“Evelyn came here today. She told Stipple her expectations. He didn’t take it so well and he’s been drinking most of the day.” Cal appears genuinely concerned.
“What expectations? What did she ask of him that he would hate so much?”
“It’s not so much what she asked of him but what she asked of everyone.” Cal takes me by the elbow out the door. Somewhere, the stink of tar wafts. The air is thick. The combination makes my stomach lurch. “Some of the senators we need on the bill require cash infusions, which – no big deal. But others have more money than they need and appetites of a different nature.”
I stare at him. He rolls his eyes and sighs before pulling me down onto a discolored pallet.
“Some of the kids in there are practically being prostituted to their respective senators.” He leans toward me.
“Like prostitute prostitute?”
“What other kind is there?”
“I don’t know. But, like, sex. We’re talking about sex?”
“Sexual favors in return for a vote in some cases.”
I recline on the pallet with a glancing thought to how nasty it is. The light pollution erases most of the sky beyond our sky. I think about stars because it distracts me from thinking about what Cal said. It’s a poor plan.
“You’re handling this surprisingly well,” he says.
“Are we actually shocked? I mean, some of us at least – you, me, Cindi, Stipple, Pye – we should have seen this coming.”
“Cynical doesn’t suit you,” he says, leaning back beside me. “I think we hoped she had a better plan.”
“If you’re E, what’s better than this? The senators get what they want. E gets what she wants. If a few people are used in the process…”
“How are the others handling it?”
“They don’t know. Stipple refused to give the assignments. That’s when the fight started.”
“Do they have any way out?”
“You know they don’t.”
“Everything she’s holding on them is solid?”
“You know it is.”
“This is wrong.”
“Yeah.” Cal sits up. He shakes his head slowly.
“Take me to her.”
“E. Take me to her.”
“Bad idea. There is nothing you can do to change her mind. She needs these votes and she intends to get them. Besides, it would be not-great if you were seen.”
I rise. “If we could figure out how to write this stupid thing, surely we can figure out how to get the votes without this.”
“Optimism def looks better on you. But—,” Cal draws out.
“If you won’t take me, I’ll just go anyway.”
We face off for a long minute. He studies me. With a ponderous shrug, he mutters something about getting his stuff and jogs back to the warehouse. I stay put, dragging my mousy brown hair off my neck as a respite from the heat. When he returns, Cal dangles a single key on a ring. I follow him to the car I never knew was hidden in all this junk.