A Not So Love Letter

A love letter from abroad, perchance? Yeah, no. Not even close.

I am all for receiving letters. As a little girl, I had pen pals the world over. There was Olga in the U.S.S.R. who I corresponded with faithfully for years, often receiving her letters after they had been “inspected” by the Soviets lest the correspondence of two nine-year-olds lead to a breach of national security. During the first Gulf War, I wrote to Dean who was stationed on an aircraft carrier in top secret waters far away. And then, there were the elegant, loving letters from my Great Aunt Ann encouraging me to explore the world and “above all, live your life!!” before ever getting married. Letters such as these were the reason I sprinted to the mailbox every day the post office was scheduled to deliver mail.

Given this history, no one was more surprised at my dread of receiving any kind of correspondence, in any form, especially from my Italian attorneys-turned-tormenters, than me. After Michael sent his (our) request for resolution – and leftover money owed me – over the Internet and to Milan, I found the wait a gnawing one. Each night I opened my mailbox in my apartment building’s shabby vestibule, I imagined finding ominous, foreign-stamped envelopes teaming with threats of suit. And I couldn’t even shed my eyes on my Hotmail inbox. Instead, I awaited for notification from Michael. It was, shamefully, a form of avoidance I am not proud of but one I find understandable in hindsight. When you feel helpless, sometimes, you perform small acts of defiance to control the pain you suspect is coming.

My wait did not last long. The Milan faction responded and with a sucker punch that, to this day, makes it hard for me to read in its entirety, let alone share with you. As you read it, please put yourself in my mindset: I had been a faithful and hard-working client who performed every task asked of me, who had developed a friendship with my two-years-younger attorney such that we were Facebook friends and he would sometimes call or text me when he was on holiday, just wanting to know how I was doing. He was a man I cried to in person, on the phone and over email. He stood with me and my family (and my bodyguard) in a hot, airless courthouse one disturbing afternoon in Rome where the Prosecutor grilled me and nearly broke me.

“From: Valentino

Sent: Monday, January 31, 2011 6:11 AM

To: Michael Hxxxx Cc: S. Spagnolo

Subject: Keri Potts

Mr. Michael Hxxxx,

is not necessary to review all of the correspondence between me and your client to summarize the situation, the only relevant e-mail is the one of December the 8th 2008, that is useful to report entirely:

Da: Keri Potts

Inviato: lunedì 8 dicembre 2008 13:11

A: Valentino

Oggetto: RE: R:

Valentino – I hope you had a relaxing weekend. As we discussed last week, I did some number crunching. And in all honesty, I can afford to pay $5000 to be kept up to date on the case this next year. Anything more than that would require some tough decisions on my part. My understanding is that there will not be much movement on the case for awhile until they complete the investigation. I know the case could take an additional year or two and so I will have to revisit the budget again next year. Please let me know what is possible. Fingers crossed!  Best, Keri

I’m not English mother tongue as you and your client are, but what I understand is that the 5.000 Dollars settlement was to cover the fees and expenses of the year 2009 and, as your client wrote at that time, “I know the case could take an additional year or two and so I will have to revisit the budget again next year”.

I’ve done two mistakes: the decision to not use an hourly rate fee as you are more used in the United States and, due to the excellent personal relation with your client, I didn’t mention the problem of a second agreement for the year 2010, thinking that we would have managed during the 2010.

The first mistake comes from the fact that Miss Potts took contact with our law firm on suggestion of a top manager of her company, who had worked in the past with Mr. Spagnolo (managing partner of the firm I work for): for this reason Mr. Spagnolo accepted Miss Potts request of a forfeit fee instead of the more profitable (for us) hourly rate fee.

By the way, the activity in the interest of your client done during the year 2010 has been relevant and intense, I’m confident that this is a fact out of question in your review.

I’m wondering if all that I’ve done during 2010 and, above all, the attention, passion and sensibility, that I hope your client recognized in my attitude to follow her delicate case, is worth 754 dollars to return to your client.

If you desire an e-mail with a detailed list of all I’ve done during the 2010 I’ll do it, or you can ask to your client: I’m sure she will not have lack of memory.

Please send me an e-mail, with the bank account details of your client, in order to wire the 754 dollars.

We, Mr Spagnolo and I, thank your client for her gratitude and “outrageous” – as you have written us – must be considered her behavior.

Best regards.”

Not sure about you, and my Englitalian isn’t great, but I’m pretty sure my dear Valentino told me to go to hell. His terrible letter hit its mark. I found it unfair, harsh and hurtful. And to have a relative stranger such as Michael read it embarrassed me slightly because it did not represent me or my efforts at all. In fact, it cheated me of some imagined recognition I thought I’d receive by having been an exemplary victim/client. Still, there it was, in all its hostility and accusation. My hopes for a tidy ending wrapped in ribbons went up in flames. Reflexively, and in another small act of defiance, I opened up my Facebook page and unfriended Valentino. And then I blocked him, for good measure.

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