It’s Friday, so it’s time for the first scene of the third back story novella I’ve been working on. This one is Roman’s, who you’ll meet in Shed Some Light(Carlos’ story – who you may recognize if you’ve read Healing the Heart). This is the story of how Tereza came to be Roman and his wife’s daughter.
Roman Pella looked up at the knock on his door and rubbed a hand over his rough cheek. He should have shaved before he came into the office, but it hadn’t been a good morning. Or the night before. Another specialist with news they didn’t want to hear. He’d wanted to stay home with Cristine, but the office had already given him enough leeway with time off and shortened days, so he could make it to the appointments.
There wouldn’t be any children for him and the woman he loved. This last specialist had made that pretty clear.
“You look awful, Pella. You need to go home early?”
Roman glanced up at his boss and shook his head. “Out of personal days. And I’m not sick. I can get through. You got something for me?”
He didn’t like being short with his boss, who had been very sympathetic and accommodating with everything he and Cristine had been going through. But, he didn’t want to talk about it. Not right now when the reality was weighing him down so much.
His boss gave a short nod as if in acknowledgement of what Roman hadn’t said. “Two new clients, in fact. If you can’t take them both, let me know. I’ll figure something else out. But, it’s a big case, and not a one of the defendants could afford a lawyer.”
How many could there be? That didn’t really matter if they weren’t being tried together. “They were all charged separately, though?”
“Only one of them was being charged with the murder. The others have assorted charges, but the DA decided not to lump them all together. The trial would have been a circus.”
Roman’s hand had stilled at the word ‘murder’. He’d worked for the public defender’s office since he passed the bar, five years now. And he’d never defended a murder case before. He really hoped this wouldn’t be the first one.
He swallowed then made himself flip open the first folder. Carlos Armas. That name sounded familiar. He started reading over the report and a few things slid into place. He looked up at his boss. “I saw this story on the news. They insinuated it was part of a turf war between the gangs. The victim was his sister, though?”
“Yes. We’ve seen Armas through here a couple times before, nothing’s ever stuck to him, though.”
Roman skimmed through the list of charges against him. The worst of which seemed to be illegal possession of a firearm. Possibly the intent to incite a riot, too. That seemed a little reaching, though. Of course, Roman knew the DA well, and that he liked to try to prove a point.
He set that folder aside and opened the next one. And his eyes widened a little. “Thirteen? They’re bringing these charges against a thirteen-year-old?”
“Not the first time he’s seen the inside of a holding cell, either. You recognize the last name there? You should.”
He glanced back up at the kid’s name and felt a heavy boulder drop into his stomach. “Isabelle. I heard she was clean now. That she has been for a few years.”
“Not soon enough apparently. You can help her son now, too.”
“All right. I’ll need to talk to both of them.”
“There’s someone else you need to talk to as well,” his boss said.
Roman’s shoulders slumped. At this rate, he’d never get home to Cristine tonight. “Who?”
“She came forward to the police last night and identified the shooter. He’s her foster brother and apparently threatened to kill her if she went to the police. They’re keeping her at the station until he’s under wraps. The problem is he wasn’t at home, and his parents aren’t being exactly cooperative.”
His stomach twisted into tight knots at hearing all of that. “How old is she?”
“Fifteen. She’s terrified, Roman. And I think you’re the best one to speak to her. You always have a gentle touch with those who need it.”
A gentle touch? It didn’t seem to be what he had with Cristine. She’d told him to just go. That she didn’t need him there. He shuddered before he could stop it.
His boss dropped into a chair across the desk. “Roman. Talk to me.”
“We can’t have kids,” he said, his voice wavering on the words. It was the first time he’d said them out loud. “This is the third doctor that’s told us, but the first one that said it’s both of us. Even if I could get her pregnant, she’d have about a five percent chance of carrying to term.” It hurt. Even more so because he knew there was no way he could fix it. “I tried comforting her, and she told me to leave.”
“She kicked you out because of it? I just can’t believe that with what I know of Cristine.”
They’d all worked together, with her job as a social worker, sometimes their cases overlapped. So, Scott did know Cristine fairly well. Roman squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “No. But, she said I was going to smother her if I took another day off work.”
Scott let out a soft sound that could have been a laugh. “She loves you, Ro. I’m sure she’s hurting, too. I thought you were looking into adopting or something.”
“We have been. We got certified to be foster parents. That came through just a little over a week ago. But, we were still holding out hope we could have our own as well. We haven’t heard anything from social services yet about any children. Which I guess is good, if they haven’t had to remove any from homes. But, we wanted children so much. It’s something we discussed almost from the time we met.”
His boss reached down for the folder. “I can give this to someone else if it’s going to be too much for you. Maybe you should take more time off.”
But, Roman shook his head and set his hands over the folders. “No, I can do this. I need to do this, Scott. We’re breaking apart, and me going back home is just going to be the hammer blow that shatters everything.”
His boss studied him carefully then finally nodded. “All right. But you tell me if it gets to be too much, Ro. Don’t drown yourself with it.”
He lied with a straight face. “I won’t, Scott.”