3rd Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

I notice three other occupants in the lift when the door opens at street level. I take a step inside, but, too late, realise my mistake.

His ‘Hi, Lucy,’ and familiar leer leave me cold. My nemesis, Harry the Horrible…

I lift my chin and set my shoulders. Stay cool, I instruct myself. I almost snigger when I see his knobbly knees and his shorts, bottle green with a sickly sheen… But who cares what he’s wearing? Ugh!

On the fourth floor, I exit with aplomb, intent on ignoring him today.

My friend is there, ready with a hug.

‘Hey, Lucy. Good timing, eh?’

‘Oh, Sal, you look terrific. Like your new dress. The one your mother made?”

‘Yes. It’s too long though. She can be stubborn, as you know.’

‘Adorably stubborn, but I get your drift…’

‘I tell her I always wear pantihose, but it just doesn’t wash. Your Mum lets you wear micro-mini’s. I’m extremely envious of you, Lucy—a teensy bit anyway.’

‘But, Sal, isn’t it terrific we don’t have to wear uniforms today?’

Thus, we chit-chatter our way to our destination, the meeting room.

Bob is there directing traffic as we mill in.

‘If no-one has any serious objections,’ he liberally applies his usual charm, ‘would the ladies occupy the stools in front, and the gents stand at their rear. It’ll only be a short presentation.’

Naturally we comply.

Bob welcomes staff, informing us that we’ll break into small working groups later.

Lights are dimmed, the projector starts displaying some quite spectacular spreadsheets, and the guest consultant commences the PD session.

I sense movement behind me. A penny drops. Oh, no, please no. I venture a sneaky look downwards as I turn slightly towards Sal. Instantly ‘bottle green with sheen’ pops into my head.

What to do? Keep eyes front, and concentrate on the speaker. Breathe calmly.

A few minutes pass and then I feel something. A touch on my shoulder, very light, accompanied by a swish of my hair. A short pause then this is repeated—definitely not accidental…

Then I feel pressure lower down my back. What’s that? He’s prodding me. Insistently. No, it couldn’t be that! But it must be!

That creep! Flight or fight? I can’t decide.

‘Sal, I need to go to the loo.’

I almost sprint away.

I loiter in that temporary haven, dabbing my eyes and trying to remove evidence. I console myself by plotting a ‘hatey session’ with Sal at coffee break. Main agenda: Horrible Harry. Back at the meeting, I catch her eye and indicate I’ll remain near the door. I shake my head when she motions to my empty seat. Not a chance.

Pause right there. There is a preferred variation of this episode, so please re-wind to:

That creep! Flight or fight? I can’t decide. To continue:

Yes, I can. I sure can. I have a strategy, and even a mantra, planned in the dead of night: ‘I am demure, dignified and determined’.

Standing tall, I walk towards Bob. He looks puzzled, then even more so when I state clearly in my best ABC voice, ‘Bob, could I change seats, please? Harry is touching me inappropriately.’

The delicious sound of pandemonium sweeps the room. I mutter my mantra. I stare at the hated one. Conveniently for me, Harry does a coward’s dash. My accusation is vindicated.

Fade into a pleasant outcome involving apologies, flowers and a possible promotion…

Yet, that’s still not right. I can do better than that.

Rewind, starting at that same point:

That creep! Flight or fight? I can’t decide.

In this version, there’s nil chance of my being demure or dignified. I have been violated. My inner dragon snarls, as I rise to my feet.

‘Don’t you ever touch me again, you lecher, you grease-ball! You’re rotten to the core, Harry, double-digit disgusting!’

I point my finger at him and accentuate each word. He steps back and seems to shrink, or have a strong urge to. We both become the proverbial ‘cynosure of all eyes’ and it feels good, so good.

There is no response. He’s gasping for words and clutching his chest. I revel in his shock and shame. He lowers his head and stumbles towards the door, hisses ringing in his ears.

Then comes my reward: profuse apologies, masses of cards and flowers, and a promised promotion.

Sigh… I wish…

Please re-wind again.

There’s another scenario—I confess, the actual one.

That creep! Flight or fight? I can’t decide.

I feel his body pressing into my lower back, dark moments never to be erased from my memory.

Shuffling my feet, I lean well forward in my seat, then, ignoring a lone tear, stare attentively at the screen abounding with charts and numerical data.

Lucy, you are weak, weak, weak…

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