AatW – 38

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Hackett exited the courtroom and ripped off his tie, then gripped it tightly in his hand as he rested his arm against the wall, pressing his forehead against the cold marble as he slowly took in a deep breath with his eyes closed. The echo of clacking high heels surrounded him, and he whipped around to face the lawyer approaching him.

“Miranda,” he growled. “I never expected you to sink this low.”

Her smug grin failed underneath his gaze, and she pushed her glasses higher up onto her nose. Her pant suit was pale blue, and her blonde hair was pulled back into a chignon. “Me?” she asked, her voice shrill. “You’re the one who exploited your position to start having sex with a young woman. What did you expect to happen after you dove head first into such a scandal?”

“It’s my private life!” Hackett hit the wall with his fist. “I have conducted myself honorably in regards to Alice, and our relationship has absolutely nothing to do with what you managed to achieve in there.”

“The judge thought that I brought up some very valid concerns, and I’m only looking to ensure that this case is handled properly. You have too much personal investment.” Miranda placed her hand on Hackett’s sleeve. “Now calm down, Basil, and be sensible about this. There really is no way of proving that you acted reasonably when you tasered him, so this is the best way to ensure he is treated fairly in the system.”

Hackett stared hard at her, his eyes growing cold as he said slowly, “You have no right to be jealous.”

“Jealous?” Miranda laughed. “Why would I be jealous?”

“Come off it. I was with you for long enough to know your moods, and you can’t stand the fact that I’ve moved on, so you’re using this as your chance.”

“Ha, ha, Basil.” Miranda placed her hands on her hips. “That’s just absurd. If anything, it astonishes me that, for all of your high morals, you went jumping into bed with some slut who got herself knocked up by another man. Clearly, you’re the one who has fallen.”

Hackett continued to stare, then moved towards her. She set her jaw, turning her face upwards in defiance, but as he drew even closer, her lips parted and she let out a heady breath.

His expression changed, and he whispered, “You honestly didn’t expect me to break up with you back then.”

“Shut up,” she snapped, taking a step back.

“You actually believed that I didn’t want a family and would be relieved that you had terminated the pregnancy,” he said incredulously. “It never even occurred to you to talk to me about it first.”

“Shut it, Basil! That was three years ago, and I’ve moved on, too.” Miranda glared, tilting her head up haughtily. “You know full well that I got the promotion I’ve always wanted, and I’ve never been happier in all my life. You never let me have room to breathe and be myself, and everything always had to be up to your standards. I didn’t realize how much you had taken away from me until I was out on my own again. I was right in prioritizing myself first.”

“That’s total bullshit, Miranda, and you know it.” Hackett turned back to the wall, and placed his arm against it once again. “I gave you everything that you wanted out of me, including the prestigious job with all the right connections, and the flashy car to impress everyone you knew, all so that you could feel important. You kept pushing me and pushing me, so you could ride on my coattails.”

Miranda sneered. “That was all because you didn’t want me to be successful, and the best that I could do was try to live vicariously through you instead. You deliberately held me back because you felt threatened by me.”

“Threatened? I helped pay your tuition so you could become a lawyer in the first place.” Hackett rubbed the bridge of his nose as he let out an exasperated sigh. “The reason why I broke up with you, Miranda, is because I realized that after everything I did for you, you still weren’t going to give me any of the things that I wanted, and our relationship was never going to go anywhere. I want something else out of life than what you were willing to offer.”

Miranda’s folded her arms defensively across her chest. “Having a baby would have changed my entire life, forever. It was totally unreasonable to ask that of me.”

“And you think that becoming the warden didn’t change my life forever? Do you think that I aspired to endless budget meetings, and figuring out how to keep good-for-nothing thugs from killing each other? Do you think that I wanted to sacrifice my name for the sake of a title?”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “You are far too good of a warden to argue that you hate it. I was with you long enough to know that you love your job despite the frustrations. It fits in too well with all of those silly idealistic notions you’ve got swimming around in your head.”

Hackett lowered his voice to murmur softly, “You could have enjoyed being a mother.”

“Not a chance in hell,” she spat.

He remained quiet, watching her as his hand tightened around his tie. The soft ticking of the clock filled the space in between them, until he finally spoke, “You know, I can’t imagine you actually sacrificing anything for another person, so maybe you’re right.” He stuffed his tie into his pant pocket, then briefly pulled out his phone to check the screen. He couldn’t help the small smile that flitted across his face when he saw that Alice had sent him a few text messages, all of them brimming with excitement. “I found someone who isn’t like that, and I married her as soon as I could. You’ll just have to deal with the fact that I traded you for a younger model.”

Miranda made a choked noise in her throat, her eyes flashing with fury, but she didn’t move or speak.

Hackett turned to leave, then stopped. “Oh, and Miranda, stay away from Damon. He’s too smart for you to handle.”

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