We weren’t supposed to be friends. We weren’t even supposed to like each other.
I’m Michael Grath. I’ll admit I was elected to Congress on my Republican family history. I was out to make a name for myself, until I met Jessie Clark, a spitfire Democrat.
She’d be my nemesis, if I could just stop flirting with her. We’ve got nothing and everything in common, and one big issue that divides us. All of this is going to land us in more than one compromising position.
So like I said, we weren’t supposed to be friends, we weren’t even supposed to like each other, and we certainly weren’t supposed to fall in love.
Mary blames Laura Ingalls Wilder and Margaret Mitchell for her obsession with romance novels. At an early age, Mary fell in love with the Little House series and its dreamy hero, Almanzo Wilder, who only wanted Laura to be Laura. Like many women, Mary later graduated to the ultimate, tall and dark bad boy, Rhett Butler, who loved Scarlett despite her flaws.
Mary has lived in many parts of the U.S., and after a first career in the non-profit world and politics, she’s settled in Northern California with her husband and daughters. She spends her days writing characters she hopes somehow capture the romance of Rhett and Scarlett and Almanzo and Laura. She’s a firm believer in what Rhett says to Scarlett:“You should be kissed and by someone who knows how.”
As Larry’s speech wound down, I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. Evelyn Grath had joined us and was now standing on Michael’s other side. I was trapped.
Right after the final round of applause, I offered her another little smile, and she extended her hand. “Good evening, I’m Evelyn Grath. I see that you’re a friend of my son, Michael. What’s your name, dear?”
Before I could reply, Michael muttered sardonically, “Well, hello, Mother. Maybe you could ask me to introduce you two.”
The woman had just spoken to me as if I were a suspicious skank after her precious son, but even I thought Michael’s reaction was a little harsh. I jumped in before she answered him. Shaking Evelyn’s hand, I spoke with her just as I would in any professional introduction. “Hello Mrs. Grath. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jessica Clark. I’m a colleague of Michael’s. You can call me Jessie.”
It was only the slightest movement, but Evelyn leaned back, wary. I stopped myself from laughing at what I’d done. She wasn’t used to a younger woman speaking to her with such authority and telling her she could or could not do something. Her eyes darted between Michael and me looking for answers. “Colleague? You mean former colleague, correct? Do you work at Michael’s old firm?”
“Jessie is a member of Congress, Mother.” He smirked, obviously enjoying the opportunity to set her straight. “She’s from Arizona and a freshman just like me.”
Processing what she’d just heard, Evelyn opened and then shut her mouth before her good manners took over. “Excuse me Congresswoman. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know that. I do apologize.”
“Please, don’t apologize,” I said, shaking my head. “There are over four hundred members of the House. Only lobbyists know every single one of us, and that’s because they’re paid to.”
“No, it’s really inexcusable of me. Please forgive me.” Again she stared, still trying to place me. Then it dawned on me. She thinks I’m a Republican, but she thought she knew all the Republican women in Congress. I smiled, as she looked at her watch and announced, “Michael, do you mind if we leave now? I have an early morning meeting.”
“Not at all.” He still wore the same smirk.
“Thank you. Just let me tell the other board members that I’m leaving.” She turned to me. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Jessie, and I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow at the RNC fundraiser.”
Poor woman. I felt a little bad for what I was about to do to her, but only a little. “Actually, no, Mrs. Grath, I won’t be attending the dinner. I’m a Democrat.”
Evelyn’s eyes widened, but only for a second before she composed herself. She was a political matron after all and hard to trip up. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed.”
I waved my hand to dismiss the misunderstanding. “No apology necessary. It’s a good assumption. There are only ten Democrats in this freshman class.”
Michael appeared to watch the whole thing with amusement. He nodded to his mother. “Mom, go say your goodbyes.”
“Yes, I will.” Extending her hand one more time to me she said, “It really was nice to meet you. I hope we can speak again.”
“Yes, that would be nice.” I shook her hand. “Goodnight, Mrs. Grath.”
Evelyn turned to find some of her fellow trustees, but not before giving me one more look. I’d bewildered her. Why was her son talking to a Democrat like me? He wasn’t even divorced. Oh, the scandal!
When she was a few steps further away, Michael smiled down at me. “Sorry about that. She sort of lives in her own little world.”
“No worries.” I laughed. “As you know, this happens to me a lot.”
“I guess I did make the same mistake as her.”
“But at least I didn’t talk to you like you were nineteen.”
My hand went to my hip. “No, but you thought I was a waitress.”
“You’re right.” He cringed and laughed. “I guess that’s not any better.”