The evening's charity was an eating disorder clinic. The ballroom was filled with socialites and models as skinny as the bulimic girls who would receive their tax-deductible generosity, throwing money at a problem they would never admit they might suffer from themselves, and a horde of local bigwigs were on hand to lend their support and publicly demonstrate their lack of superficiality for everyone else's sake, and perhaps go home with a model or two.
I knew my way around The Vinoy; some of the beauty pageants Fate had competed in as a child had been held there, and since my mother never wanted to leave me sitting alone in the house, I would always be brought along, and would wind up being an extra hand in Fate's preparations. Tonight was no different. As I sat backstage helping Fate glue her false eyelashes, I overheard some of the other models gossiping.
"Yeah, right, he's here checking out the models'. I don't buy it for a second. He'd be more interested in what we're wearing than us!"
"Governor C. is so gay. Did you see how hot his staff is?"
I was pretty sure she was referring to his aides, so I cut in. "But he's a Republican, and Republican men are usually better-looking. They're so clean-cut."
The model turned to me, annoyed by my intrusion. "His seem to be especially gorgeous, as if chosen for their good looks, and not their politics."
"But that doesn't mean that he's gay."
She took a deep breath, than explained to me as if I was a child, "Unmarried men in their fifties are either womanizers or gay."
"But what if he's neither? Maybe he's just too busy to have a personal life."
"You can't be in here if you're not a model," she said with passive aggressive anger. "You have freckles. You have to get out." I shook my head as I made my way out the nearest exit.
I grabbed an unsatisfying small appetizer off a tray a shrimp and phyllo dough Thai/Greek fusion spring roll, and popped it in my mouth as I headed upstairs to the mezzanine to get away from the crowd and noise.
When I wandered into the darkened corridor, I noticed one of the doors was open, letting in the cool air from the outdoors. I opened the heavy glass door further and slipped outdoors, unnoticed. I cringed as the unbearably frigid temperatures hit me. It was barely beach weather! I leaned against a railing and stared out at the bay before me, feeling the biting breeze against my flesh. I shivered.
As I looked down at the bustling Vinoy entrance beneath me, I was suddenly aware of a presence to my left, the two of us separated only by a large stone plant holder between us. I leaned forward, a stealthy attempt to find out who it was.
There he stood in a crisp white shirt, tall hand handsome, thick, dark eyebrows curled on his furrowed brow as he stared out at the boats resting in the bay, lost in thought. His silver hair sparkled in the dappled moonlight as a few strands of hair blew in the light breeze.
It was a private moment for someone who was never left alone. He had escaped from the party, and his obligatory public appearance, and I did not want to disturb his one stolen, tranquil moment.
As I started to turn back, leaving the Governor undisturbed, my knee collided with the plant holder, and a faint pained gasp inadvertently escaped my lips. C. looked up. I had broken his trance. He looked at me, and I trembled, and then a faint smile spread across his face, intrigued by this rogue redhead who chose to stand alone outside despite the glamorous fashion inside.
"You must be as bored as I am," he said.
I nodded, and smiled a little, relieved he wouldn't behead me. He leaned against the railing.
"What's your name."
"Destiny. Destiny St. Clair."
I expected him to laugh at my unusual name, as most people did. I couldn't help it if my mother was poetic with her name choices. But he didn't laugh. He just smiled, and said, "It's nice to meet you, Miss St. Clair," in a sophisticated purr.
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with feeling. It must have been his charm, a charm I suppose all great politicians posses. At that moment, I was girlishly, giddily in love with him, as if he were a movie star. Our eyes met. His brown gazing into my green, and I felt a connection, as if I had known him from a past life.
Realizing he could see me staring at him, I looked down and away, awkwardly, then muttered the first words that came to my lips.
"Unmarried men in their fifties are either womanizers or gay. Which one are you?"
"Neither, Miss St. Clair, I am neither. Merely a civil servant." And then I sensed a pang of loneliness from him. A term full of lonely nights spent alone.
Just then a handsome, clean-cut assistant stepped outside. "There you are, Governor C. I've been looking all over for you. You have to make a statement for the St. Petersburg Times."
"I'll see you around," C. said as he disappeared through the doorway. Even though he promised it, I doubted I ever would see him again, not in person. I would watch him on TV and remember the moment I had shared with him at The Vinoy, but it would never be more than that, a moment. Or so I thought. Little did I know I was about to receive a phone call that would change my life forever....
Stay tuned for the next chapter of the satirical romance novel, The Governor's Mistress, by Heidi Lux. Missed the last installment? Read it here.
Artwork by Alex Doroin: [email protected]