The following is an excerpt from my next book, a fictional story about paralegal, Romi James, that is loosely based on my experiences as a paralegal working in Vancouver.


Get yourself together.

I glanced at my reflection in the mirror of the fanciest bathroom I can ever remember being in.

“Why on earth do people even throw water on their faces? Like it’s supposed to help un-drink the martinis or something?”

Just as I finished speaking, out loud, to my very alone self in the bathroom of the Wedgewood hotel, a perfectly coiffed elderly woman wearing a skirt suit worthy of the Queen of bloody England walked into the room, clearing her throat in annoyance.

My eyes drifted to my left and behind me in the mirror as I squeezed the slightest, crooked smile from my numb face in response.

How on earth had I let myself get drunk at my first team lunch?

The Queen, whose beige orthopaedic runners were more suited to a walking tour of downtown Vancouver and looked too cheap to make her the actual Queen of England, clutched her purse to her chest and quickly darted into the closest bathroom stall.

Handbag. I am sure she calls it a handbag.

I rolled my eyes and refocused on my blurry reflection in the mirror. As if this drunken, frizzy haired weirdo talking to herself is going to steal the not-Queen’s handbag or beat her to the ground in the washroom for shits and giggles or something.

I washed my hands quickly, though I already cleaned them at least three times while I attempted to talk myself out of the fact that I was really quite drunk.

My breath quickened as I smoothed my skirt. I reached for the door handle that would lead me back to the table where my new boss, lawyer Elizabeth Baird-Conwill, and two fellow paralegals of team EBC waited for me.

They must do this often. Weekly. At least.

I don’t remember the last time I had a martini. Never mind at lunch, in my first week at a new job.

Perhaps lawyers and their staff often get wasted to forget the shitty people and accidents they deal with on a daily basis? At least in personal injury law.

Or maybe it was just the firm?

I had no way of knowing and brushed the thoughts away as I made my way back through the restaurant, a casual smile plastered to my face in hopes that I was fooling everyone around me into thinking I was sober.

Spoiler alert: I wasn’t fooling anyone.

As I reached the table, I glanced at the ladies seated around me, exuding elegance, living, breathing professionals. Elizabeth was holding the stem of her wine glass, watching beautiful, blonde blue-eyed Sara intently as she laughed at something funny someone else just said. Not a grey hair on Elizabeth’s head was out of place, her rouge perfect, lipstick un-smudged. She took a sip of her wine just as she noticed my arrival back at the table. She had switched from martinis just before I left. Thankfully, I hadn’t been given the option. Mixing alcohol at 1:00 in the afternoon was not a good idea.

Not that vodka was either.

I lowered myself as gracefully as I could into my high-backed chair, a soft velvet that made it difficult to slide on, pulling my skirt to stay with the chair while my lower body moved without it. I readjusted myself awkwardly, finally settling much further to the front of the chair than was comfortable, my skirt pulling down as I tried to shift backward, causing a light breeze to tickle my back, exposing the skin below my blouse.

“Is everything okay?” Elizabeth asked, a frown perched on her unnaturally arched eyebrows.

“Fine. I’m fine,” I said too quickly, still smiling, my cheeks starting to pinch.

“Here we thought maybe you weren’t able to hold your liquor!” Collette said with a laugh as she tucked her jet-black hair behind her ears and reached for her glass. The three of them chuckled together in tune and there was nothing to do but for me to join in. I always laughed with little effort when I’d had too much to drink. The real trick was not to get so carried away laughing that I started to snort.

Now that would be embarrassing.

“Collette ordered us another round. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she’s working hard to give you the wrong impression of life in legal,” Sara said as she lifted her glass to her bright pink lips, emptying the last drops of her second martini into her mouth. Or was it her third?

I smiled. There was no way I would be able to handle another drink. But that was a later problem. The food had arrived.

My plate was placed in front of me last, as everyone else laid their napkins in their laps and started in on their meals. I watched Sara, who was seated to my right, with purpose. She lifted the outermost fork from beside her plate and poised it, ready to eat.

Start at the outside. Got it.

I took a drink of my water before glancing down at my plate.

A pizza sat in front of me.

Pizza funghi. I didn’t remember ordering the pizza. Who even orders pizza at a fancy restaurant?

The silver lining was that there was no fork required to eat pizza.

Not in my world.

Elizabeth ordered the pasta special with extra cheese and three types of seafood, Collette and Sara each had a debonair display of leafy greens, hard boiled eggs and other vegetables arranged to form the most intricate Cobb salad I’ve seen. I guess it was a good thing that the base of my meal was a heavy crust. There was no room in leafy greens or ham to absorb the quadruple-shots of vodka mingling in my blood stream.

The conversation turned from light “getting to know you” casual niceties to business once everyone had settled into their meals.

“So,” Elizabeth started, “Romi.”

I nodded and smiled with effort, trying to concentrate on not dripping tomato sauce down my chin, attempting to look engaged and intelligent while I dug into my pizza.

“Tell me, dear, how has your first week as an official paralegal been? Is everyone treating you well?”

I had been working at Personal Injury Law for five days. Elizabeth informed me of today’s lunch yesterday before I left the office and since then my mind went back and forth as to whether a team lunch was a good thing, or a farewell.

Surely they wouldn’t waste money on such a nice lunch if I was going to get the boot when we got back to the office.

I swallowed and wiped the corners of my mouth with the napkin that had a higher thread count than anything that had ever touched my pale, freckled skin.

“It’s been great. Though I haven’t met too many people outside the team yet.” I smiled at Sara, who was watching me close, her eyes daring me to finish the third martini that, thankfully, hadn’t made its way to the table yet. “Sara and Collette are keeping me pretty busy. I’ve learned a lot so far.”

I was surprised at the amount of work assigned to me from my fellow paralegals. They had both been at the firm for ages, Collette coming to PI Law with Elizabeth a few years back,  Sara having spent her whole career there, they had long ago earned their status as senior paralegals. It fell on them to teach me what to do; school only prepared me for so much. Not to mention, Elizabeth’s time was much more valuable. It didn’t make sense for her to show me the proper way to draft a List of Documents. Nor would she have any desire to.

“Great,” Elizabeth said between bites. “That’s great. I do have an idea that might help jump that learning curve ahead a little bit. I wanted to see if you’d be able to handle it before I brought it up …”

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! Who knows where the writing will take me, whether this will remain as the opening scene to my book or not. I love the scene, and experienced a "drunk lunch" myself at my first job as a paralegal. We've all been there, maybe?

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Anya Wyers