Running Mate(8)

By: Katie Ashley

But, when Bernie and Senator Callahan remained stone-faced, my laughter ceased like someone had abruptly pulled the plug. “Oh, my God. You weren’t joking.”

Senator Callahan shook his head. “No. I wasn’t.”

“You are running for the highest office in the land, and you want me to be your son’s fake fiancée,” I said as I desperately tried to process what was going on.

“Yes, Miss Monroe.”

Slowly, I shook my head back and forth. “I liked it better when I thought you were joking.”

“I’m sure, on the surface, me bringing you here today to ask this of you seems quite preposterous, but please believe me when I say how very serious I am. Presidential candidates need their family’s help on the campaign trail. We cannot be in ten different places at once. Thorn cannot be called home from duty to work on my campaign, and while Caroline wants to help, she’s only twenty years old and in the middle of her sophomore year at Vassar.” Senator Callahan exhaled a long breath. “As you can see, Barrett is our only choice.”

“Excuse me for being ignorant, but how could something like a fake engagement even be remotely possible?”

“Everything in Washington is a matter of perception. Our city is a façade built on half-truths. It’s also the very reason Jackie Kennedy worked so hard to perpetuate the myth of Camelot after John Kennedy was assassinated. Part of his mystique came from the ability of those around him to spin the perception that he was a god among men while carefully concealing his many marital indiscretions.”

“And you plan to spin some sort of modern day fairytale with Barrett and me?”

“Yes, I am. With the resources I have at my disposal, I’m confident it would be a great success.” At what must’ve been my continued look of skepticism, Senator Callahan asked, “Have you ever seen the movie Wag the Dog?”

I nodded; we’d watched it in my political media class along with the classics like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, All the President’s Men, and The Manchurian

Candidate. “Yes sir, I have.”

“Then you know if an entire war can be fabricated by the media, it is more than possible to fabricate a relationship.”

“But that was a movie,” I argued.

“A movie steeped in truths.” He winked. “And half-truths.”

I brought my hand up to rub my forehead, which was now aching from all the questions swarming inside it. “There’s one thing I have to ask.” The truth was there were a million things I wanted to ask, but at the moment, this was the most pressing one.

“Of course.”

“Out of all the women you surely have at your disposal, how on earth did you come up with me?”

Senator Callahan smiled. “I think that is a very fair question. Obviously, we knew it couldn’t be anyone of our family’s personal acquaintances. It would be far too easy to poke holes in the fabricated romance and disprove the relationship. We needed someone unknown to those around us.”

“That makes sense.”

“Upon further consideration, I realized I needed someone close to the campaign, someone who believed in me as a person and candidate, someone I felt I could trust to protect my political interests. When we began to go through the campaign staff, you immediately jumped out. Not only were you someone who would be physically appealing to Barrett, you had many personal attributes that made you desirable to the campaign.”

“Such as?” Call me cynical, but I was trying not to laugh at the idea that I would be physically appealing to Barrett.

An amused look twinkled in Senator Callahan’s eyes. “First and foremost, you’re single.”

I laughed. “Yes, I can see where that would be important.”

“You also have never been married, and although we have come a long way in this country, there is still somewhat of a stigma against divorce among some political circles.”

“You’re telling me that my greatest attribute is the fact that I’m a single woman? Pardon me, Senator Callahan, but that usually isn’t something a girl actually feels proud of.”

With a chuckle, the senator replied, “No, Miss Monroe, that was just the first thing that caught our eye. It was much more about the fact that you weren’t just a pretty face. You graduated magna cum laude from Duke, and you’re working in a very coveted position in a campaign. Being an intelligent, educated, self-reliant woman will appeal to the women’s sector of the vote.”

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