The Perfect Candidate – Chapter 4

Senator Chris Evans

I got lost in my memories within the National Cathedral.  By the time I looked at my watch, I had been there for almost an hour.  I quietly exited the church and fought the traffic to get back to my Brownstown.  I got home about a half hour before Patrick was due to arrive to pick me up.

I take a quick shower and pull out one my tuxedos from the closet.  It is comical that I have a closet full of them.  They all look the same to me, although Bitsy said each one was different.  Sure, each one had a different label and cost more than the last, but to me they looked the same.  She swore they had different textures and different styles.  I don’t care, I just pick one for the evening.  

I decide that since it’s my anniversary, I’ll dress to make my wife happy, even if she’s not here to see me.  I start off by not putting product in my hair and letting it be more natural.  This was always an ongoing argument for us.  I hate to fuss with my appearance so I always slick my hair back so I don’t have to mess with it.  Bitsy hated my slicked back look and my military buzzcut.  So, of course, I wore my hair like that to irritate her as much as possible.

I’ve always decided to wear the cufflinks that Bitsy bought for our first anniversary.  They’re silver sport watch cufflinks that she found online and thought they were amazing.  I was confused when she gave them to me.  Why in the hell did she think I would want clocks?  Then she explained it was the modern gift for a one-year anniversary.  She had put so much thought into them.  I had to admit they were unique and stunning.  Now I loved them because of what they meant to her.  I wear them every year on our anniversary.  You can’t say I’m not sentimental.

When I’m dressed and I feel presentable, I head downstairs to the living room.  I’ve just poured myself a drink when the front door opens and Patrick announces himself.  The man never knocks anymore.  If there was a chance I’d have a female companion with me, I’d be offended that he just walks in.  But who am I kidding?  He’s well aware that that isn’t an issue right now.  

Patrick walks through the foyer and catches sight of me. “Wow, you’re actually ready.  And you look spiffy!”

I take a drink from my glass and turn to face him. “Thanks, you don’t look half bad yourself.”

Patrick nods and looks me over from head to toe.  “I see you’re wearing Elizabeth’s cufflinks tonight.” His comment surprises me because I wasn’t  expecting him to pay attention to that sort of detail.  It isn’t like they’re flashy or anything.  “You’re wearing your hair like she liked it as well.  Gee Chris, feeling a little sentimental tonight?”

I reach over and pick up my cell phone from the coffee table and slide into the breast pocket of my jacket.  I choose to ignore his comments. “You ready to go?”

As I walk toward him, Patrick takes a few steps forward and places his hand on my shoulder.  “Your tenth anniversary is a big deal and I know that.  I also know you miss her.  I’m just trying to keep things a little light so you aren’t dwelling on it all evening.”

I drop my head trying to hold back the emotions that are threatening.  Patrick is not an overly emotional guy.  So the fact that he is speaking out is meaningful.  He was close with Elizabeth and he has struggled with her death.  He rarely speaks about her, not just because he can’t handle it but because he doesn’t want to upset me, either.  We are both helpless in that regard.

“Thanks, Patrick, I appreciate it.”

And just like that, the moment is over.  His expression changes and he slaps my shoulder. “Let’s go and see what kind of trouble we can stir up at this party.”

~ * ~

Patrick had a car for us.  I should have known he wouldn’t be driving himself over to get me.  Not only that, imagine the scandal to have a U.S. Senator actually drive himself to a gala event.  I knew there would most likely be a red carpet of sorts leading into the hotel.  The DC social scene would want to make sure there was ample opportunity to get photographs of everyone for the newspaper and magazines.  

We didn’t speak on the drive to the hotel.  There wasn’t a lot to say.  I stared out the window trying to calm my breathing so I could make it through the night. As we pulled up to the hotel, the crowd was already gathering.  I had been to several events at this hotel before and I knew there was a side entrance where I could avoid the glitz and flash.  I instructed the driver to make his way around to the other side of the building and Patrick and I snuck in unnoticed.  

The ballroom was tastefully decorated, but I felt like I was at a wedding.  While the event was formal, I was struck by how relaxed the atmosphere seemed to be.  It was refreshing.  If there is one thing you need to know about DC it’s that everything is so regimented and stuffy when it comes to political events.  There are rules about what you can and cannot do and who you can and cannot invite.  Most Congressional members can be nice and cut loose, but every time you see us it is in an official capacity and so we look like we have sticks up our ass.  There is always someone nearby with a microphone or a camera just waiting to get us stepping out of line so they can use it against us at a later date.  But tonight, everyone is more relaxed.  

The reason we are here is for a telecommunications bill.  For most people, that seems less than glamorous; however, it is vital to the masses.  This legislation is brought about by the large companies who are angry that they are dealing with small companies competing against them and cutting into their market penetration.  They want the government to enact stringent rulings to cut back on the competition and make it harder for other players to step onto the field.  The problem is that it will mean some areas of the country won’t get service at all because the big companies won’t find it profitable to go into those markets while the smaller guys will.  So fair trade helps smaller communities.  This event is all about wining and dining guys like me to believe big is better and stomp out the little guy.  Now you see why I like to do my own research and I don’t necessarily buy everything that the lobbyist tries to sell.

Sorry, I digress.  You don’t want to hear my rant as to why the lobbyists drive me insane.  Patrick is pointing out the string quartet that is on the stage.  I heard them when we walked into the room.  Not necessarily my type of music, but it is a nice backdrop for conversations.  It doesn’t overpower the room.  I check my watch, the event started twenty minutes ago and this place is already packed.  I am scanning the room to see who is here as we make our way toward our table.

BAM!  Suddenly I am hit full force by a woman in a light pink dress.  As she hit me, I swear I heard her let out a groan and then she expelled a sharp breath as her eyes met mine.  Her eyes immediately cloud over and I can tell we are in for a fight.

I immediately recognize her, of course.  I hate to admit that she looks stunning.  Her dress compliments her figure and I can feel myself beginning to respond to her.  I need to stop that from happening.  Not tonight.  Not Ever.  Instead, I try to make sure I am giving her a stoic look and give her the verbal response she would expect me to have. “Do you think you could watch where you’re going?”

I’ll admit that my tone was probably harsher than I needed to be.  I just needed to set the tone for the remainder of the night.  If I were even remotely pleasant then she would think it was an open invitation to approach me later.  

I tensed as I realized she was staring at me.  I’m not sure why, but I felt like she was taking me all in.  Maybe she was afraid I was going to start screaming at her.  But before I could say something more, she fired back, “Actually, I think you need to watch where you’re going.  You walked into my personal space so you’re the one who would owe me an apology.”

Ok, I wasn’t expecting that.  I wasn’t going to engage in a verbal altercation with her. Instead, I was just going to ignore her and walk off.  I couldn’t believe she snapped back at me.  She’s never been so bold before.  Usually, when she tries to talk to me and I shut her down, she slinks off and says nothing.  Tonight there is a fire in her eyes.  I have to admit it is intriguing, but it doesn’t make me want to talk to her.  I mean my body is reacting to her, but that is just a physical thing.  

Of course, Patrick is sniveling behind me. “I think she’s got you there, Chris.”  If looks could kill, I’d be attending Patrick’s funeral within the next few days.  He quickly changes his tune. “Or maybe not.”

I look back at Greer but give nothing away.  Instead, I push past her and make a beeline for the bar on the far wall of the ballroom.  While I had skipped the bar when we walked in, I was suddenly dying for a drink.  I drink socially, although very rarely in public.  It isn’t a good idea for a Senator to drink in public and certainly not to the point of excess.  But right now I am so worked up over Greer Hamilton I am afraid I could break that rule.  

I am walking so fast that Patrick has to run to catch up to me.  “Chris, where are you going?”

“To the bar,” I spat out at him.

As I stop at the bar and wave my hand to get the bartender’s attention, Patrick places his hand on my shoulder.  “I thought you weren’t drinking tonight?”

“I need a drink, just one.” My breathing was a little ragged and I was going to chalk it up to my brisk walk to the bar.

“Oh my God!  You’re all worked up because of Hamilton aren’t you?” Patrick began to laugh.  I hated the fact that he called me out, but I was a little obvious about it.  “So there’s a little life in the old boy after all.  I’ll admit she did look stunning.  It’s really too bad you couldn’t get anything out other than a grunt or a snarky remark.”

He wasn’t going to let this go. “She’s an adversary of mine and the only worked up I’ll admit to being is angry.  There’s no attraction there.  None!”

“He doth protest too much,” Patrick said before scanning over the crowd.  

I ordered myself a scotch and a beer for Patric.  I held his beer in my hand and tapped his shoulder to get his attention.  He reached over and grabbed the beer and went back to his crowd gazing.

“Are you scoping out your next conquest?” I asked right before taking a sip of my drink.  Patrick had divorced two years after Bitsy died.  He was close to his sister and had taken her death hard.  He had spiraled into a deep depression and his self-medication, along with what he was already dealing with regarding his PTSD, drove a wedge between him and his wife.  Jennifer had a hard time dealing with his mood swings and the anger issues.  She tried, I’ll give her that, but it got to be too much and she decided to cut bait and run.

When she left, Patrick’s depression got worse.  He didn’t leave his house for days and there was fear he would take his life.  I broke into his house and found him sitting on his couch.  He hadn’t slept in days and definitely hadn’t bathed in days, either.  I got him cleaned up and found him a therapist.  Even moved him in with me for a bit.  If I’m honest, I think that helped me just as much as it helped him.  

 

“No, I’m seeing someone now.  I’m just trying to get an idea of how many men in this crowd you’re going to fight tonight for Hamilton’s attention.”

I ignored his comment about Hamilton.  “I didn’t know you were seeing someone.  When did that happen?”

He didn’t look at me. “A few weeks ago.  She works on the Hill, so we’ve kept it quiet and we’re going slow.” He took a pull from his beer and then looked at me.  “She works in Adeline’s office.”

My eyes went wide with surprise. “You finally asked Mary out?  Wow, that’s great Patrick, I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, we’ve only gone out a couple of times.  She’s divorced so both of us are being careful, you know?” He took another pull from his beer and then turned to sit it on the bar.  “So, are you going to avoid her all night?”

“She’s here so she’s the lobbyist on this bill, so yeah, I’ll stay away from her.”

“Are you referring to Ms. Hamilton?” a deep voice sounded over my shoulder.  I turned to see who the owner of the voice was and realized it was Senator Devon Ross.  A nice guy has a bit of a playboy reputation though.  “She is most definitely in charge of this one, Evans.  Has she not called and asked for your vote yet?”

I shook my head. “No, and I guess she knows better than to ask.  It’s fair to say we don’t see eye-to-eye on things.”

“Well, that’s too bad because word on the street is that she’s being given the Briarwood Technical contract.  If memory serves, that’s going to spend a whole lot of time in your Committee, Senator.” Ross took a sip of his drink and smiled.

I wanted to wipe that shit-eating grin off his face.  I tried to remain composed, “Where exactly did you hear that bit of gossip?  And when?”  This was obviously news to me.  Generally, I was kept in the loop on the legislation that was going to come across my Committee desk, but someone was keeping this quiet.    

“Well now, you aren’t the only one in town with sources.” Ross was smug and it didn’t set well with me.  He could be pompous and this was clearly one of those times.  He was an ultra-conservative Republican and a darling of the party.  He was about as far right from my beliefs as one person could be.  “I heard she didn’t want the job.  She was hoping she would get thrown back into litigation because that’s where her heart is.  But Miller has a thing for her and likes her right where she is.  The way she’s sashaying around this room, you’d never know she’s unhappy now would you?”  Ross tossed back the remainder of his drink and sat the glass on the bar before walking away.

I wanted to punch the man.  I know he was trying to push my buttons and it was working.  I was already on edge for the night and then for him to bring up the Briarwood contract on top of everything else.  Well, Ross wanted me to lose my cool.  Briarwood has been a thorn in my side for years.  They are one of the few contractors that I would like to see run out of town.  I would love nothing more for their contract to be voided and for them to never be able to get a government contract again.

I am seething as I swallow the last of my scotch and signal the bartender for another.  Patrick is eyeing me carefully and I know he wants to say something.  I don’t give him the chance to speak first. “What? Go ahead, say what’s on your mind.”

“You need to remain level-headed.  You wanted to go after Ross and that would have been an idiotic thing to do and you know it.  It’s one thing to make enemies on the Senate floor, but don’t do it in public.  You already have a reputation, don’t make it worse.  And while you aren’t a fan of Hamilton, she’s well liked, so back off.”

Patrick is right, she is well liked.  It isn’t that I’m not a fan of her per se, I’m just not a fan of her job or that’s she a Republican.  She stands for everything I’m against.  Ok, so I’m not a fan of her’s.  “She’s not seasoned enough to handle Briarwood.  She’s done nothing but fluff legislation and gotten it through by batting her pretty little eyes to get what she wants.  Defense contracts don’t work that way and she’s going to get a rude awakening.”

I have a point and I know it.  But Patrick ignores the bulk of my comment and latches onto one point. “So, you think she has pretty eyes?”

~ * ~

Patrick and I found our way to our table.  Our place cards indicated we would be sitting with socialites and Republicans, my favorites.  I tried not to roll my eyes as I read off the names.  Patrick was enjoying himself, he couldn’t contain his glee.  The thought that kept running through my mind was how much my father would be laughing his ass off if he was here with me.  He hated coming to these events almost as much as I do.  

My father had been a prosecutor back home in Boston and ran for District Attorney, winning by a wide margin.  He was popular and he highly successful when it came to winning his cases.  He used that success to catapult him to a State Senate position and gave thought to a run for Governor when he decided to run for the seat in DC instead.  No one expected him to win.  He didn’t have the panache or charisma that the Kennedys’ had and while his district was different, he was constantly compared.  Especially since he was a Democrat just like Jack, Bobby, and Ted.

But Robert McKenzie Evans did win and ended up being every bit as popular.  He rallied for the disadvantaged and didn’t let anyone run over him.  He stood up for his causes and made informed decisions before casting a vote.  He didn’t care about making enemies, he cared about his constituents.  And boy was he popular with his constituents!  He was more popular with them than he was with his wife.   My mother, Lisa, hated that my father spent more time at work than with his family.

My mom ran a successful advertising agency and raised my brother, Scott, and me with no real help from my father.  We didn’t live in DC, we lived in Boston.  Mom had to run her business and so she was, in fact, a single parent most of the time.  Scott and I never made it easy on her, we were both rambunctious and had more energy than enough energy to spare.  Once in awhile, I think she wanted to send the two of us off to boarding school.

The stress on the marriage finally caused them to divorce when I was eighteen.  My father was in the middle of a reelection campaign.  They kept it quiet until the election was over.  My mother was angry the marriage was ending, but she didn’t want to ruin his career.  He had a passion for public service, but he had never cheated on her; unless you call his career his mistress.  She believed in his career and what he did for others, she just wished it didn’t come at the expense of her marriage and her family.  

My father continued with his Senate career.  His popularity took a slight hit with the divorce, but he rebounded.  I would intern with him during my breaks from college.  He also announced that I was entering the Marines when he was on the campaign trail.  He wanted to get the bump that he was pro-military and very patriotic.  I wanted to be mad that I was being used as a campaign slogan, but I knew it came with the territory.

Nine months before the Senate election, my father decided he wanted to retire from public service.  He sat down with me to discuss it and asked if I would consider running for his seat.  His staff had been doing some polling data and, since I had been on the campaign trail with him, I was well known and popular.  I was, in the words of the voters, eloquent and intelligent, affable and approachable, charming and handsome.  I was highly electable.

The main issue was that I did not meet the thirty-year-old age requirement for Senators.  However, the rule was I had to be thirty when I was elected, not when I was campaigning.  I would turn thirty in June and the election would be in November.  I would be on the campaign trail for several months as an underage candidate and I would need to be prepared for the backlash and heat from my opponent.  

I was not convinced that I should take this on.  My wife, however, was for it.  Bitsy thought I was perfect for the job.  She had been saying for months that she thought I was unhappy in my job with the CIA.  I tried to tell her that she was wrong, but I was never able to convince her.  In truth, I wasn’t really that happy.  I didn’t know what I was unhappy about, but I felt out of place and unfulfilled.  Maybe being a Senator was my calling and it would be the perfect job for me.  Bitsy was talking me into it and my mother was trying to talk me out of it.

In the middle of October, several weeks before the election, we found out that Bitsy had cancer.  I felt as if I had been hit by a bus.  The doctors told us that the cancer was aggressive and it had progressed to Stage IV.  There wasn’t much they could do for her.  They had some treatments they could try, but for the most part it would be comfort measures and we should be prepared for the inevitable.  Bitsy and I left the doctor’s office with a treatment plan in place.  We were going to try fighting it, but we weren’t going to tell anyone what was happening.  We weren’t even telling Patrick.  

We didn’t want any type of sympathy vote or attention paid to us for what we were going through.  Bitsy wanted her privacy and I didn’t want to answer questions about how I was going to survive without her.  Luckily for us, she had not spent a ton of time on the campaign trail so her absence was not noticeable and did not garner a lot of questions.  On election day, Bitsy was strong enough to go to the polling place and cast her vote with me.  She put on a brave face and I helped hold her up.  She immediately went home to rest.

That night I won the election and Bitsy was by my side at the podium as I gave my speech.  I knew she was struggling to get through the night.  But for everyone else in the crowd, they had no idea what she was going through.  I would be sworn into office on January 1st.  I spent every day with Bitsy between November and January, making the most of each day.

Three days before I took the oath of office, Elizabeth Evans lost her battle.  I planned her funeral and then flew to Washington to be sworn in as every other Senator.  I did the press briefings and Capitol Hill tours.  I had lunch with the President and greeted my staff just like I was supposed to.  Then I flew back home to Boston and buried my wife.  The news of her death didn’t leak out until several days later.  I purposely didn’t put her obituary into the paper until after her funeral because I didn’t want a spectacle.  

With everything I’ve encountered in DC within the last seven years, I’m not sure if my marriage would’ve survived.  Then again, I don’t know if the long hours I’ve put in at the office were to keep me away from my memories or because I was that dedicated to my job.  Would I be a different man if she were still alive?  I do know that I understand my father more.  I see his marriage to my mother in a completely different light.

My father remarried after his public life ended and I’ll admit I’m jealous of the free time he has for his new family.  But then again, he is more of a father to me now and this is when I need him.  He is also a good sounding board for me when I am trying to reconcile the games that politicians play.  He knows I hate the games, but he also knows I want more than what I can see in front of me.

 

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