She only wanted one thing: a signature on a recommendation letter. Days of waiting had turned to weeks and then to a month. She walked into the department office and then into the chair’s office determined not to leave until she had it. She was done fucking around.
Getting the letter was one of the last things she needed for her grant, and keeping the grant meant getting tenure. It meant moving up or out.
“Ahhh, professor,” the man said from across his desk. “You’re looking especially vibrant today.”
“Well, professor,” she said smiling, “I wish I could say the same for you.”
They both laughed.
“Yes, well, I suppose I shouldn’t let myself be cooped up in this office,” he said. “Maybe we could discuss that letter — I’m sure that’s why your here — over a drink or two.”
“Oh,” she said. “That’d be very sweet if you’re buying, Steve. Can I call you that?”
She stood up and looked him in the eyes.
“You mind, professor,” she said tentatively, and then in a whisper, “If I get the door.”
“Of course,” he whispered back, smiling. “And you can call me anything you want if you’re being nice.”
She looked out into the office which was empty except for a secretary typing. She had headphones on but the music was loud enough she could hear it from the doorway.
She closed the door, locked it, and then sat down.
“I have the letter here,” she said. “It has been over a month.”
“I’ve read it,” he said. “It’s fine for someone who had been more, you know, cooperative with me.”
“Yes, I know what you mean,” she said leaning toward him. “Would it help if I, you know, cooperated later tonight after drinks, Steve?”
“Now, finally,” he said, “You’re acting like a true scholar.”
“Maybe if I came over there I could cooperate right now,” she said.
She reached into her bag and put the letter and pen on the desk. And she walked around toward him. He was smiling. She moved as slowly as she could. He leaned back in his chair.
If he didn’t have that smile she might have changed her mind.
Then she lunged at him, grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket. She lifted him out of the chair and held him so their faces were close and he was on the balls of his feet.
“Listen, you sick motherfucker,” she hissed at him. “I’m not leaving without that letter and your signature — I swear to God I’ll kill you.”
She threw him hard back into the chair. He almost fell backward but steadied himself.
“If you’re looking for another victim,” she said, “You’ve got the wrong Sarah Connor.”
“What?” he said, startled.
By now she’d walked around the desk and she pushed the paper and pen toward him.
“Sign it,” she said, “And nobody ever has to know this happened.”
The man was shocked. And he was afraid. He looked at the letter and saw his name at the bottom. He clenched his jaw and looked up at her staring at him.
“Fuck you,” he said under his breath and took the pen and signed. He shoved it back toward her.
“Thank you, Steve,” she said, drawing his name out like it had three e’s between the t and v. “It’s always nice working with you.”
She took the paper and pushed the pen back toward him.
“Keep it,” she said. “It’s a souvenir.”
As she opened the door, she turned around and held her finger to her lips.
“Remember,” she said, “Shhh. This is our little secret.”
She walked to her car, got into the driver’s seat, threw her bag on the passenger side, and looked around.
When the coast was clear, she sobbed. She cried for what seemed like forever, quietly and deeply. Then her phone rang.
She looked at it, took a breath, and picked it up.
“Hello,” she said flatly.
The voice was familiar.
“Hey, how’d it go?”
“Oh it was fine,” she said. “He signed it.”
“Congratulations, honey,” he said. “Did he give you any shit?”
“No, of course not.”
There was a pause.
“It was like taking candy from a baby.”