Madam President, page 1
T. Novan and
Advocate (Blayne Cooper)
Copyright: These characters originated in the deep dark recesses of TN and Advocate's overworked brains. Copyright © 2001 by T. Novan, Advocate. All Rights Reserved.
Sexual Content: It's in there and it involves two women. If you're under 18 or this type of fiction is illegal in your neck of the woods, please move on. This story is intended for an adult audience only.
Language: Mild profanity
Acknowledgements: To our beta readers, Barbara Davies and Maggie Sheridan – your assistance was invaluable! And, of course, we had a blast working together. But we won't bore you with our mutual admiration. While we've got your attention, we'd like to offer a special 'I love you' to our respective spouses
The Book: We are very pleased to announce that 'Madam President' is under contract for print publication by a brand new publishing house called Jane Doe Press (www.janedoepress.com). An announcement concerning preordering should hit the web very soon. Also, you should know that the print version will contain additional scenes not included in the online version. Don't worry, the online version is a complete story. Consider the print version a 'directors' cut'
Comments/Feedback: Tnovan@aol.com and email@example.com
Friday, November 6th
HER IRON, SLIGHTLY sweaty grip on the chair's armrests clamped down even harder, causing white knuckles to stand out in vivid relief against the dark blue vinyl. She would have chewed her lower lip in consternation if she could have. But she couldn't. Right now all she could do was pray. I'm gonna be okay. I am. I can do this. Children do this, for Christ's sake! Her head snapped to one side, wrinkling the white, paper bib tied round her neck, and gray eyes went impossibly wide at the sound of footsteps. Oh, no. Someone's coming. It'll be him!
"Hello? Anybody home?" A cheerful voice chuckled for just a split second before a balding head, wreathed with white hair, peeked around the slightly open door. "Hi there!" The man smiled amiably at the frightened woman and marched happily into the room. "I'm Doctor Cardozo. So that means you must be..." He discreetly peeked at his patient's chart, having forgotten the name already, as he slipped into a pair of rubber gloves. Snapping the second glove loudly, he scanned for the pertinent information that his assistant had emphasized with hot pink highlighter.
Blood diseases: None reported
Last checkup: 12/12/14
Patient Assessment: Complains of chronic pain in....
He glanced up from the chart and at Lauren. "Ms. Strayer, I think when you were here the last time you must have misunderstood one of my colleague's instructions. Checkup time comes around every six months. Not every six years." He shook his head sadly.
His voice was mildly chastising, and Lauren nodded but rolled her eyes. Asshole, she thought tartly. I only come here because you're close to my apartment. One more snotty comment, and I'm moving.
Dr. Cardozo scanned the small diagram of the human mouth where an 'X' was placed on the lower left wisdom tooth. He pursed his lips for a moment then set the chart down, pulling up a stool next to Lauren.
"Well now, let's see what we have." He grabbed a shiny silver pick from a tray full of instruments and pointed it at Lauren's mouth, which was already being held open by the jaw spreader that had been inserted by the dental assistant who had prepped her. One look, and the assistant had known that tooth was coming out... today.
Round, apprehensive eyes followed the instrument as it moved closer to its target. When it got within an inch or two of Lauren's mouth, she jerked her head away in pure reaction.
The dentist exhaled tiredly. "Come on now, Ms. Strayer. This is just a probe." He held out the pick for her to see. "I know you must be hurting. Your cheek is all pink and swollen." A cold finger poked the body part in question and Lauren winced, grunting her agreement.
She glared at him evilly, but, knowing he was right, dutifully turned her head and presented him with her wide-open mouth. Not that I have a choice with this thing holding my mouth open like the catch of the day. He immediately made a hissing noise that she correctly assumed meant something bad. Very bad.
"Needs to come out," he informed her bluntly. And, while he didn't do what he was about to do very often, he thought with this patient he'd make an exception. It was the reason he still kept the old machine around. "This will help." He reached over and turned a nozzle, then fiddled with a mask for a moment before placing it over Lauren's nose and mouth. "Just breathe normally."
She looked startled for a second, but then remembered getting laughing gas once as a child. Nice bedside manner. You could have at least explained what you were doing first. Lauren thought hard. Would they need to use the... she gulped... laser to extract a tooth? She couldn't imagine why. And with that self-serving conclusion, the woman felt her painfully ridged body begin to relax.
"You hold this." The dentist pried Lauren's fingers from one of the armrests and moved her hand to the mask. "I'll be back in a minute, and we'll fix you right up. Would you like to watch television while you wait?"
Lauren nodded gratefully. She would do anything to keep her mind off what was about to happen.
"TV on," he commanded. Three tiny, flat, gray boxes, each mounted strategically on a different wall, shot angled beams that, when combined, formed a stunning, three- dimensional picture whose edges simply fuzzed away into reality. Filling the space in the corner of the room there was now a handsome anchorman and his large paper-covered desk. 'Election 2020' was written in red, white and blue block letters and hovered over his left shoulder.
Lauren groaned loudly, but it was too late. Dr. Cardozo had already scuttled out of the room, presumably to attend to his next victim. Irritably, she pulled the mask away from her face and tried to give the voice command 'change channel' but the current state of her mouth made it impossible, her efforts serving only to drip saliva down her chin. Then she tried to curse, but that didn't work either. Which only made her want to curse some more. Finally, she simply gave up and pressed the gas mask tightly against her face. Inhaling deeply, she prayed she'd be so stoned in a few seconds that she would miss the Ken doll-like anchorman droning on and on about President-elect Marlowe.
The election music cued up and, in the blink of an eye, Devlyn Marlowe, at her podium on the steps of the Governor's mansion in Columbus, Ohio, was standing at Lauren's feet. The late autumn breeze was tossing around the President-elect's dark hair, and her bright blue eyes were clear and intense as she gazed out into the cheering crowd.
"Oh, God!" Not her again! Every day. Day after day after day after day... The buzzing from the room's fluorescent lights began to grow louder and louder, and Lauren felt her body began to magically sink into the chair as a lovely sense of dislocation overtook her. She stared at the charismatic woman dressed in a long, black trench coat who appeared oblivious to the light drizzle dampening her head and coat.
"How are you feeling, Ms. Strayer?" Dr. Cardozo reappeared at her side, and she blinked dazedly at him, not having heard him come in. He looked at her and grinned knowingly, quite certain she was feeling no pain at the moment. "I think we're finished with this now." The man gently pulled away Lauren's mask. "Don't you just love her?" He motioned over his shoulder with an instrument.
Lauren furrowed her brow. Love her? Nooooooo. I'm sick of her and this entire election. She allowed President-elect Marlowe's acceptance speech to roll right over her, the low tone of the dark-haired woman's voice soothi
After a few moments, the dentist began flushing Lauren's mouth with water and suctioning it back out, the noise preventing him from hearing the television. "Volume up two," he ordered absently.
Lauren jumped a little, shocked back to the moment when Marlowe's voice suddenly grew too loud to ignore.
Devlyn Marlowe leaned forward on the podium, her hands resting on its edges. Although she was physically exhausted from what had been a grueling campaign, one whose final numbers were the closest since the Gore/Bush fiasco twenty years prior, she fed off the crowd's energy, soaking up their excitement, the palpable charge in the air reinvigorating frazzled nerves. "We did it!" She raised a fist in victory, and the crowd roared.
The President-elect laughed warmly, then raised her palms to quiet them so she could continue speaking. Devlyn looked up and flashed a charismatic, heart-stopping smile at someone in the crowd. And Lauren sucked in a breath; her drug-induced stupor further adding to the feeling that Devlyn was smiling directly at her. Wow.
Marlowe's gaze dropped from Lauren's, and she stuck her wet hands in her coat pockets, stepping down several stairs so she could speak more directly to the crowd. A flurry of activity around her made it clear that that move wasn't expected by the Secret Service agents flanking the edge of the steps. And several of them moved smoothly into new positions before disappearing from view. "As one of my favorite authors wrote, 'When faced with what seems like an insurmountable challenge, you have but one choice... to dig deeper within yourself than you ever believed possible... to question the dedication and worthiness of your very soul... and then to throw caution to the winds and take your fate in your own two hands.' "
Lauren began choking wildly, gasping for air, her flailing arms knocking into the instrument tray and sending several tools onto her lap. Oh, my God!
The crowd had gone respectfully silent, but exploded once again when Devlyn added, "We did that, folks... and we made history in the process!" Her voice was drowned out by the cheering masses, and the anchorman broke in to add his own commentary.
"Dammit!" Dr. Cardozo clumsily yanked his hand out of the convulsing woman's mouth, her tooth trapped between the bloody tips of his shaking forceps. Thank God she didn't swallow it. My malpractice insurance is already hell. "What's wrong? Are you hurt?"
"Cu... Cu... Cu...!!!"
"What? What?" he asked desperately, beginning to panic over Lauren's agitated state. Maybe she'd sue him anyway. He practically threw down the forceps onto the askew tray, sending Lauren's wisdom tooth bouncing across the carpet.
Without warning, the woman leaned over to a small porcelain basin and carelessly ripped the jaw spreader from her mouth, spitting and hacking several times in the process. Her lips were numb, and she could barely form the words. "Cu... Cu..." She swallowed and smacked her unresponsive cheeks and lips with her hands.
"Lord have mercy, girl. What is it?"
Lauren extended her finger toward the image of the anchorman who was still chatting away happily. A still head shot of Devlyn's was floating disembodied above him as election result percentages ran in a continuous stream just below her neck, disappearing into the area where Dr. Cardozo's coat rack stood.
"She cu... cu..."
Dr. Cardozo stared at her expectantly.
"She quoted me!" Lauren was finally able to blurt out. She frowned and wiped away a long string of saliva that was dangling freely from her chin.
The man rubbed his forehead, starting to suspect that Lauren's revelation didn't have anything to do with dentistry. "Huh?"
Lauren blinked in confusion, the laughing gas making her tongue feel thick, and her senses dull. "I'm the... the author." She ran a hand through wavy, shoulder-length, blonde hair. "Sweet Jesus," she drawled, the words taking on a slur at the end. "I didn't even vote for the Yankee!"
A glimpse of color caught her eye, and Lauren suddenly peered down at her paper bib, which was speckled with red dots and several good sized crimson smears. Her eyes widened, and the color drained from her face. "Is that blo... bloo?"
"Blood," Dr. Cardozo finished, looking down at Lauren's limp form which was lying peacefully in the dental chair. "Shit." Stepping around the unconscious woman's feet, he walked over to the doorway and motioned over the receptionist. "I need a phone number."
The receptionist peered inside the exam room. "Your lawyer?"
"My lawyer," he confirmed with a scowl.
* * *
Lauren pulled into her designated parking space outside her apartment complex, shutting down the engine with the voice command 'engine off' followed by '4213' which happened to be the last four digits of her social security number. In an effort to make her life simple, she used the same four numbers for every code she had, knowing full well that any thief with minimal brainstem activity could wipe her out financially in a heartbeat. Then again, she never got locked out of her apartment or accidentally routed her grocery bill to the phone company. Simple was good, she decided.
The fair-haired woman slipped off small, silver, wire-framed glasses and leaned over, resting her forehead against the steering wheel. After she had woken up at the dentist's office, it had taken nearly thirty minutes to convince the man that she wasn't going to sue him. She explained that passing out or throwing up was her typical reaction to the sight of her own blood. Nothing like making a total and complete fool of myself to start the day off right.
Lauren groaned slightly, her jaw feeling like she'd been hit in the face with a two-by-four. She plucked a small bottle of prescription pain pills she'd picked up on the way home out of her jacket pocket. Squinting, she studied the label, then shook her head and relented, sliding her glasses back into place. Three more hours until I can take another one. Just great. Her head felt like it was going to explode this very minute.
Stuffing the bottle back in her pocket, she exited her car and slowly made her way up the outdoor staircase to her second floor apartment. With one hand, she closed the lapels of her suede jacket to ward off the chill. November in Nashville was always unpredictable. Most of the time it rained; sometimes there were even flurries. Last week it had been a balmy 65 degrees and she'd pounded away on her computer out on her balcony in the warm afternoon sun. In contrast, today it was in the low 40s, and rain clouds loomed above, the cold wind seeming to intensify the pain in her jaw.
She rounded a blind corner to her apartment, digging in her purse for the keys she'd already put away without thinking. When she glanced up, she stopped dead in her tracks. Three slightly shivering men, two dressed in suits and one in khakis and a sport coat, appeared to be waiting for her outside her apartment door.
The oldest of the trio, a heavy-set man in his late fifties with a slightly graying goatee, caught sight of Lauren and visibly relaxed. "Lauren! I'm glad we caught you. I tried to call you, but I kept getting your service."
Lauren scrunched up her face as she narrowed her eyes. "Wayne?" My publishing agent? From New York City? Here? While they had seen each other a hundred times via satellite video feeds, they'd never, in the seven years they'd been business associates and, finally, dear friends, met face-to-face. He was shorter than she'd imagined, but his virtual image had accurately portrayed his chubby, bland face, deeply-creased cheeks and overall fatherly persona.
"Damn, I need to adjust the color on my machine. You're much more of a blonde than a redhead." His eyes twinkled happily. "Hiya, sweetheart. Oooo... how does the other guy look?" He grazed her slightly black and blue cheek with his fingertips.
Lauren didn't bother to answer his question. Instead, she grinned as much as her mouth packed with cotton swabs would allow. His rapid speech and nasal, New York accent seemed much more pronounced in person.
He smiled back in response and felt himself pulled into a tight, heartfelt hug, wishing, as he had many times over the
Lauren caught a whiff of peppermint, and a light crunching sound near her ear confirmed that he was chewing a piece of hard candy. "What are you doing here?" she asked curiously, her hands grasping his biceps so she could push back and look him over again. "I sent you those contract revisions three days ago. There was no need to come all the way out here for that." She smacked his arm lightly.
Remembering that there were two strangers standing only a few feet away, Lauren's gaze traveled to the other men who were both wearing navy blue, three-piece suits, and gray overcoats. She frowned and stopped talking, pressing her lips against Wayne's cold ear so she could whisper, "I told you I'm not doing a biography for Vinnie Lagulia! I don't care if he's sitting in a federal penitentiary with nothing but time on his hands. I don't do the mob!"
At the word 'mob' the two other men's ears seemed to perk up like a curious German Shepherd's.
"Kidding," Wayne exclaimed, looking back at the men. "She's kidding, of course!" He gently grabbed Lauren's elbow and somewhat nervously guided her the few remaining steps to the door. "If you let us all in I'll make the introductions. I've got wonderful news!"