1. Aaron Burr, Sir
Alex spent all of English class waiting to talk to Aaron, almost vibrating with anticipation. As soon as Mr. Locke dismissed them, Alex dashed to the back of the classroom and grabbed the other boy by the arm while he was still dropping his books into his backpack. Aaron looked up abruptly at the touch, forehead crinkled.
“Oh! Sorry!” Alex said, letting go. “You’re Aaron Burr, right?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Sorry,” Alex said again. This wasn’t how he’d envisioned this starting, but he carried on.“I’m Alexander Hamilton. I want to work on your campaign.” There, that was it, just put it out there instead of stammering.
Aaron raised an eyebrow and glanced around the rapidly emptying classroom. “For Vice President?” he asked.
“Why would you want to do that?”
“I read all the candidate platforms,” Alex said eagerly, “and I saw that your parents were teachers here, and their example drove you to excel after they passed away. And that really resonated with me, because I’m an orphan too, and it made me feel like I had a kinship with you.”
“Hmmm,” said Aaron. “What would you do, if you worked on my campaign?”
“I could write position papers. Your platform didn’t say much about the issues, so if we talked about your views I could write them up. I can write editorials, handouts, make posters. And I can talk to people about your candidacy, let them know what you stand for!”
“Hmmm,” Aaron repeated. He thought for a moment. “I’m sorry, Alexander, but I don’t think I can use you.”
“What?” This possibility had not occurred to Alex. “Why not?”
Aaron looked Alex in the eyes. “It’s nothing personal, but look, I’m basically running unopposed…”
“I thought there was another candidate. John something?”
Aaron gave a derisive snort. “Nobody is gonna vote for John Adams. There was a dorm bed incident he’s never living down. The only way he could win is if I piss off enough people they decide to vote against me. And no offense, but if you get involved, you’ll inspire some kids, but you’ll piss off some more. And I don’t need people inspired. I just need them not pissed off.”
“I’m not going to piss people off! Look, you barely know me…”
“I just watched you nearly tear Chuck Lee’s throat out over his interpretation of “My Last Duchess.””
“That’s just because his interpretation was stupid! He thought the Duke was a metaphor for God, and the Duchess represented straying humanity.”
Aaron glanced at the door. “I was there. And you’re right, it was stupid. But I’m not going to go up to him and tell him it’s stupid, because then he’s not going to vote for me.”
“You don’t need his vacuous vote,” Alex grumbled.
“You see? Our styles just wouldn’t mesh well,” Aaron said. “But you seem really passionate about this election. Why aren’t you running?”
“I wanted to, but I just enrolled a few weeks ago and they told me it was after the filing deadline.”
“You enrolled mid-semester? How’d you pull that off? Union Academy tends to frown on that.”
Alex looked away from Aaron’s brown eyes. “I, ah, think my adoptive parents may have pulled some strings.”
“Who are they?”
“Uh, George and Martha Washington?”
Aaron snorted again. “You mean as in Washington Circle, Washington Library, and the Washington Scholarships? Yeah, I can believe they’d have some strings to pull.”
“This is really different from my old school,” Alex admitted. “I feel like here, we could really make a difference. But the student government doesn’t do anything, except throw parties. And there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to change that.”
A bright and unexpected smile appeared on Aaron’s face. “You just reminded me of someone. And she might appreciate your help. She’s definitely not afraid of pissing people off... Let me introduce you to Angelica Schuyler.”
2. The Schuyler Sisters
Alex followed Aaron across the dining hall, tray of food in hand, catching snatches of animated conversation all around him. Aaron scanned the room, frowned, and then turned to a neighboring table of boys. “Anyone seen Angelica Schuyler?” he asked.
One of the boys pointed toward a recessed area off to one side of the room. “I think she’s back there. Just listen for the yelling.”
“Thanks, Phil,” Aaron said with a nod, and headed for the side room. He paused to point out the sign labeling it the “Washington Dining Nook” and smirk at Alex, who winced. The sound of raised voices came from within the “nook.”
Alex and Aaron stepped inside to see a boy and a girl arguing. The boy was the only white student Alex had seen at Union, adorned in a frilly white outfit. “So what good would your Presidency to me?” he was demanding. “If you want my vote, you’ll have to earn it.”
The girl jabbed a finger at his chest, and he flinched away. “I’ve been trying to tell you, I don’t give a damn whether you vote for me or not, George. My campaign’s about the people who need our help, and you’re as advantaged as they come.”
“Advantaged? I’m a social pariah,” George whined.
“Oh, go tell it to Jefferson,” said the girl, who Alex figured must be Angelica.
“I did. He told me to get lost.”
“That’s the only good thing I’ve ever heard about him. Now beat it, I’ve got work to do,” Angelica said.
George retreated, calling, “No one’s going to vote for you!”
Another girl, sitting at the table near Angelica, cleared her throat. “Well, he’s not going to vote for you, that’s for certain.”
Alex glanced along the table. The only other occupant was a third, younger girl, fully occupied in filling in the letters on an ANGELICA FOR PRESIDENT poster.
“I don’t need his vote,” Angelica said defiantly.
“But you do need someone’s vote. I’m told that’s how elections work,” the seated girl pointed out. “And it looks like you have some more visitors.”
Angelica turned around. She saw Aaron first and wrinkled her nose. “What do you want, Burr? If it’s what I think, the answer’s still no.”
“Hey, can’t blame a guy for trying,” Aaron said.
“Watch me,” Angelica countered.
“Hey!” Aaron said again, hands raised as if in surrender. “I just wanted to introduce you to Alex, here. He’s interested in working on a campaign, and I thought you might like his style.”
“Really,” Angelica said, and turned to look Alex over. He readied himself for a withering glare, but instead she seemed to get stuck looking at his face. Her eyes were full of wit, and he realized that he was staring a bit too.
“I’ll leave you to it!” Aaron announced, and sauntered off.
Alex took a step forward and extended a hand. “I’m Alexander Hamilton. But please call me Alex.”
“Good to meet you, Alex,” she said, and took the offered hand. She held it a moment before shaking it, seeming abstracted. “I’m. Um. Angelica Schuyler.” She broke eye contact. Alex followed her glance at the seated girl and realized that she was staring at him too. Both girls had these dark, gorgeous eyes. He felt his mouth go dry.
Some wordless communication seemed to pass between the two girls, and Angelica turned toward the other. “And this is my campaign manager, Eliza Schuyler.”
“Schuyler?” Alex asked. Well, that was a dumb question, he castigated himself.
“My sister,” Angelica said, placing a fond hand on Eliza’s shoulder. Eliza blushed but kept staring at Alex. “And Peggy, also my sister,” Angelica added, gesturing at the poster specialist.
Peggy gave Alex a quick wave and a “Hey,” but didn’t seem to find him particularly interesting. He thought this was just as well; the focused attention of two sisters was overwhelming enough. His mind seemed to have gone entirely blank.
Grasping for a topic of conversation, he gestured vaguely in the direction George had departed. “So, what’s that guy’s deal?” Eloquent, Alex.
Angelica grimaced. “That’s George King. Apparently his parents threatened to sue Union to get him admitted, and the admins were too scared of the lawsuit.”
“I hung out with him for a bit,” Eliza added. Alex must have looked startled, because she added, “Hey, I felt sorry for him! I figured it wasn’t his fault his parents were jerks. But he turned out to be just like them, always going on about ‘reverse racism’ and the pain of being a rich white guy.”
“What a charming gentleman,” Alex said.
“So what do you propose to do for my campaign?” Angelica asked.
Direct and to the point; Alex appreciated that. “I can get out in the halls and classrooms and let everyone know what you stand for: getting this school more involved in the community, redirecting the SGA’s budget toward charity work, and standing up to support activism.”
“You’ve read my platform,” Angelica said with a slight smile.
“And like to write, and I’m good at it. I can write editorials, position papers. I’ve memorized all the election by-laws. And I’m happy to help with posters… Anything I can do to help you win,” Alex said.
Angelica put out her hand. “Well, I’m happy to have you on board…”
“It’s not enough,” Eliza broke in with a frown, startling Alex.
“Eliza, I don’t think…” Angelica began.
Eliza ignored her and kept speaking. “We’re up against Thomas Jefferson, who is ridiculously popular. Alex, if you can help get the word out of what we stand for, that's great. But we’re going to need to fight that popularity, and you’re an unknown. Your word won’t carry the weight of someone everyone knows.”
Alex controlled his instinct to bristle. She did make sense. “What would you suggest?”
“If you really want to make a difference in this election? Get us Lafayette.”
3. America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman
Alex found himself in the bleachers at a soccer game, surrounded by cheering fans. Alex had figured out which set of jerseys were Union and which belonged to their opponents, the Redcoats of Howe School, but that was about all he’d understood so far. He turned to the girl sitting next to him. “Why have they all stopped running around?”
She spared him a passing glance, then refocused her attention on the field. “They’re setting up for a penalty kick. Lafayette’s going to have a chance to take the goalkeeper one-on-one.”
“Lafayette’s good, then?” Alex asked.
“The best! We haven’t had a winning season in eight years, you know.” (He hadn’t.) “Lafayette joined the team once he came here from France, and now we’re undefeated.”
Lafayette (Alex assumed) sprinted up to the ball, feinted in one direction, and then kicked the ball past the Howe player into the net. The crowd around Alex went wild, cheering and jumping up and down so enthusiastically that the bleachers made alarming creaking noises.
“Who else do we have who’s good?” Alex asked.
“Our keeper’s playing really well this year. That’s Hercules Mulligan.” She gestured at the goal opposite where Lafayette had scored. “He’s fearless.”
Alex watched the game for a few minutes. The Redcoats managed to advance the ball toward Union’s goal, and one of their players ran right into Mulligan. Alex winced as he hit the ground, but he bounced right back up, yelling a string of insults at the Howe team. The ball went over to Union, and one of the Union players kicked a long pass straight to Lafayette. With a sudden burst of speed, Lafayette tore past the Howe defenders and booted the ball into the net. The crowd rejoiced as if this had never happened before.
“Wow, he is good,” Alex said when the bleachers stopped vibrating.
“What did I tell you? That was a great pass by Laurens, too. He’s not as athletic as Lafayette or Mulligan, but he’s got a really good head for the game.”
Alex started growing restless as the game wore on. The action on the field was only really exciting to him when Lafayette had the ball and was on the attack; the teams seemed to spend a fair amount of time passing the ball around the midfield without accomplishing anything. Lafayette scored twice more before the referee blew his whistle and the Union students stood in sustained applause. The scoreboard read UNION 4, HOWE 1.
Alex turned again to the girl seated next to him. “Thanks for helping me make sense of that”
“You’re welcome,” his companion said. “See you around!” she added, as Alex hurried down the bleachers.
He jogged across the field to intercept Lafayette, who had an arm each around Laurens and Mulligan. All three turned to look Alex over as he approached, their expressions jubilant. He called out, “Lafayette? Do you have a moment?”
“Oui, ah, yes. What is it?” Lafayette’s French accent was so strong that Alex struggled to make out his words.
“My name’s Alexander Hamilton.”
“Enchanted,” Lafayette said, extending a hand that Hamilton took. Mulligan snickered.
“I wanted to talk with you about the student government election,” Alex continued.
Lafayette looked a bit lost at this and turned to Laurens. “Ah, Jean? Aidez-moi?”
Laurens took a step toward Hamilton, frowning. “What, are you looking for an endorsement? Let me guess who sent you. Jefferson? He’s decided he needs to run up his victory margin? If so, save your breath. We’re not backing that jackass, shoo-in or no.”
“We?” Alex asked.
“John’s the political one,” Mulligan said, gesturing at Laurens. “Frenchy and me, we usually follow his lead.”
“I’m not here for Jefferson,” Hamilton said. “I’m supporting Angelica Schuyler.”
Laurens was still frowning. “I read through her platform. Community service is a worthy goal, but she didn’t say anything about the scholarship issue.”
“What issue?” Hamilton asked.
“Union Academy was founded to offer a quality education to the disadvantaged – meaning non-white students, but also meaning students who couldn’t afford a private school,” Laurens said. “But the administration has lost its way. I’ve looked up the stats on students on scholarship, and for twenty years, the number’s been in a steady decline as admissions and recruitment focus on the children of the rich. The student government needs to pressure the admin to reverse this. Instead, Angelica wants to redirect the student activity fee to community work. That means less funding for school events that students who aren’t rich can afford.” He paused. “Cat got your tongue, Alex?”
Alex realized with embarrassment that he was staring, open-mouthed, at Laurens. As Laurens spoke, has face had seemed to transform, animated by his passion and conviction. Alex felt an almost magnetic pull toward him.
I didn’t expect that working on this election would involve meeting so many ridiculously attractive people, he thought. He struggled for a moment to remember what he was trying to accomplish. Right, I’m convincing Laurens to convince Lafayette to endorse Angelica.
“I never thought I’d be at a school like this,” he said slowly. “After my parents died, I went from foster home to foster home, picking up castaway books wherever I could find them, then eking out all the Internet time I could. You’re right, more kids deserve to have that opportunity. Angelica’s committed to social justice and making a difference. I’m sure that if we bring this issue to her, we’ll have her full support. She’ll do the right thing.”
4. My Dog Speaks More Eloquently
Alex arrived at lunch late, delayed by giving an explanation of how Angelica proposed to lobby the administration not just for an increase in the number of scholarships given, but more support for scholarship students when they arrived at school. In the week since Alex’s talk with the three soccer players, Angelica had embraced John’s proposal wholeheartedly. Alex smiled to hear the loud buzz of many conversations coming from the dinner nook. Between John, Lafayette, and Alex himself, the word about Angelica’s campaign had gotten out, and more students were joining them in the nook every day.
He stepped down into the recessed area and looked around for a seat. The tables were full, and plenty of students were standing around talking. He was resigning himself to eating on his feet when Eliza waved energetically at him, gesturing to a seat she’d piled high with her textbooks. Alex threaded his way through the crowd to drop into the saved seat, and Eliza slipped a hand into his.
This was another new development of the past week, and one that Alex was quite happy with.
“What’s new?” he asked.
“Jefferson’s noticed we’re running against him,” Eliza said. “He’s holed up with Madison and his buddies across the room, trying to figure out how to make us go away.”
“Not likely,” Alex said.
“Word is he’s looking through the by-laws, trying to come up with one that we’ve violated. Good thing we have our own expert on them.” She smiled at Alex. He felt giddy.
“Excuse me, excuse me!” a voice sounded above the buzz of conversations. The noise slowly died down as everyone turned to look at the speaker.
“What is it, Sam?” Angelica asked, every part of her stance radiating disdain.
“He’s one of Jefferson’s cronies,” Eliza whispered to Alex.
Sam looked over the crowd and took a deep breath before launching into a rehearsed-sounding tirade. “Have you all really thought about what would happen if this girl got elected? She’s going to drag our name into every debate, every controversy. She’ll be out there at Black Lives Matter protests acting like she speaks for all of us. And what then, when you’re applying to college? When you’re looking for a job? When the admission committee or the man who would hire you sees Union Academy on your application? They’ll think you’re a rabble-rouser and throw it out.”
Alex flushed with anger and rose to his feet, Eliza giving his hand an encouraging squeeze and then letting it go, but Angelica spoke before he could. “You can bow down to your future corporate overlords all you want, Sam. But I have a voice, and I’m not waiting to use it.”
“Then you can go out there and protest!” Sam said. “But don’t act like you get to speak for all of us.”
“You timid weasel,” Alex said. “She speaks for more of us than you and your boy Jefferson do.”
“I’m not here for anyone but my-”
“Then how come you sound just like his platform? ‘Student government shouldn’t take sides, shouldn’t make waves. Student government should be as small as possible and stick to throwing parties.’ We have a vision that wet can mean something, do something. All you have is fear mongering and an unhealthy love of the status quo.”
“Don’t confuse being loud with being popular,” Sam said condescendingly. “On election day, you’ll see that the quiet majority doesn’t support you.”
“Enough,” Angelica said firmly. “Take your silent majority and your thinly veiled misogyny elsewhere.”
“I’m not done-” Sam began, but the students around the nook began chanting at him. “SHE SPEAKS FOR US! SHE SPEAKS FOR US!” Alex was not surprised to see John and Mulligan leading the chant. Sam kept trying to speak, but his words were drowned out, and he quickly gave up and stalked off to the main dining room.
“He heads straight for Monsieur Jefferson,” Lafayette reported.
“I’m going to give Jefferson a piece of my mind,” Alex snapped. “Sending his dog in here to try to bully us…”
“No!” Eliza said. “Forget him.”
Alex and Angelica exchanged skeptical looks. “We have to let Jefferson know he can’t keep dispatching mansplainers at us,” Angelica said.
“Remember when you asked me to manage your campaign, you said I’d need to hold you back now and again?” Eliza said. “Well, here we are. Right now, you have the moral high ground. You don’t gain anything by rushing to confront Jefferson.”
“Besides, you already tore that dude apart,” Mulligan added approvingly.
5. Whatever the Hell It Is You Do in Monticello
“What the hell is this?” Angelica asked, jabbing a finger at her copy of the embossed invitation.
“Jefferson is hosting a macaroni and cheese party,” Eliza responded reasonably.
“I can see that!” Angelica retorted. “And apparently, all students are invited.”
“With ‘all’ in boldface and underlined,” Eliza noted. “No one ever accused Jefferson of subtlety.”
“He and Madison have been telling students that you’ll ignore them if they’re not oppressed enough,” John said, providing air quotes around “oppressed.”
“This lets him position himself as the candidate who cares about everyone,” Eliza said.
“Can he even do this?” Angelica asked. “ I thought bribing voters was frowned upon.”
“He can provide food,” Alex said, “as long as it’s at an event that’s open to anyone. So he’s basically making a virtue of a by-laws requirement.”
“The law is the same for us, oui?” Lafayette asked. “Can we not throw our own party? With even better food?”
“No!” Angelica and Alex exclaimed together.
Alex added, “That would undermine the entire premise of her candidacy.”
“We’d be admitting that Jefferson’s right,“ Angelica said, “that what students want is a candidate who’ll throw them a party.”
“So what do we do?” Mulligan asked.
“We ignore Jefferson’s antics and keep working,” Angelica said. “The students at this school won’t be bought with mac and cheese.”
“I agree, but we should have someone there to observe,” Eliza said. “Alex, would you care to accompany me?”
“It would be my pleasure,” Alex said.
“I’ll come too,” Mulligan said. “Everyone knows you two are with Angelica’s campaign. I can listen to some conversations, see what Jefferson’s people are saying, and hey, free food!”
“Friends,” Madison said. “Let’s welcome Thomas Jefferson, the candidate for all of us.” The room filled with discouragingly loud applause as Jefferson stepped up to the mic.
“We have to listen to his speech before we can get food?” Eliza asked. “He is diabolical.”
“Yes,” Alex agreed, still a bit tongue-tied in the face of Eliza’s dress. And the fairly short skirt on Eliza’s dress. And the fact that she’d been leaning on him in addition to holding his hand.
“Welcome, everyone,” Jefferson said. “Don’t worry, I won’t keep you from your food for long. I just want to say how happy I am to see so many of you here. Even some representatives from my opponents’ campaigns.” He beckoned at Eliza and Alex. A few people in the crowd booed. “Now, none of that,” Jefferson said. “This party is for everyone, after all.”
“For everyone,” Madison agreed from behind Jefferson.
“I hate them both so much,” Alex muttered to Eliza. She shushed him, but smiled.
“As your president,” Jefferson continued, “I will make sure that student government stays in its place - seeing to your needs.”
“Your needs,” said Madison.
“And right now, I’m seeing that you need to eat,” Jefferson said. “Enjoy the food!”
There was more applause as servers wheeled out trays of steaming macaroni and cheese. It looked a lot fancier than the orange from-a-box type of Alex’s childhood memories. His stomach rumbled as the pasta was ladled into the bowl in front of him. Eliza raised a bite to her lips, tasted it, then spit it out into the bowl. “Ugh!”
“What’s wrong?” Hamilton asked.
“It tastes like a salt lick!” Eliza said. She grimaced. “Oh, and it has this really bitter aftertaste…”
Rumbles of discontent rose from all around them. Jefferson looked around in dismay, then ran to one of the serving trays to taste it. “What happened?” he yelled at the server. “How did you manage to screw this up?”
“I think it tastes great,” Madison said, gamely digging into his bowl.
Abandoning their tainted pasta, students were streaming out the door in droves. Alex reached out for Eliza’s hand. “Shall we find an edible meal?”
“I don’t know if I’m hungry anymore,” Eliza said sadly. “I just want to drink all the water in the world.”
They passed Jefferson on the way out. Alex couldn’t resist telling him, “Thomas, this was a real nice party.”
“Shut up,” Jefferson responded.
“All right,” Angelica said. “I can’t say I’m shedding any tears for T.J., but if I get blamed, they could kick me out of the election. So, who sabotaged the macaroni and cheese?”
“Not me,” Alex said with regret. He had, in fact, spent the last several hours being chagrined that someone else had come up with the plan before he did.
“He didn’t,” Eliza agreed. “We were together the whole time. And I certainly didn’t do it.”
Their eyes turned to Mulligan. “No!” he said. “I wouldn’t spoil the food I was planning to eat. I ducked in and talked to the kitchen staff. They said Jefferson was in their face getting them to follow his favorite recipe, and no other students were in the kitchen. My money’s on, he did this to himself. Unless one of you two…”
“I was in the library studying with my study group,” John said.
“I was with a lady,” Lafayette contributed. “She-”
“Please, no details,” Angelica cut him off. “OK, sounds like you’re all in the clear. We’ll see how much Pastagate costs him in support. I’d rather people voted on the issues, but Jefferson’s handed us an advantage, and I’ll take it.”
6. The World Turned Upside Down
The last days before the election passed in a frenzy of activity. School officials pursued an inquiry into the events of Pastagate, but Angelica and her campaign were exonerated by the insistence of the kitchen staff that no one but themselves and Jefferson had access to the pasta. Alex lived, ate, and breathed the campaign, doing everything he’d promised Angelica - helping Peggy with posters, talking to every student who didn’t flee at his approach - and a few things he didn’t mention to her, like circulating anonymous hit pieces on Thomas Jefferson.
When all the votes had been cast, the transition to sitting and waiting was unbearable. Angelica, Eliza, Peggy, and Alex waited together for an announcement of the count, but instead the student government advisor announced a recount “due to the close nature of the race.” John, Lafayette, and Mulligan joined them after soccer practice, in time for the final count to be released. Angelica had prevailed by a four-vote margin.
Their victory party was even better-attended than the disastrous mac-and-cheese event, largely because of the bounty of very good pizza that Alex’s foster dad had ordered from Valley Forge Pizzeria. Even Jefferson stopped by and grabbed a couple slices before wandering off, muttering to Madison about how nice it must be to have George Washington on your side. Aaron stopped in to congratulate Angelica and tell her he was looking forward to working with her. She didn’t insult him to his face, so Alex thought that went well.
Once they had their fill of pizza, Eliza led Alex away from her sisters to a quiet corner of the room, then leaned down slightly to kiss him. The first kiss was gentle, warm and soft, but then their kisses became faster, more insistent. Alex rested a hand on the back of Eliza’s head and held her for a longer kiss, his tongue seeking hers. He had entirely lost track of where they were until he heard the sound of applause and looked up to see everyone watching them.
He covered his embarrassment with a quick bow. “Thank you, thank you,” he called.
Angelica approached and whispered something in Eliza’s ear. Eliza seemed lost in thought for a moment, then said with a grin, “I suppose it’s not every day you get elected president. I can share him. A little.”
“May I?” Angelica asked Alex.
“Uh, sure,” Alex said. Angelica leaned down and gave him two quick, fierce kisses, then pulled back, leaving Alex wishing for more. There was more applause, and a few cheers.
And then John was there, asking, “So is there somewhere I need to sign up, or is there a queue?” Alex stepped forward, craned his neck up to kiss John, and promptly bumped noses with him. “Ow,” John said, but came back for another try, lips insistent against Alex’s. Again, Alex found himself wanting more when John pulled away.
Alex giddily scanned the room. “Anyone else?” he called out.
“Nah, I’m good,” Mulligan said, tucking into another piece of pizza.
“Merci, mais non,” Lafayette echoed. “But if Mademoiselle Angelica will enjoy a kiss plus passionné…”
Laughing, Angelica crossed the room. “Don’t think you’ll sweep me off my feet, Gilbert.”
“I do not dream of it,” Lafayette said earnestly.
Eliza caught Alex’s arm. “Looks like I have you to myself again, Alex.”
She leaned in to kiss him again, and Alex found that he was perfectly satisfied with that.