Six months after I cleaned out Franklin and my offices in Elmira City, Malcolm Harold won the election for Mayor. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I got the news from Mike Donaldson, who had lost.
“I just hope he lives up to his promises,” Mike told me over the phone. “It isn’t enough to put Elmira in the minds of every Sim in the nation with the first elected vampire in public office. Now he actually has to show that he’s capable of governing that office and running the city.”
“Do you really think he won’t be able to do it?”
Mike sighed. “I don’t know. He seems to care more about the vampire agenda than the actual day to day of being mayor. I think this is just one stop on his political train ride, and not an important one. I fear that Elmira will suffer for it.”
“I hope not,” I said, but I held the same fears. I hated knowing that some vampire was elected by the same people who had loved Franklin so. It really irked me that the citizens seemed to buy his “not all vampires are crazed murders” act. When Malcolm said, “Vampires just want to be subject to the same laws that govern humans,” the people all agreed.
I didn’t care that Franklin had pretty much said the same things to me. When Malcolm said it, I didn’t believe it. I had trouble believing it even when Franklin had been the one saying it.
“Ms. Fields, Ms. Fields what made you decide to run for Governor?”
This was probably the seventeenth time I’d been asked this question, only this time the person asking was a member of the student reporter’s club at Capital City High School.
“It was a tough decision for me, actually. As you might know, my husband was mayor of Elmira City. He was considering running for Governor himself before he died.”
“So you wanted to continue where he left off?” The young reporters looked eager to write about how I was nobly living my late husband’s dream. But that wasn’t why I was doing it.
“No. Franklin hadn’t even declared that he was running when he died. For him it was just a thought. For me, this is my decision. I have always wanted to run for office myself. When I was married, I was working for Franklin, but I was gaining as much experience as I could for my own political dreams.
Maybe I would have done things differently if Franklin was still alive, but I have to follow my dreams now. More importantly, now, I feel it is my duty to run for office. It’s time for someone to gain office who will do what has to be done. It’s time…” I launched into the talking points of my campaign. The students asked all of the right questions which allowed me to highlight what platforms I believed in and what I would support if elected.
When it was all over, the school’s principal thanked me for allowing her students to have a “real life experience”. Now if only all of my press conferences went so well.
“Am I making a mistake?” I asked Keenan that evening when he came home from work. “Do I really have the experience to make a good governor?”
“You’re doing great, Lil.”
“Ross says the numbers are looking good considering that I’m so inexperienced. He says it’s rare that such a rookie candidate starts out as favorably as I am.’
Keenan smiled. “Ross knows what he’s talking about. He worked with Franklin for all of those years.”
Ross Trippie was my campaign manager. He used to work for Malcolm Harold, too, before Malcolm became mayor of Elmira City. He’s the one who suggested that I do this, run for Governor.
“You have to do this Lila,” he insisted when he met me for lunch to pitch the idea. “If someone like you is governor, then Malcolm will have some check on what he can do as mayor. He’s already gaining a lot more power than a mayor should have.”
“Why me, Ross? Aren’t there more experienced people who could oppose Malcolm?”
“But no one who is as well known as you. Everyone knows you as Franklin’s widow. Malcolm got elected because he gave a voice to the vampires. He portrayed them as eager citizens who just want to live in peace. He promised control over the rogue vampires like the one who attacked Franklin. But what has he done since he gained office?”
He’d done a lot, actually. He’d increased the size of plasma fruit farms, and he’d enacted public policy allowing vampire bars in Elmira. They were supposed to be where vampires could eat without disturbing the public. Plasma fruit was supposed to be all they were able to consume, but what they really did in those bars was feed off of whomever or whatever was offered.
“If a human willingly offers to donate to a vampire, why shouldn’t the vampire take what is offered as long as no one is hurt?” Malcolm asked the public. “A vampire should have the right to choose and so should a human.”
Elmira became the new haven for vampires. Malcolm became a vampire hero. It was well known that he was thinking of running for governor himself when his mayoral term was over. It was Ross’ idea that I declare my candidacy first. The feeling was that if I ran, Malcolm would hold off.
“It would make him look like he was going up against Franklin’s widow. Malcolm Harold does not want to make a vampire vs. human political war. Not now. He’s not strong enough yet. And we need to make sure that he never gets there.”
So I decided to run for office. It turned out that Ross was right. Malcolm didn’t run against me. My major opponent was a man named Cedric Goth. Yes, he was related to thoseGoths. In the end, I didn’t win the election. Goth money won the day and neither the widow card nor the vampire card could defeat it.
“Next time, Lila. Next time,” Ross patted me on the back at my “defeat” party.
“Are you sorry you lost?” Keenan asked me when we returned home from the party.
“No. I was too inexperienced for the job really. I would have learned fast, but I don’t think I was ready.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to look in on my son,” I said, exhausted. Keenan laughed. I knew that he hadn’t meant right now, but in all honesty, now was all I could focus on.
“I’ll see you in the morning Lila.” He squeezed my shoulder and kissed my cheek. Where his mouth touched me, my skin tingled.
I sighed. That was something else I wasn’t ready to deal with. I’d been telling myself this for over a year, but I really needed to find a place of my own. I couldn’t keep living with Keenan.
While our friendship was still strong, our relationship with each other had changed. At first, we’d been awkward with each other trying to forget what happened. It was hard living in such close proximity not to occasionally see each other in a state of undress. Keenan liked to work out shirtless. I tried harder not to come down in my pajamas, but he didn’t seem to think that anything was wrong with me seeing him all sweaty and half naked grabbing a water from the fridge after a work out.
I had a much harder time putting what happened out of my mind thank Keenan. He walked around like everything was normal. But every time I saw him, and especially ever time he touched me—innocent touches like a brotherly kiss on the cheek—I was sucked back to that night we shared. It had been over a year and I still remembered the feel of his arms around me. His legs entwined with mine. I remembered his hands, his mouth and his body. My mind liked to play those feelings for me like a record skipping and repeating the same song over and over.
The only time I stopped thinking of Keenan was when I was with my son. TJ was growing to look more and more like Franklin. I suppose some widows might be upset if their son closely resembled his father, but not me. Whenever I saw TJ, I remembered Franklin and how much I loved him. Whenever TJ did something new like use the baby potty or take his first step, I thought of how proud Franklin would have been. These thoughts no longer made me sad.
Keenan was right when he said I was a survivor. I was. And not only that, but I was also a believer. I believed that Franklin was watching me in these special times with our son. I knew he could see us both. And so could my mom, Glenna, and Keenan’s sister Sunwon. Their spirits were out there looking out for us.
Maybe that’s why I wasn’t disappointed to have lost my first election. Franklin hadn’t won every race he entered. He always told me that losing helped him become a better candidate for the job the next time he ran.
In the meantime, I decided that I would do volunteer work and spend time with my son. And, while I was at it, I could actually find my own place. It was time to let myself start living again, so that when I did run for office, I’d be more ready.
With determination, I started looking in the paper for house listings. I wanted to set down roots in Capital City. While I had money not only from my family inheritance and Franklin’s insurance, I was not exactly a wealthy person. I couldn’t afford any of the really nice properties in town. I was looking for something similar to what Keenan had.
“What are you doing?” Keenan asked one Saturday after breakfast. I was circling ads in the paper.
“I thought I better start looking for a place of my own. It’s about time I actually lived on my own, don’t you think?”
I looked up from the paper to catch Keenan’s reaction. He looked blank, and I was sort of disappointed. I wanted him to be happy for me, finally making this step toward true independence.
“I thought I’d start looking at what’s out there and then maybe go see a realtor.”
“You don’t have to move out Lila. I hope you don’t think I’ve been wanting you to leave,” Keenan finally said.
“Oh no,” I circled another listing. “You’ve been great Keenan. I don’t know how I would have done all of this without your help. But do you realize that it’s been almost two years?”
“Has it?” I nodded.
I circled another ad in the paper, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the description of the house. I was just trying to rush through my explanation without looking up at Keenan.
“…And don’t take this the wrong way, but it hasn’t been easy. I mean…we had to get past what happened between us and then the election and everything. I’m just so glad that we were able to move on. Forget that it ever happened,” I continued to circle and babble.
Keenan, if he wanted to say something, wasn’t able to get a word in. “I’m so glad that we’ve remained friends. I mean, we would have been practically brother and sister if Glenna and Sunny had lived. Brothers and sisters should be close. And even though I have tons of family, you’re really the only one I’m close to. I wouldn’t want to lose that. But I need my own space. I need to move on. I need…”
My words just sort of ran out and the lines on the newspaper started to blur. A big splotch of wet suddenly appeared as a tear rolled off my chin and hit the page.
“No.” I shook my head vigorously and swiped at the tears. “I’m strong enough to do this alone. I can be a single mom and own my own home and raise my son by myself.”
“No one doubts your strength Lila.”
“I do,” I sniffed and more tears hit the newspaper, smearing the circles I had made. “I don’t want to leave here, but I have to.”
“I don’t want you to leave either, Lil. You don’t have to. I don’t want you to go.”
“But I can’t stay!” I cried harder, unable to fight the tears no matter how strong and independent I wanted to be.
“Why not?” Keenan’s voice rose and he seemed just as emotional as I was. He was as determined to have me stay as I was determined to go. “I don’t understand Lila. Why can’t you stay with me? There’s enough room here.”
“Because!” I stood up in frustration. “Because I can’t stop thinking about…” Horrified, I covered my mouth with my hand. I couldn’t believe what I had almost blurted out. I shook my head, denying what I was going to say.
But Keenan wouldn’t let it alone. “Thinking about what Lila…what?” He asked quietly. He knew. He looked at me intensely as if daring me to say it.
“I can’t stop thinking about that night.” I couldn’t look into his eyes and tell him a lie, so I just went with the truth. “I can’t stop thinking about us…You.”
Keenan’s dark eyes sparked. “Good,” he said. Then he swooped me into a passionate embrace. His mouth fell on mine, and he pulled me in tight to his chest. “About damned time.”
Before I even knew what was happening, he lifted me off of my feet and started carrying me up the stairs.
“Keenan! What are you doing?”
“Something I’ve been wanting to do every damn day for nearly two years.”