Another Monday rolls around and Senator X champs at the bit. He paces as he reads the bill. We four staffers steal glances but mostly keep our heads down. His Mercurialness will show himself shortly.
“Finally,” Senator X booms, “finally you have given me what I want!” The grin splits his face. “I feel it – legacy!” He balls a fist as if clenching the knowable future.
“If you have no changes, I’ll see it introduced today, Senator,” Birch says as he rises.
“No. Ms. Bird will see it introduced.”
Birch and I both make immediate campaigns against my submitting the bill to the clerk. Birch quiets before I do.
“Ms. Bird, you wrote this months ago and fought every man on my staff to get it here. If you won’t submit it to the clerk with me, it won’t be submitted.”
That stays my tongue. My heart rattles in its cage. Birch will relent but I’ll pay for it. He is no less concerned with legacy than his boss.
“I will arrange for Ms. Bird to be there. Tomorrow?”
“Very good,” says Senator X. The man leaves with nothing in hand. I often wonder if his wife follows after him at home and picks up his things or if he has a servant for that.
Birch checks the time. “We’ll meet back here in two hours. I will have a clean draft for us to redline one more time.”
Nan asks me to a celebratory coffee, but I decline. In five minutes I stand in the supply closet texting furiously to Victoriana. Even if found, such texts will not fall to suspicion.
“Congratulations” was her only reply.
The afternoon dragged through revisions and fine tunings. I repeated her text in my head with varied emphasis, trying to suss out some secret meaning. I determine to look for her as soon as I am released for the day.
But she is not in office. She doesn’t answer her phone. I have no choice but to go home.
Some delicious scent draws me to the large dining hall at the warehouse. I am greeted through bites. The mood radiates from this place as a warm ray of sun.
“Congratulations,” Victoriana says from a close table.
“So I read,” I say.
“Come on. I’ll have someone bring you a plate. Let’s go to E.” Victoriana abandons her plate and I follow, as I am so apt to do.
“It took you far longer than we had hoped,” E says. Because of course. “Still, you did it. You did it. For Jacob.” She raises her glass in salute. Cindi swiftly hands me mine. I salute and we drink. E looks me full in the face and for the slimmest moment fills with pride, I think.
“Is it okay for me to be there to submit the bill?” I ask as we sit around the small table.
“Why wouldn’t it?” Stipple asks.
“I don’t know. Aren’t there, like, cameras or something?”
“With guns on everyone’s minds, nobody will be looking at yet another asinine bill being introduced,” Stipple says. He thinks better of his wording and adds, “Not that your bill actually is asinine. I mean, it’s obviously got teeth.”
“Quit while you’re ahead, love,” Cindi says, and we all laugh.
I relax into the evening. We linger over dinner with people coming in and out all the while. I wish I knew their jobs. I wish I knew who was responsible for the dark secrets I dare not ask. It’s enough that we are here, together, family.