Authors: Pam Jenoff
Also by Pam Jenoff
A Hidden Affair
The Diplomat’s Wife
The Kommandant’s Girl
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Pam Jenoff
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Jacket design by Emily Mahon
Retouching and colorization by Shasti O’Leary Soudant/SOS CREATIVE LLC
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The things we cherished / Pam Jenoff.—1st ed.
For my girls
Charlotte & Elizabeth
“You know, don’t you, that you’re looking at twenty-five to life?” Charlotte peered over the top of the file at the seventeen-year-old with the rows of tiny braids who slouched in the chair on the other side of the graffiti-covered table, staring intently at his sneakers.
The preliminary hearing had not gone well. Charlotte had hoped that the judge would take one look at Marquan’s baby face, with its wide smooth cheeks and the unblinking almond-shaped eyes, and know that he was not a danger to anyone, that he did not belong here. She thought that Judge Annette D’Amici, who herself had once been a public defender, might have a soft spot for a teenager with no record of prior violence who was about the same age as her grandchildren. But in a streak of phenomenally bad luck, Judge D’Amici had called in sick, replaced for the day by Paul Rodgers. Rodgers, a political wannabe who viewed the bench as a stepping-stone to a higher state office, had earned a reputation as a hanging judge during his first term. He barely glanced at Marquan before banging his gavel and remanding him to the juvenile wing of the city prison.
Normally, Charlotte would have chalked the hearing up as a loss and gone on to her next file and courtroom, dispensing with
the morning’s caseload. But Marquan was different. They had met almost two years earlier when he’d been a scared fifteen-year-old brought in on a petty drug charge. There was a sparkle that told her he had intelligence, a quiet dignity in his perfect posture and the way he looked at her with those somber brown eyes, seeming to see right through. He had promise. She’d done all the things she usually didn’t get to do with a docket of thousands of cases per year: getting Marquan into a first-time offenders’ track that left him with no permanent record, as well as an after-school mentoring program in his neighborhood. So why was he sitting here now, dull-eyed and hardened, facing a murder charge for a carjacking gone wrong?
Because it simply wasn’t enough. The after-school programs amounted to only a few hours per week, a drop in an ocean of poverty and drugs and violence and boredom in which these kids had to swim every night on the streets. There had been a police chase that ended with an SUV crushed against the pavement steps of a row house, two small children pinned fatally beneath its wheels. Marquan hadn’t meant to hurt anyone; of that she was certain. He had a little brother the same age as those kids, whom he walked to school every day, escorted home again each evening. No, he had simply been along for the ride when the stupid plan was hatched and he didn’t have the strength or good sense to say no.
Charlotte drummed the edge of the table, running her fingers along a heart that someone had carved into the wood with a knife. “If you would testify,” she began. There had been three boys in the car, but Marquan was the only one who had not fled the scene. “I mean, if you’re willing to say who was there with you …”
She did not finish the sentence, knowing the proposal was futile. No one talked where Marquan came from.
screamed the brazen T-shirts of the kids she passed in the Gallery food court at lunch, kids ditching school and hanging out, waiting for trouble to find them. Snitching meant never going home again, never closing your eyes and knowing if you or your loved ones would be safe. Marquan would sooner take the sentence.
She exhaled sharply, glancing up at the water-stained ceiling. “Anything you want to tell me?” she asked, closing the file, watching for the imperceptible shake of his head. “If you change your mind, or if you need something, have your case officer call me.” She pushed back from the table and stood, knocking on the door to be let out.
A few minutes later, Charlotte stepped from the elevator and made her way across the lobby of the Criminal Justice Center, thronged with prospective jurors and families of the victims and the accused who pushed past the metal detector toward the security desk for information. On the street, she swam through a cloud of cigarette smoke left by courthouse clerks lingering before the start of their day, then paused, her eyes traveling left toward the hulking Reading Terminal Market. A walk through the open stalls, a gastronomic world’s fair touting everything from Amish delicacies to lo mein and cheesesteaks, would have been just the thing to clear her head, but there wasn’t time.
As she reached the busy intersection beneath the shadow of City Hall, William Penn peering down piously from his perch atop the tower, Charlotte paused, inhaling the crisp late-September air. There were only a few days like this each fall in Philadelphia, before the persistent humidity of summer gave way to the cold rainy winter.
Still thinking of Marquan, Charlotte entered the office building. On the sixth floor, she stepped out of the elevator and proceeded down the drab corridor. The voice of section chief Mitch Ramirez,
arguing with a prosecutor, bellowed through an open doorway. “Are you going to fucking tell me …?” Charlotte smiled as she passed. Mitch was a legend among the defenders, a seventy-two-year-old dinosaur who had marched in the civil rights protests of the sixties and could still go toe to toe with the best of them when he thought his client was getting a raw deal.
She stopped before the door to her office, indiscernible from the others she had just passed. It wasn’t much; a glorified closet, really, with a small desk and two chairs wedged close together—a far cry from the marble and mahogany suite she’d had when she was a summer associate at a large New York firm. But it was all hers. It had taken two years just to get it, to fight her way out of the pit of rookie defenders who shared the sea of cubicles one floor below and have a door that closed so she could hear herself think.
Charlotte reached for the handle, then stopped, studying it. The door was ajar. She was certain that she had closed it when she left for court that morning, but perhaps one of the other attorneys had dropped off a file. As she stepped inside, her breath caught.
There, in the narrow chair across from her desk, sat her ex-boyfriend.
“Brian?” she asked, as though unsure of his name. The word came out in a croak.
He stood, unfolding from the chair. Brian had the tall, broad-shouldered frame that fashion houses paid good money for, brown hair that flopped improbably to his forehead no matter how many times he got it cut to a shorter, more professional length. Despite the muscular arms that suggested a threat on the basketball court, he conveyed an air of vulnerability that implied he might cry at a chick flick and made women want to take care of him.
Looking at him now, it was almost possible to forget that he had broken her heart.
“Hello, Charlotte,” he said, his use of her full name a reminder of the years that had come and gone since their last meeting. He bent to kiss her and a hint of his familiar Burberry cologne tickled her nose, sending her places she had hoped never to go again. “You’re looking well.” He brushed off his legs, his expensive suit woefully out of place in her tiny drab office. She was suddenly self-conscious about her black knit pantsuit, practical and unflattering. His Chanel-and-heels wife would not have been caught dead in it.