her way out of the office.

****

Lunch had been a pleasant affair for everyone in the courtroom. The April sunshine was wonderful, if still a little cold, and people lingered outside a bit longer than they normally would have, just to soak up some of that wonderful vitamin D.

There were only four people who did not notice the pleasant, promising spring weather. They were Nathalie, whose stomach was in knots, Marc, whose mood mirrored that of his partner, Paul Smith, who was nervous about his client’s strategy at this critical junction, and Jean-François, who disliked the fact that he was going to have to hurt his gentle sister.

But it had to be done, so he would do it. He only hoped she would one day forgive him.

[next chapter]