“I do love you, Lucy,” Evan said. She just stared at him, sitting so calmly in her sitting room at the Governor’s Mansion. She thought he’d tell her Sylvia knew nothing, when she shared the story of her conversation with the Governor from last night. That they’d laugh at it together in the cold light of dawn.
“But, but,” she sputtered absently patting her hair and then putting her hands on her cheeks, her icy fingers against her hot face. “What do you mean? You hardly know me.”
“No, I know you,” he said. “You don’t know me. I was not who you thought I was all the months we were together in Virginia, so how could you? I don’t expect you to love me. Yet,” he added deliberately. “But I knew you. I saw the risk you took when you came back for your mom and how you went with her to the chemo when Daniel dumped it on you. I agreed to go undercover for the Rescue because I hated the Red State program in theory. But when I saw its effect on you, it got real for me, Lucy. You were a girl who wants a life. When I had to stand by while he beat you, it was the hardest thing I ever did. I will remember every stroke of that beating for the rest of my life. I dream about it all the time. If I could have killed them all and carried you out of there -- on my charger,” he added self-consciously, realizing how grandiose he sounded, “I would have. But the guards were everywhere. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t realize what you meant to me until then. If you hadn’t taken off I would have taken you to the Road as soon as it was safe. I should have known you wouldn’t wait a minute. You always knew you deserved a better deal. I love your courage and I love your optimism.”
“Is it me?” Lucy finally choked out. “Or is it just the idea of me? You haven’t ever even touched me, except that one time the night I found out about the marriage thing in Richmond. And then it was just, like platonic, right? I thought you were trying to help me calm down.”
He got up out of his chair and started toward her.
“No! I wasn’t asking . . . ” she said. “Please, Evan. I need to think.”
“Of course,” he said, sitting back down. “I wasn’t going to say anything with all this stuff going on. Sylvia should not have gone all John Alden on me. I would have spoken to you when I thought you and I were in a better place. But once she started it, I could not lie to you, Lucy. I feel like I watched you grow up. From the rebellious, angry girl who came home to take care of her mother to the beautiful poised woman on the platform making those great speeches for Sheriff John. I love your new hairdo by the way. You have a beautiful neck. I’m not idealistic enough to just love an idea.”
God this felt like the real thing. It was everything she had always dreamed of with Meck, and now she knew the difference between a crush and real passion. But Evan did not try to touch her. And she was grateful. She was just getting used to keeping her distance after the raping and the beating and the torment in the prison. Even the sweet one-off with Josh had not made her feel safe. It was more like something from a dream after watching Jane shot in her arms. And Evan was so big, broad shouldered and muscled. He picked her up into the helicopter sling like she weighed nothing. She didn’t want him near her until she had thought this through.
“And because I love you, Lucy,” he went on, “I want to take you out of here.”
“Out?” she answered. “You mean out of New York? You just got me here.”
“I got you here, because it was better than having the federal government shoot their way into your hotel room and take you to DC to try you for murder. Right?”
“Right,” she admitted.
“But if you go on and campaign for Sylvia for a year, they’re going to keep trying to bring you down. And sooner or later they’ll succeed,” he paused and frowned hard as he contemplated the possibilities. “I don’t know,” he continued, “whether they’ll shoot you like Roper did Jane Larson or if they’ll send girl catchers after you. No matter how hard we try, we can’t guard you all the time. Sylvia thinks she has the President talked off the ledge. But these are the people who shot your father outside the polling place in Ohio, Lucy. Just because he’s in the White House doesn’t mean he won’t do anything if he sees his cause is threatened. Sylvia winning is doomsday for the Agreement and the Red States and the whole thing. If not right away, then soon. And you’re her best asset. They are going to get you. I can’t watch it happen again. Let me take you away.”
“Away where?” she asked. “Where could I possibly be safe?”
“My father lives in Mexico,” Evan answered. “We have a farm, well, more like a, well a big farm, outside of Mexico City. We can keep you safe there. We have guards already,” he added, sounding somewhat embarrassed.
“Why do you have guards?” she asked. “What did your father do? Is he a drug dealer?”
“Of course not. You think that’s the only way Mexicans?!” He broke off abruptly, scowling at her fiercely. She felt like a complete asshole. Everything was happening so fast, she had just lost her mind for a minute. “But he is, well,” Evan resumed, a touch of humor creeping in, “a car dealer. The biggest car dealer in Mexico, actually. And in Latin America, you know, sometimes rich people have guards. He’s pretty nervous about having all that money and he’s incredibly protective of the family. But he’s not a bad guy, really. Since I got involved in the rebellion, he’s been sheltering the girls and the gay kids escaping out of Arizona and Texas. Abortion is legal in Mexico. We’re sort of a station on the Rainbow Road to Mexico.”
“Wow. I didn’t even know there was a Mexican Road.”
“Sometimes it’s easier for them to get to Mexico than all the way to California. And of course there’s always been an underground on the border. It just used to go the other way.”
“Let me take you away, Lucy,” Evan repeated. “Sylvia is going to take you to New York City to kick off the campaign. Dad will send a plane for us and we’ll be gone in no time. What would he think of me if I let the woman I love risk her life for a movement?”
Lucy allowed herself a small smile at Evan’s macho argument. Pleasing the patriarch. And offering to take her to the family castle, where she would be safe.
Seeing her amusement, he hastened to add, “Anyway, it’s not right for you to let the feds make a martyr out of you. It might be great for the cause, but it’s not right. You deserve a chance to grow up and go to school and have work that you love and maybe even have a husband and children of your own some time. Now that Sylvia is running, the movement will beat the Red States even if you don’t sacrifice yourself. I’m in this fight. I’ll work on the campaign, and we will win. But I will never stand by and let you be sacrificed for the movement again. There’s a good English language school in Mexico City. You could finish high school and then see what you want to do. And you’d be safe. You’ll never be safe here.”
She pushed her hair behind her ears in a new nervous gesture she’d acquired since Tiffany, the makeup guru, had given her this cool new haircut. She knew she looked just ridiculous in the borrowed clothes from Sylvia Giffords, who had legendarily terrible taste anyway. Her first serious declaration of love and she had on a sixtysomething’s baggy khaki pants and dowdy cardigan. She thought about living on a Mexican estate and going back to school. She had learned a little Spanish years ago when Dad was still alive. He thought it was the “language of the future.” She could hear his voice, as she thought about it.
And then the weirdest thing. Just like when she was in that bed in Richmond with the gay guys from the Road, she smelled the smell of Old Spice again. What Dad used to wear. She felt her father in her room at the governor’s mansion in Albany with a man her father had never met, who was offering to take her to Mexico, where none of the Atreides had ever been. It wasn’t like his ghost. It wasn’t a person at all, real or ghostly. It was like a wall, made up of everything she remembered about her brief life with him. A wall that stood between her and the escape from New York.
“Evan.” Her voice had a really hollow sound to her, as if it was coming from another person. “I am a blue state. I, me, Lucy,” she felt a little frantic because she was saying such unfamiliar words. “My dad made me and the blue state world made him. It made me think I deserved a better life. That’s why I tried so hard not to move to Richmond when Mom married Arthur. That’s what made me strong enough to run away. Just what you say you love is what I got from him and from the way it used to be here in America. How can I run away from that? They need me. I believe they need me. I can help Sylvia, and maybe we’ll figure out a way to get the Red States to stand down without war. It’s not two bad alternatives, with everyone corrupt and wrong. If I ran away now,” she gritted her teeth and swore, “I’d be just as bad as the awful red guys or the people beating the war drums. I’d be betraying the people who made me what I am.”
“But Lucy,” Evan said, finally coming around to her and taking her in his arms, “I love you. And I’m afraid.”
The emotion in the room was so thick that when someone knocked on the door she felt like the air shook.
“Lucy,” said Joanne Smith, Lucy’s minder from the Governor’s staff. “It’s time.”