The Queen’s Sacrifice
White to E4.
"Welcome, welcome! It's great to see you, mate!" Mark enthusiastically greeted the incoming guests armed with his dashing smile and charming personality. He placed himself strategically by the entrance of the posh restaurant that they've rented out for the night.
It was luxurious and costly but after some consultation with his campaign team, they've convinced the soon-to-be-married Independent MP to shell out a significant amount since every chance to socialize is an opportunity to campaign and his team wanted to pull all the stops. Better for the optics, better for the polls.
"We're glad you could make it tonight!" Erica echoed dutifully as she extended her hand warmly to welcome the guests. She played her part well, atleast in the public eye. She sounded convincing, sincere even and in this gruesome game of politics akin to a highly crucial game of chess, where every piece has a designated role to play, her every move has been carefully plotted and calculated all for the sake of defending the king.
Black to c5.
As the evening progressed, Mark watched as Erica moved fluidly from one group of guest to another, charming her way from his closest relatives - that pain in the ass aunt who spews nonsensical biblical verse at every turn to his most critical campaign benefactors - those old geezers with shallow moral compass but lined with deep pockets. She had them all eating at her hands.
They have invited not only his relatives but a few of Erica's as well. His campaign team made sure that the media had full coverage of the night and to make it work with privacy issues, they had a few of them set up at the hidden part of the garden patio so that they could still have access to the event without interfering with the reunion itself.
Just like the most valuable defender on the chess board, Erica as his queen, will be the key to the fulfillment of Mark's political ambitions. Her connections, her charm and her impeccable looks allowed her to move horizontally, vertically and diagonally through the different classes of his electorate.
She is relatable and most especially she is hot. Public trust relies heavily on perception, what appeals to them. And Erica is certainly someone that appeals to most people, in more ways than one.
Erica can bridge the gap that could sway tentative votes in his favor. And she'll do it, not willingly but because there's a stake, a huge one at that.
White to f4.
Mark turned his gaze towards the far right, where his chief of staff and a few political allies together with Reverend Davidson were in a drunken debate on the highly controversial issue of separation of church and the state.
She'll keep her end of the deal.
Black to d5.
In the middle of the celebration, Mark noticed that a familiar blonde was being ushered towards their table. She was practically glowing and beaming at everyone.
Finally, Bridget’s here! She has to meet Erica. He mumbled quietly and immediately stood up from his seat. He buttoned his suit jacket and walked to meet Bridget halfway.
Knight to f3.
He panned his eyes around to find Erica to personally introduce her to Bridget but when he found her, she was already looking at the entrance, and she looked like she'd seen a ghost.
And when Mark followed Erica's line of sight, it went straight towards Bridget who was at that moment happily giggling, reaching out her hand to someone behind her. And when Bridget finally moved, he saw the person who was making his favorite cousin giddy.
Black takes White in e4.
Franky fucking Doyle.
There's no scientific explanation for the sudden shift of weight in the atmosphere. The barometric reading remained at the steady 30inHg but somehow, atleast for the four people caught in that cruel stand-off, the air seemed heavier, thicker and instead of setting off the pain responses in their nerve endings, it triggered an entirely different impulse - fight or flight.
After two solid minutes of nervous glances and unpleasant silence from the four poor souls in that perplexing stalemate, it was Mark who spoke up first.
Knight to g5.
"Riiiiight. Let’s clear the air, shall we? He adjusted his necktie nervously as he looked around them.
Mark leaned in and spoke in a low voice so that only four of them could hear his words, all in an attempt to put a semblance of control over the sheer awfulness of the situation. "We’re all adults here, let's not make a scene.” Of all nights to have this confrontation, surely this can’t be happening now, when all eyes are on him and his fiance.
He pointed at Erica and Franky. “You and Erica had a thing. Not anymore. End of story. Let’s not make this any more awkward than it is.“ Mark said diplomatically, he was speaking more to Bridget than anyone else.
Knight to f6.
“Pfft. Fine by me. I’m here for Gidget. Nothing more.” Franky scoffed. She appeared unbothered by all this but her nonchalance seemed to vex Erica. To anyone else, Franky's coldness looked genuine and that remained true to a certain degree, but Bridget saw through the facade, underneath the witty clapback and smoky eye make up, there was a prick of hurt there, it was tiny enough to fool the untrained eye, but somehow Bridget felt that pain too.
“Well then, enjoy your night and thank you for coming. Bridget, Franky.” Mark nodded, held Erica's hand tight and quietly dragged his fiance away from the two. He was wearing a fake smile on his lips all the while clutching Erica's hand.
Bishop to c4.
"We could leave, Franky. I'm sorry. I had no idea." Bridget was apologetic, she did not expect this sudden curve ball thrown their way.
"It's alright, Gidge! Was it shocking? Yes. But is it enough to ruin a perfectly good night? No." Franky reassured the beautiful director that she could handle herself.
Against Bridget's better judgment, they stayed for a while but she had every intention of leaving early so as honor both Franky's and Mark's wishes. And surprisingly, everything worked out smoothly, Bridget and Franky were happily mingling with Bridget’s most closest relatives.
Franky’s charm worked great with most of Bridget’s extended family. It was her outstanding humor and wit that made Franky endearing even to the most cynical of their relatives but she made sure to stay clear of their bible-thumper aunts and uncles, there are, after all, a few in every family.
Franky was making the conscious effort to avoid Erica at all cost. Even though Erica has been trying every move in the book to be close to her. Either Mark was running interference or it was simply that fates wanted them not to cross paths, the night went on without further ado.
But Erica just can’t leave Franky alone. Not when she was right there in front of her. Dangling her happy life with this new woman while she is left in this miserable prison-like state because she chose the easy way out.
And when Bridget was whisked away by one of their older relatives, Franky was left a few minutes alone. Unguarded. And Erica made her move.
Bishop to g4.
Erica walked to the table that was occupied by Franky alone. “Come with me Franky.”
“Nah. I’m good here.” Franky looked around and sank deeper into her chair as she got more comfortable.
But Erica was insistent. She was practically glaring at her. “A word, please.”
“Not really inclined too. Sorry.” Franky sneered, she was simply not interested.
“Don't push me, Franky.” Erica threatened, her voice sounded serious.
“Or you'll do what? Pfft. You'll do jack shit! Why? Because you care more about what people would think. You don’t even know what’s true or real if it hits ya in your pretty mug.” Franky scoffed, she was done talking.
But Erica wasn't and she'd be damned to let the night end without saying her piece. She yanked Franky's arm and managed to pull her up from the seat. The annoyed director was dragged in the seemingly empty garden patio, a few feet away from the party.
"What the fuck?" Franky pulled her arm from Erica's clutches.
“Talk to me, Franky. Say something! Anything!” Erica demanded as she tried to get closer to Franky.
“Pfft.” Franky scoffed and rolled her eyes. She has nothing to say to this vile woman.
“Go on then, have a go at me. I deserve it!”
But Franky won't bite. She's got nothing to say to her. Nada. Zero. Zlitch. And so Erica tried for a different tactic, perhaps something close to her heart.
Bishop takes Black in f7.
“So is Bridget your--” There was something about the way Erica uttered Bridget’s name that felt dirty on her mouth and Franky lost all her composure.
“Shut the fuck up! Don’t you fucking dare bring her in to this?” the green-eyed director fired up. She's had about enough.
But Erica kept prodding especially now that she got Franky talking. “Touchy. I’m a bit jealous. I haven’t seen you so riled up about any woman before.”
“Well I haven’t seen a ghost get engaged either but.. pfft.. here we are. Just stay the fuck away from me.” She spat back indignantly.
Erica felt the hurt in Franky's snarky comment and so she moved closer to her and tried to reach for her hand but Franky swatted it away.
“I was being blackmailed, Franky. I’ve been calling since I got back.” Erica pleaded.
But Franky was too fired up to fall for Erica's manipulations again. “Wait.. wait.. and which call was this? Oh right, the one you didn’t make before fucking off to god knows where. You meant that one right?
Erica inched closer again. She tried to reason with her. “I didn’t know what to do, Franky.”
But Franky kept her ground. She folded her arms in her chest and rolled her eyes at Erica's lies. “Hmm. Here’s a thought. You should have come to me. You were in a relationship with me. Not that bald headed pervert, not my bestfriend who was half a world away and certainly not that tool right back there who diminished what we had as a "thing".
Franky shook her head. Her anger was getting the best of her. “Did you really think so low of me that I couldn't be of any help to you? Because I certainly wasn’t on that call list!”
She marched closer to Erica to get all up in her face. "First sign of danger you come running back to the safety of a hetero fucking normative life. Pfft." She scoffed and raised both her hands up mockingly and backed away.
After a taking a few steps, she stopped and turned around. "You know, I wouldn't have cared if you were sex positive or whateva. What fucking grinds my gear is that you lied. To me, to my face. Every time you were with me, you lied and you kept lying!
She stormed back to face Erica again and this time Erica buckled a little. She'd never seen Franky be so agressive.
You know what, I should actually thank you because that stunt you pulled saved me from all the gaslighting, the delusions and guess what, I'm free of all of it now, so thank fuck I got out!"
"Franky-" Erica tried to reach her hand out to Franky but she was blocking her hand off.
"No! No fucking more!" Franky backed away.
"Please?" In a desperate move, Erica hugged Franky's body and wouldn't let go. She grabbed Franky's nape and forced her lips towards her mouth.
King to d7.
And then they heard a soft sound.
Then another one.
Followed by bright flashes this time.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
And soon enough, the otherwise empty garden patio was flooded with journos and media people.
Amid the blinding lights and the shocked faces from the people around, from a distance, Franky saw Bridget in the middle of the confused crowd. There was sadness reflecting all over Bridget's face. When Franky shrugged off Erica's arms from her body and looked back, Bridget was no longer there.
Queen takes Bishop in g4.
In a blink of an eye, everything turned into pure chaos. One minute, Mark was huddled with his campaign team in preparation for his speech for the night and in the next, there was a commotion in the garden patio where his fiance has allegedly been seen kissing a woman. His mind was in complete shambles. How can I salvage this?
He turned his eyes towards a fuming Reverend Davidson, shaking his head disappovingly.
He looked at the confused faces of his relatives and supporters.
He turned around and saw the panic in his staff's eyes.
And then he remembered the haunting words of his senior campaign manager... Never underestimate the power of pity votes. Pain is relatable, a potent driving force. He breathed out. He still can turn this around even if it means sacrificing her queen.
Knight takes Queen.
He adjusted his tie and cleared his throat. He wanted to address everyone in the room. He channelled all the painful memories he could muster. He covered his eyes as though he was wiping away the tears and with a shaky voice, he spoke.
"You are the love of my life. And you broke my heart. Excuse me." He covered his face and made a slow walk out of the venue.
Mark's campaign manager and chief of staff looked at each other. They could not have coached a better spin for this. A picture perfect scene from the movies where the hero walks away disheartened but will come out triumphant in the end.
Mark's astounding performance was so believable that everyone in the room felt his so-called pain. There was a quick shift in the atmosphere from shocked to sympathetic all because Mark gave the performance of his life. And when the early survey comes out in a few days, they are almost certain that Mark would have gained momentum. Argumentum Ad Misericordiam.
His chief of staff and senior campaign manager made a snap assessment on the overall sentiment of the room and after confirming what they already know, they quickly followed Mark out.
Franky pushed past the sea of journos and media people to look for Bridget.
"Where is she? Have you seen-? She was just here?" Franky was frantic and fumbled with her words as she tried to ask a couple of wait staff but they simply shook their heads.
She left. Of course she would.
She bolted out of the fancy restaurant and sprinted to the carpark and looked around. Her breathing was erratic and if she doesn't calm down soon, she'd lose all the air in her lungs.
But Franky's heart was just as stubborn as her resolve. Her mind was on a mission - find Bridge and make it right with her. And when the thought that she had lost her crossed her mind, and at that moment, Franky felt defeated. She cursed, the frustration was too much to bear.
But then from the corner of her eye, she saw a lone figure looking straight at her. She was leaning on her car and holding a bottle in her hand.
Gidget! She didn't leave, after all.
Franky's heart thumped violently inside her chest. Maybe it's the adrenaline catching up or her stubborn heart working over time but she instantly felt a sense of relief in her entire body. She huffed and approached Bridget cautiously.
When Franky was close enough, she started to open her mouth but Bridget beat her to it.
"I was guilty of jumping into the wrong conclusions that day at the carpark. I'd like to think that I learned from my mistakes." Bridget raised an eyebrow and smiled. She saw how her response lit up Franky's entire face. They're in a good place.
Franky shook her head and moved beside Bridget on the side of the car. "I thought I’d fuck up the only good thing in my life right now." She admitted. She felt vulnerable but she didn't have the inclination to hide it to Bridget, not to her. It felt like second nature.
She looked into Bridget's beautiful eyes and felt a sense of calm. She reached for Bridget's hand but was amused when she saw the bottle that Bridget had. She couldn't help but ask the million dollar question. "Why'd you swipe a bottle for?"
Bridget held the bottle up and handed it to sexy director.
“Thought you could wash the bitch’s taste off your mouth.” She wiggled her eyebrows to mimic Franky's signature move.
Franky chuckled at the feeble attempt but the gesture touched her deeply. How did I get so lucky?
She gently grabbed Bridget's hand and opened the passenger door of her car. "C'mon on, Gidge! I dunno 'bout ya but I'm famished!"
Bridget laughed and immediately hopped inside. "Where are we off too?" She threw the question at Franky who jogged to the driver's side.
"Let's get our grease on!"
"You gonna get that?" Bridget eyed the mobile phone on the bar counter that has been going off every since they arrived at Marge's dive.
"Nah-uh!" Franky shook her head. She has a pretty good idea on the people blowing up her phone and she'll deal with them all tomorrow. Tonight, it's just her and Bridget.
After demolishing two massive burgers as Shay served them a couple of pints to wash it all down, Bridget's eyes were glued to the news flashing on the flat screen mounted on the bar.
"Christ, Franky, look!" she was stunned as she pointed at the screen above.
And when Franky looked up, it made her stop too.
"Shay! Could ya turn that up?" Franky was floored. She couldn't quite believe what was happening right now. Shay immediately grab the remote control and waited with baited breath as they all wached the news unfolding before their eyes.
The news team was covering a press conference. As the camera panned on the woman speaking, Franky recognized three familiar faces on screen - it was Malcolm and Simmo who flanked the young actress, Jess Warner.
And the news banner flashing at the bottom of the screen read:
INMATES SHOWRUNNER DEREK CHANNING ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARRASSMENT.
"Hey boss" the young assistant whispered from the other side of the door as she opened the glass door of Rose Atkin's office.
"What?" Rose asked without looking up, clearly annoyed. Her eyes glued to her laptop as she typed aggressively on it.
"Someone's here to see you." She continued, her voice tentative.
The annoyed ad exec looked at her watch. It's late. Everyone knows that they don't entertain business at this hour.
"It's late. Piss off!" she spat out and continued typing her report.
"Uhm.. boss.. not this one."
Rose snapped her head up and glared at the terrified employee.
The assistant tilted her head towards the direction of their lounge and when Rose followed her cue, she saw through the glass doors, standing in the middle of their lounge was someone that she’d never expect to see. She’d never dealt with her before but she’s curious as to the timing of this visit.
Rose hurriedly stood up. It took approximately three seconds for her to compose herself - smoothed out her suit jacket, checked on her make up, cleared her throat a little and then marched out of her office with her assistant in tow.
She approached the unexpected client with that self-assured smile and extended her hand to the imposing figure in front of her. “I’m Rose Atkins, what can we do for you Chairman Holts?”
“It’s Jacs. Call me Jacs.”