This is a piece of the same story as my previous short fiction post “The Protester” which I have updated. I’m playing around with timing. Right now, in the writing, this happens right after Mariah and crew begin their protest but in the world the story takes place in, about a week before. Please let me know what you think! Do you like it? The flow of it? Does it seem like the same story? Thank you!!
Alex barreled through her office door. She was livid. The new city budget was so far right it might as well have just cut everything. Road repairs in underserved areas, repairs to public schools, libraries and hospitals, the people of New York City who didn’t make millions, could just fuck right off. That’s what she’d written in a tweet the night before after tossing and turning getting angrier and angrier by the second. She’d taken it down minutes later but not before it was retweeted. 75 times. God Damn Twitter! She sipped her coffee and sat down at her desk.
She winced when John, her assistant, came into her office. No doubt he saw the tweet. She was embarrassed at her temporary loss of judgement. She couldn’t look him in the eye.
“You saw?” She thought it best to just get it out of the way. There was never time to avoid conflict. Not in politics.
“I did.” He was actively avoiding looking at her, ruffling papers in a folder he was holding.
John was good. He was honest with her at all times but never confrontational.
“We’ll have to get ahead of this.” He handed her a piece of paper. “Gwen wrote a statement if the press gets ahold this.”
She looked over the statement. Apologetic but not, reiterating her initial disappointment in the final decision to cut vital services. Alex made a mental note to email Gwen with a thank you.
“Do you want me to send a thank you email to her?” Good old John. Always kept her respectful public persona in mind.
“I’ll do it.” Alex stopped to look at him for a moment. He’d looked tired lately. His energy was down.
“Everything okay with your grandma?” She had to show she cared. Especially now that some of the cuts were for senior services. If there’s one thing she’d learned from her father, it was to keep your employees happy. Make them want you to succeed.
John hesitated for a moment. She clocked his subtle raise of an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry… your mom.” He was raised by his grandmother. As much as she didn’t see the point of calling someone something they’re not, this bothered him. He got drunk at last year’s Christmas party and all but begged her to call his grandma his “mother”. He said anything less was “disrespectful”. It had taken him three tries to get that word out correctly. She should have been disappointed with him but given her past, and given her first experience in being harsh with a damaged person, she couldn’t risk it. Not now that she had the mayor’s office in her sight. She needed him and despite her better judgment, liked him.
She silently cursed herself for being a woman. A man would’ve fired him for insubordination without a second thought. She’d spent her entire career convincing her constituents that her empathy for the downtrodden was her strength and ultimately theirs. It had worked so far for them but convincing herself was another story.
“She’s doing well! Thank you for asking!” John pulled up a chair and sat across from her. He had bad news. He’d always told her something she didn’t want to hear sitting down. “There’s rumblings on the internet.”
“Oh shit. Of course. Give it to me.” Alex braced herself for comments filtered by John. She only had to triple the negativity of the ones he’d choose to share with her.
John put on his glasses. She tried not to smile. He didn’t need them, he’d told her that also last Christmas. He thought they made him look more serious. To be fair, at 35 he did have boyish good looks and soft green eyes.