The long black limosine pulled up to the curb outside the east entrance and front steps of the U.S. Capital building. A young attractive woman dressed in a tightly fit business suit pushed the valet out of the way and opened the back door herself. Out stepped a young black man in a blue Brooks Brothers suit, followed by an attractive white woman in her late 20s. The man shook the outstretched hand of the woman who met him, then raised his hand to wave at the media, who were gathered on the steps above.
“Was this absolutely necessary?” he said to her, the smile plastered on his face, but not intended for the woman he was talking to.
“Mr. Washington, it is standard procedure. I am Ashley Kuyper with the media liaison office for incoming congressional representatives. I know that you have a lot of things on your plate, sir, but it is important that we have a media presence for all our new people. That especially goes for someone with such a dramatic flair as you.”
“I just got sworn in as a congressman not fifteen minutes ago. I haven’t even had a chance to see my office or meet my staff yet.”
“D.J.,” the woman beside him said, gently touching his arm. “I think it would be best if we played along.” They shared a knowing glance with each other, and Douglas Washington, the newest U.S. representative from the state of Nevada, nodded yes.
Douglas and his wife, Melanie, followed Kuyper up the stairs to the podium that had been set up for the short press conference. Kuyper introduced the Washingtons, and Douglas stepped forward.
“I appreciate the hearty welcome to our nation’s capital. To tell you the truth, this is my first visit here. Before this, the closest I ever got was a short stop in LaGuardia Airport. But Melanie and I are happy to be here, and we look forward to doing great things in Congress for the people of Nevada and of all the United States.” He started to step back, but saw that several reporters already had their hands up for questions.
“Mr. Washington, your political opponent in Nevada, Harvey Wagidall, has issued a statement saying that the special election was fixed, and that he would fight the decision to the supreme court if necessary. What is your reaction to this?”
Douglas smiled thinly. “Mr. Wagidall is welcome to pursue any course of action he thinks is fair and just. However, I need to remind him that we are here to serve the voters of our state and all the states. Being here is a responsibility as well as a privilege.”
Another reporter held up his hand. “Have you been in contact with any of your fellow representatives from your state? How do they feel about you taking the place of Congressman Wilson?”
Douglas’ face lost its smile. “I’m sorry that my arrival here is the result of such a tragedy. I wish the family of Congressman Wilson well, and vow to do my best to fill his very big shoes.”
“Have you been in contact with his widow?”
“Yes, I have. She wished me well after the election results came in.”
Someone else raised their hand. “Congressman, how do you feel about the prank that was pulled on the wall of the congressional chamber just last week?”
Douglas smiled again. “Well, it’s no secret that we weren’t able to be here for the opening session due to the technicalities with the election back home in Nevada. But I hear it was quite a show.” There was a chuckle from the crowd. “Seriously, though, I think this sort of thing is a travesty and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
A blonde woman in the back raised her hand.
“I’d like to hear from Mrs. Washington.” Melanie’s head perked up and she stepped forward to join her husband. “Mrs. Washington–.”
“Melanie, please,” she said.
“Melanie. Neither you or your husband have any political background so to speak. Aren’t you afraid that the behind-the-scenes politics will be hard on you and on your marriage?”
Melanie smiled thinly. “Douglas and I are very young, but we have been through a lot together. I have found that good, honest conversation between a husband and wife can cure a lot of ills.”
The same woman raised her hand again.
“I did some research on your past, Mrs. Washington. Is it true that you had a spotty period as a teenager, and even have a police record?”
Douglas stepped forward and spoke before Melanie could step forward. “We all have done things as teenagers that we aren’t proud of. My wife’s juvenile record was expunged.”
“But didn’t you have a brother who died in a horrible fire as a result of being involved with a teen gang?”
Melanie started to speak, but Douglas pulled her away.
“Thank you for your warm welcome to Washington. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.” He grabbed one of Melanie’s arms, and Ms. Kuyper led the way to the waiting limousine. All of them got in. Ms. Kuyper gestured for the limo driver to wait at the curb.
“Why did you do that?” Melanie said, obviously irritated. “I wanted to answer that question.”
“That line of questioning would have gotten us nowhere,” Douglas said. “This press conference was about me, or was supposed to be.”
“Congressman Washington is right,” Ms. Kuyper said. “I know that particular reporter. Her specialty is scandals. We don’t want to give her any information for her to run with.” Kuyper turned toward Douglas. “Good job out there. You’ll be doing a lot more posturing during the next two years here. Welcome to the game.” She reached out and shook Douglas’ hand, then Melanie’s. Then she opened the door and stepped out. The limo took that as the cue for him to pull away from the curb.
“Two years,” Douglas said to himself quietly. “Just two years.”
“You play your cards right and you will be here for a lot longer than that,” Melanie said.
“Is that what you want, Ruth? You want to be a Washington elitist?”
Melanie smiled crookedly. “Sure beats driving an old beater 90 miles an hour through the streets of San Francisco on a Saturday night.”
Douglas grinned at that one. “That, my dear, brings back some major memories.” He put his arm around his wife. “I saw that they touched a nerve when they talked about Josh.”
Melanie stared out the limo window. “Yeah, she caught me off guard. I will need to watch that in the future.”
Douglas nodded. “Because you know if she brought it up, it is bound to reappear in the future.” He noticed that the limo had stopped in the underground garage for the Congressional office building. “Want to come and see my new office, meet the staff?”
Melanie shook her head. “The first visit should be all you. You need to win them over with that D.J. charm. The stuff you used to win over Lila, remember?” She elbowed her husband.
“I think I would rather remember how I won you over,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Or was it you winning me over. I forget.”
“Come here, silly,” Melanie said, and Douglas leaned over to kiss her. He stepped out of the limousine and nodded to his wife.
“Now I want all those boxes unpacked and in the place by the time I get home tonight,” he said, shaking his finger in a mock scolding.
“Yeah, right,” she said. “Just get home tonight, if you know what’s good for you.”
Douglas slammed the door shut and watched as it drove away. He then turned to see an eager, darkskinned young man in a suit waiting for him.
“Congressman Washington?” he said, rocking backward and forward on the toes of his shoes as he talked. He held out his hand. “I am your intern.”
Douglas held out his hand. “Do you have a name, or do I just call you intern?”
The intern jumped as he realized his mistake and shook his hands as if they had been placed in hot water.
“Ohh, sorry, sorry, I did this all wrong,” he said hurriedly. “My name is Prodyat Maytrovinishi. You can call my Paddy.”
“OK, Paddy,” Douglas said, smiling. “The first thing I want you to do is relax. This your first time in Washington?”
Paddy shook his head. “Oh, no. I have been in school year for the past three years. I know the city inside and out.”
“Well, Paddy then you are one up on me. I think my wife and I will hire you to show us around.”
“And the second thing?”
“Pardon me, Congressman Washington, but you said the first thing was you wanted me to relax. That inferred that there was a second thing.”
“Right,” Douglas said. “Well, believe it or not, I am probably as nervous as you. This is my first job in Washington and I don’t want to mess it up. It’s proper protocol for you to call me by my title around here, at least in public.”
“Oh, yes sir,” he said.
“Well, you would do me a great favor if when we are together, just the two of us you could just call me D.J. Can you do that for me?”
The intern stared at the congressman.
“Is that too much to ask?” Douglas said. “It would make me feel a lot more comfortable, believe you me.”
“I…I…I guess so,” the intern said, then added, perhaps a little guiltily. “D.J.”
Douglas chuckled, and slapped the small intern on the shoulder.
“I think you and I are going to get along just fine.”
# # #
The first thing Ruth did when she got out of the limo at their new townhome was change into some old jeans and a T-shirt. Try as she might, she never was comfortable wearing formal wear. But in deference to the needs of her new husband and their assignment, she played the part that was expected of her in the glittering spotlight of congressional Washington.
After changing, she took a look at the mail that was stacked on a silver platter beside the door. They had asked the doorman to bring the mail up to their townhouse and put it where they would be sure to see it, rather than giving other people access to their private letters. She thumbed through the countless letters of congratulations for her and D.J. and a few minor bills. Finally she stopped as she found a postcard addressed to her as Melanie Berkowitz Washington. The photo on the cover showed a street scene in Los Angeles that looked familiar to her. She turned it over to see what it said on the other side. Written in block letters were three words:
“Eat at Mac’s.”