The photo of their last family picnic was still in its thin silver frame, on the corner of her husband’s desk. She picked it up while her staff busied themselves on the sofa collating now defunct surveys, and noticed that her thumbnail was chipped. Vaguely, she remembered snagging it on a button when she’d put on her suit this morning. But maybe it had broken before that.
There were two months left to the Senate races, and she had been appointed to her husband’s chair as an interim representative. She had been his chief of staff and was well liked by the state. Bob Baker, the Governor said, would have been forgotten long ago without Yolanda in the wings, and in the downtowns, and in the schools of a dozen dozen cities. She didn’t think he was wrong. But it did not feel right, just now, to be sitting in Senator Baker’s chair. She dismissed her staff with a soft mutter.
All of them went except for Becky, her eldest, her new staff manager – formerly their best speechwriter. “Mom?” she said, once she was sure they were alone.
“You too,” she said. Becky shot her the same firm disapproving glare she used to give her father (and Yolanda used to give her husband, now that she thought of it) and left.
She picked up the phone and dialed a number that didn’t appear on her personal cell phone directory, nor in any address book in their home, or offices. She had memorized it past the need for that a long time ago. It hadn’t been nearly as long as it felt when she heard his voice. “Good morning,” he said. “Should I say congratulations?”
“You know this number?”
She imagined him shrugging. After that soft sound he said, smiling into the receiver, “Just been preparing myself for your call. I’ve been answering the phone that way all morning.”
She studied her thumbnail on the senator’s blotter. “I guess that makes this easier,” she said.
“Think you’re going to enter the election?” he asked. “It’s been less than twenty four hours since you acceded to the post. Think you might change your mind in another twenty four?”
“Are you going to make this difficult for me?”
“No,” he said, and she heard the sullen tones rise in his voice, like he might follow with a petulant sarcasm. But he refrained, and she didn’t know if she was thankful or more fearful for it. “Let me know, though, are you going to run on Bob’s old ticket? You know, pro-life, and the rest of it.”
“I’ll have to,” she said.
“It’s a funny thing, that,” he said. “You know, you do sound more like a senator now.”
“I am,” she said.
“Well,” he said, “give my love to the family. And to you, ‘landa. All the rest of it.”
“Okay,” she said. “Goodbye.”