Authors: Imani King
I reached over and pulled the test into my lap. Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked down. Outlined against the burnt orange and deep red of my skirt was another pattern that sealed my fate.
Two pink lines, perfectly parallel and absolutely unmistakable.
“Ohhhh no,” I moaned. “No, no no no no.”
I’d never imagined being a mother, never considered the impact of a positive pregnancy test. But if I had… if I’d thought about my own mother, or my sister, or my best friends… I wouldn’t have thought it would feel so
“Maybe it’s not so lonely if you have someone to share it with. If it’s wanted.” I sniffed hard and took the pregnancy test in my hands, looking at the two little lines. I groaned and threw the thing on the counter, hoisting myself up and throwing my dress to the ground. I stomped back to my bedroom and threw on a nightshirt, falling into bed. If there was one thing I needed, it was sleep. Kelly and I could deal with Janice Howell tomorrow… and then… and then what?
Just as I started to drift off to sleep, I heard a car pull around to the front of my building. At this time of day, it could only be my elderly neighbors returning from the farmer’s market... or Kelly Hernandez, hot on the tail of some campaign management strategy that just couldn’t wait. I groaned and buried my face in the comforter. The knocker clicked, and I groaned again.
“Maybe I can wait and tell her everything later. After... after... the pregnancy is all taken care of.”
Taken care of?
I gulped back a sob and pulled the cover over my head. This wasn’t the kind of thing I did. I didn’t carelessly get pregnant... or carelessly think about terminating a pregnancy. The knock came again, this time louder.
“Go away, Kelly!” I shouted. “I need to sleep!”
“Didn’t you already get plenty of rest, darling? You left the fundraiser so early, I barely even saw you.” I closed my eyes and thought of John’s hands on my body, his taste in my mouth.
“I just didn’t sleep well!” I shouted again. “Go! Away!”
“You know I have a key darling, but I will respect your privacy. But it’s absolutely essential that I speak to you now. Dear Gregory has been keeping things from us. You know, Janice Howell is his ex-wife.” My ears perked up. If Kelly knew that much, then... “And she thinks he’s embroiled in some sort of scandal.” I crawled out of bed and made my way over to the door, unlocking it and swinging it wide open.
“Come the hell in,” I said, gesturing to my classy white couch.
“You look like hell, sweetheart. What on earth happened to you?”
“Plenty. Kelly, look, there’s probably something we need to talk about--“
“I’ll put on a pot of coffee for you, my dear. You need to be
. And so do I. I’m afraid we have a terribly tough time ahead. Now this woman, she’s
.” Kelly’s high heels clicked across the floor and into my kitchen. She deftly cleaned out my french press and started to work grinding the beans I’d gotten from Zeke’s the week before. The rich scent filled the air, and for once, I was grateful for Kelly’s complete disregard for privacy. I sank into the sofa and closed my eyes.
“I know,” I said.
“How do you know? You’ve never met the monster in person, have you? Anyway, Janice says that our dear Gregory has been up to absolutely no good. He’s been gallivanting with some very young woman on his campaign team. She says she has email, photos, the whole lot.”
I groaned and pulled my fingers through my hair.
“It all sounds terribly romantic, like he can’t keep his hands off of this young lady. But you know, I don’t believe a bit of it. Sounds totally orchestrated. Like a complete fabrication, created by a jealous ex-wife who needs money for her dying campaign. We’re rocking it in the polls, my love, but first we need to figure out what she’s got.”
“But someone on the campaign? My, heavens no. All of our girls are far too professional for such a thing. Even us, old hags that we are.” Kelly swooped by and sat a steaming cup of coffee onto the side table. “Let me go to the bathroom, darling, and we’ll figure out what’s next for Mr. John Gregory Reynolds.
. I can see it now. That’s what all the tabloids will call him. Ha!”
“Kelly! No! It’s... It’s a mess!” I leapt to my feet and followed her to the bathroom, trying to block her from going in.
“Yes, darling, it looks like a tornado hit. Why on earth is that gorgeous dress still on the floor? You simply must have it laundered before you return it to me. I mean it would be particularly nice for the inaugural balls,” she said, stooping to pick it up off the floor. Pushing into the bathroom behind her, I grabbed the pregnancy test, accidentally kicking Kelly’s foot. She whipped around, the dress already draped over her shoulder and caught me by the wrist, fast as lightning. “Darling, what are you hiding from me?” I tried to pull my arm away, my palm blocking the two pink lines.
“Nothing, nothing. I can take care of it by myself.” My voice cracked, my face flushing deep red.
“What can you take care of yourself?” Kelly pried open my fingers one by one. Her eyes flashed up to mine, searching my face. She took the test from my hand, and I gulped hard.
“It’s not what it looks like.”
“Well, darling,” she said, her voice gentle, “It looks like a positive pregnancy test. Are you telling me that it’s
a positive pregnancy test?” I nodded and then shook my head in confusion, tears pricking at my eyes.
“It is... but it’s not...”
“It’s not yours? Darling, no one else lives here. And these days, correct me if I’m wrong, the only people you see are me and...” Kelly’s phone buzzed and she put the pregnancy test back on the counter. Slowly, she raised her phone and looked at the screen. “Janice Howell has sent me yet another email. This one with a picture of the alleged woman that
has been seeing. Tell me I’m not going to see someone I know when I open this screen,” she said, gripping my wrist tight. I fell against the wall, crying hard. Kelly swiped open the screen and turned the picture to me. It was my face, my hair, the dress I’d worn the night before. As plain as day.
“I’m so sorry, Kelly. I’m so, so sorry.” She took a deep breath, stuffing her phone in the pocket of her tight ponte pants. She lifted her hands to my shoulders and pulled me into an embrace, hugging me hard. “I fucked it all up, Kelly. It’s all rotten now, the whole damn thing.”
“Shush darling,” she said, her own voice cracking, “In Argentina, everyone is having affairs with everyone else. This country is just a bit behind the times.”
“No, Kelly, it’s all ruined. She’ll drag us through the mud, and we’ll never win. And she’s after his money, after all the people who we’ve worked so hard to gain...” She stroked my hair, shushing me again.
“Well, we’ll just have to beat her at her own game. And while we’re at it, we’re going to make our dear Senator Hopeful do exactly what he needs to do for everything to be okay.”
“Wha—what do you mean?”
“He made the decision to put you in a bad situation, darling. And honestly I’ve never liked him less,” she said, pulling away. “But he’s the best man for the job, and we’ll make sure he wins. We just have to cover our bases before election day.”
“What do you mean? Janice threatened me, said you’d all leave me in the dirt.” I sniffed again. She handed me a tissue, and I blew my nose hard.
“Well my dear, that’s quite far from the truth. That woman wouldn’t know what a true
was if it came and smacked her in the face. Nor would she know what a real, honorable man was.”
“An honorable man? Kelly what are you talking about?”
“Well my dear. Congratulations are in order. You’re about to be
October 2, 2016
Five Weeks until Election Day
The next morning, Kelly picked me up bright and early to make a trip to Reynolds’ office. He was still staying at the Four Seasons, but we both thought it best if I didn’t go back there again. John knew all about Janice, and he had removed the cameras from his hotel room. Still, I couldn’t be too careful. I couldn’t go back there. By the time Kelly and I arrived at the campaign office in Alexandria, my body had gone rigid with fear. The bagel and decaf coffee Kelly insisted on buying for me weren’t sitting well in my stomach.
Seven and a half weeks pregnant, says the internet.
I patted my belly. Even though I wasn’t supposed to quite yet, I felt a gentle swell there. A small pat, almost instinctive. I closed my eyes and imagined what it might be like to have a child. A tiny person, following me through life. I’d be a single mother, quite likely, and everyone would know that she was John’s child. I’d have to move from DC, find a job somewhere else. Give up the dream of working on a presidential campaign or gaining a directorship at a political nonprofit. I gulped, nearly unable to breathe, my throat tightening into an angry knot.
“Kelly, please come in with me. I think I need someone there,” I said, my voice cracking. I felt the bagel sitting like a hard lump in my stomach.
“You are fine,” she said, pulling her Prius into a parking space across the street. “You can go in there by yourself, and I will make arrangements for the wedding. We’ll make sure that we have a story concocted about the two of you if the press finds out about... any of it. We can say, ‘Look how respectable, how romantic, they were married in secret so that no one would pull her into the publicity mix.” I opened the car door and stepped out, my stomach steadily gurgling and rolling. I tasted bile at the back of my throat.
“I don’t think I can tell him. About the pregnancy. I can’t do it,” I whispered. “I don’t even know if I’m going to keep it.” Kelly took my hand in hers, holding it tight as we crossed the street.
“Darling, I’ll be next to you whatever you do. I can’t tell you it’s okay not to tell him. In this instance, it is not okay. Very decidedly not okay. It’s not just his job, it’s your future on the line. Telling him now is an act of self-preservation. It’s an absolute must, darling. The quicker the better. And it’s the only reasonable explanation for why I just told him he needs to marry you. Though to be honest, I think he was a little bit more excited about the marriage than I expected.” She winked. I nodded, remembering the anger John had displayed when he thought I was working with Janice. And this, this would be even worse in his eyes. I steeled myself as I stepped inside the empty living area, waiting as Kelly walked down the hall. She knocked softly at the door.
“Sonia is here, Mr. Reynolds,” she said, cracking the door open. There was a muffled response, and Kelly gestured for me to come and join her. I hurried down the hall to John’s office. Kelly pulled the door shut and left me standing in front of John.
“Sit, sit,” he said, waving his hand absently. His wavy, dark hair was a mess, and he wore a plain gray t-shirt and jeans instead of his suit. I raised an eyebrow as I sank into one of the leather chairs. He paused, looking down at his desk and letting out a deep breath.
“Sorry? No, I’m the one that’s sorry, Sonia. I was the one who knew all along that Janice could put you in a vulnerable situation, even when I first met you at Rye. I shouldn’t have been talking with anyone, let alone taking a woman back to my room. Janice has been watching me like a hawk ever since my bid went in, and I knew it. I should have told Kelly, I should have told you.
the sorry one.” I looked down at the floor. There were dust bunnies under his desk, and it occurred to me that the place should probably be cleaned after so many people had been in and out.
“What do we do?”
“Kelly says we need to be married.” He leaned back in his chair, and I felt his cool eyes watching me. “She says that it will look better if we have that to fall back on, if anything should come out to the press.”
“It’s extreme. And I don’t see how it protects us…”
Except for the pregnancy, the one thing that makes the wedding seem like a viable option. Tell him. Tell him.
I looked up at him. “Janice wants me to quit and join her campaign. In exchange, she’ll leave you alone.”
“She’s against everything you stand for. If I know you at all. And maybe I don’t.”
“I don’t care about me,” I said. “I’ll work for her if I have to. I think you deserve to win, and I’ll do what’s right for the campaign.”
“I care about you.” His words were quick and crisp, his eyes honest.
“Do you? I guessed we skipped that part. The getting to know each other bit.” My hand went to my stomach, resting for a moment.
“You know me as well as anyone, right now. You know my politics and my ideals. You know what I’m going after.”
“Do I? I didn’t know about your marriage.” I crossed my arms. “And I still don’t know exactly what you’re after, even if I do think you’re the best person for the job.”
“Then why don’t you care about what happens to you? You should care about your career. Your life. Your ideals.”
“I’m not the man in charge. Just the woman behind the scenes.” I shifted uncomfortably as he watched me. Those dark blue eyes piercing through to my core, sending heat through me even as I fought to control it.
“That’s not the confident girl I met in the bar.”
“That girl was a lie, John.” He sighed again and sat back in his chair.