Toronto. Friday, November 23.
Late November was traditionally crunch time for associate lawyers at the huge and prestigious law firm of Anderson, McPherson and White. It was time for the underlings to endure their annual performance reviews, a tension filled show and tell session for the firm’s best and brightest. Having gambled their youth and a fortune in education expenses, this was potentially the payoff. Each had done at least a year of working eighty to ninety hours a week for slave wages while articling and preparing to write the bar administration exams. Each had passed, but continued to work absurd hours. The difference was that they now enjoyed a decent income, enough to buy a sports car, a nice condo, maybe a cottage in Muskoka. Their elevated status was comfortable, but the big casino was to become a full equity partner, and to do it before the age of thirty-two, a hypothetical precipice. A full equity partner in Anderson, McPherson and White made an annual income, including bonus, of between one and three million. It was a generally accepted fact that if an associate failed to become a partner by that age, he or she just didn’t have what it takes.
It was gut check time for Christine Stewart, now thirty-two. For her, becoming a full equity partner wasn’t just important, it was crucial. The alternative was unthinkable. Blessed with a near photographic memory, making it through Wellesley College and Harvard Law was a walk in the park for her. Her ability to cram and regurgitate had made her a legend among her classmates, particularly those with memories possessed by mere mortals. Christine had worked her heart out in anticipation of this occasion. She had been disappointed twice, mildly on her first, devastated on her second. This had to be the one.
Christine wore her heart on her sleeve. From early childhood she had been extraordinarily outspoken. At the risk of being classified as a rebel, she never missed an opportunity to take a strong verbal position on virtually any issue. She couldn’t help herself, even though she knew that too often, she allowed her mouth to move faster than her brain.
In addition to being an excellent student, she was athletic. It was apparent at Branksome Hall, a Toronto private school for girls, then became obvious at Wellesley College. She took to team sports with an aggression that bordered on fanaticism. Winning wasn’t good enough for her, she needed to crush her opposition, blow them away. Her prowess and determination on the soccer field and the volleyball court frequently made that happen, but when it didn’t, she lapsed into what could best be described as a manic depressive state. Anyone who watched her play would state, categorically, that she was largely responsible for the success of Wellesley blue against NCAA, seven sisters, and Newmac rivals.
Drop dead gorgeous, a magnetic personality, a brilliant student, and money to burn, her life appeared perfect. None of her friends could understand or diagnose the cause of her competitive nature. There was no justification for it. From the day she was born, wealth had satisfied her every need and want. She had relative ability, they said. How could there be any pain? Never in denial, she attempted to explain that she had spent a lifetime watching what wealth had done to her father and his marriages. She insisted that her motivation was to prove to her father and everyone who knew her that she could make it on her own. She neglected to mention that she not only wanted to make it, she needed to be the best.
She had a dirty little secret, however, a fact known only by her father, Jennifer Adams, her close friend and classmate at Harvard, and the staff at Manhattan Female Medical Clinic. It all started in June of 1993, the end of her second year at Harvard. To celebrate the end of exams, Christine and five of her female classmates rented a beachfront home for a week of fun and relaxation in East Hampton. All six were enjoying dinner and drinks on their first evening at Rowdy Hall on Main Street when Christine met Paul Donahue, a recently minted Harvard M.B.A. Six foot two, a shock of pure blond hair, deep blue eyes, and an alluring smile were some of the attributes that melted her resistance. His affect on her was like flicking a switch. She was instantly captivated. The two became inseparable, partying and sleeping together for the remainder of the week, nauseating Christine’s girl friends.
In keeping with the usual behavioral pattern of summer flash romances, the two promised undying devotion to one another prior to parting. Donahue went to work for a high tech startup in silicon valley, and Christine returned to Toronto to work as an intern for Anderson, McPherson and White.
A month later, she missed her period. In addition to being horrified and scared, she hated herself for missing so many of her birth control pills while studying for her final exams. A positive pregnancy test result ignited an avalanche of troubling implications.
She confided in her father and Jennifer Adams. Both strongly suggested that she should discuss the matter with Paul Donahue. Following their advice, she flew to San Francisco, intent on surprising Donahue with her ‘good’ news. She rented a red Mustang convertible and followed her map to the address Donahue had given her before leaving East Hampton. He lived in an upscale town home in Palo Alto.