SOPHIA, IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
“When you reminded me of the fact that you’d be working for me, I took it as a rejection – whether you meant it as one or not,” he finally admits. “I took it personally and acted like an adolescent asshole, so for that, I’m sorry. I should have heard you out instead of shutting down like I did and then ignoring and avoiding you afterwards.” Hearing him confess that he misread the situation and blew everything out of proportion – in essence, everything going to shit is all his fault, takes a huge weight off of my shoulders I didn’t realize I was carrying. The embarrassment and shame after what happened with Jeremy has been following my every step and when I added that to Hayes’ rejection… I knew I couldn’t stay working there.
The Matthews Corporation – for me – had become the ultimate hostile work environment.
I nod and inhale deeply, wondering how to respond. Before I get the chance, Hayes holds up his hand to stop me.
“I am so sorry, Sophia, for firstly – assuming the worst of you with Jeremy and secondly, not coming to your aid,” his words are gentle and bring tears to my eyes. While I never wanted or needed Hayes to play the part of my hero, I did need him to trust me and he never did. He saw what he thought he saw and that was all there was to it, he didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt for even a moment. I’m only giving him the benefit of the doubt now because we scarcely had a ‘relationship’ at the time – but I did think we had a friendship.
A friend would have been there for me, defended me and at the very least made sure everything was okay. Hayes did none of those things and had the audacity to presume I would seek a relationship with him while seeing someone else behind his back. In a sense, Hayes let me down and he betrayed my trust – I’m not sure why he’s bothering now. It would seem to me, given how quick he was to go to such a dark place, that anything with me wouldn’t be worth his while.
I don’t say anything for a few minutes while I sit quietly and study him, trying to determine his sincerity. The fact that he came all of this way has to mean something, right? I can’t imagine what – friendship and romance are off the table – clearly, so what is left?
Oh shit, he’s worried I’m going to sue for sexual harassment.
Un. Be. Liev. A. Ble.
“You’re off the hook, Mr. Matthews. If you need to hear all is forgiven then fine, we’re good and you have nothing to worry about,” I reassure him. The last thing I want to do is dredge everything up in a courtroom because I decided to sue the company for a settlement – not for me. I don’t judge those who do – I’m simply not strong enough to do it and in my case, I don’t fault the company. I know who to blame, I know who’s at fault and his name is Jeremy. No, all I can do is suffer silently and hope that someday Jeremy will be held accountable and that it happens before he truly hurts someone. The fact that Mr. Matthews believes that I didn’t reciprocate Jeremy’s advances is a good start and I hope it means they’ll be taking a second look at Jeremy.
“I don’t need to hear I’m forgiven, Sophia. I need to know you mean it,” he tells me and I’m unable to resist rolling my eyes. Seeing this, he scowls at me. “Sophia, I—”
“Mr. Matthews, while I’m surprised you came all of this way yourself, you can go home now knowing I’m not going to sue your company. In fact, after today you’ll never have to hear my name again,” I cut him off and reassure him, annoyed with how things have turned. Why am I comforting him all of a sudden? Quite sure he’s the screwup here.
“You think I’m worried about a lawsuit?” He asks, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline. He shakes his head, his facial expression one of frustration. “Sophia, that isn’t why I came here,” he says calmly, completely contrary to the anger building in me.
Curious, I wait for more as he inhales deeply before looking into my eyes. His next words take me by surprise, they’re so unexpected.
“Sophia, I came here for you.”
Confessing my feelings to the woman I care for while trying to not vomit is not the ideal situation, but I’m making the best of it. I don’t think Sophia expected to hear that from me going by the look on her face which again, isn’t reassuring.
“What are you saying, Mr. Matthews? I’m never going to work for you again – I have a new job,” she tells me, clearly confused by my intentions. I want desperately to touch her, even something as simple as hold her hand but I don’t – I keep my hands to myself. After the Jeremy incident I’ve become more aware of where my hands go throughout the day, and where they don’t belong uninvited. I smile at her in what I hope is a reassuring way.
“I’m not looking for an employee, Sophia,” I tell her plainly. Her eyes narrow as she considers my words.
“You’re not here about a lawsuit or to get me to work for you,” she confirms questioningly. I nod.
“I care for you, Sophia. That is why I’m here,” I confess, baring my heart to her. Her mouth forms into an ‘O’ as disbelief takes over her face. She shakes her head.
“You can’t mean that – after everything that happened—” I interrupt her before she goes any further with that particular train of thought.
“Everything that happened is precisely what showed me how much you mean to me. It took me being a fucking idiot and a good friend to figure it out,” her mouth is still hanging open but at least she isn’t shaking her head at me anymore. “I care for you, Sophia and I would like to see where this,” I use my hands to indicate the two of us, “could go.”
Tilting my head, I ask her, “what do you want, Sophia?”