Authors: Jaci Wheeler
He continued, “Miss Star came to us and told as that while monitoring the activities on your school playground from the video feed, she was able to witness something spectacular! The kids, ages five and six, were all playing freeze tag at play time. It was the favorite game of that age group she informed us. Every day the kids would play this game and every day your friend Wes would either have to sit out or cry anytime someone touched him. He couldn’t stand being touched she told us, and every time a child would do so, he would have a meltdown and the game would be ruined; therefore, none of the other children wanted to play with him. Miss Starr said she could tell by watching you that you were always torn during play time. Many times you would purposely hurt yourself and ask Wes to sit and play a private game with you, but Wes started catching on what you were doing and would try to make himself play, but then none of the other children would let him. On this particular day she said she watched as you sat on the grass with Wes watching the game and all of a sudden jumped up and ran off. She was worried because she was afraid something was wrong so she followed you with the cameras. You had gone into the Art room and asked if there were scraps of material you could have. The teacher had just finished a project with a bunch of felt strips and gave them all to you. You thanked her and went running back to the playground. You got all of the kids together to tell them about a brand new game that was the talk of the town. You made all the kids so excited to play this new game called “Flag tag.” Instead of touching a person to freeze them they had to pull the felt out of the back of the student’s pants. Everyone had to have felt tucked in and hanging down so that when the person was “it” they had to chase after the other kids and grab their felt. When their felt was taken, they were frozen. The person only won the game when they had grabbed everyone’s felt. The kids all took to this idea right away and you told them it was Wes who really knew how to play and he would show them how to place the felt. He was instantly accepted into the game, and everyone embraced him as a part of the group from that day on.” Lucas looked at me with awe in his eyes. I remember that day well. I used to cry myself to sleep at night thinking about how hurt Wes was, and how badly he wanted to be accepted.
“What you don’t understand is that I wasn’t being selfless at all. I wasn’t just doing it for Wes, I was doing it for me. I wanted to play tag, I was sick of sitting out and pretending to be hurt. It was out of selfishness that I came up with the idea.” I told them. I don’t want them putting me on a pedestal I didn’t earn. Lucas smiled widely at my statement.
“Because you see it that way, Rosaline, is exactly why you will make the best President we ever had! You don’t see yourself as selfless; you can see your own human nature for what it is. There are many people who do great things, but also see how wonderful they are. Pride is always a man’s biggest downfall; this is especially true for the President. The fact that even as a child you not only saw a need and fixed it, but you gave the glory to your friend, not yourself is what set you apart. Children don’t understand the idea of self-sacrifice
at such a young age, they are proud of their accomplishments and want the world to know. It’s natural and its beautiful in its place…but You Roz, you were made to bring out the best in others.”
I have silent tears rolling down my face. Is this really how they see me? Was I made to become President even as a child?
Nadine Speaks up. “Rosaline, you asked if Vaughn did anything to make us want to replace him ten years ago, and the answer is no. For the first time in the history of our country, the future President came looking for us and not the other way around. All of us on here on the Council were in the room that day. All of us were in tears, yes even Peter.” This earned a chuckle from everyone in the room.
“That day, when you were 6 years old you became the President of United America, in our eyes. Our mistake in the matter, one we have chosen to regret every day sense was informing the Career Board that this was our decision. Unless, they could show us any reasons otherwise, as soon as you were able we wanted you to be here and running the Country. You see we hadn't even realized what we were missing until a little 6 year old girl opened our eyes. If you could do that at such a tender age, just think of all you are capable of now."
Simon cleared his throat. "I think we need to get back on track to what happened."
She looks sad now, like the past is coming back to her mind and regretting this decision. I was so caught up in how she was feeling and needing to know why she was so sad I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Why? What happened Nadine?” She gave me a sad smile and looked around the table at the others, almost looking as though she were asking for permission to continue. She must have gotten what she wanted because she went on.
“President Vaughn somehow figured out that once you were sixteen you were going to become the new President.”
Now understanding dawned. “And he would be out.” It wasn’t a question exactly, but she nodded anyway.
“Yes, he would be out. He didn’t come to the board with his concerns, which obviously would have been best. Slowly over time he started acting more strangely. He began working longer hours, pushing himself and the people harder and harder. It started to get out of control. We approached him and told him he had to take it easy, that he was riding them and himself too hard. Then he started not trusting those who worked for him. Began to cut them out of his confidences, and alienate everyone, including his family. The older you got, the worse it became, him trying to prove himself to us. It wasn’t about proving anything to us at all. He is brilliant. He has come up with more ideas and integrations than any other President. He has made our country run efficiently and strong for the past two decades. We told him all of this. That we appreciate him and everything he has done. But that his pride had gotten in the way. We never told him who you were, but we did tell him the year you would be taking over. We informed him that if he didn’t shape up and stop riding himself and everyone else so hard, we would find a replacement for him in the meantime. He said he understood, and things went back to normal, or as much as they could anyway. But last year, it all went sour.” She stopped talking and I noticed she had tears streaming down her face.
Samuel patted her back and grabbed her hand and took over for her from there. “You see Roz.” He began speaking completely subdued. The joking laughing man from earlier completely vanished. “Pride, hurt, anger; all these things are natural feelings, but when they go unchecked, unresolved, they can change a person completely. We don’t know how he was in his home life. We don’t believe in monitoring a president on their off time when they are with their family, it crosses a line. However, we were worried about how far off the rails he seemed to be, so we began checking in with his wife to see if she was concerned or worried about anything. Not giving her any details, but just telling her to keep us informed if anything showed up. She began sending me messages through the system about how worried she was about him. His temperament had changed towards her and their children. Never had he laid a hand on either of them, but the loving husband and father they once had, was slowly starting to disappear."
He stopped talking and cleared his throat. When he looked up at me unshed tears were in his eyes. “It’s my fault you see. I put her in the situation that she had to spy on her husband. I raised doubt in her mind. She hadn’t noticed much until I asked her to look. The messages and her concern stayed steady, and I told her that I was going to get to the bottom of what was wrong, but you see, I already knew what was wrong. He felt betrayed by us, the Council, and there was nothing we could do to fix it. A few nights later Eden, his wife sent me one last message. All it said was ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do this anyone.’ Tears are now flowing freely down his face.
“I assumed she meant she couldn’t keep spying, keep telling me how he was, and I completely understood. I told her not to worry about it anymore, to take care of herself and her kids and I would do the rest, but she never got my message. She was already gone.” I gasped in shock. Thinking that I misunderstood what he meant. But as I look around the table at all of these people with tears streaming down their faces, I can see guilt and shame in all of them.
“She died?” I asked, needing him to clarify, even though I’m pretty sure I knew.
He looked up at me and nodded. “Again Roz, this can’t ever get out. We are the only ones, now you, that know the true story. But as President we feel in order to move on and make sure you don’t make any mistakes from the past, you must be told. You are agreeing for sure to take the position yes?” I nod once.
“Ok then. Yes she died. It was horrible Roz, she lit their house on fire while she was in it. Her door was unlocked and she wasn’t tied down or trapped, so murder was ruled out.” I am completely sobbing by this point and I don’t even know this woman. How hopeless and alone she must have felt to do something so drastic.
Seamus handed me a hanky, and I tried to pull myself together. “And the President? How did he react?” I wanted to know. If I thought he was loose cannon before, I’m even more worried now.
“He completely shut down,” Samuel said. “He feels like he lost everything. His job, his family, all he’s ever known. He is a good man Roz, we all admire and respect him, otherwise, he would have been out long ago. He has remained the President for the last year, mostly just as a figure head. He checked out long ago. He is angry with us, angry with himself. He is grieving for everything he has lost.”
I instantly feel so bad for Vaughn and all that he has lost. His wife, his home, his future. I took that away from him, “I’m the reason this happened.” I started to sob uncontrollably and all I could get out was “it’s because of me.” I’m shaking and crying I am so full of regret and sadness. For Eden, for her family, if it wasn’t for me she would never have gone through that. Instantly I am scooped up and in Samuels’s arms. He is sitting on the floor now with me in his lap, rocking me like you would a child. I feel like a child.
“Hush now, no Roz, no. You must not think that for even a second, do you hear me? This is why we didn’t want to tell you. This is the biggest reason I fought against not telling you because I knew you would take this on yourself. Don’t Roz. You don’t hold any of the responsibility for this and I refuse to let you have it, do you understand me. There are many people to blame in this situation and you are not one of them. We are responsible for how the Council reacted. Vaughn is responsible for letting his pride get in the way. Eden is responsible for taking her own life. The only role you play in this Roz is as the phoenix. We need you, all of us. This Council is literally begging you. The country needs you. We need you to rise out of the ashes and make something beautiful. All the pain, hurt and sacrifice can mean something. Make it mean something Roz. Help us make our Country what it needs to be. We need someone who can feel pain like you are feeling right now. To make sure this can’t, won’t happen again. Change policies, make new innovations, give the people a voice. Can you help us honey?”
I look up into his eyes and see vulnerability. They really do feel that they need me. If I am who they think the country needs, then I am going to try everything in my power not to let these people down! I nod my head. “I’ll try Samuel, I’m not sure I’m who you think I am, but I will try my very best!” He hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “that’s all we want Roz! Your best is just what we need!”
“Alright, Alright, Samuel, Enough groping, she has a country to run for goodness sakes!” Leave it to Peter to ruin the moment. It is then that I realize I am still in his lap and indeed how inappropriate this looks. Even if he is old enough to be my dad, it’s highly embarrassing all the same. I jump up and right myself as fast as I can. Samuel goes back to his seat and gives me a quick wink.
Lucas taps the screen a few times and brings up the confidentiality agreement which I readily sign this time. Each Council member adds their thumb print to the screen to seal the document.
"There's one thing I don't understand."
"Oh, and what might that be?" Peter asked
"How could the president’s wife die and nobody knows? I would assume this would be rather huge news."
Peter gave me a smug look dripping with condescension.
"Roz, before this did you know the president was married? How many kids he had or if he had any at all? Did you know where he lived or anything personal at all?"
"Hmm, now that I think about it no, I knew nothing at all about him."
Amira gave me a sweet smile. "That was by design sweetie. We want the people to see the president as their position, not the person. Do we want them to connect to the president? Absolutely, however the job takes so much and we wanted their private life to remain private. People don't need to know the personal details, only that the president is doing their job!" She finished with a smile.
"So people won't know who my parents are or where I live or anything?" I asked still a bit surprised.
"Nope. Obviously those who know you will but it won't be announced or in the press releases. Obviously the people at the ministry were told of Eden's death, but everyone who works here is sworn to secrecy about all things regarding the ministry." Simon added.
The idea that I'd have to keep so much a secret from my friends and family was upsetting but I'm not going to focus on that right now.