The next afternoon, waiting for an Uber home from Logan Airport in Boston, she found herself in a reverie, replaying moments in her mind from the night before. She couldn't remember when she'd last been touched like that, by Duncan or by anyone else. It was as if he'd found her reset button; even now, her body hummed. At one point she had seen tears in his eyes, and she had wondered whether he was thinking of his late wife, making up for lost time.
Sitting on a corner of the king-size bed, she'd said, "I have a family."
"I understand," he'd replied, his voice gentle. "It can't happen again."
They were agreed.
She briefly wondered whether Duncan's "dalliance," as she thought of it, three years earlier, had played a role in her decision to go to Matías's hotel room. She didn't think so; she'd come to accept what had happened with him, and she wasn't a petty person. She didn't believe there was a balance sheet in a marriage, a ledger of rights and wrongs. In any case, the problems in their marriage, if she were being honest, were bigger than that one incident.
No, she had done something she'd never done before. She had taken a risk. She'd had a second drink. That wasn't her at all, that woman in the bar at the Peninsula. She was the A student, the obeyer of rules. Judge Juliana Brody: sensible, prudent, and cautious. Unlike her mother (and because of her mother, who lived in her own dream world), she had always been a planner, always been careful to put her foot right, choose the next step thoughtfully.
And then she had gone and done one single incautious, impetuous thing.
And was it so bad? It had been a lovely evening, actually. Maybe she needed to let go more often.
Now, an e-mail flashed her phone alive, and she glanced at it despite herself. The reality of daily life was beckoning, haranguing. Her Uber was arriving. She had a couple of texts too, a voice mail, and a s hit-ton of e-mails to sort through.
An ordinary, prudent life to get back to. She greeted that prospect with some relief.
One of the things Juliana liked most about being a judge was the routine, the predictability. Everything happened on schedule. She had something like 250 pending cases on her docket, but only one trial at a time. Every morning she arrived at her office before eight thirty, went through whatever writing she had to do—discovery disputes, motions, jury instructions—and then began presiding over a trial at 9:00 A.M. sharp. (These days she had a med-mal case—medical malpractice, a wrongful death.) The trial ended at 1:00 P.M. Then came lunch from 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M., usually spent at her computer catching up on paperwork. In the afternoon, from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M., were often motion sessions. Which basically meant a bunch of arguments, made orally and on paper, on which she had to make decisions. These were cases that might go to trial but usually didn't. For the last few months she'd been dealing with Rachel Meyers v. Wheelz, a sex-discrimination case that seemed as though it would never end.
True, there were little things that popped up fairly often. People walked in with requests for ex parte relief, motions to attach property, and so on. Appeals from sex offenders. Condo disputes. A motion ordering a hospital to release a guy's medical records. Loads of paperwork. The Superior Court didn't yet do electronic filing, so her office was heaped with piles of paper, with more coming in every day. The workload could be punishing. It was unyielding, an unending cascade. There was always a load of homework. Reading and writing. It was like being back in school. It truly never stopped. And—in fact—she loved it.
No one said judging was easy. You had to be really committed to it. You didn't do it for the money. You didn't make any friends in this job. In a courtroom, Juliana once realized, half the room thinks you're just barely smart enough to get it. The other half just thinks you're stupid. Lawyers liked to tell a joke: What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of eighty? "Your Honor."
But the psychic income was high. You were making a difference in people's lives. That was worth something. Unfortunately, judges were also susceptible to the dreaded Black Robe disease, in which they come to believe the black robe lets them walk on water and that all their jokes are funny.
For almost a week after Chicago, she'd been able to lose herself in the routine. Which was not to say she didn't think about what she'd done at the hotel. She thought about it constantly, and the feeling that seemed to have settled over her was guilt. She was susceptible to feelings of guilt anyway. There'd been moments in her life she couldn't forget, moments when she'd let herself down, moments she still didn't like to think about. That time in tenth grade, when she was on the high school yearbook staff and she'd quietly removed an unflattering photo of herself, at the expense of another girl in the picture, glamorously captured spiking the ball. Or that time at the end of junior year in college, just back from France, when she'd promised her friend Sandy they could room together senior year—until Alyssa, to her surprise, asked her to join the quad she was creating, and Juliana had quickly accepted. Sandy had been crushed. I'm not a good person, Juliana had thought at the time.
That was how she felt about Chicago: it had been a rare error in judgment.