T-Minus Two Months

•September 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Hillary Clinton is 80% likely to win the Tuesday November 8, 2016 Presidential election with 347 Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump for the Presidency by between ten percentage points [Clinton: 51%, Trump: 41%, Quinnipiac University, August 25, 2016] and fifteen percentage points [Clinton: 48%, Trump: 33%, Marist College, August 4, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is likely to likely to win the state of Florida and its 29 Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton leading Donald Trump in Florida by between five percentage points [Clinton: 44%, Trump: 39%, Marist College, August 12, 2016] and nine percentage points [Clinton: 48%, Trump: 39%, Monmouth University, August 16, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is likely to win the state of Ohio and its eighteen Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton leading Donald Trump in Ohio by six percentage points [Clinton: 46%, Trump: 40%, CBS News, August 19, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 78.5% likely to win the state of Michigan and its sixteen Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in Michigan by ten percentage points [Clinton: 49%, Trump: 39%, Mitchell Research and Communications, August 16, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 90% likely to win the state of Pennsylvania and its twenty Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in Pennsylvania by between ten percentage points [Clinton: 52%, Trump: 42%, Quinnipiac University, August 9, 2016] and eleven percentage points [Clinton: 48%, Trump: 37%, Marist College, August 9, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 91% likely to win the state of Virginia and its thirteen Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in Virginia by between twelve percentage points [Clinton: 50%, Trump: 38%, Quinnipiac University, August 17, 2016] and nineteen percentage points [Clinton: 55%, Trump: 36%, Roanoke College, August 23, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is likely to win the state of North Carolina and its fifteen Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton leading Donald Trump in North Carolina by nine percentage points [Clinton: 48%, Trump: 39%, Marist College, August 12, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 92% likely to win the state of New Hampshire and its four Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in New Hampshire by seventeen percentage points [Clinton: 51%, Trump: 34%, WBUR, August 4, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 82% likely to win the state of Wisconsin and its ten Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in Wisconsin by fifteen percentage points [Clinton 52%, Trump: 37%, Marquette University, August 31, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 81% likely to win the state of Colorado and its nine Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in Colorado by between ten percentage points [Clinton: 49%, Trump: 39%, Quinnipiac University, August 17, 2016] and fourteen percentage points [Clinton: 46%, Trump: 32%, Marist College, August 12, 2016]

Hillary Clinton is 98% likely to win the state of Oregon and its seven Electoral College votes, as polls show Clinton defeating Donald Trump in Oregon by thirteen percentage points [Clinton: 38%, Trump: 25%, DHM Research, September 7, 2016]

Consiglieri Part I Chapter 5 [Draft #2, September 7, 2016]

•September 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Janney, Kirks and Krueloe, Pioneer Union Square Plaza,

SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon

10:00 AM

 

“Miss Peregrym;” Kate called, almost before she pressed the button for the intercom on her desk; “What’s next?”

“You have a walk-in.” Her secretary answered. “There’s a Professor Connor her to see you.”

Kate started to ask her secretary to send the newcomer in, but then thought better of it. “Tell them I’ll meet them in the conference room.”

When Kate opened the door to the conference room, the tall golden blonde woman seated at the table leaped to her feet.

Kate stopped dead in her tracks in the doorway, her eyes going wide with recognition.

Then her eyes narrowed and she continued past the conference table to the adjoining break room.

“What do you think you’re doing here?” She asked, her face and voice strained but emotionless, wasting no time in stepping up behind the break room’s minibar and beginning the process of mixing herself a drink.

The other woman opened her mouth to reply, but before she could speak, Kate continued, her eyes cold but flashing with fire nevertheless.

“What do you want?” She demanded.

The blonde closed her mouth and sat back down. “You’re upset.”

Kate burst out with a mirthless chuckle as she stirred the ice cubes in her glass. “Oh no!” She lifted the stirring stick out of the drink. “No, no, no, no, no!” She waved the stirring stick in the air like an extension of her finger. “Upset was five years ago.” The blonde averted her eyes, not meeting her glare. “I am way past upset.”

“Might it help if I said I can explain?” The woman asked.

Kate guffawed derisively, taking a swig of her drink, sitting down at the table, putting her feet up on the tabletop and leaning back in her chair. “This should be an entertaining explanation!”

The woman again opened her mouth, but Kate was on a roll.

“Explain to me, Sam, how and why you brainwashed and manipulated me mentally manipulated me for years and never said anything about it.” She took another swig of her drink, swirling the ice around to wet her lips before continuing. “Explain why putting your thoughts in someone else’s mind is acceptable.”

The woman said nothing, allowing her to rant.

“Explain to me why sexually seducing a teenage girl into falling helplessly, hopelessly in love with you and then proceeding to manipulate her using a combination of orgasms and telepathy into becoming your own personal play toy.” Having drained the glass she slammed it down on the table hard enough that one or both might have broken. “Explain manipulating a young girl’s emotions to make her do things that haunt her nightmares for years by putting your thoughts into her head telepathically without telling her you’re doing it.” Her chest heaving, nostrils flaring, she finally fell silent, her ice-blue eyes shooting frozen icicles like icy daggers across the table at the blonde.

“I didn’t tell you what I was doing;” Sam said slowly; “Because I didn’t know I was doing it.”

Kate looked incredulous. “I found out.” She said sardonically.

“Shortly after I did.” Sam nodded. “And even when I found out what I was doing;” She clarified; “I still could not have explain to you how it was I was doing it.”

“But you can now.” Kate crossed her arms over her chest.

Sam nodded. “You already knew about the other…oddity of my unique physiology.” She began, hedging hesitantly.

Kate nodded. “You don’t age.” She summarized.

“I do.” Sam clarified, shrugging her shoulders. “Just very gradually.”

Kate nodded. “You told me it was a family trait, inherited from your mother.”

Sam nodded. “As is that same case with this, as it turns out.”

Kate’s eyes narrowed again dubiously. “So you’re telling me that Hera can…” She trailed off, gesturing with the glass in her hand against the side of her head.

Sam nodded. She could understand Kate’s skepticism.

Kate had, after all, known her own godmother since she was born.

In that time, Hera Day had never given any indication that she might be telepathic.

Kate was silent for a long minute, studying Sam scrupulously. Her eyes widened somewhat at seeing that Sam was serious about what she was saying.

But then she threw up her hands, standing up from the table.

“I can’t do this here.” She exclaimed, starting toward the door. She paused with her hand on the door handle and turned around. “What else can you do?”

Sam did not answer aloud, but Kate heard the word “This” echo as if in stereo, as Sam demonstrated by opening her hand on the tabletop and Kate jumped, her eyes going wide as they traced the path of her glass as it slid across the table and into Sam’s waiting hand.

Then she stood and stepped forward, effortlessly lifting the glass, metal and stone table out of her way with one hand.

Kate’s hand had dropped from the door handle and as Sam stepped up to stand toe-to-toe directly in front of her, she pressed her back against the glass of the door, her eyes wide as expressions of fascination and fear fought fiercely back and forth across her features. “You told me it was your suit.” Kate murmured, looking Sam up and down.

Sam nodded. “That was what I thought that it was then too.”

Kate meandered over as if in a trance to drop into her chair again, now sans table. “All right.” She said slowly. “I’m listening.” Sam smiled appreciatively. “How did you find out it wasn’t the suit?”

“I was caught one day when I wasn’t wearing it.” Sam answered vaguely. “And I was able to do some things…” She shrugged. “And then mother told me everything.”

Kate nodded understandingly, even though she was not entirely certain she did. “You never answered my question.” She said after a moment, having collected herself together. “What are you doing here?”

“After mother told me what I was… Who I am;” She amended herself; “I took a long time alone.” She walked over to look out the window at the snowcapped peak of Mount Hood to the North across the Multnomah River Valley. “With my abilities;” She looked down at her hands as though she were still getting accustomed to being in her own body; “I recognized that I could do anything I wanted, have anything I wanted, and there was no one to stand in my way.” Kate nodded to herself, having witnessed Sam’s demonstration of her superhuman power and recognizing the truth of her words. “So I took a lot of time all by myself, thinking long and hard about what it was, exactly, that I wanted the most.”

“Which brings us right back to my second question;” Kate said, prompting Sam to turn away from the window; “What do you want?”

Sam smiled as she strode toward Kate. Standing in front of her, a chair slid as though of its own volition up behind her and she sat down. “After many days all alone, I at last realized;” Reaching forward, she startled Kate by taking both of her hand in hers; “What I wanted was you.” The earnestness in Sam’s expression precluded Kate from pulling back her hands. “I want you, Kitty Kat;” Sam said earnestly, her eyes meeting hers deeply; “More than anything.”

Kate finally managed to tear her eyes away from Sam’s averting her gaze and hanging her head.

Sam squeezed her fingers, drawing Kate’s gaze back to her eyes. “I could have anything and anyone, I might possibly want;” She told her; “and what I want is you.” Sam withdrew only when she saw Kate’s eyes tear up.

“I spent so long being so mad at you.” Kate sobbed, the tremble in her voice spreading from her lips to her body. “But I never stopped loving you.” She closed her eyes tightly, squeezing out tears that ran down her quivering cheeks. “I tried so hard to hate you.” She shook her head; half lifting her hands in Sam’s to reach her head, half lowering her head to her hands. “I spent so many years convincing myself that you left me with no choice but to be your lover.” She sniffled, pressing their joined hands against her brow. “But the truth is;” She lifted her face back to Sam’s; “I really did fall in love with you.”

They stood together and as if organically all on their own, their lips came together ever so gently.

Sam felt salty tears stinging the corners of her own eyes as their lips parted. “I’m sorry.” She murmured, their foreheads still pressed together, their eyes closed. “I know I hurt you. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know.” Kate reassured her.

“I know I hurt you;” Sam repeated; “And I am so sorry.” Sam released Kate’s hands from hers in order to wrap her arms around Kate’s hips and the second time when their lips met, there was no tentativeness.

Kate, for her part, poured the entirety of her emotions, positive and negative alike, from the past five years into the kiss.

Sam smiled against Kate’s lips at the passion with which Kate kissed her and the next thing Kate knew, she had her suit jacket stripped off and her back pressed against the glass of the door before her mind caught up to coordinate with her hands to finally push Sam away.

When she did, however, I was lacking in conviction.

Kate was panting breathlessly, her chest heaving and her pupils dilated as in not time after faces separated she found herself lost once more in the depths of the mother-of-pearl orbs before her.

Sill in Sam’s arms, her legs wrapped around Sam’s waist, Sam turned around and then Kate was being laid on her back on the table.

Sam pounced on her, straddling Kate and pinning her hands above her head as she attacked her lips hungrily once again. She smiled, nipping Kate’s bottom lip between her kittenish even front teeth as she heard the younger redhead moan her name: “Ohhh! Sam!” Sam was kissing her again, but Kate shook her head, tearing her lips away from the onslaught.

Then, summoning every once of willpower she could muster and even still knowing not wherefrom the strength in her came to do so, Kate place her hands against Sam’s shoulder and pushed her slowly away.

“No!” Kate huffed, breathless. We shouldn’t—I can’t do this.” She corrected herself, recognizing from Sam’s flushed skin and heaving chest that there was nothing preventing the other woman from continuing. “I shouldn’t.”

Surprised at being spurned so abruptly after sensing such passion in her young former lover, Sam sat up, legs still straddling Kate’s hips.

“Not here.” Kate reached out to her side, slapping the button for the intercom with the palm of her hand. “Missy….” Her voice hissed as Sam, successfully tearing her away from Kate’s, buried her face in the neckline of Kate’s blouse where her shoulder joined the side of her neck.

“Yes, Miss Janney?” Peregrym replied after Kate fell silent for a long minute when Sam’s lips on her throat momentarily sucked the breath from her lungs.

“I’ll…be…going…to…take…my…lunch…break…early…today.” Kate panted as Sam worked her way down into the deeply plunging neckline of her blouse to her chest.

As she finished her sentence, with an audibly recalcitrant sigh of resignation, fearful of getting a hickey that it would be nearly impossible to disguise, Kate was finally forced to reach up and gently but firmly push Sam’s face away from her neck.

She sat up on the table, Sam handed the discarded jacket and she threw it on as she hopped off the tabletop and onto her feet.

Unable to tell if Sam’s lips had left a mark on the side of her neck in the poor reflection in the glass of the window, Kate took the precaution of tucking the collar of the jacket up to hide any marks from Sam’s lipstick on the side of her neck, combing her disheveled hair down straight over her shoulders with her fingers.

She seized the door handle with one hand and Sam’s hand with the other.

Opening the door and pulling her through, Kate half-dragged, half-led Sam across the law office and into the elevator before resuming where they left off almost before the doors closed behind them.

 

Hotel Vintage Monaco Plaza

SW Washington and SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon

1:00 PM

 

The buzzing of Kate’s mobile vibrating on the bedside table prompted Kate to open her eyes and tear her mouth away from Sam’s. Disentangling her legs from Sam’s under the covers and tucking the razor-thin silk sheet loosely around her chest with one hand, she reached up blindly with the other and grappled to flick on the bedside lamp. Then, even as Sam set about tugging the sheet down out from under Kate’s hand and off of her chest, Kate grasped for the still-vibrating device. Picking it up, she fumbled to bring it close to her face.

She felt her eyelids growing heavy as Sam pressed her lips to the side of her throat, but blinked to clear the lust-clouded vision of her dilated pupils.

Reading the number and accompanying message, she cursed colorfully in a way that made Sam laugh aloud against the temple behind her ear.

Her thumb paused momentarily, hovering over the answer button as Sam kissed around her ear, nipping at her earlobe with kittenish teeth.

Then she was forced to lift her arm from her chest in order to bat Sam’s increasingly venturesome lips away as she brought the receiver to her ear. In doing so, she was forced to let go of the sheet, which promptly disappeared from view.

“What do you want?” Kate asked into the phone, a bit more forceful then she intended as her girlfriend wasted no time in burying her face in her chest.

“How was your lunch, ma’am?” Peregrym’s tone left little doubt she had at least some inkling what her supervisor had left the office early for.

“Delicioussss…” Her voice hissed with the breath from her lungs as her girlfriend worked the sheet and her kisses progressively lower. “Why do you ask?”

“Miss Pannabaker is due to arrive to see you within the hour, ma’am.” Peregrym told her.

“Did we have a meeting scheduled for this morning?” Kate wondered aloud

“No, Ma’am.” Candy answered, to the sound of shuffling pages. “Nothing on the calendar.”

“Did you ask her why she’s here?” Kate asked, trying to distract herself from Sam’s lips on the side of her neck.

“Yes, Ma’am.” Candy confirmed. “Miss Pannabaker says to tell you that they’ve decided to press additional charges.”

Kate Swore violently under her breath.
There was a long pause of dead air on the other end of the line.

“Was there something else, Candy?” Kate asked, rolling away from Sam

“It’s Miss Pannabaker, Ma’am.” Candy said hesitantly after a beat. “She brought along a… Guest with her.”

Her secretary’s difficulty in finding a word to describe the newcomer piqued both Kate and Sam’s curiosity. “Tell them I’ll be over as soon as I can.” She said, not giving her secretary a chance to reply before hanging up to prevent Peregrym from overhearing her squeal as Sam rolled her back onto her back and pounced on her, a sound silenced by her girlfriend’s lips capturing hers. “You know;” Kate looked down at the top of Sam’s head buried in her chest as Sam replaced where her lips had been minutes before under the covers with her fingers; “It occurs to me;” Her back arched involuntarily at Sam’s caresses; “That we never did actually get anything to eat.”

Sam chuckled as she worked her lips down to join her hands. “Work up an appetite, did we?”

Knowing what she did about Sam’s abilities, Kate couldn’t be certain whether the words had been heard by her ears or merely inside her mind.

She nodded. “Energy drinks;” She panted, her mind wandering as she struggled mightily to keep her ever exponentially more tenuous grip on coherent thought; “Sports drinks.” She gasped for breath as Sam’s lips closed over her throat. “My medulla oblongata is screaming!” She fell silent for a long time, her eyes drifting closed as she permitted herself to lose herself in Sam’s kisses and touch.

Then she finally rolled Sam off of her and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Instinctively, nearly reflexively, she tucked the sheet tight around her chest.

“I’ve got to get back to work.” She said, intending to sound resolute, but in a tone that lacked conviction. She tilted her head to the side with a moan as Sam trailed kisses from her shoulder up the side of her neck.

“We!” Sam stated sternly, close into Kate’s ear, prompting Kate to turn in her direction. “We’re going back to the office.”

Kate’s eyes widened, one auburn eyebrow arching into her bangs.

“I lost you for five years.” Sam said, kissing her. “If you think I’m letting you out of my sight…” She trailed off as she trailed her lips back down to Kate’s clavicle.

Kate reached over to lift Sam’s face to hers, returning her kiss. “Maybe you should have thought about that;” She said; “Before you tore my blouse buttons.”

 

Janney, Kirks and Krueloe, Pioneer Union Square Plaza,

SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon

Kate smiled as she saw the young brunette waiting outside the conference room door. “Thank you, Miss Peregrym.” She told her secretary. “We’ll take it from here.”

Candice gave Sam only a cursory glance and then only because Sam was staring at her wide-eyed.

“Candy is Candice Peregrym?” Sam murmured as they moved through the first set of doors to the conference room.

“You know her? Kate asked.

Sam had not realized that she had spoken the thought aloud and so the question caught her off guard. She paused in the doorway before shaking her head. “Not personally. Not really.”

Then they were passing through the second door into the conference room.

Kate recognized her client, Elisabeth Pannabaker. “My name is Katherine Janney;” She introduced herself primarily for the benefit of the teenage girl at Pannabaker side; “And this is Samantha Wells.” She gestured to Sam with a quick glance in her direction to ensure she was utilizing the correct pseudonym. “She’ll be… shall we say…auditing.”

“Doctor Janney, Miss Wells;” Pannabaker rose as did the girl beside her; “This morning I have the pleasure of introducing you to my protégé at the Alliance and its most beneficent benefactor, Miss—”

“Zoe Stark.” Sam interrupted her.

The girl studied the blonde for a long minute before a smile spread her lips: “We meet at last, Walker.”

Kate was staring at Sam. “You know her?”

Without taking her eyes from Zoe, Sam answered slowly. “I knew her father;” She smiled as she watched the girl’s eyes narrow to rock-hard slits; “Very, very, very well.”

Kate’s eyes narrowed as she searched the other woman’s face.

Then a stray memory seemed to click: A visit with Sam to her office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

“You don’t mean that this is… that she’s…” Kate swung back and forth between the two as they continued to stare hard at one another. She was cut off as Sam nodded affirmatively: “I’d like you to meet the youngest multi-billionaire in the world.” “Your father is Anthony Stark.” Kate said to Zoe, who smiled as she finally broke off her staring contest with Sam.

She nodded.

“The two of you have that in common, Katherine.” Sam told Kate as they all took their seats.

“What’s that?” Zoe was curious.

“Famous and powerful fathers.” Sam answered and Zoe turned to Kate.

“Doctor Janney…” She trailed off before her eyes widened. “Your father is Senator Alexander Janney?”

Kate nodded.

Zoe turned to Pannabaker beside her. “Are we sure this is the best attorney to represent us?”
“What do you mean?” Kate wondered.

“Oh, it has nothing to do with your skills as a lawyer.” Stark reassured her.

“Your record speaks for itself.” Pannabaker added. “It’s just that Senator Janney has been, at the best of times, antagonistic to say the least toward our organization, others like us and our interests.”

“We’re just concerned about the appearance of any…what do you lawyers call it? Conflict of interest, should our case ever go to court.” Zoe concluded.

Sam noticed Kate’s countenance noticeably chill as her clients spoke and when Stark had finished, she raised her hand.

“Two things.” She said, the tone of her voice making the coldness she affected even more chilling. “First and foremost, I promised Miss Pannabaker that I would represent you organizations’ case not just in front of a jury and a courtroom but in front of the nation and the world.” She looked at Liz, who nodded. “And to that I hold.” She stood from her chair, planting her hands on the table to emphasize her point. “Secondly, my father, the Senator, abandoned my mother, my sisters and I when I was eight years old in order to seek higher political office.” She looked down at Zoe. “Believe me when I say that I can assure you: There is no conflict.” She sat back down again and it was as though the dark cloud that had darkened the lights in the room for the past few minutes while she spoke had suddenly been blown away by a stiff breeze. “Now that that’s settled;” She said, her tone almost chipper by comparison to only moments earlier; “Shall we get down to business?”

All present, including and especially Sam, sat still for a long minute, stunned speechless by the transformation the woman in their midst had just affected. Then they all nodded.

“The message you left with James Prichardson stated that—”

“James Prichardson’s here too?” Stark asked, glaring at Sam, who waved her hand, indicating that this, was neither the time nor the place.

“You stated that the prosecution was adding yet another charge against your organization.” Kate continued slowly, again glancing back and forth between Sam and Zoe.

“And against myself in particular as well.” Pannabaker confirmed.

“What’s the charge?” Sam asked.

“It is something straight out of Plato’s Socrates.” Pannabaker scoffed, then after a moment: “Corruption of youth.”

Before she could even consciously think about it, Kate glanced over at Zoe and when she looked back at Pannabaker, she could see Liz nodding, confirming her unvoiced suspicion.

Kate’s eyes went wide as she recognized what, exactly, Pannabaker had meant when she had said that Zoe Stark was her “protégé”: The two women were, in fact, lovers, in much the same way that she and Sam had been when Kate was Zoe’s age. She thought of just how easily, had her and Sam’s relationship at that time ever become public knowledge, similar accusations may have been leveled against Sam for her “corruption” of Kate. “Are they charging you with…?” Kate’s voice choked on the words, her memory still swirling with all of the various activities she and Sam had engaged in during their five-year-long affair that others would have labeled, at best, “corrupted”.

“Pedophilia?” Pannabaker finished her sentence for her, snapping her fellow attorney back to the present. She shook her head. “It would be frivolous.”

“The legal documentation formalizing my inheritance of half of myth father’s monetary wealth upon my eighteenth birthday;” Zoe stark explained; “Proves that our relationship;” She glanced over at Pannabaker with an affectionate expression that was all too intimately familiar to Kate; “Began after I was legally emancipated as an adult.”

Kate, too, was looking at Pannabaker, her expression one of admiration: It was clear that her fellow lawyer across the table was indeed training her protégé very well.

“There’s no law against two consenting adults engaging in this sort of relationship either;” Sam spoke up; “So how is this new charge not equally frivolous as well?”

“It might have been.” Pannabaker replied. “Were it not for the lawyer for the prosecution who brought it.”

This piqued Kate’s interest.

“Anyone whose name I might know?” She asked.

“His name is Eli Levine.” Pannabaker told her.

Kate noted Sam sit straighter in her seat beside her and so turned to look over at her. “You’ve heard of him, I take it?” It was more a statement than a question.

Sam nodded slowly, and Kate could almost see the supercomputer that was the woman’s brain working behind her eyes. “A bit more than that, you could say.” She turned to return Kate’s expectant gaze. “Levine worked for my mother;” She turned back to glare at Stark; “Until very recently.” She added, her eyes narrowing. And what does he do now?” The question was uttered as a challenge and Stark sighed: “Eli Levine is chief counsel for Stark Industries.”

This did not seem to surprise Sam, who nodded with a knowing smile, her withering glare bearing down on Stark.

Kate, however, was surprised. “So the prosecution’s newest charge in their case against your organization;” She gestured to Pannabaker; “Was brought by a lawyer who works for your father?” The question was directed at Zoe, who nodded: “It can’t be coincidental that Tony found out about my relationship with Liz at the end of last month.” Kate noted how Zoe referred to her father by his first name: This made Kate think of the fact that her own father still had no idea his youngest daughter has ever been engaged in a relationship with another woman. “How?” She blurted before even thinking about it.

Zoe looked over at her lover with a rueful smirk. “I told him.”

“So now the case against you has Stark Industries’ legal machine behind it?” Sam whistled softly to herself as Pannabaker nodded, sharing her protégé’s rueful expression. “And what do you have on your side?” Sam asked.

“We have my half of the family fortune.” Zoe answered.

“And we have the best attorney West of Chicago.” Pannabaker added, smiling at Kate, who blushed.

“I don’t know about West of the Mississippi;” Sam spoke for her; “But the best in the Pacific Northwest? Definitely.”

Kate flushed bright red again at this praise from her own former lover. “James Prichardson is co-counsel on this case.” She muttered modestly.

“Well then!” Stark grinned. “In that case, we have the two best lawyers on the West coast working for us.”

Kate noticed Pannabaker shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “Something on your mind, Liz?”

“Janney, Kirks and Krueloe is a proud and prestigious firm;” The lawyer began, hedging; “And your track record both back in Boston and in Portland demonstrates you to be a potent and formidable attorney.”

“Get to the point, Miss Pannabaker.” Sam said.

“In response to the prosecution enlisting the considerable resources of Stark Industries at its disposal, our organization decided to enlist the services of outside counsel.”

“Who?” Kate asked, looking at her fellow lawyer.

“Her name is Charlotte Cardezza;” Pannabaker answered. “Of the California ACLU in Los Angeles.”

Kate turned to Sam, knowing she had lived in Southern California.

“Cardezza is a civil liberties and First Amendment attorney with the DA’s office. Sam explained and Kate’s ears perked up at the mention of the Lost Angeles District Attorney, wondering if her oldest sister had ever worked with Cardezza during her time with the LAPD.

“I’m sorry.” Kate said, shaking her head. “I don’t see this case as a First Amendment matter.”

Pannabaker nodded, acknowledging that Kate was coming from the background of her J.D. in Constitution Law from Harvard Law School and respecting her scholarly perspective.

“The Christian Family Values Conservative P-VAC has filed an Amicus Curiae brief stating in no uncertain terms the maintenance of the government’s legal standing against same-sex polygamy and woman-girl…lady relationships.” She smiled at Zoe, correcting herself by not calling the billionaire heiress a “girl”. “Cardezza is contending, on our behalf, therefore, that the outgoing Conservative Administration and Congressional Majority following the lead of the P-VAC on this matter constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause.” Pannabaker explained.

“So that’s what this meeting was really about.” Kate assessed tonelessly, her expression unreadable. “That is what you felt could not wait until after the holidays.”

Pannabaker nodded. “That and I wished for you to meet Zoe, since she is going to be playing such a pivotal role in your case moving forward;” Pannabaker smiled; “And I wanted her to meet you as I felt the two of you had a lot in common.”

Kate cocked her head to the side curiously. “I’m the youngest of three sisters, Zoe is an only child.” She pointed out. “Zoe’s father is a private industrialist from Malibu. Mine is a United States Senator from New Hampshire.”

“But you are both the heiresses to very wealthy and powerful families dating back generations.” Pannabaker countered.

“Technically;” Kate said; “My oldest sister Maryline would be the heiress.”

Pannabaker glanced over at Stark. “From what our sources tell us, Commander Neveu is not likely to return home to the States in the foreseeable future.”

Kate was taken aback and was just about to open her mouth to launch into demanding where Pannabaker had learned her oldest sister’s new identity, which was classified information, when Stark interrupted her mid-thought by asking: “I’ve been wondering;” She glanced at Sam, as though knowing that she was part of the answer to her question; “Where does the Janney family fortune come from?” Kate sat back hard in her chair, still glaring at Pannabaker. “The Janney’s are my mother’s side of the family.” She corrected. “The family fortune comes from my father’s side, from my paternal grandmother.”

“Where was she from?” Stark wondered. “What was her name?”

“She lives in France, near Paris.” Kate corrected, emphasizing her use of the present tense to refer to her grandmother, who was still very much alive. “Her name is Roseline;” She eyed Stark’s face for her reaction; “Roseline Saint Chlaire.”

As she had suspected might happen, she saw Stark’s eyes widen, indicating her familiarity with the name.

Janney should not have been surprised.

Only a very select few in the world knew the name “Roseline Saint Chlaire”, or even that the Saint Chlaire family even existed at all. The French family had kept their existence a tightly guarded secret since the religious imperialist wars that had wracked Western Europe in the eleventh century. Since going underground in the late eighth century, however, the Saint Chlaire family had been silently accruing wealth. Though no one quite knew how much money the family actually had, as their wealth was decentralized in Swiss Bank accounts at banks throughout European subcontinent and Western Eurasia, Roseline Saint Chlaire had been born and remained the wealthiest person on Earth.

Her name would not appear on any list of th world’s richest men and women, however, due to the closeness with which the family kept its existence a secret.

It only made sense that if one person knew the name, it would be the daughter of the man who occupied publicly the position that Roseline occupied in secret, that of wealthiest person in the world: Anthony Stark. All Kate really knew about her grandmother’s family was that her godmother, Hera Day, had worked for them for a long time.

Kate had often wondered at this as a girl as Hera herself appeared to be no older than Kate’s parents were then.

Now, having learned the secret of the tall blonde seated next to her, Kate suspected she knew the answer.

Hera, she guessed, shared the same unique biological abnormality as her daughter, which she knew in Sam’s case kept her from aging even so much as a single year in the twenty years sin the day they had first met.

The Goddesses only knew how many decades or even centuries Hera had served the Saint Chlaire family.

 

SE Main Street and SE 36th Avenue, Portland, Oregon

 

Sam accompanied Kate home that evening and as Kate set about making dinner, Sam set about making doing so exceedingly difficult by cornering Kate at every opportunity, kissing her neck from behind as she stood at the sink or stove and caressing and stroking her skin wherever she could find or uncover it in ways that seemed designed to make consistent concentration on anything else all but effectively impossible.

Finally, when she had gotten everything in the oven and baking, Kate whirled on her tormentor and with lightning reflexes seized Sam’s hand by her wrist as it ventured toward the buttons of her jacket: all that she wore over her brassiere, having discarded the ruined blouse from the morning.

“What is it you want from me?” She demanded, her words coming out in a rush and sounding harsher than she had meant.

Sam stared at her baffled.

“You want me.” Kate said. “Al right. You said that.” Here eyes flashed as she peered deep inside the blonde woman penetratingly. “What do you want to do with me, exactly?

To her surprise, Sam actually laughed.

“I want to take you with me, of course!” Her free arm snaked around Kate’s hips to pull her close and Kate could not avoid the lips that captured hers, forcing her to release Sam’s captured wrist from her grasp. “To pick up where we left off;” Sam murmured against her lips; “Before all of this…unpleasantness happened.”

Kate stared at her. “I can’t leave.” She said.

Sam was not easily dissuaded. “I can make it worth your while.” She said, wrapping her arms around Kate and kissing the side of her neck. “In more ways than one.”

Kate’s curiosity was piqued. “What do you mean by that?” She asked.

“As I understand;” Sam said, smiling at Kate as she swayed them both from side to side rhythmically as if to the beat of music only she could hear; “You need teaching experience in order to receive your Doctoral Degree.” Kate nodded slowly and Sam smiled. “As it happens, I hold a chaired tenured Professorship in the Physics Department at Occidental.” She told her. “I am certain I can persuade the Dean to grant you a classroom or two to teach in the Political Science or Sociology Departments.”

‘It was’; Kate had to admit to herself; ‘Quite a very enticing and tempting offer’; but she shook her head. “I can’t come with you to California.” She repeated. Sam stared at her expectantly, awaiting an elaboration or explanation. “I have responsibilities here.”

This apparently struck a chord with Sam and her fingertips froze on Kate’s flesh.

“You mean your job?” Sam scoffed, earning her a harsh glare. “Aren’t I offering you a better one?”

The harshness on Kate’s features faded somewhat, acknowledging to herself that Sam was right. A Professorship at a prestigious private University like Occidental was definitely more in line with her interests than continuing as a criminal prosecutor.

“It’s not just the job.” Kate hedged.

Sam looked confounded. “What other responsibilities could you possibly have here in Portland?”

Minutes later, as if in answer to her question, there was the sound of the front door opening and Kate used Sam’s distraction to disentangle herself from her girlfriend’s embrace.

Sam followed behind her as she made her way into the entrance hall and stopped dead in her steps as she saw a young girl with ebony hair drop her backpack before charging forward to fling herself into Kate’s open arms as Kate knelt to one knee.

She swept the child up into her arms as she stood, hugging the girl and kissing her cheek. “How was school, Jewels?” Kate asked and the girl groaned.

“Man am I glad to be…home” She trailed off as Kate twirled her around in a circle and she spotted the blonde woman standing in the doorway to the kitchen. “Who is she?”

“She;” Kate answered; “Is Samantha Wells.”

The child looked at her expectantly. “Why is she here?”

Kate smiled at the unknowing coincidence of having asked the same only minutes earlier. “Samantha is an old… Friend of mine;” She grinned at the girl in her arms; “From when I was your age.” The girl looked at her in surprise with wide eyes. Kate sensed more than saw Sam raise her hand, opening her mouth to speak, but beat her to the punch. “Samantha;” She said, turning to her; “I’d like you to meet Julia.” She waited until Sam had finished her study of the and turned her attention back to her. She looked at Sam carefully, gauging her reaction; “My daughter.” She saw Sam’s eyes go wide with shock and her bottom jaw go slack and saw Sam immediately turn back to reassess the girl before her and she put back down onto her feet, the girl running over to the door to grab her backpack.

“Can I watch TV in m room, mom?” She asked.

Kate shrugged. “go ahead.”

Julia disappeared up the stairs almost before she finished her sentence and Kate turned back to Sam.

Sam was staring at Kate in disbelief as if seeing her for the first time all over again.

All throughout their five-year relationship and even on the day Kate broke up with her and left for Massachusetts, Kate’s personality had been characterized by her impulsive pleasure-seeking hedonism. Out of all of the many things that Sam had thought that the teenage girl who fell in love with her could ever become, a parent had never occurred to her.

Sam knew that, after she broke up with Sam, Kate had not always been a lesbian and that she had as a matter of actual fact had a several-year romantic relationship with a man: a classmate at Harvard Law in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her eyes turned white and wide as saucer plates as the horrifying possibilities occurred to her. “Is that yours…?” She trailed off, her voice choking on fiercely conflicting hostile emotions as she pointed up the steps to the second floor. “Is that Will’s…?”

To her relief, Kate grinned as she shook her head.

“She’s is my flesh and blood.” Kate clarified; “But Julia’s not actually really my daughter.” She confessed.

Sam cocked her head to the side and arched an eyebrow, the bafflement and confusion in her eyes only deepening. “She’s not?”

Kate shook her head. “She’s my niece.”

Sam nodded, remembering that Kate had two older sisters. “Where on Earth is your sister?” Sam’s confusion was tinged with deep offense.

“I don’t know.” Kate answered truthfully.

“The sister that was…drafted with the EUIB?” Sam asked, having long been intimately aware of the European Union Intelligence Bureau.

Kate nodded, not even bothering to wonder how she might know that classified information. “And they don’t permit dependents.”

“So her last name isn’t Janney, then.” Sam surmised, knowing Kate’s older sister had kept her married name even after the death of her first husband in the line of duty in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Kate nodded. “Her name is Julia Danielle Gates-Allen.”
“Gates?” Sam wondered and Kate nodded: “Maryline remarried.”

“So she’s ten?” Sam guessed, indicating the girl upstairs.

“Eight.” Kate corrected.

“Is she smart?” Sam asked.

Kate was taken aback by the unexpected question, but she recovered effortlessly and huffed. “She brilliant.”

“Then I’m sure she’ll understand.” Sam stated confidently. “She’ll get used to it.”

“Probably.” Kate acknowledge, nodding. She surprised Sam again by pulling her head away and turning to stare at her former lover. “But that’s just it.” She turned away. “I don’t want her to have to.” She paused and her jaw set firmly. “She’s had to get used to enough things recently.” Kate turned her face away. “That’s what I’ve been trying to explain to you.” Kate reached out a hand on her arm. “Julie’s already had two mother.” She said. “I’m not sure how well she’d do with two at once. While the memory of her own mother leaving her is still so…fresh;” She wrapped her arms around her dejected friend; “Me having a relationship with another woman…” She laid her head on Sam’s shoulder. “It would be…Complicated.”

Sam’s reaction surprised Kate. “So what?” She said, reaching up to play with the shoulder strap on Kate’s brassiere.

“So;” Kate replied, turning her head to stare into the face of the blonde beside her; “Jewels and I…” She trailed off, her focus drawn momentarily to fighting the impulse to kiss the mouth inches away from her own. “Our relationship will never be the normal mother and daughter.” She saw Sam’s lips curve into a grin, remembering how maternally their own relationship had first begun, but she nodded. “But Jules may be with me for a while…” She didn’t like admitting to herself that her older sister might never return home. “So until Maryline comes back…”

“If she comes back;” Sam’s voiced-aloud thought earned her a glare.

“Until she comes back;” Kate repeated insistently; “Julia’s mine. And I’ve made the decision;” She reached up to pull the elastic strap against her skin back onto her shoulder; “To try and give Jewels the most ordinary experience growing up as I can.”

Sam nodded, understanding what Kate had meant by having responsibilities. She found herself in an awkward quandary. She had come to Portland, for all practical intents and purposes, to pick Kate up. She had fully anticipated that the most difficult part of their meeting would be reconciling after so many years Kate’s feelings. ‘After that;’ Sam realized; ‘She hadn’t anticipated having to persuade Kate to come away with her, due in no small part to the fact that the Katherine Janney she knew even five years ago: the impulsive hedonistic girl; would not require very much convincing to renew their romantic relationship. Judging by that afternoon at the Hotel downtown, she felt confident the former goal had definitely been achieved. As such, Sam’s current quagmire had to do with unanticipated…complications in accomplishing the latter goal.’

Kate smiled sympathetically, sensing Sam’s disappointment, sashaying over to her and wrapping her arms around her waist. “Please;” She begged; “You have to believe me that I am telling you the honest truth when I tell you that I would love nothing more at this moment.” She leaned forward to kiss Sam on the lips. She smiled against Sam’s lips as she sensed Sam’s desperate hopefulness when the other woman seized Kate’s face in her hand and deepened the kiss passionately, but she withdrew.

“You’ve had a hard time;” Sam murmured against her lips; “Since we last saw one another. Kate gasped, jerking away from the kiss as she tossed her head back at Sam’s expertly knowing touch, indicating to Sam that where the most sensitive spots on Kate’s skin were had not changed all that much since she was a girl. “Don’t you think you deserve some fun?”

“I’d love to.” Kate amended. “Believe me when I say that there is nothing I would enjoy more than to run away with you and elope.”

She seemed to be catching her breath, but that was all undone when Sam reaching up to trace her jawline with her fingers stole it from her again: “I do believe you.” She darted her head forward to plant a not-quite-chaste peck on Kate’s lips.

“But I made a promise;” Kate murmured, her eyes still closed, leaning her forehead against Sam’s, their noses mere millimeters from touching; “To my sister. I gave her my word.” She opened her eyes, glistening with tears, but met her girlfriend’s own deeply. “Maryline helped out mother raise me;” Kate smiled at the memory; “Just as you did;” Sam returned her grin thinly through quivering lips; “And she entrusted me with the one thing she loved most in this world.” Kate searched Sam’s expression for understanding; “Her only child.” Kate hoped that, as the only child of her own mother herself, Sam would understand how much a mother could love her only daughter and how gut-wrenching it must be for such a mother to be forced by circumstances not of her own doing to give her only child up.

Sure enough she saw Sam’s eyes alight with a familiar fire.

Sam knew well how fiercely, ferociously overprotective her mother Hera had always been of her and in that moment, she saw the same fire glowing in Kate’s eyes. She knew then and there that there could be nothing and no one on this world who could ever possibly persuade the woman before her to abandon Julia in the same way that the girl’s mother had to.

The most emotionally wrenching thing about it was that Sam found that she could not bring herself to blame Kate for her decision and that she could understand perfectly and even empathize.

“I can’t leave her.” Kate repeated through her tears.

Sam turned to look over at her, her eyes threatening tears. “All those times you told me you were in love with me…”

Kate turned her head to the side on Sam’s shoulder, pressing her lips to hers and lifting her hand to cup the other side of Sam’s neck. “I still am.” Kate reassured her as their lips parted. Sam’s eyes probed deeply into hers, searchingly.

“I never stopped loving you.” Kate whispered to her, resting her forehead against Sam’s and closing her eyes as she rubbed her cheeks against the blonde hair that fell about their faces; “And I will love you for the rest of my life.” She said and Sam could tell from her voice that she was making an effort to retain her composure.

“Look at me.” Sam said, sounding unconvinced. “Look me in the eye.”

Kate opened her eyes as their noses touched. “I’ve never felt so certain about anything before.” Kate’s hand that had been massaging the back of Sam’s neck with her fingers moved to cup the side of Sam’s face, her other hand rising to cup the other, holding the blonde’s head level with her face. Her hand dropped from Sam’s face, waving in the air in front of Kate as she searched for the words. “It’s just a physical law of the universe now.” She looked back at Sam through lowered eyelashes. “You own me.” Kate could see Sam’s eyes grow moist, but the beaming smile that lit up her face indicated that the emotion behind her tears had changed. “But you have to remember;” Kate said, backing her head way with chaste pecks on first one cheek and then the other; “I am one of the few who knows your secret.”

Sam reached up to take Kate’s hand in hers, tilting her head to one side.

“You won’t grow old.” Kate said with a smile and Sam nodded, remembering that Kate had uncovered her lack of aging shortly before their relationship had ended. Kate’s voice grew unsteady, indicating that she was struggling mightily against something within herself, and her smile grew noticeably forced as she spoke. “I know that I could spend the rest of my life with you;” Sam smiled hopefully, but the light in her eyes dimmed as Kate shook her head slowly; “ But I also know that, no matter what we feel, you will never be able to spend the rest of your life with me.”

As she felt Kate’s face soaking her just-drying blouse, Sam reflected on yet another of the universe’s unexpected coincidences: She herself had said nearly those exact same words to a man whom she had felt herself falling in love with, and who had long since fallen head over heels in love with her, only a little more than half a year earlier.

She had seen no lie in Kate’s eyes at the office that afternoon when Kate had reassured her that she had never stopped loving her.

But what she saw in those same eyes now was that, as heartbreaking as it may have been for Sam to admit, Kate had a new love in her life, one that Sam could not possibly have any hope of competing with.

Sam nodded, hanging her head and started toward the door.

“So where are you staying while you’re in town?” Kate was drawing a blank on other ways she might change the subject, as she headed to the door. Kate’s voice halted her halfway across the hallway

“Well…” Sam clasped her hands behind her back, hanging her head as she sashayed step by sauntering step toward Kate. “I was sort of rather hoping that I might…” She lifted her face just enough to peer up at Kate through her dangling bangs and lowered eyelashes. “Stay here with you.”

When she lifted her eyes back up to meet Kate’s the expression in them was still pleading, but moderated with humility.

Kate tilted her head to the side sympathetically at seeing the reminiscent pleading expression in Sam’s eyes. She recognized that her former lover had not anticipated being spurned in her desire to renew their romantic relationship when she had arrived that afternoon, and so had probably been looking forward to spending a passionate and romantic night with her in this very room. “Of course.” Kate said, feeling her throat closing up as she was again tempted to give in to the very passion Sam had been counting on winning the day.

Confirming her conclusion, she noticed the dim lights in Sam’s eyes flash brightly, the hopefulness in the smile that spread her lips unmistakable.

“I’ll help you fold out the sofa.”

Sam did an impressive job at trying to hide her disappointment, but the eyes that hovered centimeters away from her own could not miss the falling of her face.

Kate walked up behind her as Sam turned around and took her girlfriend’s hands in her. “At least stay for dinner.”

 

Kristin Ludlowe arrived as Kate was setting the dishes out on the dining room table and, in order not to confuse her daughter, Kate introduced Sam to her college roommate by the same name as she had to the girl, this time being careful not to refer to the woman as “Sam”.

Kate knew that, while they were living together at Lewis and Clark University, Kris had been able to successfully deduce from her roommate that whomever it was that Katherine would spend her weekends and vacations with was named Sam. Kate also guessed that her best friend had been under the assumption that this “Sam” had been a man.

This came into play during the meal when Julia, ever the curious student, turned to her mother and asked: “So how do you know Samantha?”

Kate saw Sam staring at her expectantly and shot a pointed glance at Kris, knowing that if she mentioned the fact that the two had known one another in Oregon Kris might become suspicious, the college roommate believing that she had known all of Kate’s local friends. “Doctor Wells;” Kate corrected her daughter gently and Julia nodded; “Is the daughter of my godmother.”

“You’re Hera’s daughter? “ She sounded surprised, and Kate could understand why: The blonde woman seated across from her appeared no older than thirty and could easily pass for someone in their early twenties.

Kate had forgotten that, as the daughter of her older sister Maryline, Julia would have been well acquainted with the godmother that the Janney sisters shared in common between them.

Knowing that Hera had been a close friend of Katherine’s paternal grandmother Roseline, it would of course be natural to assume that Hera’s daughter would be significantly older than the blonde woman at the table appeared.

“What are you a doctor of, Samantha?” Julia asked, jerking her mother out of her thoughts.

Sam shot a glance at Kate, who nodded, knowing that the young girl had a knowledge far beyond her age and would understand. “I have a Ph.D. in Theoretical Astrophysics from Trinity College at Oxford University.” Sam answered.

“In England?” Julia asked, apparently confused that Sam did not share her mother’s British accent.

Sam smiled. “Yes.” She looked at Kate, knowing she was the only one present who would understand the full truth of her words. “I lived there for many years when I was younger.”

“How long ago was that?” Julia asked, her emerald jade eyes narrowing suspiciously as she attempted to run the math in her head.

Sam did not answer, but Kate saw her eyes ignite with the same enigmatic fire she remembered from her childhood as she returned to her meal.

 

After dinner, Sam took Julia into the living room to tune into one of the entertainment streams, and Becka helped Kate clean up after the meal.

“So you told Jules that this “Sam” is Hera’s daughter;” Kate nodded; “But the moment I first saw the two of you together, I knew there had to be something more to your relationship.”

Kate nodded slowly, unsure how Becka would react to what she was about to say. “Sam was our babysitter after mom moved us out here.”

Becka stood still, looking at her, but said nothing.

Kate guessed even the Navy Captain was struggling with the same dilemma that had confounded her daughter over dinner: That the woman Kate had identified, as her babysitter appeared younger than she was.

“Wow!” Was all Becka said; “Like mother, like daughter, huh?”

Before waiting from a response from Kate, she walked back into the dining room without another word.

Kate was more than happy to finish the cleaning in solitude and silence.

All this discussion of her godmother, and again having to keep the depths of her feelings for the first love of her life a secret from the people she loved most, had reminded her of the fact that even to this day neither Sam’s mother nor her own knew of their five-year-long romantic relationship; one of the longest and by far the most passionate of Kate’s life so far.

The distance that had separated them had not made it any easier;’ She realized; ‘To resist the urges that she had felt so frequently during their affair: To broadcast her love for Sam to the whole world by proclaiming it as loud as she could at the top of her lungs from every rooftop.’

Having Sam reappear so abruptly and unexpectedly back into her life also made it very nearly impossible not to draw the unavoidable side-by-side comparisons between her first romantic relationship and her last.

Kate could not help but smile at thinking how Will paled in comparison as a lover to the woman in the next room. She had always counted it up to Will having been her first-ever relationship with a man, but she recognized now that the passion that she had felt between them during her relationship with Sam genuinely dwarfed anything she had ever experienced with Will. She remembered that in the heights of passion with Sam she had questioned why she had ever felt anything toward men and now, standing in the kitchen of the house that she shared with her young daughter, Kate experienced a similar moment of doubt: Questioning, against every rational instinct in her mind, whether or not she should indeed rekindle her relationship with Sam after all.

As much as she had gone out of her way to ignore it during her relationship with Will, the reality that she was still to this day very much in love with the gorgeous blonde woman had never;’ She thought; “Been more indisputable than it was at this moment.’

She knew then and there that to whomever her future passions might lead her, whether they happened to be a man or a woman, she would carry the love she felt for Sam for the rest of her life. She was not conscious of her movements until she stood in the doorway to the living room.

To her surprise she saw Sam reclined on the floor against the couch in front of the television screen with Julia sitting between her knees, the girl’s head resting back on the still-wet silk of the as-yet-unbuttoned blouse covering the blonde woman’s chest.

Kate closed her eyes as she experienced an unbidden flashback of herself resting on top of Sam, her own head pillowed into the older woman’s breasts. “Sam;” She croaked, the lump in her throat prompted by the sensual memory causing her Adam’s apple to bob; “Can I see you privately in the other room, please?”

Sam’s head turned to her.

“I have to speak to you alone.” Kate’s gaze shifted to Julia, followed by Sam’s own eyes.

The blonde nodded, reaching up to gently lift the head of the girl, who appeared to drifting off to sleep, away from her chest, and carefully climbing to her feet. She followed Kate through the halls of the house, pleasantly surprised to figure out where it was that they were headed.

 

She just stood there in the dining hall, staring down at the phone receiver in her hand, as if riveted to the floor, her mind racing. She could feel her body going numb, the numbness spreading from her heart and with some difficulty she finally succeeded in replacing the telephone receiver back on its cradle.

            Even with the phone hung up, she could still hear the ringing in her ears, loudening as though growing nearer into a buzzing hum that drowned out even the sounds of the street outside.

She felt herself falling as her knees went weak and she was surprised when she felt the chair stop her from sinking right through the floor as she felt the irrepressible desire to do.

Still staring unblinkingly straight ahead, she shrunk back in the chair, as the wall in front of her appeared to draw nearer.

She doubled over, curling herself as small as she felt, retreating from the world as the last thing she felt before burying her face in her hands was the walls of the whole house closing in on her from every direction as her world shrank. Her chest heaved as the dams crumbled behind her eyes.

Then as the lights of the hall shrank away and the darkening house close in all about her and with her world, her life, collapsing, coming crashing down in shattered tatters around her, she began to sob uncontrollably, the tears streaming down her face as she sat at the dining room table, cradling her face in her arms as the lightning crashed and the thunder rumbled outside.’

Katherine Janney awoke sobbing, tears soaking the pillow under her head. She shuddered to catch her breath as she felt familiar arms enveloping comfortingly around her. She could feel the arms tighten around her, pressing a pair of soft breasts like cushions gently against her shoulder blades.

As she felt warm breaths on the side of her neck, Kate twisted around slowly within the arms’ embrace, turning her head around to look up at the graceful, feminine features of the face and deep mother-of-pearl eyes that gazed with concern back at hers.

“I’ve heard of people crying after sex;” Sam grinned; “But it’s never actually happened with me.

Kate’s expression must have indicated she was not in the mood of mind for such quips, because Sam’s smile faded, to be replaced with worry, the motherly affection in her eyes belied by her unabashed toplessness: “You all right, Kitten?” She loosened one arm from around Kate in order to reach up and gently brush at the unruly stray hair that had fallen into the side of Kate’s face. Her fingertips brushed Kate’s lips before she caressed her cheek lightly with the back of her fingers and Kate nodded slowly, swallowing the lump in her throat and forcing a smile through the tears still squeezing from her eyes.

She was about to lift her hand to rub her eyes, but Sam beat her to it.

Cradling Kate’s chin in her four fingers, she reached up with her thumb to wipe the tear tracks from Kate’s cheeks on at a time.

Kate let her eyes fall closed as her lover caressed her face, her chest heaving as she inhaled a shuddering breath, which she let out with a long sigh.

“Bad dream?” Sam asked, in a tone that made it clear she knew the answer.

Kate nodded, her voice hoarse. “I was dreaming…”

“You were dreaming about him;” Sam finished for her, staring penetratingly into Kate’s eyes; “Weren’t you?” After a pause, blinking away the tears that clouded her vision, Kate nodded again. “You never did talk to me about it.” Sam said, propping the side of her head up on her elbow atop the pillow. “What happened?”

Kate sighed, turning her back to Sam as if unwilling or unable to face her girlfriend, but taking Sam’s arms and readjusting them around herself in a way that made it clear, she hoped, that she did not want her lover to leave her. “He had been having an affair with a woman in Manhattan;” Kate’s tone of voice was as cold and hard as crystal, but when she turned her head back to face Sam again, tears again threatened to squeeze from her eyes; “For two years.”

The combination of strength and vulnerability that showed on Kate’s face in that moment was something that Sam had always found irresistible about the young woman and she could not help but dart her head forward, closing the inches between their faces and closing her mouth over Kate’s lips in a long, lingering, loving kiss that neither seemed to wish would ever end.

Kate’s eyes reopened as Sam tugged gently at her bottom lip with her kittenish front teeth as they parted and Sam grinned at seeing the glaze that clouded their customary glow, her breathing ragged with the flush of desire her lover’s kiss elicited in her core.

“I figured that much;” Sam stroked Kate’s hair as the other’s breathing returned to its regular rhythm; “That it was something like that.” She search Kate’s face. “But how did you find out?”

This time it was Kate’s turn to smile, her crooked half-grin rueful.

“He told me.” She said as though she couldn’t quite believe it either.

“When?”

Kate turned back around in Sam’s arms, tucking them around her sides and interlacing Sam’s fingers with hers to hold her lover’s hand gently but firmly against her chest, but even though she could not longer see her face, Sam could hear in Kate’s tone as her smile faded from her face. “On my birthday.” She said.

Sam’s eyes widened, her eyebrows rising as the cold hatred she had sensed emanating from Kate like an aura toward her ex-boyfriend of six years was abruptly cast into crystal-clear relief. She understood now wherefrom the coldness she sensed in Kate, which had not been present when they separated six years earlier, had come. Her question answered and thinking of nothing she desired less than to further upset the young lover in her arms, Sam wisely fell silent.

After her silence stretched uncomfortably, it was Sam’s turn to roll over on top of Kate.

“Please say something.” Sam murmured.

“Every time we would…” Kate blinked and looked down at Sam; “Make love;” Sam grinned at her uncommon use of the euphemism; “You always did seem to know somehow exactly what I wanted.”

“Was that good for you?” Sam asked nervously and Kate’s chest bounced underneath as she laughed: “Was it!” It was her turn to reach down and stroke at Sam’s hair. “You were the most incredible lover anyone’s ever had!” Sam blushed at the compliment, but then her eyes narrowed. “Yet you are thinking about someone else.” This, again, was a statement of fact.

Kate smiled. “Guilty as charged. I was thinking about him.” She need not have elaborated to her girlfriend whom she was referring to. “What about him?” Kate reached down to draw Sam up and kissed her lovingly before explaining. “When I met him, you were the only lover I had ever had in my life;” Sam smiled, averting her eyes as her face flushed all the way down to her chest; “So I didn’t know what I was supposed to expect in a relationship with a man.”

Sam nodded understandingly. “And?” She prompted, prodding with both her voice and her fingers on Kate’s chest. “And I thought that there must have been something wrong with me.” Sam pulled back in surprise, rolling off of Kate and propping her head on her hand. “What do you mean?” She asked, a hint of concern creeping into her voice. “Why in the wide world would you ever think such a thing?”

“When Will and I would…sleep together;” Sam’s eyebrow quirked at Kate’s deliberate reluctance to repeat her earlier euphemism of “making love”; “I never experienced…” She trailed off and Sam’s eyes widened: “You mean all these years, you’ve never… came… since you left me?”

Kate giggled, shaking her head. “Are you kidding?” She looked over at Sam. “Six years? That would be hell!” Sam joined in her laughter. “Of course I did!” She said after their giggling died. “It’s just…” She leaned in to kiss Sam again; “It wasn’t the same as it was when I was with you.” She smiled against Sam’s lips as their eyes met.

Kate was quiet for a long time and Sam felt sure and more than a bit relieved, that her lover had fallen back asleep.

What seemed to both like hours later and very well may have been, Sam was just beginning to drift off into a slumber herself when she reopened her eyes at the sound of Kate’s voice.

“I can’t stop thinking;” Without Sam even noticing Kate had repositioned them both so that Sam now lay on her back, Kate lying half atop her with her head pillowed on Sam’s chest and now she lifted it to look up at Sam; “About Liz and Zoe.”

Sam’s eyebrow quirked and she cocked her head to one side quizzically. “What about them?”

Kate lifted her hand to interlace her fingers atop Sam’s chest and rest her chin atop them as she gazed up at her. “I saw your face when Liz mentioned the charge Zoe’s father was bringing against her.” She said, her eyes narrowing as she studied Sam penetratingly. “I could tell you were thinking the same thing I was.”

Sam had lifted her head to look down at Kate, but now she laid her head back down on the pillow with a sigh. “You were thinking that the “corruption of youth” could have applied just as accurately to me with you at Zoe’s same age.” It was a statement, not a question and Sam felt Kate nod against her chest.

“So?” She prompted as Sam fell silent again. “What do you think?”

Sam tilted her head to the side on the pillow to glance down her side at Kate, reaching down to stroke her hair. “Do you feel corrupted?”

Kate looked at her dubiously and darted forward to press a peck of a kiss to Sam’s lips. “Don’t make fun.” She chastened, reciprocating Sam’s nipping of her bottom lip as she pulled back.

Sam sighed again, displacing Kate as she scooted back to sit up against the headboard of the bed. Sam’s finger paused over Kate’s navel and she looked up at her. “You mean did I brainwash you into becoming my lover?”

Kate flushed at her bluntness, but nodded.

Sam shrugged. “Not intentionally.” Kate looked dubious, but Sam met her gaze unflinchingly: “That’s the best I can promise you.” She went back to caressing Kate’s belly with her fingers. “I, for one, would like to believe you would’ve loved me with or without my…power.” Kate smiled as Sam closed in for a passionate kiss. “I’d like to think our relationship was a success in seduction, not mind control, on my part.”

Kate nodded and kissed her back. “I agree.” She murmured softly, kissing her way down to side of Sam’s neck. “Let’s just say you seduced me;” She pulled Sam over on top of her as she pressed a kiss to her temple; “And leave it at that.”

Sam smiled down at her. “Agreed.”

Kate looked down at her as Sam kissed her way down Kate’s throat to her chest. “So, lover;” Her voice was a breathless murmur as Sam’s kisses reached her breasts; “Can you hear what I’m thinking now?”

Sam nodded, before her head ducked out of sight behind Kate’s breasts and Kate giggled as her kisses reached her navel. “Oh;” Kat heard Sam’s voice in her head reply as she pulled the covers over her lover’s head as Sam reached her destination; “I have a pretty good idea.”

 

Kate had not realized how many hours had actually passed since dinner until they stepped from the brightly lit bedroom into the otherwise dark, silent and empty house.

A creaking on the stair landing prompted them both to look up. They saw Becka descending the stairs and both noted that she had shed her medallion-adorned suit jacket, wearing only the shimmery silk wraparound shirt that she apparently wore underneath.

“Where’s Jewels?” Kate was not certain why she was whispering in a hushed tone, other than it somehow felt right to do so in the silence of the dark room, but was immediately glad that she had after hearing Becka’s answer: “I just got her down.”

Sam smiled, remembering reporting the same to Katherine’s own mother at the end of each day for so many years. She cast a glance over at the girl’s mother, who had already begun subtly moving toward the stairs to her daughter’s bedroom, and smiled.

As Sam gathered the pillows and quilts from the closets to make the living room couch as bedlike as possible, Kate crept stealthily down the hallway from the top of the stairs to Julia’s bedroom door. Not lifting her feet as she crossed the threshold, she slipped off her shoes and shuffled in her stocking feet across the deep carpet to the bed where the girl slept.

She sat down slowly on the edge of the bed, trying to make as little indentation in the mattress as possible, and reached out to lightly sweep Julia’s ebony hair away from her face with her long fingertips, turning her wrist to softly caress her daughter’s cheek with the back of her fingers. She froze as Julia groaned in her sleep and Kate felt her nuzzle her face deeper into the pillow at the touch of Kate’s hand on her face, but relaxed again with a loving smile as she at the same time felt Julia press her cheek into her mother’s hand. She slipped off of the bed and knelt beside it on the carpet, folding her arms atop the mattress and laying her chin on her clasped hands as she watched her daughter sleep.

One thought kept reoccurring in her mind as she swept her eyes over Julia serene expression: ‘This was what she had just given up the love of her life for.’

She did not feel about this fact the way that her tears earlier might have indicated that she would.

Watching the muscles in the girl’s face and the fingers curled around the edge of her pillow twitch unconsciously as she dreamed, Kate declared solemnly to herself that for as long as she lived she would never for one moment hesitate in nor regret giving up anything she ever had for the sake of maximizing her daughter’s happiness. Not for the first time nor, she guessed, the last since Julia had first come to live with her; Kate marveled to herself that the young girl was by far and away the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life; now with the added tinge, bringing a reflective smile to her lips, of the memory of having heard Sam describe her the very same exact way all those years ago.

It must run in the family.’ Kate thought, not having been born yet when her oldest sister Maryline was a young child but imagining that the mother that had given birth to the beauty before her eyes must have been positively breathtaking at Julia’s age.

Feeling herself begin to nod off to sleep herself, she stretched catlike as she slowly stood, leaning forward to give her daughter a good night kiss.

She had intended to lay a peck to her daughter’s forehead, but with her mind still preoccupied with the blonde woman downstairs it took her until she was stepping out of the girl’s bedroom, closing the door behind her, for her to recognize that she had instead subconsciously pressed a kiss to Julia’s lips.

Sam saw Kate’s hand lifted to her mouth as she descended the stairs and guessed what had transpired, with an unexpected pang of pride that she had been able to so thoroughly distract the young mother with her romantic proposition. “What are you thinking?” She asked, secretly hoping to catch Kate out while thinking about her.

Kate’s answer surprised her. “That I have no regrets.” Kate said with a smile.

“Meaning…?” Sam was curious at Kate’s cryptic answer.

“That I was right.” Kate looked back up the stairs. “she really is the most important thing in my life.”

Sam watched Kate walk back into the living room, marveling at how the shy and inexperienced little girl she had babysat for all those years had grown up into the consummate mother.

 

 

Week 4 of the 2016 Presidential General Election in the Battleground States

•August 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Florida: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 48%, Trump: 39%, Monmouth University, August 16, 2016: http://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/MonmouthPoll_FL_081616.asp

 

Ohio: Clinton +6%
Clinton: 46%, Trump: 40%, CBS News, August 19, 2016: https://www.scribd.com/document/321810660/CBS-News-2016-Battleground-Tracker-Ohio-August-21-2016#from_embed

 

Michigan: Clinton +10%
Clinton: 49%, Trump: 39%, Mitchell Research and Communications, August 16, 2016: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/docs/2016/MI_8-16_FOX_2_Detroit_-_Mitchell_Poll_of_MI_Press_Clinton_v_Trump_8-16-16_A.pdf

 

Virginia: Clinton +12%
Clinton: 50%, Trump: 38%, Quinnipiac University, August 17, 2016: https://www.qu.edu/images/polling/ps/ps08172016_Spk79cr.pdf

 

North Carolina: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 48%, Trump: 39%, Marist College, August 12, 2016: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/polls-clinton-running-table-key-battlegrounds-n629136

 

New Hampshire: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 45%, Trump: 36%, CBS News, August 12, 2016: https://www.scribd.com/document/321143778/CBS-News-2016-Battleground-Tracker-New-Hampshire-August-14-2016#from_embed

 

Colorado: Clinton +10%
Clinton: 49%, Trump: 39%, Quinnipiac University, August 17, 2016: https://www.qu.edu/images/polling/ps/ps08172016_Spk79cr.pdf

 

Throwing in the Towel

•August 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

On June 20, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump fired former David and Charles Koch Brothers Industries’ Americans for Prosperity National Director of Voter Registration Corey Lewandowski as his Campaign Manager [http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/06/corey-lewandowski-trump] and hired instead a former advisor to Party of Regions candidate Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych in the 2004 and 2010 Ukrainian Presidential elections, Paul Manafort [ http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/trump-manafort-ukraine-crimea-russia-226573 ]

On August 17, 2016, Republican Party Presidential Nominee Donald Trump fired Paul Manafort as his Campaign Manager [http://www.politicususa.com/2016/08/17/trump-dooms-republicans-defeat-firing-campaign-manager-full-racist.html] and hired the Executive Chairman of the self-entitled website of the late deceased former Drudge Report editor Andrew Breitbart [Died March 1, 2012], Stephen Bannon [ https://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/sinking-trump-campaign-hires-breitbart-com-ceo-in-eleventh-hour-staff-shake-up ], to be the “Chief Executive Officer [CEO]” of the Trump Presidential campaign [a position which, as Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out that night, does not actually exist within any political campaign].

On August 16, 2016, it was reported that Trump would receive his first classified intelligence briefing as the Republican candidate for President the next day [https://twitter.com/JTSantucci/status/765571094400999424], but in an interview with the Fox News Channel Network the next morning, Trump stated that he does not have faith in or trust the United States Intelligence community.

 

That night, Rachel Maddow reviewed the smear campaign by the Presidential Administration of Republican President George Bush against the three Purple Hearts won by then-Massachusetts Senator and now Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with Robert Mook, Campaign Manager for Democratic Party Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, and compared it to Trump’s July 18, 2015 smear campaign against the Purple Heart won as a Vietnam Prisoner of War by Arizona Senator John McCain, saying:

“Whether or not you like John McCain as a politician, whether or not you wanted him to be President when he ran for President in 2008…Who would even think to slander that part of John McCain’s record? What person running for office would think that uttering a slur like that against John McCain is something that would help them out politically? Whether you are a conservative or a liberal or neither, anybody who lives in the real world and operates within the general realm of a normal understanding of news and biography and politics would never say something like that about John McCain, because not only would they not think it in the first place, they would know that it would not make any sense if they said it, that it would upset people to hear and would reflect poorly on them, regardless of how it reflected on John McCain.”

 

Maddow summarized by saying, about Bannon’s Breitbart, that:

“It is really specific and interesting when you look at it. For years, the stuff Donald Trump has crusaded on that made the least sense when you looked at it through a normal political lens, the stuff that has upset people the most in the moment and that has seemed the most inexplicable in terms of where it came from… For years, the place where he has apparently learned those facts, and found uncritical cheerleading political support for it, while the rest of the normal political world looked on baffled, was Breitbart…. There has been so much stuff about the Trump campaign and his behavior as a candidate and his worldview that has been absolutely inexplicable in terms of normal politics and a normal understanding of how other people see the world, but it does come from a place. It comes from a specific place…. A lot of the weirdest things about Donald Trump and the most offensive and outrageous things about Donald Trump come from a specific place. He has now decided to live in that place full-time.”

Later that night, in an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, former Breitbart Editor Benjamin Shapiro, who resigned from Breitbart in March 2016 over Bannon’s uncritical support for Lewandowski, said of Bannon that he

“Really is just a mirror image of Trump. The Titanic seems to be going down and Trump is looking for the nearest mirror so that he can make sure that his hair looks good for the cameras…. Trump has basically made the head of his own fan club the new Campaign Manager.”

Shapiro quoted “Right Wisconsin” Editor Charlie Sykes, who wrote about Trump’s appointment of Bannon, that: “Trump’s campaign has now entered the hospice phase. He knows it’s dying and he wants to surround himself with his loved ones.” [https://twitter.com/SykesCharlie/status/765886348049977345]

 

I agree with Maddow and Sykes. It is my belief that Donald Trump is no longer running a political campaign for the Presidency of the United States… if indeed he ever was to begin with in the first place.

In an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell on July 29, 2016, in response to Republican Party Nominee Donald Trump’s reaction to the speech by Pakistani-American lawyer Khizr Khan at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the author of Trump’s 1987 book “Art of the Deal”, Newsweek Associate Editor Tony Schwartz, identified Trump as:

“a deeply damaged human being…He grew up in a way that left him without a heart, without a soul, without a conscience. He has no awareness of what it is he is doing and the kind of pain he is inflicting…That’s almost lacking humanity…His deepest need is to be noticed in every moment. Noticed good, noticed bad. It does not matter. Notice me. That is where his attention is. He is a black hole…There is nothing inside him to sustain and make him feel good or worthy. So he needs to seek it constantly from outside.”

In an interview with Rachel Maddow and Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Eugene Robinson [http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/art-of-the-deal-ghostwriter-speaks-out-729014339840] on July 20, 2016, Schwartz has said, about Trump that:

“it is impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes…There is no “there” there. There is no heart. There is no soul. There is just a man trying to transactionally do what he thinks will aggrandize him…If he could run for emperor of the world, he would…I’ve always seen him as a black hole. As someone who cannot fill himself with a sense of value from anything that comes internally, and so he constantly, throughout his life…has tried to fill up that hole that apparently exists inside him by getting more and more money, more and more praise, more and more attention…What kind of human being says “All publicity is good publicity”? His supporters…don’t understand that he does not care about them. He has no interest in them except insofar as they vote for him…Donald Trump has no intention of being anyone’s savior but his own…We do not want the President of the United States to be thinking all the time about how to get attention.”

It is safe to say that the Donald Trump Presidential campaign was never a “Trump for America” campaign. It is now, has always been and will continue to be a “Trump for Trump” campaign. As Maddow and Shapiro point out, Breitbart, whom Trump has now replaced his campaign’s staff with, have been, in Shapiro’s words, his “fan club” for more than a year, since before his slanderous smear campaign against McCain.

In the three weeks since Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s Nomination for the Presidency of the United States at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 28, 2016:

ABC News [http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fivethirtyeights-nate-silver-predicts-hillary-clinton-wins-election/story?id=40213871],

The Boston Globe [https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/08/15/hillary-clinton-wins-landslide-will-she-have-mandate/qEGLl2OsWxF9QJGlq8OQQN/story.html],

CNN [http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/16/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-landslide-loss/],

The Huffington Post [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-could-win-in-a-landslide_us_57b1ae13e4b071840411d76c],

NBC News [http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/could-clinton-win-in-a-landslide-743571011876 http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/pollsters-see-hint-of-landslide-in-trump-fade-741265987873],

The New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/us/politics/handicapping-the-odds-of-a-clinton-landslide.html http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/17/upshot/what-a-clinton-landslide-map-would-look-like-and-how-trump-could-still-rally.html http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-a-clinton-landslide-would-look-like/ ],

The Wall Street Journal [http://www.marketwatch.com/story/clinton-headed-for-landslide-of-north-korean-proportions-2016-08-16],

And the Washington Post [https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/08/16/is-clinton-headed-for-a-landslide-win-heres-one-reason-it-could-happen/?utm_term=.a83500767013 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/did-paul-ryan-just-predict-that-clinton-will-win-in-a-landslide/2016/08/04/7e50022e-5a91-11e6-9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html ]

Have all shown a double-digit percentage point, 50+% popular vote landslide victory for Hillary Clinton in the Tuesday November 8, 2016 Presidential election.

Many people have accused Donald Trump of being stupid. I, however, have never been one of them. It is my firm belief that Donald Trump knows full well that not only is he going to lose, but to use a vernacular with which he is well-acquainted, he is going to lose HUGE [or, as Trump himself would say: “Bigly”].

If this was not a self-aggrandizement campaign for Donald Trump from the very beginning, which I for one firmly believe that it always was, it most certainly is that now.

Quite frankly, I think that the explanation for why Trump fired his Campaign Manager and replaced his campaign staff with Breitbart is quite a bit simpler than the news media has been making it out to be: Donald Trump hates campaigning.

The bizarre thing about this is that I myself can actually empathize with him on this.

I think Trump is sick and tired of professional political operatives such as Lewandowsky and Manafort telling him that he if wants to have the slightest snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning, then he cannot and must not ever be himself.

As we have seen, and as many have said, Donald Trump is manifestly temperamentally unqualified to be President of the United States. Lewandowsky knew that, and I believe Manafort does as well. Here is the thing: I think that Trump knows it, too. I think he has always known it.

I have been saying it since the day that he first announced his candidacy for the Presidency in 2012, and I will say it again: I do not, for one moment, believe that Donald Trump has any desire to be President. He was always running for no other reason than for the attention that it fed to his deep-seeded histrionic narcissistic personality disorder. As Schwartz told O’Donnell: “His deepest need is to be noticed in every moment. Noticed good, noticed bad. It does not matter. Notice me. That is where his attention is.”

I think if there is one thing that has defined Donald Trump over the past thirty-six years of his involvement in Republican Presidential politics, it is that he doesn’t just want attention. He wants attention for being himself. He doesn’t just want people to pay attention to him. He wants people to pay attention to him for who he is. As Schwartz says, and as is the case in any histrionic personality disorder, whether that attention is positively or negative in nature quite literally could not possibly matter any less to him. So the past year and half of having professional political operatives such as Lewandowsky and Manafort telling him over and over again and again not to be himself must have been absolutely interminable, and ultimately intolerable.

Maddow describes Breitbart as Trump’s “cheerleaders”. Shapiro describes them as his “fan club”. It stands to reason that no one in Trump’s new Breitbart campaign staff is ever going to advise him, as Lewandowsky and Manafort did, to never ever be himself.

I predict that, for the eighty days that remain in this campaign before the election on Tuesday November 8, what we as Americans as a nation are going to see, finally, is Donald Trump, as Late Show host Stephen Colbert put it at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner “unfiltered by rational argument”.

All I have to say about that is that, speaking as a Political Science Major, the next two and a half months are going to be very, Very, VERY interesting indeed.

Week 3 of the 2016 Presidential General Election in the Battleground States

•August 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Florida: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 48%, Trump: 39%, Monmouth University, August 16, 2016

Michigan: Clinton +10%
Clinton: 49%, Trump: 39%, Mitchell Research and Communications, August 16, 2016

Virginia: Clinton +12%
Clinton: 50%, Trump: 38%, Quinnipiac University, August 17, 2016

North Carolina: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 48%, Trump: 39%, Marist College, August 12, 2016

New Hampshire: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 45%, Trump: 36%, CBS News, August 12, 2016

Wisconsin: Clinton +15%
Clinton: 52%, Trump: 37%, Marquette University, August 10, 2016

Colorado: Clinton +14%
Clinton: 46%, Trump: 32%, Marist College, August 12, 2016

Week 2 of the 2016 Presidential General Election in the Battleground States

•August 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Florida: Clinton +5%
Clinton: 44%, Trump: 39%, Marist College, August 10, 2016

Ohio: Clinton +5%
Clinton: 43%, Trump: 38%, Marist College, August 7, 2016

Pennsylvania: Clinton +11%
Clinton: 48%, Trump: 37%, Marist College, August 7, 2016

Virginia: Clinton +13%
Clinton: 46%, Trump: 33%, Marist College, August 10, 2016

North Carolina: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 48%, Trump 39%, Marist College, August 10, 2016

Georgia: Clinton +7%
Clinton: 44%, Trump 37%, JMC Analytics, August 7, 2016

New Hampshire: Clinton +9%
Clinton: 45%, Trump: 36%, CBS News, August 10, 2016

Wisconsin: Clinton +15%
Clinton 52%, Trump: 37%, Marquette University, August 7, 2016

Colorado: Clinton +14%
Clinton: 46%, Trump: 32%, Marist College, August 10, 2016

 

 

The Campaign Part IV: Upstarts and Broken Hearts

•August 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Boston Massachusetts

Wednesday October 1, 2059

 

Kenneth Welsh waited at Gate 33 of Terminal B of Logan International Airport and watched the passengers file out of the disembarkation ramp from the United US American airlines aircraft flight from Baltimore. He watched his goddaughter, Congresswoman Katherine Janney, her face hidden by a curtain of red hair as she engaged animatedly with the shorter auburn-haired young woman who walked beside her. When the younger woman spotted Ken waiting for them, her eyes lit up and she excused herself from her conversation with the Congresswoman in order to run forward and wrap her arms around the older man.

“Hey, daddy.” Estelle Mackenzie greeted her father.

“Welcome home, Stella.” Ken hugged his daughter. “Did you bring her?”
“Ellie’s right here.” Kate said, ushering the child toward her mother.

“Hi grandpa.” Elecktra Mackenzie said.

“Was she at the debate on Sunday?” Ken asked the girl’s mother and Stella nodded. “Did you enjoy watching your Auntie Katie at Morgan State?” Ken asked the girl and Kate smiled.

Though she was not actually Elecktra’s aunt, because of the close friendship of their fathers, Stella had grown up as very much the fourth Janney sister and Kate had been a part of Elecktra’s life since she was born eleven years earlier during Kate’s first year at Harvard.

Elecktra nodded as her mother swept the girl into her arms and onto her shoulder. “I thought she was the best and the smartest lady there.” Kate blushed slightly at the compliment, knowing that also onstage with her had been Congresswoman Ainsley Tomblinson of West Virginia, the speaker of the House of Representatives and third in the line of succession to the Presidency behind President Whitford and his Vice President. “I liked what she said about wanting everyone to be healthy.” The girl’s mother smiled at the candidate, knowing her daughter was referring to Kate’s proposal to expand the Universal Wellness Act, advocacy for which had become a central pillar of her campaign’s platform for the Democratic-Republican Party’s Nomination.

 

Another woman was waiting by the car as they exited the Airport.

“I’m not sure whether the two of you have ever met before.” Kate said. “Stella, this is Kristin Ludlowe, my campaign’s Communications Director, my old college roommate and my best friend.”

Stella looked surprised at this last addition, but smiled warmly as she shook Kris’s hand enthusiastically. “We meet at long last.”

Kris shook hands with the newcomer, looking to Kate expectantly for an explanation.

“Kris, I would like you to meet Doctor Estelle Mackenzie;” Kate saw Kris’s eyes go wide and she nodded. “Daughter of Kenneth Welsh;” she gestured to Ken standing behind them; “and her daughter Elecktra Mackenzie.” The girl on Stella’s shoulder waved shyly at the stranger as Stella and her father climbed into the waiting car.

Kris led Kate to the other car and Kate climbed inside to find her own daughter already waiting for her.

“Was that Principal Mackenzie?” Julia asked.

Kate had forgotten that the relationship between her and Stella had changed as Julia was now a student at Yorktown-Lee High School, where Stella was the Principal. She nodded. “Grandpa Kenny is her father. Remember?”

Julia thought for a long moment before nodding slowly.

Kate had always felt a pang of guilt at calling Ken Julia’s grandfather, which of course he wasn’t.

However, she rationalized her actions to herself via the fact that neither Julia’s biological mother Maryline nor her adopted one had been in contact with their father the Senator since he had abandoned their mother Patricia 28 years ago and as such Ken was the closest thing to a fatherly figure that either Kate or her daughter had ever known during that period of time.

 

They rode in silence across most of Boston; with the second car carrying Ken and Stella trailing close at their back. As they approached the intersection of Cambridge Street and Massachusetts Avenue, Kate was gazing out the window and Kris saw her stiffen visibly.

She mumbled something under her breath.

“Excuse me?” Kris leaned in to hear what Kate said. “I beg your pardon.”

“Stop the car.” Kate enunciated, not quite shouting the words, but raising her voice enough to sound commanding. “Pull over.”

Kris reached up and wrapped on the opaque glass partition behind her head, signaling their chauffer that he should assume manual control of the vehicle and do as the Congresswoman had ordered.

Kate had her door open even as the car glided alongside the curb and was stepping out onto the sidewalk even as it came to a stop. She walked slowly as though in some sort of trance-like state, up to the two-story Tudor-style house, with its castle-like towers and conical roofs She stood outside the picket fence between the sidewalk and the house’s front yard.

Bending forward, she leaned her crossed arms atop one of the fence posts, resting her chin on her folded hands.

Julia looked at Kris as her mother stood motionless, staring up at the house.

After several long minutes, Kate opened the fence’s front gate and walked slowly up to the house, climbing onto its front porch one step at a time.

She stood outside the house’s glass and screen front door, looking though it.

Then, to the surprise of those watching from the car, she leaned back against one of the columns of the porch, sliding down it as she sat down on the porch. From the car, it was impossible to see the expression on Kate’s face as she stared through the house’s front door. As such, there was little more that either Kris of Julia could do other than simply sit and watch the candidate from the car in silence.

Then, after what seemed like a short eternity, they saw Kate climb back to her feet, turn and walk back to the car. As she climbed back into the car, both Julie and Kris could clearly see that her face was streaked and glistening: The Congresswoman had been crying. As she sat down, however, she closed her eyes, inhaling a shuddering breath and swallowing a lump in her throat. When she reopened her eyes, the crease formed by her lips no longer quivered as though her entire features had frozen over.

“I hate Wednesdays.” She said.

 

Charles Hotel

Bennett Street,

Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Kenneth Welsh intercepted Kristin Ludlowe as she stormed out of the elevator across the lobby of the Charles Hotel. “The Congresswoman?” He inquired, reading the frustration on her face.

Kris slowed as he fell into step beside her, “She’s locked herself in the Presidential Suite.” Kris fumed.

“I got those files you requested.” Ken handed her the folder in his hands. “Any idea what’s gotten into her?” He asked.

Kris had opened the folder and flipped through the pages inside and now, to Ken’s surprise, she grinned with satisfaction. “I think I have a pretty good idea now.”

“What are those?” Ken asked, gesturing to the documents.

“Whatever got to Kate;” Kris explained; “It started after she ordered the car to stop outside a house at the corner of Cambridge and Massachusetts near Winthrop Square Park.” She flipped the folder around in her hands so that Ken could read the paper. “So I did some digging and pulled the records for that house and all of its former residents.” She pointed to the name on the list next to the year 2015.

“William Jefferson Brooks;” Ken read the entry aloud; “…Co-habituating with…” He looked up at Kris’s knowing grin.

“…Katherine Alexandra Janney.” Kris finished for him, nodding.

“So she used to live there.” Ken concluded, stating the obvious. “What does that mean?”

“Look at when Kate’s lease ended.” Kris gestured back to the document in his hands.

“August 2052.” Ken read.

“The same month she moved out to Portland.” Kris confirmed. She retrieved the document from Ken and turned around to begin walking back toward the elevators. “I knew that she moved out west, in part, because of a bad breakup with a boyfriend in Boston.” She told him over her shoulder. “I just didn’t know who it was that she broke up with…” She smiled gratefully back at him. “Until now.”

 

Kris nodded to Kim, who stood outside the hotel’s Presidential Suite as she knocked on the door.

A moment later, the door was opened by Julia, who nodded to Kris before returning to the book that she had been reading on one of the beds in the bedroom.

“She ‘s in there.” Julia gestured to the doorway to the suite’s living room.

At first Kris thought that Kate was watching television, but as she poked her head in the doorway, she could see that the screen Kate was staring at was blank.

She wrapped her knuckles on the doorjamb of the doorway, drawing the candidate’s attention to her. “We need to talk.”

Kate sighed. “What do you want, Kris?”

Kris held up the folder. “William Brooks?”

Kate rolled her eyes, sighing as she got up, walking deliberately back to the hotel suite’s minibar to fix herself a drink. The empty glass in her hand told Kris this would not be her first of the day. “Found out about that, did you now?”

“As opposed to seven years ago, you mean?” Kris let her frustration show in her tone of voice, earning her a hard glare from the Congresswoman.

“That’s not fair.” Kate chided, her eyes flashing.

Kris held up her hands. “All right. I apologize.”

Kate sighed as she stirred the ice in her glass. “No, I’m sorry Kris.” Her expression softened. “I should have told you. I know that.” She sat down on the sofa and gestured for Kris to have a seat in the chair across the coffee table from her. “You’re my best friend, Kris.” Kate confessed. “You deserved to know before now.”

Kris nodded. “If I had known, we could have rerouted from Logan to the Charles;” She gestured indicating the hotel around them; “That would have avoided Winthrop Square Park.”

At the mention of the house, fresh tears threatened at the edges of Kate’s eyes as she looked through the open doorway at her daughter in the bedroom.

“That was our housel” She said, her voice choked, her gaze distant; “The house we were going to get married in;” He gaze shifted to Julia and she smiled in spite of her tears; “The house we were going to raise our children in.”

Kris did not know how to respond and so said the only thing to her friend that she could think of. “You’ve raised Julia;” She told Kate; “Almost entirely on you own;” She smiled at her friend, who did not return her smile; “And she’s terrific.” She reached out to take Kate’s hands in her. “You’re a United States Congresswoman and a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.” She pointed down at the name on the sheet of paper in the folder open on the coffee table between them. “He’s not.” Using their clasped hands, she stood and pulled Kate to her feet. Kris walked around the table until they stood toe to toe with one another. “Look who’s still standing.”

The two old best friends hugged and Kris did not pull away even as she felt warm moisture soaking the shoulder of her shirt as Kate let the tears flow once more.

 

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Junior Forum, Harvard University Institute of Politics

Harvard University John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government

79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Thursday October 2, 2059

 

“In the nearly a century it was first founded;” The Dean said; “The Institute of Politics has played host to more than half a dozen former, future and sitting Presidents of the United States.” Kate glanced around the towering columns of the Forum at the portraits of the past speakers. “But our featured speaker tonight has to be one of the Kennedy School’s most distinguished graduates of the past few decades.” She saw him turn to smile surreptitiously back at her backstage. “She graduated from Harvard Law School with a degree in Constitutional Law in four years and two years later she earned her Doctorate from the Kennedy School in Political Sociology;” He grinned again; “At the ripe old age of twenty-eight.” This earned a smattering of mixed laughter and applause from the packed Forum’s capacity crowd. “Eight years later, she represents Oregon’s First Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives and is a candidate for the Democratic-Republican Party’s Nomination in next November’s Presidential election.” He stepped aside     from the podium, gesturing behind him. “Please help me welcome Congresswoman Katherine Janney.”

Kate stepped up onto the stage, squinting against not only the hot spotlights highlighting the stage, but also the flashes of cameras. She waved down the thunderous applause as she took the podium. She spotted Kris sitting off to one side, up in one of the lower balcony boxes closest to the stage where she stood. She saw her speechwriter watching her expectantly as she reached into her pocket and withdrew the carefully folded papers on which her friend had prepared the remarks she was to deliver.

As she laid the pages on the podium before her, however, she looked out again at the students packed in to the rafters of the room around her.

She paused for a long moment, lost deep in thought, a faraway look in her eyes.

Having been with Kate in their room at the Charles hotel the last time she had seen the same reminiscent reverent expression on the candidate’s face, this made Kristin Ludlowe very extremely nervous, remembering that at that time, only hours before, the Congresswoman had been almost catatonic with repressed rage against her first boyfriend.

Kris silently prayed that the renownedly free-spirited and independent-thinking former lawyer would, if only just for this one time, simply read the carefully crafted remarks prepared for her appearance here. Then, at long last, Kate spoke slowly.

“I had this whole speech written for me.” She lifted the pages up off the podium, waving them in the air. She glanced apologetically at Kris. “But I’m not reading it.” She made a show of crumpling up the paper and stuffing it into the pocket of her coat, but Kris could see that as she slipped the paper into the pocket, it was actually carefully folded.

This fact barely registered with her, however.

Kate had often heard of people having conniption fits, but she had never actually seen one firsthand until she looked over at the wide-eyed expression of shocked disbelief on her speechwriters face.

Turning away from her silently fuming best friend, she casually and informally leaned forward over the podium, resting her elbows and forearms atop it.

“You’re not other people.” She began conversationally. “I know all about you;” Her eyes swept penetratingly across the expectant faces arrayed before her; “Because I was you;” She half-grinned lopsidedly; “not all that long ago, really.” She saw the old Seniors return her smile knowingly, “I know what it is that you want;” She continued, standing up straight behind the lectern; “And I know enough to know that one thing you don’t want is to hear another career politician give you a version, however modified, of their campaign stump speech.”

The faraway look returned to her eyes as she shook her head.

“I’ll tell you the truth.” She sighed. “The truth is that this is not a campaign stop for me.” She smiled. “Then again, there is a debate over in Boston this weekend;” She shrugged; “So I suppose I should say this isn’t only a campaign stop.” She leaned over the lectern again. “This place;” She gestured beyond the walls of the forum to the campus of the Harvard Kennedy School around it; “Was my home for many years.” She pointed. “I lived right up on the corner of Cambridge Street and Massachusetts Avenue near Winthrop Square Park.” There was a smattering of cheers, which made her smile. “I don’t imagine that I was either the first or the only student to have gotten into Harvard because of my family’s fortune;” Amid the chuckles from the crowd, Kris noted how intentionally the Congresswoman had avoided referring to it as being her father’s money; “But that’s not why I’m here tonight.” The crowd quieted down, “I’m here because I worked my way through this school, first as an intern, then as an associate at a law firm called Janney, Kirks and Krueloe.” More people cheered. “I’m here tonight;” She continued; “Because I campaigned and got elected to Congress.” The applause grew. “I’m here tonight;” She concluded, having to raise her voice over the cheers; “Because I am campaigning for the Presidency of the United States of America!”

 

 

 

London, England

 

Saturday October 4, 2059

 

The aircraft’s wheels kissed that pavement of the runway at Heathrow International Airport and Katherine Janney was on her feet and headed toward the front of the plane even as it coated to a gentle halt. As she walked past the conference room, she smiled bemusedly at the staffers staring out the window at the entourage of dignitaries arrayed to greet her as the plane’s staircase was lowered. It had never really occurred to her that it would be unusual for the Prime Minister of the Kingdom to greet a Presidential candidate personally, but to the younger, newer members of her staff, she could certainly understand how strange it might seem at first glance for the leader of the fifth most powerful nation on Earth to greet the Junior Congresswoman from Oregon at the airport. As she stepped out onto the platform to begin descending the stairs, Janney knew that her own entourage was nothing to sneeze at either.

Her Chief of Staff Kenneth Welsh, dressed for the occasion in his full United States Marine Corps General uniform complete with his numerous medals and decorations, flanked her on her right-hand shoulder.

On her left, the black-suited Kimberley Frost guarded her daughter, who walked behind her at her back. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she walked briskly up to the waiting entourage, stepping directly up to stand toe-to-toe with a slender brunette with umber mahogany hair and ocean blue eyes. Even Kristin Ludlowe exchanged take-aback looks with her other staffers as the Congresswoman embraced the brunette.

Kate seemed to feel Kris’s bewilderment from behind her and turned as the hug ended to reach out and wave Kris over. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Kris walked tentatively forward to stand beside the candidate. “You two know each other?” She asked her friend.

“Kris;” Kate gestured to the brunette; “This is Brittany Forrest-Nelson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.”

Kris shook the woman’s hand, even as she stared at Kate.

Of all of the people in the entourage of dignitaries from England, Kris would not have assumed that the one with whom Kate would share a personal friendship would be the Prime Minister herself.

Kate only nodded in answer to her question. “I first met Nelson when she was still in the Admiralty.”

“What was it?” The brunette confirmed. “Eighteen years ago now?”

“Which reminds me, by the way;” Kate smiled at her. “Colonel Connor sends her best.”

Kris nodded as it clicked in her mind how it was that the two women had met.

Nelson and Welsh greeted one another as a General to an Admiral. Then Nelson tilted her head to the side and craned her neck to look over Kate’s left shoulder: “I see there is another new addition.” She said.

Kate smiled, blushing slightly at realizing she had never before told Nelson about the girl. In a vain attempt to hide her embarrassment, she turned she hoped not too overly quickly away from Nelson, gesturing the girl forward: “Jewels, I’d like you to come and meet the Prime Minister.”

Julia stepped shyly out from behind Kate’s back and Nelson beamed, “Oh! Isn’t she darling!” She almost squealed. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

Kate recognized that Julia was still too self-conscious to speak and so stepped in to answer for her. “Brittany, I’d like you to meet Julia;” She paused, stepping behind the girl to rest her hands on Julia’s shoulders; “My daughter.”

Nelson’s head shot up from staring adoringly at Julia to Kate’s face, her eyes going wide and her eyebrows vanishing up into her bangs.

Kate could only grin and to her surprise Nelson burst out laughing.

“Well!” She exclaimed. “Times really do change, I suppose, don’t they?” She glanced back and forth between mother and daughter before shaking her head, chuckling.

Kate, sensing that Nelson was envisioning her as the teenage girl she had first met a decade and a half earlier, met Nelson’s gaze evenly with a shrug and a thin grin. “People change too.”

“Speaking of which;” Nelson led them down the line of dignitaries; “There’s someone I’ve been simply dying to introduce you to;” She paused, looking down at Julia; “Both of you.” She looked back at the Congresswoman. “It’s one of those introductions that dictates must be conducted in person face to face.” She answered Kate unasked inquiry before the other woman opened her mouth. “You understand.”

Before Kate could answer, they arrived in front of a tall blonde woman who, Kate could now see, was by far and away the most garishly outfitted of either group.

She also saw, to her surprise, that the woman’s mere presence made even the Prime Minister shift uncomfortable as though intimidated.

Nelson took a deep breath before beginning the formal introductions: “Doctor Katherine Janney, United States Congresswoman representing the First Congressional District of the State of Oregon in the United States House of Representatives;” She began in her most official tone of voice, her proper upper-class British accent clipped and crisp; “It is my honor as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain to introduce to the Lady Diana Kensington;” She paused, looking back and forth between the faces of Kate and her daughter; “Duchess of Cambridge and Princess of Wales.”

It was Kate’s turn to have her eyes widen, an expression closely mirrored by her daughter, at realizing that the golden blond woman before them was a daughter of the British Royal Family and heiress to the throne of the United Kingdom.

“Your Royal Majesty.” Kate curtsied, bowing low at the waist, an action the girl at her side mimicked as best she could.

At hearing her speak, the Duchess cocked her head to the side with a smile. “You mannerisms are very refined, Congresswoman.” She complimented. “And the accent I detect…” She looked down at Julia. “If it’s not improper for me to ask… What is your lineage?”

Kate had been anticipating the question since arriving in Europe. “My paternal grandmother, on my father’s side, is the Madame Roseline Saint Chlaire of Chateau Villette.” Diana nodded. “A very wealthy and powerful family indeed.”

Kate said nothing.

It was a little-known secret, well kept because their name never appeared on any published lists, but the Saint Chlaire family was the wealthiest in the world, with a family fortune that dated back nearly two thousand years or more.

Kate should not have been surprised that if there were one person who would know all about the Saint Chlaires, it would be a Duchess.

The family’s ancestral estate of Chateau Villette outside Paris had been built in the late 18th century as a mirror duplicate of the royal palace of the French Sun King Louis XIV at Versailles and the Saint Chlaires traced their lineage back to a larger group of French noble families in the First Millennium CE, the Merovingians, from whom many if not most of the royal families of Western Europe including the ruling Windsors of the United Kingdom, traced their own heritages. At that thought, Kate could not help but smile, remembering that the woman standing before them was not only the Princess of the United Kingdom, but through a historical geopolitical quirk, of the Commonwealth of Canada, whose capitol of Ottawa Kate’s campaign had departed earlier that same day. A squeeze on her fingers pulled her thoughts back to the present, to the girl holding her hand.

She cleared her throat. “Your excellency;” She gestured; “This is my daughter, Julia.” She used Julia’s hand in hers to subtlely nudge the girl forward in front of her. “Jewels, meet her Royal Majesty the Princess.”

Julia may have been shy, but she was beaming brilliantly from ear to ear as she curtsied and shook hands with the Princess.

Diana turned back to Janney. “Your family has an estate here in London?” I was more of a statement than it was a question.

Kate nodded. “My Godmother does, yes;” She confirmed; “In Westminster.” This was news to everyone present and Kate felt all eyes on her. “It’s called Spencer House.” She explained.

Kris tapped Kate on the shoulder. “Excuse us, your Excellencies.” She drew Kate away from the Prime Minister and the Princess. “I have a surprise for you.” Kate looked at her quizzically. “I would like you to meet our pilot for this trip.” Kris gestured to the figure emerging from the airplane.

Kate shielded her eyes against the early morning sun to look up at the person standing at the top of the staircase.

But then an updraft off the hot tarmac lifted a singular stray strand of golden hair to catch a ray from the sun behind the figure’s head and Kate turned to her best friend, her eyes as wide open as her mouth.

Kris smiled and nodded, stepping back as Kate took off across the runway toward the aircraft.

The other figure had barely stepped off the bottom step of the staircase when Kate reached her, not slowing from a full run as she launched herself into the other’s arms.

Kate wasted no time in wrapping her own arms around the woman’s neck, taking the other’s face in both hands and pressing their lips to hers.

Sam did not let Kate’s feet touch the ground as she hugged her to her and returned the kiss.

Kris glanced over at Prime Minister Nelson in time to see the whites of her eyes turn to saucers.

It had been clear that the way that Nelson knew Kate was through Sam, but Kris easily surmised that Nelson had never guessed what the nature of the relationship between Kate and Sam was until this moment. The kiss between the two seemed to go on forever and as it ended Sam finally set Kate back onto her feet.

Nelson was not the only one staring at the public display of affection and Kate’s face blushed bright red as she led Sam over to the woman standing behind the Prime Minister.

“Your Majesty, permit me to introduce you to Colonel Samantha Connor of the United States Air Force.” She turned to the woman on her arm. “Sam, it is my honor to introduce you to her Royal Majesty, Princess Diana of the United Kingdom.”

“Your reputation precedes you, Colonel.” Diana nodded as Sam curtsied courteously, glancing sidelong at the Prime Minister beside her.

Kris noted the fact that, even as she greeted the Princess, Kate never took her hand from Sam’s arm: ‘Almost as though;” Kris thought guiltily to herself; ‘Kate was afraid that she was a dream somehow and that she might simply drift away if they ever lost touch.’ Indeed, even as the entire entourage turned toward the terminal, Kate kept her arm threaded through Sam’s elbow and wrapped around her hips. Kris had felt guilty for forcing the Congresswoman to separate from the woman she loved for the sake of the campaign in California and had made the decision to relent and let Sam back into Kate’s life again after seeing how much their visit to Boston and the home of Kate’s ex had upset her friend. She smiled as, when Kate hugged her girlfriend close against her side and laid the side of her head on Sam’s shoulder as they walked, Kris knew she had made the right call.

 

Riding in the back of the limousine, which Sam had insisted on driving herself personally, Kate did her best to keep her gaze facing forward out the windshield toward their destination, but she could not help but watch out of the corner of her periphery Kristin’s eyes widen steadily as Sam pulled the car up alongside the Parthenon-like Greco-Roman marble columned façade of the palatial mansion and she realized that this was where they were headed.

Kris did not find her voice until they were climbing out of the cab.

Without quite knowing why she felt the need to speak in hushed tones as they ascended the marble staircase to the mansion’s columned portico, Kris leaned in close to Kate.

“This is yours?” She murmured reverently.

Kate shrugged. “It’s owned in the name of my paternal grandmother’s family;” She smiled knowingly as, in a flash of golden blonde halo of hair, Sam hurried up the stairs past them; “But it is the ancestral home of the family of my godmother.”

As though on cue, no sooner had the words left her lips than the towering metal doors swung wide a tall woman with golden hair stepped out into the portico.

“Hello, Mother.” Sam said as the woman greeted her with a loving kiss on the forehead.

Doctor Hera Day opened her arms wide to receive Kate with an embrace.

Even as she hugged her goddaughter, however, Hera eyed the brunette standing beside her.

“I do not believe we’ve had the pleasure of being formally introduced.” Doctor Day stated in a clipped upper-class British accent, looking to Kate expectantly as she released her.

“Of course.” Kate nodded, clearing her throat. “Doctor Hera Day, this is Kristin Ludlowe, my Congressional Director of Communications;” At a glance from Sam, she amended with a grin; “And College roommate at Lewis and Clark.”

“This is Kris.” Hera nodded slowly, glancing to her daughter for confirmation. “Of course. I’ve heard so much about you already.”

As they walked into the house Kris leaned toward Kate, still eyeing Hera ahead of her.

“So who is she?” She muttered conspiratorially.

Kate smiled. “You ever hear of someone called the Doctor?”

Kris scoffed. “Do I look like someone who subscribes to Area 51 conspiracy theories?” Kate said nothing, her expression unresponsive. “The Doctor is an urban legend.”

“Oh, she’s a legend all right!” Kate nodded forward to the woman gliding ahead of them.

Kris looked back and forth between them. “You don’t mean to tell me that she’s…” Kate nodded, deadpan serious. “And the stories of some autonomous clandestine global independent international intelligence network hidden deep within the National Security and Defense Department…”

“The NSDIA?” Kris nodded. “The National Security Department Intelligence Agency.” “It exists?”

Kate nodded. “Strictly speaking, it’s not supposed to.”

“And the city of futuristic technology buried under Area 51?” Kris’s head was spinning with this new information.

“We call it ‘Eureka’.” Sam said, causing Kris to startle as she came up behind her to wrap her arm back around Kate after the doors had closed behind them.

“So your father was a Senator, your godfather;” Kris nodded to Ken behind them; “Was Secretary of State and Defense, your girlfriend;” She indicated Sam; “Is a Colonel in the Air Force, your grandmother is the wealthiest woman in Europe with connections to the Royal Family of the United Kingdom;” She took a deep breath before continuing; “Your sister is running for District Attorney of Boston;” Kate smiled at the mention of her older sibling’s campaign, which paralleled her own; “And your godmother is the Director of the largest and most powerful clandestine classified secret agency in the world.” She glanced over at the couple beside her. “And you were Best Woman at the wedding of the multi-billionaire heiress of the largest technology company in the world to the President of the Russian Federation.” She added, almost as an afterthought. She stopped walking and Kate turned around: “What is it, Kris?”

“The President of Russia, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the former Secretary of State and Defense, the Director of the National Security Department Intelligence Agency, the Royal Family of the United Kingdom, the future CEO of Stark Industries, the matriarch of the wealthiest family in Europe….” She trailed off: A thought had just occurred to her. “With your connections, Congresswoman, you are in a unique position.”

“What’s that?” Kate asked and Kris looked her in the eye.

“You are a beautiful and brilliant young woman, who may very well be the first person in the known recorded history of civilization to have been capable of having seriously considered world domination as a career trajectory.” Kate blushed modestly at the praise, but Kris was eyeing her with an expression of genuine confusion in her eyes. “So why all of this?” She asked and Kate cocked her head curiously. “Why go through this whole campaign for Congress and the Presidency?”

Kate did not hesitate, gesturing to point over Kris’s shoulder even as she turned to continue forward in the house arm-in-arm with her girlfriend. “For her.” Kate said.

Kris turned her head around to look behind her where her friend had pointed and saw Julia climbing the staircase behind them.

Standing there on the staircase of the Spencer House watching the fifteen year old climb the stairs behind the group Kristin Ludlowe felt her heart melt, knowing her friend spoke only the truth: Her whole political career…from the moment she had stood in Pioneer Square Plaza in Portland and announced her candidacy for the House of Representatives… Not one second of it had ever been for her own personal self-aggrandizement. A great many of the seemingly irreconcilable political idiosyncrasies that had caused Kris and her staff such headaches while Kate was the Representative from Oregon were explained, Kris now recognized, by this one very simple fact: Though she had been elected by the more than half a million voters in Oregon’s First Congressional District, Katherine Janney, now as ever, had a constituency of one. The young woman’s single-minded, occasionally almost obsessive doting dedication and devotion to the girl was made all that much more impressive by the knowledge that Julia was not even Kate’s own flesh and blood.

Kris knew little of the Congresswoman’s childhood, having first met her at age nineteen her freshmen year at Lewis and Clark, but judging from what she had been capable of gathering through the years, Katherine’s own mother Patricia, while unambiguously, undeniably and unquestionably loving all three of her daughters with all of her heart, was as a single mother after her divorce from the Senator unable to be as attentive a parent as many girls Kate’s age of eight at the time probably wanted.

Given this, Kris had often found herself wondering wherefrom her friend had acquired the necessary knowledge and skill set required to be to Julia what anyone who knew the two of them had little doubt was the most attentive and doting mother any girl could have ever wished for. What she recognized standing there on the stairs of Spencer House as Julia climbed the stairs past her after her mother was that it did not matter.

Kate would have been just as almost obsessively attentive to Julia over the years regardless whether she had been good at doing so or not. Katherine Janney was unimpeachably a brilliant mind, but like so many other things in her life as much as she used her knowledge and skill to mother her daughter, she also made the unorthodox and often idiosyncratic, even paradoxical relationship work itself out through an act of sheer force of will alone.

Kris had noted how tangibly tense Sam became in her interactions with Kate whenever Julia was present and now she understood why: It was because, knowing Kate as well as it was possible to, Sam was ever-acutely aware of the fact that, if it ever came down for Kate to a choice between the woman she loved and her daughter, the girl would win out every time.

This, too, was made all the more impactful by Kris’s knowledge of how head-over-heals, helplessly, hopelessly in love with Sam Kate actually was. What caused Kris to pause following behind Kate and Sam as much as anything, was a momentary flash of self-questioning. The reason it had been why she had originally effectively all but banished Sam from the Katherine Janney campaign trail had been because of questioning whether with Sam around Kate was intellectually and mentally capable of maintaining her priorities straight.

She recognized now that she need not have been concerned. Her friend’s priority had never once wavered in all of the years they had worked together.

Sam knew what Kris had not: That no matter how much Kate loved her, neither she nor their relationship did now or would ever top Kate’s list of priorities.

It was with admittedly mixed emotions that Kris acknowledged to herself that the Presidential campaign she had been tasked with coordinating was not and would never be, the number one item at the top of that list either. As Kate had said, she had campaigned for Congress and was campaigning for President because she believed it to be best for her beloved daughter. However, the truth that Sam had realized years ago about her relationship with Kate Kris now recognized was equally true if not more so of not only the Presidential campaign but indeed the Congresswoman’s political career: That Katherine Janney would not hesitate or even think twice about throwing it all away if she were earnestly and honestly convinced even for one moment that doing so was what was in the best interests of her daughter. Staring up the stairs after her friend, the recognition struck Kris that this was not going to change, meaning that she would need to accommodate somehow this new knowledge into the manner in which she coordinated the Congresswoman’s campaign. Not wanting to be left behind by a campaign she was ostensibly supposed to be leading and having stood stock still on the stairs of Spencer House for several minutes, lost deep in thought, Kris finally shrugged and followed where her friend and her daughter had gone.

 
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