Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me
Reflections - 1967
Susan Wu let out a loud sigh of relief as she collapsed into the cushioned recliner in her small studio apartment. It had been a really bad day for the twenty-five year old, capping off an even worse week.
A major project upgrade, one that she had been sure was going to make her name in the company, had unexpectedly gone to another associate. This despite the fact that she had already done all of the preliminary work. When she had discovered the reason for the change, it had taken all of her self-control not to quit on the spot.
It wasn't that John Mahoney was more talented; the senior partner had told her at the late afternoon meeting in his office two days ago when he broke the news. It was just that the client felt more comfortable with having John work on the assignment.
What Ronaldo Lupo didn't say, was that the client, who Susan knew accounted for a good half million a year in revenue for the firm, was also a Neanderthal who still thought it was a man's world. Politically incorrect as catering to his prejudices might've been, Lupo and the other senior partners weren't about to take the risk of having J. Morgan Pierce take his business elsewhere.
Of course the fifty-nine year old partner had tried to sugar coat the lost opportunity by saying that there would be other chances for a talented young engineer like herself. A statement that Susan knew was a load of crap.
After spending the last few years proving that she was something more than great legs and a nice set of boobs, as she had heard someone refer to her during her first week on the job. She wasn't naive enough to think that another assignment like this wasn't pretty remote. Not with the number of eager associates who had come on board after her, nipping at her heels.
One of the other female associates, who actually was little more than a nice body and a face that looked good on the company roster, had immediately suggested to Susan that she might be able to take legal action over the decision. It was an option that had already been considered by her and discarded.
The dark haired woman had no doubt that the senior partners had a long list of sound business reasons to back up the change in associates. Ones that would make it clear that it wasn't a case of gender bias, or murky enough that it would give them the benefit of a doubt.
Challenging that decision in the courts, with little chance of winning, would be enough to trash the rest of her career. No one would ever hire her after that she was sure.
Then today, after having her professional life shattered, her personal life followed down the same road. Of course she never imagined that was going to be the case when Rob Fortuna, her boyfriend of two years, had called her and surprisingly invited her to lunch. Normally, they were both too busy for such things. Figuring that no one was going to miss her since she was without any work on her desk at the moment, she told him she'd meet him at twelve-thirty.
They hadn't even gotten past their drinks when Rob dropped his bombshell. It seemed that the twenty-nine year old had just had his career counseling session with one of the senior lawyers in his firm. A meeting that he'd left with the news that they wanted to make him the newest junior partner.
At first, Susan had been overjoyed, thinking that at least one of their careers was going right. Also factored into her elation was that they'd often talked about getting married if he'd ever made partner. For a few minutes, she'd even found herself wondering if it was possible that he'd asked her to lunch to propose.
Then, all her illusions had been shattered when Rob dropped the almost inevitable 'small reservation' that his reviewer and the other partners had.
Miller, Calvin, Reeve and Wayne was one of the oldest law firms in the city, if not the state. It was also one of the most conservative. As such, they felt that they had to maintain a certain image, one that they expected every partner, even the most junior ones, to project as well.
At the meeting, Rob was reminded of the unfortunate incident that had occurred at the previous year's Christmas party. Susan had gotten into a disagreement with a senior partner's wife over the older woman's charity work. Disagreement was a polite word to use, seeing as Susan had called the woman a fat cow who cared less about helping people that seeing her name in the society column.
When the expensively dressed woman had retorted that she expected that kind of comment from someone of her limited background, a thinly disguised reference to her ethnicity, Susan had shown her own displeasure by dumping a bucket of melted ice over her head. Then, much to the chagrin of the other guests, Susan had refused to leave in disgrace and instead sat down to dinner as if nothing happened.
"Screw them," Susan had said when Rob finished his story. "I'll bet there are a dozen firms just as good that would be glad to have you work for them."
"But they wouldn't be Miller, Calvin, Reeve and Wayne," Rob retorted, the tone of his voice saying much more than his words as he hoped she would draw the obvious inference.
A conclusion that hit Susan like a brick wall. In a choice between making partner or staying with her, she came in a distant second. Miller, Calvin, Reeve and Wayne expected their partner's wives not to be too unconventional or free spirited.
His message had come across loud and clear. She'd been good enough to share his bed, but not his life.
"Well screw them all," Susan thought as she got up from the chair and walking over to the small liquor cabinet, poured herself a drink.
A half hour and a few drinks later, Susan was beginning to feel a little sleepy. She was debating calling it an early night when the phone rang, waking her from her twilight state.
"Hello?" she said, shaking away the drowsiness.
"Miss Wu please," the voice on the other end said.
"Miss Wu, this is Mr. Fong," the man said, "I hope I'm not calling you too late."
"No, not at all," Susan said as she glanced at the clock and tried to place the name.
"I'm not sure if you remember me," he offered, "we met at the lawyer's office after the reading of your grandmother's will last month."
"Oh yes, now I remember," she said, picturing the elderly white haired gentlemen who had approached her after the reading to offer his condolences. "What can I do for you?"
"If you remember," he began, "I own a gallery that specializes in Chinese antiquities."
Susan said she remembered and wondered what he wanted from her.
"I could not help but notice that your grandmother, blessed woman that she was, left you a rather old mirror as part of your inheritance." he explained. "At the time, I felt it was somewhat inappropriate to approach you about it. Now that some time has passed, I hope you won't think it too forward of me to inquire if you might be interested in selling that particular piece?
Susan couldn't help but be impressed by the old gentleman's style. She'd had friends who'd also inherited family heirlooms and been put upon by collectors before their relatives had even been buried, hoping to take advantage of their grief to get a bargain before they knew the true value of their inheritance.
The mirror in question had been one of two artifacts Grandmother Wu had left her, along with a small cash bequest. It was a stand-alone mirror that stood almost as tall as Susan's five foot one height. She wasn't really sure how old it was, but it had been the only thing her grandmother had saved when the family had fled China following the revolution back in 1949.
"Mr. Fong, I'm really not sure that I want to sell..." she started to say, only to be interrupted.
"Yes, I understand," Mr. Fong said, "but still I would like the opportunity to stop by and talk to you about it, perhaps tomorrow morning if possible."
Saturday mornings, Susan normally liked to sleep in. Of course, she was usually sleeping in with Rob on the other side of her bed. Still, she really didn't think she was in the mood to listen to Mr. Fong's sales pitch right now. She was about to tell him just that, but quickly changed her mind when the dealer mentioned the dollar figure that he would suggest as a starting point for their negotiations.
Susan had him repeat the amount one more time, to be sure that she had heard it correctly. The amount staggered her as she considered that it was enough to pay off the last of her student loans and still bank a considerable amount. She really wasn't sure if she wanted to sell the mirror, but felt she should at least give him the chance to present his case.
Agreeing to see him the next day, she gave him her address and hung up the phone.
The brief phone call had left her fully awake, negating most of the effects of the few drinks she'd had. She could have a few more, she told herself, then decided against it. There were other ways to help herself fall asleep, including one she'd been meaning to try for some time now.
Susan walked over to where her grandmother's mirror stood and pulled it closer to the foot of her bed. She took the time to admire once more the intricate craftsmanship of the piece, right down to the numerous characters cut into the polished wood. Many of the characters were unknown to her, but she simply put that down to the fact that she had never spent all that much time learning the language of her ancestors. Having grown up in the United States as a second generation Chinese-American, she never saw the point.
.... There is more of this story ...