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Priestess is invited to return to General's apartments.

"Got burned out on banking, did you?" he asked. "What have you been up to for the past eight months, then?"

"Waiting tables. I got laid off." It never got any less humiliating to say, but a few failed interviews earlier on had convinced Laurie that the truth was the least-bad option.

"Happens to the best of us," Mr. Cavanagh said, and to her surprise he gave her an approving smile. "I could tell you some stories about my bartending days, too."

"I have certainly learned a lot at my new job." Laurie hoped she didn't sound as defensive as she felt. "Even if it's not directly relevant to a job like this --"

"Oh, but it is, Laurie, don't you think?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean we learn a lot from our failures, and from doing what we need to do to get by. That kind of down-to-earth experience is just what this firm needs, if you ask me."

Laurie was elated. "Well, then, I guess I am asking you," she said with a laugh.

Mr. Cavanagh joined in. "I'll tell you what, Laurie, there's only one thing I want you to change in the next round: don't be apologetic at all about where you're working now. The partners love stories like yours, as long as people don't act like they're anything to be ashamed of.

"The next round?" Laurie felt near tears of joy. "Oh, Mr. Cavanagh, I...thank you."

"No need to thank me. You know that bartending gig I mentioned?"

"Long before you found your way here, no doubt," Laurie said.

"Nope. Three years ago. We all hit rough spots in our careers, Laurie." He stood up and shook her hand. "I will be in touch about a time for the next round. No later than next week, I'd say."

And Laurie was off for a celebratory drink. As she sat at the bar, sipping her cocktail and ignoring the inevitable flirtatious looks from guys down the bar, she got her phone out of her purse and longed for it to ring. It didn't. She didn't dare call Jerry in case Dan was with him, and besides, she soon recalled, she didn't have his secret number anyway. But that only further inflamed her imagination of what she would do to Jerry first chance she got. Those salacious thoughts, coupled with her growing frustration as the phone just sat there, persuaded her to order a second and then a third round. When Laurie finally paid her tab and got up to go home, the room was spinning and she nearly opted for a taxi. But the drinks hadn't been cheap and the walk home wasn't that far. The luxury of a ride home, she concluded, was one more vestige of her former life that would just have to wait a little longer.

The walk home in the winter chill sobered Laurie up a bit, but she was still rather tipsy when she arrived back at Joanna's place. She was rather glad of that when she opened the door to find Dan grinning up at her from the couch, as she was too far gone to give him the disdain he'd earned.

"Hey, kiddo," Dan said. "Getting a very early start on the weekend, are we?"

"Celebrating," Laurie corrected, smiling through her disgust.

"A job or a man?"

"Both." Laurie set her jaw and walked to the dining room to change her clothes, careful to never look at Dan.

"It'd better be someone new, Laurie!" he called out as she slammed the dining room door.

Leaning against the door with her fists clenched in rage, Laurie heard Joanna's voice coming from the bedroom. "What's her problem?"

"Dunno. Time of the month?" Dan said.

"God, you're such a little boy!" Joanna chirped. Inflaming Laurie's outrage further, she burst into that girlish giggle she always served up in response to Dan's most offensive comments. Laurie took a deep breath and took her suit coat off, and found her mobile phone in her purse. As long as she didn't say Jerry's name, they'd never know...

Perhaps because she was drunk, this time Laurie got as far as shuffling through the recent calls to Joey's real phone -- the one Dan had evidently confiscated -- before she remembered what would likely happen if she dialed that number.

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