For the next few days Mattie kept her head down concentrating on building up her strength and digesting what her mother had told her. Jonathon brought her three different supermarket tabloids each featuring her on the front page. Headlines described her as “Mad Mattie”, “Crazed Party Crasher”, and “Hell Hath No Fury”.
One afternoon she crossed the yard and visited Bodine’s studio, which was now her studio. She’d only been inside a few times in the two years since he’d it built, which was indicative of how interested she was in his career and the world famous rock stars who recorded there. The interior space was without natural light and reminded Mattie of a cave. It was split between an open rehearsal area and a booth filled with a large electronic console. In time, she’d contact Bo to see if he wanted the recording equipment, if not she’d sell it and have the space renovated, its future use yet to be decided.
In a storage cupboard she found three boxes of promotional samples for the ill-fated tour. They included t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps, drink glasses, mugs, posters and photographs. On every item there was either Ellwyn’s image, name or stylized fairy emblem that had become her trademark. Mattie sealed the boxes and had them shipped to Fawn, Simon’s little sister.
Simon hadn’t been in contact since Mattie had arrive back in Vancouver. During their last conversation she’d told him his cousin was a drug addict, Eagle killer and an unlikely candidate for rehabilitation, and had implied Simon had a double standard when it came to the law and First Nations people.
If she would have talked with Rose before that conversation instead of later, she might have been more understanding, but maybe not. Franklin was not only responsible for the murder of two magnificent birds but also the demise of their chicks, though it was the two Ravens that actually did the killing, pecking the eaglets to death before eating them.
Maybe she should call Simon? What would be wrong with that? She could tell him she’d sent a package to Fawn, ask how Rose and Sean were, and did his Grandmother still hate her? But if he blew her off it would be devastating. And why was that? They’d kissed only once. Actually, she’d kissed him. What was wrong with her?
While this non-relationship tormented Mattie, she needed to address a real and contentious one. In a month, university would begin and Professor Larkin would teach at least one of her classes. She was still undecided about what action to take regarding his sexual harassment. Help with her decision came the next day.
Mattie was screening all her calls and returning none except for Louise so it was late in the evening before she got around to listening to her voice mail.
“This is Sonya Martinez calling for Madison Saunders. I’m with the University of British Columbia’s #MeToo Chapter and would like to speak with you regarding Professor Lawrence Larkin. This is a serious matter and needs your utmost attention.”
It might be a serious matter to Sonya Martinez, but it wasn’t to Mattie, and she’d decide what warranted her utmost attention. The next day Martinez called again; serious had become urgent, and utmost was now immediate.
Mattie already disliked this person, but was it possible she could offer some remedy to her Larkin dilemma? Mattie booted up her laptop.
Social media was a trove of information and Sonya Martinez was no stranger to Twitter and Facebook. European features, milk chocolate skin, and kinky black hair coalesced in a strikingly beautiful young woman. Her posts portrayed her leading marches, giving speeches, looking strong and determined. Her clothes were street chic, casual but fashion forward and her make-up flawless. Whether she was confronting riot police armed with shields and clubs, surrounded by clouds of tear gas or shouting “believe all women” to sexist chauvinists she always presented the perfect profile and looked runway ready as Vogue’s representation of today’s urban warrior; no mascara smudges, no wardrobe malfunctions, no half-closed eyelids.
Having been stalked by professional photographers for three years, Mattie knew that these were not random cell phone images.
Videos of Martinez in action were much the same; no shaky images, no blurred focus, always good lighting angles.
In the most recent video post just a week ago, the UBC #MeToo Chapter was calling out Professor Larkin.
“Sexual violence is about power and privilege,” shouted Martinez from the steps of the campus Bio Science building to a small crowd of supporters who held up #MeToo signs including one that read Larkin Must Resign. “That doesn’t change if the perpetrator is a movie producer, a corporate CEO, or a university professor.”
After a few more minutes of rhetoric, she introduced one of Larkin’s survivors to tell her story.
“I know her,” Mattie said. Her voice echoed in the empty house.
Jaslene Mercado stood out from the hundred and fifty students who attended lectures not only because she was the only Filipino, but her wardrobe seemed to consist primarily of deep-vee t-shirts that didn’t quite cover her pierced navel, and second-skin tights. Jaslene oozed sexuality with her lingering smiles, sultry glances and enhanced bosom. She was a regular among the gaggle of coeds that sought Larkin’s attention after every lecture.
Jaslene said Larkin made inappropriate remarks, sexually touched her and offered her better grades if she performed oral sex on him.
“That sounds like Larkin,” Mattie said.
“He has corrupted my education. I can no longer concentrate on my studies.” She stepped aside, tears streaming down her face.
The video ended with Martinez demanding, “We want safety, healing, closure and a life free from shame, but first there must be accountability and justice.”
Mattie closed her lap top. She hadn’t told anyone about what had happened except Simon and his mother, hadn’t reached out for counseling, didn’t feel the need. She wasn’t burdened by guilt or shame, haunted by nightmares, depressed or even intimidated.
However, when she thought of the nights she’d spent lost in the forest and how Larking had fled without telling anyone she was missing she considered having The Big Four tear him limb from limb, or at least to put him in a body cast.
Mattie wasn’t sure what Martinez wanted to talk to her about, but she had a good idea and after watching the video she wanted none of it.
Mattie realized she didn’t care what happened to Larkin, what she cared about was getting through school and staying out of the public eye. If Larkin survived this, she’d meet with him and have a frank discussion. She’d bring along a copy of the tabloid with the front-page picture of her backed up by The Big Four and make it clear that if he tried anything he’d get more than a slap across the face.
When her cell phone chirped the next day, and it was Sonya Martinez, Mattie answered.
“How come you haven’t returned my calls,” Martinez said.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to speak with you.”
“Oh.” Martinez seemed surprised. “Well, we’d like to talk to you about Professor Larkin.”
“Me and my associate.”
“Now. I took a chance, and we drove out here. We’re at your front gate. Can you let us in?”
Mattie looked out the window and saw a generic white van at the front gate that lead onto the property. She pushed a button on the panel beside the door that controlled the gate electronically and it swung open. The van drove in.
“Thanks,” Martinez said. A man about the same age with a hand held video camera accompanied her. They went in the living room.
“So you’re Mattie Saunders.”
“And you’re Sonya Martinez. Now that we’ve established who we both are, what do you want?”
“You're a student of Professor Larkin’s, right?”
Her associate started filming the conversation.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Mattie said. “You’re here to see if I’m one of Larkin’s survivors.”
“If I say yes, how will it benefit me?”
“By speaking out against sexual harassment and misconduct we show how pervasive it is and that times up, we aren’t going to take it anymore.”
“But how will it help me now?”
“Having your voice heard will rid you of the shame, the guilt, bring you a sense of closure and, hopefully, some justice.”
Nothing new there except Sonya had omitted the public scrutiny, the judging, and the damage her declaration would have on innocent people including Larkin’s two children.
“Thanks, but no thanks.” Mattie stood up indicating the meeting was over.
“You don’t want to prevent other women from going through this?”
“I guess not, at least not by elevating your celebrity status.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think you’re using this issue as a platform to promote Sonya Martinez,” Mattie said. “An interview with me would help your ratings and you personally a lot more than survivors of sexual harassment.”
“Turn the camera off, Jorge.” Sonya smiled. “When you connected with your famous rock-and-roll star, I understand it was to save your bird sanctuary, but all I have to do is look around me to see the parrots weren’t the only ones who benefitted.”
“You’re insinuating what?” Mattie knew, but she wanted to hear how Sonya justified it.
“If you’re advancing a just cause and you happen to benefit from it, is that a bad thing?”
There was a difference, but for Mattie to try to explain that she never wanted the celebrity status, in fact shunned it, would seem incredulous to Miss Ambition.
“Not unless your personal aspirations take precedence over the cause,” Mattie said.
“You sound like those spin doctors hired by the government and corporate CEO’s that attack the credibility of our leaders, real leaders that aren't appointed by liberal elites but rise up with support from the streets.”
“One minute I’m a survivor, the next I’m an enabler, you’re going to make this work in your favour one way or another aren’t you, Sonya?”
“You want to know the real reason I came here?” Sonya wasn’t presenting her perfect profile now. A shadow had fallen across her face, locks of corkscrew curls had come loose from her bandana, and spittle had formed in the corner of her mouth.
“Sonya, forget it,” Jorge said. “Let’s go.”
Sonya ignored the camera man.
“Our other survivor got a little mixed up with the dates. It turns out Larkin was out-of-town doing field research when she said he sexually harassed her. A little digging and I find out he was with you, but guess what? He doesn’t offer you as someone who can corroborate his whereabouts. Why?”
“Who did he give?”
Martinez looked at Jorge.
“Marie Hess,” Jorge said. “A local business owner in McBride.”
“And she backs up his story?” Mattie said.
“One hundred and ten percent.” Sonya took a deep breath. “So now the bastard’s going to sue me unless I post a retraction. I thought you might... never mind, forget it.”
“Yeah.” Sonya laughed. “Guess not.”
“Don’t post the retraction yet. Give me your number and I’ll be in touch.” Mattie took the card Jorge offered.
“Speaking of lawsuits, I never gave you permission to shoot on my property,” Mattie said. “Rather than be tempted or have it fall into the wrong hands, Jorge, I suggest you delete that file right now.”
MATTIE DESPISED HYPOCRITES and when Martinez accused of being one it stung. Bodine’s fans were too busy bringing down their wrath on Ellwyn to even consider she might have taken advantage of their idol but it wasn't lost on Sonya. It was impossible to explain how all this had come about in two hundred and eighty characters or less and she sure as hell wasn’t giving the money or the property back.
The one thing she could do was to attempt to make it right with Sonya. She might not like the woman, but she wanted her respect.
MATTIE KNEW LARKIN would be in his office on campus conducting student interviews. He was sitting at his desk when she walked in and closed the door.
When he saw Mattie his tanned, handsome face blanched so much so she thought he might faint.
“Mattie? Mattie.” He looked down at papers on his desk. “I’m afraid I have another student booked. You’ll have to make an appointment.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact.”
“That’s me.” Mattie had booked in under a fake name. She wanted her attacker to be unprepared.
“What? This is–”
“Look, I’m about as uncomfortable in your company as you are in mine. So let’s skip the bullshit.”
Larkin shut up.
“I’m taking Zoogeography this semester.”
“Good choice. I think–”
Mattie fixed him with a stare and he stopped talking.
“We both know what happened at Mount Robson.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re referring to.”
“Whatever.” Mattie took out the tabloid with her picture on the front page backed up by The Big Four. She slid it across the desk.
“You acquire a few things when you spend three years with a rock-and-roll legend, one is personal body guards. If I hear even a hint of inappropriate behavior from you this semester, you’ll be in a world of pain so severe you’ll wish Sonya Martinez and her #MeToo group had succeeded in assigning your career to oblivion.”
“Are you threatening me?” Some colour had returned to Larkin’s face.
“This is me in restraint mode.” Mattie picked up the paper. “You can check the internet if you want to see live coverage of this.”
“Mattie, I apologize for the misunderstanding we–”
“Save it, Larry.” She got up to leave. “One more thing. Sonya Martinez will take down the #MeToo post that refers to you once you withdraw the suit you’ve filed against her.”
“I can’t do that. It’s my reputation–”
“I was on the front page of three tabloids and the lead item on as many news shows. If I go public with my accusations, you’ll be vilified around the world not just around campus.”
The next day Mattie got a call from Sonya.
“Larkin withdrew the lawsuit. What did you do?”
“You need to take down the video that refers to him.”
“No problem. I’ll do it today.” Sonya hesitated. “You maybe want to go for coffee one day? No cameras.”
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