Any room that is completely white is hospitalesque. Is that even a word, she thinks as she feels the cool seat against the back of her legs. The python in her chest coils even tighter as her heartbeats start to thrum higher than normal. Sweaty hands. She didn't want to do this. She had no choice. It wasn't coercion or anything like that…far from it. The circumstances and the inability to have a spare $7000 to pay for it had pushed her into a corner.
"Here's the form, just sign it and fill out that part only." The voice speaking to her is a matter of fact, but she can hear a sympathetic tone in it. She wasn't sure if it was genuine but to be fair, she wasn't really listening. She couldn't. Not when she had such a horrible document in front of her.
"I will be reading it first." She cut in. You always, always read it before you sign it. That's just stupid if you don't read it. "Okay. I've given you a minute and get Charlotte or someone you feel comfortable with to witness it." Nodding, she thanked Anna and was promptly left alone, much to her relief. She did not want anyone to see her get upset over this. Already the tears were gathering in her eyes.
The form was two pages. Her eyes read over the words, three words stood out and punched her in the chest. Picking up the pen, she let the tip hover above the paper, slowly and invisibly underlining the words. Surrender. Practicing. Certificate. Taking a few breathes, she laid the pen down and sat back, reflecting on this. The significance to her of this piece of paper. This certificate.. meant everything. It was 10 years of work and thousands of dollars but it all came from one concrete dream and an iron will. With one signature it would all be over. Not forever but that wasn't the point. She did not know when she could get it back. That was a variable and she liked control. She liked to know. She needed to know. The point was that she was still surrendering it. To her, "temporary" still was the equivalent to forever because there was no end to it. She couldn't put an end to it and say "right, one this day in 4 months' time. This exact date, I'll get it back.
The certificate gave her the validity, the ability to do what she had dreamed of since she was 13. A dream that had consumed her, burned into her bones, and ignited her veins. Her fixation on it…she was like an addict for it. Without it, she couldn't call herself a lawyer. She couldn't be a lawyer. Once she signed the paper, she was only someone who used to be a lawyer. She rarely communicated her private thoughts to her colleagues but this she did communicate to the colleague she trusted the most. Charlotte nodded. She understood. Of course, she would, she was a lawyer just like her and they started at the same time. They were juniors together.
"I could say something like oh you know you are so much more than a lawyer but we both know that it's bullshit to people like us haha". Charlotte's attempt at comfort was met with a tired smile. "It's not forever Ali. You will get it back and once you do, you will never lose it again. Its not like its being removed because you did something wrong. You're just taking a break." Ali nodded, her jaw hinged shut, trying to stop herself from making a mournful noise.. any noise. She just didn't trust herself. "Here, let me fill out the parts I need to first while you compose yourself."
Ali's bottom lip trembled as she glared at the paper that Charlotte had trapped under her fingers and slid across to herself. Was it hot in here? Ali tugged her necklace gently, the damn thing was choking her. Charlotte finished and slid the document back to Ali to sign before she could stamp it.
Tiny dots of sweat glistened on her palms and her forehead as her heart beat faster. The heavy bricks that sat in her chest started to build a tower, leading loud thoughts to her head. Gripping the fountain pen, Ali's hand shook slightly.
"It's okay." Charlotte said quietly and put a comforting hand on Ali's shoulder.
The trembling in Ali's lip increased and this time she couldn't control it as she slowly began to write her full name and the last time she would list her occupation: Barrister and Solicitor. She could feel the tears sliding down her cheeks and she was ashamed and angry. Angry she'd lost her control like this. But short of her family, friends, and her faith, this was the fourth most important thing in her life. She was losing it. She had spent the entirety of the night before awake, her brain forcing her to meditate on that fact.
Exhaling shakily as she traveled down the paper and touched the paper. The ink bled into the paper. For a moment she watched it spread, like blood in the water and she dragged the pen to start the first part of her signature. The tip of the pen led the ink, performing the sharp, elegant but direct line of her signature. Her heart slammed in her chest as she came to the end of her signature and her hand still shook. She kept the pen to the paper and found that her hand felt like concrete.
Charlotte gently pried the pen from her hands and was quick to commit the witness certification stamp to the paper. Ali closed her eyes, the sound of the stamp burned into her memory. It was over. She used to be a lawyer.
The air was icy outside. Ali's eyes stained against the dim sunlight as she looked up. "Are you sure this is your plan? I just signed away part of my soul it feels like it". Nothing. She had walked into that building holding an office she swore an oath for. She had walked out of the same building 30 minutes later, now without an oath to carry out. She was a lawyer. She used to be. But she wasn't anymore.