"Pleasures and Palaces" by Jae Gecko (L.A. Law, 500 words, confused)

"I can't believe they're paying you $6000 for what amounts to an extended vacation," Abby says, pressing the phone against her shoulder with her chin. It's been two days since CJ left for Palm Springs, and it'll be another five before she's home.

CJ laughs the kind of laugh that paints pictures, and Abby can imagine her stretched out, catlike, against a hotel bed. "You should have seen them," CJ says. "All these old-school Communists pounding on their desks and yelling 'I object!' Surreal."

"Don't you think it's a little strange that you're passing yourself off as some sort of homegrown expert on American legal practices when you're not even American?" Abby leans back against the back of her recliner, kicking off one flimsy high-heeled shoe with the catch of a toe.

"I beg your pardon! I've got the same passport you've got."

"The same paahsport?" Abby teases, drawing out the vowel in an exaggerated, Pygmalionesque imitation of CJ's British accent.

"I have a law degree from Stanford, you know." The defensive edge in CJ's voice sends Abby's heart into her stomach. "And I was naturalized four years ago."

"I don't mean ..." Abby clutches at the pendant around her neck. "Wait, let me back up."

"Oh, Abby," CJ chides, laughing. "Quit being so serious. I wonder if they offer crash courses in irony?"

"That was irony?" Abby's laugh is fluttery, a faded echo of CJ's, and she winces at her own meekness.

"What?" Another voice joines CJ's in the background, muffled by a cupped hand, and an instant later she's back. "Listen, I've got to go. I'll talk to you tomorrow?"

"Oh." Abby swallows her disappointment. "All right."

"Don't let the bastards get you down, love. Bye."

Abby's forehead wrinkles as she replaces the receiver in its cradle. She wonders how CJ can be so sure Abby wants to talk again tomorrow. She shakes her head, sniffing, and pushes the thought to the back of her mind. If she's going to wonder about that, it'll be at the end of a very long list.

First she has to wonder how CJ knew Abby wouldn't run screaming in terror that night back in February, when a friendly hug turned into a moment of shared warmth, lips on lips. It's only been mentioned once since then, under flickering fluorescents at the office the next morning, but Abby can feel echoes of it in every accidental brush of CJ's arm during a staff meeting.

First she has to wonder why she hasn't told CJ about the hushed phone call she received from Michael last night. It's a good offer -- a junior partnership, a chance to do more litigation of her own. She said she'd think about it, but she's still not sure whether CJ's presence at Mackenzie Brackman tips the scales toward staying, or toward leaving.

Most of all, she has to wonder why she's counting the days until CJ comes home. And why, suddenly, she's not sure where home is.