The steps of the White House stood a short distance before him. He was wondering if he could even climb them as his wife urged him forward with the tug on his elbow. Having been reminded of her presence, and just how it had gotten him here, he stepped forward with less hesitance.
His steps matched hers as the ground’s elevation rose higher as they approached side by side. He knew he couldn’t allow her to lead him for even a step, and he knew that she would likely make that attempt. After all, she had gotten him here, she was the one with the most strength, and the most political savvy to go along with it. But now he had to push himself, just to avoid the embarrassment of being bested by his First Lady. It would be especially bitter on the first day of the job.
There were plenty of times that the wives of a United States President were the stronger of the two. There just wasn’t any precedence for the leader to be a woman. He had thought briefly about being the “First Husband”, but only out of ego, he couldn’t fathom such an idea for a very long time. It was a certainty that none of the male members in the political party would accept it. And having attained their status as working members of Congress, death would be easier to accept by them.
The clicking of shoes beside him reminded him that there were also many others that had delivered him to these stairs, some of them being other politicians, but most were not. Even though politicians didn’t want to admit it, they were a weaker part of the various groups who determined the next president. As it had been for many years, it was the men with money who really determined the next person to sit in the Oval Office. As a little sweat broke out on his forehead he wondered how much they weighed in the First Lady that would be escalated to the position at the same time.
That he was a pawn was well known to him. He had been a pawn ever since they began talking to him while his daddy was The President. They guided him into the governor’s position in their favorite state, which was determined by the money men as well. It didn’t matter where he actually lived, as long as he owned a home in the state of their choice. Million dollar homes were easily built, and even easier to fund in the first place.
Aside from trips to the mansion a few times a year, for the past several years, he had never been to the state before. He knew what they meant by ‘building a claim for residence’, but didn’t dare dispute or discuss it. They would have had him supplant a member of the party, giving the newest candidate his very home and dumped the former owner somewhere else, but it was easier to phony up the actual date of the new resident by claiming to have started building the new mansion years earlier. Even if it came to dating a building permit, it was such a small thing there was no one important that would ever check on it’s progress.
Of course the former resident would gladly give up his position in the state, after all, he had to be a good party member. He knew that his resistance would never be forgotten and held as an axe over his throat forever. Political ambitions aside, getting sponsors for any future money-making enterprise would have dried up like a mushroom on a hot sidewalk. You just didn’t insult the party with your personal difficulties, for any reason!
The new President determined that he liked the wild looking trees as they swung their heavy limbs towards the road. The Governor’s Mansion had trees also, but they had been scaled back allow a safety zone where the snipers could pick off any intruders. Except for those by a back window they were so far away they might as well have been painted on a distant wall. He was only thinking of the trees as he climbed the stairs, to do more would distract him from the task he needed to do right now, beating his wife to the top of the stairs.
But he couldn’t help himself. Looking up suddenly he glanced all around himself, seeking the illusive trees. The White House was even worse than the Governor’s Office, he would have had to twist completely around to see any trees from where he was, nearing the foreboding steps.
He had wanted to take his dog on the forced march to his new residence, but The Secret Servicemen had persuaded him not to take the risk. He agreed that it wouldn’t look good if he should trip on the leash or something worse. It was all appearances now, it had been for several years now. He began wondering if he had ever not felt the presence of appearance weighing on his shoulders. Even before his dad was elected President, he himself had to bear up under scrutiny for a future political career. This new election was only the second in line for the family, but his grandfather was deeply into politics long before, filling political pockets, doing favors for the party, as well as some unscrupulous deeds as well. Way back then things weren’t monitor so closely by the media and a lot more could be gotten away with.
This new President was very thankful that his grandfather had determined his role long before he had even been born. Many times in his life he had been fraught with doubts as he failed in innumerable enterprises. He just didn’t seem to have any business acumen. Then he thanked his father and his connections, clearing his way financially over the hurdles of failure. All in all, this was the only job he was probably meant to ascend to.
But his teeth were gritted in defiance when he thought about all the things he wasn’t allowed to do over the years. It seemed the higher they pushed him, the less freedom he had. Right now he felt uncomfortable in a very tight suit, even though it had been hand-made for him. But he wasn’t sure if he was only talking about clothing or. He was sure that it was as comfortable as any suit could possibly be. It was surely as comfortable as money could buy, his daddy and The Party would have seen to that for absolute sure.
At the top of the steps he reached for a handkerchief. His wife caught his wrist and stopped it quickly, almost with martial-arts speed and skill. Without a second of hesitation her other hand seemed to be brushing his hair from the front of his face. Only a carefully folded set of fingers, with a well hidden piece of cloth rubbing against his forehead made him aware of her real intention. In the sweep of his hair his skin was also rubbed free of the sweat that had developed during the climbing of the stairs. That it was all appearances was never forgotten by her. It would never work to have her seen with an incompetent, slightly weaker man. At least as far as appearances went anyway.
As she dropped her hand he noticed that she wore a pair of gloves that he had never seen before. It was suspicious since she had told him before that she hated wearing anything on her hands. It also wasn’t cold today, not even slightly cool. He attributed it to a fashion statement, as would most of the people who had noticed them. They hadn’t fooled her trainers either, nor did the rehearsed brush across his face. They were almost giggling with the cleverness of their anticipation skills, as well as her well known physical skills.
They turned quickly at the top. His arm swung out widely and high as he saluted the crowd that had followed him from the signing in ceremony. The car that was supplied for his possible weakness during the march had swerved off and left with several other vehicles. His mouth opened widely to catch his breath, but the smile had been trained to appear whenever he faced a crowd. He drew his breath as slowly as he could without choking. He knew that it wouldn’t appear that he was breathing hard at all. He had practiced it for a week in front of a mirror. Camera crews were held to the bottom of the stairs, and only official media were going to allow close-ups, but not until he, or rather, they, were given time to stop breathing heavily.
He recalled almost breaking his leg one time jumping from the treadmill to witness his face under breathless duress. Shutting it off wasn’t normally done when he was training himself, and this time he stepped on the moving platform rather than the unmoving edge of it. Only the layers of thick cushion placed there by his security team had saved him from breaking something visible above his waistline. He cringed at using the makeup that was to cover the redness of the scar produced scrape across his cheek, but it had to be done. It eventually became something that he was adept at, having to do it himself several times during his life when he wanted to emerge unscheduled into the public and there was no one around to do it for him.
After waving for several minutes he began to feel a weakness in his arm, even though he wasn’t using the arm that he hadn’t fallen on. He might’ve made a mistake, it was more natural for him to use his other hand for that. He hadn’t even noticed his wife step around him as he turned to face the crowd. She had his arm trapped behind her own arm before he had even completed the turn. But even the good one was getting tired.
At the end of the race he had succeeded only because of his last minute quick step. It was scheduled and practiced that he would turn to his left, allowing the new First Lady to pivot around and be on the right side of him, the side that had to be protected. But she had stepped off the final step just ahead of him and he couldn’t allow that. With his turning in the wrong direction she was forced to hesitate and step behind him for her grasp on his arm.
He snickered quietly, wondering if she had really thought that he could ever forget his handicap for an instant. It had been the only mistake she had made during the whole campaign, and probably the brightest instant of his own devising.
While not a particularly bright student in any other regard, in the field of politics he grew up being force fed the rules and even he remembered some of them. This one was the most obvious and unforgettable. The last minute manipulations were the most effective. Nothing could be done to counter them if they were done right, and there wasn’t any time left for it.
He had stepped and turned more precisely than he had ever done before and had tipped the show into his favor. He would undoubtedly pay for it later, as she would never forget such a crushing maneuver. But he was The King today, and had attained some valuable leverage with the large step he had taken. Even though she was fully capable and likely to seek revenge, she was now limited to such actions that wouldn’t look down upon his ascension in the eyes of the media, but that she would be forever condemned for if she had used them. She was too smart for that, and hand-picked because of it.