Twisted Roses

Page 35

Mayor Bernstein. Commissioner Flynn. District Attorney Polk, who I’m running against.
All members. Most in public office and positions of power are.
Dadhas been a member since before I was born.
We haven’t talked since our argument on his birthday. Marcel has called and attempted a truce that’s gone nowhere. Instead, the more I think about uncovering Dad’s club ring in his office, the more I’m inundated with memories I’ve never given a second thought to before.
Mom not only didn’t like Dad belonging to the club, she’d complained when he’d dragged her to the social events.
I remember because I used to sit and watch her get ready for these lavish events. Young and clueless, it didn’t register with me where they were going—only that she looked beautiful and glamorous in the sparkling gowns and fancy jewelry. She’d spritz herself with expensive perfume and treat me to a tiny spritz too.
Sometimes, she even let me sample some of her lipstick.
I’d been so enamored that the quick exchanges between Mom and Dad were lost on me. Usually, Dad ended up popping in to check if she was ready. She always took so long.Stallingnow that I think about it from a more mature, adult lens.
Why didn’t Mom like attending the club events?
Pepa meows at my ankle and nudges me. I blink and look down before scooping her up. I’ve been zoned out for most of the morning, seated by the window with a cup of coffee that’s long ago lost its heat.
Salt saunters over to join in on the cuddles. Both cats have no problem making me feel guilty for not paying enough attention to them.
“I promise I’ll find some time soon,” I say, gently scratching them along their spines. “But I have to go. Don’t blame me. Campaign event.”
No more than ten minutes later, my iPhone rings. I’m in my bedroom attempting to piece together an outfit for today’s Fuel the Child Sports Day at Northam Park. The annual event is hosted by the charity with special guests and an array of games for the kids in the program to play.
“Dress relatable,” Medjine says when I answer the call. “Casual but not too casual. Trendy but not too—”
“Trendy. Got it.”
“Actually, I was going to say try hard. Don’t try too hard. Wear your natural hair out too. It’ll make you seem less high maintenance and more down-to-earth. Voters are looking for that at an event like this.”
“Less high maintenance? What does that have to do with being elected district attorney? My prosecution record should be enough.”
“We’ve been over this, Delphine. Image is half the battle. Especially for female candidates. You want to present yourself in a favorable light for voters. That’s also why we need to start planning what you’ll wear for the Neptune Society’s Masquerade in a few weeks. It’s the event of the summer and we have to bolster your image.”
We hang up and I finish getting ready for the event. In the end, I decide on a simple V-neck tee and jeans with tennis shoes and minimal make up. Just enough to look fresh-faced but natural as Medjine advised. The same goes for my hair—I pull it up into a tight puff at the back of my head.
I meet up with Brenda on my way to the event. Her complexion is dull and her eyes ringed with exhaustion. I spot a stain on her t-shirt that looks more than a few hours old. I wouldn’t be surprised if she slept in it judging by the wrinkles.
“Are you feeling up to today?” I ask. “I’m sure the event coordinator won’t mind if you drop out. I heard he had too many volunteers this year.”
“Long night. But I’ll be okay. Fuel the Child brings back too many memories for me to skip out. I used to love the program when I was a kid in the foster system. Sometimes, it was one of the only things I had to look forward to.” Brenda yawns as we descend the escalator leading to the subway.
We gather at the back of the crowd waiting on the next train. It’s a warmer spring day outside, which means underground on the subway platform it’s stuffy and suffocating.
“Do I have to guess what was keeping you up?” I ask.
Guilt flits across Brenda’s cherubic features. “I know it sounds like we fight so much, but it’s only because we’re still figuring things out. Chet doesn’t want to give up.”
“What do you want? He almost seems like a drain on your energy.”
“And what about you?” Brenda shoots me a knowing smirk as we board our subway car and squeeze ourselves into seats beside other passengers.
“Don’t turn this around on me, Liang.” I match her smirk with a raise of my brows.
“A super-secret source told me you’re not so single yourself.”
My insides knot tighter. Salvatore immediately comes to mind. “Who… who told you that?”