035. - Lucien
I have seen many different faces from Emmeline Middleton, but this one is new to me. She seems broken, used up. Flashes of different emotions cross her face as she talks, but it always comes back to broken. I let her talk, happy that she is actually telling me what happened. While she talks, several puzzle pieces pop into place. With every word, I feel regret for her and fury for Callum. When she mentions him cheating, my mind immediately goes to Poppy. Was she blonde? I don't quite remember. But either way, the notion that Callum cheated doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It just makes me mad. Eventually her story ends and I have to think about what I'm going to say. What do you say to a girl that's just been cheated on by one of your friends? Matthew would know. Matthew is a star with emotions. I... am not.
"Callum has always been.. manipulative." I say eventually. "The way he treated you doesn't really surprise me." I frown to myself. "That sounded wrong, my apologies. I just mean..." I assess the situation. This started as a somewhat formal meeting, but I feel that has since gone out the window. I decide to go with it. "He's a dick."
That makes her laugh: a short burst of it, filled with more sadness than joy, but a laugh nonetheless. "He really is. I can't believe I let it go for this long."
I shake my head. "Don't blame yourself for that. He's an expert at blaming others for the things he did himself. Remember the story I told how he almost got himself expelled?"
"I will be gruesomely murdered if this ever gets out, so please keep this between us. Callum was absolutely recognisable on that video, there was no doubt it was him. But he flipped the script entirely during that meeting with the board: he was one of the most promising students of the last decade, had already made a name for himself. He asked the board if they really wanted to be responsible for expelling such a talent and lose out on the credit he would get them. It was disturbing to watch. In the end the board was convinced that no, it would not be worth it and it was their mistake thinking it was worth expelling him over such a little dispute. He called the super intendant a big-headed idiot and started it all again. That alone would have gotten any student expelled, he got off with a week of community service." I take a sip of my whiskey. Law school had been a shit show from start to finish. "He just... does this. It's not an excuse, but it's not fair to take it on yourself. I can't imagine how it must have felt."
Emma sniffles, wiping the last of her tears from her face. I wish I had tissues to offer her. Instead I pour her another layer of whiskey. "I was so convinced he was right. That I was misremembering things, or that I was being paranoid." She drops her head in her hands. "I'm so stupid."
I don't really have anything to say to that, so I stay quiet.
"I don't know what to do now." She says eventually. "I don't even have an own apartment anymore. We work together! No doubt he's going to twist it around to make me seem like the bad guy in all this. Everybody is going to hate me."
Again I'm at a loss for words, because she might be right. It's going to be messy either way. The CEO-part of me thinks of how I should have nipped it in the bud from the start. "Look, Emma... I don't really have anything to say to you. The whole situation is just messy and it's going to be for a while. I'll approach HR to see how to prevent Callum bad-mouthing you, but I can't make any promises."
"I know." She says, downing the second glass of whiskey. "I know. I suppose it's nice to just.. get it off my chest. I'm sorry for yelling at you."
I offer her a small smile. "Don't worry about it. Guess we just started off at the wrong foot from day one."
"I should go home." To empower that statement, she gets up and almost loses her balance; only by grabbing the back of her chair, she manages to stay upright. "Shit." she mumbles. "Maybe whiskey on an empty stomach wasn't too clever."
I eye her suspiciously. "Were you going back to Kenna's?"
"I don't really have a different option, do I?" She gives me a look.
"Isn't Kenna's place on the other side of town? As in, an over an hour taxi ride?"
"Yeah. Why?" She's frowning now, but her eyes can't really focus.
"Because that's not happening." I shake my head, downing the last of my whiskey and getting up as well. "There's no way I'm letting you travel alone while you're in this state."
"I'm not drunk!" She protest, making me laugh.
"I know! But you said it yourself, two whiskeys on an empty stomach wasn't smart, so it's doing something. Besides, it's past midnight. Kenna is probably asleep by now and while she won't mind, you seem like the type of person who'd feel guilty for keeping her awake anyway."
She narrows her eyes. "Okay, so what do you suggest then, Mr Know-It-All? I'm not going back to Callum's. And if I am, he's coming out in a body bag."
I roll my eyes. "Calm down there, Jack the Ripper. You can stay at my place. It's a ten minute drive and I have enough space for us to avoid each other."
"I don't need saving, Lucien." She says, suddenly sounding very tired. "I can handle myself."
"And I don't doubt that. I'm not saving you. You are still being suspended for a week and I'm still taking you off the case." For a moment she looks awfully shocked, but then takes the loss. "But I can't in good conscience let you go out by yourself like this. Come with me. You can have a shower, order something to eat. You won't have to see me."
We don't talk on the way to my place, only the radio breaking the silence. She is silent when she follows me in. I'm exhausted. I can't wait to take a steamy shower and sink away in my bed, only for things to start back up a few hours from now. Maybe I should suspend myself as well. I give Emma a quick tour of the necessities: her bedroom, her bathroom and the kitchen.
"Feel free to take anything you want. Food, drinks, alcohol, I don't mind. Towels and all are in the bathroom and I'll put one of Brie's old shirts on your bed to serve as pajamas if you want them."
She nods. The effects of the alcohol have worn off a little bit and now she looks just as exhausted as I feel. "Thanks." she mutters.
"Not a problem. You're welcome to stay longer if you need to, but don't feel obliged. I'll be off to work early tomorrow, no need to let me know if you're staying or not. I'll find out when I get back or not."
She nods again. I offer her a small smile.
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