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  • A Day in Court
  • M. G. Stephens (bio)

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[End Page 62]

The absent girl is Conspicuous by her silence Sitting at the courtroom window Her cheeks against the glass.

—Eilean ni Chuilleanain

Salisbury Square was just off of Fleet Street, and it had gone nine o’clock in the morning when Eileen arrived there for her hearing. She had been there a week earlier to drop off her skeleton argument with the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and that morning looked no different from a week earlier, except that day had been sunny and this one was pissing down with rain. This was where the old newspapers used to be printed, the streets filled with con men, journalists, lawyers and various hacks. The enormity of the rain did not stop a handful of people, probably solicitors, from speaking on their mobile telephones under [End Page 63] big umbrellas. These men looked as rumpled and sleazy as characters out of a Raymond Chandler novel. Talk about Jarndyce v Jarndyce, nothing had changed in this world in over a hundred and fifty years, although the tribunal itself was a product of the postwar era, instituted in a time when the working poor were given some legal rights. Eileen had the same thought entering the building that she had had the week before: she was entering the graveyard of justice. She had girded herself as she turned the corner off Fleet Street and came down to the square, and during that walk she had told herself not to be fooled or become overly optimistic. This was not a fair hearing. The appeal’s tribunal had already dismissed her claim in November, exactly half a year ago, writing that she had no reasonable grounds to succeed with an appeal. This was going to be a formality, one last chance to make her point about what had happened and how the lower court’s judgment contained errors of law. It was going to be Eileen’s last aria.

Even with an umbrella, she was soaked through because of the wind. It was May, but it felt like December. Her hands and feet were numb with cold. She had worn flats, and they were soggy now, her stockings dripping wet too. Her dressy outfit was made of Irish linen, a birthday gift several months ago from one of her sisters. She had matched the dark blue of the linen suit trousers and jacket with a red silk blouse and a colorful scarf that she had purchased years ago when Santiago was still alive and they were living at the Hotel Lenox in Paris. Her cotton raincoat worked well in a drizzle but was worthless in this downpour, so that the linen suit was rumpled, as was the red silk blouse, making her look as if she had slept the previous night in her outfit. At least that was how she felt and how she thought others perceived her.

At the front desk, Eileen had to sign a directory before taking the elevator to the second floor where the appeal tribunal courts were.

“I hope you enjoyed the summer we had last week for two days,” the guard said.

He had an accent she knew, and from his face she guessed he was from Ghana.

“Apparently that is all the summer we will have,” the other guard said. She was a pretty Asian woman with beautiful dark skin and long, light brown hair.

Eileen did not fancy talking about the weather, and yet she knew that was all people would talk about this morning, so she grunted her [End Page 64] acknowledgment to the two guards, shook herself off, signed in and then went up in the elevator to the appeal tribunal.

She turned left off the elevator and walked down a hall until she came to a reception. She was greeted by a man wearing a white shirt and a tie who had an accent similar to the guard’s at the entrance. He was a big man, almost like an African warrior, and his smile was broad and friendly, even as he stood behind...


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