I’m Still Your Girl
Hillary’s hands pushed hard against the heavy wooden bathroom door flinging it open so that she could escape the outside world. Slow even breaths had carried her from the main ballroom until she was safely tucked behind a closed door. Her hands gripped either side of the porcelain sink. The only sound filling the room was her now forced breathing.
A glance in the mirror revealed flushed skin. Her eyes stung with the threat of tears. She couldn’t remember ever being more furious than she was in that very moment. Bill’s temper was something that she had almost forgotten about. Foolishly, she thought that perhaps time and space and age had mellowed that aspect of him. How wrong she had been.
It was a mess. A huge fucking mess. All of it. Russia. Bill. Putin. Sanders. The bruises pressed into her pale flesh. Keep secrets. She felt as though she was suffocating. The collar of her dress felt tighter and tighter. Her hands reached for the buttons on the back of the neck, quickly undoing them and letting the lace fall down around her collarbone.
Purple, edged in green, stared back at her from the reflection in the mirror. Her fingertips grazed over the bruise at her throat. She had never felt so weak in all her life. All the anger brewing inside of her was at herself. Not at Bill or even Putin for that matter. She felt defeated. Like a complete and utter failure. And for the first time in forever she had no clue what to do next.
There was a bit of commotion on the other side of the door. “I’m sorry, Mr. President, Secretary Rodham is inside.” The warning was clearly ignored, and the door opened.
Her hands gathered the lace, quickly pulling it up around her neck. “Not now, Bill!”
“Relax, Hellcat, it’s just me.” George said, rounding the corner.
“Junior.” she exhaled. “For some reason hearing you called Mr. President is still…
He arched an eyebrow. “Foreign?”
“Yeah, we’ll go with that.” Her fingers struggled with the buttons on the back of her gown.
“May I?” he asked, stepping closer to her.
Hillary held the dress firmly against her throat. “Thank you.”
“You women and all your buttons and eyelets,” he murmured. “But I reckon it’s worth the finished product.” He smiled at her in the mirror. “There you are, Cinderella.”
Images of Hayden danced thru her mind. He was always there. A blessing and a curse. Easing things. Complicating things.
Hillary looked up at him and met grey-blue eyes. They were kind, little lines framing them and when he smiled slightly it made the cleft in his chin even more prominent. For some reason she couldn’t explain she felt safe with him. And so she placed her hand in his and funnily enough it seemed to fit well.
Hayden helped her to her feet, waiting for her to step back into her ballet flats. “Ready, Cinderella?”
She chuckled. “Cinderella wore glass slippers.”
“Touché.” he laughed. “I was hoping to play Prince Charming if only for a moment.”
“Then far be it from me to crush your dreams.”
Fresh tears sprung forward in her eyes. Her heart clenched. How could she miss him so much, ache for him, and his touch, yet be so unequivocally in love with Bill? Maybe all of this was her punishment. Caught between two men. One living and breathing, the other a ghost, a memory, a thought caught between two silent moments.
“Now, now, Madam Secretary, no more tears,” he soothed, squeezing her shoulders. “Sanders deserved it.”
Hillary nodded and turned to face George. “I don’t even know what Bernie did and I still think he deserved it.”
“Billy was defending you.”
“I figured as much.”
“I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you…”
Hillary’s eyes lowered to the floor. “I’m just under an extreme amount of pressure…Russia…”
His fingertips tilled her chin up until their eyes met. “Let him in.” his eyes searched hers. “He understands better than anyone. And yes, I know the publicity with Epstein is bad timing, but nobody with a brain believes that shit anyway.”
“You’re giving your colleagues a lot of credit there, Junior.”
“Touche,” he quipped. “Point is, the two of you need to work things out. This avoidance bullshit solves nothing. Unless you’re looking for an out.”
A well defined eyebrow arched. “An out?”
“Are you having second thoughts about being with Bill again?” he studied her reaction. “It’s okay if you are, but you need to be honest with him.”
She shook her head. “No, no….no! It’s not that. I…I’m struggling…George,” she sighed, heavily. “I love Bill. Very much.”
“We both know that love isn’t always enough.”
“This has nothing to do with Bill, okay? Yes, the press scrutiny doesn’t sit well, but there was an incident in Russia. Something that…rattled me. I can’t wrap my head around it, and I don’t know…”
She took a deep breath and exhaled. “Bill’s temper. I can’t have him jumping off the deep end and doing something stupid.”
George nodded. “I understand that, but pushing him away? That’s not the answer, Hillary. Whatever happened you need to tell him. The sooner the better.”
Laura led Bill into the kitchen. “Sit down over there,” she pointed to a stool. “I’ll get some ice.”
“Thanks,” he replied. “It’s really not that bad.”
She grabbed a towel and opened a freezer door. “I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, but you did hit him pretty hard, Bill.”
“You’re right.” he agreed. “He did deserve it. I can’t stand that guy.”
She scooped some ice into the towel. “Not many can from my understanding,” she walked back toward him. “He was most certainly out of line. I’m sure Hillary understands that.”
Bill hung his head. “I don’t know, Laura. She’s been avoiding me for days now. Ever since the thing with Epstein. She’s lived her life pretty much in peace since the divorce and I’ve been around less than 4 months and I’m already fucking things up for her.”
“I’m sure she doesn’t see it that away, Bill,” she reached for his hand and pressed the towel gently down on his knuckles. “She loves you. She knows the truth. And she knows the press better than anyone.”
“She’s pissed,” he winced in discomfort. “And that was before I punched Sanders. I’ve made a mess of things. There’s no use to sugar coat it.”
“No, there’s not. But now you have an opportunity to make things right. I think the two of you need to sit down and talk. That’s the only way you’re going to solve any of this,” she told him. “Face to face.”
“Spoken like a teacher.”
“It’s sound advice,” she pulled back the towel to have a look at his hand. “I’m surprised you didn’t bust your knuckles on his glasses.” She pressed the towel back down. “How’s the pain?”
“Not too bad,” he replied. “I shouldn’t have punched him but when he made that comment about Hayden…I just couldn’t…Hayden was a damn good man. He’s the one that truly deserved Hillary.”
“Hayden’s gone,” she reminded him. “It was tragic and unfortunate, but he’s not coming back. It’s not about deserving anything. Hillary has chosen you, Bill. Don’t let her go just because things have gotten complicated.”
“I don’t know,” he breathed out. “Maybe it’s for the best. All I’ve ever done is hurt her. I was an idiot to think things would be different this time.”
“We both know that’s not true, Bill. Yes, you’ve hurt her, but you’ve also made great strides to change, to be a better person. I honestly don’t think she would be with you now if she didn’t think you were different. I don’t think she would put herself through that again.”
“Deep down I know that,” he admitted softly. “I’ve always loved her very much, just not very well.”
“I know,” she said, softly. “You have this wonderful chance to have this fresh start. Are you just going to let it slip away or are you going to fight for your girl?”
Bill swiped at a tear he didn’t realize had fallen. “Well, when you put it like that.”
Laura smiled. “It’s all about perception. Now hopefully George hasn’t made a huge mess of things…”
“Their relationship is…interesting. Endearing almost.”
“Oh, Bill,” she laughed. “George is scared of Hillary.”
He chuckled. “I’ve seen him run from you too.”
“He’s smarter than he’s given credit for.”
The side door to the kitchen opened and George poked his head inside and motioned for his wife. “Come on, babe.”
Laura looked up. “Everything okay?”
“Yes, fine,” he opened the door wider and revealed Hillary. “Let’s grab another drink and then maybe a dance.”
“Chin up,” she said, removing the ice pack she had been holding against his hand. “You’ve got this.” She made her way toward the door, passing the towel to Hillary. “Personally, I would have hit Bernie a hell of a lot harder,” she whispered as she leaned into her. “And I know you would have too.”
“Talk.” Laura advised.
Hillary nodded and made her way across the room as George and Laura vacated the room. “Still one hell of a left hook.”
“I’m not proud of it,” he replied. “I knew better. I just didn’t care at the moment.”
She reached for his hand, knuckles red and slightly swollen. “Hindsight,” she murmured, pressing the towel against him. “What exactly did he say?” she asked. “You know what? I don’t even need to know. It’s not important.”
“Hey, it is important. And I want you to know why I did it,” he told her. “I don’t want to keep anything from you. Secrets don’t work, we both know that too well.”
Her heart clenched. “Yes.”
“He made a remark about Hayden. Implied that he was just a placeholder. I didn’t even think I just reacted. And I know that it was wrong, but…I couldn’t let him say that. Think it.” He looked up into her eyes. “You were a good wife. A faithful one. In both of your marriages. But I want you to know that I am sorry, it was never my intention to hurt you tonight. Personally, or politically.”
“I would hardly call punching Bernie political damage,” she scoffed. “He’s a waste of time and a good congressional seat.”
A smile tugged at his lips. “I believe I’ve heard that comment before.”
Hillary shrugged. “Some things never change.”
“But some things do,” he implored softly, gaining to his feet in front of her. “I’m a man of many faults. You know them all,” he said, softly, his eyes burning into hers. “I’ve worked very hard to be the man that’s standing before you now.”
Oh no. No. No. No! It was all wrong. It was never her intention for things to lead here. Things had gone too far. Bill doubting himself after so much hard work simply wasn’t fair.
Bill studied her face. “You have to know, the only contact I ever had with Jeffrey Epstein was the one time he visited my office. That’s it. I know this could be so easy to believe…”
“Bill,” she interrupted. “I don’t believe any of that shit with Epstein.”
He visibly took a deep breath and exhaled heavily. “Thank you,” he said. “I know that the press is giving you a hard time and I’m so sorry. I hate that they’ve dragged you into this.”
“It’ll pass. It always does.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “What’s wrong then?”
Hillary looked at him, really looked at him. She studied the lines on his face, the concern etched there, the softness in his light blue eyes. It made tears well up in her eyes. And she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t worry him further. Couldn’t lay the burden of what happened with Putin at his feet. Temper or no temper.
“I’m fine,” she lied. “Incredibly stressed out, there’s a lot going on. I’m not doing a very good job of balancing everything right now. I’m sorry I’ve been distant and ignoring you.”
Something told him things weren’t quite right, but he didn’t want to push it. Right now he just wanted her. “Apology accepted,” he replied. “I know what you’re going through and you’re doing a better job than what you think,” he smiled. “And that dress…” his eyes sailed over every inch of her. “It’s incredible.”
“Credit goes to Adam. He’s the one who picked it out.”
Bill shook his head. “Adam may have picked it out, but all the credit goes to you,” he licked his lips. “You fill it out rather nicely.”
Her cheeks flushed. Her heart soared. Oh how he missed him. How she needed him. “You think so?”
“Well, thank you, Mr. President.”
“You’re very welcome, Madam Secretary.”
An exasperated sigh filled the large kitchen. “For the love of God, just kiss him already!” Adam lamented.
Bill smiled down at her. “I wholeheartedly agree with him, just this once. You probably should just kiss me already.”
“I should?” she inched closer to him.
“Oh, definitely,” his hands settled on the curve of her waist, pulling her impossibly close.
Everything suddenly felt right again. In that moment, with the feel of his hands against her body, it was like she was whole again. Nothing else mattered. Her full lips softly met his, but they swiftly parted and pulled his bottom lip between hers. She dominated the kiss, equal parts passion and delicacy. A dance they did so well together.
Adam cleared his throat. “I said kiss not fu…” he glanced down at his watch. “You have to be on stage in twenty minutes, ma’am.”
Bill motioned him away. They had some catching up to do. And then maybe she would open up to him.