It’s nine pm when Mona finally gets off work. She stands outside, digging through her purse as she tries to find her phone. “I wonder if he’s on his way, I don’t want to wait out here for too long.”
What am I doing? Going to dinner with him, he’s already seen all the proof he needs. Now he knows for sure that he was right with his assumption on what was going on. He knows I’m another victim, another pawn in his case against my boss.
Do I want to give my boss up, yet? I haven’t done what I needed to. If I can just wait another month, get things settled. Make the ties I need to make, connections and familiarity with specific politicians. I just need that one, that specific person... If I can get on his campaign team, make it into his circle... The rival of my boss is exactly who I want to work with. Could I do that, even as a whistleblower? Could I make it?
A black car pulls up in front of her, the passenger window opening as Mr. Moon leans into view. “Good evening, Ms. Moore.” His black hair is gelled to the side, some strands falling into his eyes. A blush forms on her cheeks as she thinks about what her boss told her to do.
Not going to happen, she thinks to herself as she smiles at him politely. We’re just going to have dinner. I’m going to explain to him why I can’t do anything. It’ll be innocent. “Good evening, Mr. Moon.”
He puts the car into park and, much to Mona’s surprise, gets out of the car and starts walking over to her. He’s wearing a light blue shirt and blue business pants fitted nicely to his body, she can’t help but admire his height and build as he comes closer.
“What are you doing?” She asks softly, not really wanting an answer, more so talking in order to break the silence. A half attempt at distracting and comforting herself.
“I’m getting the door,” he says, smiling a toothed smile at her as he opens the passenger door. “It is polite to get the door for a guest.”
She looks at him carefully. For a guest, not using the woman excuse. Adding a professional distance between us; noted. “Thank you, Mr. Moon. I appreciate the gesture.” She walks past him, smelling the woodsy smell of his cologne as she passes, sitting into the car and tucking her purse under her knees. This is formal; professional. This is not a date, this is nothing of the sort.
After returning to his seat in the car, they take off. It’s quiet for a while in the car as the colourful city lights illuminate the inside of the car. Strips of blues and yellows passing over their faces as street lamps and advertisement boards move past. She keeps her eyes pointed outside the window, but periodically she has the urge to look at him.
I want you to sleep with him, her boss’s voice resonates in her ears. How absurd, how disgusting. She won’t, she can’t do it. Even if she wasn’t in a relationship, she could never do something like that just because she was ordered to. And she doesn’t want to use him like that, this is someone wanting to help me, how could I even humour the idea of betraying him?
But the smell of his cologne is so nice, his presence is comforting. And his hands when they held mine... She shakes her head, wrapping her arms over her stomach, rubbing the goose bumps on her bare skin. He notices and looks over, his eyes wandering over her attire.
“Are you cold?” He asks, concern wedged in his tone, not even trying to hide it. “Here.” He leans back, his arm reaching into his backseat and retrieving a tan trench coat. “Put this on yourself, I’ll turn the air conditioner down as well.”
She timidly takes the jacket from him, watching him immediately go to turn the heat up in the car. “Thank you, you don’t have to take such care of me.” She lays the coat onto her lap, putting her arms through the arm holes and pulling it up to her shoulders. Despite knowing that she looks strange wearing the coat backwards, she doesn’t really care all too much.
“Why not? It’s only polite to. You don’t need to be unnecessarily uncomfortable, there is no point to it. If I can make the environment better then I will. Never feel shy to ask me for something.” He looks ahead, driving smoothly through the minimal highway traffic. It’s late enough at night now that there are not many drivers out.
“If I can ask you anything... Is that anything truly, or just for things I need?”
“Is there something you want to ask? You may ask anything,” he looks over at her briefly, his eyes curious and attentive.
“Why did you actually come to the office today? I doubt you came just to bring me your phone number. I easily could have called your office any time and gotten it.” She watches him, looking for a change in expression or any indication of something.
“I knew something would happen.” He says simply.
“What?” She turns her body more towards him, holding the coat more against her as the smell of his cologne and the warmth of the inside comfort her.
“I saw the news and expected him to be mad due to everything going on. Your boss has a quick temper, and I’ve heard from past secretaries that he tends to let his frustrations out on whoever is closest. I was...” he hesitates, looking over at her. Their eyes meet and he sighs. “I was really worried about you. I knew he would do something, so I wanted to show up to try to get in between it or maybe help you avoid it. It seems I got there too late, though. He had already let it out on you.”
She nods, looking down. “Thank you for worrying.” That’s all she says, wanting to end the discussion there. There is nothing more that she wants to say right now in regards to it.
They drove in silence the rest of the time, finally arriving at the restaurant and getting their table. It’s a small Italian, nontraditional place with all wood furnishings and plants coating the ceiling and all corners. She looks down at the menu, internally debating between carbonara or pesto. Pesto may leave basil in my teeth, but it tastes so good...
Mr. Moon watches her from over his menu, his eyes hovering over every inch of her face as she stares intently at her food choices. She was acting strangely for the entirety
of the car ride, what is going on in her head?
He places his menu down, resting his arms on the table as he leans closer, ” do you know what you’d like? I’m buying so get whatever you want.”
Her eyes make contact with his, then flit back down at the book in front of her. “I can pay for myself, thank you though.”
“Then at least let me buy us a wine. Which one is your favorite?”
“Any kind of Merlot is fine.” Pesto it is then.
“I hope you don’t mind, I won’t drink much. I’m not much of a drinker.” He looks down as he says this, rolling his shoulders a little before looking back up scanning the room for the waitress.
“It’s not a problem, we don’t have to order it if you’re not going to drink,” well, kind of weird to order alcohol when you don’t drink it...
“I’ll drink some, just not a lot.” He leans to the side, looking past Mona to the waitress behind her. He gives the woman a smile and a wave, signaling to her that they’re ready to order.
He’s stranger than I initially thought, but it’s endearing, she catches herself smiling and watching him. I wonder how many freckles he has? I wonder how long they would take to count? Snap out of it, she takes a deep breath right as the waitress walks up.
The night is pretty relaxed. They talk about mundane things like changes in the community and their political beliefs. Usually Mona would feel uncomfortable discussing things like this, but with each word, each topic, she finds herself pleasantly surprised by their similarities. How can we be so much alike with our morals and beliefs? Taking another sip of wine she feels it warm her belly, the 2 glasses she’s already had mixing with her finished pesto.
He wasn’t kidding, he hasn’t even finished half of his first glass, she notes, leaning her cheek on her hand, looking at him with weighted eyelids. He really is a pretty man... She raises her glass for another sip of her wine and he raises an eyebrow at her.
“Maybe you should stop there, you look to be getting tipsy.” She’s been staring at me for five minutes, not saying anything. Maybe wine was a bad idea...
“Mm, I’m fine! I can hold my drinks pretty well...” She smiles happily at him, but he isn’t convinced. She lifts her cup for another drink and he puts his hand out towards her. He does it as a gentle gesture, his eyes holding hers and she stops.
“What?” She asks, tilting her head confused as he softy takes the cup from her hand. His fingers brush hers as he does, causing a blush to rise on her cheeks. “What are you doing?”
“Excuse me,” he says, his voice low and hesitant as he brings her cup to his lips, drinking the remaining wine in one go. Her eyes are wide as she watches him, butterflies building in her stomach at what he just did.
Why was that so hot?
“I’m sorry, should I order us some water? Coffee?” She blinks a few times, still surprised by his display.
“Coffee,” she responds. He places her cup back down and smiles at her. “Will do.”
After he places the drink order he looks at her, thoughts heavy in his grey eyes, “Mona, can I ask you something?”
“Depends on what you want to ask,” she puts her arms on the table, leaning towards him. He keeps his eyes to hers, trying hard to not look down at her blouse. A button has popped free, showing more than either of them expected it to. He holds her eyes and mimics her body language, leaning towards her in the same way.
“What happened after I left your office today?”
Cold, she sucks in a breath.
That’s how my blood feels- cold. “Uh...”
“You can tell me,” he says near whisper, his words soft and silky. She just wants to wrap herself up in his voice, soft velvet rubbing against her skin.
What’s going on with me? Should I just tell him? She runs a hand through her hair as she suddenly sits back in her chair. I should just tell him, be transparent. But how much should I tell him? “How much should I say?” The words leave her mouth before she can realize it, her attention becoming fixated on a small potted flower in the middle of the table.
The rose in the pot is starting to wither, feels like me just about now.
“Say however much you want to say,” he says, the thought entering her head as a suggestion, one worth pondering.
“I just don’t understand why he thinks he can order me to do those things...” Her voice is low now, soft and hurt. An expression crosses her face that he hasn’t seen from her, yet. Even when seeing her cry in front of him earlier in the day. “Who can so casually threaten someone to do that?”
“What did he threaten you to do?” He leans closer, his eyes flitting all over her face.
His eyebrows raise in surprise as her words catch him off guard, “I’m sorry, what?”
“He told me to sleep with you,” she puts her head in her palms. “He told me he would fire me if I didn’t, he wants to blackmail you into working for him by using me. Now I have all these weird thoughts in my head and I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it...”
“Is this common for him to do? To order you to do sexual things?”
“No, this is the first time. He usually just bea-” She stops mid sentence, looking up at him and frowning. “No, I know what you’re doing. I don’t want to talk about this.” Is he tricking me? Getting me emotional enough to tell him everything? I have to stop here, this is where I draw the line. I can’t do this, yet.
“I’m not doing anything, I’m just asking-” He stays calm, tone holding a weight to it that she finds comforting, but now she’s too worked up for it to have any effect.
“You’re trying to get more information out of me, you’re trying to use me for your article. You don’t actually care, you just want more proof. No, no I can’t help you. Do you have any idea what could happen to me if I go through with this? If I help you?” Her tone gradually raises with every word, panicking starting to seep into her chest as her words start to effect herself.
I have too much to lose from this.
“Mona, calm down. That’s not-” He puts his hand out to her and she moves away, standing up so suddenly the chair nearly knocks down behind her.
“I’m leaving. I’m done here.” She grabs her purse, swiftly pulling a sixty from her purse and slamming it on the table. “Good evening!”
“Ms. Moore!” She rushes out of the restaurant, not wanting to turn around as her heels click against the floor. She can hear the blood rushing through her ears as she walks out into the warm night.
I can’t believe this, I can’t believe him.
She walks down the street a little bit, looking for a cab but there’s no cars out. “What am I going to do?” She asks herself, tears threatening her eyes. What am I going to do about anything? My job? My pride? My life?
Slamming her back against the wall of a nearby store she slides down the rough brick, groaning as she does. What will I do? She pulls her legs up to her chest, sitting in fetal position as she rests her forehead on her knees. I think I drank too much.
“Are you planning on sleeping there?”
“Go away,” her voice comes out harsher than she intended, but she feels too tired to care. Why does he always come back, go away... He doesn’t leave physically or in my thoughts...
“Listen to me, you don’t have to answer me and you don’t have to believe me. But please, just listen to me.” His voice sounds desperate and concerned, begging her to give him this one chance to explain himself. She stays silent in response, letting him continue.
“I’m not just using you. I want to help you. I do care, about you, about all the victims. I want to get this man impeached, arrested, locked up. I want justice for everyone that he’s hurt throughout his time in all the offices that he’s had. I didn’t mean to press you, and I’m sorry that you did. But if you’re afraid of being in danger, I will protect you-”
“I’m not afraid of being in danger!” She yells, looking up at him with her eyes full of anger and frustration. “I can take what he gives me, I can fight through the beatings and the mistreatment. I’m not afraid of that at all.”
He stares at her in shock, taken aback by her words.
“I’m not afraid of him... I’m afraid of losing my career. So many years at law school, so many years wanting to pull my hair out as I spent my evenings at coffee shops and study halls instead of having fun and living. Then months of working under a cruel, hateful man that would rather punish the world than accept the fact that he is incompetent as a leader. All my time, all my hard work. I don’t want to lose it all just to save my pride. Just to save myself.” Tears start to fall down her cheeks, staining them through her make up.“I have to finish what I started with this job. I need to secure myself, I have to. So if you truly think you can...” She looks him in the eyes, her hazel having turned a bright green with her tears. “How can you protect me from losing everything?”