E sits in disguise on the opposite bench in our jet-black limousine. Victoriana ordered it to pick me up from the apartment building listed on my employment forms. Where it received E, I don’t know.
I feel luxurious. Fine clothes rest upon skin so differently than ordinary clothes, and these are deliciously cool and light. Leather seats and darkened windows bring a certain individualism to the commute I’ve known only as crowded, jostling, and communal. I rather enjoy my iced tea (a weird holdover from my few days with Helen) as I listen to E sermonize the virtues of the bill I wrote.
When the car eases up to my point of exit, I feel oddly emboldened to walk up the stairs to my job. I nod to passersby in satisfied cordiality. I click-clack the halls in heels I barely notice. This might be the greatest working day of my life.
“Office. Now.” Birch says, a growl in his voice. I follow him through the cubicle labyrinth to his crowded but walled office. “You went around me?”
I smile, hoping my newly coordinated smile will thaw the chill. It does not. I shift into beige mode.
“I didn’t. I wouldn’t. You know me.”
“No, Ms. Bird, apparently I don’t know you at all. After all I’ve done, sticking my neck out for you, and now you take your bill – a bill you shouldn’t even be writing – directly to the Senator? Un-freakin’-believable.”
“I didn’t, really.”
“Really? You didn’t? So when I received this email last night about your amazing credentials and fantastic ideas for some far-fetched, poorly aimed legislation, that was a mistake? You don’t, in fact, want the Senator to push a bill bastardizing American rights by forcing untested European laws into the American legislative agenda?”
“I wouldn’t say far-fetched, exactly. Or bastardizing. I mean, that’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?” My voice croaks at the end as I look at Birch and realize he wants to demolish me in this moment.
“Well,” he says, pulling downward on his vest front and reining in his tone to a monstrous calm, “the words hardly matter at this point. He wants the bill. We begin with a redraft. Take out all the bulk and build in some space for compromise. Find a new spin that might, I don’t know, help somehow.” He fiddles with papers on his desk. I sit still and quiet for a moment, then:
“So, you’ll help me?”
“No. You will help me,” he says. “My schedule has been cleared to make room for this disaster. We gotta come up with something better. The Senator, no matter how or why he sees a legacy here, cannot go to the floor with a defenseless mess. Go to your cube and get your notes or whatever you’ve been compiling and bring them here.”
I start for the door while the calm remains.
“Nice suit, by the way. If we must spend money, that’s not a terrible use.”
I’ve heard worse compliments. A goofy smile hides under the business veneer lacquered on this morning, and I turn a gorgeous heel on my way out the door.