Cruel Punishment

Down & Out

It was difficult to focus.

No matter how hard he tried, Lee just couldn't concentrate on his work. His mind was consumed with guilt. He kept thinking about the conversation he had earlier with Bryan. The moment replayed over and over again in his mind. What he done to Bryan was wrong, harsh and cruel. He wondered if there was another way to handle the situation. Perhaps there is a better way to reprimand Bryan for his actions. But how can he punish him appropriately if didn't know what he did? Should he even punish him at all?

He didn't understand what happened between Bryan and Anna last night, but the way she cried after the ordeal troubled him. He felt he couldn't just ignore what happened or minimize the event. He knew the problem must be addressed, but how?

He felt conflicted. Lee let out a frustrated sigh as he leaned forward in his chair. He anxiously tapped his pen on a pile of paperwork that rested in front of him on his desk. He blankly stared at them as he mentally picked apart the dilemma he's in.

He had two people in his life that he had wronged; Bryan and Anna. He had betrayed Bryan's trust and failed to maintain a loving relationship with Anna. He desperately wanted to correct his wrong doings and make it up to them somehow. But this current predicament has left him in a situation where he had to pick a side. Should he side with the woman who he thinks he is in love with, or the man whom he would like to consider a friend?

Bryan was the only person Lee believed was trust worthy. He seemed honest and direct but Lee questioned his loyalty. He wondered if Bryan would have stayed at Violet Systems willingly if he had fulfilled his promise. He felt bad about betraying him, but Lee couldn't overlook the possibility that Bryan would disappear shortly after repairing his perpetual generator.

As for Anna… Lee truly felt guilty. He had neglected her and their relationship. Lee didn't notice it at first, it took him a while, but he finally realized that her feelings for him were real. She is not a gold-digger. She really did care for him. Now he desperately wants to prove to her that he felt the same way. However, he still felt a little hesitant. Anna's recent odd behavior had made him suspicious of her.

In the end, it all boiled down to trust. If Lee had to pick a side, logically he would pick the person who is least likely to betray him. However, he didn't want to do that. Lee had hurt and antagonized the two people that were closest to him because he didn't trust them.

He is always suspicious of people. It was a lesson he had learned through his experiences in life. It was difficult for him to rely on others after his own birth parents had abandoned him shortly after he was born. He lost faith in people after being raised in a family full of anger, hate and betrayal. His upbringing has made him guarded and unable to allow people into his life.

He wants to change that mentality. He had to. If he wants to become a better person he had to have more faith in people, especially the ones that are closest to him. He wanted to find a way to resolve the issue peacefully between the three of them, but he didn't know how.

Lee groaned loudly. He felt overwhelmed with stress. He decided to put the topic aside for the time being. Lee rummaged through one of the draws in his desk until he found a small bottle of vodka. He held the bottle in his hand as he turned around in his chair to face the windows. It was dark outside. He should be headed home, but right now he wanted to be left alone. He wasn't ready to face Anna. Not until he discovered an answer to their problem.

Lee stood up from his chair and took a sip of his drink. He slowly walked to a couch at the back of his office. He lay down on the couch and took another sip of vodka. He stared out his large, tinted office windows admiring the view. The lights of nearby buildings and skyscrapers twinkled like stars in the sky. Lee watched them until he fell fast asleep.

Anna kept redialing Bryan's number; hoping that he will answer, but each time it went straight to his voice mail. After a few tries, she reluctantly gave up in her attempts of contacting the man.

Anna stared at her phone worryingly; secretly hoping Bryan will call her back. She wanted to speak with him before it's too late. She didn't know what happened between Bryan and Lee or what 'punishment' he had received, but she was determined to try and resolve the situation. If she had to, she would tell him everything in hopes of gaining his cooperation. However, she wondered if it was already too late. Perhaps Bryan is already in Lee's office telling him everything he knows.

Anna didn't want to accept that possibility. She wanted to remain hopeful that she could turn things around in her favor. However, the possibility was there, and she had to take it into consideration. Anna suddenly thought it would be a good idea to call Lee's secretary, Samantha. If Bryan was already in Lee's office, Samantha would know. Anna quickly grabbed her phone and dialed Lee's office number. It rang a few times before the secretary answered.

"Hello, this is Violet Systems, how can I help you?"


"Miss… Williams?" Samantha answered feeling a little perplexed. "Are you having trouble contacting Mr. Lee? …Do you want me to connect you with him?" She thought it was odd for Anna to call the office number when she had Lee's personal cellphone number.

"No, no that's alright." Anna said nervously. "I actually wanted to speak with you."

"Me!?" Samantha was baffled by what she said. "…Well, um… how can I help you Miss Willams?"

"Well… I wanted to know if… Lee is in a meeting with someone… Like… with Bryan perhaps?" Anna said carefully. She knew her inquiry would raise the secretary's suspicion.

"Bryan? No… well, not now at least." Samantha said feeling puzzled. "He did come by earlier to speak with Lee, but…" she said quietly.

"But, what?" Anna pressed.

"When Bryan left his office he looked terribly angry. Angrier than he normally look." Samantha said worryingly. "Is everything alright Anna?" Her voice was full of concern.

"Oh, please don't worry about me, I'm fine." Anna said reassuringly.

"I know it's none of my business but… I'm just concerned. You know… after what happened last night…"

"Thanks for asking, but I assure you… I'm alright." Anna said sympathetically.

"Well… okay then." Samantha said feeling a little disappointed; Anna's response wasn't convincing. "I know I'm nothing more than just a secretary…. but I hope one day ….we can be friends Miss Willams."

"Well… we can be." Anna said thoughtfully. "There is something else I want to ask you…"

"What is it?"

"It may sound like a strange request..." Anna said hesitantly. "But you must promise not to tell anyone, not even Lee… Can you do that?"

"As your friend, I promise not to say a word." Samantha said happily.

"Good." Anna said simply and smiled. "I wanted to know if you could give me…uh… Bryan's address?" She asked feeling a bit nervous.

She was right, her request was indeed strange, Samantha thought. But somehow she believed it had something to do with what happen last night.

"Um… sure." Samantha said uneasily.

She searched her computer until she found it and recited the information over the phone. Anna wrote it down on a small sheet of paper.

"Thank you Samantha." Anna said happily. "Remember… Do not say a word to Lee."

"No problem. And don't worry, my lips are sealed." Samantha said reassuringly.

Anna thanked her and hung up the phone. She felt a little hopeful. It wasn't too late, she still had time. However, it is still possible that Bryan called Lee and told him the truth.

Anna swiftly tossed her phone on her bed and ran to her closet. She quickly dressed and packed some clothes into a large designer bag; preparing for the worst. After she was finish packing, she quickly put on her fur coat and left. Once outside, she hailed a taxi and told the driver where she wanted to go.

Thanks to traffic, it took Anna roughly an hour to arrive at Bryan's part of town. She was worried. A lot of time had passed since she last heard from him.

It was dark outside. The crisp wintery breeze blew against her face as she exited the cab. Anna shuddered as she zipped up her white, mink fur coat. She pulled the hood of her coat over her head as she took in her surroundings.

She felt uncomfortable. Bryan lived in a very shady part of town. The buildings looked run-down and some were even boarded up and abandoned. There were some very questionable individuals lurking in front of grocery stores and other establishments. She was definitely not in suburbia anymore and felt very out-of-place. She knew she stood out in her fur coat, designer bag and clothes. She even garnered a few stares from the locals.

Anna ignored them even though she felt uneasy. She decided to search around town for Bryan first before going to his apartment. She didn't want to admit it but Anna felt a little hesitant about going to Bryan's apartment… to his personal space. She knew it was a good idea to go there first, but she needed some time to summon up some courage to do so. Anna nervously sighed before before starting her search for the scared man.

Hours passed, Anna visited every store, bar, and even strip-clubs around the neighborhood, but she failed to locate Bryan. She was getting tired and feeling frustrated that she hadn't found the man yet. She looked at her watch and realized that it was after midnight. It was getting too late for a woman of her stature to be roaming around the streets alone. She decided it was time to go to his apartment. She questioned if he was there all along.

Anna was beginning to feel nervous as she walked to her new destination. She wondered how Bryan would greet her when she arrives at his doorstep. She knew he was furious with her, but in all honesty, he had every right to be. She was needlessly rude and disrespectful to him from the very first day he arrived at Violet Systems. However, after spending some time with him and sharing a few conversations together she realized her perception of him was… somewhat wrong. Bryan may be an asshole but there are qualities of him that was actually… decent, she thought.

Anna arrived at his building and pressed the bell for his apartment, but she received no response. She tried a few more time but still nothing. Anna grew worried. She couldn't enter the building unless someone buzzed her in. She tried a few more times but her attempts were unsuccessful.

Anna sighed tiredly; she didn't know what else to do. She couldn't just go back home without knowing what state Lee is in nor did she have enough money for a hotel. Her fingers were getting numb and her fur coat failed to keep her warm. She shivered in the cold.

Anna quickly has gotten lucky. A resident came by and opened the door with their key. She followed closely behind them as they entered the building. Anna took the elevator to the appropriate floor. She slowly and nervously walked towards Bryan's apartment.

She stood in front his door and hesitated for a moment before knocking. No response. She waited a few moments before knocking again. Minutes passed and still nothing.

"I guess he isn't home." She murmured to herself.

Anna let out a frustrated sigh as she leaned against the wall near the door. She slowly slid down the wall until she sat on the floor in the fetal position. She looked at her watch sullenly as she checked the time. It was almost 1 a.m. Anna sighed again. She thought Bryan was being very elusive. He's not at home, he isn't answering his phone, and he was nowhere to be found. However, there was nothing more she could do but to sit and wait for Bryan to arrive. Or at least hope that he will.

An hour had passed before Anna heard footsteps approaching from down the hall. She slowly stood up and looked in the direction the noise was coming from. From what she can gather, it sounded like there was more than one person. Anna continued to look until she saw two forms turned around the corner.

One of them was a woman. From the way the woman was dressed, Anna surmised that she was some kind of stripper or a prostitute. Anna scoffed disdainfully at her appearance. Anna turned her attention to the person next to her. Her eyes widen when she realized it was Bryan. He was wearing his usual clothing; A pair of blue pants and boots with the bandoliers hanging off of them and a green militant looking jacket. The jacket was open, leaving his bare chest and torso exposed to the wintery elements.

However, Anna noticed that there was something odd about him. He had his arm draped around the woman's shoulder and he walked somewhat unsteadily on his feet.

Anna was shocked. Is he… drunk!? She thought disbelievingly.

She took a closer look at Bryan as they slowly approached her. His face was red, his eyes were half-lidded and he had a silly grin plastered on his face. He was definitely intoxicated. Anna stared at him curiously. She had never seen him in this state before. Quite frankly, she was surprised.

She questioned if scared man was really depressed and trying to drink his problems away. Was that even possible? Bryan hated being labeled 'weak' but this behavior is definitely proving that he is. If he was as strong as he proclaimed to be, he wouldn't let this situation get to him. He should have tried his best to overcome it somehow, but instead he decided to bury his problems in alcohol.

Bryan saw her and grinned from ear to ear. He clumsily pulled away from his female companion and walked towards her. The hallway spun about him as he walked. He used the wall for added support.

Bryan chuckled as he stood mere feet in front of her. His body gently swayed side to side as he looked at her.

"Well, well, well… Look who's here." Bryan said playfully and laughed.

Anna looked at him uneasily.

Bryan chuckled again "Look…"

He pointed at Anna and staggered backwards a few steps as if the small gesture had made him lose his balance. He turned his head to look at the woman that stood behind him.

"That's the bitch I was tellin' ya about." Bryan turned to look at Anna again. "…the one that's ruining my fuckin' life!" He said angrily as glared at her murderously.

Anna was nervous. She fearfully backed up against the wall and closed her eyes tightly as Bryan angrily staggered towards her. Bryan slammed one of his hands against the wall; near Anna's head. The sound made her flinch. She wondered if he was going to hurt her.

Moments passed and nothing happened. Anna felt very awkward by his proximity. She could smell the liquor in his breath as he breathed heavily. She cautiously opened her eyes and looked at the drunken man.

Bryan smirked as he lazily stared down at the frightened woman. "S-so what are you doin' here?" Bryan said casually. "Y-you're interested… in continuing where we left off last night? Hmm?" Bryan murmured seductively as he eyed the woman. His voice was low and raspy.

Anna was baffled by his quick changes in mood. First he is giggling like a fool. Then he is suddenly charging at her as if he was about kill her. Now he's calm again and acting like the perverted asshole she knew him to be. Anna was unsure with how to react, but she knew the alcohol was responsible for his weird behavior.

Without moving, Bryan turned his attention to the woman behind him. "Hey! Are you interested in a threesome?"

"Whatever you want hun." The woman said indifferently as she played around with her phone. "But it's gonna cost you extra."

Bryan chuckled as he looked at Anna again. "Ya hear that?... S-she's down with it. So whaddya say?" He slurred.

Anna looked at him angrily.

Bryan's grin widened. "I- I promise to divide my attention… equally between the two of you… I swear!" He put his hand over where his heart should be and raised the other in the air as if he was taking an oath. He laughed and staggered backwards while trying to maintain the gesture.

Bryan would have fallen if it wasn't for Anna. She swiftly grabbed him by his jacket; helping him to regain his balance.

Anna sighed in relief. Even though Bryan was being a jerk, she didn't want to see him crack his skull on the concrete floor. She was willing to overlook his behavior since he wasn't in the right frame of mind. She actually felt guilty. She knew she was somewhat responsible this. Bryan must have gone out drinking excessively as a result of the punishment he had received over what transpired last night.

Anna quietly remembered what happened in the bathroom stall. What Bryan did, hurt her. It may have been cruel but she understood why he did it.

Bryan chuckled as he leaned against the wall. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small bottle of liquor. He opened it and began to guzzle it down. Anna quickly grabbed the bottle from his hand. Bryan was surprised by her action.

"I think you've had enough." Anna said disdainfully as she looked at him.

"Hey! Are we gonna do this or not!?" The other woman interjected impatiently. "I got other fucking places I gotta be."

Ann gave the woman a disgusted look. "So what are you waiting for, you germ bag!?" Anna spat angrily; wanting to chase the woman away. "Go spread your legs elsewhere!"

Her comment made Bryan snicker.

The woman grunted angrily as she glared at Anna. "Fuck you bitch!" The woman shouted before picking up her bag and leaving.

"Hey! Come back!" Bryan called out but the woman ignored him and continued to walk away.

"Aw shit Anna… Y-you fucked up my night." Bryan slurred angrily as he staggered towards the door to his apartment.

"You don't realize it yet, but I did you a favor." She said reassuringly and smiled.

"H-how is not getting me laid… a favor!?" Bryan asked belligerently as he fumbled with his keys.

"You weren't going to get laid either way." Anna giggled. "If you had let that woman into your apartment, I can imagine how angry you would be when you wake up the next morning with your pants still on and your pockets lighter."

Anna smirked as she watched the drunken man unsuccessfully attempted to stick the key into the lock repeatedly. "She was only taking advantage of you… You're an easy target, well, considering how drunk you are right now." She said reasonably. "I highly doubt you are able to stay awake much longer… let alone… perform."

"O-oh really?" Bryan said as he paused to look at her. He gave her a drunken grin. "I guess you know a lot about these t-tricks… since it is your job and all." Bryan said quietly and chuckled as he leaned forward and rested his head against the door. He was beginning to feel incredibly sleepy.

Anna chose to ignore his comment and shook her head disbelievingly. Bryan looked like he was about to pass out at any second. She took the keys from his hand and gently nudged him with her elbow. Bryan stepped away slightly. He turned around and leaned against the wall right next to the door.

Anna opened the door and stepped inside the cold apartment. She turned around and instructed Bryan to follow. Bryan sluggishly pushed away from the wall and turned to enter the apartment. He tripped as he walked pass the door. He bumped into Anna as he fell, taking her down with him.

Anna fell back and hit the wooden floor hard. Bryan landed right on top of her. Anna yelped in pain.

"Get off of me Bryan! I can't breathe!" She yelled as she tried to push him away, but Bryan didn't budge. His body was limp on top of her. He was too close for comfort, Anna thought. She was silently grateful for her fur coat. It provided a barrier between the two of them. "Don't you hear me!?" Anna yelled again but he remained silent. Anna paused to look at him. His eyes were closed and he was snoring.

He's sleeping!? Anna thought to herself as she looked at him disbelievingly.

"Wake up you lunk head! I'm not a damn mattress!" She yelled angrily as she hit him on the back of his head.

Bryan finally stirred. He lifted his head and looked at her blankly before rolling off her. Bryan lay sprawled on his back as he began to snore once more.

Anna stood up and dusted herself off. Her back hurt slightly from the fall. She walked over the door and attempted to close it but the door wouldn't budge. Bryan's legs were preventing that from happening.

Anna let out a frustrated sigh as walked over to Bryan. She grabbed hold of one of his arms and tried her best to pull him further into the apartment. She succeeded after a few tries and was finally able to close the door.

Anna turned and looked around Bryan's apartment. It was very dark. The apartment was very dimly lit by the street lights outside the windows. By the looks of it she could tell it was a studio apartment. Anna saw a floor lamp near a couch. She walked over and turned it on. She stood and looked around the large room.

There was a kitchenette located next to the apartment door. On the other side of the door was an enclosed bathroom. Anna turned around to face the windows. There was a bed and some furniture located on the opposite side of the room. And where she stood, Anna guessed it was supposed to be the 'living room.'

Bryan's place looked clean, but empty. He had very little furnishings and the ones he did have looked tattered and worn. As if he salvaged them from the trash or bought them at a thrift store. Everything looked used and old except for the large flat screen TV that was mounted on the wall near her. Anna thought Bryan's apartment looked very… practical. There was no useless décor such as curtains, rugs or throw pillows. Everything he had served a purpose and was functional.

Anna shivered as she felt a cold wind enter the room. She noticed one of the windows were open. She walked over and closed it. She turned around and looked at Bryan who was still quietly sleeping on the floor.

Anna was relieved. Her ordeal for the night was over. From the look of things, it seemed like Bryan didn't say a word to Lee… At least she hoped so. She still had some time to convince him to tell keep her secret. However, she decided it was time for her to tell him the truth… at least part of it. She hoped it will be enough to keep his mouth shut.

Anna yawned as she looked at her watch. It was already passed 2a.m. She wanted to get some rest. She knew it will not be the best rest ever considering the fact that she is sleeping in Bryan's apartment, but she was going to make the most of it.

Anna felt very cold in the apartment. She wanted something to keep her warm. She walked over to Bryan's bed and pulled the comforter off of it. She saw another one resting on a chair near his bed. Anna picked it up too.

She put one of the comforters on the couch then she walked over to Bryan and covered him with the other of one. Anna watched him as he slept. He looked peaceful and harmless as he snored away on the floor. Anna suddenly began to giggle to herself. She thought it was weird. It seemed like their roles have reversed. Now she was the one taking care and looking after of the drunk.

Anna slowly walked back to one of the couches and sat. She wrapped herself tightly in the comforter. She could smell Bryan's cologne in the fabric. She found it somewhat soothing. She yawned one last time before closing her eyes and falling asleep.

Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. Hopefully it will be a better on as well. She thought to herself.

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