This week’s post is Part 1 of a story in which the principal character is one you will recognise from media coverage. Foisted into the public eye, perhaps more than she has been comfortable with I began to imagine how she feels and if, maybe, she has regrets about the life she has chosen for herself…
It is like the sea, she thinks, a tidal surge with flashes of light. In reality the flashes are cameras and the surge is people. She puts her hand to the high collar of her coat and swallows, composing her expression, breathing in long, steady breaths like she has been told. There is a roar, startling her and she realises she’s lost concentration for a moment then she remembers and raises her hand in a wave, stretching her lips in a smile-not too wide. She doesn’t want to appear stupid.
Standing behind, she can only see the back of his head and his arms as he spreads them, the finger and thumb of each hand pressed together to make the point. There is another roar from the crowd.
He starts to turn his head and she feels her heart jump and her throat constrict as his hand strays out towards her; but she takes it, dipping her chin as she steps forward into the limelight.
“Smile now.” The instruction hisses from the corner of his mouth and she parts her lips a little to show the perfect, white teeth she has maintained for so long. Another wave of camera flashes later and she is able to follow him down off the stage, stepping with careful tread in the shoes she’s deliberated over and managing to keep her head up.
She trails along through the cheering crowd, nodding, maintaining the smile, her cheeks aching just a little.
“You looked so beautiful!” Mama had said last night. “The white jumpsuit so elegant! You did so well. We are proud, your father and I. The first lady! Living in that white house!”
Papa has not said much about her marriage since he asked her if she was happy the night before the wedding all those years ago. He’s been more reticent than her mother on the subject of how well she’d done to bag herself a multi-millionaire business man, asking only if it was truly what she wanted. He seems content enough now to have the New York apartment but is tight-lipped on the subject of politics, offering only one remark to her.
“Remember who you are, Mela. You are an immigrant like your mother and me. Success and happiness are not always the same thing.”
Alone in the spacious bedroom she watches herself on the news, her manicured brows creasing at the sight of her own figure bent awkwardly to the microphone in a hasty bid to summon up some supportive words, stumbling, parroting, ‘Make America great’, looking like the stick puppet that everyone believes her to be. More footage shows their ‘victory dance’ as she is clutched in a stiff embrace and his engagement is, as always, with the crowd and the flashing cameras as he gestures to them during every slow turn.
She thinks of William, her only real achievement, a ‘mini-me’ his father calls him and she wills it not to be so, thinking of her disdainful adult stepchildren, whose cliquey conversations and spiteful remarks she’s learned to ignore. She wishes her son could grow up like Papa having a strong sense of justice tempered with compassion. He is not ‘Barron’ to her; can never be. She bites her lip as the news images roll on, the pictures plastering a cover on to the reality.
“No, I am not going to The White House. I’ll be staying here in the Towers with my son and my parents. It’s important for him to stay away from the media and to continue his studies. You can tell this to my husband. My son comes first. Politics is nothing to do with me; that’s his job.
To be continued. [Part 2 of this story follows in next Sunday’s post…]