I lock my car and walk through the business district. My hair licks my face in the winter breeze. I have the characteristic wine hangover: shaking hands, a bad head, and I bow my head as it begins to rain.
My boss appears outside her new building. “Let’s go to Bar Opus,” she says breezily. I nod, following along, wondering what to do with it: this moment.
“Just get in, get trained, and get out,” MadFather said to me over three years ago of my training contract with a corporate law firm, accepted before my body broke. I drew my mug of tea to my lips, the day before I began my training contract, and wondered what lay in store for me. I nodded, grateful for my father’s reassurance when he, surely, didn’t know if I’d complete it: nobody did.
I started two and a half days a week, when my body still held the memories of whatever had happened between glandular fever and I two years previously; when odd bouts of fatigue would still blow in sometimes like vicious sandstorms and floor me while I waited, eyes closed, for them to go. When I would still freak out if asked to walk anywhere at all and would make up insane reasons to get taxis rather than say it was because I was disabled. Because I was, I can face that now.
It is not possible to characterise those past three years, from two and a half days a week to four, from catching every bug going to dictating late at night in the office, wiping my nose with a tissue periodically. I worked 16 hour days, sometimes, turned up to every training in Nottingham, read around areas of law enthusiastically, made supervisors coffee, took my appraisals too personally. And, yes, then, illness, last year, the after-effects of which I still feel sometimes. But returning, which some people called ‘inspiring’, but really, all I did was go back to earning a living after having been sick. And onwards, since then, wearing a too-short skirt to court one memorable occasion, inching it down my thighs as I stood up to make my client’s submissions, running with a suitcase full of files across Birmingham countless times. And, lately, working, working, pushing things to deadlines, and going home and writing, writing: my two jobs, two loves. I did it full tilt, my training contract, and here I am, three years on, typing this as a solicitor: fully fledged. It’s a place I was so sure I wouldn’t get to that I deliberately, carefully, looked twice before crossing the road on my way into the office on my last day as a trainee, so convinced was I that something would come along to foil my plans, as something had since pretty much the day I accepted the position.
We walk into Bar Opus together and sit on bar stools and watch the chef. He tosses things being pan fried and moodily chops a carrot. His eyes are slightly different colours; one blueish, one more green.
And so here I am, the morning after the night before, and it wasn’t just a qualification do that got me hanging, but a leaving do, as well. I left my job, the previous day, and I probably said too many Prosecco-fuelled truths late in the night (I believe I said of one colleague, “he has two states: speaking, and waiting to speak,” which is, sadly, a trait many a lawyer has).
“We are finally here,” I say to my boss. She understands immediately, and raises her glass to me. Its sides are frosted with condensation.
“We made it,” she says. She clinks her wine against my full fat, hangover-curing coke, and smiles at me. For choosing the area of law was one thing, and impressing in that department was another thing, but what nobody could have predicted was what happened next.
I thought I would either impress and be retained, or not impress and be let go. Either way, I would be qualified, and would hopefully have my health in tact, though that’s not to say that being retained after my training didn’t keep me awake at night. But I did something I never really thought I would, had never done before or thought of doing.
My boss quit, and moved firms in October, and I followed her, there being a three-month period after she left and before I could.
And so next week, and rushing towards me, I start as a fully-fledged solicitor in an even bigger corporate firm. But there is no getting through it with my health in tact. It is not to be endured. It’s the next bit; the rest of my life.
“I can’t believe I’m finally here,” I say to my boss.
And it’s true. I haven’t really thought beyond today – beyond yesterday, in fact. Beyond qualifying, my leaving do, and my Christmas break. But the next bit is the most exciting bit.
And I have a killer wrap dress to wear for my first day.