Play the Ace. (two)

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for coming to hear me speak today. After much media speculation, I can now formally announce that I will be running for office in the coming election. I seek to be the next –”

Tiffany pauses. She scribbles out a long line on the piece of printed paper, and whispers, “I seek to lead our people in the pursuit of our community’s interests, to the greater and stronger futures you were promised for your children and will finally have a hand in creating.”

A hand touches her shoulder and she jumps, nearly hitting her elbow against the kitchen counter. Taeyeon smiles and gives her a kiss before moving on to the fridge.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to give you a fright.”

Tiffany takes a breath. “That’s okay. I’m just working on my speech.”

“Speech for what?” Taeyeon asks curiously, reaching up to pull out a box of cereal. “Do you have an event coming up?”

“Sort of. I’m getting ready for the inevitable press conference for my statement of candidacy.”

Taeyeon pauses, one hand on the milk. Tiffany bites her lip, and runs her finger along the edge of the paper in front of her.

“You’re preparing that already? You haven’t even met with your father and his staff yet.”

“I know. They’d be better at writing a speech for me but that’s not what I want. I need to use my own words for this, not just for the media but for myself and my father. How else can I stand in front of them tomorrow and tell them with any confidence how I feel?”

Taeyeon looks down. She prepares to pour the milk on her cereal and then stops awkwardly. She fiddles with a spoon and then she drops it and steps closer to Tiffany.

“You can do this,” she murmurs softly. “You know that, right? You can do this.”

Tiffany leans forward and her arms come up to wrap Taeyeon in a hug. “I know I can. I’m just scared.”

“Of what?”

“This is going to change everything. My life will be completely different – what if I lose all the good things I have now because of this? What if, in trying to do what I believe is important, I lose everything that’s important to me now?”

Taeyeon’s eyes meet hers with the wide, open look of earnestness that Tiffany wants to see at least once a day for the rest of her life.

“Sacrifice is part of change,” Taeyeon says, but it sounds like lines recited, once written on a worn-down gravestone. “If you lose what you have now then it means your life has been filled anew. You have to… You have to keep going to pick up the next good things.”

Tiffany stares at her for a long time. “Then what if I realize that this isn’t really what I want? What if I lose everything I have now and it turns out I never wanted anything else at all?”

Taeyeon doesn’t answer this time. They both know what she means, and they don’t talk about that any more.

“Am I trying too hard to convince myself that I’m sure about this?” Tiffany continues. She brushes the edge of her thumb all along Taeyeon’s jawline. “Because I don’t want to lose you.”

Taeyeon turns away and pours the milk into her cereal with definitiveness. “I might have to go into the office later, did you want to see if we can find another movie to watch in the morning instead?”

The pen on the kitchen counter gets tapped against the surface a little roughly a few times and Tiffany sighs. “Yeah, sure, I guess. Do you really need to work or are you still avoiding me?”

Taeyeon frowns at her, mouth half-full of cereal. “Avoiding you? I would never avoid you.”

“Avoiding the conversation, then.” Tiffany crosses her arms and leans back against the counter. “On our first date, you said it would be a good idea for me to run for office and for years since then you’ve supported me at every turn. I love you, and I love how supportive you are, but you know we need to talk about what’s happening.”

Taeyeon looks away again, chewing her cereal tersely. Eventually she finishes and sets the bowl down carefully with both hands.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Her jaw clenches, then relaxes. “That’s all.”

Tiffany can’t help but scoff. It’s only to hide the disappointment tearing at her chest from the inside; her heart swells with pain before it rips a little at the edges.

They’ve been together for years and not once has Taeyeon said those words to her.

“Taeyeon,” Tiffany breathes. “We’ve shared everything since we’ve been together. And now you don’t want to talk?”

Taeyeon’s hands move from cupping the bowl to covering her face. “I’m sorry, okay? It’s a conversation I don’t want to have. End of story.”

“Please.” Tiffany tugs at Taeyeon’s wrists, pulling her closer but wanting to see her. “Look at me. Please. Taeyeon, don’t say stuff like that. Tell me you love me.”

“Of course, I love you,” Taeyeon replies loudly. Her hands drop to Tiffany’s shoulders. “You know I love you, I love you so much. Don’t doubt that.”

“Then don’t talk like that to me! We need to do this and be honest with each other.”

“No.” Taeyeon grips the back of Tiffany’s neck with the fingers of one hand. “No, we can’t talk about this now. You need to go to that meeting tomorrow and tell them what you want to do. This can’t be about us.”

“But this is about us,” Tiffany says quietly, pressing their foreheads together. “You’re everything to me now.”

There’s that familiar look of sincerity in Taeyeon’s eyes again, and when they kiss each other it’s measured and composed.

They spend the rest of the day in bed. Taeyeon doesn’t go to the office, and Tiffany doesn’t pick a movie for them to watch.

When she wakes up alone in the middle of a lightless night, Tiffany crawls out from under the covers and sets herself down at her desk with just the lamp on, pen in one hand, neat rectangle of paper in front of her. She writes the words that show how she really feels.

On her first date with Taeyeon, Tiffany knew it was the start of something special and that was why she decided to pursue the relationship. She doesn’t consider her feelings towards her career to be similar, but as she stays up all night writing her speeches and plans, she thinks of it as the start of something special, too.

And just like her relationship with Taeyeon, Tiffany grips that paper tightly in her hands as she gets nearer and nearer to her father’s office the next morning. She’s about to lay her heart out on the table.

“Hey, kid,” her father greets warmly, and tugs her into a bear hug.

“Hey, dad.” Tiffany returns the embrace tightly, then gets ready to have a meeting with a politician, not her father.

Already at the conference table is her father’s campaign manager and the public relations consultant used by both her and her father over the years. Tiffany bites her lip, because she knows an email was sent out very early this morning requesting the presence of another person who hasn’t arrived yet.

“We can start without Taeyeon,” she says quickly. “She knows some of this already.”

Tiffany’s father looks surprised at first before nodding. “Alright. I’m sure you’ll explain everything.”

The paper in her hands is a little crinkled by now, so she straightens it out and takes a seat with everyone else.

The words swim in her head, the things she wants to say to the press and the things she wants to say in this meeting all jumbled up. She clears her throat, fiddles with a pen, and then she looks up straight into her father’s patient gaze.

“I want to change the world.” She lays her hands flat on the table’s surface. “You’ve already known that for years, but now I really want to change the world. I want to do it. I want to start with this city and keep going after that.”

“You want to run in the next election?” the public relations consultant asks, sounding surprised.

“Yes. And I want to win, too.” She glances at the staff members, giving them a little smile. “With your help.”

She can tell by the look in her father’s eyes that he’s proud. Before he can say anything, the door opens.

“Sorry I’m late,” says Taeyeon, sounding wary. “I didn’t think I was meant to be in this meeting.”

“It’s fine,” Tiffany replies immediately, trying to convey what she really means. “I’ve just informed them about my intentions for the election. Now that you’re here, I can explain some details.”

Taeyeon keeps her uncertain expression as she moves to take a seat beside Tiffany’s father, but nods greetings at everyone as she settles.

Tiffany almost bites her lip again but doesn’t, and instead takes a deep breath.

“I want Taeyeon in my campaign,” she says.

Taeyeon’s shock is palpable. Tiffany senses a similar feeling from her father and the two staff members in the room, who glance at Taeyeon in synchronicity. Taeyeon glances back at them and shrugs hurriedly.

“Taeyeon has been a great supporter of this family since she started working in my father’s office right after moving to the States, and I believe she has what it takes to manage my campaign; even if only as a deputy manager or co-manager.”

Tiffany’s father looks at Taeyeon very closely but has yet to say anything.

Taeyeon, on the other hand, is obviously trying to hide her reaction now. The clenched jaw is a dead giveaway to Tiffany, who knows she must be livid and panicking.

“Sorry for springing this on you so unexpectedly,” she says with honesty. “I was brainstorming all night. If anyone can help me win this, it’s you.”

Taeyeon just stares at her in silence.

“Do you want my advice, honey?” Tiffany’s father intones, tearing his gaze from the young woman at his side. His eyes still show some of that pride from earlier, but now they hold concern, too. “Taeyeon would be great in your campaign, but don’t reach too far with this. It’s your first election and you have a long road ahead of you. Taeyeon has great ideas for this sort of thing and I know what you’re like; together you two will develop the kind of ingenuity that most people bring about when they’re already in office. Maybe for this election you should aim for something more tried-and-true.”

Tiffany deflates a little. She knows her father means well and he has experience, but he’s suggesting exactly the thing she doesn’t in her campaign; the same old tricks, the continuation of the past.

“No,” Taeyeon says suddenly. “I’ll do it. I should do it.” She looks at Tiffany’s father with determination. “You’re right, together Tiffany and I will hold a campaign that hasn’t been seen before and that’s exactly why we should do it. Tiffany’s campaign shouldn’t be about what’s already in place and has already been used. She wants to show people that all the things they find wrong with the way the world is right now – those things will be changed and she’ll bring innovation to the community. It’s her first election, which means it’s her first step on this path, and she should take the right step from the start so she doesn’t fall.”

She looks around at the rest of the table, receiving nods of support from the public relations consultant and the campaign manager. When her eyes reach Tiffany, they watch each other silently for a long moment before nodding together.

Tiffany’s father clears his throat and sits straighter in his seat. “Okay. I agree with Taeyeon. This is the right thing to do – so let’s do it. What’s our first step?”

The paper in front of Tiffany becomes littered with pencil sketches and scrawls of places and times and slogans. She wants the right image, she wants the right words, she wants the support and the dedication of the people; she wants, she wants, she wants – she wants Taeyeon and she wants the world, she wants both. Whether she’ll get anything at all is something to keep her awake at night, but for now her dreams are for the daytime.

She feels strong, and she feels like she made the right choice, right up until they close the meeting. Taeyeon gives her a lingering look full of the same unspoken words that have tumbled around their ankles for years.

When it’s just Tiffany and her father, she already has tears growing; a little from joy, a little from being overwhelmed.

Her father stands in front of her and nearly puffs out his chest with pride.

“Tiffany,” he says. “My little girl.”

“Dad,” she sniffs, and wipes at her eyes. “Don’t, you’re making me cry.”

“You need to know this.” He rests his hands on her shoulders. “Tiffany. I’ve known you better than anyone else, all your life. I know you tell it like it is, you say things how you see them. The way you sat down today and told me what you want – that’s my girl talking, my daughter. And as your father, I’m happy and worried and hopeful. I hope that you know what you’re doing – but I know you. You know, and you’ll do this.”

They hug each other for a long time, long enough for Tiffany to think about every other hug she’s had with her father. When she was little he would carry her on his shoulders, would let her stand on his feet so they could dance together.

“Thanks, Dad,” she whispers, closing her eyes.

She toys with her phone later, in the car, being driven home, flicking through screens between messages and calls, fingers hovering over the heart symbol at the very top of all the lists.

Outside the window, the streets swarm past. Colours and sounds and people on the other side of the bubble she waits in.

No contact from Taeyeon.

She sends a message to the heart. I’m sorry for not telling you, I’m sorry for asking this of you. Please forgive me. Please come see me tonight. I love you.

 

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