By the time I notice my phone blowing up I'm far too late to do any kind of damage control; I've been busy all day at a charity in New York, which gave the story a chance to sit and fester. When I do finally get to it, there's a grand total of seventeen missed calls: Emma, Gabriel, Eschieve, the agency. There's also a crazy amount of texts from all kinds of different people, some that I haven't spoken to in months, and many of them send me screenshots or links to the same article. 


The taxi ride to my hotel takes no more than ten minutes, but I'm still engulfed in the article when we arrive. I have to read sentences twice or even thrice, that's how ridiculous and far-fetched they are. The 'ex' is Callum, which I guessed the moment I saw the headline, and he's basically using the whole interview to bash Emma any chance he gets. She stalked him until he went out with her, she gave up rent on her apartment without telling him so that he'd have no choice but to let her move in with him, he got her the job at the firm. She went after his friends, flirting with everyone to get her way. She used his position at the firm to get herself a promotion, told lies and gossiped about him to make sure he didn't get it. It just keeps going on and on and on. Work, personal life, friends, everything gets covered.
Eventually comes the point where I'm brought into the story, and Callum tells how heartbroken he was to have lost Emma to me, but also that he's better off without her. He says that Emma must have brainwashed me like she did him. All the things that are wrong with him and his narcissistic ways are now projected onto Emma, in the worst way possible and the way he does best: if you didn't know better, you'd be tempted to believe him.
My head is spinning. I have somehow found my way to my hotel room, unable to remember how. In my head I try to count what time it is in Edinburgh; it's getting late, but I doubt she's asleep yet with this going on. Her last text, together with Gabriel's and Matthew's, tell me to call her at my quickest convenience. So I do; the phone barely rings its first time before she picks up. 
"Hey," Her voice is so far away, but it's not hard to pick up on the exhaustion and hurt that's clearly torturing her. I wouldn't be surprised if she's been crying.
"Hey. I'm sorry I didn't call sooner, I had no access to my phone."
"I get it. We guessed as much. Have.. have you read it?
"I have." I pause, because I'm not sure what to say. "I'm going to kill him, Em. I just… I can't believe he did this." 
There comes to reply, only a muffled sobbing. There's background noises, and suddenly there is Brie's voice. 
"Hey man. He says. "Sorry about that. It's been a long night.
With hearing his voice comes the crippling guilt that he is there and I am not. Whether Emma called him or if he came around on his own accords doesn't matter, at least he's there with her. I'm an entire ocean away. "Hey." I mutter, voice rasp. "Is she…" I don't even know what I want to ask, so I don't finish the sentence. 
"She's with me and Matthew. I told her to come over after work, figured it'd be better if she wasn't alone for this. Kenna's been by, too. I didn't know if and when we'd be able to contact you.
"Thank you." Even I notice how unconvincing I sound. My thoughts are mush, wrecked with astonishment and disgust over the article and guilt over not being able to be there. I think Gabriel knows, because he doesn't really say anything. After a little while, Emma comes back on the phone. Hearing her broken voice and soft sniffles tears my heart apart all over again. I'm reminded over the guest lecture Callum gave, sending Emma into a spiralling panic attack. I should have been there, but I was in France. I should be there today, too, but I'm in New York.
"I'm sorry, love." I whisper. "I'm sorry I'm not there. I'm sorry he did this. I'm sorry this awful excuse of a human being keeps haunting you like this. You don't deserve this." 
"I just… I just want him to leave me alone." She sounds so tired. I want to wrap my arms around her and protect her from the world. But I can't, so instead my brain now snaps into survival mode like it used to do when Eschieve needed her big brother to take care of her. 
"So we'll make sure he does that. We'll get a restraining order." I say to Emma. "Hell, we'll go all the way and sue the living fuck out of him for slander and defamation of character. If that's what you want, Em, we'll fight him on it until we've destroyed him. We'll ensure he never touches you again. And if the legal way doesn't work, we'll invite him to another bar fight, only this time we'll make sure he doesn't walk away. I have no doubt Matt has my back in that."
Her laugh, albeit small and weak, lifts my heart a little. I can picture her wiping her tears away, clutching a pillow to her chest for comfort. "I don't think I'll be able to handle it if you go to jail, so please don't do that."
On the backgroud, I hear Matthew ask what I'm going to jail for and what he can do to help. Despite still feeling sick with guilt, I'm also relieved that at least she's not alone, that she's got amazing people to help her through this. 
"Okay, no fighting. But I'm not kidding, Em. We can sue him over this. And we will, if that's what you want. I'll fight him to the bitter end."

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