The rest of the campaign seemed to almost be an anti-climax. Our morning began with our normal meeting the next day, and it was surprisingly subdued considering the previous evening’s successes. The newspapers, which should have been filled with the pictures and transcript of the debate, were instead filled by the shocking revelations that had been made afterward. The front page of every paper was full of stories about the confession, the subsequent reopening of the investigation, and the possible crimes and people with which people could be charged. Speculations as to how this might affect Christy’s campaign were also made, but almost in a sarcastic way. One paper even took the time to seek a comment from Christy about his feelings about the potential impact that the day’s events might have.
As if having your father and campaign manager admit that he was a murderer three days before an election could or would cost you some votes in that same election, and whether that admission, the potential vote loss, and the potential criminal charges were concerns you had. The only real question in my mind was whether Christy knew anything about it, and under Macundo law, could be charged as an accessory before or after the fact.
As for Phillip’s campaign, most of us had not stayed that night to see the furor that erupted from Randall’s revelation, and so had not discussed any of this with the rest of the group. Angela and I had in fact, spent most of the night discussing how this revelation affected her and the rest of her life. There were more than a few tears that flowed that night, but I think that maybe for the first time, the experience was a healthy one for her. While it was gratifying for her to know how it had happened and that her father’s killer could now be brought to justice; it did nothing to bring back her father or all of the lost years she had spent without him. On top of everything else, she was no doubt about to be bombarded by the press again. There would probably be little chance of avoiding it in light of these revelations, and she needed to steel herself for the coming media assault. Phillip, though knowing how tender the subject had to be, knew that it had to be addressed first thing in the morning meeting.
“Angela, you know how I and all of the rest of us feel about what happened to your father those many years ago. There is nothing that can be said in consolation for your loss, but our thoughts are with you at this time. You know better than anyone, that the press will be at our door today with questions for both you and the campaign, and we will follow your wishes as to how you would like us to handle them. What would you like us to do?”
It was generous of course, to let her make the choice, since what we said or did in the next couple of hours could have a great deal of impact on the election. It was typical of Phillip however that his first thought was of others, and not personal advantage.
“I would like you to tell them all to go to hell, but I won’t. On the other hand, I will not answer any more questions for the press about this. They have already had one chance at me during this campaign, and I don’t want to be made the issue this close to election. Andy and Katie, can you guys put together a statement and give it to the press? I don’t want or need to approve it, since I don’t care in any way what you say to them. Just make them understand that as far as I am concerned, this is over.”
“Consider it done sweetie,” Katie said. “Andy and I will put something together and get it out to the sharks in the water in such a way that they know that you are to be left alone. In fact, I can guarantee you that it will be put to them in such a way that no one will bother you.”
The rest of that meeting was a series of reviews of the various statements and responses that were given during the debate. Few, if any of us, thought that we would be receiving any questions about the debate over the next couple of days, but I wanted to be prepared on the off chance that a reporter would use such a question just to find a way to throw us off. Since our candidate had stayed on message the entire evening, there was little for us to discuss, and the meeting broke up fairly quickly. Andy and Katie quickly left to meet with the writing staff on Angela’s statement, and to begin to fend off the barrage of press people who were camped outside the Manor House. Phillip and Lorelei had both agreed to take questions from the unruly mob out there, in part to be able to spare Angela any further embarrassment and in part to continue our strategy of access to the candidate. With a clear understanding of the sacrifice that everyone was tying to make in order to spare Angela any additional hurt, she and I went out through the back, and into the gardens, where the press had not been allowed to gather.
We walked through those gardens for what seemed like hours, mostly in silence. Knowing that my best course was to let Angela lead the conversation where she would, I simply followed where she led, physically and conversationally. Eventually she began to speak of things about her father that didn’t have to do with the work that he did for the government or the king. She spoke of him as the man that she had known. She spoke of similar days and walks that she took with him through these very gardens with as a young girl. The two of them just enjoying the sights and the smells of the flowers, and sometimes discussing the things that were happening in her life at the time. She was amazed that with all of the duties, responsibilities, and burdens of his own life, that he was able to express an interest in her lessons, her friends, and just the things that she took pleasure in. I think what she most enjoyed of the remembered experiences though, was the company of the father that she so loved and admired. As she did, I could see some of the little girl of that time begin to emerge again, and that with that emergence, the beginning of an understanding that there was so much more to this man’s life than the manner of his death.
“It is a tragedy that he can’t be a part of my life any more,” she said. “But of course in a way, because of the man and the father that he was, he always will be.”
“Dad’s are like that,” I replied, “and so are moms for that manner. When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow up, move away from our parents, and be on our own. When we finally do grow up and move away from them, in one way or another, we find that the things that they gave us when we were children mean that they will always be there. We find out that what we have become and the person that we are is really because of all those things they gave us. Our only hope then is to hope to be able to pass something half as good on to our own children when the time comes and because of this, contribute to own future.”
“And what about our future, Sean? Neither one of us has wanted to bring it up, but is there going to be a future for us?”
“God Angela, I wish I knew. I know that I want one. I want it more than anything that I have ever wanted in my life. I also came to the realization some time ago that there are a lot of things in my life that I just don’t have any control over. No matter how much I want to have you as a part of the rest of my life, whether or not I'll be able to, or how long I will be with you is just one of them.”
“I guess that I always knew that Sean. I couldn’t expect much more with the way that you entered my life; but just like with my father, it was something that I just chose not to face. We've seen where that kind of thinking can get you, so I’m just not going to let it be that way any more. I guess that if the experience with my father has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t get to choose when the people that we love will leave us. We have to be able to let go of worry on that score, and just enjoy the time that we do get together.”
There was nothing I could do at that point but take her in my arms. It was a great speech on both of our parts, but I don’t think that either one of us really bought into it. Circumstances may cause us to accept whatever comes our way, but that doesn’t mean that we have to like it. On the other hand, I was in love with a beautiful woman who was in love with me; and here we were, wrapped in each other’s arms, on a lovely warm day. Such things should not be wasted … and weren’t.
A lot of literature has taken great pains to explain to us that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Perhaps there is something to all of it, but I think that such statements are usually made by people on talk shows trying to sell you their latest book. You would have a difficult time however, convincing someone who has either just lost that one special person, or knows that they are about to. There is no doubt in the world that all of life's philosophers and poets agree that being in love is the best thing in the world, any world.
Like most things in life however, it's a joy that carries a price at every stage of its existence. In the first stage of falling in love, that price is the frustration of not knowing how the other person feels. The exquisite torture that defines the beginning of a relationship, when you think that you know what you feel, but unsure of your potential partner is also part of the pleasure. You therefore hide most of what you feel behind a self-imposed layer of indifference as a protection for an all too fragile ego. This indifference, rather than the love, is usually sensed by that potential partner, and pushes them into the same shell of uncaring towards you. The dance that ensues, as the two people gradually let down their respective guards, and reveal more of their true feelings has been the stuff of literature, song, and movies for more years than anyone can remember.
The middle stage occurs after the relationship has become firmly established. It usually hinges on one party or the other (or both) beginning to take the other for granted in some way. While this is certainly not what one intends to do, it is certainly understandable that at some point in a relationship, the constant stress of winning the other person and the tension involved in interpersonal relationships should be followed by some sort of let down, either physically or emotionally. This inevitable let down causes stress and strain again in the relationship and forces one party or the other (or again both) to attempt to re-win their partner or face the prospect of losing them forever. Either the partner is re-won, at the cost of the additional effort; or the partner is lost, with the cost of the loss of the relationship.
The last stage is the inevitable loss of the partner. Whether through mischance, ignorance, loss of love, or death itself; it's inevitable that all relationships will end at some point. How large the cost is here, is determined by the personal investments of the parties involved, the length of the relationship, and the nature of the loss itself.
On the other hand, I have never met anyone, nor has anyone that I have ever known met anyone, who has been able to make the claim that they have never loved. Oh, they may talk about unrequited love, or love never spoken, they may even talk about falling in love with the wrong person (in some cases, over and over again); but no one ever claims to have never been in love. In fact, the truest thing said about any of this is that the only thing more costly than the pain of one of the stages of love previously mentioned, is the personal price paid when one is not currently in love. There is little or no doubt that there is nothing more costly in life than loneliness.
In the end, all we really know is that it is better to “be in love” than to have “been in love”. While remembrance of a relationship, good or bad, might be worth something; being in love beats just about anything else in the world. By the way, my book should be on sale beginning … oh, never mind.
Oh yeah, you are also probably wondering what was happening in the rest of the world as that next 24 hours passed for us. Well, as for what happened to Randall after that evening’s events, he was charged with the murder of Angela’s father the following day. The revelation of the newsreel tape in all of the following day’s newspapers and newsreels caused a sensation. While justice moved slowly however, it moved inexorably. A true feeding frenzy built up over the next few weeks, as the public looked forward to what looked to be a particularly nasty trial.
They were to be disappointed however, as nothing ever came of the charges. Randall somehow managed to escape the inevitable fallout of his actions and the retribution that was coming to him by dying in his sleep on the night before the trial was to begin. There were a number of questions asked about the suspicious timing and potentially suspicious nature of his demise, but I’m not sure that too much effort was really put into finding the cause. The truth of the matter was that everyone seemed grateful that the bastard was dead and no one wanted to look too closely into how it happened. If there was anything criminal in passing, maybe that was only justice. The lack of any kind of trial meant that any information that Christy might have had on the issue would ever come out however, and no charges against him would ever be filed against him for any crimes. (Which does seem rather suspiciously providential for Christy, I don't mind saying.)
Randall’s subsequent funeral was a small one. Even though he was a royal family member, he was one who died in shame, and the only people who seemed to be disappointed at his demise were the reporters looking forward to a couple more weeks of headline grabbing stories filled with the putrid details of an event best forgotten.
It's at times like this that you're really forced you to ask yourself the tough questions about the human race. When you take the tragedy of the ending of a human life, add in the potential of political scandal, and multiply that by the prurient interest of the general public, you come up with the kind of answer that sells lots of newspapers. The total picture that this paints of the human race is not a particularly pretty one.
The only thing that I can compare it to is the relationship between the drug dealer and the addict. As reprehensible as the drug dealer is, his services are only necessary because of the needs and desires of the addict. Both and neither are to blame, as neither could exist without the other. There is no good in such relationships, only bad; and the fact that so many of us seem to be addicted to the blow-by-blow descriptions and analysis of such events should be troublesome to us. It will only be when we tell the world that such things should not be treated as entertainment, that we will take our next step forward on the path of societal evolution.
Angela's story however, was not the only one that was seeing some rather startling revelations. Sources now seemed to come out of the woodwork, hoping perhaps to see their stories lost in the landslide of Randall's confession; and in turn further burying the rest of Christy’s campaign in scandal after scandal over the next forty-eight hours. Misha’s assistant confessed to his part in the plot without the introduction of the document that she was holding, and plead out to the crime for a deal on jail time. Katie’s accuser, perhaps sensing the turning of the tide, dropped the suit and admitted that the entire case was a fabrication put up by Randall and the PAC that supported him. The real arsonist who had destroyed Andy’s business was discovered and arrested; and he too confessed to being part of Christy’s PAC. Christy himself had gone back into hiding on his father’s estate, and was having nothing but ‘No Comment’ statements from that refuge on his behalf. In the span of just 48 hours, all of the clouds that sat over this campaign and the people who were leading it for months had disappeared. The press was singing our praises unceasingly for the next week, and we seemed to sail forward on a tide of positive public opinion right through Election Day.
Oh yeah, the election. As you might imagine, the success that Phillip achieved in the debate, added to the backlash caused by all of the information that had come to light about Christy’s family and campaign made the election a foregone conclusion. Christy lost by a 98% to 2% margin, and there was some investigation into voter tampering on his part to make it that close. I can’t tell you that the result presented our team with any real degree of jubilation, (I think that most were equally happy to be out from under their personal problems.) though it was very gratifying to be able to see that the right man would get the job. Certainly there was celebrating being done on Election Day, but for those of us closest to Phillip it was all rather subdued.
We gathered together for dinner as usual on the day after the election results were beginning to be posted. Katie had already released a statement to the press thanking everyone that had supported the campaign. It was pretty amazing to realize that while we were going through all of our trials and tribulations that apparently everyone was on our side. Of course this might have been some twenty-twenty hindsight in light of the recent revelations about the competition, but who cares. No one could be found on Election Day that said that they hadn’t supported Phillip from the start. As we sat around the empty plates that evening, enjoying the last of the wine, discussions naturally began as to what was next for each of us.
“I thought for a long time, that this was it for me and that when the campaign was over, that I would finally retire,” Andy began. “But more and more of late, I think that I would like to begin my business again. In fact, I might say that I have been hounded into making such an attempt.”
“Damn right you have,” Katie put in. “I won’t have any partner of mine in as a short-timer or in only half way. He’s in it for long haul if he knows what’s good for him.”
“Really” I exclaimed! “The two of you going into a partnership?”
“Yep,” she said. “But not of some two-bit printing business like he had before. We are starting a full service advertising agency that will handle every aspect of the clients needs, including the printing. What’s more, we’re taking my entire writing staff with us. I can’t let people that I care about go back to the bottom feeding life of the newspaper world.”
“But weren’t you part of that world?” Andy asked sweetly.
“Shut up partner,” Katie smirked, “We’ll get along a lot better and much longer if you stop casting aspersions on my name and character.”
“Don’t forget about me,” Misha added. “I'm going to be part of this partnership as well. Much as I like government service, I think that it was time that I moved on. Besides, maybe this time somebody that knows how to can and should keep Andy from getting himself into the financial trouble that got him locked up with this nest of thieves. And speaking of thieves, it will also give me a chance to protect Andy from letting his partner abuse her position and her expense account.”
“I never did any such thing!” Katie sputtered as the rest of us laughed. “Hey, what about you two?” she asked looking at Paul and Melissa.
“He is already signed up for another movie, and I’m sure that the exposure of the campaign will help his career immensely,” Melissa informed us. “I on the other hand, will be taking a little time off. You see I’m getting married.”
“Congratulations!” came from all over the room, but I followed with the inevitable question. “Is he someone that you can admit to, or just some movie hunk that you couldn’t keep your hands off of?”
“Both,” Paul replied laughing. “At least in a way he is anyway. You see, it’s the stunt double of her co-star in this last movie.”
Hugs and handshakes were exchanged all around, and the ladies immediately huddled together giggling for some time over the subject of men in general and husbands in particular. In addition, there were bridal showers and wedding plans to discuss. Paul shrugged; knowing that in such discussions, brothers are no longer family, they are simply men. It was also quickly apparent that such discussions are also a queue to the men in the room that their presence was no longer required. We men therefore adjourned to the patio adjoining the dining room, and though it was premature even by Macundo standards, cigars were passed around. Arturo’s stand was duly set up, and he joined us in the celebratory atmosphere. Fragrant smoke soon began to fill the area, carrying even into the dining area and drawing the ladies out to join us. Glasses were refilled, and a toasts proposed to the happy couple and their impending nuptials.
“Hey, what about you?” Melissa asked, turning towards Angela. “What can we be looking forward to in your future?”
“Well, there are some things that I’m not sure of yet,” looking in my direction. “I’ve never left the service though, so I expect that I will be going back to where I left off before the campaign began.”
“That’s not entirely true Colonel,” Phillip put in.
“What do you mean Colonel?” She shot back, her eyes wide.
“Well, it won’t be official until after the coronation, but a promotion and appointment to the cabinet of the new government is already in the works.”
Such news called for additional hugging and toasting and was duly performed. That it was well deserved was beyond question. That everyone was as genuinely pleased for Angela as she seemed to be for herself was also apparent.
As for my own situation, no one asked, and I volunteered nothing. Angela and I continued discussing the situation since that day in the gardens, but with no further results. I wouldn’t ask her to marry me, not knowing whether I could stay, no matter how much both of us wanted it; and she would not press the issue, knowing my mind on the subject. We could do nothing but enjoy each and every day that we were able to spend together, and try not to look too far into the future. The looks that the two of us got from around the patio made me believe that we were not alone in the awareness and understanding of our current situation.
To be honest with you, I thought that I would be gone the moment that the election was over. If the truth were told, I hadn’t been able to sleep a wink since Election Day. I kept expecting to fall asleep in Macundo, and wake up God only knows where. I knew that if I let that happen, it would be without Angela. The resulting stress had played hell with my sleeping and waking, and I can’t help but believe that it showed. There was nothing I could do to change the outcome of the situation of course, but being helpless was not going to stop me from fretting about my future constantly.
Wasn’t I sent here to see that Phillip became King? Wasn’t he now going to do exactly that? And if I wasn’t sent here to see that done, why was I sent here at all and placed in charge of the campaign? The questions kept coming, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted any of the answers. I couldn’t bring myself to face a problem that I didn’t understand, so I chose instead to ignore it. I knew that doing so wouldn’t make it go away, but I didn’t know what else to do. I pushed all of this away again for a time as Angela stepped up to my side and slid her arm around me. This was a night of good news, and I wouldn’t let my somber thoughts intrude upon it.
The evening of celebration continued long into the night, and soon even my lovely Angela left my side with a snuggle, a kiss, and a promise to be waiting. The hour had gotten late, and the lack of sleep, the two cigars, the wine, and later the whiskey had all taken their toll on me. As I looked with somewhat bleary eyes around me, I suddenly noticed that only Arturo, Phillip, and I were left. All the others had undoubtedly taken their leave at some earlier point, but when that might have happened, I couldn’t quite seem to remember. I was attempting to blow smoke rings into the night air, which should have been a dead giveaway to me that I was more than slightly inebriated and should be leaving myself. Sober, I knew that I couldn’t do it and didn’t try.
“Sean,” a voice said, and I turned to find Phillip at my side. “I can’t tell you how grateful that we are for everything that you have done. I know we’ve said it before, but it is nevertheless true. I can’t say that I understand where you came from, or even why you were sent to us, but it has meant a great deal to me, and to all of us. I don’t know what your future plans are, but I want you to know that you are always welcome here.”
“Thank you Philip. I really appreciate the offer, but quite frankly, I know even less than you do about what my future plans are. I think that you know how much I would like to stay here and why, but I don’t know if I can. I fear that as they always have been, these decisions are not mine to make. As for the thanks, I don’t know how much I really did, but whatever it was, you are more than welcome to it. It was the least I could do for a truly good guy.”
“You always have underestimated your role here,” Arturo said standing up as he entered the conversation. “I only hope that you choose to stay with us and continue to play some advisory role in the government.”
‘Any government that would be worth being a part of wouldn’t have people like me involved with it. The kind of advice that I spread around should be used to fertilize roses. That being said, any help that I can give, I will; but please let’s not make this formal arrangement, it would only ruin both of our reputations.”
“We’ll put that aside for now Sean, but there’s something else that you need to know about all of this that's very important. Something that we need your advice on desperately. In fact, I would venture to say that you might be the only one that could be trusted with this. Sean, I am not going to become king tomorrow.”
“Huh,” I sputtered, sobering up in an instant. “What do you mean you’re not going to become king? What about all of that stuff about the people and having the best leadership? What about serving the people’s best interest? What about all of the speeches that we've been … uh, you've been making? What about all of that stuff that you said at the debate about serving the future? What have we been doing all of this for?”
“I didn’t say that I wouldn’t serve. I just said that I wouldn’t be king.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, trying to slow my racing brain. “There’s something else going on here. Why the sudden change of plans? Why do you seem so calm about throwing a job away that you have been fighting to get? Why does Arturo seem to know what’s going on?”
“It’s simple enough Sean,” Arturo said, stepping up between us. “I am the elder brother. I will be king.”
“I know that I have been drinking boys and girls,” I replied, trying to clear some of the fog from my head however unsuccessfully. “But can we please run all of this by the dumb guy one more time, preferably in single-syllable words.”
“It’s really quite simple,” Arturo said. “As Phillip and I were working on his preparation for the debate, we spent more and more time together. Over time, we rediscovered the bond that we had as young boys and never really lost.”
“I don’t know when exactly it happened,” Phillip continued. “But suddenly I knew that this was the brother that I had lost.”
The brother that I had lost! This put a rather unique spin on the events of the previous days and weeks. Of course now that I knew, I could put the signs together;, but the implications of what they were telling me was staggering.
“Our father knew it, of course,” Arturo continued. “I told him soon after it happened and I had returned to the Manor, though I suspect that he knew it immediately. How exactly it happened, neither father nor I was able to find out, though both of us suspected that Randall and his family had something to do with this as well. He always felt that he would find a way to tell the others and that in the end, it would make no difference. But he died before he could do whatever it was that he wanted to, and the chance was gone. That Randall was in fact involved seemed confirmed, at least in my mind, when Christy made the crack about the country going to the dogs during the debate. But by then, Phillip and I had already made the decision as to what we would do. If Christy lost the election, I would take the throne that Phillip never wanted in the first place.”
I suddenly remembered a similar remark on that first night that I had met Christy, though I chose not to share it. It was only now that it began to mean something ...
“Yeah, OK,” I stammered, “but how can you decide that? The people voted in Phillip.”
“That’s not exactly true, Sean,” Phillip smiled. “By the laws of our election process, the people of Macundo voted against Christy, not for anything. Since Randall’s heir lost the election, Arturo’s heir won it. No one ever asked during or before the election who that heir was going to be.”
“I'm not sure I can wrap my head around that still, but no matter. Don’t you think that there will be some kind of public outcry when you pull this one out of the drawer?” I asked, shaking my head.
“Maybe at first, but I think that they will see the logic of it over time,” Arturo said.
“Wait a minute. What about Katie? Arturo, she told me about the two of you. Have you told her?”
“As a matter of fact, I did last night. Though you wouldn’t know it, she has been very important in my life for some time. I hid a situation from her that neither of us could fix for some time, but the choice that Phillip and I decided upon made it imperative that she know, and know it from me. I have known that woman for a number of years, and thought that I knew everything that might be expected in dealing with her. I was never so thoroughly wrong. Oh sure, she was initially surprised, but not as much as I would have thought. What she really was, was mad as heck that I had kept it from her for so long.”
“I can only imagine,” I replied chuckling. “That would have been a dressing down worth hearing.” (At this Arturo looked embarrassed, and if I didn’t know better, I would have said that he even blushed.) “Hey what about your heirs Arturo? I don’t want to get too personal, but I mean…”
“You needn’t worry Sean,” he replied. “Phillip and I have worked that out. Katie will be my queen, and who knows, maybe some day we can find a way to reverse this spell, or maybe it will just wear off on its own. Then she and I can have the family that we always planned. In the event that this never happens, Phillip’s heirs will be named my heirs, and the succession will be assured.”
“It sounds like you guys have worked out most of the details, and I’m sure that once the dust settles, if it ever does, that you'll be able to work out the rest. I have to say that I am certainly surprised by this, though I always thought that there was something about you Arturo. I also appreciate you sharing this with me before the ceremony tomorrow. Will you be unveiling this slight revision in plans to the people at the coronation tomorrow?”
“Of course,” they answered at the same time. “It wouldn’t do to have the wrong brother crowned king?”
“Right, this ought to be some party then.. Well if you don’t mind gentlemen, I’m going to toddle off to my room and sleep on this one. The two of you have given me quite a bit to muddle over for one alcohol soaked evening. If I have any thoughts on the subject I will be happy to share them with you tomorrow. In the meantime however, if you will excuse me, I will take what is left of the night to consider these events carefully.”
“Yeah right,” Arturo snickered, as I turned to find my way back to my room. “Try not to keep Angela awake all night with the snoring.”