Mitch entered the situation room in a cold sweat, with his heart taking turns between thudding in his chest like a busted tire, and dropping into his chest like bad ethnic food. Four months away from November, and the worst thing he’d done wrong in his entire life was about to become public knowledge.
His aide closed the door behind him. He sat down and looked at his team. Expressions ranged from ashen to expectant to angry to I-don’t-know-what-to-do-boss. “All right, what do we know?” he asked.
Kevin, his publicist said, “An anonymous supporter of the other candidate uncovered a Mrs. Russell, who worked on your staff in 1998, left quietly at the end of the year, and received a lump sum payment from one of your bank accounts in 1999. Shortly afterwards, she gave birth to a boy that she named Lawrence Mitchell Russell.”
Mitch grimaced. Did she have to use his name? It made him feel even sicker. “I hear he has my eyes,” he said.
“Is it true?”
Dick, his chief of staff, answered. “The governor doesn’t have a position at this time.”
The silence around the table reminded Mitch of the silence in a hospital, when the doctor tells you that there’s hope. It isn’t a good sound. Kevin drew a breath, probably to start talking about their damage control plan. Mitch said, “Yes I do.” It took a physical effort — like lifting weights! — for him to lift his eyes to meet theirs.
Dick jerked like he’d felt an electric shock. “Mitch… no you don’t.”
“Yes… I… do.” They’d known each other long enough that Dick knew there wouldn’t be any more discussion. “There are things you can’t hide. I am the father. I gave her money to go away and have our baby. I wanted my career, she wanted a husband, but I didn’t want the bad publicity. I offered her money and she accepted.” He felt like he was covered in tar.
“Is that how you want the press release to read?” Dick asked, before Kevin could ask the question more delicately. His voice was hushed. Mitch smiled, barely. Dick’s voice was never hushed. That was because he knew when he was sitting at a wake.
“We’ll let Kevin write it,” Mitch said. “He’s better with words.”
“You know this is a killer, Mitch,” Dick said.
“It’s the right thing. I didn’t do it back in ’89, but I’m doing it now.”
“Why do you think she’s coming forward?” Kevin asked. Kevin’s hands were already itching to start drafting copy. Mitch could see almost see the sparks.
“I don’t know what her story is. I’ll tell mine. It’ll be the truth.” Finally.
Inspired by the prompt “things you can’t hide” from Inspiration Monday at Be Kind Rewrite.