Sunday, October 30, 2011

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter Ten

Maren Bradley Anderson

This is the tenth chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!


Even though Cal was cross-eyed from her never-ending date with Nicolas, Cal recognized a fellow non-sleeper with a “glow” about her.

“You slept with him, didn’t you?” Cal whispered from across the table. Not seeing an instant denial, she squealed quietly. “Oh, you did! You did!”

“No, no, no,” Liz insisted. “It’s not like that.” Then coyly, “Who do you mean?”

Cal grinned. “You know who.”

“Yes, but I’m surprised you do.”

“Oh, please,” said Cal. “Anyone within ten feet of you two can feel the chemistry.”

“I the last one to notice?” Liz said with a sigh.

“You always are,” said Cal with a smile. Then, leaning forward, “So our, um, sex strike is still in tact, correct?”

Liz smiled. “Of course. We’re adults. Not that it was easy.”

“I want a blow-by-blow.”

“For starters, I don’t kiss and tell...”

“Yes, you do, honey.”

“...and second, there was none of that anyway.”

Liz sat back with a smile and a sigh. Without thinking, Cal did , too. Liz’s sharp ears recognized the same happy note in both of them.

“Cal, is there something you want to tell me?” she asked.

“Hmm? About what?”

Liz sat forward. “That self-satisfied sigh of a woman in...Cal, where’d you go last night after the rally?”

Liz was stunned when Cal blushed. “You had a date?”

“The Biology Professor with the brown eyes,” Cal admitted.

“Wow! That was quick.” She peered more closely at her friend. “Wait a minute. You didn’t get any sleep last night, either!”

“No, I didn’t. But we were good, too!” Cal added quickly. “Though it was hard.”

“That’s what she said!” Zeke said, walking up to the table and sitting down. “What? Is that joke passé now?”

Liz and Cal giggled. “I can see by Cal’s face that last night’s adventures have been discussed and given approval.”

“Yes,” said Cal. “But none of this can be out in the open yet, kids.”

“Right,” said Liz.

“I’ve been waiting years. A couple more weeks will be okay,” said Zeke.

Elektra joined them. “Good morning, team,” she said. She took one look at the faces around the table and said, “Okay, what’s going on here?”

Cal jumped in, “We’ve had a breakthrough. Liz and Zeke have admitted their feelings for each other.”

“’Bout damn time,” said Elektra. “It was like a sauna standing near the two of you.”

“And Cal had a date last night!” said Liz.

“Really?” asked Zeke. “Who?”

“Professor here. I’ll fill you in later,” said Liz.

“I see,” said Elektra carefully. “We’re still go for the strike, though, right?”

“Oh, yes,” said Liz.

“I believe you, but no one else will,” said Elektra.

“We know, Elektra,” said Zeke. “We’re all keeping it under our hats for now.”

“Good plan,” she said, shaking out her napkin. “’Specially since they want to see us tonight.”

“Who?” asked Liz.

“Haven’t checked your email yet?”

Three mobile email devices suddenly appeared and thumbs flew. All of them read the email from the office of the President at the same time:

To: Elizabeth Stratton and Elektra Sampson
From: The Office of the President of the United States
Subject: Meeting Tonight


Your presence is requested at a meeting of upper-level officials tonight. Subject to be announced at the meeting. A car will pick you up at 7:30 p.m. outside of your hotel to take you to the meeting place.

Melvin Bernstrom
President of the United States

“Oh, my God,” said Liz. “Is this for real?”

“I’ll check this out. I’ll call the White House and make them confirm or deny it. I’m not letting either of you in a car without confirmation,” Cal said, punching a speed-dial number in her phone.

“You have the White House number in speed-dial?” Liz asked.

“Yeah. The switchboard operator, Madge, and I go way back,” Cal said. “Hey Madge. Cal. I need someone to confirm an email we received...uh, huh. Really? Can you confirm the car, too? Wow. Okay. No, they’ll be there. Thanks again, Madge. Bye.”

“Where do you know Madge from?”

Cal smiled. “She’s a charter member of WAP. Plus, when you call the White House to protest as often as I do, it’s best to make friends where you can. Madge says this is on the up and up. She was even left instructions for when I called by the Chief of Staff himself.”

Liz leaned back in her chair. “What the hell do they want?” Zeke put a reassuring hand on her knee under the table.

Elektra said, “We should be prepared for anything. Maybe they’ve dug up some dirt, or maybe they made up some dirt.”

“You think the President would stoop to fictional blackmail?” asked Liz.

“You are way too nice to be President,” said Cal. “This is the same man who is continuing a war just so his buddies can make a buck. He’d like to make a buck now, so he would love his friend Ostrem to win the election.”

“I see,” said Liz. “Then let’s be prepared. Let’s put our heads together and come up with a plan.”


The black sedan pulled up to their Boston hotel’s front door right on time. Liz and Elektra walked to the car with only a pocketbook and an overcoat each.

“Ladies,” the driver said in greeting as he held the door for them.

Liz smiled at him. “As long as we’re back by curfew, there won’t be any trouble.”
The driver smiled and closed the door after them.

The drive was far shorter than Liz had anticipated. She hoped to compose herself a little more since her nap on the bus didn’t really replace a night of sleep. But in twenty minutes, the driver pulled behind a large building and stepped out to open the door for them. Then he led them up a flight of carpeted stairs. Finally, he opened a door to a small meeting room in what looked like a hotel.

Seated at the table in the center of the room was, in fact, the President—Liz had doubted Bernstrom would actually show—and astonishinly, beside him sat both Bill Ostrem and Oscar Beckinger.

They stood as Liz and Elektra entered. The President shook hands with them enthusiastically. “Ms. Stratton, Mrs. Sampson. So good to finally meet you. Someone get their coats. Sit, sit.”

“It’s a pleasure, Mr. President,” said Elektra as she sat and crossed her ankles. “I never thought I’d see the day when I got to shake the hand of a sitting President.”
“I never thought I’d see this day, either,” grumbled Ostrem. He yelped as Beckinger kicked him under the table.

“So, I’m dying of curiosity, Mr. President. Why did you ask us here?” asked Liz.
The President rubbed his face. “Well, it’s like this,” he said. “We’re sick of this sex strike thingy, and we want it to stop.”

Liz and Elektra glanced at each other. “Oh, really?” said Liz.

“Sure, sure we are,” President Berntrom said. “Aren’t you sick of it, too?”

“Naturally,” said Elektra. “You can imagine how hard Mr. Sampson is to handle these days.”

“No, but I mean you miss it, too, don’t you?”

“We’re only human, Mr. President,” said Liz. “Are you going somewhere with this?”

“I just want to establish that we all want the sex strike to end.”

“Mr. President,” said Liz carefully. “We want the war to end. The sex strike will end once the war is over, and we are prepared to stick to our guns until then.”

“I told you this wouldn’t work,” grumbled Ostrem, and yelped again as he was kicked from two sides this time.

Beckinger leaned across the table. “You know you’re losing impetus, don’t you? You’ve heard the reports about women giving in? You’ve heard about the preachers telling women that it’s their wifely duty to lie with their husbands? Why not end it now while you’ve still got some people following you? We can arrange a bit of a cease-fire that will appease your constituency. How would that be?” He smiled winningly, all confidence and teeth.

Liz was amazed that she ever thought him attractive. “That would be a start,” she said.

“All you’d have to do is call off the strike and drop out of the race,” said the President. “We’ll call a cease-fire before the election and we’ll all be back to normal relations before we know it. That was easier than I thought it would be.”

“Hold up,” said Elektra in a voice that had stopped seventeen-year-old felons in their tracks. “We haven’t agreed to anything yet. I’m not dropping out of the race, and neither is Ms. Stratton. We’re not settling for a cease-fire, either, because in a cease-fire, guns are still pointed both ways, we just save on ammunition.”

“That’s right,” said Liz. “We are committed to ending the war, not delaying it or stalling it so that one of you can be elected just to start it up again.”

Governor Ostrem had had enough, and stood and glowered at the women from across the table. “Listen here, ladies,” he hissed. “If you don’t drop out of this race, if you don’t call off this strike, we will make sure that you don’t win, by any means at our disposal. Any means, do you hear?”

Liz locked him with a steely gaze she usually reserved for weasely show guests who were trying to avoid answering a direct question. “Governor Ostrem,” she said, pronouncing each syllable of his name. “And the rest of you. Listen to me carefully: We realize that we may not win this race. We realize that you may do your damnedest to ruin our reputations to ensure that we don’t win. We also realize, however, that we have the nation’s undivided attention; we have the spotlight. We are shining that spotlight onto our cause, ending the war, and we don’t intend to give up as long as we have America’s attention. We may not win the election, gentlemen, but we are already two of the most powerful people in America because we have the backing of half of the populace, and we control the one thing you want more than anything else: the female body.”

Liz and Elektra stood and picked up their pocketbooks. “Unless there is anything else, gentlemen, we’ll be on our way,” said Elektra. “Good night.”

And they left.


“How’d it go in there, ladies?” the driver asked politely as he held the door for them.

“Surprisingly well,” said Liz. “What is your name?”


“Well, Ed,” sadi Liz. “There’s a $100 tip in it for you if you can find us some Veuve Cliquot and Ben and Jerry’s Phish Phood in this town.”

“Yes, Ma’am!”

Elektra and Liz giggled as they sat in the back of the car.

“I have to say, Elektra. You have brass balls,” Liz said.

“Same to ya,” replied Elektra. “I cannot believe that just happened. Some nerve they have.”

“I’m amazed they let us just march out of there with the last word and everything.”

“I think they’re amazed we just marched out of there with the last word,” said Elektra. “I think Ostrem went apoplectic after we left. I’ve never seen a man so purple.”

They gave Ed his $100, and then toted the pints of ice-cream and bottles of champagne into the hotel where Cal and Zeke awaited them. None of the other staff knew of the meeting, but Cal and Zeke were waiting and hugely relieved to see them.

“What’s the ice-cream for?” asked Zeke.

“We’re celebrating,” said Elektra.

“They’re afraid of us,” said Liz. “Running scared. Ready to offer us anything to call off the dogs.”

“It was fun,” said Elektra. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Ostrem were dead of a stroke by now.”

“Ostrem was there?” asked Cal.

“Ostrem, the President and Beckinger. The whole lot of them,” said Liz, digging in to a pint of ice cream.

“They’re working together? Oh, that’s bad,” said Zeke.

“They wouldn’t have offered us anything if we weren’t hurting them badly,” Liz said, mouth full of mocha and nuts.

“You should have seen your girl, there tonight,” said Elektra as she opened the champagne. “She was on fire and steely.”

“Nothing intimidates Elektra,” said Liz. “We make a great team.”

“Well, then, a toast,” said Cal, raising her glass. “To having them on the run.”

“On the run!” They clinked glasses and tossed back the first of many toasts that night.

After three glasses, Zeke put his arm around Liz’s waist and whispered, “I worship you, you know.”

Liz smiled. “I did not know. Thank you for telling me.”

“I adore everything about you.”

“Go on. Tell me more about my eyes.”

Instead, he pulled her to him and kissed her.

“You,” said Liz. “I’ve thought back over the years, and I don’t know what I would have done without you. You have always been there for me.”

“I know,” said Zeke. “Pathetic.”

“Heroic,” corrected Liz. “I really couldn’t have done any of this without you. Thank you.”

“Oh, don’t do that. Don’t thank me. I had to. I loved you.”

“I know that now. Thank you for loving me. Obtuse me.”

“You’re more than welcome.”

Two bottles into the celebration, Liz had an idea.

“It’s not enough to simply deny them sex anymore,” Liz said. “It is now time to taunt them. I want revenge. I want to see them squirm.”

“What do you propose?” Zeke asked, emptying his glass.

“I’m thinking, bikini days,” Liz began.

“Oh! Oh! And girl-on-girl massage-a-thons,” Cal jumped in.

“...And lingerie lunches!” Elektra said. “Mr. Sampson really likes those.”

“So the idea is to get as much naked female flesh into the public sphere as possible?” Zeke asked.

“Yes. Unavailable female flesh,” Liz said. “Porn is one thing. A girl in a tube-top on the street is another.”

“But it’s fall. Won’t it be too cold most places for fleshy bits?” Cal wondered.

“Improvisation. Black lacy bra under a white shirt. Too short skirt at work. Skin, skin, skin. Women should be as naked as possible before the election.”

“I thought torture was illegal,” said Zeke.

“Poor boy,” said Cal, patting his knee. “In every war there are innocent casualties.”

“I like the idea,” said Elektra. “I would like to show those old men that we can fight dirty, too.”


Esther watched the evening news with her cat while her live-in boyfriend Mark pouted in the bedroom. She had cut him off after a particularly derisive remark about a woman being President, but she found later that she did want the war to end enough to give up sex with the whiny misogynistic shit in the other room. She knew she would make up with him later, but at the moment she was enjoying the perks her anger had given her. Like watching the 10 o’clock news with Powder and a pint of ice cream unmolested by “Randy McHandsy.”

Her favorite local anchor, a pert blonde named Blaire Sanders, was wearing a shirt Esther didn’t approve of. It was eggplant, which clashed with her skin tone, and hung off her shoulders like a flour sack. The way it was gathered completely erased her waist, too. Esther wondered if the wardrobe mistress was getting even for something.

Esther snapped out of her critique when she heard the words “bikini days.” This was intriguing enough that Esther hit the reverse button on the DVR to the beginning of the story. It annoyed the hell out of Mark when she did this, but it amused her to see people talking backwards.

“In election news,” purple-blonde Blaire said. “WAP candidate Liz Stratton is encouraging women everywhere to don their skimpiest outfits. She has called ‘bikini days’ until the election. Ms. Stratton says that the feedback from the press conference that is now being called ‘The Spectacle’ was so positive, that she believes more skin is called for.”

The picture changed to a shot of Liz Stratton standing at a podium, smiling to a group of reporters, wearing a conservative white blouse unbuttoned to mid-chest and a lacy lavender bra showing through. “It is imperative that we keep the attention of the country on our cause. To that end, I want everyone who believes that the war in Mesopotaminastan should end should wear as little as is legal in her geographic area. I don’t want to hear about anyone getting frostbite, now, but I want their eyes popping out of their heads, ladies!”

The anchorwoman came back on screen, grinning from ear to ear. “The campaign has set up a page on the website on ideas for ‘bikini days.’” Still grinning, she turned to her male co-anchor. “It should be an interesting couple weeks, huh, George?”
George shifted a little in his seat and smiled bravely. “Yes, yes, interesting, Blaire.”

“Heck, bikinis sell coffee, why not politics?” the weather guy/comic relief said from the edge of the desk. It was rumored that he was gay, and his glee at George’s discomfort was palpable.

George cleared his throat and began a story about yet another convenience store being robbed.

Esther turned off the TV and stroked Powder for a moment. In her head, she went through the outfits in her closet and pictured herself going to work in the skirt she reserved for third dates, or the shoes she wore when she needed to feel good about herself. Her boss, a dangerously fat man who sweated as he ate lunch, might have a coronary when he saw her, but Esther decided she would risk it. It was for a good cause, after all.

The next morning Mark watched with widening eyes as Esther dressed for work. She put on each of his favorite articles of clothing, and primped and pranced in front of the mirror until she looked as good as he’d ever seen her. When she turned to leave, she found Mark kneeling in the bedroom doorway blocking her way.
“Please,” he said in a funny, growly voice. “Please, Esther. Just once. You’re killing me.”

Esther drew her fingertips along his handsome jaw-line, rough with stubble, and kissed his forehead. “You’re a dear, Mark, but no.” Using the extra height her favorite attention-getting heels gave her, she stepped over her boyfriend and left for work.

The office she worked at was full of ladies who had seen the same news segment Esther had. Every woman there was dolled up in her most revealing outfit. They ranged in taste from vamp-ish to subtle, but they all had basically the same effect. Every woman who showed her skin, from 300-pound Vera to pixie-like Angie, reduced the men in the office to staring, drooling mannequins. Productivity was reduced by precisely two-thirds: Esther’s company hadn’t yet achieved an equal man-woman ratio.
Esther, however, found that she was getting more work done. What men who were still functional sheepishly scurried along the hallways with their eyes averted. If they had to speak to a woman in person, they kept the conversation as short as possible. If something had to be worked out in detail, telephones or emails were used. Best of all, even Creepy Dan was too overwhelmed to come sniffing around Esther’s door. Before Bikini Days, Esther could count on Dan to interrupt her at least ten times a day so he could rake his lascivious eyes over her body. Ironically, now that she and every other woman were dressed as he had only fantasized, he couldn’t stand to look at them. Esther was in heaven.


 Maureen sat on the stage of Spare Me! feeling hot under the lights and angry. The smug bitch in the navy pantsuit seated across from her was an executive of a major “energy development company,” which everyone knew was just an oil company that dabbled in wind on the side. She had just finished telling Maureen and the audience that her company supported ending the war in Mesopotamianstan.

“I’m sorry,” said Maureen. “Could you explain why to me again? I’m fuzzy on the details.”

“Well, naturally, war isn’t good for the economy,” the executive, Ms. Jackson, began.

Maureen cut in. “That’s bull. Wars are great for the economy. They’ve pulled this country out of at least two recessions. Give me a better reason.”

Ms. Jackson re-crossed her legs. “This war hasn’t been good for the economy of our company,” she said. “We’ve been cut out of Mesopotamianstan exploration for years as a result of the war.”

“But the price of oil has doubled since then,” said Maureen. “You’re telling me that hasn’t helped your company? Plus, The Times reported that your company has had exclusive development rights there for the last three years.”

Ms. Jackson glared at Maureen. “We develop other kinds of energy, too, you know,” she snapped. “We’ve spent millions of dollars on our West Texas wind farms.”

“Hardly anyone lives in West Texas, so what good is that?” Maureen said. “Ms. Jackson, it comes down to this: I don’t believe what you or your company says. I think that you are profiting hugely from this war. What’s more, I think that your company is an example of the rampant war profiteering that has been going on since this ‘operation’ began. And I think it’s shameful.”

“I didn’t come on this show to be abused in this way,” Ms. Jackson huffed.

“You’re welcome to leave,” said Maureen. “I’m tired of your lies.”

Ms. Jackson stood and pulled the microphone off of her lapel. She stomped off of the set to the jeers of the audience. Maureen sat back in her chair and crossed her arms, glaring after her. In her head, however, she was thinking, Shit. Now how am I going to fill time on the show?

She glanced at her producer, Kevin. He shrugged. Then he signaled a commercial break. Thank heaven this wasn’t a live show. They’d have some time to scramble.
Kevin stepped up and sat in the chair the oil executive had just vacated. “That was cute,” he said, smiling. Maureen wished again that he weren’t a flaming homosexual. He was tasty.

“I know, I know,” she moaned. “I got fed up. I also got the feeling that she wasn’t up for another ten minutes of interview.” She sighed. “Do we have any emergency filler hiding in the back?”

Kevin flipped though the sheets on his clipboard. “Nope. Maybe it’s time to interview the audience again.”

Maureen shook her head. “I hate that. Let me think.” She looked up at the lights and wished that Liz were there. “Wait. We can link a phone call to the speakers, right?”
“Ya-huh. What are you thinking?”

“Let’s get Liz on the phone. But don’t tell the audience.”

Kevin grinned and scampered off. Maureen wondered again if he had a straight brother with a similar button-cute ass.


“And now, we have a surprise for you!” Maureen said when the intro music and applause quieted. “We’ve got the most famous woman in the world on the phone!”
An excited murmur rippled through the crowd.

“She is super-popular, super-cute, and knows how to whup ass. Are you there, mystery guest?” Maureen asked the ether.

“Yes, I am,” said Liz from the speakers. The audience cheered. “Thank you, thank you.” Liz’s voice was a little tinny and scratchy from the cell phone, and Maureen could tell that she was weary. She hoped that the audience didn’t pick up on it.
“So, where are you, Liz?”

“Ah, good question. Let me look,” said Liz. Maureen could hear her shift her seat on the bus. “Well, we’re somewhere where there’s lots of fall color on the trees and rolling hills. What’s that?” There was a muffled murmur on the line. “My campaign manager, Zeke, has told me that we’re in Massachusetts on the turnpike on our way to Boston. Silly me.” The audience chuckled.

“I’m not surprised you are having trouble keeping track,” said Maureen. “You’ve been everywhere since you started the campaign.”

“It’s true,” said Liz. “I couldn’t have done it without my support staff, and all of you in the audience.” They clapped. “That’s right,” she said. “I’m like Tinkerbelle in Peter Pan. I’ll go away if you stop believing, so keep believing, keep clapping!” The crowd cheered. Maureen had to grin.

“Liz, a few audience members had some questions for you. Will you answer them?”
“Sure thing.”

“Okay, our first question is from Beverly from Orange County.”

Beverly stood awkwardly at the microphone, a housewife who had had her hair done especially for this outing. “Hi, Liz,” she said.

“Orange County is a big place. Which town, Beverly?”

“Oh, Irvine.”

“Nice. I like to have lunch downtown near the college. What’s your question?”

“Oh, um, I was wondering if you had any advice on how to keep my husband happy during the sex strike?”

“Well, the point is kind of to keep him un-happy, Beverly,” Liz said to the amusement of the crowd. “However, I don’t want any divorces occurring here. Remember, this is a sex strike. Without getting too Bill Clinton here, there are things that are sex, and things that are not. I’ll let you draw the lines, but maybe your man need to know that while you still love him and want him to be happy, you are giving up something special in order to show solidarity to something that’s important to you. Then make him his favorite dinner.”

The next woman at the microphone was very young and orange-county. “Liz, I wondered if there were a man in your life right now?”

Maureen heard the half-moment extra that Liz took before she answered, though she didn’t think the audience noticed. “No,” she said. “I’ve been on the road so much that I haven’t met anyone new, not that I’d have had time to start a romance, even if I had.”

“So this sex-strike is kinda easy for you, then, isn’t it?” the woman said.
“Well, it’s as easy as any dry-spell is for a girl, I guess,” admitted Liz to laughter. “I’m not finding it easy, myself, but I guess I don’t have the daily temptation that a woman with a husband faces.”

A new woman stepped to the mic. “I heard rumors that you had a man sleeping in your room with you, Liz. Is it true?”

Liz laughed. “It’s true. I had a plain-clothes secret service agent posted in my room at night when we had a minor security scare. It was only temporary, and it was purely innocent.”

“Why not have a female agent in your room? Wouldn’t that be less suspicious?”

“Our best agent happened to be a man, and I decided not to hold it against him.” The audience laughed a bit.

A woman of a certain age and a certain seriousness stepped up. “Liz, if you get elected, whose going to be your Foreign Affairs secretary?”

“We haven’t filled that position yet,” said Liz. “We’re looking for someone with experience, naturally, but also someone who is passionate about ending this war while keeping the country secure.”

“What will be your first priority if you’re elected to office?”

“Ending the war, naturally, but my second would be to eliminate the glass ceiling in this country. If we can’t legislate it out, then we’ll culture it out.”

“Where are you going to be on election night?”

“I’ll be at home, since I have to cast my ballot in California. After that, we’re going to Camp Pendleton to watch the results with some military wives. We’re having an election night bash, and everyone in the audience gets to go!” The audience cheered at Liz’s generosity.


Liz was over the moon. She was in love with Zeke Rowan. Two days ago, when she’d snapped out of her snooze to find his fingers tickling the tender spot behind her knee, her first feeling was of shock, but then she realized how turned on she was. In fact, his hand cupping her calf made her very excited, indeed. She surprised herself by wanting to jump him right then and there.

She sat back in her seat and watched Zeke at work, bent over his laptop, furiously typing by punching the keyboard with only his index fingers. He felt her looking at him, so he peeked at her over his glasses and gave her a wink.

Though they were able to eat together and saw each other nearly every minute during the day, since they had decided to keep the relationship quiet until after the election, they couldn’t be affectionate, even in the relative privacy of the bus. Most of the staffers were aware of the change in relationship, though most of them had figured out that Zeke had the hots for Liz long ago. That much had been common knowledge.

Liz closed her eyes, and played a game she’d started two days ago: when did I realize that I loved Zeke? That night in her room, Liz wasn’t exactly surprised by her feelings for Zeke. The feelings were familiar and comfortable; what had been surprising was that they hadn’t surprised her. It was like realizing that your mom’s spaghetti is your favorite food without having missed it before.

She went back in her memory day by day trying to pinpoint the exact time she began to rely on Zeke in a way that wasn’t just professional. She went back years before she realized that it had been a long time indeed since she had become so connected to Zeke.

She kicked herself again for being so blind and not recognizing her feelings for Zeke sooner. So much time wasted. Worse, so much energy spent on space wasters like Dion and Evan. She moaned inwardly at the thought of “Agent” Dion Young. She hoped he was miserable somewhere. She still hadn’t recovered fully from the shame of that event.

Liz stole a peek at Zeke again. He had waxed his head that morning, so it was especially shiny. His dark-rimmed glasses framed his round face and made his brown eyes stand out. He was dressed in his customary dark colors, but he was a little casual today in jeans (dark wash) and a tee shirt (black). She squinted at the printing on the shirt and made out the words “Runs with Scissors.” She found herself wishing she hadn’t called the sex strike so she could pull that shirt off and wrap his thin frame around her.

Cal slid into the seat next to her. “I know what you’re thinking,” she whispered.


“’Cause I’m thinking it, too.”

“I doubt it.”

“You’re thinking about jumping him.”

“You are, too?” Liz grinned. “I think we might have a problem, here.”

“Not him,” Cal said. “I’ve got my own libido, you know.”

“True. You still need to tell me more about Nicolas.”

“Fine. But you’re going to laugh.” Cal pulled out her palm pilot and brought up a picture of a man in a corduroy jacket with suede patches on the elbows drinking from an enormous purple glass.

“Cute,” said Liz. “Wait. That’s a scorpion. He took you to the Huki Lau?”

“Other way around.”

“Nice,” said Liz. “You like him?”

“I want to nibble his ears off and keep locks of his hair in my bra.”

“Isn’t that what you once said about George Michael?”

“Oh, he’s British and gay,” Cal said. “Don’t hold my teenage crushes against me, Ms. ‘I want to have Luke Perry’s babies.’”

“Okay, fair enough,” laughed Liz. “Seriously, I’m happy for you, Cal. When do you see him again?”


“Really? Aren’t we in...Ohio on Friday?”

“He’s flying out.”

“Really? Isn’t that far to go for a date? I mean, I know guys who’d go to those lengths for sex, but a date?”

Cal’s face twitched ever so slightly, but Liz caught it.

“Cal, no!” Liz hissed. “You didn’t promise him something!”

Cal dropped her gaze to her lap. “No, I didn’t. But Liz, he’s sooo yummy. I’m not sure I can...hold out.”

“Calliope Anne Talmadge.” Liz pointed at Zeke. “You see that adorable man over there? I am going out of my mind because I’ve been in love with him without realizing it for at least five years, if not ten, and all we can do now is kiss in secret. If I can hold out, so can you, Madam President of the Women’s Achievement Party.”

“I’m not some sort of saint just because I work for a women’s organization,” pouted Cal.

“I know,” said Liz. “I’m not a saint, either. But if I have to do it, so do you.”

She threw her arm over her friend’s shoulders. “You should make sure Mr. Brown knows he’s not getting past second base in Ohio.”

“Yeah, I’ll call him. I’m sorry.”

“Pshaw,” said Liz. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t wait to meet him. What’s he like?”

Cal grinned. “Besides sexy in that young professor way, he’s devastatingly intelligent. He’s not intimidated by me, either.”

“I know how that is,” said Liz. “It’s really hard to find  men that aren’t afraid of my brain or think that they have to prove something because of it.”

“He’s funny, and sweet, and so earnest. I’m charmed, Lizzy. I haven’t felt this way since...well since Jerry.”

Liz nodded. Liz remembered the hell Jerry had put Cal through, but knew how Cal had loved him. “I’m sure Nicolas will be a far better man than Jerry.”

Liz thought later that it was remarkable that intelligent and powerful women like them could be reduced to giggling schoolgirls by men. She supposed that men went through similar transformations, too, but a powerful man compromising himself to have sex was cliché. However, strong women were somehow expected to be steely and perhaps made of stone below the waist. She suspected that most of the country assumed that Cal was a lesbian since she wasn’t married and headed a pro-women’s organization. She supposed that portion of America assumed Liz was also batting for the other team for similar reasons. America would be surprised to hear the two of them chattering like teenagers about boys. Liz thought it was unfortunate that people thought it was impossible for a woman to play a man’s game and still be a woman. Hillary had not been able to convince people that a little girl lived under her smart pantsuits, much less a sexual being. It was a shame, because recognizing such things would make powerful women more human, and thereby more relatable to people. That would make my job easier, Liz thought.


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About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute. 

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