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The "Would've Been" Fall Guy

A writing prompt from Reddit: After hardship, they find the truth about what happened -and it's much more positive than they'd imagine.


 

Joffrey stood angrily in the opened doorway. Words laced with venom, he growled while his hands shook with rage.

“You…”

Out of all the people he didn’t ever want to see again, there they stood in front of him. On his doorsteps, no less.

Amelia gave a weak smile. She knew just how much he resented her.

“Joffrey, don’t slam the door. Please.”

“You have 10 seconds before I do.”

“I figured you would say that,” Reaching into her satchel bag, Amelia pulled out a manilla folder. “I have something that belongs to you.”

“I don’t want it.”

He began to close the door when Amelia reached forward.

“Wait, please give me a moment of your time! I will explain everything. After that, you can choose to despise me if you want.”

Joffrey’s glare was lethal, but he hesitated. Looking at Amelia’s soft, pained eyes, he had a change of heart. Opening the door wide, he turned to walk into the living room. Amelia sighed with heavy relief, following him in quickly. Leaning over to remove her shoes, he barked at her.

“Keep them on. You’re not staying long.”

Amelia paused, looking up at him for a moment. The pained look in her eyes returned full force as she turned towards the couches. Joffrey had no remorse in his anger toward her. After what she did to him, there was no way he could ever forgive her.

Two years ago he worked in the same company as her. Joffrey had poured his life into his work, and was fired just before his big break. Amelia was his right hand in the project and took his place. The project took off and became a multimillion-marketed product.

To make things worse, she took 100% credit for the work, then patented it before the company could get its greedy hands into the pot. It was unspeakable to swipe it all out from beneath everybody and take all the fortune for herself.

Joffrey sat and watched the war over his creation on the news for two years. It was a scandal that everyone talked about relentlessly. They never mentioned his name during the entire legal battle or when they finally settled it. Amelia got to keep all the rights. Why now did she come to see him after the dust settled? For what? To boast about her thievery? With a sharp tsk, he ground his teeth. He just wanted this over with.

“Make this quick, Amelia.”

Sitting down quietly, Amelia stared at the coffee table vacantly.

“Believe what you want, Joffrey. I never wanted any of this.”

Opening the file, she placed several pieces of documents down before her. Without any further words, she grabbed a pen, clicked it, and held it out in front of her towards Joffrey.

“What’s all this?”

“The rights to the project.”

Her words caught Joffrey off guard. Was she just giving it to him?

“This must be some kind of joke.”

“I’ve never been more serious about anything.”

They paused in their stand-off, neither of them moving. Finally, Joffrey took a few steps toward the coffee table. There it was, the actual paperwork to transfer him full ownership. Sitting softly on the couch, he scrunched his face.

“What’s the meaning of all this?”

Amelia placed the pen down on the table before folding her hands on her lap. She sat back and took a deep breath in.

“I never wanted this. I did it because I wanted to save you.”

Joffrey scoffed in disbelief, but before he could retort, Amelia continued.

“They were going to use you, Joffrey. You were their fall guy. The company was about to collapse, and the only way they could save face was to use you as the scapegoat.

“Years ago, I overheard them talking about it. They made some bad investments and decided to say it was for your project. Although, they weren’t expecting it to work out. Once they heard about the successes you had, they got greedy.

“I knew this was happening. So instead of saying anything, I involved my lawyers in secret. We devised a plan to save your reputation from downfall and kept the project for ourselves. The only way we could do that was to get you fired so that they removed your name. Once I took over the project, they nearly destroyed it. I only released a small portion and kept the rest hidden.

“Although, you were brilliant. All the work you put into it was superb, and now that you will have full entitlement to it, you can continue your work unhindered. Along with it, you will have your company and team. I did this all for you.”

Joffrey sat with his jaw open. Looking down at the paperwork, he realized she wasn’t bluffing. On top of that, he was inheriting all the wealth that came along with the company.

“What about you?”

Amelia smiled softly, shaking her head. “This project was never mine. In my hands, it would collapse. You were always the mastermind behind it all. I was just the assistant.”

With that, Amelia stood up and walked towards the door. Joffrey sat dumbfoundedly, watching her head to the door and open it. It was then that he finally noticed. Her clothes looked old, torn, and dirty. Her hair was dark and greasy, like she hadn’t showered in days. Even her shoes were falling apart. He called out to her, standing as he did.

“Amelia…”

She paused, turning to face him with a curious look. It finally sank into Joffrey what was off about her. Her face was sunken in, and her hands were small and bone. She looked malnourished. Had she done everything she could to avoid spending the money she made from his project?

“When was the last time you ate?”

With wide eyes, she scanned the floor to look for an answer. “Oh… well, Uh… I just ate before…”

Joffrey held up his hands to ward off her excuse. He offered a soft smile and a hand towards the kitchen. “Would you mind staying for dinner? The paperwork can wait a while longer.”

Smiling at each other, Amelia closed the door.

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