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.
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!”
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.