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The Campaign

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“…And that is why I am running to be your President of the United States.”

Amy clapped along with the rest of the audience. She peeked out from the wings of the stage to see the crowd rising to their feet and couldn’t help but smile. All these people had jammed into this fairly, little gymnasium, just to hear her father speak. They believed in his message and were here to support him. She was proud to call Victor Santiago her father.

She smiled at her father as he walked towards her and her mother. “That was wonderful, Daddy,” she exclaimed, stretching up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.

“Thank you sweetheart,” he replied as he hugged her.

“Truly wonderful,” Amy’s mother added. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Let’s not start celebrating yet. We’re still last in the polls,” chimed in a voice behind Amy. She turned around as her father released her from the hug, to see Roger Peralta, his campaign manager, standing behind her. Roger was flipping through a gigantic stack of paper and rubbing his forehead in stress. “I think you need to commit to the ethanol pledge.”

“I already said I am not going to do that,” Victor stated, walking over to Roger. They started walking out of the back door of the gym.

Amy started to follow them, but felt her mother’s arm on her shoulder. “Let’s let your father and Roger talk alone. Honestly, it gets a little boring,” Helen Santiago explained.

“Alright,” Amy responded, watching her father proudly.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I promised I’d call your brother Jeff once the speech was over to let him know how it went,” Helen said, as she walked out of the gym too.

Left alone, Amy took a moment to take in the behind-the-scenes of the campaign. There were a few staffers still hanging out backstage, all engrossed in their work, none of them seeming to notice her. She walked out onto the stage, seeing the gym that was packed just five minutes ago, was already empty. She walked over to the podium and stood behind it. Her father’s speech was still laying on the podium. She started to read it, silently. She became so enthralled in the speech, that she didn’t even hear the footsteps coming up behind her.

“You must be Amy,” said a loud voice, making Amy jump in surprise. She looked over at where the voice had come from and saw a young man walking towards her. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s alright,” Amy assured him.

Amy took in the man standing before her. He was tall and had curly brown hair, cut short. He was wearing large, tortoise-rimmed glasses that sat on top of his large nose. He was dressed in gray dress pants and a red sweater, a white collared shirt sticking out of the top of the sweater. Amy couldn’t help but think that he was quite attractive, an observation that made her feel slightly uneasy.

“I’m Jake, by the way,” he introduced himself, sticking his hand out. “I’m Roger’s son.”

Amy took Jake’s outstretched hand and shook it firmly.

“That’s quite a firm grip you got there,” he stated with a chuckle.

“I took a seminar,” Amy inadvertently admitted.

“On handshakes?” he asked, clearly puzzled by her response.

Amy blushed. She knew she was a little quirky and maybe a little too, type-A personality, and she wasn’t ashamed of it, but she usually waited before she let someone new see this side of her. Especially when the someone was cute.

“Um…” she stammered.

Jake laughed it off. “Hey, we’ve all got our quirks,” he said. “Personally, I’m addicted to junk food. Everyone tells me it’s disgusting and unhealthy, and I know, but I can’t help it. My best friend Charles is a big foodie, and it drives him crazy that I eat so poorly.”

“You seem a little too proud of your poor eating habits,” Amy suggested, light-heartedly.

“Eh, whatever. I’m young, it’s fine,” he shrugged off.  

Jake walked to the edge of the stage and sat down. He turned back and waved Amy over, patting the spot next to him. Amy walked over and joined him.

“So, why haven’t I met you yet?” Jake asked. “I met all seven of your brothers. Where have you been?”

“Well it’s my senior year of college, so, it’s a little too hectic to just skip classes. And then I spent my winter break in Italy. I’m actually skipping the first week of Spring semester classes to be here for my dad,” Amy explained.

“Where do you go? What are you studying?” Jake asked.

“I study Art History at NYU.”

“What do you plan to do with an art history degree?”

“Become a detective, and eventually Police Captain,” Amy hesitantly proclaimed. Most people thought it was strange that she wanted to be a detective. And nobody ever saw the connection between art history and police work.

“Noice,” Jake responded. “How’s art history going to help you on the force?”

“You know, when I have to go after an art thief,” Amy joked.

“Oh. No doubt, no doubt. Cool, cool, cool,” Jake uttered, nodding his head and smiling at her. Amy smiled back, feeling her face getting a little hot. She was enjoying talking to him, but he was making her a little nervous.

“So, what do you do?” Amy questioned, keeping the conversation going.

“For right not, I’m working on this campaign with my dad. Mostly just making phone calls and talking to voters. Just, boring stuff, but still, important things that must get done,” Jake described.

“And then what?”

“Well,” Jake started hesitantly. “I want to be a detective, too. I’ve wanted to be one ever since I saw Die Hard.”

Amy rolled her eyes jokingly. “Die Hard? Really?” she teased.

“Hey, don’t hate on Die Hard. It’s the best cop movie ever.”

“Nope, that would be Training Day. And Fargo,” Amy argued, staring to feel a little more comfortable around Jake.

“Well, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree,” Jake laughed.

Amy nodded and grinned. Her and Jake sat in an awkward silence looking out at the empty gym.

After several minutes of quiet, Amy started to speak again. “So, do you-”

“Amy! We need to go,” interrupted her mother, calling her from the side of the stage.

Amy turned back to look at her mother and yelled back to her, “Coming.” She looked at Jake who was pushing himself back up. As he stood up, he held a hand out to her, and she took it, letting him help her get back up.

“Will I see you tonight at headquarters to see the results come in?” Jake asked as they walked off the stage.

“I’ll be there for a bit. But, I’m heading back to school on the Red-eye tonight,” Amy said.

“Well, I hope to see you there,” Jake said with a smile and a wink as he walked away. Amy watched him walk away to talk to another staffer. She realized she was grinning, and bit her lip to stop herself from looking stupid. She shook it off and ran to catch up to her mother.

“It’s just the first caucus, it doesn’t even matter.”

“There’s still a lot we can do before the primaries.”

“We just need to re-strategize.”

The results had come in for the Iowa Caucus, and they were not looking good for Victor Santiago – he was in last in the Democratic race. All around Amy, campaign staffers were freaking out, being sickeningly optimistic, or focusing on a new strategy to tackle the rest of the campaign. To Amy, it felt like pandemonium in the Hotel Conference room that was being used as the campaign headquarters in Iowa. Amy had faith in her father though, and was feeling optimistic that he would prevail. The more that he got out and talked to the voters, and spread his positive message, the more the people would fall in love with her father. She was sure of it.

Amy anxiously clutched her luggage and tapped her foot impatiently. If she didn’t leave within the next 15 minutes, she was sure that she was going to miss her flight. Her father was absorbed in an important strategy discussion with Roger. Amy wanted to say good-bye to her father before she left, but she also didn’t want to interrupt an important discussion.  

“There you are!” she heard Jake cry out next to her. She turned her head and was met with his grinning face. “Looks like I spotted you just in time. You heading out?”

“Trying to,” Amy replied, grinning back at him. “I was hoping to say good-bye to my dad before I left, but it looks like he’s busy.”

“You know you can interrupt them,” Jake said.

“No, no, it’s fine,” Amy brushed off.

“Come one,” Jake insisted, rolling his eyes and taking Amy’s hand, dragging her to their fathers. Amy felt her hand getting sweaty at Jake’s touch and hoped he wouldn’t notice. She tried to pull away, but he only gripped her hand tighter, causing Amy to blush. She was thankful that she was behind him and he couldn’t see her red face.

“Yo, Dad,” Jake called out. “Let Amy say good-bye to her dad.”

“Sweetie, leaving us already?” Victor asked.

“I have to. I have classes to go to,” Amy explained.

“Your last semester!” Victor exclaimed, pulling Amy into a hug. “I’m so proud of you.”

“I’m proud of you,” Amy countered, returning the hug.  

Amy broke away from her father’s hug, turning to Roger. “Bye Mr. Peralta. It was nice to finally meet you.”

“You too. I hope we get to see you again soon,” Roger said.

Amy kissed her dad on the cheek and turned to leave. “Call us when you get back to your apartment,” her father yelled after her as she grabbed her bag and headed out of the conference room. She turned back to him, and smiled and waved good-bye.

As she headed down the hotel hallway towards the front lobby, to meet her mother who was waiting in the car to drive her to the airport, she heard footsteps running after her. Before she knew it, Jake was walking alongside her.

“You were going to leave without saying goodbye to me?” he gasped in disbelief.

“I’m going to be late,” Amy explained.

“Uh-huh. I see how it is,” Jake teased.

Amy looked over at Jake, who stuck his tongue out at her and laughed. She laughed at him.

They exited the hotel, where Amy’s mother was already waiting in the car for her. Helen Santiago popped open the trunk and Amy threw her bag in the trunk. She walked to the front of the car, and Jake opened the front door for her.

“Bye Ames. I hope we see each other again soon,” he said as Amy climbed into the front seat.

“Bye Jake,” she returned. He patted her gently on the arm, making her stomach flip, before he closed the door for her.

“What a sweet young boy,” Helen commented as Amy turned back to see Jake waving as they drove away. Amy smiled, watching Jake wave. She felt dizzy, in a good way, and unexplainably excited. She hoped that she would be able to return to the campaign trail soon so she would get to see Jake again.