Senator, California (I)
The cold, winter night's air felt so completely blissful upon her face. It's crispness was a much welcomed change from the inside of the building, soothing and refreshing after having to make the rounds of the rich and powerful. She could have stood there for hours, watching her breath steam in the air, floating up into the dark, cold gray sky.
It always made her think back to when she was but a child. Looking out of the window each and every winter, hoping, wishing, praying for snow. Such nights made her reflect on that childhood mysticism that accompanied winter. How nice it would be, to go back to those times. Those simpler, easier times, when the greatest thing in the world on nights like that would have been a blizzard of snow.
Her melancholic thoughts were dashed away with the coming rush of reporters.
It took a certain amount of control to keep from groaning out loud. Instead of giving the disdain she felt for them, Ashley put on her best smile and grin, her hands stuffed into the pockets of her long coat as she began to make her way down the steps. Security came up around her like a protective shield, keeping the hungry sharks at bay as she gave them a little nibble for their sites. A trademark smile. A wave here and there. Just enough to keep them sated.
“Senator Whitman!” One of them called out, brandishing a phone. “What are your thoughts on Secretary Donaldson's surprise wins in South Carolina and Michigan?”
Ashley allowed a soft, amused laugh to escape her lips. “I wouldn't say they're surprising.” She lied. “The Secretary is a very capable and deft individual.”
“Are you close to endorsing one of the three, Senator?” Another voice called out.
A few more steps, she reminded herself. The car was there, waiting at the curb, the black SUV of peace and quiet. All she had to do was to make it there while walking the delicate tightrope that was Washington Politics. “Now now, I don't think it would be prudent of me to endorse anyone at this time.” She said. “I think any of the three are excellent candidates with strengths and weaknesses like all others before.”
More questions were shouted out, words clawing at one another for dominance over one another. She said her peace, had given them just enough to chew on for their articles and posts. “No more questions tonight, I'm afraid.” She said. “Momma has to get home and get some rest before getting up with the kids in the morning!” They ate it up with a few chuckles and snickers. They all always ate that shit up, when it was served with a grin and smile.
A few more moments, she thought, keeping the pleasant, cheerful demeanor on her face, as the opposite door opened, and a man slid in beside her. The warm, inviting smile kept upon her face for just a few more moments, until the car eased forward and began to creep down the busy avenues.
“Jesus Christ.” She murmured, removing a glove from her hand to massage her dimples. “If I have to put on one more goddamn fake smile tonight...”
Mark Dalton laughed beside her. “I think you're done for the night, Senator.” Her chief of staff remarked.
“Did Donaldson really win South Carolina and Michigan?” She asked. “Who the hell did he screw to get that?”
“It's looking that way.” Dalton remarked as the glow of his phone illuminated the back of the cab. “Thirty five in S.C., and thirty seven in Michigan. Brewer got thirty four and thirty, respectively. Jones got thirty one and thirty three.”
Ashley could not help but to allow an amused chuckle to escape her lips. It wasn't surprising, the three way tie in the primaries. For weeks, close to months, the polling was suggesting that the three would be running close races. But none predicted that the Secretary of Homeland Security was going to pull out wins in the states.
The party heads had to be going nuts, she thought to herself. They had all thought it would be a cakewalk. An easy path to victory to dethrone the failing Republican president. Select a leader they could all rally behind around, a candidate that could unite the party and the country. And instead, they seemed to have a three-headed viper on their hands, snipping and snapping at each head, all in the name of democracy.
“You know the calls are only going to increase, right, Ash?” Dalton asked, his tone going more serious. “They're not going to stop. You're the crown jewel.”
Ashley could only nod her head at that truth. She did not need to be told, to be reminded, of the position she was in. Her poll numbers were high in her home state of California. The It Girl of Washington. Respected and admired by both parties. The true Independent. She, who kept her self above the infighting, who stayed out of the mudslinging and forged working friendships and relationships on both sides of the aisle, who helped to salvage troubled bills and legislation.
They all wanted her at their campaigns and rallies. Both Democrats and Republicans courted the lone Independent of the Senate like Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Supplying the endless flattery, the constant invitations, etc., etc. They all wanted her, a victory to say to the American People that they were the right candidate for their races. It didn't matter if it was a mayoral seat in the middle of nowhere in California, or the Democratic candidates for president.
They would call, and call. Pour on the pressure to endorse one of them. To choose between the three of the unsavory choices.
Secretary of Homeland Security Terry Donaldson, with his too extreme, hawkish views. Representative Michelle Brewer of Massachusetts, with her pie-in-the-sky dreams and far-too-left views. Governor Andrew Jones, of New Jersey, with that slimy reputation and past scandals. They all had their baggage, and to choose between any of the three was if to choose a method of execution.
Ashley leaned forward to the front, and the driver behind the wheel. “Paul, take me to the Apartment.”
The driver only gave a curt nod as Ashley sat back. Dalton, on the other hand, could not resist injecting himself. “Tonight?” The man asked, raising an eye brow.
“Yes.” She said, putting her head against the cold glass of the window and closing her eyes. “After two and a half hours of shaking hands and trying to raise money, I wanted it. And now, knowing that I'm going to have to deal with those three buffoons tomorrow, I'm going to need it.”
“Do you have a preference for the night?” Dalton asked, undoubtedly looking through the listings of the site on his phone.
A moment passed, as she rested her head against the mirror, drinking in the cooling sensation to fight off the looming headache. She debated what she wanted that night, what sort of mood she was in. “Surprise me.” She said. “You know what I like.”
“Blue or pink?”
Again, she fell silent, debating the offer. A boy, or a girl? “Surprise me.”