Play the Ace. (zero)

Tiffany has been fielding reporters since she was sixteen when her father decided to run for mayor. It’s a practised ease she uses when she’s talking to – or rather at camera lenses or politely resisting the urge to shield her face from seas of flashing lights. She does a good job of it, like with most things she does, and reporters find her as charming as the general public does. They watch her go with a warm feeling as if they’ve made a real connection with her, and all the while Tiffany is aptly disguising her desperate escape as a graceful exit, flowing from one stage to the next.

“What’s after this appointment?” she murmurs out of the corner of her mouth, flicks a smile at a young man across the room with a press pass hanging on his neck.

“Nothing,” her assistant replies, scampering slightly behind her in a way that seems like her default movement setting. Maybe it is. They’ve been doing this for years. “This ends at nine and then you’re done until Wednesday morning. I’ll email you the finalised schedule for next week as soon as we get confirmation.”

Tiffany waves her hand distractedly. “Okay, that’s all good.”

Her mind is already drifting but her smile stays in place. The closer her feet take her to the exit in the final mingle-cycle of the room, the more she’s thinking of what she’s going to do right after she leaves this event. Her fingers are itching already with the urge to do it right now, to whip out her phone and dart to her contacts list. It’ll be the entry right at the top, under ‘Favourites’, because it’s just a symbol, no letters – a heart.

“And the new councilman says -”

It’s been two days since they spoke.

“- people could not stop laughing!”

Tiffany does her light, airy gosh-you’re-funny laugh, and touches the man gently on the arm as if she really knows what the heck he’s talking about. Was it a joke? He seems to think it was a joke. Okay, she’ll treat it like a joke. She calls him a rascal, kisses him daintily on the cheek as she says her farewells, and gravitates to the next group; nearly at the finish line.

“Miss Hwang,” she’s greeted, perhaps frostily, by a local member of the Senate. “Rumour has it you’re thinking of following in your father’s footsteps now that you’ve got your doctorate. Should I be calling you my competition?”

The glint in his smile is edgier than his voice, which is finely crafted with age-old democratic nicety.

“No need to let rumours scare you out of your seat just yet, Senator,” she replies, making no effort to slip acid into her words or face because she’s being sincere and honest. “And if I do decide to pursue politics any further,” she adds, wondering if he’d notice the shift away from her father’s shadow, “I can only hope the world will be ready for what a Korean-American woman can bring to the table, and that such a table would be open to me after all its years spent under the command of men such as yourself. Enjoy the rest of your evening, sir.”

Her heart is beating a mile a minute and she lets it carry her out the door, down the steps, and into the limo waiting for her. She hardly takes notice of the few reporters still straggling outside in the cold winter air, giving the default smile-and-wave as she passes. Once the door is closed and the vehicle is moving towards her apartment, she takes slow breaths and she thinks.

The meeting on Wednesday morning. It’s with her father, his campaign manager, and their usual public relations consultant. It’s not just rumour, she’s really going to do it. And that meeting will be when she makes her sale. Something like the Senate will be a long way off, but one day…

Her fingers fumble for her phone, and the call she makes is answered in one and a half rings.

“Hi.”

“Hey.”

That’s all they say at first, and it’s left to sink in.

“What are you doing tonight?”

“Nothing at all,” comes the reply. “Your schedule for tomorrow?”

“Clear as a cloudless sky. Come over as soon as you can.”

“Yes, boss.”

Tiffany clicks her tongue, and she can tell they’re both smiling as they say nothing for a while.

“Love you,” she says softly.

“Love you too. See you soon.”

The limo is nearing her apartment, and Tiffany clutches her phone tightly in her hand long after the call ends as if she’s holding a genie in a bottle. She almost wishes she was. Or rather, she wishes it was Taeyeon in a bottle.

Her free hand goes to her face, and she massages her temples with the tips of her fingers.

What a silly thing to think. Taeyeon in a bottle. An incredible image. Tiffany’s lips twitch with amusement, but it’s not enough to cover what she really feels – because she really does wish Taeyeon was right here, within reach, and that she didn’t have to wait until they could be together.

But.

Politics.

She sighs. She didn’t know for sure that the world was ready for a Korean-American woman moving up the ranks of political power; what were the prospects for a Korean-American woman who was in love with another woman?

The limo stops. Tiffany takes the time to thank her driver and wave him off as he disappears around the corner. She stands outside in the chill for a few moments, letting it brush across her skin and make her body pull tighter in on itself. Her phone chirps with a text from the heart – a brief ‘on my way now’ message. She spins around and takes confident strides all the way to her apartment on the fifth floor, no longer letting discomfort edge along her mind.

Because Taeyeon is on her way.