Steven Lin prided himself on being efficient and effective. He knew intrigue, he knew politics and most of all, he knew people. He knew what they wanted, for what they stood and for what they fell. It could be said that a man like him would make a brilliant career as a politician, but public attention had never suited Lin well. He preferred the shadows, the shadowy manipulation of the will of others and the freedom to work as he pleased, without the constant glare of lights and cameras.
This arrangement suited the Minister very well and Lin had been in his employment for six years now.
The other thing that suited both Lin and the Minister was the Minister’s wife.
Poised and elegant, Natasha was the perfect politician’s wife. She rode the campaign trail with her husband like it was a shopping trip: her eyeliner always on point, her ruby-red lipstick a weapon. She drank fine red wine as though making love to it and commanded rooms at fundraisers with her ten-inch heels and little black dress.
And somewhere deep inside, she longed for it all to finally come to a stand-still. To get away from the lights of the capital, to settle down and spend long, leisurely nights in quietude among the trees and snowdrifts. Lin could feel this desire in her like he could feel greed or passion or vulnerability in other people. She hid her secrets better than others, but after all these years, Lin had her figured out.
The Minister was a boy thrust into a world he did not always understand. His entire family were politicians – capable, cunning, ruthless. The Minister had never been such a man. Lin did not need any special powers to determine this: this was worn on the young man’s sleeve. The young liberals of his party could never decide whether they loved or hated him or it. He longed for the same things as his wife, but was afraid to tell her, or anyone, afraid to be seen as weak, the way his mother had seen him.
Lin felt sorry for him sometimes. It was a pity to spoil such a flower, who wanted to do so much good. So Lin took it upon himself to instruct and guide and engage in the dirty backroom dealing that the Minister hated so much. For him it was no loss – he had grown up and lived on such ventures. It was what he thrived on.
But they all needed a break from time to time. So, after the last grueling round of campaigning, Lin had suggested that they take a weekend off, go up to the Ministers cabin and forget the world. Just the three of them. He knew he was inviting himself along so very brazenly, but part of him felt that he had earned a place in this family – a political family more than one of blood or passion. A family tied by the things they had done or chosen not to do for power. Naturally, the Minister and his wife agreed.
It snowed the night they went up, the snowdrifts building up higher and higher along the roadside. “We could get lost in this,” Natasha remarked, looking out the window. The Minister hummed and squeezed her shoulder. Lin kept driving, estimating just how much the thought of getting lost aroused Natasha.
He wondered, sometimes, what she looked like when all her poise and careful guard went down. What she looked like aroused and undone when the Minister made love to her.
The cabin was large and spacious, the large fireplace and yellow lanterns of the sitting room giving it the impression of some ancient hunting seat of Lords long dead. Lin lit the fire and brought out the whisky. The Minister and his wife sat on the sofa across from Lin and toasted to the winter and successful campaign. As they drank, the Minister’s hands began to wonder down Natasha’s shoulders and over her thigh. Lin watched his movement and smiled knowingly.
The two of them were as inseparable as they were different.
Natasha stood and walked to the fireplace. She looked at the trinkets there and smoothed out her hair unconsciously. Even with only the three of them together, she managed to look immaculate. Only her body language betrayed how tired she was. “Do you notice how quiet it is?” she asked, not turning around. “Do you notice how sweet? One day it will be like this always.”
“One day, my love,” the Minister said. He stood and walked over to embrace her from behind. Natasha hugged herself, her thin, bare arms winding around her flat chest and slim torso. Lin could tell she was hesitant, perhaps a little embarrassed, to be coming so undone. But she did not protest when the Minister buried his face against her neck and her hair. Lin sometimes wondered how a puppy like him ended up with a woman like her, but perhaps it was the very thing that he was like a puppy and she – a shewoff.
Lin leaned back in the armchair, watching them, a tangle of contrasts, and similar goals and hidden longings. “I do hope you do not mind that I am here, Natasha,” he said. “The three of us have shared more intimate secrets that sexual desire and touch.”
“I find no fault with you,” she said, still looking down, her arms still around her chest, as the Minister kissed the back of her neck.
“it’s been such a long few years,” the Minister said. “Sometimes even I wonder if it is worth it. If it would not be better to retire.”
Lin had heard this song before. He stood up and put aside his whisky. Slowly, he approached the Minister and his wife and stood before them, watching them closely. He reached out and took Natasha’s hands in his, unwinding her arms and pressing her palms to his own chest. ‘But why stop now when you could conquer the world? To deprive the world of such a treasure as you prematurely…”
She smiled at him, a smile immeasurably softer than the one she offered the world, and only a shade harder tan the one she allowed the Minister. “You know my other weakness,” she conceded.
Lin reached over and touched the side of the Minister’s face, cupping his cheek. “If you would retire for your wife, Minister, then first stay another year for me.” He leaned in and kissed the Minister on the lips so softly that it almost never happened.
“You say that every year and every year I oblige,” the Minister said. He reached out and put a hand over his wife’s, which was still resting on Lin’s chest. They stood there for some time, drinking each other in before going back to their whisky.
It suited Lin well, to spend his days and his nights with the Minister and the Minister’s wife.