Julia had done it to be nice, really. Her boss, Donovan "Don" Winters, had asked her if she would help his son with Chemistry. There was a problem with his teacher this year, Don had explained. The teacher felt that Tristan should actually turn in his homework and pass his tests to receive passing grades in the class. In the past, Don had been able to convince the teachers that because Tristan was the star quarterback on the high school team (had been since he was a freshman), he wasn't really going to need the science, anyway. He was headed for the pros, no doubt about that in Don's mind, no doubt whatsoever. Don needed Julia to tutor his son.
Julia had insisted that she meet with Tristan in the library because she thought it was awkward to bring the young man into her apartment and because Mrs. Winters (Julia had never learned the woman's first name) was not a very welcoming hostess. She had phoned Julia just to tell her that no young trollop from her husband's company was welcome under her roof. If Julia hadn't needed the job with Winters & Lang, she might have walked away from it all right then and there, but she was too determined to make it as a paralegal to let some ill-contented housewife bully her out of a career. So it was that Julia had begun tutoring Tristan, a dense young man, at best. He was good-looking, athletic, and fit, but he was as dumb as a plant.
It was in the midst of a particularly painful discussion of the Periodic Table that the incident happened. Without warning, Tristan had just reached across the table and grabbed Julia's breast and squeezed it lightly. Julia had blushed and pulled away quickly.
"I'm sorry, I must have gotten in the way." She instinctively folded her arms across her chest.
"Don't be sorry," Tristan said. "It wasn't a mistake."
"How old are you, Tristan?"
"I'm twenty-three," she said. "I'm much too old for a young man like you."
"Not at all," he said. "I really like you."
"Tristan..." Julia fumbled for words. "I just don't like you that way. I'm sorry."
"You have a boyfriend?"
Tristan looked baffled, as if he couldn't understand how any single girl (or woman) could resist him. "Then I don't see what the problem is."
Tristan slid closer to Julia and put his hand behind her back, but Julia stood up quickly and took her purse and her books. She practically ran out of the library and into her car, then backed it into the street and drove to the closest big parking lot she could find. She pulled into a parking space at the far end of the lot, made sure the doors were locked and turned off the engine. Julia was shaking, she knew that, and she could also tell she was crying. She leaned the seat back and curled herself into a ball, then closed her eyes to think.
A knock on the window disturbed her. Oh no, she thought, Tristan had followed her, but when she turned to look, she saw a police officer. Julia opened the door and stepped out of the car.
"Is everything okay, ma'am?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," she said.
He nodded. "You don't look like everything's okay."
She whimpered slightly, then laughed with embarrassment and tried to wipe her eyes. "I guess it's just one of those bad hormone days."
He laughed at her. "Well, you take care. I wouldn't stay here any longer. There've been some incidents here after dark."
"Thank you, officer."
The officer waited to leave until Julia had started her car. She was embarrassed at having been seen looking the way she did, but talking with the officer had reassured her, although only slightly. She drove home and parked her car under a light, then ran into the building, unlocked, opened, closed, and relocked her door all in one rapid, smooth motion. She slid down onto the floor and leaned against it, her heart racing. What was she going to do about Tristan? The phone rang.
"I'm not answering," she said, to nobody in particular. She listened through her answering machine message, then heard the voice on the other end.
"Julia, it's Tristan," Tristan said. "I want to know if you're home safe and you're okay. Look, I thought you understood about this tutoring deal. My father told me you were going to be the one, you know. He said you were going to 'usher me into the world of women,' that's just what he said." There was a long pause, during which all she could hear was his breathing, calm and measured. "I'm coming over there now, Julia. I promise, I won't tell anyone about, well, you know. I know you want me, too."
Julia jumped to her feet and raced to the telephone. She placed her hand on the receiver and waited, listening. Every sound in her building, every creak, every drip, sounded as if it meant her harm. When at last the knock came at the door, Julia was almost surprised by it. She said nothing, but heard Tristan, knew he was there, no more than fifteen feet away from her. He began to pound on the door and she picked up the phone, dialed the police, removed the answering machine tape as she did, slipped it into her pocket. She explained to the police that her home was on the verge of being broken into by Tristan Winters, and when it was, she was going to be a victim of sexual assault.
She hung up the phone and tiptoed into her kitchen, where she slipped into her broom closet and hid behind the brooms and mops. Within moments, she could hear a cracking noise, and heard Tristan's heavy footsteps in her apartment. She prayed quickly that he would think she was elsewhere, that he hadn't seen her car outside, hadn't heard her voice on the telephone. She was perspiring and her breathing was rapid, but she tried to keep the breaths shallow and quiet. She couldn't hear him, exactly, but she knew he was in the apartment, probably in the bedroom on the other side.
Julia let out a huge sigh of relief when she heard a police officer shout in through the doorway. She heard Tristan trying to explain, saying he was checking in on his tutor, then she finally crawled out of the closet and sneezed as she did. She was immediately facing a police officer whose gun was drawn and pointed at her. She raised her hands quickly and became motionless.
"I placed the call," she said.
"Who broke down your door?" the officer asked, putting away his gun and taking out a pad of paper.
"He did." Julia pointed at Tristan, glad to see him in handcuffs. "Tristan Winters."
The officer was writing down the name, but looked up quickly. "Did you say Tristan Winters?"
Julia nodded. "Yes."
The officer nodded to his partner and the partner led Tristan out through the shattered door. "Do you know who his father is?"
Julia nodded again. "Yes, sir."
"Tristan Winters has never been convicted of anything, Miss, what is your name?"
"Miss Osgood, every time Tristan Winters is involved in any manner of incident, whenever his father speaks to the victim, the charges are mysteriously dropped. I want you to know that up front."
"I know that," Julia said. "He's my boss. I hear the phone calls."
"Do you want to press charges?"
Julia looked the officer in the eye. "What would you do if you were me?"
"It's not my place to say, ma'am."
"Julia, call me Julia," she said. "Picture me as your little sister. What would you do if you were me?"
"I'd press charges," he said. "But we haven't got any proof. There's never any proof."
Julia touched the cassette tape in her pocket and smiled. She gave the police officer a report of everything that had happened, exactly as she remembered it.
"Can we talk at the station? I don't really have any privacy here." She looked at the broken door.
"Sure thing," the officer said. "I'll make sure we have a detective there to talk to you before they call his father, okay?"
"Good," Julia said. "I'm going to make one call before I leave, okay?"
"I'll stay and watch."
Julia walked to the phone and dialed Stephen Lang's number, knowing it was probably wrong to call Don's partner, but also knowing it was very right. "Hello, Stephen. This is Julia Osgood."
"What's wrong?" Stephen asked.
"Tristan broke into my apartment," Julia said. "I want to press charges."
"I'll meet you at the station. Hopefully I'll get there before Don." With that he hung up, just like that.
Julia took her purse and her keys and looked around her apartment. She wondered if any of her possessions would be there when she returned, what with the broken door and all. She paused, just for a moment, and wondered if she really dared to leave, but as she looked at the room she realized there was nothing of value there, anyway. She walked out to her car with the officer, then followed the cruiser to the police station. As she stepped out of her car, Stephen Lang stepped out of the car in the space beside her. He walked to her side and gave her a reassuring hug.
"Fine." She realized she was crying again, maybe hadn't stopped.
"Don's going to offer to settle," he said. "He's going to offer a lot."
"Do you want to settle? It would be a lot easier." Stephen put his arm around Julia and walked with her into the building.
Stephen nodded. "Good. It's not going to be easy, but it's about time."
Don was already talking to the detective when Julia was brought into the office. How had he known? He always knew.
He stood and glared at Julia, then at Stephen.
"I want to talk to her alone," Don said.
"Not this time, Don," Stephen said.
"You're in love with her?"
"Not even an issue right now. It wouldn't matter one way or another. What matters is that your son is not above the law."
"You press charges and you're fired," Don said to Julia. "Nobody hires anyone who's fired from Winters & Lang. You'll be flipping burgers in no time."
"Don, your son grabbed my breast in the library," Julia said.
"So? Boys will be boys. I mean, it's not like they aren't right there. I mean, look at them, they're ripe for the plucking."
Julia closed her eyes and shook her head in disbelief. "He broke down my door."
"He was going to your house to apologize."
Julia took the cassette tape from her pocket and tossed it to the detective. "That wasn't what he said he was coming for."
"Julia, you can't do this," Don said. "It'll ruin his career."
"Quarterbacks have to be smart, Don. He wasn't going to make it anyway."
The detective led Don and Stephen from the room, came back and listened to the tape with Julia, then took her report. She stood to leave and found Don waiting for her at the door.
"How much will it take for you to stop this silliness now?" Don said. "I mean, I'll pay you to keep quiet. You'll keep your job. You don't really want to be flipping burgers, do you?"
"See you later, Don." Julia began to walk down the corridor.
"Where are you going?"
She turned and smiled at him. "I'm going to buy myself a hair net."
Copyright 2000 by Lisa Christine Svenson