I watched as his name appeared next to my design. I watched him glance over at me but stand up happily, claiming the work as his own. I watched as everyone around us applauded him. I watched as Mr. Lambert, our boss, handed him a red envelope. I watched my body tense up and freeze.
I know he would do this, fuck me over. He always finds a way to do it.
Hours and hours passed and for some reason, I expected an answer from him. However, one never came, so when I finished my work, I walked over to his desk. He gave me a wolfish look that made my stomach turn.
“Why’d you do it,” I asked, getting close enough so he could hear my rigid breathing.
“Jean, I had to. I mean look at this,” He pointed to his unfinished, incompetent drawing. I felt rage travel throughout my body and come out of my mouth, “I don’t give a shit. You stole my fucking drawing and now you’re going to get the column that I fucking earned!”
As heads turned next to us, he quickly reassured everyone that everything was fine. It wasn’t.
When everyone turned back to their work, he grabbed my arm forcibly, taking us outside the building.
“Jean, you know how things have been for me. I mean, I just got out of the hospital for fucks sake.”
Did he expect sympathy for me?
“That doesn’t give you the right to use my sketch! I worked my ass off for that. How the hell did you even get it?”
As I looked into his emotionless eyes, they began to look everywhere but into mine. “Where did you get it,” I asked, hitting his shoulder.
“You never logged out of your drawing account on my tablet, so I got it from there and showed Mr. Lambert,” He said in frenzied disarray.
“So you went to my drawing account, stole my sketch, showed it to our boss, and stole my opportunity to get the column in Adora Magazine?”
When he couldn’t reply, I turned around and started walking away from him. I turned back around, facing him, then burst out in a frustrated laugh, “Is this because I dumped you?”
“You didn’t dump me, I dumped you.”
I laughed again, “Telling you right now buddy, I definitely dumped you.”
He ignored my comment and said, “Jean, look I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take credit for your design, really. I actually came up there to talk about you, but Mr. Lambert saw the drawing and went into a frenzy about how he loved it. He immediately thought it was my work and so I couldn’t say no. I just couldn’t say it wasn’t mine.”
He comes near me and strokes my cheeks softly. Quickly, he kisses my lips passionately. I pushed away quickly, giving him an angry but also crestfallen look. “You can’t do that. You can’t just steal my work cause you’re mad at a breakup, that by the way was your fault, then kiss me. That’s just not how shit works.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry Jean, I am,” He said, his soft hands still cupping my face. Anyone around could see it; I was giving in to him. I was wrapped around his fingers so tightly, so unknowingly.
“I know it’s just a column, but I earned it,” I said looking into his eyes. He pulled me into a tight, smothering hug.
“I know baby, I know. Just please…let me write the column for this magazine. Baby, I just got released from the hospital. I couldn’t do any work for days. I’ll make it up to you later, I swear. Just please let me take this,” He said softly into my neck.
I nodded slowly, “Okay.”
Ten years later…
“Why’d you do it,” he asks, grabbing my arm forcibly. I brush off his hand quickly and played dumb asking, “Do what?”
“You know what I’m talking about, Jean.”
“20 seconds until you hit the stage, Jean,” the tech guy behind us says, I give him a swift nod.
“Sorry, I don’t have time for this. We’ll talk later okay,” I said, patting his shoulder softly before walking on stage.
After settling down on the couch placed on the stage, I turned to a fashion icon and owner of Adora Magazine, Mae Adora.
“As many of you know, I’m passing my magazine down. I’ve always wanted to give this opportunity to someone who earned it. And we’ve seen over the years that Jean Miller has. Take a moment to look at her work.”
Sketches and pictures showed up on a projector, everyone’s eyes scanning them with awe. A smile appeared on my face as I saw him in the audience. I could see the shock and hurt on his face as he saw his latest work project onto the audience.
“Ms. Miller, all of this is just stunning. What inspired all of this,” Mae Adora asked, giving me a warm smile.
“Fashion has always been a passion of mine. It’s more than clothes, it’s art. I can get inspired by anything really. The smell of fresh coffee, a hairstyle, a breakup, anything,” I said looking at the audience then back to Adora.
“You’re really brilliant, Ms. Miller.”
“Please, you can just call me Jean, Mrs. Adora.”
She smiles brightly and says to the audience, “She’s just so perfect, ugh”
“I actually want to thank you, Mrs. Adora. Ten years ago, you hosted a contest at my then company. Everyone was required to submit sketches of their work and the prize was a column in your magazine. Things didn’t work out for me, but that hurt pushed me to work even harder,” I said, lying through my teeth.
The audience began clapping for me. Everyone’s face was plastered with smiles, except his.
“You really are stunning Jean. I admire your patience and consistency. It has paid off enormously.”
“Thank you so much, Mrs. Adora.”
“Please stand up Jean; I’m honored to give you this.” I stand up slowly as Mrs. Adora walks over to a table and picks up a fancy bouquet.
“My father gave me flowers just like these when I first opened this company up. Thank you, Jean, for doing outstanding work and showing us hard work pays off,” Mrs. Adora says, handing me the bouquet. “Do you have anything to say?”
“Yes, actually. Could my old coworkers please come up on stage?”
I smile warmly at the audience. I watched as every coworker stood up, except him, until Mr. Lambert nudged him quickly to get on stage.
Once everyone was on stage, I turned to them with half truthful tears in my eyes. “You all have helped me get to this point; your love and guidance have been a tremendous help and I’m so grateful for each and every one of you.”
The audience, once again, claps for me loudly. “This concludes this portion of Jean’s welcoming. We’ll be back shortly with a Q&A,” Mrs. Adora says to the audience before the curtain closes, separating everyone on stage and the audience.
I went around shaking my old coworkers' hands, and as I got near him I could feel his anger and sadness. It glowed around him.
After a couple of minutes, only he was left. I walked up to him with a bright smile. He whispered in my ear, “Why?”
“You said you would make it up to me.”
“But how,” He said with a sad look on his face
“It hurts when someone steals your work, doesn’t it. You’ve worked so hard on it haven’t you,” I say while mocking his fallen face.
“Jane, darling, the makeup team is waiting on you,” Mrs. Adora says, coming around to us and placing a hand on my shoulder.
“Oh, goodness. I’ll be there shortly.”
Mrs. Adora flashes a smile and nods before walking away.
“Well, I have to go. Let’s not meet again okay,” I say, patting his shoulder before walking away.
Before I leave the stage, I turn around and face him. I watched as he stood frozen; I could tell he hadn’t processed all that had just happened.
“Oh, and Wyatt….thank you.”