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Leave It All Behind

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Hillary's Office, Few Days After, Morning

Hillary looked at her phone and was contemplating if she would give Bill a call to explain that her interview was not shown in full but only a soundbite. Few days had passed but her interview and his pictures were still circulating, putting her in head-to-head verbal sparring with him. She had been thinking about it but couldn't make a decision. 

She couldn’t shake off the feeling of why she felt like talking to him about her interview because it made him look bad. To begin with, she was caught off guard by the interview. She didn’t even expect it. She thought she would be asked about her election as the first female elected as Minority Leader. She thought it would center to the first progressive move from Republicans.

Hillary cheered for her Party by saying that Republicans weren’t as stuck up to the past as what others perceived by having her elected as the Minority Leader. She was talking about her election and what would the people expect from her as a Minority Leader when the host pivoted and suddenly asked her about President Clinton attending Henry Parker’s Party and they flashed his picture with his stained shirt. She was caught off guard and while she carefully chose her words, the way it was aired sounded as if she was criticizing him.

To say, it was okay to criticize him. To begin with, there should be no problem with her criticizing the President because that was one of her roles as Minority Leader. It was just that sinking feeling that she couldn’t shake off. Admittedly, she actually enjoyed the short moment they shared in the White House Library. It was the only good thing that made the night better considering what Timothy did afterward, so setting a wrong footing after her election as opposed to working amicably with the White House seemed to make her feel off. 

She took a deep breath. Okay, she wouldn’t apologize, how about just asking how he was doing? 

What the hell?  She thought, outrageously. Why does she care about him? 

Hillary shook her head and stood up from her and started to pace bothered by the turn of her feelings and thoughts.

“Hill, hurry, look at this—” 

Hillary spun to look at her assistant, Mary, who went to grab the remote control of her television and turned to a news channel.

“What’s happening?” Hillary asked, her attention turned to the television. She turned as some of Hillary's aides and staff entered her office. 

Something was up.

A female reporter appeared on the screen and said, “...News about President partying continues to spread but the White House has been evasive of the question. Earlier, at Ohio, while the President was attending a public event, his mobile phone rang and the President took a jab on Senator Rodham’s comment.”

Hillary gripped her chin with her thumb and forefinger watching as Bill’s face appeared on the screen. He was wearing a light blue collared shirt and was addressing the crowd when his mobile phone rang. He wasn’t able to ignore it as the sound of the ringing blasted, he seemed to hesitate first but then gave in. He leaned a little and fished for his phone and said rather playfully, “Wait a minute, my phone is ringing, ‘must be Senator Rodham callin’ to lecture me for my demeanor today for being damn casual in my speech.”

The crowd laughed as Bill continued to throw some jokes.

“This bozo thinks that he can get away with anything!” Hillary's staff commented, then someone shushed the staff. 

Hillary turned away from the television. She was annoyed that the Bill did not take her message seriously, and instead, made a fool out of her. She thought he would at least address the issue rather than mock it. 

Jennifer, Hillary’s PR, entered the room and went to her, “Did you see what the President did?”

Hillary didn’t respond and instead went to her chair again thinking about her move. I am such an idiot! She thought. Five minutes ago she was thinking about making a friendly call with the President to talk to him about her interview and perhaps find a common ground that they could work on together. But as it seems, he didn’t need her friendly call.

They looked at Hillary for some instructions. She pressed her palms together thinking and then she looked at Jennifer. "Can everybody leave except Jennifer?" 

Everyone left one by one and she was left with her PR, "Call Stanley, let’s make sure that next time we don’t let the President take our message lightly."

White House, Same Day, Night-Time

Bill’s playful jab against Senator Rodham’s message seemingly worked well for him. Although, he felt a nagging feeling that he did not handle the situation seriously. It was just stupid of him actually. They intended to address the incident; it was that they were caught off guard by the release of the photos. It was just that it was a spur of the moment as well when his cellphone rang and his National Security Advisor, Greg Hamilton, was calling him about the situation in North Korea.

On the other hand, George thought that Bill’s playful jab was actually good, because most of the people stopped paying attention to that news, and instead had taken it lightly as a bachelor being a bachelor.

***

White House, Next Day, Morning

Bill was in the war room with the National Security Team including his Secretary of State and Vice President. They were discussing the growing tension between North and South Korea. This happened ever since North Korea started to progress on their Nuclear program. His team was maneuvering to have a Nuclear deal just to put a halt in the regime’s program.

Bill was being briefed of what was taking place between them and was about to conclude the meeting with Robert Gelko, Bill’s Chief Negotiator saying that he and his team would be conducting an intense negotiation with North Korea.

“We need to bring this discussion with the Congress before they snoop around us thinking that we are already taking steps about North Korea without involving them in the discussion,” Robert added.

“We'll have a word with the Congress,” Bill ended. He turned to Paul, his Senior Strategist, "Call the team in my room. We need to plan this discussion accordingly." 

He stood up and went to Mack who was waiting for him outside.

“Can you get George for me? We need to discuss the North Korea situation with the Congress leaders.” He said as they started to walk out of the War Room. He casually nodded to some staff who greeted him.

“Right," Mack responded. Bill saw some people gathering in a corner and watching the television. He nodded to where they were gathering.

"What's up with them? Don't they have work?" Bill asked. 

Mack looked at the people. "Well, you might want to straighten up with the issue with Senator Rodham."

Bill briefly stopped and looked at him. “I thought I’ve already handled it?”

Mack sighed, “She released another press conference though. Directly attacking you for not taking the situation seriously.”

“Geez…” Bill said in aghast. “We are dealing with more pressing matters and Senator Rodham is still attacking me for my behavior?”

He pressed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

“Republicans,” Mack said as if it was enough reason to answer Bill’s disappointment.

When they went to George’s room, Bill stood in the corner as they watched Hillary make a statement about Bill’s demeanor.

Bill leaned against the wall then crossed his arms against his chest seemingly running out of patience as Republicans were hammering him for flimsy reasons rather than talk about what matters to Americans. He watched in consternation as Hillary’s face appeared on the television.

“The President thinks that taking the accusations of his partying as a laughing matter speaks volumes about his leadership. The President represents the country and his photos circulating in the media and published globally put us in a bad light. He should be cautious…”

Bill pushed from the wall that he was leaning against, “George, address it, so we can already close this discussion with the Senator. I don't want to spend any more minutes talking about this. Apologize on my behalf, keep it succinct.”

He left George’s room and went to his office and started to pick up his work. 

***

Hillary’s Home, Same day, Night-Time

Hillary was already on the bed drinking a cup of camomile tea while reading her papers on her lap when her phone rang. She ignored it initially thinking that it was Tim as he was eager to patch things up with her, she already told him to stop calling her because she needed time. She instructed her staff when he called earlier to tell him not to talk to her in the meantime. 

However, the ringing continued so Hillary placed her mug on the bedside table and reached for her phone. She looked at the screen but no number appeared and instead indicated that it was a private call.

“Hello?” She answered.

“Hi, is this Senator Rodham’s phone?”

Hillary’s eyebrows furrowed, wondering who the caller was but the distinct Southern twang already gave her an idea who it was before the caller could even say his name.

“President Clinton?” She asked.

“Uh, yeah, this is Bill…” Bill said. 

Bill was still in the Oval Office when he decided to call her. He wanted to sort out this animosity between them, though the nagging side of his head told him that he really just wanted to call her. He brushed his hand on his face and told himself that he wanted to talk to her so he could sort out this. He just didn’t need it. He shook his head trying to dislodge the partial truth of his reason why he was calling. 

Hillary straightened, “This is an unexpected call.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m sorry. I hope you are not busy?” He asked. 

Hillary looked at the papers that she needed to read. “No, not really, why did you call?” She asked, tidying her papers and placing them on the bedside table.

Bill took a deep breath then said, “I’m sorry about joking on your statement. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Well, you’ve already said it…”

“I know, and George already released a statement to address my behavior.”

“Yeah, so I’ve been informed. I’m glad you did that,” She added.

Silence.

“So I hope we can put this issue to rest?” Bill asked, gripping the body of the phone. He wanted to slap himself for asking that because frankly, he didn’t need to ask for her permission to put it to rest. Senator Rodham could drag the issue if she wanted to.

“Yeah, of course. I didn’t really want to continue with the tirade. To let you know, what I initially said in my interview… it’s only a soundbite.”

“I see,” Bill responded. He bit his lips, thinking that there was no need for him to stay in the line. He already said what he needed to say, and so he could already hang-up but for some damn reason he couldn’t understand, he wanted to stay in line with her. 

Hillary was wondering about that too, she was waiting for Bill to say goodbye, but he didn’t.

“What else are you supposed to say, since you mentioned that it’s only a soundbite?”

“Why do you…” Her eyes narrowed, but there was a small smile on her lips, “Why do you want to know?”

Bill chewed on his lip then teasingly asked, “Is it a secret?”

Hillary chuckled, “Silly,” She stopped realizing that she called the President - silly. “I mean…”

“It’s okay, I’m teasing,” Bill said.

WHAT? Is he flirting with her?  Hillary’s mind went kaput when the President admitted that he was teasing her. 

Bill closed his eyes as if in pain. Did he just admit that he was teasing her?

“I’m just -”

“Anyway -”

They both said at the same time and they both stopped.

“Go ahead,” Bill encouraged.

“What are you going to say?” Hillary asked.

“I’m just joking.”

“Nervous?”

“Maybe.”

Hillary bit her lower lip not understanding what was going.  What the actual fuck?  Her mind was going crazy.

“Anyway,” Hillary said to distract them both, “I was supposed to say that I didn’t know the story behind that picture and I am basing my conclusion on what the reports showed and that I think it will be appropriate for the White House to address it first before we make any formal comments.”

Bill nodded. “That’s good.”

“Okay...” Hillary said, giving him an opening to end the conversation.

“How...How are you?” Bill asked. 

“What?”  Where the hell is this going?  She thought.

“How are you?" Bill asked, feeling like he was getting dumb by the minute. 

“I’m good,” Hillary responded bereft wondering what kind of segue Bill did. “And you?” She added, she pressed her palm on her forehead. She was crazy about indulging in this conversation, but for some reason, she couldn’t stop.

Bill relaxed, and he took a deep breath and laid his head against the headrest. “I’m okay, a little bit rattled earlier, but I am good.”

The way he responded made Hillary smile. It was how easy he let his defenses down, did it for her. It was as if he was able to breathe after their few initial exchanges. “I’m glad to hear about that…” She paused, seemingly thinking of what to say next, then asked, “What was rattling you anyway, if you don’t mind?”

“Well, calling you for one.”

Hillary snickered, “Calling me, huh?”

“Yeah,” Bill said as a grin appeared on his face, “I… I didn’t know if you would even answer the phone, so I feel a little rattled.”

“Why would you be? It’s just me anyway.”

Exactly, why I should be rattled,  he thought. “I don’t know, I’m afraid you might actually lecture me about how I should behave.”

Hillary chuckled, then chewed on her lower lip. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Bill smiled, “If you want to lecture me, please, feel free to call me. I’ll gladly listen to you, Senator.”

“Right…” Hillary answered.

Bill took a deep breath, “I have an idea. There will be an upcoming gala in the White House. Will you be attending that one?”

“Oh, yeah, I will be attending it.”

“Maybe we can make an appearance, just to conclude that issue and let everyone know we have settled whatever disagreement we have.”

“Make an appearance…” Hillary echoed.

“Not… Not…” Bill started to reason but then he heard Hillary chuckle on her end, and Bill stopped and then smiled understanding that she was teasing him this time.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make an appearance,” Hillary assured.

“Yeah, it will be good,” Bill responded.

They stayed for a while not knowing what to say next but both were keen to savor the second they spent on the line without letting each other know. They couldn’t really pin-point where the seeming “fondness” was coming from but they couldn’t like each other, right? He was the Democratic President and she was the Republican Minority Leader. A polar opposite. 

“Well, I’ll see you at the gala then, Mr. President,” Hillary said quietly thinking that they should let go and put this conversation to end.

Bill bit his lower lip before responding, “Looking forward to that, Madam Senator.”

When Bill placed the phone down he looked at it as if he could see her by just looking at it. Bill shook his head as if trying to wake up from a dream. 

“Enough,” He told himself before he stood up and left his office.

***

White House, Gala Event, Night-Time

The East Room was converted to a ballroom with tables on the corner and a huge space in the middle. The gala was in honor of President Menem of Argentina who was fond of dancing and was visiting the country. While there were roughly thirty-minutes before the start of the event, people already started mingling and having fun filling the room with a cacophony of sounds.

Bill was in the East Room as well listening to President Menem as they discussed its rich history. The event did not start yet because they were still waiting for more guests to arrive. 

While Bill was listening to President Menem, he wasn't focused because he was paying attention to the people coming and going out of the room.

He was waiting for Senator Rodham. Bill wouldn’t deny the excitement that coursed through him by the prospect of seeing Hillary. He told himself he was happy because they would be finally addressing the “issue” and they could finally close the case and move on.

However -

Bill felt his breath hiked, Hillary arrived wearing a purple studded dress with her hair tied braided as if a crown around her head showing her neck. Energy ran through his body seeing Hillary unassumingly entered the room - alone.

Bill looked around and wondered where Tim but he was nowhere to be found. He took a sip from his tumbler before he placed them on a tray from a passing waiter. Bill excused himself from the circle of gentlemen and went to where Hillary was standing. Hillary was talking to some Senators when the people around her stopped talking. Hillary wondered if she said something wrong or she smudged her lipstick but even before she heard Bill speak, she felt his energy behind her - giving her goosebumps on her arms.

“Senator Rodham,” He greeted, “May I invite you for a dance?”