She hadn’t even finished her breakfast when she voices sounded from outside her hotel room. Lucy, it’s Kelly, she heard.
And two guys who didn’t look much older than she was. And a woman with a rack of dresses and a big tote bag full of makeup and stuff. She went into the bedroom without even asking, pulling the clothes rack behind her. And the others settled in in Lucy’s little living room.
“First thing we have,” Kelly said, “is the announcement that you’re supporting Sheriff John. One of the ridiculously young men looked up from his phone. “Scheduling the press conference at the state capitol for tomorrow, okay?” he asked.
“I think we should do it as a public event,” Kelly answered. Not indoors and not just press. Let’s put her on the courthouse steps.”
“Where Jane was killed??” Lucy asked unbelievingly.
“Exactly,” Boy One answered excitedly. “Brilliant! It’s the federal courthouse, too. In their faces.”
“You can do this, Lucy,” Kelly said for the thousandth time. She was right, Lucy realized. Actually, it would feel good to shout her defiance from the spot where Jane Larson was killed. From the moment she met her, she had felt a special bond with little Jeanette. Lucy wasn’t about to carry Arthur Atreides’ baby. But Jeanette she could actually help. If she had her way, the people who killed Jane were now going to lose the only thing they cared about: power. Jeanette wouldn’t know it then, but someday she would.
“Now let’s talk about what you’re going to say,” Kelly went on. “The basic theme is what you said: Not America. (hashtag).”
“But positive,” Boy Two interjected. “Why John IS America. Three things,” he continued.
“Law protects everyone, including women who are raped. Lucy, we need you to tell how it felt not to be able to report your rape. Two, a house divided cannot stand. Lucy you need to tell about why you ran from Virginia to Maryland, how much better it is here. And Three, most important is that Maryland cannot go one being the stooge of the Red States. That’s where we use the stuff about sending her back,” he said to One, who was obviously the assistant. “Now,” he continued directing his assistant. “Start writing.”
“I am not,” Lucy started, “a monkey. To recite what you write for me. I want to talk about Jane. They killed Jane.”
“You can’t,” Kelly said in her most commanding voice. “There may be a criminal prosecution of the Governor, and it’s a pending investigation. Why don’t you wait until you see what our guys write. Everyone knows you only want to use your own words. You did a good job on that Phone video, Lucy, but this is the big leagues. Give us a chance. Let Jon (that’s our writer here),” she smiled at the younger of the two skinny young men, “see if he can write something you’ll like. This is not a game. We need Maryland. It borders Washington D.C. On the other side is red Virginia.”
“You really think there’s going to be war, don’t you?” Lucy said slowly. “How can that be? It’s not the nineteenth century,” she added, thinking of what she’d learned from Meck. “You can’t send the Maryland National Guard into D.C. They’ll just bomb us into the stone age. Like from Idaho or somewhere.” They were all going to die. She started to feel the room go dark again. Oh, no. She thought the spells were just from being pregnant. Which she now was not.
“Maybe not,” Kelly said.
“What do you mean?” Lucy was actually panting, her hands soaking wet. She was surprised at how much she wanted to live. She really had thought about jumping off that bridge where the guard stopped her. Her father dead, mother probably, no family, but now that she had the Glasses and Kelly and Josh and – she realized suddenly -- Evan on her side -- she was amazingly determined not to die. She’d lost her family, but these people had somehow become like a family. Even Jane and Jane’s parents and Jeanette. She could feel them in the room.
“I can’t tell you right now,” Kelly answered. But remember when you were in New Mexico, the local Air Force turned their weapons over to the state. Those won’t get used against us. A lot of people have to activate their codes before the nukes get used. Not just the President. Would he really use atomic bombs on his own people? The fallout doesn’t know red states from blue. Maryland is right on top of Virginia. And even if he would, would everyone who has to push the button sign off? We don’t think so.”
“We’ll all die if you’re wrong,” Lucy said, horrified.
Kelly never lost her cool. “It’s way too early to be discussing this,” she said calmly. “First thing is we don’t ever want anyone to go through what you went through in Maryland again. So we need to elect John governor, and then we’ll worry about the Presidency. Agreed?”
Lucy could not say no to that.
“Good,” Kelly said. “Now here’s your pink scarf. It goes with everything we brought.” Kelly beckoned Lucy into the bedroom where the dresser, Tiffany, was waiting. Tiffany had dark roots that looked like she meant it, unlike Lucy’s mess of a hairdo, and jeans with more holes than fabric. Would all the dresses be pink, Lucy wondered, like her prison uniform? This whole campaign thing was starting to feel a little confining already, and she was just starting. But Kelly would never make such an obvious move. The dresses were perfect, like the navy one they had picked together on the internet. Which she never got to wear, because she was in prison. A jersey wrap dress with a tie that made its own belt, a bright blue shift with a navy cotton blazer. And of course the scarf.
“Let’s start with this one,” Kelly said, picking up the little shift. Tiffany hovered all over her, plucking the dress this way and that. Kelly handed her a pair of shiny black heels Lucy had never seen. Wow. She looked so sophisticated.
“Now,” said Tiffany in a tone that brooked no resistance. “We need to do something about that dye job. Jesus! Did you do it yourself?”
“No, my friend Joanna did it,” Lucy said resentfully, as Tiffany took out her scissors and bottles of chestnut colored dye.
She really did look amazing, Lucy realized when she caught her reflection an hour later. She’d never had a grown up wardrobe. First those prairie wife outfits in Virginia. She was just starting her summer job at the firm mostly with Joanna’s hand me downs and her one precious suit when they arrested her. And at least her hair resembled the normal shade that grew out of her head now.
They walked her out into the living room where Jon was still scribbling. He pushed on his tablet and it text appeared on the television on the wall.
“That’s cool,” Lucy said involuntarily.
“Take a look,” he said to Kelly.
“Um,” Lucy said.
“You, too,” he added mechanically.
When they had rehearsed it for the thousandth time, Jon took the final for the teleprompter.
“Tired Lucy?” Kelly asked gently as Lucy kicked her shoes off so fiercely they sailed over the back of the couch. “You’ve got it, no more worries. Tiff will come tomorrow and make you up and we’ll send a car to bring you. Let’s order room service and watch reruns of Samantha Bee on Demand.”
“You remembered?” Lucy said, surprised. Lucy had told Kelly how much she missed the dirty, girly comedian from the teens when she was in Virginia with no TV. And no internet.
“Lucy, you are my friend,” Kelly said. “Of course I remember. Let’s get some wine and some club sandwiches. Put on the robe they gave you. We need the dress for the appearance tomorrow. Living in a hotel isn’t so bad.”
“So,” Kelly said when they were settled in for a while, “I think Josh is really interested in you. He’s a great guy. I hired him, you know.”
“I don’t think he’s as interested in me as he is in my pink scarf,” Lucy confided. As soon as she saw Evan, she realized that Josh was more like a brother to her. “I get it about the Rescue, but I really want to have a boyfriend, not just be some symbol. I think Josh is still in love with Jane,” she added, the light dawning. “That explains a lot. Like how little Jeanette knew him. I wondered why he wanted to go in to the Larson’s before me. Anyway, with Evan out of Virginia, Josh looks a lot less interesting. Evan!” she sighed. “He’s doing organizing for the Rescue. He might even be in D.C.,” she added thinking how close that was to Baltimore. Of course, if I’m going to be dead in a nuclear civil war tomorrow, I suppose it doesn’t matter who I sleep with.”
“Stop that!” Kelly put her wine down and turned to face Lucy. “We are not going to start a war while the nukes are loose. You are going to have a boyfriend, probably lots of boyfriends. You’re not a little girl with a crush on her history professor any more.”
Lucy laughed. “You’re right!” she said to Kelly. “I was feeling so guilty about Meck. It’s like it happened another person.”
“Lucy,” Kelly answered, “You couldn’t be Joanna Glass, with her parties and her resume. From the minute you went to Virginia to care for your mother, you had to grow up. I’m sort of sorry it happened to you,” Kelly said thoughtfully, “But few of us get to choose when we grow up.” Lucy remembered her stories about being torn out of her familiar African-American home and neighborhood and dropped into the icy reaches of Harvard. “We need you to act like a grown up and play your part. Of course Evan is romantic. It must have been so hot there in that awful place with no one else to talk to. It’s none of my business, but I don’t think he’s in D.C.”
“How do you,” Lucy began.
“Wow it’s late,” Kelly said. I’m going to let you go to bed. We have a big day tomorrow.”
Lucy watched Kelly leave before she turned to her comfy hotel bed. It was so much fun having a girlfriend to watch reruns with. No wonder women remembered their college years so fondly. She wondered for a moment if she’d ever have a chance at a normal life. Then she reached over and switched off the light.
Going up the Courthouse steps wasn’t as hard as Lucy had feared. The worst part of it was managing those high heeled shoes that Tiffany person had produced. The scary guy with the gun was dead, and this time her people had set up all the microphones and stuff. They were keeping the crazy reporters and cameramen at a distance. She felt pretty safe. Now that she’d realized what went on between Jane and Josh, she actually felt sorrier for him going back to where she was killed. Could Jeanette be his daughter, she wondered idly as she waited for the event to start. Why did people she was trying to help keep so many secrets?
The place was packed. Even the guys were wearing pink scarves. She wondered if she’d ever get used to seeing people mirroring the symbol of her rape and beating all over the place. Joe Smith, the acting Governor, stood up to introduce Sheriff John. Then John wheeled his wheelchair to the microphone and painfully pulled himself up on his artificial legs to address the crowd and declare his candidacy. He did not make a long speech. Mostly he talked about how Maryland had to close its borders to the federal government and the girl catchers and become a sanctuary for the refugees from the Red States. Calling them refugees made the Red States seem like foreign countries. In spite of Kelly’s reassurances, Lucy felt the chill wind of war again. He finished his speech by reaching out an arm to where Lucy sat in her blue dress and her pink scarf.
“Those are the many reasons why I am running for Governor,” he said. “But I can’t tell you about them as well as the one who went through it. Our own refugee, safe now in the sovereign state of Maryland, Lucy Atreides.”
Lucy stood up and saw her speech starting on the teleprompter. She realized that the crowd had sprung to its feet, as if by one impulse, waving their scarves and stamping. The noise was overwhelming. She waited for the crowd to quiet down, but it didn’t. Next to the teleprompter Kelly stood gesturing that Lucy should put her hand to her heart. Lucy patted her heart, nodding, and the ovation gradually subsided.
She began to speak. “One night last June special counselors came to my school in Richmond to tell the girls that all us juniors were done with school. Instead, our fathers were going to pick husbands for us and we would get down to the business of making babies for the Red States. That was the moment I knew I had to get away.” Looking down, Lucy spotted an older couple in the front row. They held a little girl in a pink scarf by the hands: Jeanette, Lucy realized. It was Jane’s parents and her little girl, a miniature version of her mother. Josh was standing next to them. She faltered and stopped speaking, her throat full and her eyes welling up. Little Jane broke away from her grandparents and ran to the steps where Lucy was speaking. Before security could grab her, Lucy ran down to her and scooped her up in her arms. “See Lucy,” Jeanette crowed, showing her the little scarf, as Lucy ran back to the microphone with the child in her arms. She turned to the crowd. They might ever be able to stop her now.
“Remember Jane Larson?” she asked the crowd, from the steps where Jane had died. “This is her daughter, Jeanette. Jane’s mother and father are with us today.” She paused and gestured to the grandparents. They are going to raise Jeanette in Maryland, where the girl catchers from Virginia tried to kidnap me. I was in Adam’s Rib getting lunch when they came. Is that how we want our daughters to see? To live in fear every day they go to lunch?”
The crowd began to wave their pink scarves and chant. Not America. Not America.
Lucy looked around. Josh was standing next to her holding his arms out for Jeanette.
Lucy turned her back to the crowd. This time she didn’t have to lift her dress and show her scars. Just turning her back was enough.