The S Word

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Leave

I had to assure Alexander he could stay in the car as I will talk to Jackson. The man is as nervous as I am. I called my boss this morning, saying that even though it’s a Sunday, I need to talk to him about work.

By the sound of his voice, he knows. Maybe it’s my fear, but he never sounded like that before.

While I am doing this, Alexander will search for my father online. He is going to try and see if he still lives at our old house. My boyfriend thinks it’s a good idea to reach to him as well, to at least try and talk to him. Face my past.

I walk to Jackson’s office, my shoes not making their usual sound as today for the first time since I started working here, I walk past these doors wearing casual clothes. Baggy jeans fall on my legs paired with a comfortable black shirt, yet it makes the right statement. I’m not playing around.

Taking a deep breath, I stop in front of Jackson’s office. His door is open, and when I look inside, he is already at his desk and staring at me. The usual happy person he is today faces me with a severe gaze.

Shit.

“Have a seat, Nicole,” he says, straightening himself on the chair and motioning me to take one in front of him.

Fuck.

I nod and walk closer to him, trying not to show how intimidated I am by the situation. I can’t prove that. No matter how sorry I am, how much I apologize for what happened, I did nothing wrong. The video was leaked; I didn’t post it.

The police were already informed about this first thing this morning. They took my computer to examine everything and try to find the IP address. So I have proof this wasn’t me. That this wasn’t planned, but they also said it would be difficult.

“You have something you want to say to me, I presume,” he starts, and my stomach gets sick.

Jackson and I are more than colleagues; we have talked about life about patients. We laugh together; I can say he is a friend, so seeing him struggling and being so close to me makes me realize that all of this had a lot of side effects.

“Yes, I want to apologize for an email you might have received last Friday. I uh- A video of me being intimate with my boyfriend was sent from my computer to all my contacts by mistake. Well,” I fight with words trying to make sense of everything without seeming I’m discarding the blame. “We were recorded without knowing, and someone sent the video.”

My boss doesn’t move nor speak, keeping his eyes on me the whole time. I can sense my emotions swirling in my stomach as I feel sick and insecure. Something that rarely happens.

“So, I want to apologize to you for that. I guarantee it won’t affect my work; I won’t let it but-”

“I have to stop you right there, Nicole,” Jackson says, and I freeze. My hands turn cold, my heart races, and I feel like I could throw up. “I saw the email, and I closed the video when I realized what was going to happen.”

The turmoil inside my stomach starts to build up as cold sweat form on the back of my head. I’m going to get fired because some immature girl couldn’t accept rejection.

“I’m sorry, Jackson I-”

“I can even deal with that being your friend; you’re not the first person to make a sex tape. However, you work here, and I need this office to be a serious one. You know we have some important clients, and they would not enjoy knowing one of the doctors has a video of her having sex online.”

His brows come together as I see him think. Jackson purses his lips, and I inhale, ready for what’s about to happen, for what he’s about to say. My job is gone, the position I fought to be, the specialty I was embracing, all gone.

“I think it’s best if you go on leave for a few days. A week or two, so I can see how everything goes around here.”

“But my patients-”

“I will be in charge of them during your absence Nicole, but I do need you to be away for a while. There are meetings I need to have to see with the main shareholders if it’s okay for them to have you still around.”

Jackson takes a deep breath leaning forward. His gaze is softer but still firm on me. It’s my boss who is talking and not my friend.

“I’m worried about the image people may have of you from now on. We live in a world where women take the blame harder than men, and I am afraid that if the patients find out, you will be seen as someone they despise.”

I nod my head and let my shoulders slop, knowing the truth in his words. It’s not good for any boss to have an employee of who people may talk about. It would bring the wrong attention to the office, and Jackson doesn’t need that.

“I’m going to try and propose the idea that you are taking the sex therapy consults, and maybe they’ll accept.”

“What if they don’t?”

Jackson sighs, his eyes glance to his hands, and he inhales before speaking.

“Then, I’m sorry, Nicole.”

He is right, and I know it. The shareholders are the ones who invest their money in the office, and money is power. I am replaceable; they are not. I was the one stupid enough to be caught having sex with my boyfriend, so I must face the consequences.

When the door of the building closes behind me, I suck in the tears on the verge of falling. My happiness was too much for someone to deal with, and this is what I deserve now.

To hurt others and lose things I love because someone else got hurt by me.

At this point, I have analyzed the girl without even knowing her. She has a sick mind, twisted to the point where only herself matters, and she won’t stop until she has her way.

That’s why she hurt me; I was stopping her from having Alexander.

It takes me more than a couple of minutes to arrive at the smaller bakery next to my job. Or former job, I’m not sure at this point. Passing by the window, I wonder what happened to the determinate woman who would stop at nothing to have her way.

She is too hurt or nervous right now to appear.

This isn’t me; I never go down without a fight. So, staring at my reflection, I take a deep breath and let my feet hurriedly take me inside the bakery.

Alexander sits there, alone at a corner shadowed from everyone. He lifts his head from the tablet in his hands when I approach; his eyes follow me, worried and hopeful when noticing I’m not smiling. But how can I smile when we are still cleaning this mess?

“How did it go?” He asks, quirking a brow when a small forced smile spreads across my face.

“I’m on leave.”

I grab the menu and start to check on the sweets available to eat. The idea that came at me after leaving the office runs in my hand over and over again.

“And you’re ok with that?”

My eyes lift to him, and I dismiss the menu reaching for his hand on top of the table.

“No, but I had an idea,” he adjusts on his seat as I lean on the table. “I’m going to apologize to everyone I can in person, and then I’m going to reach for her.”

“Nicole-”

“No, Alex, she will listen to me,” I state firmly. “Even if she doesn’t want to, I will speak my mind once and for all, I’m done hiding.”

“If she comes after you I-”

My fingers lace around his as I let my thumb caress his skin with soft movements. When my eyes find him across the table, a small yet beautiful smile appears on his lips, and hope fills me.

“So, how are we going to do this?” He asks.

My phone rings, and I glance seeing Justin’s face on the screen. I still need to talk to him; his name was on the email list she sent the videos to. Of course, it was, why wouldn’t she send it to the one person who is strong enough to punch my boyfriend?

I curse under my breath and turn the device around, not ready to face him yet. That conversation won’t be pleasant. One problem at the time and this one has to be handled carefully.

“I’m not sure yet,” I reply, shrugging and biting down on my lip. “But, I won’t hide anymore Alex.”

He nods understanding I won’t hide, I won’t go down without a fight. It’s not me. Alexander then takes a deep breath, he picks up his tablet, and I remind myself of what he was doing while I was with Jackson.

“Are you ready?” He asks, and I nod, pulling my bottom lip with my teeth.

Alexander stands from his seat and slides next to me on the booth. His hand circles around my waist, pulling me closer to him, letting his warmth calm me before turning the tablet to me, and a face I haven’t seen in years appears.

“I found him.”

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