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“One person, one vote—that’s the most basic concept there is,” he continued. “If you ask any American, he or she will say that’s absolutely the way it is. But it’s not. It’s one person in Rhode Island gets a bigger vote than one person in California. And if this entire vote rests on a thousand people in one state, even though Stein won by over half a million in the whole country—well, I’ve been down that road. And this time I’m not leaving it up to the damn Supreme Court to vote for the people who brung ’em to the dance.”

“Honey,” Flora said, putting her hand on his shoulder, “you’re being a real downer.”

Virgil smiled. “I suppose you’re right. Shall we get jiggy with it?”

All the members of my generation looked at one another blankly.

“After all,” Virgil said, “who let the dogs out?”

Dogs? I didn’t see any dogs.

“Can’t touch this!”

Then, inexplicably, he started to do this jump ’n’ thrump move that must’ve been real big when he was real small. Flora cranked up the song, and we all started to laugh and scat.

The party was saved.

Nobody turned off the screen, but we kept it muted, so the newsreader could look out at us and only see dancing, as if we knew something that he didn’t for a change.

I loved dancing with Jimmy because it was one of the few things I knew that could make him look nervous. He’d grown up in a house where classic-classical dominated—his parents weren’t even into neo-classical because they didn’t like the added beats. So when everyone started to thrump, it was like Jimmy felt like he was part of a different playlist. He went looking for the beats instead of letting them permeate.

I led. I jazzed my hands down his body, then flung myself around him. I could hear Mandy and Janna whooping to my left and could see Virgil and Flora admiring us while they took things a beat or two slower.

After a few songs of this, I needed a quick bathroom break. The downstairs bathroom was occupied, so I skipped up the stairs to where the bedrooms of the house used to be. I usually kept to the downstairs area, so I wasn’t as familiar with upstairs as I could have been. The first door I opened was a linen closet. The next was the executive office. I realized my mistake immediately and was quietly closing the door when I noticed two figures in the back of the room, silhouetted against the window shade by a streetlamp outside. Keisha and Sara. Which wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary—Keisha was one of Sara’s best volunteers—but when my eyes adjusted a little I could see that Sara’s hand was under Keisha’s shirt, and Keisha was leaning into it like a cat being petted, purring from the joy of it. They were so wrapped up in each other that they didn’t see me. Since I hadn’t turned the hallway light on, only a gray shade of dimness came into the room with me. I was so surprised, I nearly cried out. But luckily something deeper than surprise took hold of me, and I managed to leave the room without a sound, closing the door before I attracted any notice.

Keisha and Sara? And with Mira right downstairs.

I almost wanted to open the door again, to make sure what I’d seen was true. That it wasn’t just a trick of the light that caused Sara’s hand to rub against Keisha’s body that way. That it wasn’t Keisha at all, only some other girl who looked like her.

But of course I didn’t open the door again. I stood in the hallway for too long, paralyzed by hundreds of thoughts that didn’t add up to a single understanding. Then I finally found my way to the bathroom. I turned on the light and stared at my reflection in the medicine-cabinet mirror. I looked messed up, shocked. Which was a very accurate reflection.

Keisha and Mira had always been the couple that Jimmy and I wanted to be. They seemed entirely at ease with their love, comfortable enough to argue without ever fighting. They believed they were meant to be together, and we all believed it, too. Because their happiness, their comfort, always spilled over to us. Their light was something we could all read by.

“Keisha and Sara.” I said it out loud. As if someone would peek his head out from the shower and say, Don’t be ridiculous. But instead there was only the sound of my voice. And it rang true.

Even my voice had seen.

I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, because all the conclusions jumped straight to endings.

I could go back in and confront them.

No.

I could go downstairs and tell Mira.

No.

I could forget it all.

Not possible.

I was so glad they hadn’t seen me. And I wished they had seen me, so it wouldn’t be up to me.

I had no idea what to do.

eight

“Did you see Keisha up there?” Mira asked as soon as I got back downstairs.

I could tell from her voice: She had no idea. There wasn’t a thread of suspicion in the question.

“Know,” I said, understanding full well that it would come out as “no.” Lying to myself that I wasn’t entirely lying.

She believed me, because she didn’t think she had any reason not to. I wanted to say, Go upstairs yourself, but at that moment I heard footsteps coming down.

Sara.

She had a big smile for me.

“Welcome to the victory party, Duncan!” she said. There wasn’t a crack in her cheer, not a scruple out of place in her expression.

“I’ve got to find Jimmy,” I replied. What I really meant was: I’ve got to get away.

It must have shown. Even if Mira and Sara couldn’t see it, Jimmy could.

“What’s wrong?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I said. Then, when he didn’t look satisfied with that answer, I nodded toward the open screen and said, “Kansas.”

The newsreader cut to a live news conference at the opponent’s headquarters.

We turned up the volume.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the good people of America, believers in democracy and defenders of freedom everywhere, I address you tonight because over the past twelve hours a good number of events have come to light in the state of Kansas that have given me clear and fair reason to believe that the election for the next President of the United States is not yet over. Because of this new and important information, I will not concede the election, and will call upon my opponent to refrain from declaring an end to this contest until all of the American people, including the good and honest people of Kansas, have had their rightful say. Grave and serious doubts about the election have been raised, and when they are answered, I expect both the truth and the facts will show that I have won the state of Kansas, and thus the Presidency, a sacred office to which I pledge my undying devotion and loyalty. Whether it takes ten more hours, ten more days, or ten more weeks to determine the true and fair winner of this most important contest, I will remain strong and steadfast until that truth is revealed. May the great God shine on America, and may freedom ring forever and ever, amen.”

“The man always uses twenty words when two will do!” Virgil burst out.

The dancing had stopped now. We all watched as Stein took the podium at his own headquarters.

“He doesn’t look that happy,” Jimmy mumbled to me.

He was right. Stein looked like he’d been through a tornado, with pieces of his house still in his hair.

“This can’t be good,” Janna murmured.

As soon as Stein got to the microphone and the reporters quieted down, he went right to the point.

“What is happening in Kansas is politics as usual, and it’s not good politics. We have won Kansas fair and square and we are not going to be bullied or intimidated into losing a state that we won. The American people have spoken, and half a million more of them voted for me than voted for my opponent. In Kansas, a thousand more of them voted for me than voted for my opponent. These are the facts, and we will let them guide us. We will not let rogue members of my opponent’s party throw the election. A democratic nation will not tolerate that.”

It was an amazing thing to watch: The more Stein spoke, the more the fire in him blazed. Even if he’d started out weary, each word seemed to energize his presence. It made me believe in him once more.

But the truth was: It wasn’t over. We had thought it was over. We had thought we’d won. But instead the fight had only intensified.

Sensing this, Virgil turned off the screen and stood in front of it. Sara moved to his side. I looked back and saw that Keisha had returned to the room. I avoided her gaze, because I knew if I caught it, she’d see I was unable to look her in the eye.

“Well, folks, it’s looking like our victory party was a little premature,” Virgil told us. “But whatever’s thrown our way, we can take it. If we’ve gotta fight for our right, so be it. Wherever we have to take a stand, we’ll take a stand. Because those bastards aren’t going to take the Presidency away from us. No amount of fear they throw our way is going to do that. Am I right?”

We all nodded.

“What’s that?” Virgil wasn’t pleased. “I don’t think I heard you. Let’s try this again. Am I right?”

“Yes!” we called out.

“And are you with me?”

“Yes!”

“Pump up the jam a little more, kids. Are you with me?”

“YES!”

Virgil nodded. “That’s more like it.”

I looked at the blank screen behind him. That seemed as good an image as any to show how we felt—we weren’t sure where we were, or what we were supposed to do, or even what was going on. I knew we were supposed to feel rallied, but mostly I felt confused. Let down, even. Like we’d just run a marathon and were now being told they’d added a twenty-seventh mile. And a twenty-eighth. And maybe even more after that.

If this made me depressed, it made Jimmy angry. He just kept shaking his head, cursing.

“This can’t be happening,” he said.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and found Mira and Keisha, holding hands.

“What now?” Mira asked.

I couldn’t stop looking at their hands. So casually together.

“Duncan?” Keisha asked.

I saw you, I wanted to say. But not with Mira there.

“I’ve gotta go,” I said instead.

“I’m with you,” Jimmy said. “Let’s walk to mine.”

We said our good-byes. Virgil and Sara told us they’d let us know as soon as they found out what the next steps were. Flora gave us each another big hug. Then we were out in the night, the conversations of the house fading behind us.

Nothing felt right.

nine

It was about a twenty-minute walk to Jimmy’s house, and we were silent for the first ten. I kept flashing back to Sara and Keisha, and then to the oblivious look on Mira’s face. And I kept seeing Stein before he started talking, and I wondered which was the truth—his expression then or the energy he gave us when he was speaking. Did he secretly think it was over? Would the opposition manage to sway everything yet again?

Jimmy took my hand, and I had to chase out the image of Mira and Keisha holding hands just like us.

Finally Jimmy said, “It’s just too much.” And at first I thought he was talking about Mira and Keisha. Then I realized, of course, he had no idea. And I didn’t want to tell him, because there wasn’t anything he could do, either. Telling him would just make him feel as bad as I felt, and I didn’t see any reason for that. I would just have to hold on to it myself.

“So close and yet so far,” I agreed.

“We can’t let it happen.”

He lifted his fingers out of mine and started to rub my arm. I pressed in a little more. His touch was nice. Very nice.

We started to kiss, right there on the sidewalk. Not light pecks or sweetheart affections. No—this was need and this was desire and this was our way of trying to negate all the negativity around us. This was what the opposition always wanted to stop, so we did it and did it and did it.

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