Two tall slim individuals, a woman and man, sat side by side at a round table whose only other occupant was a small, balding, much older man. The two lithe figures both faced the diminutive one but their demeanours could not have been more opposite.
The woman emanated open hostility, she was so angry the emotion seemed to come off her in tiny waves that radiated a subtle heat one could actually feel while the man, he sat reserved, so pulled into himself that it was as if he wasn’t there.
The small elder, however, was the very picture you would see if calm were personified, a pair of serene crinkled eyes atop a gently smiling mouth which was undulating rhythmically, as was his voice, as he addressed the two stiff figures huddled round the table with him.
“Edna,” he reached out to pat her tightly clasped hands but stopped, seemingly unoffended as she flinched away from his touch, and went on placating, “Arnold,” he turned his soft gaze on the man across from him who blinked and sat up as if he were waking from a dream, “It’s not over you know, we have the next election,” he turned back to Edna who’d suddenly inhaled sharply, “Arnold will still be eligible, and his supporters will.”
“Yes,” Arnold jumped in, his head bobbing vigorously as he desperately grasped onto this life-line of hope his campaign manager was extending him, “Yes Martin’s right, I’ll still have their support.”
“Of course you will,” Martin interrupted smoothly, his gentle smile now a toothy grin as Arnold’s pallor began to subside, “You just have to show them you’re the bigger man, go out there, accept defeat gracefully and announce your intentions to vie again.”
He cut off as a sharp sound from Edna startled him to silence. Arnold visibly jumped in his seat. They both stared into her reddening face, trying to avoid it but horribly unable to as her features took on an almost cartoony mask of anger.
Flecks of spit flying from a trembling mouth that shook from a torrent of fury pouring out from her, she addressed the two stunned men in a low, dangerous hiss, that of a snake about to strike.
“Gracefully?” she spat out, “Accept defeat…gracefully!” she trained a pair of dark flashing eyes at Martin, who dropped his gaze to the table and begun to fiddle with a salt shaker, his hands jerking nervously as she went on, “There’s no grace in defeat,” she paused, daring them to contradict her, “None,” she slammed one of her closed fists on the table top, rattling it and causing both men to shrink further back into their seats, “My supporters will still,” she mimicked Arnold as she turned on him, “We won’t wait for the next election,” she lowered her voice even more and violence dripped from every word, “I did not work this hard to get you here, only for you to run at the first sign of trouble,” she drew in a deep breath, “There’s no defeat, only victory,” she leaned forward conspiratorially and as if by some weird magnetism, the two men leaned forward too, as she dropped her voice down to a barely audible malevolent whisper, “Here’s what we do…”
Edna and Arnold stood on a broad timber dais decked out in bold red and green drapings, with rows of plush seats filled to capacity with sycophants behind them and a microphone in front of them. The sun was a large globe of warm yellow amidst a sky coloured blue and white and ash grey.
A pleasant breeze caressed the day, promising that sweet temperature of heat tempered by a cool wind. It was looking to be a beautiful day. Edna was shining too, her face bright with a pretty smile dancing on the edge of a laugh on her red lips.
Arnold looked like he’d lost something and was trying to puzzle out where he’d misplaced it; a brow furrowed in concentration, lips that were pursed, then chewed, then pressed into thin tight lines and downcast eyes darkened by a faraway stare.
“Smile,” Edna’s sharp voice cut through his reverie as the stadium gates opened and a throng of cheering, dancing, ululating supporters streamed in, “Shoulders back, chin up,” she grasped his hand roughly and dragged his unwilling figure to the microphone, “Remember,” the low hiss emanating from the side of her smiling mouth was still surprisingly louder than the noisy masses thronging the stadium, “I want the presidency, whatever it takes,” then she was off to her chair behind him, waving, laughing and blushing like a bride.
The stadium quietened as Arnold tapped on the microphone and cleared his voice, a large bland fake smile plastered on his face.
“I stand here before you,” he paused for effect as Edna had instructed, “Victorious!” he yelled, shocking even himself with the surety of his statement and tone, “We won the election, but…your votes,” his voice broke with false emotion, courtesy again of Edna’s training, “Your votes were stolen!” he stopped to allow his supporters to build themselves up to a frenzy with frustration before continuing, “Will you let them get away with it?” a thunderous roar rose from the crowd.
Edna jumped up to go stand beside her husband and the heaving crowd before them went berserk as they raised their clasped hands in a show of love and unity. She grinned, she could see the big white house on the hill already.