Adam stood rigid before the wall of windows while Leon paced before the doorway, casting quick glances at the view. The crowd within the stadium below swayed, their voices muffled by the thick panes. Red, white, and blue banners as well as American flags fluttered over heads while others billowed upon the stage. At the podium the intermediary host gestured, her finger pointed toward the ceiling as if she might launch into a Superman-style flight. Her wide mouth articulated invigorating words causing a cascade of vibrant motion on the floor, like a hive of bees with news of spring.
Pausing at Adam’s side, Leon stared, and then resumed his tread. “How do they look?”
Turning from the windows, Adam topped off the glass of water waiting on the suite’s bar. The half melted ice sloshed, and the chilled beads coated his sweaty palm.
Holding the drink, he scanned the half dozen monitors dominating the opposite wall. Percentages filled two, tally bars in shades of red, blue, green, and honey yellow another pair. The last had muted news reporters speaking from the floor to their studio’s across the nation. As their soundless drone continued, percentage digits dropped and the bars shifted with the updated surveying data running through the various computer programs. Rows rearranged and never ceased their fluctuation, but the highest remained on the top.
Adam adjusted his grip on the glass, the fresh touch cooling the sudden rush of feverish warmth on his skin.
“I’m not sure,” he whispered.
“You? Not sure?”
Leon’s rhythmic gait stopped short. Adam kept staring at the screens while the stouter man neared. He raked back his flop of bangs but stopped with his hand atop his head and whistled.
Adam dropped his gaze from the tell-tale calculations.
“We better get her ready,” said Leon.
He spun in a circle and then stilled, as if unsure into which direction to sprint.
“She has time,” said Adam.
He didn’t bother to check his watch. The countdown in his head left three minutes to the delegate tallying deadline.
On cue, the doorway connecting their suite with its neighbor opened. A barrage of wordless shouts, questions, and requests tumbled across the threshold.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” said Diane, her tone diplomatic as ever.
She laughed at a reply Adam failed to make out. Walter’s bulk interceded and Diana managed a parting wave over his shoulder while backpedalling into the room. She shook out her arm only after Walter shut the door.
“Make sure to get her number,” said Diane with a rub of her bicep, “the program sounds promising.”
Walter clasped his hands and put his back to the connecting doorway. “You can’t say yes to everyone, ma’am.”
Adam offered the glass of water when Diane reached his side and joined his staring contest with the monitors. She sipped and bared her teeth against the cold.
“I’m not saying yes, Walter. I’m keeping it in mind.”
Walter stuck his head back through the door. Through the cacophony, Adam spotted Suzanne, her Bluetooth stuck to her ear. Walter beckoned her over with a crooked finger.
“Get the Senator’s contact information.”
“Yes sir,” said Suzanne and she darted off into the other room’s throng like a mouse navigating a well-known maze.
Closing the door, Walter resumed his post. Within the suite, the quiet thickened, broken by the snap and pop of ice in Diane’s glass and the monitors’ hum. Carpet began crunching under Leon’s bouncing feet during his hover by the windows.
The countdown in Adam’s head ticked toward zero. Numbers on the screens solidified, and the bars of color firmed. The reporters gestured toward the stage where the podium stood empty, awash in a spotlight and expectant of the next arrival.
Diane finished her water and clutched the empty glass. “Is this what you anticipated?”
“No, ma’am,” said Adam. “I thought it’d be closer.”
“You hold me in such high regard.”
He smirked at her sarcasm. “On the contrary. It was the delegations I wasn’t sure about.”
“I think I’m glad they proved you wrong.”
Pivoting on a heeled toe, Diane strode to the bar. She set down the glass and Adam watched her contemplate the assortment of gin, scotch, whiskey, and vodka bottles on the mirrored tray. His stomach tensed, but she lifted her hands from the counter and turned her back on the tempting assortment. Tugging on the lapels of her trim beige jacket with its patriotic pin, she lifted her chin, and smoothed her features of worry, of weariness, and the trepidation Adam spied just below the surface.
“Gentlemen,” she said with an envious calm. “This is only round one. We still have a job to do.”
Adam nodded, and motioned for Leon to open the room’s third door. He hurried to obey, exposing the stadium’s back corridors. Diane marched into the concrete hallways, her heels a clacking announcement of her progress.
“I can’t believe it,” said Leon.
He laughed with a squeaking pre-adolescent pitch, and repeated the sentiment as he scurried after her. Walter followed, a stoic shadow in their wake. He glanced over his shoulder with his hand on the knob.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“No,” said Adam. “I should get to work on tomorrow.”
“You don’t have it planned out already?”
Adam met Walter’s gaze. The handler’s brown eyes sparkled, providing the sole indication the numbers on the screens had had an impact. With a grin, Adam inspired a further break in Walter’s restrained façade.
“I have a few ideas,” said Adam.
“Better get started then, she’s going to have her hands full.”
“Aren’t we all?”
With a snort, Walter shut the door, completing Adam’s self-imposed solitude. As his pulse quickened into a drum roll, he crossed the room, folded his arms, and stared down at the crowd.
The banners and flags had vanished, lost admit the suits and ribbon-circled boater hats. Only the state indicators remained upright while the mass of black, blue, and dots of other colors milled.
Gripping the sleeves of his dress shirt, Adam waited. He realized he held his breath when he found his chest burning during the announcer’s march across stage.
At the centered podium, he raised both hands, requesting quiet. The starched envelope he held gathered the crowd’s attention like a magnet. Even with the glass dampening the ambient noise, the whole floor seemed to quiet further, as if everyone’s breaths had been stolen at once.
Bobbing on the anxious sea, the announcer finally broke the seal and withdrew the insert. He stared at the name for what seemed like hours. Without looking up, he leaned into the microphone and spoke.
Adam couldn’t read the other man’s lips across the distance, but he heard the name all the same. The crowd did as well.
As indicated by the calculations filling the monitors at his back, a greater number than he had expected celebrated.
Seconds later, Diane walked out onto the stage alone, although Adam imagined Walter on guard in the wings beside a twitchy Leon. With her appearance, streamers leapt into the air, named placards wiggled, and balloons showered. Waving both hands, she beamed a proud and satisfied smile.
Adam lost sight of her behind the array of tissue paper and bulbous orbs. Turning away from the windows, he inhaled to the soles of his road-thinned loafers and set his mind on the tasks waiting for tomorrow, each a step toward ultimate victory and a start of four years making change, making a difference, and maybe, if they were lucky, making history.