K’Anne Meinel, an American author, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and emerged full formed behind a keyboard, sometime in the 1960s, where she still resides today after a 17-year detour through Southern and Central California on the beach.
Her first novel, “Ships,” written in 2003, was the beginning of many masterpieces to come. Bringing her characters to life in the pages of her books, she discovered a real talent for writing romances.
She is the best-selling author of the novel “Lawyered” and “Represented.” Her other works include “Long Distance Romance,” “Germanic” and “Timed Romance.”
Her novella “Sapphic Surfer” has been a best-seller. Her “Sapphic Cowboi,” “Sapphic Cowgirl” and “Ghostly Love” have received acclaim.
The view from her window wasn’t that impressive as she looked at the dismal aged and gray buildings outside on an equally dismal and gray day in New York, but at least she had a window and a view. Not all associates had a window, most were in inner offices but she was a senior associate, a lawyer of counsel if you will, and it was part of her perks. She looked out her window a long time, lost in thought even though she knew she should be getting to the pile of briefs on her desk. Instead she daydreamed about the incredible offer she had just received. She had known it was coming, she knew she deserved it, but at the moment wasn’t sure if she should be insulted.
Nia Toyomoto worked for one of the most prestigious law firms in Manhattan. It wasn’t a small thing to be an associate at Chase-Dunham. It wasn’t a small thing to be a lawyer of counsel either. To be offered a partnership though was something that Nia had worked towards for years. Everyone knew she was on the fast track, everyone knew that she deserved it, but at this moment, she wasn’t sure. When Stewart Dunham had scheduled this morning’s meeting she had assumed it was for a personal update on certain cases that she was handling for him, for others, and with others. Although she had eventually expected the offer, the stipulations had surprised her. She didn’t realize her personal life would be part of the offer. Not that she had anything to hide but being a partner at Chase-Dunham required a certain panache that Nia simply didn’t have at this time. Stewart had kindly pointed out that they needed her to ‘spruce’ herself up, to become a bit more social. It was not a matter of her talents as a world class attorney, no, that was why they wanted her to be a partner. It was a matter of smoozing with the right people, having parties, attending the elite of the elite. Her reputation was such that she fit in but her appearance left a little to be desired. She was all business. They wanted her as a partner but they also wanted her to use every means at her disposal to get them new clients. Not that she hadn’t drawn them in the past with her incredible expertise but being a partner meant that she would represent the firm on levels that she hadn’t thus far. Her talents alone wouldn’t sell the firm.
Nia sighed. She wasn’t one to get ahead on her looks. She was overly tall for the average woman at 5’10” and this for someone of Asian descent was almost unheard of. Not that you could tell she was Asian except for the certain narrowing of her eyes that gave her a feline like appearance. Her father was pure Asian, a former executive from Japan, he had fallen in love with a German-American woman who Nia had inherited most of her looks from. The clunky black glasses she wore hid the slightly exotic Asian tilt of her eyes. Her smooth round face v’d becomingly, but with her straight dark brown nearly black hair with occasional reddish tints that she held severely back in a bun, she gave herself a no nonsense appearance. She had never cared for her looks. She wasn’t like other women. Her nails were cut short, purely functional; no polish had ever graced them. Her long legs were encased in nylons and this only because she was fairly pale in appearance and the style was to have a semblance of tan. She had business suits but these too were merely functional. She owned six or seven that she interchanged to provide variety but these were of lessor quality and again, she just hadn’t cared. Now they were making her care, in fact making it a condition of her partnership.
The suggestion and not too subtly that her partnership hinged on her doing a makeover, buying better clothes, and a better place to live was ludicrous. But Nia knew that the good ole boy network could find other reasons to deny her this plum chance. She also knew at thirty that she would be one of the youngest partners in Manhattan. She also knew she deserved it. She had worked hard all her life for this very thing.
She had graduated high school in three and a half years and would have graduated in three but for the moron that was the principal at the time thought her too young at sixteen to graduate her junior year. She had to wait until she was seventeen and graduated halfway through her senior year. It wasn’t that her grades hadn’t warranted an early graduation, no, she had always been effortlessly at the top of her class but this was an age where he felt her social abilities would be hindered by not graduating with her peers. Nia didn’t have a lot of friends and those who really knew her knew she was destined for great things. Graduating early would only expedite those goals she had set for herself. Once she graduated from high school she had gone straight to college. Attending Wellesley College, she had sailed through in three years before enrolling in Harvard Law School for her graduate work. If she could have done it in one year she would have but had done it in the normal three years before graduating at the top of her class. An offer from Wall Street and Chase-Dunham had been the culmination of her dream. She’d had other offers of course, many from those she had worked for in summer internships, but Wall Street and Chase-Dunham’s reputation was such she knew that was where she wanted to be. For her to be an associate there had guaranteed her future, something she didn’t really think about in the broad spectrum of life, instead she wanted very specific things in life and now this partnership was part of that dream.
To hold it up because she wasn’t properly garbed or social or looked right for the part angered her but when she thought about it practically she understood. She was perfect for the job and she knew she would eventually capitulate but it didn’t set well with her that it was mandated by the men in this firm. Then she thought of how few partners over the years had been women, especially on Wall Street much less in Manhattan.
She thought for a long time about what other goals she had set for herself and realized that at thirty she had achieved most of them. She had gotten into Wellesley on a scholarship and paid for extras through the little her mother sent her after Papa’s death. Papa had died after he knew his only child had graduated from high school and his life insurance had paid off their home but left very little for frivolous living, her mother had pinched every penny. Going to an Ivy League School had never been in doubt but paying for it had been. It was expensive to be so highly educated. Nia had taken that seriously. Never had she thought about any other school after Wellesley but Harvard. It had not been a dream but a serious plan that had only been in doubt due to a lack of funds. Nia had graduated in due time with debts so high that they boggled the mind. The job that she had expected from her high grades, internships, and moral standards had come through and she had begun to pay off those debts through her frugalness.
She lived in a studio apartment that was so small she couldn’t swing a cat for hitting everything. Her mother had passed away and Nia had sold everything of value including the house that they owned except for nine boxes of ‘trinkets,’ paying off her student loans and using the little left to buy stocks to help fund her IRA and for security later in life. Her salary was such that she could move to a larger apartment and in fact she had enough now to buy a very nice place but she had no one she wanted to show her postage stamp apartment to, no one really saw it other than one or two close friends, she didn’t need a larger one, until now. Her frugal living though would pay off now. She had the funds to do what they wanted and with style but her innate sense of fair play almost balked at the idea of changing her lifestyle, her appearance, her everything for a promotion. It was sexist and discriminatory and they would get away with it unless she refused to play, did she want to give up everything she had worked for to stand on the moral high ground? She could sue, theoretically. What they were asking was illegal but did she really want to be known as the lawyer who sued their own firm over her looks? That would certainly create waves in the legal community and also insure that she wouldn’t get another job with any other firm in New York, much less Manhattan, ever.
A knock on her door had her spinning around in her leather chair and looking up surprised as Stewart Dunham stuck his head in the door. “You busy?” he inquired with a smile. Stewart Dunham was a spare man of fifty five who had inherited the firm of Chase-Dunham through the expedient manner of marrying Elliott Chase’s daughter. They had worked together through some lean years and had expanded it exponentially from their partnership. When Elliott Chase had passed away, Stewart Dunham had been one of the first on Wall Street to hire women and bring in clientele that had appreciated his foresight. The people he hired were excellent; he had an eye for talent and had picked Nia Toyomoto himself. She had worked a summer internship up in Boston for a friends firm and he had raved over her insight, her brilliance, and her enthusiasm. He had watched and learned as she participated in the debate team up at Harvard. An Alumni himself, he had availed himself of her records and been suitably impressed. He had romanced her into coming to work with his firm right out of college and had never regretted it. Her work was consistently superior and she deserved every promotion they had ever given her. His other partners had been worried that they were giving the youngster too much too soon but he knew she could handle it. She had been only twenty three when she graduated Harvard but had within one year won them an impossible case. The lawyer of record had to drop out at the last minute for cause and she had picked up the slack despite her lack of experience and with very little supervision had won and the senior partners had been suitably impressed. Her record since then had been equally impressive. If she just didn’t look so…frumpy. From her horn rimmed square glasses to her unattractive and severe bun of hair she screamed ‘old maid’ and he knew some of the clients wouldn’t want to work with a partner that made them feel like she was their grandmother. He had often wondered if she were a dyke but she gave no appearance of that either. She didn’t date men, she didn’t date women, she didn’t date that he knew of. She was kind of uni-sex and that didn’t set well with the partners. Many insisted that if she represented the firm she needed to take advantage of her feminity and had complained about her lack thereof for years, now they insisted on this change or no, they didn’t want her as a partner.
She smiled kindly and this changed her austere appearance, without really answering the CEO of Chase-Dunham she asked instead, “What can I do for you Mr. Dunham?”
“Would you come with me for a moment?” he gestured outside her office.
Nia rose up and walked immediately over to her small office door. Stewart held the door for her and she walked out before him. He indicated the elevator and she assumed they were going up to the Senior Partner’s level to the private offices of the CEO which were on a floor above the associates and counselor levels. They stood as equals as they waited for the elevator. Nia’s own height was only an inch or two below Stewarts. He thought she would be even more impressive once she realized her full potential, it had to be her decision though, and she could still turn them down, although they both knew she would be foolish to do so. Stewart was risking, big time, that she wouldn’t take offense to what they had shoved down her throat in their offer. Instead he hoped, and gambled, that she would grasp it with both hands and prove the nay-sayers wrong, very wrong. He had always seen the potential of this woman from her days at Harvard, he still saw potential, if his daughters had shown any inkling of the talent of this young woman he would like to think they would be as good as she. His son had gone in a totally different direction and become an accountant. He had been very disappointed but survived the blow to his ego.
Stewart led, not to the CEO offices but to a corner office at the opposite end of the building. Nia hadn’t really been to these offices since she had very little business with some of these partners and almost none with the senior partners except when they needed a consult on a case they were handling. They walked into a nice little office that would suit any executive secretary or assistant as people now called them. Through this empty and rather plain office they walked into an immense corner office that had not one but two banks of floor to ceiling windows. The room was absolutely bare of furniture. Stewart led her to the windows and they stood looking out at the impressive Manhattan skyline as Nia wondered why she had been brought here. They hadn’t spoken the entire ride up in the elevator or really since they had left her office.
“I thought perhaps you might need a little something to make the offer even more worthwhile,” Stewart began.
“Mr. Dunham, I assure you…” Nia began but stopped when he held up his hand.
“Please, if you accept this position you will have to begin calling me Stewart. This isn’t a standard partner agreement we have offered you, Nia. This office is just one of the perks. You will have to choose a car that we will pay for. You will have to choose an apartment that we will make sure your mortgage is handled through our banking contacts and the payments reasonable. You will have six weeks paid vacation. The perks you might pass up from refusing are more than you realize.”
Nia looked at him incredulously. They hadn’t even discussed the perks of her partnership agreement. This office? It was incredible. She glanced around and for some reason the sun began to shine through the impressive windows. She could already picture the office with deep cherry wood furniture making it a warm and professional one. She could even put in an electric fireplace she thought barely controlling the grin that threatened at her thought. A car? What was wrong with her little Fiat? She realized though that she would be a fool to pass it up but she had played her cards too well for too long to show them to this master player. She nodded coldly as she considered her options which she really knew were few. She could quit but that would be self-defeating, besides she loved her job. She could refuse and remain an associate but it would never be the same, they would treat her as though she had insulted them. She could sue but then she would never again work in Manhattan and who wanted to hang out their own shingle with that on their resume? She could accept and have a make-over. She needed to think about it but she had already told this man and his partner’s that very thing when they made their initial offer.
“Here is one more thing for you to think about,” Stewart finished with. Nia looked at him expectantly. “We are waiving your buy in, your bonus’ will be deferred for the first three years but you do not have to come up with the normal buy in amount. Based on your performance and what we anticipate you bringing into the firm in the future we have decided that this will be enough for your buy in.”
Nia was incredulous, this offer, this incredible deal was worth possibly a million dollars or more!