Rhia walked off in a huff. If her closest friend had these questions to put to her, then she didn’t know what the rest of the world would have to say. Bitch? Slut? That she asked for it? That she should have been more careful?
She came back to her seat. He was still there. He who had brought about this whole mess upon her. Mess? Was it a mess? Or more importantly, was it her mess? Wasn’t it someone else’s shame? His, possibly?
A cackle of laughter from her boss’s cabin startled her. She waited patiently, for the conversation to end and the man to leave, after which she waltzed right in. Seeing her irate expression, her manager spoke up without preamble. ‘Look, Rhia, you can’t possibly object to someone smiling.’
‘His hand brushed past my chest. And not for the first time.’
‘Yes, he told me how that had been accidental. You should withdraw this complaint.’ He pointed to the hand-written complaint she had submitted against her colleague.
‘And the messages and emails?’
‘Just accept his apology, will you?’
Rhia stared back defiantly, eliciting a sigh from her superior.
‘You could file an official complaint with me. I shall officially question him. It’s sure to become very embarrassing for you, you know. Such things often tend to get nasty.’ He averted his eyes. ‘People will raise questions about your character. He may resort to spreading gossip and lies.’ He looked at the hand-written note. ‘I’ve anyway questioned him. He has apologized. It would be my advice to drop this. Just accept his apology.’
‘Those are the only two options I have?’
'Well, what else do you wish to do? File a court case for a minor incident like this?’ He smiled as if Rhia was a petulant child throwing a tantrum. ‘Don’t forget the peer appraisals are approaching, Rhia. You need to be in everyone’s good books. Including mine.’
The veiled threat in her boss’s voice and the unspoken hint of the subsequent consequences she would be made to suffer if she went against his favourite junior, did not escape her notice.
‘Or you could resign if you’re that uncomfortable.’
‘Accept and move on. Or quit and move on. That’s like between the devil and the deep sea.’
He threw her a startled look. ‘Metaphorically, of course.'
With a resigned sigh, Rhia walked off. Forget, or forgive – that's the two options she had been given. There was a third option – throw the man down the cliff. Metaphorically, of course. It was his mess, his shame, no?
On reaching her desk, she opened her email application and typed in a new email, chronicling all the sordid details of the sexual harassment she had endured. A moment later, every inbox in the building pinged.