An excerpt by Devon Scott
Kennedy sits with her paralegal, Daniel in the conference room at the National Association of Urban Development. Papers and law books are strewn across the expanse of table space as they confer, their legal pads filling with blue ink. Sunlight blazes in, warming the room. For a moment it’s just the back and forth between Kennedy and Daniel—relaxed and spirited. But then Kimberlyn, the Association’s lone receptionist scampers in breathlessly. There is a look of dreadfulness on her normally calm face. Without preamble she states: “Kennedy, come quick.” She tries to add some words, but falters, so she closes her mouth quick. Kennedy’s entire body tenses and her first thought is Zack, followed a quick millisecond later by Michael.
Are they alright?
“What is it?” she asks almost frantic, rising from the table, scooping up her Blackberry. Kimberlyn’s eyes keep roving to Daniel who has stopped writing and is sitting in a stunned silence, waiting for further details.
“An email. You need to see it.”
Kimberlyn holds the door open as Kennedy is whisked out, telling Daniel to stay put. Out of earshot she asks, “An email? Concerning what?”
“You.” Kimberlyn’s eyes are downcast. Suddenly Kennedy is acutely aware of the stillness in the office. It’s as if work has ground to a halt. As she marches behind Kimberlyn to her office, she notices with a rising sense of dread that the staff is staring at her. Kennedy’s stomach knots around itself. Just what the hell is going on?
Kennedy’s office is in the corner of the building, a fifteen second walk from the conference room. In that time Kimberlyn has maintained silence; the staff of about ten people are clocking her position the way an owl does its prey. She feels sick and has no idea why.
Kennedy reaches her office and stares at the computer screen. Kimberlyn closes the door and presses her back into the wood quietly. Her lips are mashed tightly together. Kennedy sits and calls up her email, willing her hands to stop shaking. At the top of her inbox is a new message in red from a sender she does not recognize:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Interesting.
Kennedy glances over at Kimberlyn who in a whispery voice says, “Most of us at the association received it.” She pauses while Kennedy opens the email, and a gasp escapes from her lips. In the half-second it takes for her eyes to lock onto the image that stops her heart cold, she knows she’s finished. Kennedy’s face goes white. She stabs at the mouse, shutting the offending window as she mouths to herself, “Oh my God!” Her hand is at her breasts as Kimberlyn clears her throat.
“I’m trying to track Reginald down...perhaps he can delete it from the mail server, but...it may be too late. Everyone’s seen it.”
Kennedy is deteriorating; she witnesses it in her own reflection from the computer screen. The face staring back at her registers severe horror. An image is burned into her retinas: Kennedy’s nude form in the throes of heated lovemaking. The lover in the photo: another woman.
“I’m so sorry, Kennedy. I’ll do what I can to reach the IT guy.”
Kennedy doesn’t turn when Kimberlyn leaves, closing the door quickly behind her. She remains still in front of her computer, not breathing, as if catching a breath in her throat will somehow arrest this obscene incident that has her doubled over in pain. A moment passes before she exhales, then calling up the offending email.
There is it.
No text. Just three images, one atop another, all of her and the woman in vibrant color and crystal clear, completely nude and sexually explicit.
Nothing left to the imagination.
Old photos, close to four years ago, from an encounter she and Michael had with a woman in Belize. Kennedy hastily deletes the email and turns to reach for her phone. A knock at the door breaks the cacophony inside her mind. She ignores the noise and instead speed dials Michael. Her door opens and Jackson Blair, Executive Director of the Association walks in. His face is grave as he shuts the door behind him, taking a seat across from her.
He shakes his head morosely before speaking.
“This is bad.” Jackson lets the weight of his statement sink in before continuing. “As far as we can tell the pictures have been mailed to a number of colleagues outside NAUD.”
“WHAT? HOW?” Kennedy is numb. Her entire body vibrates with fear.
“Unknown.” Jackson’s voice is steady. “We’re looking into that as we speak. The first order of business is damage control. Right now it’s got us shut down.”
“Oh God.” Her head is in her hands. Jackson stands.
“I’m sorry Kennedy. Your personal business should be of no concern to us. But this...” he holds his hands wide, and gestures toward the ceiling, “this...is tricky. As an attorney, you know better than most how these things can be misconstrued. So, let us deal with it. Right now I need you to go home and wait to hear from me before doing anything rash. Okay?”
Kennedy is rising now, grabbing her purse, her Blackberry, and her coat from the rack in the corner. She moves past Jackson who pats her shoulder lightly, but the action does nothing to console her. He says nothing further. Words cannot comfort her now.
In an instant, Kennedy’s world has shattered.
She heads toward the stairs, taking every ounce of strength she can muster to will her legs to move. All eyes are upon her. It’s a dream, Kennedy tells herself as she shuffles along the low grey carpet, eyes downcast, feeling the stares bore into her like deep puncture wounds.
It’s a nightmare and the silence is deafening.
The BMW roars to life. Ninety seconds later Kennedy puts the automobile into gear and pulls into the street, Zack watching her in the rear-view mirror.
“What’s wrong, mommy?” he asks inquisitively.
She glances back at him and proffers a weak smile. Even a five year old can sense its lack of authenticity. “Mommy’s fine. I just don’t want to make you late for school.”
Kennedy has the duty of dropping off Zack. She’s not heading into work today. Michael left an hour ago.
She heard from Jackson Blair first thing this morning. He asked how she was doing then got straight to the point.
“Kennedy, I’d like for you to take some time off.”
Kennedy gulped and silently counted to four. “How much time?”
“A couple of weeks. Until this thing blows over.”
Kennedy was livid and did nothing to hide her resentment. “Two weeks? You’ve got to be kidding. We’re a small association. No way your legal counsel can be gone that long.”
“Kennedy—let me worry about that. Besides, I think it would be best if you were not here. I don’t want any further distractions, and that’s exactly what you’ll be if you’re in the office. A distraction to those here.”
“Kennedy, I’m not firing you. If I were, I would tell you and be done with it. I just want to give our office a breather from yesterday’s incident. Take a couple of weeks and then come back. This thing will have blown over by then—our people will be focused on other issues. Trust me.”
Kennedy’s exhale is audible.
“Jackson, can I at least continue working? I can’t sit on my butt for two weeks and do nothing, you know that!”
“I do not want you communicating with the staff.”
“Jesus, Jackson—throw me a bone, please. At least give me Daniel. I’ll funnel stuff through him. That way no one except you is communicating with me directly.”
Jackson pondered her request. Kennedy held her breath. It seemed like forever, but finally he spoke.
“You work from home; you only communicate with Daniel or me. And, you do nothing—no work—for another 48 hours.”
“That’s my final offer. Take it, Kennedy.”
Kennedy plays the conversation over in her head as she steers onto South Dakota Avenue. Traffic is light, and for that she is grateful. Through the rear-view she spies Zack sitting peacefully in his car seat, his attention directed to the DVD situated in the headrest. Kennedy is appreciative for the momentary quiet.
She doesn’t agree with Jackson’s decision to keep her out of the office, but then again, she knows she’s lucky. It could have been a whole lot worse.
That gets her thinking about the new email. Michael shared it with her this morning.
YOUR WIFE’S A SLUT AND NOW EVERYONE IN OFFICE KNOWS IT. HOW’S IT FEEL WHEN SOMEONE FUCKS YOU OVER? I SAID YOU AND THAT BITCH WOULD REGRET IT AND YOU WILL. I PROMISE.
Sent from email@example.com
The pain was instantaneous. It was as if every muscle has conspired against her—they all constricted and suddenly Kennedy felt faint. She had to reach out to her husband for support. Michael was speaking, but the words were hollow and didn’t make sense.
Then she could no longer hear him.
All sounds had vanished.
The only words that had clarity were those in front of her.
Words that cut straight to the bone.
It was Michael who spotted it first.
The same email address from the sender of the offending photos that went to her job.
Revenge spelled backwards.
© 2009 by Devon Scott. All Rights Reserved