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Bob had that look on his face again. His nose crinkled in a distinct expression of disgust. Disgusted with himself, perhaps. Or more accurately, disgusted with me.

“Carol, the printer is out of paper again,” Bob said. His voice was quiet, but his anger was as clear as the coming storm.

I watched from across the room, one eye peeking from behind my computer. Prepared to snatch it towards the screen should he feel my nosy gaze and look my way. Carol, his secretary, and his wife, never uttered a word. She continued tapping away on the keyboard as if he hadn’t spoken.

Yep. This spat was definitely not about the printer.

Maybe it had something to do with that email Bob sent me. The latest of many, actually. The one asking me to go with him to dinner, yet again, and after dinner we could visit a nice hotel. There was also that last sentence. The one implying that the status of my employment relied on the response.

I decided to not respond at all.

Instead, I went back to work. Checked the rest of my messages, and forwarded some important ones to my coworkers. One of them was Carol. I added Janice’s email, the head of HR. It wasn’t until I pressed send that I realized I had forwarded the wrong email. Instead of the quarterly production reports, I sent the invitation to a job-dependent dinner date Bob had sent. Silly me. I make the clumsiest mistakes.

At least that’s what I told Bob when he called me into his office fifteen minutes later. He had the same look that he was wearing now. Eyes squinted. Face red. Nose crinkled. Lips tensed in a snarl.

Bob leaned down on the table on his knuckles, his voice raised this time. “Carol!”

The woman in question swirled in the chair so violently that I thought she would fall out of her seat. She shrieked, “What do you want from me, Robert!”

I stood, evidence in hand. HR had scheduled an appointment with me, and if I waited too long, I’d be late. Down the hall, I could hear the sounds of her shouting. Being too far away, I couldn’t understand what was being said, even if I strained to hear. Although Bob deserved this, I hated to be the cause of a lover’s quarrel.

The walk to HR felt longer than it was. I was swerving between guilt and triumph. Was it worth it? I could become the reason Bob loses everything. Then again, I didn’t do anything wrong, did I? I stood up for myself. He wrote those emails. Even after I told him, ‘No,’ and, ‘Stop trying.”’

In the meeting, I gave Janice every inappropriate email Bob sent me. I answered questions and told her my side of the story. I was told there would be an investigation, as was fair.

Upon returning to my seat, I couldn’t help but notice that Bob was gone. He wasn’t even in his office. A small crowd surrounded Carol’s desk. There were shoulder pats, tissues handed, and words of comfort whispered.

Carol looked up as I entered the room. The scowls sent my way threw me off guard. I could understand it from Carol, I suppose. Bob was her husband, and I was interfering with their lives something awful.

But the crowd gathered around her was also scowling at me. I couldn’t believe it.

Assuming that they hadn’t heard the whole story, I returned to my desk, waiting for the office gossip to bark up my tree. Just as expected, after the crowd dispersed from Carol’s desk, Richard sauntered over.

“Hi, Rebecca. Heard you got into some trouble?” Richard said. That was the one and only thing I liked about the guy. He always got straight to the point.

Annoyance crept up and almost leaped from my mouth in the form of a, ‘Are you freakin’ kidding me?!’ But my calm prevailed. I struggled for words to say. HR had asked me not to discuss the matter with anyone. Unless someone else was at risk of harassment or assault.

“Well…” I hesitated, “Well, someone sent me numerous emails asking for something inappropriate and implied that could lose my job should I decline the request.”

Richard’s frowned, the worry lines making him look older than he was, “Oh.” He said . He seemed genuinely surprised.


“I just…heard something different.” He said. “Thought you were the one sending inappropriate emails.”

I snorted, “No, I have all the emails to prove it.”

“Wow,” Richard said. “Sorry about that, Becca.”

I shook my head, “No need for you to be sorry. You didn’t send the emails.”

We small-talked for a bit before he walked away. His gait was more determined now that he had fresh gossip. An hour passed, and the harsh looks I had been getting softened .

A weird Monday, sure. A terrible start to the week. But nothing compared to the week after. HR requested a visit and I went enthusiastically, assuming it had something to do with my harassment case.

It did alright. Janice informed me the investigation was over, and no evidence of Mister Robert Dawson harassing me was found. To top it off, oh so beautifully, I was being let go for discussing the details of the harassment case.

I stared at Janice as if she was mentioning the weather, too shocked to feel anything, any emotion. It was like my soul had to step away from my body to process the news. To her credit, Janice gave me the time I needed. She even had the decency to look guilty.

After many moments of my casual gaze, she broke.

“Look, I know it’s unfair,” she said in a hushed tone. “But Mister Dawson has friends in high places. But don’t worry. When you’re looking for a new job, I’ll give you an excellent reference.”

“Oh, wonderful!” I exclaimed. I was aiming for genuine, but it came out as sarcastic as I felt. All Janice did was cringe. I thought I had more to say, but maybe my soul was still taking a walk. Or perhaps I realized it wasn’t entirely her fault. Bob did have friends in high places, and she was being toyed with as I had been.

Standing with as much dignity as I could muster, I said, “Well, I suppose I better gather my things.”

A sheepish look settled on Janice’s round, aged face. “We took the liberty of cleaning your desk. Your things are in the corner.” She said as she slid the letter of termination across the table.

My soul tapped me on the shoulder, informing me that anger was starting to bubble up. But, being overcome with the indignity of it all, I kept that anger in check. At least for now. There was no way I was going to grab my things and shamefully shuffle out of this building.

I turned around and gave the boxes in the corner a cursory look over. “Oh, I don’t see my…um, stuffed bunny. My grandmother gave it to me, so it means something.” My voice trailed off towards the end of the lie as I was already heading out of the room.

I sped down the hall, ignoring Janice calling my name. Entering the work area, I saw Bob standing at the door to his office. A charming smile, and a sly wink, as he chatted up a woman I didn’t recognize. She was probably my replacement.

Bob had been out of the office during the week of investigation. Seeing his face again, especially so chipper and unharmed, made the anger in me froth and simmer.

When Bob saw me thundering into the room, his smile dropped. My ex-coworkers went silent when they saw me. They concentrated on their screens, pretending to work. I didn’t even know what I wanted to say. I stood there, glaring at his ugly face.

Bob seemed startled, but then he smiled again. Victorious. “I see you’ve heard. Goodbye, Rebecca.”

That bastard.

I guess my soul decided to rejoin my body at that exact moment. I don’t remember grabbing the flower pot that was on the end table beside me. But when I saw it hurling through the air, I knew I had thrown it.

If Bob had moved a fraction slower, it would have hit him. Somewhere deep in my soul, I was grateful it hadn’t. I would have been facing charges if it had. For now, when the ceramic pot crashed and shattered against the wall, pieces falling to the floor, I was enraged at my lousy aim.

The crowd stopped pretending to work. They stood at their desk, gasping and whispering surprise. My replacement had jumped back and kept backing away as if she thought I was there for her.

“Fuck you!” I yelled. I don’t know if I was yelling at Bob or everyone in the room. I turned to leave, shoving Janice out of my way as I walked down the hall.

I could probably kiss that “excellent reference” goodbye, but it didn’t matter. This wasn’t over. Armed with the emails Bob had sent me, the letter of termination, and the constitutional right to inform the press, I was ready for battle.

They had declared war. But I was going to win it.