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We Meet Again (pt. 3)

Part 3 of 5: Change

By J. L. GreenPublished about a month ago 9 min read
We Meet Again (pt. 3)
Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

I've been laid up on my couch all weekend with a horrendous cough, crazy high fevers, and feeling like death may be coming for me earlier than Derek had planned.

By 2am on Monday morning when my fever was finally down into the 101's instead of 103's, I knew I couldn't go into work. Not when I'm half-delirious, starving, and dehydrated.

I draft up an email to Derek (cc'ing Cheryl as well) to let him know that I've been ill over the weekend, that I'm planning on seeing a doctor at 8am, and won't be in to work for the day, if not more.

I double checked that I'd hit 'send', and that it went to the correct Derek, before trying to get some rest.

It felt like my eyes have been closed for all of ten seconds before my alarm is buzzing me to get up. I need to get an Uber (I don't trust myself to drive when I've almost passed out walking from the couch to the bathroom several times), get dressed, and go to the appointment.

~~~~

A rip-roaring double ear infection with a side of some nondescript, catch-all name for a common virus wrecking the rest of my body is the cause of my miserable weekend.

The doctor's kind enough to order a prescription for the ear infection, but told me I need to handle the symptoms of the virus because there isn't a medication for it. (Apparently bacteria get antibiotics, viruses get fuck-all).

That means rotating my anti-fever medications (which I've been doing, to little effect), staying hydrated, getting sleep, all the usual at-home remedies.

My Uber said he's having a slow day and agrees to pop by the store where my pharmacy is at no extra cost. It took roughly half an hour to get my medicine and a few other goodies and my Uber had indeed waited for me without charging. (He got a hella good tip).

Back in the safety of my apartment, I take the first dose of antibiotics, curl into a ball on the couch, and try to sleep.

Until my phone buzzes underneath my head. I curse forgetting to turn off my alarms before realizing that it's actually a text from an unknown number. While I'm reluctant to trust it, I figure it could be one of my coworkers wondering where I am.

I open it and freeze, confused. My pulse quickens and I sit up straight, fast enough it make my head swim until the darkness fades from my eyes.

It's a picture of me from when I was at the store. My hair's up in a messy bun, I'm in my comfy pajamas, and I'm in the soup aisle looking ready to keel-over.

Before I can be truly alarmed that some rando has a picture of me for God knows what reason, a text message pops up.

'You want to explain why you're at the store when you called in sick today?'

I stare in confusion as all of my brain cells rub together, frantically trying to make sense of what surely can't be happening. This can't be Derek texting me about where I've been. It can't be. Right?

I type back a quick, 'Who is this?'

Three little dots pop up before I can blink.

'Your Boss.'

It can't be Cherly, because I have her number saved. It can only be...

'Derek?'

'If you can't explain why you're playing hooky, you can expect another write-up. And I'm sure you know what happens if you get another one.'

My blood has stilled, as cold as ice within my veins. Sweat seeps from my palms, and not because of the fever.

This has been his plan; to ruin my job and any future prospects. This is the first and only life I've been allowed to even have a job (I've always been stuck as a house-wife or childless spinster), and he is going to make sure everything burns down in front of me.

I've worked at White Hills Inc. for so long that not putting it down on a resume would leave a large gap that I'd have to explain. But he's my manager, with good recommendations and a stellar degree in business.

Even if he isn't a reference, as my direct manager, they would call him to ask how I am as a worker. And he now has a papertrail of me using company computers for personal use on company time, for being unprofessional with customers, and now "lying" about why I called-in to work.

My hands shake as I type, 'I had to pick up my prescription from the store. I have a doctor's note excusing me for today and tomorrow. I'll bring a copy when I come back to work.'

Those three little hell-dots pop up. I can sense his joy just by the speed of his reply.

'Since you're feeling up to a shopping trip, you should feel up to dropping the note by now.'

Anger flares in my chest while anxiety swarms my stomach.

'I can email you a picture of it.'

'Everly, if you don't bring in the original note, in person, I can only assume you've forged one. It doesn't look good that you were at the store after you called-in sick. So I'll be needing that note by the end of the day.'

I can't drive, not with how I've been. And I don't have the money to Uber there and back; the only reason I shelled out for one at all is because I had to safely get to the appointment. But...he's backing me into a corner.

Tears burn my eyes to the point of blurriness and I furiously wipes them away as I open a group chat with Natalie and Jericho.

'Guys, I normally wouldn't ask, but I'm in a bind. Can one of you come pick me up so I can bring in my doctor's note to Derek?'

Nat: 'That's really specific.'

Jerry: 'Girl, you're sick. Just bring it in when you come back.'

I grunt in frustration and take snapshots of my text conversation with Derek and rapid-fire send them to the chat. There is silence as I lie back on the couch, covering myself up to my ears with a blanket, and trying to calm myself enough to stop crying.

My phone is buzzing before I can wipe away the last of the tears and I dread seeing what Derek has to say now. But it buzzes again. And again.

It's a phone call...from Jericho?

"Hello?" I answer; it's clear from the frog in my throat that I've been an emotional wreck.

"Hey, he can't be serious!" Ah, Natalie is there too.

"He cannot make you come in today," Jericho says.

"What?" I ask.

"If you have a note from your doctor saying you cannot come in to work for however long, he can't override that and demand you come in, even just to drop off a note. And what's with the picture?" Jericho says; it's not often that he gets angry, but there is a sharpness to his tone that makes me feel...good? Vindicated?

"Yeah, what the Hell? Girl, you need to email Cheryl and HR and let them know he's harassing you."

...He's...harassing...me? Is that what this...Hell is called?

I'm in a state of shock for sure.

"What good would that do?" I ask.

The silence from the other end of the line is decidedly judge-y but Natalie is gentle when she speaks again.

"It would make him stop harassing you, for one."

"But it's my word against his." That's how it always is, always has been. Why would someone believe me (a woman) over him (a man)?

"It's literally not," Jericho says. "I mean, these texts are proof enough. Not to mention all the other shit he's done."

I stare at my phone in disbelief. This is...too good to be true.

"Wait, wait, wait. So if I email Cheryl and HR-"

"And add these text messages to the thread," Natalie interrupts.

"Right, right. If I email this to them-"

"And outline everything else he's done. Making you uncomfortable at work, taking the account from you without corroborating Mr. Cole's story," Jericho says.

"Oh, I wouldn't add the write-up for the music though, that one is actually in the handbook," Natalie says.

There's a bit of back and forth between them for a moment.

"Yeah, but that's a stupid rule and no one follows it. Plus, if he's going to enforce that rule, he needs to scrutinize everyone."

"Sure, but I don't know if that one will help her case. Besides, he only combed through her history because her computer crashed."

"No," Jericho sings. "He used that as an excuse to comb through her history. I mean, this is all so obviously targeted against her. And these messages prove it."

I sit for a moment before cautiously saying, "So..." They give hasty apologies for their tangent (it's hardly their first, and I find them entertaining, so it's all good. "If I email the messages to them, tell them he's written me up several times for...asinine reasons, what are they actually going to do about it?"

"Oh baby girl, that's why Terry got fired," Jericho soothes.

Hold. The fuck. Up.

"Wait what?" I ask.

"He was harassing the secretary of the financial branch and after she'd complained a few times, they looked into it. So he got a write-up. Then four other women came forward with similar accusations, and when those turned out to be true, they axed him."

Hold. The fuck. Up!

So a woman complained about a man and he got in trouble for it? He got fired???

My brain cells are working overtime again; I can feel them going haywire at this concept. I realize after a solid minute that I've been staring slack-jawed at my phone as my friends call out to me.

"Oh my God. That is amazing!" I cry out gleefully.

"I mean...I guess," Jericho laughs.

"No, you don't understand." Oh if only I could explain. "I didn't realize that was a thing. I mean, he's a man, you know. He's a man and I'm a woman."

"He's a prick is what he is," Jericho mutters.

"Okay Ev, clearly this is your first time needing to report someone," Natalie says with a soft chuckle. "Here's what you do. Draft the email about the harassment, make sure you mention that he's making it a 'hostile work environment', but address it to me and Jer. This is the tester to make sure it looks good. We'll give you feedback. Once it's perfect, you email it to Cheryl and...I forget her name from HR, but I'll find it. And voila! Reported."

Tears are in my eyes for an entirely different reason; I'm so happy. Ecstatic. Relieved.

"Sounds good." A thought pops into my head; an ugly little dark cloud to rain on my joy. "What do I say to Derek in the meantime?"

"Nothing. And if he keeps messaging you, add that to the email too."

It really is almost too good to be true, but I believe. I see this thread of hope and hold on tight.

"Hey Ev, we have to get back to work. Don't worry, we won't say anything. You just work on that email," Jericho says.

"We love you. Feel better, babe," Natalie says, followed by the puckered sound of an air-kiss.

"Thank you guys so much! I love you too."

I really do.

Despite the fever, cough, and general ickiness of the illnesses, this is the best I've felt in days.

'Dear Cheryl,

I need to report a series of harassment I've faced since Derek started working as my manager. While there have been several incidences before this, today he crossed a line and forced my hand into placing this report. Attached you will find a text conversation where Derek questions why I called-in and demands that I disobey my doctor's orders and go into work to hand him my doctors note.

Prior to this...'

~~~~

It took two hours of back and forth between the three of us, but I got my final draft. Natalie told me to take out anything that can't be proven and anything that makes it sound like I'm questioning myself; things like "I feel", "I believe", etc. Jericho had me cut it down so it's not wordy and gets straight to the point.

Now, I don't know if this will work or if anything official will come from it, but if I'm lucky, Cheryl will talk to Derek and he'll end up leaving me alone. It's a high hope, almost higher than I dare let it be, but I hit send with confidence.

Hopefully, this will bring a positive change to this life.

Series

About the Creator

J. L. Green

I've been writing for fun since I was a preteen and haven’t stopped since. I tend to favor the darker/angsty/thriller type of themes. Here’s to hoping readers enjoy my work, and those that don't find something they do.

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