Home > Crushed

Author: Elise Faber






She was tired of this shit.

Like beyond tired of it.

Tired of her boss standing less than a foot from her, his taller body bent so that he could better yell at her, blood vessels having burst in his eyes, spittle flying in tiny, disgusting globs that luckily hadn’t yet splattered against her cheeks.

Thankful for her glasses providing eye protection when one of those gross orbs hit the lens.

Bile in her throat.

Her stomach churning.

A year ago, she might have thought she would throw up.

But she’d endured all manner of things in the last three-hundred-sixty-odd days. A little spit on her glasses was the least of her concern.

Same as the screaming.

For the last six months of so, she’d been able to go full-on Charlie Brown—whun-whun, whun-whun, whun-whun. So, the yelling didn’t bother her.

It was what he was yelling about.

It was the fact that the people she was supposed to be looking after, helping, protecting were seen as a commodity without feelings or the chance to make mistakes or—

“And if she doesn’t get her fucking head together,” Zack thundered, drawing Lily’s hearing into focus, “you can tell her that she’s off the goddamned team!”

Then—as was his modus operandi—he didn’t wait for a response or confirmation. He just straightened and stormed out of her office, slamming the door behind him and setting her trio of tiny cacti rattling on the small shelf she’d mounted on the same wall.

One of these days, it would crash to the ground.

Broken. Unsalvageable. Adorable ceramic pots ravaged. Gone forever. Never to be pieced back together.

And that was a painful reminder of—

Exhaling sharply, she tucked the memory away and then turned back to her computer, beginning to pull files and compile resources. Leslie was scheduled to be in Lil’s office in just over an hour, and Lily would be ready for any scenario, any need, anything that she might require.

Anything to help her young athlete get back on track, despite the shit that Zack was pulling.

Because Lily wouldn’t fail her.

Blowing out another breath—since that was the only way to get rid of the burning in the back of her throat, the tension swirling in her stomach, the agonizing regret that she hadn’t done enough—she focused and…worked.

It was what she was good at.

What she was best at.

So, when Leslie came in an hour later, she was ready.

And then, when Veronica and Chelsea came in afterward, eyes red and glassy, posture shrunken in a way that Lily knew instantly was strictly because of Zack, she wanted to scream and throw something at her stupid trio of cacti. To shatter the pretty porcelain exteriors herself, to destroy the beauty before the world did.

But…she was a fixer.

She fought for it, tried her best to be that glue.

It just…didn’t always work.

Today, though, it did. Something she was thankful for when she saw the light creep back into Leslie’s eyes, her love and determination for the sport sliding back into her as their session went on. Even as Lily pushed away the fact that she’d had that thought before. She had to. It was the only way forward, the only way to escape the labyrinth of the memories, the monster of her past. Focus on work, on Veronica and Chelsea, on the fact that they’d become roadkill for Zack as well and needed her.

Then, hours later, when her office was empty and Zack’s car had left the parking lot, she did what she’d done for the last eleven and a half months—which was exactly how long it had taken for her to recognize Zack for what he was.

Which, okay, she’d known what he was within a few seconds of meeting him—a creep—but he’d been on his best behavior for those two weeks, so she’d ignored her instincts, had dismissed the red flags waving in her belly.

Because then the shine had come off.

And—she wasn’t a pushover, wasn’t a woman to let wrongs continue without doing her best to right them—she reported him. For the first time. But not the last.

Even though it didn’t do anything, didn’t change anything.

Didn’t make one bit of difference.

Just like she reported the bruises she saw on Leslie’s arm that day.

Shaped like fingertips. Five of them. Lily had been able to count them.

Which was why—this time—she didn’t just report Zack’s emotional abuse to their parent organization and Zack’s boss and the president of the committee, who was supposed to watch out for these young athletes. She didn’t just send another email to Leslie’s and Chelsea’s and Veronica’s parents.

She also reported those bruises to the police.






Lily, six months later

In fairness, she hadn’t expected it to all blow up like it had.

Reports erased from the organization’s internal system, files shredded, parents paid off with promises of better opportunities for their extremely gifted young athletes if only they would lend their support to the coaches.


Living their dreams through children.

Including Leslie’s parents.

Getting hurt is sometimes part of the process.

A direct quote from the Parents of the Year in response to Lily’s last email to them.

That had assuaged Lily’s guilt—or some of it, anyway. She was a mandatory reporter. She knew she had a duty to protect her kids. She knew Leslie’s parents wouldn’t.

She’d failed her girls once.

She wouldn’t fail them again, wouldn’t ignore the signs, pretend that things would get better.

So, Lily had continued doing her job, continued advocating and protecting and bringing physical and digital copies of everything home in the days that had followed her report to the police (and only days because she’d known her time in her position was limited once she’d called the non-emergency line). Those copies…well, they’d both become instrumental and a huge issue for her legally. The only reason she had them at all was because, from the moment her parents had heard about Zack and the shitshow that was supposed to have been her dream job, they’d had Lily’s back. A place to vent. A sounding board of workplace experience and advice. Advice that had saved her.


Cover. Your. Ass.

Her mom was an HR higher-up in a Fortune 500 company. She was great at her job, experienced, and her guidance had saved Lily—at least legally.

It was technically against the rules—something the organization had fired her for when the police showing up to investigate the bruises had prompted an internal inquiry—her taking those files, bringing the copies of her reports home. But they’d been the backbone of the case that was currently playing out on national television, so much so that her lawyer had managed to get her whistleblower status.

Her legal problems solved.

No ramifications for taking the files.

And thankfully, being a whistleblower meant that her name was left out of it.

At least in the public sphere.

The back channels, though, the powerful humans that oversaw the profit machine that was professional sport?

They knew.

They knew she’d reported and continued reporting even though it had done jack shit. They knew she’d then finally seized the opportunity of something physical—and fuck, that made her sound almost as bad as the powers that had kept Zack coaching—because she’d taken advantage of a child’s pain, a child’s bruises, and brought the police in. Had sneakily snapped cell phone photos because Lily knew that Leslie wouldn’t consent to her bruises being documented otherwise. And then…Lily had used them. Had given them to the police, along with copies of every single line of text she’d smuggled out.

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