|Vetting Kelsey Harrison
Author: Dill Wilson PM
Lee Noslet is surprised when an investigator shows up in his shop to vet Kelsey Harrison for Vice President of the United States, twenty-five years after he last saw her. Is it fair to tell stories about what happened at 17?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 5,866 - Favs: 1 - Published: 08-16-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3050959
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Vetting Kelsey Harrison (PG-13)
Lee hadn't spent a lot of time focused on the Presidential primaries. He had been turned off with politics for a long time and although his wife Barbara was a die hard progressive liberal activist he didn't get caught up in all the hysteria, debates, conflicts and animosity of national politics which had gotten extremely heated and decisive in recent years. To him, being a politician was just an excuse to lie, cheat, manipulate and take advantage of people for personal gain.
Senator Bill Walton of Virginia won the Republican primary and he was going to be the party's nominee for President. Talk of possible vice presidential picks had been circulating in the press for weeks and Lee's wife was quick to tease him when the name of the Governor of New Hampshire was floated around several times.
"Oh, look, your old girlfriend is in the running," Barbara remarked one evening when a photo of Kelsey Harrison was shown on the living room's wide screen television along with a couple of other potential VP candidates.
"She was never really my girlfriend," Lee was quick to point out, glancing up from his Sports Illustrated to see Kelsey on CNN.
"Well, she was your something," Barbara replied.
"That was a long time ago," Lee said.
Even the most novice of political followers knew that Kelsey Harrison was the current Governor of New Hampshire. She was a favorite of the Republican National Committee and she was the Republican National Committeewoman for the Granite State when not serving on the board of numerous charities and political organizations.
Anybody Googling Kelsey Harrison would know that she was originally born in Boston and that she grew up in Keene NH. Her father was a successful real estate developer and her mother was a professor at Keene State College. Then known as Kelsey Martin, she served as class president and student council president at Keene High School and she then went on to attend Harvard where she served as the Secretary of the Harvard Republicans Club and graduated with an A.B. in Government.
The future Governor received a Ph.D. in political science and law from Yale where she met James Harrison whom she later married. She served as a visiting researcher in the International and Comparative Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School. She later served as an adjunct professor in criminal justice at the University of New Hampshire.
Ms. Harrison first entered into politics by running for state representative. She won the election and served two terms before being elected to the Republican State Committee. Harrison was extremely popular among Republicans and she was elected to the post of chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.
When State Senator Matt Reynolds ran for Governor, he asked Harrison to run as his Lieutenant Governor and the Reynolds-Harrison team was successful in their bid for the highest state office. As Lieutenant Governor, Harrison focused on public safety and criminal-justice programs in addition to serving as the liaison between the Governor's office and the Republican Party. Her work on criminal and domestic policy allowed her to stand out as a rising GOP star. She headed the Governor's Commission on Criminal Justice Innovation focusing on reforming the state's criminal justice system.
When Governor Reynolds left office to become Ambassador to England, Harrison assumed the Governorship and was reelected when Reynolds original term expired. She was known in Republican circles as a smart and savvy politician, remaining pro-life throughout her career even though being a pro-life woman in politics made her "a traitor to her gender" and "a slave to the men running the right wing" according to critics.
Governor Harrison's philosophy was smaller government and she worked hard to balance her state budget and invigorate the economy through spending cuts. She was also a big advocate of state rights. An attractive woman in her early forties, the Governor had become a media darling because of her television charisma and she was often seen on national television advocating for fellow Republican politicians and policies. She even had a small part in a major Hollywood movie (playing herself).
Lee hadn't seen Kelsey in at least twenty-five years. Sure, he thought about her once in a while – it was hard not to when her name and face appeared on the news so often – but he certainly didn't pine over her and he didn't think too much about her politics, celebrity, success, status or future. She was the past.
"The Gov has a good shot at getting selected," Lee admitted to Barbara with a touch of amazement in his voice.
"Oh, please," Barbara groaned. "She's a rich bitch who never had to work for a living. She's got a nanny raising her kids, she's got a trust fund, and her husband is a multi-millionaire. What in the hell does she know about being a middle class working mother trying to make ends meet?"
Lee shrugged his shoulders but he didn't reply. He had no opinion one way or the other.
"Aren't you going to say something?" Barbara asked.
"Like what?" Lee wondered. "You know I hate talking about politics. It's irritating, frustrating and maddening. I tuned out a long time ago."
"Sometimes I don't know how we stayed married," Barbara laughed. "Politics is in my blood!"
"Here are some of the things that bug me about Politics," Lee replied. "It's become much too extreme. Why is everyone either conservative or liberal with nothing in between? I hate the idea that you're not a real republican or democrat unless you're a far right conservative or a nut job liberal."
"I'm not a nut job," Barbara replied. "Besides, at least I'm involved."
"I refuse to jump in a cesspool," Lee explained. "I can't stand the insults,the cattiness, the hypocrisy, the lies, the hyperbole and the bullshit."
"It's the nature of the beast," Barbara argued. "But ignoring politics is living in denial about the realities of life. Politics are real and what we choose to stand for today and to defend today are what will survive time and will influence the future of the world."
"I'd rather watch the Red Sox."
"Did you ever consider the decisions the Founding Fathers made in producing the American Constitution?" Barbara asked. "Their ideal of freedom, individual rights, private property, prosperity through free enterprise, checks and balances, and all the other stuff is what makes our country exceptional."
"Barb, I'm not one of your high school students in your Civics class," Lee remarked.
"There is no other country like ours," she continued. "And we make a significant difference by participating in politics, by educating others on how to choose who they will vote and why, and for taking a stand on important issues so our son doesn't have to go fight in an unjust war or so our daughter can get the proper health coverage she deserves."
"The system is already bought and paid for," Lee said cynically. "I'm an Army veteran and what I did to help defend this country makes me want to puke when I hear some of this crap now."
"I understand," Barbara replied with sympathy. "But the presidential elections are rapidly approaching and it's urgent that all of us participate," she argued. "There's apathy like you have and cynicism and voter suppression and uninformed voters and low interest voters and gullible and naïve people, all of which have a say in deciding our fate."
"Sometimes ignorance is bliss," Lee countered.
She punched him on the arm. "You can be infuriating sometimes!"
"Yes," he agreed, wrapping his arms around her waist and knocking her back on the couch. "That's why you love me."
She laughed and let him kiss her. "You're a jerk."
"Thank you," he replied.
"Sometimes I think you're still a high school kid," she sighed.
"That's okay," he replied. "You still look like a high school kid."
She giggled with approval. "That's why I love you!"
She happily kissed him and Lee was amazed at how beautiful and young his wife of twenty-years looked at forty.
Their seventeen year old daughter Angela came into the house and saw her parents making out on the couch.
"Can't you do that in your room?" She half-protested, half-teased.
Her parents sat up and glanced at her with sheepish grins on their faces.
"We were just watching your father's old girlfriend on TV," Barbara said, straightening out her pixie haircut.
"She was never my girlfriend," Lee said again.
"Who?" Angela asked with interest glancing at the television.
"Governor Harrison of New Hampshire," Barbara replied.
"She could be the Vice Presidential selection," Lee explained.
"God help us if that happens," Barbara countered.
"You know the Governor of New Hampshire, Daddy?" Angela wanted to know as she stepped into the room at the same time her brother Rick came down the stairs.
"I knew her a long time ago," Lee clarified. "I doubt she even remembers me."
"Oh, you're unforgettable, dear!" Barbara laughed.
Angela went to the computer in the corner of the room and fired it up, typing in a few words into the search engine. Lee could see Governor Harrison's image pop up on the screen.
"Oh, her," Angela replied.
"Yes, her," Barbara laughed.
Rick went over to the computer screen and got a closer look.
"Hey, she's a babe!" He said with approval.
"It says she's anti-Abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or health of the mother," Angela reported. "She's a huge proponent on parental notification before abortions may be performed on unemancipated minors and she opposes any federal funding for elective abortions."
"She's also opposes Gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples," Barbara added.
"And the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act that would allow unions to automatically be formed and bypass the secret ballot method," Angela read from the screen. "She opposes increasing the minimum wage and mandatory paid sick leave. She's pro-guns and anti-single payer health care. She supports repealing the affordable care act. She supports raising the mandatory retirement age. She supported the Iraq War." Angela glanced at her father. "Geez, Dad, what did you see in her!?"
"She wasn't like that when I knew her," Lee replied.
"What was she like, Dear?" Barbara razzed.
"She's a babe!" Rick laughed.
"She also got in trouble for deleting state e-mails from her office system," Barbara said. "But Reynolds thinks she's really great."
"Well, she is pretty," Angela observed. "I bet that has a lot to do with it!"
"He's hoping a strong woman candidate can soften the blow of the party's platform," Barbara said. "He needs the northern vote and some of the swing states if he has any chance. Harrison could deliver some of that."
"Well, I'd never vote for either of them," Angela announced as she stood from the computer. "I don't like people telling me what I can and can't do with my own body."
"Good for you, dear," Barbara replied.
Angela glanced at her father. "Don't you have anything to say, Daddy?"
"Nope," he replied. "I'm just waiting for the Red Sox to start."
Rick sat in the computer chair vacated by his sister and peered at the photo of the Governor. "You know, most guys my age vote on looks more than policy anyway," he said. "They think she's a good looking chick and that's all that matters."
"That's about as sexist as it gets," Angela protested from the doorway.
"I'm just saying," Rick replied, closing examining Governor Harrison's appearance. "She's doable."
Lee forgot about the whole Governor Harrison for Vice President topic and went on with his life, ignoring the political campaign as best he could. A few weeks later, Lee was in his shade shop working when the door opened and a woman in her mid thirties entered.
"May I help you?" Lee asked, glancing up from his project.
"I'm looking for Lee Nolset," the woman replied.
"You're looking at him," Lee said. "What can I do for you?"
"Do you have a few minutes to talk, Sir?"
Lee frowned and turned off the cutting machine before taking a few steps toward the woman. "About what?" He asked.
She was a professional woman wearing a business suit. Her brown hair was curly permed and she had a serious demeanor about her. She glanced around the shade shop and could see that they were alone. She pulled out a business card and handed it him.
"Mr. Nolset, my name is Sandra McQuinn and I've been hired by the Reynolds Campaign to vet Governor Harrison as a possible Vice Presidential nominee."
"You're kidding," Lee replied, caught totally by surprise.
The deadpan look on Ms. McQuinn's face answered that question pretty quickly.
Lee sighed and walked the woman across the large one room "Eddie's Shade Shop" Workshop with it various long and wide tables, shade cutters and other equipment. There was a small office in the back of the one floor building and that's where Lee brought his guest.
Lee had worked for Eddie as a teenager and took over the business when he came back from his six year Army stint and learned that Eddie was dying of cancer.
"Have a seat," Lee offered, gesturing to a chair in front of his messy desk covered with work orders, supply inventories, and other paperwork.
"Thank you," she said, sitting.
"I must say I'm really surprised to see you here," Lee said as he sat behind his desk. "I haven't seen the Governor in nearly twenty-five years."
"I understand," she said politely.
"No offense, Ms. McQuinn, but what could I possibly say that could affect the process?" Lee wanted to know. "We were kids when we knew each other."
"I'm pretty thorough in my process, Mr. Nolset," she replied.
"I was never part of the vetting process before," Lee pointed out.
"This is the big leagues, Mr. Nolset," she explained. "There is a lot of money, prestige, credibility, and pressure involved in this."
"I want you to know that I don't care what the Governor's politics are," Ms. McQuinn said. "I don't care what your politics are. I'm here as an independent arbitrator, mediator, and investigator to make sure the Senator picks a candidate with the cleanest slate possible."
"Okay," he replied. "But hasn't all this ground been covered before?"
"You just said nobody's ever talked to you," Ms. McQuinn pointed out.
"The Governor took over for her predecessor so she never really had to go through the process," Ms. McQuinn explained. "Her resume basically starts at college but I want to go back a little further."
"I'm not sure if I'm comfortable talking to you, Ms. McQuinn," Lee admitted. "If word got back to the Governor, I could face retaliation of some sort."
"Only two people know I'm here, Mr. Nolset," she replied. "You and me. And I'm not telling anybody. Not even Senator Reynolds. So the only way the Governor would know is if you told her."
Lee sat back in his chair and stared at his visitor for a long moment. "What is it you want to know?"
Ms. McQuinn pulled a folder from her brief case that was on the floor by her chair. She placed the folder on her side of the desk top and opened it.
"So, you knew The Governor's brother," she said.
"We went to school together," Lee replied. "Sun Rise Lake School for Boys. We were classmates and we hung out but we weren't best friends or anything."
"And that's how you met the Governor."
Lee nodded. "She used to come up to visit her brother. And one summer the family rented a cottage at the lake so Tom – her brother – could make up some classes at the school."
"And you hung out with the Governor too?"
"Some," Lee said with a shrug.
Ms. McQuinn pulled out a photograph of a sports car crumpled against a tree. "Were you really driving this vehicle?"
Lee tried to mask his surprise at the twenty-five year old police photograph.
"Wow," he said. "Where'd you get that!?"
"Were you really driving this vehicle?" She asked again.
"That's what the police report said, isn't it?" Lee asked.
"The Police Report is a really fascinating read," Ms. McQuinn commented, lifting the faded gray folder off the desk and putting it in her lap. "The investigating officer didn't believe you were driving the car. The car seat was close too the steering wheel, much to close for you to fit in behind it. There was blond hair embedded in the deployed air bag. You had black hair. There was also an earring lodged in the air bag. There was a crack in the passenger side windshield when you said you were alone in the car."
"Yes, I took the car for a joyride," Lee said. "Very foolish of me."
"But your mother insists she heard the phone ringing at 3:30 in the morning and you leaving the house," Ms. McQuinn frowned. "She heard you leave on your motorcycle."
"That was before the joyride," Lee replied.
"The guy delivering the morning papers to the village said he saw a blonde girl climbing out of the car, according to the police report," Ms. McQuinn said. "And another girl from the passenger side. He even stopped to see if they were okay. They told him to get lost."
"Must have been a different accident," Lee said lamely.
"How much did they pay you to say you were driving?" Ms. McQuinn asked.
"Five grand," Lee replied.
"Why the cover up?"
"Kelsey's parents didn't like the girl she was hanging around with," Lee said.
Lee grinned. "Man, you have it all."
"Miss Hempstead died of a drug overdose about five years later."
Lee's eyebrows went up in surprise. "I did not know that," he said. "That's really too bad. I'm really sorry to hear that." He was visibly shaken.
"Is there anything else you want to tell me about Kelsey and Marilyn's…..friendship?"
"What do you mean?" Lee asked innocently.
Ms. McQuinn said nothing while she stared at him.
"You know, if you already have all the information why even bother asking me?" Lee wanted to know.
"Confirmation from multiple sources helps," she answered.
Lee sat back in his chair and sighed. "I was born and raised right here in Greenville," he said.
"My father was a bus driver and my mother was a waitress," he continued. "We lived in a fifty year old tiny ranch in one of the older neighborhoods in town. I went to Sunrise Lake on a scholarship. That motorcycle I had? Bought it used for four hundred bucks from money I made working right here."
"I imagine you felt a little out of place at Sun Rise," she commented.
"A little?" Lee asked sarcastically. "Tom Martin showed up first day Freshman year in a limo."
"You resented him for that?"
Lee shrugged. "You want to know what I really resented the most?" He asked.
"I went to that school for a chance to do better," he said. "I left my friends and my home town to go up there – a thirty mile round trip commute every day with my mother driving both ways until I could get my license. I busted my ass to get good grades. I brought a bagged lunch to save on food expenses. I wore clothes from K-Mart. And those guys could have cared less about any of it. They walked around with hundreds of dollars cash in their pockets. They wore expensive shoes and sneakers. They had refrigerators and televisions in their rooms. They were privileged and out of touch with reality. Can you imagine renting a house on the lake for the summer so your kid can make up his grades after nearly flunking out from excessive partying?"
"So Tom introduced you to Kelsey."
"Not really," Lee replied. "She was just around. Tom liked Marilyn and he liked it when Kelsey brought her up for visits. That summer when they rented the cottage is when I hung around with them the most."
"Because the parents weren't around much."
Lee nodded his head. "Would you rent a house for your teenaged son and daughter to use without parental oversight?" Lee asked. "It was party city every night."
"So they were drunk when they smashed up the sports car?
"That's probably the only reason they didn't get hurt in the crash," Lee theorized glancing at the photo on the desk again.
"Why did you take the rap when the Police knew you were lying?"
"I wanted to fit in," Lee sighed. "I wanted to be one of them. I wanted Kelsey to like me." He paused and looked at her. "Five grand was a lot of money."
"Was it worth it?"
"My parents weren't happy," he confessed. "It made it harder getting into the Army with a record. And after that summer, I never saw Kelsey again. I put it all out there for her and she wanted nothing to do with me when it was all over."
"You're from Greenville," Ms. McQuinn said. "You were a scholarship kid. Your father was a bus driver."
"I know," Lee sighed. "I just thought…."
His voice trailed off and he glanced out the window to the right of the desk.
"You did okay for yourself," Ms. McQuinn commented. "Army veteran. Your own business. A wife who teaches high school. A nice house."
He nodded. "I would have been eaten alive in their world."
"But sometimes you wonder."
"Yeah," he admitted. "Sometimes I wonder."
"You've never talked about this before, have you?"
Lee shook his head no. "There was no reason to."
"And now that the Governor has a chance to be the Vice President of the United States?"
"Can we really hold it against someone for how they acted when they were seventeen?" Lee asked.
"Character doesn't start when you decide to run for office, Mr. Nolset," Ms. McQuinn replied. "It's a life time responsibility."
"Everybody does things they have regrets about," Lee remarked.
"Yes, and if they're really sorry about them they apologize and make amends," Ms. McQuinn noted. "They don't lie, cover up, and try to buy their way out of their mistakes."
"I suppose not," Lee stipulated.
"Do you believe the Governor's behavior when you knew her allows her to be a candidate for Vice President of the United States?" Ms. McQuinn asked point blank.
"If she was a Democrat, maybe," Lee answered.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, the Republican party is supposed to be the one with all the moral social sexual family marriage values, right?" Lee asked.
"That's the perception," she agreed.
"I was in a threesome with Kelsey and Marilyn," Lee revealed with embarrassment.
"Would you care to elaborate on that?" Ms. McQuinn asked, seemingly unaffected by any potential shock value.
"That summer at the cottage," Lee said. "There was a lot of partying and depraved behavior going on. I'm pretty sure those two were sharing a bed which really freaked Tom out. One night I was half smashed and I stumbled upon the two of them, naked and fooling around."
"Kelsey and Marilyn?" Ms. McQuinn asked just to make sure she understood correctly.
Lee nodded affirmatively. "I don't know if they were lesbian, bi, drunk, or just adventurous and I never asked but I didn't pass up the opportunity either."
"I see," Ms. McQuinn replied.
"So when I hear all this stuff about anti same-sex marriage and all the rest of it I can't help but wonder," Lee replied.
"Of course Marilyn isn't available to verify this alleged incident," Ms. McQuinn remarked.
"You think I'd make something like that up?" Lee asked with surprise.
"Anything else I should know about?"
"There was a guy hanging around earlier that spring," Lee said. "I don't even remember his name. Stevenson? Sheperdson? Sanderson? I forget. He was a friend of Tom's."
"Alfred R. Shepardson III," Ms. McQuinn revealed.
"He had the hots for Kelsey," Lee said. "I think they did the horizontal a few times."
Ms. McQuinn nodded but didn't say anything.
"Not long after the car accident, Kelsey asked me if I'd drive her to Springfield….for a doctor's appointment."
"A doctor's appointment?"
"It was at a clinic," Lee clarified.
"Are you telling me that you drove to her get an abortion?"
"I never asked. Marilyn was with her. I waited in the car. But she didn't look all that great when she came out."
"And once again Marilyn isn't here to verify this alleged incident."
"So the Republican Party's platform is all about the sanctity and dignity of human life and the Governor has made it clear that she is pro-life and all that but I can't help but wonder how she can be such a hard liner after her apparent experience," Lee remarked.
"So you think the Governor is a hypocrite?"
"Everybody changes in their views from experience, age, maturity and awakenings," Lee said. "But when it comes to politicians sometimes I wonder where the personal values end and the politics start. I think Politicians are hypocrites and liars by nature."
"Was there anything else she did back then that bothers you now?" Ms. McQuinn asked.
"I was born and raised Catholic and sometimes I would have to bag out on those guys to go to Mass or whatever and Kelsey loved to give me a hard time about that," Lee recalled. "She used to sarcastically call me a 'Chris-ton' and a statue lover. Now she's out there ranting and raving about the free exercise of religion in the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country," Lee complained. "She supports the right of students to engage in prayer in public schools but she's anti-Muslim in some of her rhetoric. She was the least religious person I knew back then."
"Maybe she found God," Ms. McQuinn offered.
"Maybe," Lee said. "Look, I don't mean to come across as resentful or bitter," he added. "I guess I'm just jaded by Politics."
"Because of your experience with the Governor?"
"Partly," he admitted. "But I've seen other examples of greed, backstabbing, double standards, insincerity, two-facedness and all out pandering and it's made me extremely suspect and untrusting of most people who make it a career in politics. I'm sure everybody including the Governor wants to do good work and make a difference and help people but mostly I think they're just out there looking to help themselves first."
"Of course, your father was a politician briefly," Ms. McQuinn noted.
"Boy, you've left no stone unturned, Ms. McQuinn," Lee commented.
"It's my job."
"Yes, he ran for the school committee when my kid sister was in the Greenville School system," Lee recalled. "He stood up against the established and popular entrenched Superintendant, questioning some of his ethics and policies and Dad figuratively got his legs cut off for it. A local political columnist was particularly brutal, calling my father a hayseed and an uneducated misguided parent with an ax to grind. It was pathetic. Of course, long after my father was run off the committee, it was discovered that the beloved and connected Superintendant had been misappropriating funds for personal gain and using school maintenance crews at his private residence so I guess my father got the last laugh."
"It always catches up to people, Mr. Nolset," Ms. McQuinn said as she collected her things and stood up, reaching her hand out toward him. "Thank you for taking the time to speak with me."
"I'm suddenly feeling guilty as hell," he admitted, standing too.
"Don't," she advised. "I never consider any information obtained from just one source," she said. "If I can verify anything you've told me with a second person, I may include it in my findings. Otherwise, it's just hearsay."
"Well, good luck with the rest of your vetting, Ms. McQuinn," Lee said as he shook her hand.
He led her to the door and nodded to her as she left the workshop.
Lee sighed heavily as he closed the door behind her. "God forgive me," he said.
Weeks passed and Senator Walton chose Governor Steve McCarthy from Minnesota as his vice-presidential running mate.
"Oh, wow!" Barbara exclaimed when she heard the news. "That's a safe pick. McCarthy's about as bland as tomato soup."
"I guess," Lee replied, his head spinning and his heart thumping.
He was convinced that he had prevented Governor Harrison from getting the pick.
"Are you sorry your girlfriend didn't get the job?" Barbara asked.
"She was never my girlfriend," Lee replied.
A few weeks later, Governor Kelsey Harrison of the Great State of New Hampshire was making an appearance at Green College in Greenville to discuss politics and campaign for Senator Walton. Lee had no interest in going, of course, but Barbara razzed him for days about it.
Lee was working in his shade workshop one afternoon when the door opened and three men in suits entered.
"Lee Nolset?" A burly guy asked.
"Sir, I'm Captain John Williams with the New Hampshire State Police," the guy announced. "Would you be able to accompany us for a few moments?"
"Aren't you guys out of your jurisdiction?" Lee asked (Greenville was in Massachusetts).
"We're members of Governor Harrison's security detail, Sir," Captain Williams replied. "The Governor would like to have a few moments of your time."
Lee felt his throat go dry. Did she know? Had Ms. McQuinn lied to him? Did the investigator reveal all her sources to the Governor? Did Kelsey know that her old friend had backstabbed her by telling the truth?
"Okay," Lee replied, grabbing his coat and following the Officers out of the workshop, locking the door to his shop behind him.
The officers escorted him to a black SUV and they drove him to the Holiday Inn Deluxe in Greenville, taking him to the Executive Suite atop the building.
The door was closed behind him leaving him alone in the large room. The door to the bedroom opened and Governor Harrison appeared. She smiled warmly when she saw Lee standing by the door. Of course Lee recognized right away, and not just from the television.
"Hello, Lee," she said pleasantly.
"Governor," Lee said formally.
She laughed. "Come on, Nullset, it's me."
She smiled, affectionately recalling the nicknames from years ago.
"How have you been, Lee?"
"I'm okay," he said, knowing it was the truth.
"You stayed in Greenville all these years?"
"I was off in the Army for six years but I came back, yeah," he said. "Got married. Took over the shade shop I worked at when I knew you. Got two kids."
"I'm really happy for you, Lee," The Governor replied warmly. "That's great."
"Congratulations on all your successes," Lee said, somewhat awkwardly.
"Thanks," she said as she slowly crossed the room toward him. "I guess I've done okay for myself."
He didn't want to bring up the Vice President thing.
"Sorry for all the cloak and dagger stuff with my detail," Kelsey said when she reached him.
"It was a little weird," he admitted.
"Its hard for me to get out in public but I wanted to see you for a moment, Lee."
"To apologize to you," she said softly.
"You don't have to do that, Governor."
"Yes I do," she said strongly. "I was the typical self-absorbed teenaged rich bitch twat who caused my parents no end of grief. I was a drunk and druggie who should have been arrested and institutionalized. I was a major douche bag and I contributed nothing but heartache to a lot of people, including you who I used to no end."
Now Lee felt really bad about her not being chosen as VP.
"Fortunately, I got a lot of therapy that allowed me to get my head on straight and I've been able to tell my parents and my brother that I'm sorry for my behavior and I'm grateful that I've been able to show my gratitude and help them out," she said.
"That's terrific, Kelsey."
"But I never got a chance to apologize to poor dear sweet Marilyn," Kelsey sighed. "I feel bad about what happened to her but that would have been me if I hadn't pulled my head out of ass like you always told me too."
He smiled. "I'm glad you finally listened to me."
"I've thought about you a lot over the years, Lee," she let him know.
"I've followed your career."
She waved her hand. "None of this matters," she said. "I was lucky enough to find a man who would have me despite my flaws and I'm happy to have children and a job that allows me to do something positive and helpful."
She was close to him now, a mere foot separating them. "Thank you, Lee," she whispered.
"For what?" He asked nervously.
"For loving me when nobody else would," she said softly. "For believing in me when nobody else did. For helping me when nobody else could be bothered." She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. "You were a big influence on my life back then. I didn't deserve your kindness."
"Sorry you didn't get the Vice Presidential pick," Lee foolishly blurted out.
She laughed. "I would have turned it down anyway," she said.
"Really?" Lee asked, stunned.
"Even if I had made it through the vetting process –which I obviously didn't by the way – I would have said no," she revealed. "That's not what I want to be doing."
Lee felt as thought he had been let off the hook.
The door opened and an aide walked into the room. "Excuse me for interrupting, Governor, but the Lieutenant Governor is on the phone for you."
"That's fine, Susan," Kelsey replied. "I'll take it in here." She smiled at Lee. "Thanks for stopping by, Lee. I can't tell you how much it means to me seeing you again."
"It was great seeing you too, Governor."
"Take care of yourself, Lee."
"You too, Kelsey."
"Susan, would you show my friend the way out, please?"
The Governor had already turned and was heading for the table where the phone was. Lee gave her one last look, amazed at how beautiful she was close up and how sincere she had been with him before he followed the aide out of the room.
That night, Lee was lying in bed with Barbara watching the late news on Channel 32 when a live report was made from the campus of Green College where Governor Harrison had given a speech. The report featured shots of the Governor speaking.
"Oh, look, there's your girlfriend," Barbara teased.
"She's looking pretty good," Lee replied.
Barbara turned to her husband and grinned. "What's gotten in to you?"
"I've been thinking that maybe Politics doesn't always have to be bad," Lee replied.
"Wow, there's hope for you yet!" Barbara giggled.
She nestled against him as they watched the rest of the news report and somehow Lee felt that the Governor was looking directly at him when she looked into the camera.