Campaign Promises

Campaign Promises
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LexiWills,United Kingdom,Professional
Published Date:31-07-2017
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Campaign Promises a novella by Laurel Osterkamp Published by PMI Books at Smashwords Copyright © 2011 by Laurel Osterkamp Smashwords Edition License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Discover other titles by Laurel Osterkamp at http://www.laurelosterkamp.comTable of Contents 1. The Prom and John Bayard Anderson 2. The Wedding and Gary Hart 3. The Funeral and Paul Wellstone 4. The Baby Shower and Pat Schroeder 5. The High School Reunion and Michele Bachman Praise for Starring in the Movie of My Life Preview of Starring in the Movie of My Life About the Author1. The Prom and John Bayard Anderson 1989 If you were going to compare my high school experience to any political candidate in recent years, it would be to John Bayard Anderson. He was invisible, forgettable, awkward, and too honest for his own good. He just wasn’t able to fit in. Flash back to nine years ago: The presidential campaign was between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. We all know how it turned out. But what a lot of people don’t know, or perhaps they’ve forgotten, is there was a third party candidate: John Bayard Anderson. For little more than a moment’s time he was in the national spotlight. He’s now merely a blip on the radar screen of history. They say we study history so we can learn from it, so we won’t make the same mistakes twice. But if you ask me, history is a circle, not a line. We start at one spot, and it may feel like we’re going forward, but really we’re just going around and around. Maybe this view of mine will change. Maybe I’m too young to have any sort of perspective. I’m only eighteen, after all. The 1980 election was half my life ago, but my life hasn’t been going on super long yet, so perhaps I just haven’t figured out what all the possibilities are. God, I hope that’s what it is. It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking from first period to second. Mary talks loudly while swatting at her shellacked bangs. “I can’t believe he dumped me for Amanda It’s so humiliating And after I bought the dress, and booked the limo, what am I going to do? She’s talking about prom, of course. That’s all she or anyone has talked about for the past month. Sometimes I wonder how the idea of “prom” was ever invented. My guess is some evil loner longed to punish teenagers for being too self-involved and superficial and devised an event that will lure us into destroying ourselves through these very flaws. I mean, come on. Nobody ever actually has fun at prom. Having fun at prom is a myth that’s been sold to us through John Hughes movies. So we just waste a massive amount of money, time, and emotional energy on the whole idea. But what do I know? I’m not going to prom. “Do you think I should go stag?” Mary asks this as if it’s a hypothetical question, but I know it’s not. She’s waiting for a response. “Well…” I say, drawing out the ell part, “it’s been done before. And you might have a better time just hanging out with your friends.” It’s hard for me to give her advice since I don’t have a date, or a boyfriend, or even an ex- boyfriend. In fact, I’m sort of jealous of Mary and her problems. At least she knows she exists. Sometimes I don’t feel like I do; I’m like a non-entity, especially to the opposite sex. I’m less than a non-entity. I’m like the toenail on a little toe, just cuticle, there’s nothing there to paint or file, just tissue that is slightly more than skin. I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer. I’m shy, scrawny, and at five foot one, I’m easy to miss. Who would want to go to prom with me? “Who am I going to go with?” Mary demands, completely ignoring my nugget of advice. That I don’t have a date is not worth even mentioning. “I don’t have a problem asking someone else,” she says. “I just need to know who to ask. You have to help me come up with ideas.” What I have to do is get to class. It’s hard, when clumps of students walk slowly or simply stop in the middle of the hallway, causing human traffic jams. Walking the halls of school has become too familiar. I notice the open lockers as students retrieve what they need for their next class. The same pictures are stuck inside the same doors, mainstream girls with cutouts of Bon Jovi and the “rebels” with their REM posters. No matter what their social status, almost everyone has snapshots taken from school events or parties where people look like they’re having an impossibly good time. Once they close their lockers, the same people travel together, walking to class in packs. Out of default Mary has chosen me to walk with me to World History, probably because she knows I’ll listen to whatever she has to say. “Well, anyway, they deserve each other. You know what I heard? That Amanda spent 100 on lingerie She is going to surprise him on prom night in their hotel room, which if you ask me, is just so wrong. And they haven’t even been dating for a week, so they’re both sluts.”“At least it happened now. There is still time for you to find another date.” I say this for two reasons. One, I have no idea what else to say. Two, if there is still time for her to find a second date, there has to be time for me to find a first. “Right” her screech is at once sarcastic and shrill. “Like there is anyone good left Only losers don’t have dates at this point.” “Thanks…” I murmur. I could say more, but she hears me and actually absorbs the comment. “Sorry,” she says, but somehow implies I am the one at fault. “I didn’t mean you.” We finally make it to class and she sits down at a desk in the back row. Her assigned seat. Mary hates assigned seats, but I love them. It takes care of the politics; it is one less decision to make. Not that I am so pathetic that I worry about who I am going to sit by. It's just nice that it's a non-issue. My seat is on the far side of the room, third seat back. In the second seat sits Jack, a thin boy with curly blond hair that needs to be cut. In the first seat sits Kari, who is a senior, like me. Jack is merely a junior, but you wouldn’t know it, given how confident he is. Every day he spends the majority of class leaning forward, talking to Kari. Kari looks like one of those girls on Baywatch, and she has a boyfriend in college. The bell rings and Mr. Howard takes attendance. I notice before he does that Kari is not here today. Soon he begins his lecture on Iran and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (because we’re up to present times). I try to focus. My theory is the best way to make it through high school is to work at anything and everything until something actually pans out. Other than me, Jack is one of the only students actually taking notes. Ever since May hit, I’ve noticed how most of my classmates are even less motivated than before. Seriously, they ought to end the school year in March. After the lecture is over Mr. Howard gives us our assignment. There are fifteen minutes left in class to do the reading and answer the questions in the back of chapter twelve. I hear Mary close her book, put it in her backpack, and commence talking with Rachel, the girl who sits next to her. She’s practically yelling “One hundred dollars on lingerie Like she even has the body for it What a waste”I flip the pages through my history book. I try to stay interested, but it’s all so distant from who I am. Do they even have prom in Iran? If not, maybe I’ll move there. Mary continues on. “Does Amanda think she’s going to lose her virginity on prom night? God, barf me out Besides, Kyle doesn’t even like virgins.” Then, from in front of me, a whisper: “Shut the fuck up.” Jack turns around. His eyes meet mine, and he smiles. “Sorry,” he says. “I know she’s your friend.” I shrug my shoulders and smile. “I don’t think she’s actually my friend. She’s just someone I walk to class with.” “Oh, that’s good.” “It is?” He smiles again. “Sure. I was worried before.” “Huh?” “You know, that stuff about judging a man by the company he keeps?” I feel my cheeks grow warm. He thinks about me enough to be worried? And he judges me for hanging with Mary? I don’t know whether to be angry or flattered. I settle for slightly sarcastic. “Right. Except I’m not a man. And this is high school. People can’t be held accountable for their actions. It’s like a time of war.” “High school is a war?” Jack smiles again and cocks his head in question. I hate conversations with boys. I never know what to say. I don’t speak boy-language. That’s because I don’t speak the language of sex. Girls like Mary don’t know any more about speaking to boys than I do. But they know how to speak sex. The great divider in high school is between those who know how to speak sex, and those who do not. Jack’s still looking at me. It’s my turn to speak. Luckily I come up with something to say. “Pain, suffering, loss of free will. Of course high school is a war. Thank God I’m being liberated soon.” He turns almost completely around in his seat and leans forward. “That’s right. You’re a senior. Only a few more weeks and you’re out of here.” My response is a sigh of satisfaction. “Hey,” he says. “Who are you going to prom with?” Damn.I twist one my curls that escaped from my tightly bound ponytail. My hair will go crazy if I let it. “I’m not,” I say. “I don’t have a date.” I remind myself of a loser when I say this. Like the time in 7th grade when I got mixed up during spirit week. I thought Tacky Tuesday was on Monday, but it was actually Get Up and Go Day. Honestly, how could anyone make that mistake? Well I did, and I wore my pleated plaid skirt paired with my mom’s neon floral polyester blouse from the seventies, while everyone else was wearing their cute pajamas. Five years later and the image of it is still a tattoo in my mind, not unlike the memory of walking in on my grandparents having sex. “No kidding” says Jack. “So you don’t have a boyfriend?” “Look” This comes out more tersely than I mean it to. “It’s not a big deal.” “No, of course it isn’t. I didn’t mean it was.” The bell rings. I gather my books and get up to go. He touches my elbow lightly, and an electric wave flows through my body. I try not to let on that anything unusual is happening inside of me, and I listen to what he has to say. “Don’t be mad. I was just asking cuz it seems like it’s all that everyone is talking about. Sometimes I just run out of smart things to say.” I relax, and a laugh escapes from my lips. “I’m not mad. I’m just tired of everyone talking about prom. Especially since I don’t want to go.” There, I lied. But not going out of choice seems so much better than just not going. Period. We walk out together. “Yeah,” he says. “I can see your point. It’s a lot of fuss over something pretty cheesy.” “What are you guys talking about?” We are back out in the hall, and Mary has caught up with us. Jack turns to her. “Prom. We were just talking about how we’re not going.” He touches me again, this time on the shoulder. “Stay cool, Lucy.” Then he walks away. I didn’t even know he knew my name. All that week Kari is not in class; I hear she’s in the hospital. That’s the rumor anyway. Am I a terrible person for being happy about it? Jack turns around every day to talk to me, and prom is the only thing we don’t talk about Tuesday Jack: “What’s your favorite cafeteria lunch?”Me: “The chicken fingers, definitely.” Jack: “Okay, but why?” Me: “Easy. Chicken fingers are inherently impossible to perfect, yet also so hard to ruin, that all chicken fingers have become interchangeable. The ones from the cafeteria may as well be from a gourmet restaurant; they’re all the same.” Jack: “Good point, but I like the lil’ poppers. Their name alone makes them great. Plus, they’re lunch and they’re a mystery. I still can’t figure out what’s in them.” Wednesday Me: “Have you ever wondered if Mr. Howard is secretly a robot? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him eat, drink, or use the bathroom.” Jack: “I’ve heard there’s some oath that adults have to take before they become teachers, where they promise to quit having bodily functions. Otherwise students would be too disgusted.” Thursday Jack: “Do you have a sister or a brother?” Me: “No. I’m an only child. What about you?” Jack: “You’re kidding, right?” Me: “No. Why?’ Jack: “You haven’t heard about Monty?” (Monty graduated last year. I didn’t know he and Jack were related. Monty was homecoming royalty, student council president, a soccer star, and had a 4.0. Jack hates him because they’re related. “Otherwise we’d be friends,” he says.) Friday Jack: “What are you doing this weekend?” Me: “Not much.” Jack: “Yeah, me neither.” Then there’s a long pause. Am I supposed to say something? I thought guys did the asking out. I look down at my notebook. The bell rings, and he gets up and walks toward the door without me. I seriously don’t understand guys. On Monday Mary catches up with me on the way to class. She grabs my arm in a fit of urgency and pulls me away from the swarm of people in the hallway. Her bright pink nails dig into my arm like Joan Crawford’s would in that “Mommy Dearest” movie. “I wanted you to hear it from me first. Please don’t be mad.” “What?” I respond, not at all prepared for what I am about to hear. “Jack and I were both at Stuart Franklin’s party this weekend, you know, the one I told you to go to? Anyway, we both got kinda drunk, and we made out in the guest room.” My stomach takes a nosedive, but I refuse to let my face betray my emotions. Besides, there’s more. Mary continues. “But I was like, really wasted. And I sorta ended up puking on him.” Most of the time I would find that funny. But I can’t laugh, so I fake a smile. “The next day I called Jack to apologize, because I felt really, really bad. And to make it up to him, I offered to take him to prom. Please don’t be mad.” I am screaming on the inside, angry at Jack for being such a hypocrite, angry at Mary for being so predictable, angry at myself for not having seen this coming. “Why would I be mad?” I reply. “He’s just some guy I sit next to in history.” I walk away, towards class. Mary follows. Thankfully for once she is silent. For some reason political campaigns have always fascinated me. I think it’s because the competition is at once personal and universal. We compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of two or more men, we analyze their accomplishments and their missteps, and everything they’ve ever said or done will be put under the microscope. Then we’re supposed to determine which one we want. But what most people want and what I want don’t seem to match up. Take John Anderson. Nobody would have thought he’d have a chance at the presidency. Then came his money shot: during a Republican primary debate, he and the other candidates were asked to name a political decision they regretted.Everyone evaded the question except Anderson. He said he wished he’d never voted to amend the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which is what gave President Johnson the ability to send more and more troops to Vietnam. People loved his answer, and his poll numbers skyrocketed. So he began his campaign against Reagan and Carter as an independent candidate, and everything was great except he was stiff, he wore these ugly thick-rimmed glasses, and he proposed a fifty cents per gallon gasoline tax to aide our economy and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Yeah, major oops. Did I mention that John B. Anderson was an advocate for the environment before anyone started worrying about rain forest depletion? He also spoke out in favor of preventative measures towards oil spills. Nobody listened, now nine years later we’re cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez. Who cares if he was right? Who cares if he had substance? He wasn’t pretty to look at, and he didn’t tell voters what they wanted to hear. I’ll bet he wasn’t popular in high school either. In other words, doing the right thing doesn’t matter, and people don’t appreciate foresight. John B. Anderson was never the type to get drunk and make out with guys he didn’t even know or like, only to puke on them and ask them to prom. But then, John B. Anderson will never be elected president. When I arrive to class the first thing I notice is that Kari is back, and she’s turned towards Jack, recounting her hospital adventure. “Yeah, nowadays they hardly ever take out tonsils, but I guess that mine were so infected that they had to. You would not believe how much my throat hurt. And I haven’t had a cigarette for over a week.” I sit down behind Jack, cursing the fact that we have assigned seats. Mr. Howard begins his lecture, and today my note taking looks like a bunch of angry squiggles. I’m pressing my pencil so hard against the page that the lead breaks. I search awkwardly in my bag for a new writing utensil, but of course I don’t have one, and I’d rather die than call attention to myself by sharpening my pencil. So I sit there, doing nothing. Jack spends all of class talking to Kari. When the bell rings we all get up to go, but Jack stands in front of me, blocking my exit. “Hey,” he says. “Did you have a nice weekend?”“I heard you did,” I reply. “Oh.” his face turns bright red. “Yeah, so I guess I’m going to prom.” “Have fun,” I say, and shove my way past him. Prom comes and goes, and I am glad when it’s over. I hear that Jack spent the whole evening going after Kari (who was there with her college boyfriend), and that Mary got drunk and made a fool of herself over Kyle. So I didn’t miss much. It's now a week before school gets out. We’re sitting in history class, and Jack is listening to something Kari is saying. Suddenly he turns around in his seat, away from Kari, towards me. He looks pale. “Hey, guess what? I was out with my parents last week at this fancy restaurant, for my dad’s birthday. Anyway, they had chicken fingers for eight dollars I thought, no way How can they be worth that much? Because I remembered what you said, I ordered them. And they were really good Much better than the cafeteria’s. So, uh, I was thinking I could take you there, my treat, and prove your theory wrong.” It’s the first time he has said anything to me since that awful Monday morning. I take a second before responding, but I ask the question to which I must know the answer. “Is that the only reason you want to take me out? To prove me wrong?” For whatever reason, he seems to find what I said amusing. Some of the color enters back into his cheeks, and he re-adopts his usual confident manner. “It’s not the only reason.” He clears his throat. “But keep in mind, we’re all at war. I can’t be held accountable for my actions.” I consider this. “I don’t know,” I say. “I’m not so sure high school is a war after all. I think it might be more like a campaign. You have to be willing to work the system a little if you want to get ahead, and integrity is going to hurt you more than it will help.” He just sits there, and looks at me like he really sees who I am. I can’t remember being looked at like this before. “Well, you could be right.” He straightens himself up and sits with perfect posture. “But sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to. And other times… I don’t know. It’s not always easy to have the right perspective on something that is still happening, you know?” I feel myself wanting to forgive him. After all, at least he’s trying. Still…“So I shouldn’t judge you for making out with someone you can’t stand?”He shakes his head. “No. You should definitely judge me. I judge me. But...” he lowers his voice and leans in towards me. “I’d never kissed anyone before. She was all over me, and I just wanted to get my first kiss out of the way, you know?” “Hmm,” I say. I understand completely, but I don’t say so. My only kiss happened a year ago, at my friend Karen’s birthday party. She had invited some guys she knew from her karate class, and we played Fifteen Minutes of Paradise. I went into the closet with this pimply faced kid named Patrick. The kiss lasted about fourteen minutes too long, but I was relieved afterwards to have my first kissing experience out of the way. I’m surprised though, that Jack has never been kissed before. He talks to girls all the time. I guess they all put him in the “friend” category. I arch an eyebrow at him, because I can see he’s waiting for more of a response. “You didn’t have to agree to go to prom with her.” “I know. It’s just…” He squirms a little, hesitates, but continues on. “You said you didn’t want to go. I wanted to ask you, and it was this elephant in the room. In a crazy sort of way, I kinda thought it would be better if the subject was just off the table completely.” I hang my head to hide my hurt feelings. “I’ve been pretty busy lately.” “Lucy…” he reaches out and grabs my arm. “Please? Give me one more chance.” I agree to go.2. The Wedding and Gary Hart 1995 It seems like most politicians have a problem with monogamy. I wonder if it goes with the territory of being a man who craves power, or if it just goes with the territory of being a man. I contemplate this as I drive into the parking lot of the wedding chapel. It doesn’t matter how many times the institution of marriage is tarnished by public figures and the national media, people still believe in it. Our current president is a perfect example. Bill cheated on Hillary, yet both his marriage and his career survived. That’s not always the case. In 1987 Gary Hart made history by raising peoples’ hopes, taunting the press, and sleeping with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Rarely do people ascend to such great heights only to cut of their own wings. But Gary Hart did, and the world will remember him for it. I get out of my car and walk towards the chapel. It’s a beautiful September day, the sun is shining, and love is in the air. I spot him first; he’s standing outside, greeting guests, looking way in over his head. I stand still for a moment, wondering if he’ll sense me watching him. He does. “You look great” Jack’s face morphs into a huge grin as he comes bounding towards me. He stops just short of stepping on my toe; there’s maybe half an inch between us, except for the vast difference in our heights. He crouches down and kisses me on the cheek. “I was worried you wouldn’t make it.” “I could never miss your wedding.” I mean this completely. Sure, Jack and I dated at the end of high school and during the summer before I left for college. But that was so long ago. Once I started at the University of Minnesota we kept in touch, but a long distance relationship was never in the cards for us. Instead, we slipped into an easy friendship. No muss, no fuss, no drama. His arms fly out in a gesture of surrender, and I marvel at how skinny he is. No freshman fifteen for Jack: no sophomore, junior, or senior weight either. His wedding-day tux engulfs him. He looks young, like a boy playing dress-up. Handsome, but so innocent. “I can’t believe you’re getting married” I tell him.“Neither can I,” he says. “I keep expecting to wake up from a dream or something. But no… it’s like I’m set for life now.” I peer into his eyes, trying to detect a trace of cynicism, but I don’t see one. “Being set for life is good,” I tell him as I squeeze his hand. He squeezes back. “Sort of like an endless membership to beer of the month club.” “True, but you’ll be drinking the same beer for the rest of your life.” Jack gives me a questioning look. “A really, really great beer, of course,” I qualify. He shrugs his shoulders. “And I’ll never have to make another run to the liquor store.” “Yeah, but you were never a big drinker anyway.” I cringe. That came out wrong. I am happy for him, I am. It’s just…God. I don’t know. If he’s already getting married, and he was my younger-than-me first boyfriend, then what does that say about my life? He looks at his watch, deflecting the moment of awkwardness between us. “Hey, speaking of alcohol, I’d better go. I’m supposed to do shots with Monty before the ceremony.” “Why? Don’t you want to be sober for the most important moment of your life?” He laughs. “I’m so nervous, Lucy I think it’s better if I’m a little drunk.” He draws me into a hug and I can smell his aftershave. It smells sort of like Pine Sol, only nicer. “Don’t tell Petra, okay?” “My lips are sealed.” We exchange grins one more time, and Jack heads off to find his brother. I enter the chapel to find a seat. Of course, I’m the only one sitting alone. Always dateless it seems, at least when it comes to Jack. He’s actually one of the few high school friends with whom I’ve kept in touch. College was a different story. I majored in political science, and volunteered for Senator Wellstone’s campaign, then the Clinton campaign. Meeting people and making friends with other people my age who cared about more than next week’s keg party made everything fall into place. I was no longer tongue-tied, hesitant Lucy. I was Lucy on a mission, passionate and idealistic. Guys dug it. Well, a few did anyway. I dated around a little, nothing serious, but enough to get my feet wet. Now I live in Minneapolis and work for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program; mostly I organize youth programs and events. College-graduate Lucy is confident and successful, but put her back in her hometown of Applewood, Iowa, and she’s the same shy girl who left six years ago. Okay, the wedding is actually in Fort Peter, Petra’s hometown, but I think something about the air in Iowa itself just sucks away at my confidence. I sit, wishing I had someone to talk to. Then, like a gift from God, I hear my brand new cell phone ring. Heads turn towards me in annoyance, even though the ceremony has yet to start and technically I’m not interrupting anything. I quickly fish my phone from my purse and answer it. “Hello?” I say in a hushed voice. My best friend Sharon answers me back. “Are you at the wedding yet?” “I just got here. I’m waiting for the ceremony to start.” “So you’re still sober.” Geez. Does everyone have a preoccupation with alcohol today? “I’m afraid so,” I tell her. “That’s too bad,” says Sharon. “I think you should get plastered as soon as possible.” “That would be pretty irresponsible, don’t you think?” Sharon grunts out a laugh. “Come on, Lucy. Lighten up. You’re alone at you’re first love’s wedding. You deserve to go a little crazy. Forget responsible – you owe it to yourself to hook up with someone hot, and you owe it to me to remember all the details so you can tell me about it later.” The blue-haired lady in front of me is giving me the evil eye. Clearly she doesn’t approve of cell phones. I slink down in my seat. “Sharon, I’ll try my best. But I should go.” “Fine. But have fun If I find out you wasted the evening by being a wallflower, you’ll have me to answer to.” We exchange goodbyes and I shut my phone with a smile. I don’t know if Jack actually qualifies as my “first love.” He was my first legitimate kiss. At the time I had practically nobody else to compare him to, but even still I suspected he wasn’t that great of a kisser. I was right. After kissing a handful of guys in college I realized he was sort of slobbery and inept at using his tongue. It’s probably unfair of me to judge him so harshly though; we were both inexperienced. Really, I’m very lucky my relationship with Jack worked out so well. It’s so easy to make mistakes when it comes to romance. Take Gary Hart. His goal of course was to be president. And for a while, it looked like he had a real shot at it. He was from Colorado, but he acted like he was from New England, and every now and then when he was speaking in front of a crowd he pretended to straighten out his back. These mannerisms achieved their desired effect, and everyone started to believe he was the next JFK. There were other reasons for the comparison. He was bright, charismatic, young, and handsome. He was a democrat and stood for a lot of the same ideals that Kennedy stood for, and it seems he was also an enemy to the mob. His downfall? He was also unable to keep it in his pants. The ceremony starts, and I watch a goofy-grinned Jack look at Petra with adoration in his eyes. They promise to love each other forever. Best-man/big brother Monty stands by Jack’s side, and although he is shorter than Jack, I could swear he’s looking down on him. After the ceremony I drive a mile up the street to the reception at Oak Hill Country Club. I decide to take Sharon’s advice, so when I walk in my first order of business is to find the bar. Gin-n-tonic in hand, I brace myself to mingle with people I don’t know, and perhaps a few familiar faces from high school. I could never think of anything to say to them four years ago, but hopefully it will be easier now. I’m standing on the precipice of the crowd, trying to decide where the best diving in point is, when I hear a voice from behind me. “Still shy, Lucy?” I turn around and see Monty. He’s holding a beer in one hand and his cell phone in the other, and he looks like he’d rather be getting a root canal than standing here, talking to me. “Hi, Monty. How are you?” He speaks a little too loudly. “Me? Oh, I’m great. Couldn’t be better. You?” I take a sip of my drink. “I’m fine.” He slaps me on the back, causing a little of my drink to splash onto my hand. “Glad to hear it. Have fun” Then he walks away. Nice. I take a breath and walk towards some people I think I know. Two gin-n-tonics and several “Oh my God how are you? What have you been up to’s” later, I sit down for dinner with several other stray friends of Jacks. Thank goodness our name cards are sitting out, because I don’t know if we’d remember what to call each other otherwise. The meal goes by in an awkward blur, but when Jack gets up to make his toast the evening suddenly becomes more vivid.“Thank you all for being here tonight,” he says. “Friends, family, people I only sort of know… I appreciate seeing you all.” He looks at me when he says that last part, and we share a smile. He clears his throat. “Four years ago I was a geeky kid with no direction and very little confidence. Then I met Petra.” He looks down at her, sitting at their wedding table like a princess, and he touches her shoulder. She beams back up at him. “For some reason she saw something worthwhile in me…” He chokes up. “Look at how beautiful she is. She could have had anyone, and she chose me.” The crowd murmurs and ahhs over his sentimentality. “So thank you, Petra, for loving me, and thanks to you all for bearing witness to it. Cuz honestly, I have trouble believing it myself.” He raises his glass in a toast. “Petra, I will always, always love you. Here’s to love.” Everyone drinks, and then they ding on their glasses. Jack and Petra take the cue and lean in for a kiss. Suddenly the alcohol and emotion gurgle inside my gut, and I feel an urgent need for air. I walk as steadily as I can toward the front door, then exit outside into the warm and humid September evening. I just hope nobody notices my absence and takes it the wrong way. It’s not that I still have feelings for Jack; it’s that I have feelings for nobody, and nobody has feelings for me. I’m drifting in a sea of apathy. But I know how this looks, standing outside and alone at my first boyfriend’s wedding, gulping down sentiment like a soccer player would Gatorade. And I also know how irretrievable being caught in the act can be. Back in 1987, before Bill Clinton was on the scene, the press wasn’t really in the habit of investigating the personal lives of politicians. Hart changed all that when he made his fatal mistake of daring the press to follow him. “You won’t find anything,” he taunted. So when the Miami Herald caught Gary Hart having an affair with this model named Donna Rice, they took Gary Hart to town. Headlines exposing the affair were in every newspaper in the country. Some people said, “Who cares? A man’s ability to stay faithful to his wife doesn’t reflect upon his ability to lead a country.” Others said, “This scandal shows poor character and judgment. Let’s go with Michael Dukakis instead.”And then were those who uttered, ‘It’s all a scam That reporter from Miami was told by the CIA to investigate Hart. Hart knew that the CIA was aligned with the mob, and they both wanted to destroy his candidacy.” In the end none of it mattered. Nobody believed Hart could win, whether they wanted him to or not. The robotic Michael Dukakis got the nomination, and he of course lost to George Bush. The Gary Hart scandal forever changed how the press would treat political candidates, especially since Hart blamed the press for his problems. But years later, when Bill Clinton was caught having an affair with Gennifer Flowers, Clinton knew enough to be reticent. He took responsibility for his actions, and his and Hillary’s appearance on 60 Minutes saved his campaign. Lesson learned: people will forgive you for just about anything if you’re willing to own up to your mistakes, but it’s better not to make a mistake in the first place. Especially when it comes to love. I’m focusing on taking even, steady breaths when I hear someone talking. I squint into the distance, and realize that it’s Monty on his cell phone. I look away and try not to listen, but his voice is getting louder and he is getting closer. “You know I feel the same way,” he says. “But it’s not that simple.” I turn my head down and study the pavement beneath my feet. Should I go back in? Surely he’s noticed me standing here by now, so if I go back in that would be awkward too, right? His voice becomes more demanding. “Come on I never said that. You’re rewriting history.” He’s now standing directly across from me, his tie askew and his eyes focused on my face. It’s like he’s talking to me, but he’s not. And I’m a deer caught in the headlights…this is definitely getting weird. “Look, if you’re going to be that way, I can’t change you and I refuse to beg.” He stops talking, and listens to whatever the person on the other end is saying. Whatever it is, I can tell it’s not good. “Okay.” He speaks in an angry little burst. “I’ve got to go. Jack’s old high school girlfriend is standing here, and she’s totally listening in on our conversation.” “Huh?” I utter in shock and irritation. “You came up to me.” “Good bye.” He snaps his phone shut, then, ironically, he looks away now that he’s actually speaking to me. “I wasn’t serious about you listening in. I just said that to get off the phone.”“Oh.” Neither of us moves or says anything for a moment, but the humid September air presses down on us like a soggy dishtowel. “Gotta love cell phones, huh?” He doesn’t answer. I continue speaking. “I just got my first one a couple weeks ago. It made me feel real important. But I don’t know if I’ll use it enough to justify the expense. Maybe I’ll get rid of it… I don’t know.” He cocks his head to the side, a gesture to confirm his understanding. While I’m relatively sure that my statement was pretty normal, I doubt that my delivery was. I think I sounded pretty squeaky. “You okay?” he asks. “Fine,” I say. “Just had one drink too many.” “How many drinks did you have?” “Two.” He laughs. “I’m sort of a lightweight,” I tell him. “Not hard to be a lightweight when you weigh 90 pounds.” I notice his eyes travel the length of my body, up and down, at lightening speed, and they land back in the safe spot of returning my gaze. He smiles, causing little laugh lines to form around his eyes and mouth. Charming… something inside me twinges. “I weigh more than 90 pounds,” I say. “Okay.” He sighs, and leans back against the wall of the country club, making a wide-angled L-shape with his body. He taps his fingers against the wall. “Can you believe Jack just got married?” “Well, since I witnessed it with my own two eyes I guess I’ll have to believe it.” “You mean you didn’t keep one eye closed?” “No, I’m not like you.” He chuckles. “Huh? Is that supposed to be an insult?” My head is still spinning a little, so even though it means standing closer to him, I lean against the brick wall myself, letting it support my weight. “No. I don’t mean it like that. You just didn’t look too happy during the ceremony.”

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