Posted on 2014-06-02
I still like the conventions, but I think I'm the only one. You get to see people from all over the country who are really proud of where they're from. It's true on both sides of the aisle. Yeah, they're staged, yeah, they're a little fake, but you can glean a lot from what a campaign chooses to present. The whole tenor of the fall campaign comes out of these two weeks.Peter Branden, the New York Times, August 21, 2014
Jane threw an impromptu engagement party for Will and Lizzy the night before they arrived at the convention, or at least as impromptu as Jane ever did anything. Will was a little uncomfortable with all the attention, not to mention the time away from working on the Governor's speech, but Lizzy was happy and that was worth it to him.
Mary Benet was doing workshops on tech matters during two days of the convention, so Gigi was in Philadelphia with her. Will was very glad to have his sister around, especially at the party. Once he'd made the rounds with Lizzy, he left his fiancée with Jim and Alice and found his sister lingering at the edge of the party. Gigi wasn't any more comfortable with crowds than he was. "Hey," he said, pulling her into a tight hug. "I'm glad you're here, Gigi."
"I'm so happy for you, Will," she replied. "She's perfect for you."
Will couldn't help smiling. "I don't deserve her."
Gigi punched his arm lightly. "None of that. She makes you happy, and look at her! She's luminous." She turned to him and shook her head. "And look at you. I've never seen you this happy."
Will hugged her again, his throat unexpectedly tight.
Gigi was suspiciously misty-eyed when the siblings drew apart. Lizzy approached them a minute later. "You two are looking serious," she teased. "This is a party, you know."
Gigi wiped her eyes and smiled. "So the wedding's at Pemberley?"
Lizzy nodded, setting her arm around Will's waist, while he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Hard to argue when your fiancé owns two wedding venues. By the way, I had no idea that was where the Darcy fortune came from."
Will rolled his eyes. "Why am I marrying you again?"
"I've been asking myself that for weeks."
Gigi choked on her champagne, trying not to laugh.
A while into the party, Jim and Richard pushed Will into making a speech. "I don't know why you want to hear from me. We all know Lizzy's the talker in this relationship," he joked. People laughed, and he rubbed the back of his neck. "Thank you all for being here tonight. Over the last year, you've become a lot like family, and those of you who were already family have become a lot more annoying."
Richard threw a wadded cocktail napkin at him but missed by a mile. Will scooped it up and launched it back at him. "Boys!" Alice yelled, to the laughter of everyone.
Will caught Lizzy's gaze and returned her soft smile. "Whether we win or lose on the fourth of November, I will always be grateful for this campaign. It has been, and continues to be, a phenomenal experience. I expected to be challenged, but I never expected..." He took a deep breath, knowing what he was about to say was hopelessly sappy. "I never expected you, Lizzy."
Her smile turned tremulous, and she came up and kissed him sweetly. Then she leaned into him while he kept his arm around her. They were saved from having to say anything else when the Governor raised her glass. "To Lizzy and Will," she said, and the whole party answered.
Late in the party, Will found himself with Senator Lin. Since writing remarks for him at the North Carolina rally, Will hadn't had much contact with the Governor's running mate. "Congratulations, Will," the Senator said. "Senator Fitzwilliam can't say enough good things about Lizzy."
"Yeah, I think he may like her better than me," Will replied.
The Senator grinned. "My parents like Rebecca better than me. I can sympathize." He took a quick drink from his glass and moved on to business. "Have you got time to take a look at my speech for tomorrow night? It's good, but it could be better."
"Sure," Will agreed. "I need a break from the Governor's speech anyway."
"Yeah, Lizzy suggested as much."
Will made a face, which made Senator Lin laugh.
That night, Lizzy crawled into bed with Will and stretched alongside him, catlike. "You drunk?" he asked.
"Little bit. You?"
She hummed contentedly, and Will turned over to tug her into his arms. She closed her eyes and smiled. "I suppose this is traditionally where we should get all handsy."
"Strangely, my dear, I'd much rather do that while sober."
"Well, that ship's sailed."
Will snorted in amusement, and before long they were both asleep.
Before Senator Lin's speech, Lizzy was on a panel for MSNBC, discussing "stuff about women" as her assistant Jeremy put it. With the first female nominee in the country's history, she supposed it was inevitable. She was just thankful the network had decided to let a woman moderate and only had women in the group.
It was more fun than she expected, to be honest. Her fellow panelists were a former party chair, the Governor of Oregon, and, to her complete surprise, Caroline Bingley-Anderson. They and the host had a good time talking about various issues impacting women and girls, as well as discussing the ever-growing group of women in government. The panel was so entertaining that the network kept them on much longer than originally planned.
Caroline was not quite what Lizzy expected. She was a striking woman, though not classically pretty, and she was at least as quick as Lizzy with a clever answer. There was a sharpness about her that Lizzy found somewhat distasteful. Lizzy herself was known for her quick rejoinders, but she had learned to smile and soften the sting. Caroline was not so kind.
Lizzy really had no intention of mentioning Will, but during a break, Caroline admired Lizzy's ring. "That's quite lovely," Caroline said. "Left hand--engagement ring?"
Lizzy nodded, with a wide, happy smile. "It's a family heirloom," she explained. "I know a ruby isn't traditional, but this ring has a lot of meaning in my fiancé's family, and his grandmother wanted his wife to wear it eventually."
Lizzy expected the matter to be dropped, as Caroline didn't seem to have any further curiosity. Wanting to stretch her legs for a minute, Lizzy got up and walked behind the cameras. To her surprise, Will was coming into the box where they were filming. "Hey," she said with a curious smile, "what are you doing here?"
"I brought you a present."
From behind his back, he produced one of the stars-and-stripes stovepipe hats the Illinois delegation had been wearing all week. "I called in a favor," he said as she laughed.
"You," she said, "are very sweet." With that, she put the hat on and went up on her toes to kiss him.
The break was almost over, so Lizzy hurried back to her seat as Will left. The host laughed at the hat, but Lizzy just smiled.
Caroline, however, was staring at her strangely. "Will Darcy is your fiancé?" she asked.
"Yeah," Lizzy said. "You used to know him, right?"
"Mics are hot," the producer called, ending the possibility of further conversation.
Lizzy and Caroline watched each other for a minute as the show resumed. "We're back," the host said, "with Governor Bev Richter of Oregon, former DNC chair Andrea Wallace, Congresswoman Caroline Bingley-Anderson of New York's first district, and Lizzy Bennet, in a silly hat."
The women laughed, though Caroline's response was late. "Hey," Lizzy said in mock indignation, "the great state of Illinois has the best hats this year. And we all know how important hats are at conventions."
"What do you think Abraham Lincoln would have to say about his state plastering an American flag on his iconic hat?" Governor Richter asked.
Lizzy grinned and pushed the hat back slightly. "I think he'd wear it. We know he liked having his picture taken, so I imagine he'd tweet some selfies."
The host shuddered. "I think I'm going to have nightmares about that. Abraham Lincoln, tweeting selfies."
Lizzy continued smiling cheerfully. "You're welcome."
On Thursday night, Richard watched from backstage as his grandfather formally nominated Governor Gardiner and she walked out to accept. Will, to Richard's surprise, was actually standing there to watch the speech. "I thought you couldn't stand the stress of someone else reading your writing," he said quietly, halfway through the Governor's speech.
"And miss this?" Will replied. "I'll get over it." The crowd cheered at a line, and Will elbowed Richard. "This is an incredible thing you've done."
Richard shook his head. "Wasn't me. She did most of the work."
"We both know you're being modest."
"Boys," their grandfather said, coming up behind them. "No need to argue."
"Yes, sir," they answered in unison.
Before long, Will was amazingly relaxed at Richard's side. It really shouldn't have come as a shock, however. The Governor was electric tonight, her speech like poetry. "In the richest country in the world," she was saying, "we will be judged by how we treat those less fortunate. Government by the people must be government for the people.
"We're not bound together by politics, or by fortune, or by race, or by creed, but by one common thread: we believe in the promise of America, whether your family has been here for centuries or you've just taken the oath of citizenship. That promise is not that we make no mistakes, but that we strive to do better.
"This is a country..." Governor Gardiner trailed off as the audience, twenty thousand strong, burst into applause. She gave them a minute before continuing. "This is a country that started with only an idea, only an idea that all men are created equal. In the two centuries since those words were first set on paper, we as a people have learned that justice and equality come with a heavy responsibility. We are not free until we are all free: free from poverty, free from persecution, free from prejudice."
Lizzy walked up to them then, and Richard saw Will quickly kiss her hand. "How are you two doing?" she asked.
"I'm good," Richard said. "And Will hasn't asked for a paper bag yet."
"For vomiting or for hyperventilating?"
Over Lizzy's head, Will glared. "I'm fine, mostly because the Governor is great."
"She really is," Lizzy agreed.
A few minutes later, the audience was cheering almost continually as the Governor built to the end of her speech. Lizzy turned to Richard and tightened his tie. "Hey," he said, "what do you think you're doing?"
"I've got you on CNN after the speech," she said. "There's no point in wearing a tie if you're going to look like a slob."
"I've been saying that for years, young lady," Richard's grandfather said.
Lizzy smirked and went on her way, presumably to fix other ties. Meanwhile, Richard looked at his cousin, feeling oddly sentimental. "Thanks, by the way," he said. "I never could have done this without you. Might not have even tried."
Will, to his credit, didn't go for the obvious opportunity to laugh at him. Instead, he first clapped Richard's shoulder and then hugged him. "Thanks, man."
After a second, Richard said, "You're a speechwriter, Will. Can't you come up with more than that?"
Will shoved him in jest, and Richard probably deserved it.
Charlotte hadn't thought it was possible for the campaign to get busier, but after the conventions were over, there was no stopping. She was down to maybe four hours of sleep a night. It was only going to get worse from here on out, too.
She wasn't sure if she envied Richard, who was living out of a hotel in Madison for a while. He was in the same time zone all the time, but on the other hand, he was in Madison, a city Charlotte had never loved. He'd be out on the road with them soon enough, so it wasn't worth a lot of thought, except when she was on hold to talk to him.
"How much work could you possibly have to do that you won't drop everything for me?" she asked him on one such occasion.
"You know, you had the opportunity to nag me till death do us part," he replied, a clear signal he was alone.
"You never proposed, Richard. Only saw you naked a few times." That was nowhere near public knowledge. When the rumors arose they always denied it, but in the midst of the Cencal debacle, they spent a handful of nights together. They had been under enormous stress while Richard's aunt and uncle were in the process of being indicted. Charlotte didn't regret it, but when his father's campaign and the trial were over, they settled into a deep friendship and she didn't regret that either.
"Anyway," Richard was saying, "to what do I owe the honor of this call?"
"Daily pestering, mostly," Charlotte replied. "Lizzy thinks the Governor ought to do the Sunday shows next week."
"All of them?"
"I think so."
"Well, if Lizzy thinks she can prep for that, I won't object. But maybe Senator Lin could handle a couple of them?"
"I'll talk to her. Oh, Will says you haven't gotten back to him yet on the new section of the stump speech."
"Tell Will he doesn't need me to pump up his ego."
"He may already be aware of that."
"This is why Lizzy's perfect for him, by the way."
"Will's love life notwithstanding..."
"I'll get on it."
"Thanks. He's been driving me crazy."
After a few more bits of business, Charlotte ended the call. She picked up her tablet and stood, thinking she might get a cup of coffee before they headed to the next rally. Before she could get beyond thinking about it, a headline about Ed Gardiner caught her eye and she tapped on it. A minute later, she was calling Richard again, coffee forgotten.
"Come on, Rick, pick up already," she muttered while the phone rang. There was a knock on the door, and she put the phone on speaker as she went to answer the door. "Lizzy," she said, not entirely surprised.
Lizzy held up her iPad. "Have you seen this?"
"Yeah, come in."
Lizzy followed her in, closing the door just as Richard answered the phone. "This is like that song from that musical, Charlotte," he said, "only it's going to be 'people will figure out we slept together.'"
Charlotte felt her face get red as Lizzy gaped at her. "Charlotte?" Richard said. "Did the connection die?"
"No," Charlotte managed. "Which musical is that, Lizzy?"
Richard swore under his breath, and Lizzy bit her lip for a second. "I guess I understand now why you didn't order Will and me to break up."
"Yeah, well, it's not breaking news. Ancient history."
"Not that ancient," Charlotte said, almost reflexively.
"Was this before or after you kissed me, Richard?" Lizzy asked.
"You kissed her?" Charlotte blurted out.
"I always knew that would come back to haunt me," he muttered.
"Hey!" Lizzy objected, though by then she was grinning.
"Could we possibly move on to subjects that don't have to do with my love life?"
"Yes," Charlotte said before Lizzy could say anything.
There was another knock on the door, making both women jump. Charlotte went to answer it, and this time she was surprised. "Governor," she said, standing aside to let her in.
Governor Gardiner held up her phone. "After that ridiculous story about Hannah, I set up some alerts," she said in lieu of a greeting. Then she spotted Lizzy and raised a brow. "Having a party for breakfast?"
"Is there something I'm missing?" Richard said on the phone.
"Ah, Richard," the Governor replied. "One of the pro-Connolly Super PACs is floating a story that Ed thinks the American electoral system is undemocratic."
There was silence in the room for a minute; then Richard spoke. "Well, this is going to be a barrel of monkeys."
Twenty minutes later, when the staff were all up and mostly ready for the day, they gathered in Margaret's suite, and she called her husband. "Ed, we've got a situation," she said when he picked up.
"I'm fine, how are you?" he quipped. "Richard's here. What have I supposedly said? We didn't get that far."
In the background, Margaret heard Hannah squealing. She had to ignore that. "There's a recording of you calling the American election system undemocratic."
"Wait, what?" Ed said. "You're kidding, right?"
"We've got a source at Fox telling us it's audio," Lizzy said, stepping closer to the phone. "Won't tell us the date. I assume we'll find out when they air it."
"What's the likelihood of this getting confirmed?" Ed asked, rather to Margaret's surprise.
"Well, I assume it can't be confirmed," she replied.
There was a telling silence on the other end. Margaret looked at her staff in trepidation and saw that reflected in their faces. Will was the first to speak. "Ed, do you think it's undemocratic?"
Ed heaved a sigh. "Of course not. But I'm a political scientist. I've said plenty of things I don't necessarily believe."
"Whatever we do, let's not say that," Lizzy muttered.
"Speak up, Lizzy B.," Ed replied.
"That's it," she suddenly said. "You said this during a class. Sir, do you podcast your lectures now?"
"Yeah, I have for maybe five years now."
"I'll get someone to start digging," Richard said. "Do you have any idea what class it would have been?"
"Probably intro," Ed told him. "The second or third class of intro to American politics is always a discussion of whether elections in this country are democratic."
"That has to be it," Lizzy put in. "I remember you saying a lot of outrageous things to get people to talk."
Margaret cradled her head in her hand, wondering what else he'd said. "All right," she said. "Richard, get some volunteers at the Madison office to dig it up. We'll figure out a press strategy after, you know, coffee."
Lizzy stayed behind as the others filed out. "You going to tell me you've already got a strategy?" Margaret asked.
"No, no," Lizzy replied. "I'll have the details in an hour or so, probably, but I think we need to have a statement ready to go as soon as the story hits the mainstream. Something to the tune of 'Dr. Gardiner often acts as devil's advocate in order to provoke discussion among his students.'"
"Work on that," Margaret told her, "but you're on the right track."
Lizzy nodded and left, and Margaret went looking for halfway decent coffee.
A couple hours later, she'd done her morning town hall meeting and they were on the road to Cincinatti. By then Lizzy had a plan. "We have Dr. Gardiner sit down, probably with 60 Minutes. He gets to talk about teaching and whatnot. They'll probably interview me too, since I took a few classes from him," she explained. "The context of that quote is almost certainly the problems of elections in America, so I say we let him talk about it. He's published on the subject. He was an acknowledged consultant the last time there was a Presidential commission on elections."
"Yeah, but is that going to look like we're pushing... I don't know, a liberal agenda?" Chuck asked.
Lizzy looked around for a second. "Um, we are liberals, Chuck."
"You know what I mean," he said, sounding uncharacteristically irritated. "It's going to look like we're playing politics with the actual voting process."
Margaret set her coffee aside. "You have a point, Chuck, but I think it's worth the risk. We've got an antiquated voting system, and the only time it gets any attention is when people are voting. It wouldn't look good if I brought it up, but Ed's both a candidate's spouse and an expert." She looked around the room. "Anyone else? Will, you're usually good for an opinion."
There was snickering from all quarters as Will glared. "I figure Lizzy's the expert."
"Very politic, Mr. Darcy," Margaret replied, laughing.
A week later, Jane and Lizzy sat on the sidelines as Ed Gardiner did his interview. "Do you remember the class where he said all this crazy stuff?" Jane asked. "I just remember being really alarmed."
Lizzy laughed quietly. "I remember. He was a great teacher."
Jane nodded, thinking her recollection was less rose-tinted, for once. Dr. Gardiner loved to say things to get students to challenge him and themselves. Lizzy was the type of student to thrive in that environment; Jane just wanted to take notes.
"I feel like I missed out on something with this podcast lecture thing," she said. "I think I would have done better in school if I'd been able to review lectures that way."
"Oh, Jane. I've been thinking all week that I would have gone to class a lot less."
The interviewer moved to the subject that had prompted the interview. "You've said you like to say things to challenge your students," the woman said. "You're on record saying to a class that the American system of elections is undemocratic. Did you mean it?"
Ed gave a charming half-smile. "No, we have a republic founded on democratic principles," he replied. "Most kids who are taking introduction to American politics know the old Schoolhouse Rock song about how a bill becomes a law. They know about elected representatives, the electoral college. I want them to leave my class knowing the theory and the practice."
"They're not the same?"
"Elections in this country are administered by about eight thousand different jurisdictions--"
"I'm sorry," the woman interrupted. "Did you say eight thousand?"
Ed laughed. "Sounds crazy, doesn't it? We've got eight thousand jurisdictions managing ballots and machines and voter rolls. We wind up with millions of people every year who aren't on the right list, because one jurisdiction hasn't communicated with another. We've got voting machines of every kind that need to be replaced because they're old and outdated and potentially insecure. We hear every four years about people having to wait in line for six or seven hours to vote, sometimes caused by overly complicated ballots."
Jane looked at Lizzy, who was nodding and occasionally mouthing along with Dr. Gardiner. She leaned over and whispered, "How weird was it?"
"How weird was what?"
"Prepping one of your old teachers to do an interview on his own subject."
Lizzy made a face. "Very."
"You're acknowledged as one of the country's experts in the problems of election administration," said the interviewer. "What's the solution to this?"
"Well, first we need better attention paid to the laws we have. Some of my grad students a couple years ago did a study on compliance with various election laws and found that many of the provisions intended to aid military voters, the disabled, or voters with limited English simply were't being adhered to. Often it was out of ignorance.
"We need better training at all levels of the system, and of course there's the matter of machines. The law governing election technology is about ten years old. Ten years ago, PDAs were cool. Smartphones and tablets as we know them now were practically science fiction. So we're using voting machines that are Paleolithic, and the laws in place won't let us upgrade them."
"Okay," Lizzy said quietly. "Could you call Richard, Jane? Tell him we're in the clear."
"Will do," Jane replied. "He can go back to losing his hair over the debates."
She said it as a joke, but the look on Lizzy's face told her it wasn't far from the truth.
In case any of you out there are curious, the information Ed gives in the last scene is all based on the state of affairs currently in the United States. Not long before I wrote this chapter, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration released its findings, which I drew on heavily for this chapter. For anyone interested, their report, The American Voting Experience, is available on their website.
Posted on 2014-06-05
It's official: the first debate was a disaster. Gardiner just blew the whole campaign in one fell swoop.Bridget Weir, aka @TinyButMighty, October 2, 2014
When Lizzy worked for Senator Fitzwilliam, she only went to Matlock Vineyard once. Even when she filled in for Juan, she never rose to the level of counselor. As the Gardiner campaign progressed, Matlock had become a haven of sorts for them, always a place where they could step back and regroup. Now it was debate camp for the final debate of the campaign, and Lizzy was not only a senior counselor in this campaign, she was welcomed as a member of the Fitzwilliam family, or soon to be.
On the first morning of debate camp, Lizzy woke alone in Will's bedroom, somewhat to her surprise. It was early even by her standards, and Will wasn't known for being much of a morning person. She had more than an hour before breakfast, so she grabbed her iPad and started reading a book she'd bought on a whim on Labor Day, thinking she'd have time during the Republican convention.
She'd gotten through the first chapter when the door slowly opened. "Will?" she said quietly.
"Baby," he replied, "I didn't wake you, did I?"
Lizzy lifted the iPad slightly in answer. "Where were you off to?"
"Just... taking care of something."
It wasn't like him to evade, so Lizzy set her tablet aside and turned toward him when he crawled back into bed. "Is something wrong, Will?"
He shook his head, but when she touched his chest, he sighed. He clasped her hand, interlacing their fingers. "It's my mother's birthday. She's buried in Pemberley but there's a memorial here."
"Oh," Lizzy said, a little startled and not sure what to say. She couldn't help but remember her mother's death in April and how shaken he had been, no doubt by memories of his parents' deaths. She brought his hand up to her lips briefly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he said, obviously trying to shake it off. "Yeah, I just... needed to."
"I would have gone with you, you know."
He nodded. "This is the last time I go alone, probably," he replied. "I want my wife with me next time."
There was no proper response to that except to kiss him. He drew her closer and for a while Lizzy tried to give him whatever comfort he needed. Before long, he was on his back, Lizzy lying mostly on top of him. "What were you reading when I came in?" he asked, while she rested her head on his chest.
"Just something for fun," she replied. "A book about British parliamentary reforms in the early nineteenth century."
He pushed himself up a bit to look at her. "You are so strange."
Lizzy smiled. "I'll let you read it when I'm done. I'm sure you'll find it fascinating."
Settling back down on the pillows, Will rubbed her back idly. "I'm having one of those moments where I feel like I'm never going to keep up with you."
She felt a little overwhelmed by the sudden sentiment. "That was the first thing I really felt about you, that you were this enigma I would never figure out."
Will drew her up for a tender kiss, and they lay together quietly, enjoying a moment with no demands on their time. "What are we going to do for our honeymoon?" she asked, not really surprised to realize it hadn't occurred to her before now.
He hummed, indicating he hadn't thought about it either. "Right now I'm thinking Norway. The Yukon. St. Petersburg."
Lizzy rubbed his chest lightly. "Honey, I haven't had coffee yet. Not sure I follow."
"Somewhere cold, so there's absolutely no reason not to keep you in bed the whole time."
"I really should have seen that coming."
"Yep." He sighed and squeezed her hand. "We should probably get up. I saw Aunt Alice up and about earlier, and I have a strong suspicion she's going to come looking for us. She seems to have taken over planning our wedding."
"What are the odds of her barging in?"
"Lower than one of your aunts barging in."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous. Aunt Aurélie is on another continent."
"And yet I imagine she'd find a way."
Lizzy sat up and held her hands out to him. "Well, it sounds like we've got a lot to do today."
Will took her hands, but instead of sitting up he pulled her back down. "That we do," he said with a mischievous smile.
She was only a couple minutes late to her press briefing over at the Presidential library. "Should we read anything into the venue, Lizzy?" asked Josh from ABC.
"Wishful thinking, you mean?" she asked. "No, mostly it's so I can freak out again about the family I'm marrying into."
The reporters chuckled. Lizzy had made a game out of seeing how long it took one of them to notice her engagement ring, and to her surprise it wasn't until after the Democratic convention was over. "You guys aren't filling me with confidence about your observational skills," she said when someone finally asked. "Although maybe I should feel comforted that you won't notice when I need to hide something."
The conversation now was mostly business. The first debate, focusing on domestic issues, had not gone terribly well for the Governor. Lizzy still wasn't sure what had happened, and the reporters' near-daily questions for a week didn't help her figure it out. For some reason the Governor had forgotten all her prep and instead let herself get lost in long-winded answers, things that weren't necessarily wrong or objectionable, just far too deep in the weeds for a ninety-minute debate. Collectively, the staff in the spin room nearly had a stroke. It was the first time Lizzy had ever seen Richard come close to losing his composure. She kept Will off cameras that night and tried to keep everyone from reading the blogs for at least twelve hours.
Governor Gardiner fared better in the second debate. It was a town hall-style debate where the questions were asked by members of the audience. Senator Connolly's people had tried hard to avoid this style because Connolly just wasn't very good at it. He was a great speaker and a very good debater, but he came off as stiff and detached in these kinds of highly public one-on-one interactions. The town hall was probably the phoniest of all campaign phoniness but Lizzy was happy to call it a win.
This third debate would focus entirely on foreign policy. It was supposedly Connolly's strongest suit, but the Governor had been working hard. So long as she didn't start doing another impersonation of her professor husband, they'd be fine. Probably.
The press questions were fairly innocuous this morning. Lizzy left the reporters to their own devices in the Fitzwilliam library and returned to the house, wondering if she could grab breakfast before the first mock debate began. She was waylaid in the kitchen by Alice Fitzwilliam, who was carrying a binder that was worryingly large. "Do you or the Senator need something, Mrs. Fitzwilliam?" Lizzy asked while she decided between muffins and bagels.
"Well, first of all," Alice said, "Jim and I are Will's aunt and uncle. You both can and should call us Jim and Alice."
Lizzy gave a weak laugh. "I'll try. It's hard not to think of him that way."
Alice smiled. "Second," she continued, patting the binder, "I understand you've not had much time for wedding plans. I threw some things together."
Lizzy cast a skeptical glance at the binder. "Some? You realize we're not really looking for a big wedding, right?"
"I talked with Elaine Reynolds. She suggested vendors, and I got in touch with them. I've got proposals from the florist and caterer in Pemberley. We've got about an hour and a half before prep starts if you want to dig into this."
Lizzy bit her tongue and went along.
It wasn't as bad as it could have been, really, but she did feel a little pang when she imagined how her mother would have acted. It would have been less organized, certainly. All Lizzy had to do was flip through menus and eliminate the fish, which Will hated, and the chicken Kiev, which struck her as a terrible idea at a wedding. Alice had included pictures of the usual rooms used for weddings at Pemberley House so Lizzy could make an informed choice about flowers. As she looked through pictures of flower arrangements, it occurred to her that maybe they didn't want to use the usual rooms, but she'd have to ask Will.
The groom's cousin came in while Lizzy was eliminating anything involving chrysanthemums. Richard took one look at the binder and said, "I should probably escape while I can. And send in Will."
"Yes, you probably should," Lizzy replied.
Richard came up and kissed his mother. "Mom, I hate to say this, but we need Lizzy."
Alice looked at her watch. "I thought you weren't starting till ten."
"Yeah, sorry. Small change of plans."
Lizzy had learned never to believe Richard when he made that claim. "What's wrong?"
"We just got a call from Senator Thornton."
"He's not here yet?" Lizzy asked. The Senator was supposed to stand in as Connolly in the mock debates.
"He's got some sort of norovirus, it sounds like."
"Well, it's probably best that he's elsewhere."
Richard nodded. "We were wondering if you could play Connolly for us."
Taken aback, Lizzy stared. "Seriously?"
"Will's notion. He says you did this kind of stuff in high school."
Lizzy's jaw dropped but no sound came out for a minute. Finally she turned to Alice and said, "I'm sorry. We'll have to pick this up sometime later."
Alice began gathering everything together with a smile. "Of course."
Lizzy headed toward the door with Richard, but Alice stopped her. "Oh, have you got a picture of your dress?" she asked.
"Oh, dresses," Lizzy said absently. "Will and I bought rings when we were in New York for the Al Smith dinner, but I haven't had time to look at dresses."
Alice's eyes got comically large, and Lizzy wondered if she was going to regret this.
At the other end of the house, the huge loft on the second floor had been cleared of its usual furniture in favor of folding chairs, card tables, and two podiums. Lizzy remembered the first time she walked into an impromptu round back in high school speech team and started prepping a speech--six minutes on "timing is everything"--and felt that this, somehow, was much, much worse.
Will approached her and Richard as soon as they entered the loft. "Did he ask, Lizzy?" he said.
"Ask what?" Richard shoved her playfully, and Lizzy smiled. "Yeah, I'll play Connolly."
"Good," Will replied, sounding relieved. "I just thought you were our best shot. You've watched a thousand hours of Connolly on tape, and you've actually done this kind of thing."
"How is it I'm the only ex-speech kid on this campaign?" Lizzy said in some exasperation. "I didn't think it was physically possible to have a campaign this big without more than one ex-speech kid."
"Well, get over your disbelief and go join the Governor," Will said, giving her backside a little push to the podium.
The Governor was watching the three of them in some amusement. "So you're our backup Connolly, Lizzy?" she said while Lizzy hunted down some notes on her iPad.
"I'm afraid so, ma'am."
"I just want to know why I have to be in costume and you don't."
Lizzy looked at her with a smile. "You're planning to wear a cardigan and a denim skirt to the debate, ma'am?"
The Governor returned the smile. "No, but I'm thinking the hooker boots should be an option."
That sent Lizzy into peals of laughter. "I think I agree, ma'am."
Wardrobe would be a conversation for another time. For now, Lizzy muddled her way through Republican policies, trying to keep Connolly's voice in her head along with his opinions. At the end of the mock debate, Will silently brought a chair and she sank into it gratefully. "That was exhausting," she said.
"You don't see me sitting," said the Governor.
"You haven't spent the last hour and a half spouting someone else's opinions," Lizzy retorted.
"Oh, come on," Will said. "You know you love it."
"I'm never believing another word you say, Lizzy," Charlotte teased.
Lizzy rolled her eyes.
"Well, getting back to work," Richard said, "we need a better answer on China's recent aggression in the South China Sea."
"Passive aggression," Lizzy muttered.
"That's not far from the truth," the Governor said, taking a cup of coffee brought to her by her aide.
"Doesn't change that we're between a rock and a hard place here," Richard said.
Will shrugged. "At least Connolly is too."
"Trenchant analysis, kid," Jim replied.
"That's what I'm here for."
"This is a conflict older than anyone on the planet," Lizzy said. "Older than this country. I think the first war between ancient China and Japan was in the seventh century."
"How could you possibly know that?" Jim asked.
"No idea. I'm probably making it up."
Laughing, the Governor set aside her coffee gingerly. "Warn me before you say something funny, Lizzy."
They went over the tape of the session, refining answers and trying to anticipate how Connolly would challenge the Governor in rebuttal. Then after lunch, they did two more mock debates, each followed by the same kind of review. By supper, Lizzy's head was starting to hurt.
At the end of dinner, however, Alice grabbed Lizzy by the arm and took her to the master bedroom. Lizzy was startled to see three clothing racks, each with half a dozen long white garment bags hanging from it. "Alice, you didn't," she said, hoping she was wrong.
"You don't have to pick anything," Alice said, holding her hands up. "I just got a bunch of different styles here so you can start narrowing down."
To complete Lizzy's mortification, the Governor came in then with Jane and Charlotte and several of the other women in the campaign, along with Senator Lin's wife Rebecca. "Alice, how did you do this?" Lizzy asked while the others started unpacking dresses.
"I called someone," she said vaguely, leaving Lizzy to wonder when her life had become a sitcom. Severely outnumbered as she was, she went along and started trying gowns on. She didn't want to know how Alice knew her size.
Halfway through the collection, Lizzy was fairly sure she wasn't going to find anything she liked in this group, and she wondered what Alice would do. She wasn't interested in a puffy princess gown, and there seemed to be no other option.
She was wearing the last gown, a ruffled and lace-bedecked bonanza of silk that weighed a ton, when there was a knock on the doorjamb and Will walked in. He stopped short at the sight of Lizzy in a wedding gown in the middle of the room. "Lizzy," he breathed, eyes only for her as she self-consciously smoothed the skirt.
"Well, since you're here," she said, "what do you think?"
He took a few steps into the room. "You look ridiculous."
"Thank you," she blurted out, shoulders slouching.
Will burst out laughing, along with half the room. Catching Alice's weak smile, Lizzy reached to touch her arm. "It's a beautiful dress, really," she said. "It's just a lot of dress."
"It's your wedding," Alice said, reminding Lizzy of her mother. "It should be special."
"I know, and it will be," Lizzy replied, with a bright smile. "I really can't thank you enough for helping us with this, especially since neither of us have a mother around to do it."
Will's hand touched hers, and Lizzy bit her lip, suddenly wanting to cry. "You okay?" he said quietly.
"Of course," Lizzy replied, after swallowing hard. "I should probably change, though."
"Yeah, I'm thinking that particular gown won't be too comfortable for mock debate number four," he said, leaning down to kiss her cheek. "I was sent up here to tell you we're starting in half an hour."
"It'll take me that long to get the buttons on this dress unfastened," Lizzy said, mostly to Alice, but Will heard.
"I can help," he said, leaning to speak softly in her ear.
Lizzy elbowed him for that.
Four hours later, the dresses were packed away, the last mock debate was over, and so was the breakdown after it. Lizzy found Alice and took the binder of wedding stuff from her, promising to get Will's opinions by morning. He was with the speechwriters, and when he came to the bedroom half an hour later, Lizzy was sitting on the bed, flipping through the pages without really looking at them, her thoughts too occupied by what came after the wedding. "Lizzy?" he said. "Are you okay?"
While he came and sat with her on the bed, she nodded. Then she shook her head. "I've been thinking."
"I can tell." He punctuated his words with a kiss just below her ear. When she didn't say anything, he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, his thumb rubbing her collarbone. "Lizzy?"
"This is completely crazy," she said, not sure how to express herself. "We've been living out of suitcases for more than a year. We've never had to agree on who washes the dishes or takes out the trash or cleans up the washroom. We've never talked about who pays the bills and balances the checkbook."
"People still have checkbooks?" he said, with the tiniest hint of a smile.
"Will." He took her hand and kissed her fingertips by way of apology. "My mom told stories about planning her wedding. Both weddings, really. It struck me today, we're planning a wedding and not really talking much about the life that happens after."
He nodded soberly. "I know this hasn't been normal. Then again, you're not normal." She frowned at him and he smiled. "You, Elizabeth Bennet, are extraordinary, the most extraordinary woman I've had the privilege to know. You weren't made for normal. I meant it this morning. Sometimes I feel like I'll never keep up with you. You are brilliant and charming and talented, and you are so beautiful." His hands fell away from her and he took a deep, steadying breath. "We're going to have fights, Lizzy. We already have fights. I actually think it's good that you're worried. It means you know what's possible and you don't want it to happen to us. But neither one of us has been married before. Some of this we're just going to have to tackle when it comes. I've been in love with you a long time--"
"When?" she asked, suddenly curious.
His expression turned shy, even a little embarrassed. "We were in Iowa--remember that storm?--and we had the Gardiner kids with us. I held your hand that day, and it was the first time I thought about you like that. The first time I wanted you like that."
She nodded, biting her lip. She knew before he asked that he would want reciprocation. He smiled when he asked the question, and for a second she hated what her answer had to be. "I don't really know when it was," she told him, resolved to be honest. "It took me a long time to figure it out. I think Mom may have figured it out before I did. She basically told me that we hurt deeply when we feel deeply."
"Lizzy, I am so--"
"Don't," she said, frantically covering his mouth with her fingers. "Please, please don't say you're sorry. Yes, it hurt, but who knows how long it would have taken me to realize what was in front of my face otherwise? You deserved better than I had given you."
Will touched her cheek. "I wish I'd had a chance to get to know your mother."
"So do I," she said. She bit her lip again as it trembled. "I miss her."
When she started crying, Will pulled her close, murmuring words of love and comfort as she buried her face against his shoulder. She hadn't cried like this in months, and there was something cathartic in it. And it was no wonder, really. Thoughts of the wedding would always remind her that her mother would not be there.
"I'm sorry," she said, once her crying ebbed. "It's your mother's birthday and here I am--"
"Darlin', don't," Will interrupted. "You loved your mother as much as I loved mine. Don't ever think you don't have the right to grieve her whenever and wherever you need to."
She nodded and rested in his arms for a while. There was still a lot they hadn't talked about, but when she moved away, Will didn't press her for more. Instead, he gestured to the binder laying a little distance away on the bed. "I assume my aunt is responsible for that," he remarked.
"She's trying to help. She knows we've only got a couple months."
"Is my opinion requested?"
"Required, I'd say."
He agreed with her on the menu and professed no opinion on the flowers, but Lizzy saw that he kept drifting back to an arrangement of deep red amaryllis with white narcissus. It would be perfect for a wedding at Christmas.
She closed the binder and they got ready for bed. As he was turning the covers back, he said casually, "I suppose I ought to make a confession."
"What's that?" she asked just before blowing her nose.
"Today during the mock debates, listening to you pretend to be a Republican?" he said. "Really unattractive."
He looked surprised when she almost doubled over laughing.
A while later, the lights were out and Lizzy was trying to get some sleep. For all that she was exhausted, the day had been so full that her mind wasn't slowing down yet. Finally she touched Will's shoulder and said, "Are you awake?"
"Yeah." He sounded as tired as she felt.
"Ten days," she mused. "Ten days and we know if this crazy idea was worth it."
"It was," he replied without pause. "It gave me you."
Posted on 2014-06-09
Here we go. A billion dollars spent for this day. The math all says it's Governor Gardiner, but I was never good with math.David Kerr, the New York Times, November 4, 2014
Richard couldn't sleep. He never could the night before an election, but this had risen to new heights. He'd cut out caffeine a week ago and he even considered pharmaceutical assistance.
Not that there was any point to it now. An hour ago he gave up trying to sleep entirely, getting up to read the tea leaves. For weeks the polls had shown little movement, and while it was nice, considering that Governor Gardiner was ahead in those polls, Richard wasn't comfortable with skirting the margin of error for so long.
Will kept telling him not to sweat the national numbers, and he was right. Only mandates were won and lost on the popular vote. The electoral college, that relic of the eighteenth century, was what determined the Presidential election. At the beginning of the summer, Richard and Charlotte named eight states where it would be decided: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, and Nevada.
Some states were perennially on the fence; others were shifting from red to blue because of changing demographics. Either way, they had concentrated all their firepower on those eight states. Richard felt a little guilty about it, if he was honest. Those states only represented about twenty percent of the population. When they went somewhere else, it was to ask for money, by and large.
By the end of the day, more than a billion and a half dollars would be spent by the two Presidential campaigns. That didn't count the PACs and Super PACs, nor any of the down-ticket races. A massive amount of money had hardly shifted the polls at all since May, leaving Richard to wonder if anything could rock the boat anymore.
Before he could think about getting into the mini fridge, there was a knock on his door. That rap was distinctive and familiar, and he knew it was Charlotte before he opened it.
"Can't sleep either?" he asked.
"No. I was thinking about the night before your dad was reelected." Richard's eyebrows shot up but he remained silent. "You spent the night with me."
"I remember," he replied, leaning against the wall next to the door. "Mom flipped out the next morning when I wasn't home. It was like being in high school again."
Charlotte reached up and touched his cheek, and Richard felt that spark from years ago, that feeling he thought had long since faded where she was concerned. She was one of his best friends, maybe the best. As he leaned in to kiss her, he wondered why he'd ever stopped thinking of her this way.
"Polls have only been open for what, forty-five minutes in some states?" Lizzy said, laughing a little at the question posted by a CNN anchor. "It's a little early to begin prognosticating. I've only had one cup of coffee today."
The two hosts laughed. "Seriously, though, Lizzy," one of them said, "how's the general mood in Camp Gardiner?"
"Besides under-caffeinated?" she replied, making them laugh again. "We're optimistic, Ana. We've seen huge turnout--unprecedented, really--in early voting, and our get-out-the-vote operation is as sophisticated as any I've ever seen. People have got a real choice to make here. Senator Connolly is an honorable man, but the American people are looking for someone with a proven record for tackling the tough issues instead of skirting them, and reaching out to everyone regardless of party. In this race, that person is Governor Gardiner."
"Speaking to us from the Gardiner campaign headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Bennet," said the other anchor. "Thanks for joining us, Lizzy."
"Thank you, John."
Will was waiting behind the camera during the interview. When she was done, he came around and pulled her up by the hand. "'Senator Connolly is an honorable man'?" he said, barely containing a smile.
Lizzy herself was grinning. "I suppose Julius Caesar was a bit much."
"Just resist the urge to move on to Coriolanus, please."
"Yeah, good tip."
By then he had led Lizzy far from the cameras, to the war room exit. "Are we going somewhere specific?"
"Please tell me we're not going upstairs," she said lowly. "Any other day I might applaud the initiative, but today I have to be on camera for twelve hours, basically."
"No," he replied. "I'm taking you out for breakfast, and then we're going to meet the Gardiners when they go vote."
Lizzy waited to say more until they were in the privacy of the elevator. While the doors shut, she waited with her hands neatly behind her back. "Is this a date?"
"Our first, as it happens."
He shot her a look, as though daring her to challenge him or laugh. With a smirk, Lizzy took hold of his tie, just below its perfect Hanover knot, and kissed him thoroughly.
When the elevator doors opened again, Lizzy's hands were primly folded again. By the time they were out of the hotel, Will had given up trying to fix that Hanover knot entirely.
The Governor's mansion in Wisconsin was modeled after the White House. On Election Day, this fact struck Margaret Gardiner as it never quite had before.
Ed could still read her mind. When he came out of the mansion with the kids, he was smiling and shaking his head. "You really haven't been here much in the last eighteen months," he said, kissing her cheek.
"It's just hit me again," Margaret replied, taking her son's hand. "Jack-Jack, you ready for school today?"
Jack frowned at her. "I thought you were going to be President today."
She looked up at her husband and laughed. "And you call yourself a political science professor."
"Jack, we talked about this," Ed said, picking Hannah up. "Today's when everyone votes and we find out if Mom won."
"Oh," Jack said. Then he looked up at both of them. "Why would people not vote for Mom?"
Ed and Margaret both smiled and got the kids in the car.
The Secret Service agents drove them to their polling place, where Lizzy and Will were waiting with at least fifty reporters and eight or ten cameras. Jack was used to the press by now and Hannah was resigned to them, so it was just a matter of getting them to behave on what might or might not be their last public appearance on the national stage.
All four of them waved to the press and Margaret answered a few of the shouted questions as they made their way to the school auditorium. Jack came with her to cast her vote; Ed was done first because Hannah didn't ask questions about everything. By the time Margaret was done, Ed was practically doing stand-up with the waiting press corps. She joined him, giving more serious answers but not by much. Then, when they walked away, Ed said out of the blue, "Oh, Lizzy, Will, we got your wedding invitation yesterday. Well, found it yesterday."
"Yeah?" Lizzy said. "What does it look like?"
Amused, Margaret turned and said, "You mean you haven't seen it?"
"Nope. Will's cousin Rachel took care of it."
"That's taking this 'too busy' thing to new heights, Lizzy."
Lizzy shrugged. "I got the right guy. That's the only part I'm going to care about at the end of the day."
She and Will moved off to a different car, letting Ed and Margaret get the kids secured in the back of the limousine. When they were seated themselves, Margaret pulled Ed close for a kiss. "You nervous?" he asked, clasping her hand.
"Yeah, but that's not what that was for." At his questioning look, she said, "I got the right guy too."
Will was working through his sixth revision of the Governor's acceptance speech when Richard leaned over the screen of the laptop, pushing it down slightly. "Want to go to a movie?" he said.
Will looked up at his cousin incredulously. "Have you hit your head?"
"This is really weird," Richard went on. "There's nothing for me to do."
For a minute Will thought about pointing out that this meant Richard had built this staff from the ground up and turned it into a well-oiled machine, but where was the fun in that? "You could always see if Charlotte's amenable to being dragged into a closet somewhere."
To Will's utter shock, Richard looked suddenly alarmed. "What have you heard? Did Lizzy tell you something?"
Realizing what had just happened, Will slowly grinned. "Lizzy didn't tell me anything, but I never did believe those categorical denials."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"You always did talk too much."
Richard closed the laptop. "Movie. Now."
Will got up and followed his cousin. "Can we braid each other's hair and talk about our girlfriends after?"
"Sure, if after that I get to murder you and hide your body in the woods."
"Lizzy? There's a thunderstorm in Indiana."
"There's a thunderstorm in Indiana!?"
"Why is this shocking?"
"It's November, Jane! Election Day!"
"I'm also not sure this is a matter of grave concern for us. Doesn't Indiana always go Republican?"
"Yeah, but they're also the first state to report, usually, and it'd be nice if they couldn't announce right when the polls close."
"Well, we've also got unseasonably warm weather in Florida."
"We should get volunteers out there to distribute water bottles."
"Make the call, then. Otherwise, there's snow in Maine, but they know what they're doing, right?"
"Call someone to, I don't know, get salt on the walkways up to polling places."
"You're just full of ideas, aren't you?"
"Something like that."
"I'll get a volunteer to get us a new forecast model in half an hour."
"You've got a time machine?"
"Weather models update every twelve hours. Hey, while you're in the future checking the weather, can you see if we won?"
"I can't believe you went to a movie," Lizzy said, her face still pressed against the curve of Will's neck.
"I can't believe you came up here with me in the middle of Election Day," he replied, leaning back against the headboard.
She glanced up at his satisfied look and patted his cheek. "I'm shockingly weak, as it turns out."
As she got up and started putting herself to rights again, Will reached for his phone. "For the record, we went to a movie because he was going to start deconstructing computers for time machine components if he didn't find something to do."
That gave her pause, only because now time machines had come up in her conversations twice today. "What did you see?"
He waved her off. "Something awful. I'm not sure even you could have saved it by making fun of it."
"Well, I'm glad you weren't off having fun, then." While she wrestled one of her knee-high boots back on, she nodded to his phone. "What are you reading?"
"Hal Preston's latest."
She made a face at him. "It's cute, you know, and flattering that you can start reading poll analysis three minutes after--"
"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Tomorrow I'll fall asleep if it'll make you feel any better."
Lizzy smacked him with the leg of her other boot before pulling it on. "Anything interesting?"
"He gives us a 90% chance of winning," he replied, "which I'll admit doesn't make sense to me. The race feels tighter than that."
"We've been seeing really consistent numbers for weeks. It's all within the margins, but it would be different if we were seeing the occasional Connolly win in the polls. We haven't seen that since the first debate, and even that was slim."
Will raised a brow. "When did you become an expert?"
"Last night," she admitted. "You were dead to the world and I couldn't sleep."
"So you were reading Hal Preston in the middle of the night?"
"No, I talked to Thierry. He says hi, by the way."
"I'm not sure if that's better or worse than you reading Hal Preston while you're in bed with me."
Charlotte found Lizzy sitting in the corridor with an iPad sometime in the afternoon. She couldn't tell when because her watch was in Richard's room and she hadn't eaten lunch yet. "Lizzy?" she said, wondering if there was time for food between now and whenever things were done. "Is something wrong?"
She shook her head. "Will wanted me to review the speeches for tonight. Too loud in there."
"They're still working on the speeches?"
"Apparently Chuck wanted to add 'is you is or is you ain't my constituency?' to the victory speech." When Charlotte frowned, Lizzy looked scandalized. "You've never seen O Brother, Where Art Thou? We have to fix this."
"Not right now, we don't."
Charlotte looked down and saw the Governor's face on the screen in Lizzy's hands. "That doesn't look like the speeches."
"No, Will's got nearly the entire archive of the Governor's on-camera appearances on here," Lizzy explained. "I found the first time she appeared on national news. She was still mayor of Milwaukee."
"Wow," Charlotte replied. "What's she talking about?"
"Urban renewal. You can already see how incredibly intelligent and talented she is."
"Strange to think how far we've come. Two years ago, if you'd told me the Governor would be here right now, I'd have laughed at you."
"Were you there when Richard talked her into running?"
Charlotte settled down on the floor next to her. "I was in some of the meetings. It took her a while to come around to the idea. She had to talk to Ed, among other things."
"Oh, to have been a fly on that wall."
"I know. I don't think Ed was a fan for a while."
"It's hard for any candidate's spouse. I can't imagine being in that position."
"You don't think you will be someday?"
Lizzy shook her head. "Will got his politics from his mother, but he's not like her. He wouldn't run for office."
"What about you?" Charlotte asked.
The question seemed to catch Lizzy entirely off-guard. "I haven't really thought about it, at least not since high school."
Something in her wording made Charlotte suspicious. "You were totally going to be the first female President, weren't you?"
Lizzy sighed. "Don't tell the Governor."
"Does anyone else find it unsettling that they called Kentucky before the polls actually closed in the western part of the state?" Jane asked the war room.
"If Kentucky had elected a Democrat in the last fifty years, that would be a problem," Will remarked, coming up behind her. "Really, we should just be happy the talking heads are still hyperventilating that they can't call Indiana yet."
"Yeah, that's pretty crazy." She looked up at Will over her shoulder. "So do you know why Richard has turned into a madman over at the map?"
"The exit polls are... contradictory. We've got people saying the Governor's gender has no bearing on how they voted but they're still voting for Connolly. And some weirdness in Florida."
"When is there not weirdness in Florida?"
Jane moved to Richard's side and studied the map for a minute. It didn't look different than it did in the summer, to be honest: the same red states, blue states, and toss-ups. Taking up a dry erase marker and the last state-by-state polls they'd commissioned, she began writing in the data from those toss-up states.Virginia: +4
North Carolina: -2
New Mexico: +3
The blue states added up to 241 electoral votes, the red to 181. This left 116 electoral votes up for grabs. After a few minutes, Jane said, "There's no way for Connolly to win without Florida."
Richard blew out a long breath. "Yes. Because Florida's never been a problem child."
Jane smiled. "My point was, not all roads lead through Disney World for us."
"Good. The teacups make me hurl." Richard tapped some numbers with the eraser end of a pencil. "We win Florida and it's game over," he said. "That gives us 270 on the nose. Connolly has to win Florida." Jane resisted the urge to point out that she'd just said that. He was clearly thinking aloud. "If we lose Florida, our easiest route is Pennsylvania and Ohio, probably. Connolly's easiest is Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina... Missouri."
"So let's say we lose Florida and Pennsylvania," Jane prompted.
Richard made a disgruntled noise, one she was more used to hearing from Will. "That puts Connolly at 230. We have to win Ohio, Missouri.... Oh no. If we only win Ohio and Missouri out of this batch, that'd give us a tie." He looked down at his phone. "Hal Preston gives that a five percent chance."
Somehow Jane didn't find that very comforting.
"This is turning out to be a great evening thus far for Governor Gardiner..." an anchor on television said as Lizzy finally escaped the women's restroom and the line preceding it.
"Keep saying that," Will muttered to the television.
He jumped slightly when Lizzy touched his arm. "You know they can't hear you, right?"
"I never really thought of myself as superstitious," he said, covering her hand with his own. "But honestly, people hear the Governor's doing great and they're going to stay home. It's not like we want to pick up seats in the House or win back the Senate, you know?"
"You're done writing tonight, yes?"
"Thank God," he said, evidently meaning that in its most literal terms.
"Good. I'm pretty sure you've started leaving words out of things, or your brain has become completely sarcasm-addled."
He turned and kissed her temple, then whispered, "I'm going crazy."
Lizzy laughed and rubbed his arm affectionately.
Despite Will's paranoia, the evening was going well. As of fifteen minutes ago, the polls were closed in twenty-eight states. They had swept the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. As expected, Connolly had the South locked up, with the exception of Virginia and North Carolina. Lizzy couldn't imagine how tense things were at Connolly's headquarters with that uncertainty. There would be noise about Senator Lin being the only reason Virginia was close, but the state was changing. So was North Carolina.
"So how unhappy will Justice Darcy be if North Carolina--his home state!--votes for a Democrat?" Lizzy asked, hoping to cheer Will up a bit.
He chuckled. "Furious. He'll blame me, of course."
"Oh, of course." She paused. "He wrote me a letter, you know."
Will froze, then looked at her slowly. "Are you serious?"
Lizzy nodded. "An actual letter. In cursive and everything."
To her surprise, he cracked up. "The man's got terrible arthritis, Lizzy. He can't do much more than sign his name. Best not to go for so many details."
She pouted, but there was no time for response. Staffers were starting to flock to the televisions, a sign that something was about to happen. Lizzy looked at the clock. Nearly eight o'clock, nine on the east coast. They released each other and moved toward Jane, Chuck, and Richard. "We have twelve more states closing their polls at the top of the hour," one of the PBS anchors was saying. "As a reminder, as the race currently stands, Georgia Senator Mike Connolly has 126 electoral votes and Wisconsin Governor Margaret Gardiner has 83. Six states' polls have closed but remain too close to call, totaling another 105 electoral votes."
"And as we wait for those twelve states to report their results, we can now project that the state of Pennsylvania, with twenty electoral votes, will go to Governor Gardiner."
Whatever else the anchors had to say was drowned out by the instant cheering in the war room. The Gardiners were soon out of the attached bedroom, all smiles. "There went the tie!" the Governor said. "Richard and Ed were worried."
Lizzy looked between the two men. "There's only one possible tie?"
"I didn't think of that," Richard said, looking slightly panicked.
"You are a wicked woman, Lizzy," the Governor remarked while Will, Richard, and Ed moved over to the map board.
"Oh, I know."
Eventually Will decided that Lizzy knew there were no other possible ties and later she'd have to be punished, but for now he was entirely too satisfied with the evening to mind.
Half an hour ago, Florida had been called. The final numbers were still coming in, but it looked like they were going to carry the state by four points. Connolly needed nearly every toss-up state to break to him, and Gardiner had carried all of them but Missouri. The race was over, and Connolly had already called to concede.
Senator Lin had made a point of shaking Will's hand when Virginia and North Carolina were called within minutes of each other. "Lyndon Johnson said we'd lose the South for a generation," the Senator said, grinning madly. "Looks like he was just a little optimistic."
Now they were gathered backstage of the hotel ballroom. The staff was struggling to contain the ecstatic energy of the night; even Will was feeling the rush of adrenaline. Lizzy moved to go onstage, but the Governor stopped her. "Just a minute," she said. "I just want to thank you all for the incredible work you've done on this campaign. A candidate is only as good as her staff, and you have been extraordinary."
Will felt a hand clasp his shoulder, and he knew it was his cousin. Together they watched Lizzy walk out. Hundreds of people were in the ballroom, and the cheering was raucous as she approached the podium. Will had never even imagined a moment of prescience, but somehow he knew he would see the day when Lizzy would be cheered like that again, as the candidate.
"You okay, man?" Richard asked.
"Yeah, I just got..."
Richard shook him slightly. "You've got the rest of your life to be awed by her, remember? Don't get too far ahead of yourself!"
Lizzy was quieting the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen," she said, "ladies and gentlemen, it's been a good day." She grinned as the crowd cheered again. "It is an honor and my great privilege to introduce the first woman ever elected to this office, our next President of the United States, Margaret Gardiner!"
This was the moment Will would remember first whenever someone asked him about this campaign in years to come: Richard's hand still on his shoulder, the Governor--President-Elect--kissing Lizzy's cheek as they passed each other on the stage, the crowd growing impossibly louder. As soon as she was backstage, Lizzy threw her arms around Will's neck and kissed him soundly. He kept his arms around her waist even when she turned to watch the President-Elect speak.
"Thank you," she was saying. "Thank you all, for your tireless efforts. Thank you to my good friend Jim Fitzwilliam for his unwavering support, to his son Richard Fitzwilliam and nephew Will Darcy, for talking me into this to begin with." The audience applauded and laughed, and Margaret smiled. "Thank you to Senator Lin, our next Vice President, for his boundless energy and superb skill on the campaign trail. Thank you to the staff and the legion of volunteers who poured days and weeks and months of their lives into this election. And thank you most of all to my husband, Ed, who over the course of this campaign has proven himself to be a better man than I knew, when he was already the best man I'd ever known."
The audience cheered again, and Will looked to see Ed seem almost abashed by the praise. Onstage, the President-Elect turned to the matter at hand. "A few minutes ago, Senator Connolly called to offer his congratulations. I thanked him, and told him it was an honor to stand with him in this race and have my name with his on the ballot. I could not imagine a more honorable opponent, and he made this race better for his statesmanship and his years of service to his country.
"It's easy to see this victory tonight as a job well done, but there's a long road ahead of us. We have too many children living in poverty, too many schools crumbling, too many streets beset by violence. All through this campaign I have met hardworking Americans who only want to provide for their families. They're not asking for a handout; they're asking for peace and security. But nothing in the road ahead is beyond our reach if we have the desire to make this nation great for all its people."
Lizzy wriggled free from Will's arms and quietly called attention from the staff. They still had press appearances to make before joining the victory party, after all. But Will stood and watched the rest of the speech, amazed by what they had accomplished.
Ed approached him then, carrying Hannah in her glittery dress while Jack followed in his little suit. "I laughed when she told me Richard had come to her with this idea," Ed said casually. "I've told classes for at least fifteen years that any day now, the country would elect someone who didn't look like all the Presidents of the past. Somehow it just never occurred to me it might be my wife." Will smiled a little, and Ed gave him a knowing look. "I just hope you're not caught off-guard when Richard comes to your wife with a crazy idea."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry," Will replied. "I've already had those crazy ideas myself."
Posted on 2014-06-12
I keep pinching myself. I can't quite believe we elected a woman as President of the United States yesterday. Only took ninety-four years since women got the right to vote.
I honestly wasn't sure I'd live to see the day.Senator Regina Keller, op-ed for the Washington Post, November 5, 2014
The morning after the election, the Governor flew to Washington for a meeting with the President at the White House. Some of the staff went with her, but many scattered to the four winds to see family. Will drove with Lizzy to Chicago to see her stepfather and brothers, but stayed only a few hours. Gigi had been in Madison with Mary Benet and now had a week's vacation. She joined him at the airport in Chicago and together they flew to San Francisco. Lizzy flew to California the next day, but to Los Angeles, having decided to sell her house there. They met up again in Pemberley. Will brought his sister there, and the three of them finalized all the wedding details they could.
Gigi went back to California the next day, and Lizzy and Will went to Washington. "Oh, I have a box of RSVPs my aunt foisted on me," Will told her as they drove through Virginia.
"I know. She emailed me a spreadsheet." Lizzy sighed. "I kind of wish she'd just take care of it, but I've done little enough for this wedding as it is."
"Aunt Alice wanted to know if you've got a dress yet."
"Yeah, I've been ignoring those emails."
Will laughed. "Why don't you let me handle the guests, then? I'm imagining you've got enough on your plate without it, and that might be a nice diversion for the inaugural."
"Really? I was kind of hoping your place would be a wedding-plan-free zone."
That startled him a little. "What do you mean, my place?"
Lizzy shifted and fiddled with her seatbelt. "I suppose a locked car is as good a place as any to tell you this," she said. "I want to stay with Jane until the wedding."
For a second Will wanted to pull over to the shoulder, but he stomped down that impulse. "Why would you do that?"
"Well, Jane sublet her apartment in Boston, but there was some misunderstanding about dates. The girl subletting moved out at the end of October, but Jane's lease isn't up till the end of the year," Lizzy explained. "They signed an agreement with the dates and everything, but you know how Jane is. She's too softhearted to demand the girl give her the two months' rent."
"So you're what, helping out with Jane's rent in Washington?" he asked, reasonably sure they'd both balk if he offered to give Jane the money himself.
"So why were you so nervous about this?"
"Please don't take this the wrong way. I think we both need to decompress a little before we get married." Will inhaled sharply, fingers flexing around the steering wheel, but he forced himself to let her talk. "We've been living on top of each other for more than a year now. We're going to be together at work and together at home. I think it'd be good for both of us if we take a few weeks to get used to taking the trash out and washing the sheets again--not to mention what's happening at work--before we get married. But I should have brought this up before. I guess that's really why I was nervous about it."
They drove perhaps a mile down the road before Will could think of anything to say. "How long have you felt this way?"
"I started thinking about it when I was in L.A. without you," she admitted. "Don't get me wrong, I missed you. I missed you like crazy. But Jane called me with her problem and it just seemed like a good idea. Besides, I really do want to be able to get away from wedding nonsense now and then."
That at least made him smile. "Then I'll try to keep the guest list out of the way when you come over to the house."
"The house?" She sounded surprised.
"Yeah, I own a house with Richard and my uncle," he said, wondering how this hadn't come up before. "It's a triplex. We'll have our own space, don't worry." He cast a quick glance at her and saw a skeptical expression looking back at him. "What?"
"Well, first of all, I'm wondering how many more houses you own," she said dryly. "Second, you don't think it's going to be a little weird for us as newlyweds living with Richard and the Senator?"
"To your second, there are locks on the doors," he replied. "To your first, I think that's it."
"You think?" she asked, sounding amused.
"I've been busy lately. I haven't had time to count."
She laughed merrily, and he had to smile.
When Lizzy came to the transition office the next morning, she found her assistant Jeremy relieved to see her. "There's a call sheet six miles long," he said. "They don't believe me when I say we're not talking Cabinet posts."
"Are you being too nice on the phone?" she asked, taking the stack Jeremy was desperately trying to give her.
"Probably. I don't know how you tell them no without making them hate you."
Lizzy wasn't sure she knew either, but she got to work anyway.
When she wasn't stonewalling the press, she was in meetings about Cabinet secretaries and hiring her own staff. Sometimes, though, she was the bearer of bad tidings. "Well, the FBI background checks for Cabinet appointments have started," she said at the top of one morning staff meeting. "I've gotten thirty calls from reporters this morning about Sheridan and Brice. I imagine it'll be Esposito and DeLauder by lunchtime." These leaks was a perennial problem.
"We probably ought to get moving on defense and state, then," Richard said.
Those conversations didn't go very far, as they were soon sidetracked. Regina Keller turned out to be the sticking point once again. Richard was all for making her secretary of commerce; Lizzy and others were unconvinced. "She's a great legislator," Lizzy pointed out. "If we pull her out of the Senate, I'm sure we'll wind up with another Democrat in her seat, but it won't be someone with her depth of experience. Besides, there's reason to believe Senator Masters is going to step down before the next Congress is sworn in."
"Seriously?" Charlotte said.
"Right now it's just a rumor, but it's coming from a couple sources I'm inclined to trust," Lizzy replied. "I think we're likely to see some stories out of Boston soon. Rumor has it his wife is sick."
The President-elect frowned. "Lizzy, do what you can to find out, okay? I certainly don't want to look like we're taking advantage of something like that, but I don't want to be caught off-guard either."
"Of course. There's a guy at the Globe who owes me a favor."
"Do I want to know?" Will asked.
"I doubt it."
"So we think Keller is elected majority leader if Masters retires?" Richard asked.
"She's made no secret that she'd like to be," Charlotte remarked. "I've never heard of her having aspirations to a Cabinet post."
"So what you're telling me is she might turn us down and might have turned us down back in the summer."
"You could take it that way, yes."
Richard grumbled, but moved the meeting back to the agenda.
That afternoon Lizzy talked to a dozen reporters who all wanted to know about Cabinet appointments. "I hear it's Sloan for transportation," Roy from CBS said.
It was Sloan for transportation, but Lizzy was in a mood to play. "Yes, Governor Sloan owns an old VW Beetle, and we need that for the clown act of the circus we're putting together," she replied.
"So that's a no on Sloan?"
"That's a 'what part of "no comment" are you tripping over today?' on Sloan."
"Any news on a secretary of defense?" the new guy from Reuters asked.
"Yes. We're going to have one."
"You guys used to find me charming, you know."
"We still do," Elena of the AP said. "But our editors don't find you charming when we don't have anything to file."
"You have things to file!" Lizzy protested. "I did a whole song and dance this morning about hiring Miriam Schultz for legislative affairs."
"Our readers don't care about that," Roy said, annoyed.
"Yes, well, I'm not talking about Cabinet posts until we've made actual decisions." Lizzy raised a hand to forestall the immediate protests. "I can, however, share with you that at the wedding, the groom and groomsmen will be wearing boutonnières of narcissus."
There was a moment of silence before, unexpectedly, Kevin from MSNBC raised his hand. "Yes, Kevin?"
"Should we read anything into the choice of narcissus for this particular groom?"
Lizzy bit back a smile. "I don't know what you mean."
When she had a moment to think about it--which wasn't often--Margaret reflected that her life was becoming something very strange. In the summer all the windows in their house in Madison were replaced with bulletproof glass by the Secret Service. Now they were building a higher fence and a guardhouse on the property. She hadn't been alone in any meaningful way since the convention, and she didn't imagine that would change until after she was out of office.
Even now, a full month after the election, Margaret still sometimes marveled that this had actually happened. She wasn't in the habit of questioning her own sanity, but it did seem like this ought to be a dream she should have woken from already. She confided that once to Lizzy, who quelled her immediate look of panic and asked her not to say that in front of cameras.
She was living in the mansion of a wealthy Democrat in Washington until the inauguration. The children were still in Madison with Ed and his parents until Jack's Christmas break, which wasn't easy, but at least that would only be another week and a half. She was looking forward to having her family all in the same time zone again.
In a rare minute unscheduled, Margaret stood in the sort of foyer to the master suite, wondering a little at its owner and why anyone would need so much house. Ed, who was only in town for two days, found her standing there and smiled. "I suppose you should have seen me when I met the staff at the Residence," he said. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
"You could say that again." Margaret sighed and leaned against him when he wrapped his arms around her. "What else are you doing during this trip?"
"We have to look at schools for Jack," he said. "I talked to Jane. She found a couple hours in your schedule tomorrow."
"How are the kids dealing with the Secret Service details?"
"Jack thinks it's a great adventure. Hannah threw a fit at Agent Keene when she stopped her from trying to scale the new fence."
"Well, that won't end well."
"Probably not. Are we still thinking about preschool for her?"
Margaret sighed. It was actually rather nice to talk about normal things like this for a change, even if it did have a special twist somewhere. "She won't make the cutoff for kindergarten next year. I suppose we might as well wait, or at least not subject some poor preschool to the Secret Service every day this year."
"Well, you've got that universal pre-k thing proposed. We probably should have her in school a couple days a week."
"That's a good point."
Ed squeezed her a little tighter. "There for a minute we were almost normal."
She laughed. "I don't care if we do have maids at the White House, the kids are picking up after themselves. We sure won't have maids at home."
"We'll work on it." He kissed her neck and let her go. "Where are you off to?"
"I have no idea," Margaret admitted. "I think it's something to do with the National Labor Relations Board. No, that's not right. I have no idea."
Ed smiled. "I thought maybe if you had a minute tonight, we could come up with something to get Lizzy and Will."
"I suppose I shouldn't staff that out."
He pursed his lips. "No."
"I still can't believe they're getting married," Margaret said, moving into the bedroom proper and sitting on the loveseat near the door. Ed joined her. "After what happened between them last February..."
"I know," Ed replied. Then his expression turned thoughtful. "Do you remember that huge fight we had maybe three months after we started dating?"
She laughed. "I forgot about that."
"We didn't talk for what, three weeks? We managed to pull everything out of the fire, though."
"You're telling me there's hope for them?"
"I think they love each other," he said, pulling her to lean against him. "Most people might not have come out of an environment like a campaign with a healthy relationship, but I don't think Will and Lizzy are like most people. They'll be fine."
Margaret nodded and touched his chest. "Then we should get them something nice."
He chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "Yes, yes, we should."
Years later, when her own daughter was married at the house in Pemberley, Lizzy would look back at her wedding and think she had done it the right way after all. In the end, the only things she really cared about were the people there to see this day and who was holding her hands as she promised to have and to hold for the rest of her life. She didn't pick the music or have much say in the decorations, and it didn't matter to her.
At practically the last minute, she had found the right dress. In simple cream silk, it had a tea-length full skirt, three-quarter sleeves, and a draped neck. She decided to forego a veil, instead wearing the tiara her mother wore at her second wedding. Will's sister Gigi loaned her a string of pearls that had belonged to Anne Darcy. With a pair of very dark blue heels and a bouquet of red and white amaryllis in hand, she was ready.
Jane and her sister-in-law Joanna were her bridesmaids; her stepfather David walked her down the aisle. "He was really touched, you know," Joanna said to her in a quiet moment that morning. "That you asked him to do this."
Lizzy smiled wistfully. "There was never anyone else who would do," she replied honestly. She had sent invitations to various Benoit relatives but without expectations that any would come, least of all her father.
Before the ceremony was to start, she stood next to her stepfather and thanked him. "I can't imagine what my life would be like if you and Mom hadn't met," she said. "You've been the best father I could have had."
Looking a little teary-eyed, David leaned over and kissed her forehead. "You were just as much a gift to the boys and me as your mother was, Princess."
In front of them, Jane and Joanna turned around. "Would you two stop!" Joanna said. "You're going to make everybody cry!"
That had the desired effect, and when the doors opened, Lizzy was laughing.
They had decided to use the library, where Will had given her the ring, for the ceremony. On one end of the room, mahogany panels folded back to open into the old parlor on the other side. The reception would be down in the banquet room used by most couples getting married in this house, but they had decided to use this part, in the family wing. The morning sun made the room glow, and Lizzy knew they had made the right choice.
She hugged her stepfather before they walked down the aisle together to Will, waiting with his groomsmen, Richard and Chuck. The look on Will's face put a huge smile on Lizzy's. All the stress of the transition and the campaign before it were gone. All that mattered was the life before them.
The ceremony was brief, neither bride nor groom seeing a need for a long one. The minister of the church where Will grew up spoke about the commitment they were making and offered a beautiful, heartfelt prayer. Gigi recited poetry, her lyrical voice rich and sweet. Then Lizzy and Will made their vows to each other, exchanged rings, and shared their first kiss as husband and wife.
When the pictures were taken and they joined the guests down in the banquet room, Lizzy discovered that Will had planned a surprise for her. Her grandparents were there along with Aunt Aurélie and her cousin Thierry. It was all she could do not to cry as the photographer took pictures of her and Will with them. After that, she threw her arms around Will and kissed him soundly. "How did you..."
He smiled, looking as happy and at ease as she'd ever seen him. "I knew you weren't really expecting them to be able to come," he replied. "Thierry turns out to be a good conspirator."
"You ridiculous man," she said, feeling once again that she might cry. "I love you so much."
He cupped her face and kissed her. "I love you too, Mrs. Darcy."
Officially she was using Bennet Darcy for the time being, but she did like hearing him say that.
They went to the Outer Banks for their honeymoon. Everything was closed, but it hardly mattered to Will. He and Lizzy took long walks everywhere, and he pointed out the places he had visited as a boy, places he wanted to take his own children someday.
They talked and talked, more than the reticent Will would have thought possible. Since their reconciliation in April, he had made a point to communicate more. Now that he'd had married her, made a promise to love and cherish her and only her, the words were there in a way he'd never imagined. In the evenings they would sit together quietly in front of the fireplace, Lizzy reading about some obscure historical event while he worked on the inaugural address. Then Lizzy would close her book, touch his shoulder, and kiss him, and he would be lost to everything but his wife.
In the afterglow of making love to her, his wonder always returned. He could not fathom how the woman in his arms had come into his life. He had just wanted a campaign spokesperson who could speak coherently. What he had found in that office in Los Angeles was so much more. She was nothing short of remarkable, and Will knew he was going to spend the rest of his life in adoration of her.
The last night of their honeymoon was different somehow, more eager, more frantic, as though their bodies knew their lives were about to return to warp speed. But long after Lizzy fell asleep, he lay awake despite his own exhaustion, thinking of everything and nothing as the hours wore on.
Eventually Lizzy stirred next to him. "Hey," she said, sounding confused. "Why are you awake?"
"No idea," he replied, letting out a yawn suddenly.
She giggled quietly, turning to kiss his cheek. "I do love you sometimes."
"Well, other times you can be terribly vexing."
"I think you love me best then," he said, rolling over to face her. When she raised a brow in silent challenge, he added, "That's when you get to use words like 'vexing.'"
"What about you?" she asked, even though she rolled her eyes at him. "When do you love me best?"
"Now," he said, clasping their hands and kissing the rings she wore for him, "when you roll your eyes at me. When you make me laugh. When you prove Richard wrong." There she smiled. "When you forgave me for..."
Lizzy covered his mouth with her free hand. "None of that, William."
He pulled her closer, seeking comfort in having her skin against his. They lay quietly for a while, breathing together, until finally Lizzy loosed her hand from his and let it trail up to his shoulder. "What were you thinking about when I woke up?" she said. "You looked like you were concentrating."
"Oh," he said, remembering. "I was writing."
She pushed herself up on one elbow, looking terribly amused. "It's the last night of our honeymoon, and you were writing while in bed with me?"
"I can write any time, darlin'." When she raised a brow at him again, he merely lifted the hand still on his shoulder and brought it to his lips. While he turned them both over and began trailing kisses up her arm, he began to recite the words that had come to him in the dark. "We have a responsibility," he murmured, "to seek a better purpose, a greater justice, a deeper righteousness." When his kisses reached her ear, he let his voice drop further. "A more perfect union."
She let out a trembling sigh, and he allowed himself a tiny, satisfied smirk.
Two weeks later, on January 20, Lizzy blushed when President Gardiner got to that sentence in the speech, but curiously, no one but Will seemed to care why.
Ten years later
Their daughter was now the same age Jack Gardiner was when his mom was elected. For some reason, that bit of trivia kept sticking in Lizzy's head as they headed to the Capitol. The last time she talked with the Gardiner kids, Jack was saving up for his first car.
Lizzy had stayed at the White House longer than most press secretaries, sticking it out through the second campaign. By Election Day she was six months into a pregnancy that came as a shock to the Darcys but probably shouldn't have. The baby was born three weeks early, a few hours before the President was sworn in again. They named her Margaret as they watched President Gardiner give her second inaugural on the television in Lizzy's hospital room, the baby sleeping in Will's arms.
In the next six months, Lizzy did a lot of television appearances, and she found herself the focus of intense interest among the party in Illinois. She and Will had never really talked about moving to the Chicago area, at least not until the third time someone suggested she might consider running for office.
"Is it something you want?" Will asked her late one night as they were cleaning up the kitchen.
"I don't know," she told him. "It was, but my life isn't just about me anymore."
They stayed in Washington until the next State of the Union address, after which Will tendered his resignation and they moved to Chicago. When Meg was two, Lizzy threw herself into the political scene in northern Illinois. Then, after James was born, the state's senior Senator announced his retirement, and a few months later, Lizzy announced her candidacy.
James was two now, and he woke up as Will got him out of his car seat. "Jamie-boy," Will said as he started to cry. "Time to cowboy up, little guy. It's Momma's big day, and there's no crying in politics."
Lizzy came around the car then, holding Meg's hand. "I cried on election night," she pointed out.
"That's true," Will said, bringing her in for a brief kiss. "Oh, right, there's no crying in baseball."
Hand in hand they walked to the Capitol building. They were met at the steps by the new senior Senator from Illinois, who accompanied them up. "How's your first day going, Lizzy?" Senator Wycliffe asked.
"Oh, Meg had a wardrobe crisis this morning, and then James tried to eat Will's tie," Lizzy said brightly. "Pretty normal so far."
Wycliffe grinned. "Well, the caucus is happy to have you. Sixty-seven points, and you carried the suburbs! Will, did you know she had it in her?"
"I've been married for ten years," Will said dryly. "What do you think I'll say?"
"Good answer," Wycliffe said, clapping Will on the back.
Lizzy had a meeting first, during which Will decamped with the children to his uncle's office. He joined her later without the kids while she waited to be sworn in. "I should have kept my maiden name," she said when Will rubbed her back. "They do this in alphabetical order."
"Oh, please," said Wycliffe, who was waiting to go into the chambers with Lizzy. "I was the last one sworn in when I was elected the first time."
There was no photography allowed on the Senate floor, so Lizzy went in with only Senator Wycliffe to accompany her. When she came out afterward, she found her husband and kids sitting with Jim Fitzwilliam. "Lizzy!" the older man said. "Excuse me: Senator Darcy. You look fantastic, kid."
Lizzy hugged her husband's uncle affectionately. "You aren't going to call me 'kid' in front of my new colleagues, are you?"
"Only on special occasions."
That afternoon, Lizzy took the oath again, this time for cameras in the old Senate chambers. Her family joined her this time. While Will held James, Meg solemnly carried the Bible. As they waited for the newspaper photographers to set up, the Vice President leaned down to speak to Meg. "Are you helping us out today?"
She nodded. "This is Momma's Mémère's Bible."
"That's right," Lizzy said, laying her hands on Meg's shoulders. "It was one of the only things Mémère brought out of France during the war."
"That's very precious, then," the Vice President said. "You need to take care of it, young lady."
Wide-eyed, Meg nodded.
The photographers indicated they were ready, and the Vice President asked Meg to hold up the Bible. Lizzy placed one hand on it and raised the other, and with a small smile she took the oath of office once again.
Afterward, they posed for a few pictures, and Will kissed Lizzy's temple. "I'm proud of you, darlin'," he said.
She smiled up at him. "Now the hard part starts."
"Yeah, but the hard part is your favorite part."
"Yours too." Despite the photographers still snapping away, Lizzy stretched up and kissed him softly. "It's where we do the most good, and that's all you and I have ever wanted to do."The End
© 2014 Copyright held by the author.