I woke up with a start and lay for a moment wondering why. I lay in the pre-dawn darkness blinking the spots away, waiting for my breathing to slow and for my heart to stop racing. I raised my wrist to my face and the glow from my smartwatch made me close my eyes. 05:16.
A cold draft washed over me and I felt my skin prickle; what was odd was that the windows were shut. I reached for the blanket which I had kicked off in my sleep and bunched it over my chest where cold fingers seemed intent on clawing their way through to my heart. Fear.
I said I quick prayer before rolling out of bed, sleep forgotten. I played music from my phone, loud, and set about getting ready for work.
When I got to work I went about my ritual of brewing some coffee. I held the mug of warm dark delight to my nose and inhaled. I could feel it working its wonders before I took the first sip.
I walked through the lounge inspecting the set up before customers came in. Rosemary was not at her desk and I felt a slight irritation.
We’re going to have a talk about this.
I pushed the restroom door open, meaning to peek in and carry on, but I heard what sounded like a sob and I stood there listening for it.
I decided it was in my head and was turning away when I heard it again.
“Rosemary, is that you?”
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“Yes sir,” she said. I wasn’t convinced.
“Is it alright if I came in?” I asked her while telling myself it was a bad idea.
“I’m okay sir,” she said.
Turn around and go, she says she’s okay. I walked in, past the male toilets and knocked on the door of the female toilet.
“Come in sir,” her voice was small.
I opened the door and I almost dropped my coffee. She was wearing sunglasses but I could tell she had been crying. Her hair was all over the place. I set my mug down on the sink and walked up to her.
“What happened? Talk to me.”
She broke down and started crying. “I don’t want anymore sir, I am tired.” She said between sobs that shook her whole body.
“Hey…” I reached out and touched her shoulder and she collapsed into my arms, head on my chest. I held her there while she cried. For maybe five minutes we stood like that, and as I was beginning to think the crying wouldn’t stop, she stopped crying enough to tell me what happened.
The previous day she had received a message from a number she didn’t know, it was a picture of her boyfriend’s penis. There were also messages begging her to rein her man in. Apparently, it was something he did often, sending her pictures so there were other dick pics. He was asking her to have his baby.
Meanwhile, Rosemary had gotten pregnant two months before and he beat it out of her. She miscarried and was still recovering.
When she got home that evening and showed him the picture and messages from the lady, he beat her again. “I can’t seem to do anything right,” she wailed. “Everything I say or do earns me a beating. This morning I told him I was through with him and he followed me out of the house shouting at me on the road and beating me. It was so bad, the security people had to get involved…”
“Wait, he beat you till you got to work? Our security people stopped him? Did they detain him?” I was breathing hard.
“No sir,” she said. “They begged him to leave me, that he should wait for me to get home and resolve whatever it was.”
“You’re kidding! Please tell me you’re joking. Do you know their names?” She held onto my shirt because I was ready to go out and give them a piece of my mind.”
“Sir, please just stay.”
I gently unlocked her fingers from my shirt and I felt her tense. “I promise, I am not going to them now.” I tried to reassure her. “Do you want to go home?” She shook her head. “Do you think you will be able to work today?”
“Yes sir, I just need a few minutes and make up.” She smiled. “Look what I have done to your shirt now.”
My shirt front was wrinkled, and the area around my chest had some brown on it. “It’s not a big deal,” I said and walked away.
‘Sir,” I turned and she was holding my mug out to me. “Thank you for everything sir.”
“No worries…” her fingers brushed against mine as she handed me the mug and I looked up to see her looking at me. She felt the jolt of electricity.
I walked into my office with my mug of tepid coffee, wondering what had happened and what it said about me that I was affected that way by someone who was just crying in my arms.
I picked my phone up and scrolled through my messages. There was one from Cynthia that made the hairs on my hand rise.
Babe, we need to get help