Home > Mr. President (White House #1)

Mr. President (White House #1)
Author: Katy Evans

1

YOUR NAME IS MATTHEW
Charlotte


We’re in a suite at The Jefferson Hotel where Benton Carlisle, the campaign manager, is smoking his second pack of Camels by the open window. Exactly eight-tenths of a mile from here, the White House stands all lit up for the evening.

All of the televisions inside the suite are set on different news channels, where the anchors continue reporting on the ballot-counting progress of this year’s presidential election. The names of the candidates are being tossed around in speculation—three names, to be exact. The Republican candidate, the Democratic candidate, and the first truly strong independent candidate in U.S. history—the son of an ex-president and at barely thirty-five, the youngest contender in history.

My feet are killing me. I’ve been wearing the same clothes since I left my apartment this morning, headed to the polling station, and cast in my vote. The entire team that has been campaigning for the past year together met here at noon—at this suite.

We’ve been here for over twelve hours.

The air is thick with tension, especially when he walks into the living room after taking a break and heading into one of the bedrooms to talk to his grandfather, who’s been calling from New York.

His tall, wide-shouldered frame looms in the doorway.

The men in the room stand, the women straighten.

There’s just something about him that draws the eye—his height, his strong but unnervingly warm gaze, the polished ruggedness that only makes him look more male in a business suit, and his infectious smile, so real and engaging you can’t help but smile back.

His eyes pause on me, visually measuring the distance between us. I left for an errand and just came back, and of course he notices.

I try to stay composed. “I brought you something for the wait.” I speak as smoothly as I can and head into one of the bedrooms with a tightly closed brown bag meant to appear to be food. He follows me.

He doesn’t close the door—I notice that—but he pushes it back so that only an inch remains open, giving us as much privacy as possible.

I pull out a crisp men’s black jacket and pass it to him.

“You forgot your jacket,” I say.

He glances down at his jacket, then the most beautiful dark-espresso eyes raise to mine.

One glance. One brush of fingers. One second of recognition.

His voice is low, almost intimate. “That would’ve been difficult to explain.”

Our eyes hold.

I almost can’t let go of his jacket and he almost doesn’t want to take it.

He reaches out and takes it, his smile soft and rueful and his gaze perceptive. I know exactly why that smile is rueful, why it is soft with tenderness. Because I’m barely hanging in there tonight and there is no way that this man—that this man who knows it all—doesn’t know.

Matthew Hamilton.

Possible future President of the United States.

He sets his jacket aside and makes no move to leave the room, and I glance out the window as I try not to stare at his every move.

Through the open window, a breeze that smells of recent rain and Carlisle’s cigarettes flits into the room. D.C. seems quieter tonight than usual, the city so still it seems to be holding its breath along with the rest of the country—along with me.

Quietly we head into the living room to join the others. I’m careful to take a spot in the room that’s nearly opposite his—instinct. Self-preservation maybe.

“They’re saying you’ve got Ohio,” Carlisle updates him.

“Yeah?” Matt asks, quirking a brow, then he glances around the room, whistles for Jack, his shiny black German Shepherd Lab mix, to come. The dog darts across the room and leaps onto the couch, setting himself on Matt’s lap and letting him stroke the top of his head.

“… that’s right, Roger, the Matt Hamilton campaign pulled off an impressive feat this year until, well, that incident …” the anchors discuss. Matt grabs the remote and turns it off. He glances at me briefly.

One more connection, one more silent look.

The room falls silent.

In my experience, guys love talking about themselves and their accomplishments. Matt, on the contrary, avoids it. As if he’s sick of rehashing the tragedy of his life’s story. The story that has been the center of the media’s attention since his campaign began.

You can note varying degrees of respect in a person’s voice when they talk about a particular U.S. president. For some presidents, the degree is nonexistent, the tone more like contempt. For others, the name is turned into something magical and inspiring, filling you with the same feeling you’re supposed to get when you look at a red, white, and blue American flag: pride and hope. Such was the case with the Lawrence Hamilton presidency—the administration started by Matt’s father several terms ago.

My own father, who until then had supported the opposite party, soon became a staunch Democratic supporter, swayed by President Hamilton’s charisma. The man’s incredible connection with people spread across not just the nation but overseas, improving our international relations. I was eleven when I was first introduced to Hamilton’s legendary charm.

Matt Hamilton, in his teens when his dad began his first term, had everything, his future bright. I, on the other hand, was still very much a girl, with no idea who I was or where I was going.

Over a decade later, even now I struggle with the sense of failure of having not lived up to something important. A meaningful job and a guy that I loved, those were things I wanted. My parents wanted more from me, politics. I went into social services instead. But no matter how many people I’ve helped, how much I’ve told myself that being an adult only means that I will be in my prime to really make a difference, I cannot help but feel like I not only didn’t live up to what my parents wanted for me. But what I wanted for myself.

Because at this very moment as we wait for the next President of the United States to be announced, both of those dreams of mine hang in the air—and I’m afraid when the results come in, they will both vanish my hopes into nothing.

I wait silently as the men create conversation, Matt’s voice reaching me occasionally.

Ignoring him feels impossible, but it’s all I can manage today.

The suite is grand, decorated to appeal to the tastes of those who can afford rooms that cost a thousand dollars a night. The kind of hotel to offer mints on your pillows and they have been extra hospitable to us, because Matt’s a celebrity. They’ve gone as far as to send up yogurt pretzels, after the press made sure everyone knew they’re his favorite.

There was even a bottle of champagne being chilled. Matt asked one of the campaign aides to remove it from the room. Everyone was surprised, they all felt that it meant Matt thought they’d lost the election.

I know that’s not the case, instinctively. I simply know if the results are not what he hoped for, he won’t want that cool champagne sitting there, a reminder of his loss.

Leaving Jack on the couch, he restlessly stalks across the room and takes a seat beside his campaign manager by the window, and he lights a cigarette. Memories play in my head. Of my lips circling the same cigarette that was on his lips.

I watch Jack, his warm puppy eyes and lightly wagging tail, to avoid looking at him. The dog raises his head on alert as Mark walks into the room, breathless, eyes wide, as if he cannot believe whatever it is that just happened—or is happening. He informs the room that the count is in. And as he announces the name of the next President of the United States of America, Matt’s gaze locks with mine.

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