Running Mate(9)

By: Katie Ashley

“Yes, I can see where that would be helpful.” Tilting my head, I asked, “What else?”

A shrewd look entered Senator Callahan’s golden eyes. “As of this morning, you have $66.54 in your checking account. You also owe close to one hundred thousand dollars in student loans. The apartment you rent is in a less than desirable area, and you have all secondhand furniture. Instead of a car, you own a bicycle. Basically, you have no assets of any real value.”

Scorching embarrassment ricocheted throughout my body at the assessment of my dismal financial situation. I already knew it was bad, but there was something about hearing it from a man I both respected and admired like Senator Callahan that made it even worse. “Okay, so I’m flat broke. What does—” I sucked in a breath while narrowing my eyes at Senator Callahan. “Wait, how do you know how much money I have in my bank account?”

“The FBI did a very thorough background check for me.”

I gasped. “You know that’s a real invasion of my privacy. What’s next, the CIA going through my panty drawer?”

“I apologize, Miss Monroe, but it was a necessary evil. I assure you it was only a little more in-depth than what you faced when you came to work for the campaign. If we were going to ask you to do this, we had to ensure you didn’t have any personal or professional skeletons in your closet.”

The word skeletons caused my stomach to twist as a face flashed before my mind. Oh shit. He could be trouble. “Um, I guess you didn’t find anything, huh?”

Senator Callahan tilted his head at me. “You wouldn’t be here if we had.”

“Right.” A nervous laugh bubbled from my lips. “Of course not. I mean, I’m the daughter of a minister. What craziness could I possibly have gotten into in my life?” Although Senator Callahan and Bernie chuckled along with me, it didn’t ease my apprehension.

Once my laughter died down and the atmosphere grew serious, I went back to a question still plaguing me. “Let me ask again: what does me being flat broke have to do with anything?”

“I’m prepared to offer you a million dollars to do this.”

Holy. Shit. My knees started shaking again, and I fought the urge to break out into humming “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music. I blinked rapidly at Senator Callahan. “I’m sorry, but did you just say…” I could barely bring myself to utter the words. “O-One m-million d-dollars”? I finally stammered.

Senator Callahan nodded. “Yes, Miss Monroe, I did. During the campaign, the sum will be divided into monthly paychecks, and the balance will be paid upon Election Day. All your travel expenses will be covered through the campaign. You will also be allowed to keep the wardrobe the campaign purchases for you.” His eyes dropped down to my bare feet. “That includes shoes.”

Oh my God. I was actually sitting barefoot in front of the potential future president of the United States. “Yeah, my Choo—it got caught in a street grate and broke. I fell…and I mooned some construction workers,” I explained, just as randomly as Baby saying she carried a watermelon in Dirty Dancing.

Oh no. I did not just say that out loud. Please tell me I didn’t just say that out loud.

The corners of Senator Callahan’s lips quirked. “How unfortunate.”

Oh God, I had said it aloud. Kill me now. I was sure both Bernie and Senator Callahan were going to start having serious doubts about my ability to perform in the campaign, considering my flakiness.

“You said a million dollars, right?”

“Yes. I realize it’s a little over nine months for seven figures.”

“Just playing devil’s advocate here…what happens if you don’t secure the nomination?”

“You’ll still receive the million.”

“Wow,” I not-so-eloquently muttered. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have that much money. No more living paycheck to paycheck, no more student loan debt, no more buying designer shoes off Ebay and gluing the broken heels back on. No more shitty apartment where the hot water always seemed to be running out. I could consider a place in Georgetown, which had always been my dream. Okay, so maybe it was easier than I thought to imagine having that much money.

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