CW: sexual harassment
The tension that morning was palpable. It was in the air, hanging overhead like the summer sun; unrelenting and angry and pushing you forward no matter how lazily you wanted to stroll. It demanded movement, and yet, that movement made you dizzy.
That’s how it felt waking up. Gasping for air, sticky with sweat. Needed to move.
The cold shower offered the briefest relief, but I was hot by the time I hiked up my work skirt.
The cold coffee just made my insides burn with anxiety, stomach jumbling with the power bar I nibbled at with lackluster.
The red lipstick I applied. Searing. I inhaled through my nose and made my mouth into an ‘O’, exhaling slowly. I could do this.
In thirty minutes, my boss would be asked to leave the office. Permanently.
It would be because of me.
I stared at the file folder on my desk.
There were fourteen other girls with a story like mine. I had statements, photos, scanned images of Facebook messages and text conversations. I had stories so filthy I’d only read them once. I had my own I could remember. Vividly.
My eyes flickered over to my bare closet, only a few white button-ups remained. I’d had to get rid of all my clothes. Clothes that had been ripped open, clothes that had slithered off my body and pooled to the ground. I burned them in the backyard the night prior, my favorite blue panties shrinking in the flames. It irked me.
You said it would end badly, right from the start, but I bet you weren’t expecting this.
You weren’t expecting to fall in love with me.
I drove to work with the radio off. Nothing but my thoughts keeping me company.
How many people had you steamrolled over to get where you were? How much money had you made throughout the years? None of it spent on your employees, none of it spent on bettering the community, all of it funneled into stocks and property around the world.
I thought back on those luxuries, my body screaming not to go through with it.
The Apache Mesa Ranch in New Mexico with six bedrooms and inground pool where we spent five lost days never leaving the property, never wearing more than bathing suits; the seven-bedroom Park Avenue penthouse with it’s own gym and library where we spent more time pressing each other against the glass walls than in the bed; my favorite was the four-bedroom mansion in Kodiak, Alaska with it’s unobstructed ocean and mountain views and gourmet kitchen. Two heavenly weeks we were there, in front of the fireplace on an animal-fur rug, inside the steamy shower the size of my apartment, on top of the kitchen counter on the quartz countertops, bowls and utensils pushed to the ground.
All of it sparkly, glimmering back at you in the wide eyes of all those girls.
It had worked on me too, for a while -- I needed it to be believable after all. I won’t lie, the sex was phenomenal. Unexpectedly so. I had so much pent up frustration inside me when I walked into your office that first time and you saw it right away. I never knew it was there. I had no walls to break down, I let you right in. Invited the vampire into my life, my bed; you had me around your finger, pulsing, begging for your approval, amongst other things.
It was exhilarating. It was dangerous. Wrong.
I knew the stories; I’d heard them from the moment I was hired. Whispers in the break room, looks exchanged near the good printer, a blushing intern rushing from your office.
Your house, the main house, was a castle. It sat on sixty-seven acres and was built in 1928. The staff of twelve was nice enough, but it was the suffocating kind, fake, sugary-sweet, their eyes were like a doll’s, flaccid and glass-like. The house was grand, with vaulted ceilings and entire walls of windows, but you had your taste implemented – minimalist furniture, complimenting colors, the latest technology. I felt dirty in your Charlotte Thomas bed sheets, priced at $2400 -- I had looked it up on my phone when you were asleep. Spitting toothpaste in your marble bathroom sink felt like a crime. You kept asking me to play tennis on your private court, or go horseback riding but I couldn’t, had never done either. I felt so small and fragile in comparison, so basic and insignificant. Your driver, Scott, seemed to like me, which translated to: he stared at my legs a lot and tried to make small talk. I figured I was already behaving like a degenerate and as a thank you I left a pair of panties in his car.
They were never returned.
Scott was a good man, skin around his eyes and mouth crinkled with laughter, body strong and muscular. He was nice eye candy during the rides to and from my apartment.
He always spoke very softly, extremely kind, but I knew he was trying to figure me out. And one day he decided that I was good enough, smart enough.
He’s the one who told me.
There’s a way for this to stop. If you want it to.
He must’ve noticed my shaking hands, the way I’d fidget with my hair. Once I made him come upstairs to my apartment and help me pick out something to wear.
He saw how it was eating me alive.
You were devouring me, everything I was, morsel by morsel, and you did it with a smile and the perfect wine pairing. I almost lost myself. I almost let you take me. Part of me, and it wasn’t small, wanted to succumb, to live with knowing I was taking the coward’s way out, to have anything at my fingertips, and you waiting in my bed.
It killed me, that last night we spent together. You didn’t know. It was vicious, savage, carnal.
I’d look you in the eye today while knowing what your back looked like, all scratched and raw, whilst feeling the deep bites and imprints on my thighs. I’d be wincing all day at my desk.
It was almost enough to make me have myself before I came into the office. But I couldn’t muss my skirt, and I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to take it off. I would have to wait.
I had a thing about waiting.
You called me into your office right away. When I shut the door behind me, your hands were on my waist instantly, pulling my back against you.
Then a mouth next to my ear, whispering quick and low. “I’ve booked us for two weeks. Mexico. Margaritas. Dancing. Sailing. If you think this weather is making you hot now, just wait. I’ll brand you as mine along the beaches of Sayulita.”
My lower back broke out in a sweat as I pictured it. I bit my lip and looked over my shoulder at you. “It’s too much, Camilla.” I told her, my tone begging for understanding.
She waved a hand dismissively. “Nonsense. I know you want to. You agreed last night.” She smirked; eyes devious.
“Those were unfair circumstances.” I sputtered, flushing but standing straight.
“There was nothing fair about what you had on under that pantsuit.” She reached out and wrapped her hands around me, drawing my close. “Did you do as I asked?” Camilla hissed.
I was shaking. I could feel it. Slowly, I moved out of her arms and stood with a widened stance.
Your hand went to the edge of the skirt I was wearing and moved up, up, up until you touched my bare flesh.
I don’t want you wearing underwear tomorrow.
Camilla! I can’t do that!
You will, my darling. Do it for me. Be good for me.
I couldn’t help it. My head tilted back; my mouth opened. Even in your last moments, even though I had won, I couldn’t help but doing what you requested.
“Say yes.” You begged, touching me softly, waiting for me to oblige. Then you’d give me what I needed.
My mouth formed around the word. I was so close to giving you everything. Giving you me.
You made the mistake, I thought. You fell in love.
Scott had told me, back then in the car; she’s taking it all. Camilla will drown this company and everyone with it, and she’ll start over again somewhere else.
I was frozen, unmoving, eyes wide. He kept driving in circles around my block as he talked, telling me that I could drown you. Take everything away from you. Scott had connections and I would be taken care of. I believed him. He’d given me copies of everything. All the proof I needed. Embezzlement, fraud, sexual harassment, stories damning your character and explaining your wealth. It went back years, all the way to college where you blackmailed more than one teacher to get the grades you needed.
I cried for hours, told you I was sick. You sent over your personal chef to make me soup.
I almost said yes in your office, almost unbuttoned my blouse and locked your door, but the knock stopped us both, frozen in each other’s arms like some sort of renaissance painting; The Betrayal of Women.
The men outside, the police, they ordered your immediate surrender. It was the first time I saw you look small. It was not the first time I’d seen your mouth drop open in shock. I’d made sure of that.
You looked at me, and without exchanging a word, I knew you knew. Your eyes burned. I didn’t move. But slowly, I started smiling.
I was expecting tears. Or shouting. I didn’t expect for you to smile back.