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I build my life on winning. On hating the enemy and loving my candidate.
THE GOOD WIFE

 

 

 

1.

Marissa has her gaze fixed on her phone, scrolling through one BuzzFeed quiz after another (“I got distracted,” as her defense later, “they got the sidebar right there. You’re telling me you wouldn’t want to know if you’re a real panda or just a dog painted like a panda? Hand to god, it’s a real quiz. You should take it, Alicia.”), seated at the head of Alicia’s dinner table.

“I’m not to leave you two alone,” she says, distracted. “Dad’s orders.”

She thumbs at the screen when it buzzes and starts typing with two hands rapidly. Alicia does not look at Johnny but Johnny looks at her.

“I beg your pardon?”

Later, when Eli calls Alicia (she will answer the phone by saying, “Espionage wasn’t enough for your daughter – chaperoning now falls under her list of assigned duties?” to which Eli will reply, “She told you? She wasn’t supposed to tell you,” which will be followed by a pause before Alicia’s, “Well?”) he will tell her: “It’s Peter,” as falsely conciliatory as ever. They will both know it’s not Peter – it’s never just Peter – but they will let the half-truth rest.

At Alicia’s table, Marissa looks up to find both pairs of eyes on her. “Oh god,” she laughs, “nothing so indelicate.” She laughs harder.

“Wait, ’What Popular Song Lyric Predicts Your Future’ – look at that, I’m basically political forecasting over here,” she says but neither are listening to her anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

2.

“Am I going to like this?” Alicia asks. The laptop is open in front of her, her glasses in hand, and she looks from Eli (who shrugs, faux-apologetic) to Johnny (stone-faced).

She sighs, leans forward, squints before she puts her glasses on.

“‘If you knew that a candidate running for the position of State’s Attorney had not practiced law within the last three years would you be more or less likely to vote for them?’” she reads aloud. A push poll, another goddamn push poll. “‘If you knew a candidate running for public office was engaged in a secret, same-sex relationship would you be more or less likely to vote for them?’” She stops there; the remaining questions are more of the same.

Alicia looks up at Johnny. “You can’t ask these.”

“We’re asking these,” Eli says, exiting the room to take a call.

“Prady hasn’t practiced law in the last three years,” Johnny says.

Alicia folds her arms over her chest. They can hear Eli down the hall, all crescendoing noise and bluster. “Alright, I’ll give you that one. But the rest of these? Come on. You can’t ask any of that.”

Johnny braces his hands on his hips. “And we can’t keep having this conversation before every single decision we make.”

“Then stop making bad decisions.”

“They’re not bad decisions,” Johnny says. “At some point, Alicia, you will need to come to terms with the fact you are hamstrung by the realities of the political process. Better to learn that at this level.”

“This level,” she scoffs. This level. It’s as she says it that she gets it: he’s talking about her political future. He’s talking beyond this race. “What,” she says, aiming for levity and just missing the mark, “you got a pact with the devil all lined up for my eventual husband-wife Senate run?”

His smile is brief but all teeth. “I don’t care about the governor.” It’s all he says.

She likes that.

 

 

 

 

 

3.

Peter doesn’t like Johnny and Johnny doesn’t like Peter.

It’s reciprocal and it’s simple and Alicia tells herself this is why she likes it. It’s symmetrical, it is balanced, and isn’t that all anyone wants.

Isn’t it all anyone wants – to hear their name said first and as their own.

 

 

 

 

 

4.

“Alicia.”

Johnny shows up at her office mid-afternoon, a rueful smile offered in greeting.

“Forgive me, but we have a couple distasteful matters to discuss.”

“Of course we do.” She gestures towards the chairs in front of her desk, a pen in her hand. He sits, one leg thrown over the other, his posture casual until it isn’t, until he’s perched on the edge of his chair, a thin manila envelope on her desk between them. Alicia puts her pen down, her elbows braced against the edge of her desk, her own body leaning forward.

“Alright. Let’s get this over with.” She waves her hand towards the envelope. “Behind Door Number One,” she teases.

His face lifts, but it’s not quite a smile.

“First,” he says. He opens the envelope and puts down a photo. It takes her a moment to even figure out what she’s looking at. All she sees are windows, maybe a desk, two figures seated on a couch – oh.

Her head jerks up. “Are you spying on me?”

“Not from me. I know a guy, doing Prady’s oppo work.”

“You know a guy.”

“Don’t change the subject.” He points down at the photograph. “If you’re gonna do this, at least keep away from windows.”

“I’m not doing anything.”

He shrugs. “No one cares. It doesn’t matter if you were sitting next to Finn Polmar to talk about saving the puppies or the whales or the orphan population of Chicago. What it looks like is what people will presume it is: you, in his office, at night, alone, together.”

“So tell me what I do.”

“The obvious? You stop seeing him. It’s not helping you. He’s not helping you.”

Her face sets. “He’s my friend,” she says, quiet.

Johnny sighs, his hands clasped in his lap; he’s returned to that casual posture. She imagines that’s just as purposefully coordinated as him at his most formal. “You ever hear the joke about the politician who gets hit by a car? He dies, ascends to heaven and St. Peter meets him at the gate. St. Peter tells the politician that as a rule he must spend one day in hell and one day in heaven and after those trial stays he can decide where he wishes to spend eternity. The politician thinks this is nuts – he already knows he wants to go to heaven, but a rule’s a rule and St. Peter sends the guy down to hell where he’s greeted by all his closest friends and fellow politicians. They have a great time: they golf, they drink, there’s women. Then, the twenty-four hours are up and he goes back up to heaven, where there are clouds and harps and choirs of angels, whatever. At the end of that day, St. Peter asks the politician, so, which is it? And the politician says, ‘You’re not gonna believe this, but I had a better time in hell,’ so he chooses hell. He’s taken back down and waiting for him is fire and brimstone, a total Hieronymus Bosch wasteland, and the devil himself. ‘What’s this?’ he asks, and the devil says, ‘Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted for us.’”

Her mouth quirks to the side. “Quite the comedian you are.”

“Alicia.”

“No, really, stand-up could be your thing. A bit long though.” Alicia flips the photo of Finn over. She lifts her chin. “Is Peter one of your distasteful subjects in your little envelope of horrors?”

“Should he be?” Their eyes meet. “You wanna tell me about his attorney?” He pauses, as if combing through the rolodex in his brain. “Ramona?”

“What’s there to say other than he’s fucking her,” she says coldly. Johnny doesn’t react.

“Do we need to bring Eli in on this?” She can tell from his voice: he doesn’t want to bring Eli in on this. More and more it seems: Johnny doesn’t want to bring Eli in on anything.

“I handled it,” she says, her voice still tight.

“Handle Finn, too. Unless you want to spend the rest of your campaign fending off rumors about who’s in your bed.”

“No, we can’t have that, when would I find the time to actually get in bed with anyone.”

He ignores her. “Which, in a way, brings us to our next item.”

He takes out another photo. This one is in black and white and it is of the two of them.

Alicia looks up at him, surprised. “What am I looking at?”

“Like I said, perception trumps reality.”

“They’re going to say I’m sleeping with you?” His eyebrows raise and it’s all the confirmation she needs. “What’s your solution here? I say away from you, too?”

“Obviously not,” he says, his tone droll.

Her mouth twists in disgust, pushes the photo away from her. “We don’t even know if Prady’s team is going to use any of this bullshit.”

“Alicia … ”

“It’s all bullshit, John.”

“Alicia. I know the kinds of guys Prady has on his team. You don’t assemble those men in the same room if you’re planning to launch a fair and clean campaign. You don’t use those men to tell the truth.”

“Funny, couldn’t they say the same thing about you?”

“Probably, but no one’s trying to convince you I don’t fight dirty.”

“Where’d you – you said you got this from a guy you know?”

“An old friend, owed me a favor. Figured he’d give me a head’s up.”

“Did you deny it?”

“Deny what?”

Alicia’s eyes grow big with disbelief, each word deliberate as she says, “That we’re fucking.”

“No.” Her mouth opens as if you argue but he cuts her off. “Do you think anyone would believe me? Contrary to expected logic, denial only reaffirms the initial presumption.”

Alicia looks down at the photo again. It’s mid-afternoon, they’re leaving campaign headquarters, headed towards the car, Marissa just visible behind the wheel. She remembers all of that. Alicia’s stepping towards the passenger door and Johnny is stepping away, but his hand is flat against the small of her back. She doesn’t remember that. Why doesn’t she remember that. She doesn’t even need to try to be objective looking at it: there’s something incredibly intimate about the photo. His hand, the angle of their heads, the look on her face, the sliver of his she can see. She puts both her hands over the photo, suddenly embarrassed, and looks up at him.

“So you really think they’re going to use this against us.”

“They will say you get into bed with any man except your husband.”

“While he fucks anything in a skirt that crosses his desk. Great.”

Silence spreads between them. Johnny leans forward, his hands clasped together in a fist. “Alicia. I will do anything for you. But you have to help me. You have to give me something – something other than this.” He holds up the photo of her and Finn.

It’s the first part of that statement that stays stuck in her head – I’ll do anything for you. Alicia doesn’t know how to argue with that.

 

 

 

 

 

5.

“This shouldn’t be a problem,” Eli says.

“The very fact you’re expecting it not to be a problem tells me it is absolutely already a problem,” Johnny says.

Alicia holds her hands open. “Do we have any reason to believe Prady’s team would bring up Peter’s whole voter fraud thing?”

Eli’s head jerks towards her, mouth open in horror.

“Alleged. Alleged. Alleged voter fraud thing. And if anyone is going to say the whole voter fraud thing happened, well, I had nothing to do with it. Peter had nothing to do with it, you did nothing. It was all – allegedly – Jim Moody’s alleged involvement.”

“Jim Moody?” Johnny says.

“You know Jim Moody?” Alicia asks.

“Yeah, sure, we go back. That time with the place and the guy and the thing.” Eli nods. “How the hell is he?” Johnny asks.

“Stuffing ballot boxes – allegedly,” Alicia says.

 

 

 

 

 

6.

When Marissa was first brought on as her body woman she read aloud from articles she’d googled about Johnny Elfman (“I know, I know, your loyalty rests with ChumHum, but if we’re being honest, then we both know Google is the better search engine, I’m sorry, I’m just saying”). Alicia had ignored her, and by extension him. There was an overly generous use of the word infamous as well as ruthless and less frequently, unethical as Marissa read.

“Don’t you want to know? Who you’re working with?” Marissa laughed then, and repeated herself, affecting an accent befitting a long-lost Corleone.

Alicia leveled her with a stare. “What are you even hoping to find?”

Melissa shrugged. “I don’t know. Dirt of the general and filthy variety. Rap sheet, a whole bunch of dead wives down in his Bluebeard basement, a sex tape – oh, motorcycle accident, now we’re talking.”

Alicia, despite herself, looked up vaguely interested.

“And … composer for the film, when John Williams dropped – wait, wrong Elfman, my bad.” Marissa clicked over to a different tab. “Motorcycle accident in the farmland of Ohio it is.”

“That’s so cliched,” Alicia said.

“What’s cliched?” Johnny asked as he entered.

“Motorcycles,” Alicia said at the exact same second Marissa illogically said, “America.”

Johnny did that reptilian head jerk of his, like he could smell blood in the water. A small smile struggled to make itself known but he kept it reined in. He started talking about something else – voter turnout, Eli’s debatable allegiance to her campaign, an op-ed opportunity in the Tribune – and took a seat. It wasn’t long after that when Marissa left.

“John Allman,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“John Allman. Political operative, did some work in the last governor’s race in Indiana. Was in a motorcycle accident, also in Indiana. For whatever reason, people persist in misattributing that minor claim to fame to me.”

“Shame,” Alicia said. “I’m sure it would’ve made for a good story.”

“I have enough stories,” he said. There was nothing flirtatious about how he said it; he said it as a fact. Alicia crossed her legs under the table. She thought she finally knew what Marissa meant: you want to know.

 

 

 

 

 

7.

They’re alone at campaign headquarters and they are drinking scotch. Alicia has her shoes off, stocking feet pressed against the cold floor, as she slowly spins in her desk chair. Prady’s up two points in the polls.

“You really think I can win this?” she asks, looking down at her feet.

“Yes.”

She snorts, not quite a laugh. She looks up at him then, watches him take a sip. He licks his lips, tightens his jaw, presses his lips together. He has these little tics, this thing she’s noticed he does with his jaw, a clench and a shift, almost as if he was attempting to unhinge it and swallow whatever meddlesome prey has foolishly presented itself before him.

She’s noticed. She watches his mouth.

“Is this the worst campaign you’ve ever worked?” A part of her is joking, but another part of her – there’s a part of her that still doesn’t fully understand why someone like him stuck around.

He smacks his lips after he swallows his scotch. “Hardly.” His tone is warm, and Alicia finds she likes that.

He tells her about some of the worst. The candidate who fled to Tampa with his twenty-year old girlfriend rather than the Plains statehouse he had been gunning for.

“What happened to him?”

Johnny shrugs. “Dead.”

Her eyebrows shoot up and her mouth opens.

“Unrelated speedboat accident.” She laughs, loud and throaty, which makes him laugh, too.

One of his first – and one of his worst – he tells her was a New Jersey attorney gen hopeful who burst into furious, impotent tears at his dining room table when he was presented with oppo research showing his wife fucking his best friend.

“‘How could he?’ He kept saying that, over and over. Like the bigger betrayal came from the friend, not the wife. Guy still ran though. Lost. Cried the whole goddamn time.” He pauses, considers his empty glass, index finger tracing the rim. “A lot of them cry. I hadn’t expected that when I first started.” He looks over to her. “I like that you don’t cry,” he says after a beat.

“Oh, just you wait.” She’s tired, raises her glass to him in mock salute.

He still has that fond look on his face when he says, “No. You’re nothing like them.”

He says these things that said by anyone else would be too much, too forward, but when he says them they are tempered by his own bluntness. By his own honesty, she thinks.

“This is the most you’ve ever told me about you, you know?”

Johnny shrugs. “Not much to tell.”

“You have any kids?” She asks the question, and despite herself, her face is squinted up like she already knows the answer.

“No,” he says slowly, drawing the word out, confirming her suspicions.

“Let me guess,” she says, pointing a finger at him, “you just never had the time. Men like you always say that.”

“Well, we’re not lying.”

She laughs as she reaches for the bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

8.

Alicia snatches an opened bottle of cabernet off the kitchen counter and goes to her bedroom. The party is winding down. Jackie’s still in the kitchen with the cheese trays but Peter’s gone (he brought her, she can’t believe he brought her here) and with him any potential donors. She kicks off her shoes, sighs, reclines back on her bed, and turns the TV on.

Through the door, she can hear Eli and Johnny arguing. She can’t parse the words, but the voices convey their individual frustration with each other and their mutual frustration with her. Good. The party was a bad idea to begin with, she had told Eli that. There had to be a better way to entice donors than a party at her apartment; he had said there was: special guest Peter Florrick.

She can’t believe he brought her with him.

There’s silence in the apartment now, and then a knock at her bedroom door.

“Yeah,” she calls, uninterested. The bottle’s still clutched in her hand, uncorked, her gaze fixed on the television: Darkness at Noon opening credits– she doesn’t think she’s seen this episode.

Alicia’s not much of a betting woman, but she’d place odds on Eli being on the other side of the door. She’s wrong.

“John. Come on in.” A sweeping gesture with her arm and the bottle of wine.

There’s a slight, unsure way to how he enters the room that doesn’t suit him or the man she imagines him to be. His hands are in his pockets, a quick, but not entirely judgment-free glance to her before he steps into the room, closing the door softly behind him, a gentle push of his hand.

You’ve got nothing to show for your name but a graveyard of empty unkept promises. I hope you dug two holes, because you’ll be joining them six feet under.”

They both look at the TV before he looks to her.

“Turn that off,” he says, tired. She hits mute instead.

“It was a good turnout tonight,” he starts.

“Don’t patronize me.” Their eyes meet. “Not you.” He opens his mouth as if to say something but then thinks better of it. 

Johnny takes a seat at the end of the bed, near her feet, her ankles crossed.

“I can’t believe he brought her here,” she says. Peter brought Ramona, in front of all those people, in her house. Johnny doesn’t say anything.

Instead, he places his hand on her bare ankle. At first, his grip is loose and then his fingers drift over the curved knot of her ankle, down to her heel and back up her calf before he stills.

Her pulse hammers in her ears, her mouth thick and sticky with dark wine, his hand hot on her skin. She watches the television without sound as a man holds a knife to another man’s throat. Johnny moves his thumb against her skin. She looks to him only to find him watching her.

“Never run off with the bottle again,” he says, quiet and almost menacing, like he himself stepped out of the scene unfolding on the screen. “The pickled lush rumors are bad enough – we don’t need to confirm them.”

“It’s my house,” she says just as softly.

His hand tightens at her ankle, squeezes once, and then he lets go. “They’re your guests.” The loss of contact is a surprise, too, just as shocking as it had been for him to touch her in the first place. He rises, his hands back in his pocket, as if they have been stowed away. As if that is something he has to do.

“They’re your public,” he says and then he leaves.

Alicia swallows, takes a pull from the bottle, swallows again. She hits the mute button.

You took what you wanted,” the man with the knife says, “now it’s my turn to take what’s mine.”

 

 

 

 

 

9.

Don’t.”

Alicia keeps crossing her legs at the knee; Johnny keeps reminding her not to.

“You’ve got some bad habits,” he had told her, and she had arched an eyebrow when he hadn’t elaborated on what those habits included, but instead said: “Best we break them now rather than later.” He’s always talking about later, a future only he has seen where all these things matter.

They’ve been at this for an hour, informal debate prep, a mock Q&A with her seated in a chair in the middle of the room while he paces in front of her. She dimly wonders if that’s a bad sign, if he’s nervous, and if he’s nervous then that means she should be nervous, too.

He lobs questions her way, varying between the obvious and the obtuse. He interrupts her responses, equal parts drill sergeant and perfectionist Russian ballet instructor. And he will not let her cross her legs. He steps over to her and lightly taps her on the knee. “Sit up straight,” he says.

Alicia keeps getting frustrated, her frustration making her that much more anxious, and mid-thought, mid-argument, she throws her leg over her knee again. He raps his knuckles fast against her kneecap. Her leg kicks once, like a reflex exam at the doctor’s. She scowls up at him, but he looks away too quickly for her to gauge his reaction.

Another question from him. Alicia shifts in her chair, her feet crossed at the ankles. He asks the question again, sharper this time.

She answers, mockingly simpering.

“Message is fine, delivery needs work.”

“The delivery was meant solely for you.”

He smiles, that smile he does where he doesn’t show teeth, like he’s amused but also something else, something greater than that, and that makes her anxious too, so she raises her chin, maintains that faux-Jackie O ladylike posture and waits for his next question.

“Cook County Jail is the largest correctional facility in America,” he starts, ending in a question. Alicia hesitates, arranging her thoughts. Johnny asks the question again, his patience flagging, obvious in the clipped edge to his tone. She clears her throat, she pushes her hair behind her ear – “Don’t,” he warns – she fidgets – “don’t.” Without meaning to, instinctively, she crosses her legs at the knee again.

She can barely stammer out a reply before he grabs her by the knee and pushes it off. She stumbles over her words, half-formed ideas poorly expressed, his hand still resting heavy on her knee. She can feel the heat of it. She stops mid-sentence – “the rate of recidivism is, it’s a problem” – and looks up to find him watching her face, hooded eyes, his hand covering her knee. Her legs part slightly and they both notice, his gaze flicking down – her legs, his hand, his grip tightening. And then, he steps back, his hand falling away. He clears his throat, “Cook County Jail,” he says overly loud and parries that same question her way again.

Her mouth is dry. She licks her lips quickly, presses her thighs together and slips one foot behind the other, her legs crossed now at the ankle. She answers him, her words smooth.

“Good,” he says after a beat. He says it softly. It is, she thinks, the only thing about him that is soft.

 

 

 

 

 

10.

In her kitchen she asks him again if he thinks she can win.

“Yes,” he answers, no hesitation.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I don’t,” and there is a pause, like this could be a lie itself. “I don’t lie to you.”

“You keep trying to change me.” She spits it out, her indignant frustration easy to hold.

He’s got that tight face he gets that she used to think was specifically reserved for Eli. On another man it might read as insulted. He stands up straighter, raises is head, lengthens his neck. “Repackaging isn’t the same thing as changing,” he says, that same imperious tone he had used when she first met him.

Her scowl deepens but something passes over his face. It’s like they’re at an impasse, and he is the first to yield.

“Why would I – there’s nothing I’d change, Alicia. I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t,” and then he stops, catching himself. He’s already showed his hand, she thinks. He’s already told her: she’s the one with the power.

He wants her the way she is – that’s power.

Alicia steps forward and Johnny does not move. He watches her and she watches him and he hasn’t moved away from her. She presses her hands lightly to his chest and she can feel it when he inhales. This is when she kisses him. She’s incredibly chaste, her lips barely touching his.

Symmetry, it’s the word in her head as she kisses him. Balance.

He doesn’t react, the only evidence to give him away is how his breath leaves his mouth in a near inaudible huff and how his body comes close to giving in to any and all greater physical forces at play here and barely, imperceptibly sways towards her.

She pulls back from him, looks at his face, but he looks the way he always looks. She leans in, as if to kiss him, but she instead pulls his bottom lip between her teeth and tugs. He reacts. He makes a noise like a snarl and he finally puts hands on her, tight and cruel and low on her hips, his mouth opening to her.

 

 

 

 

 

11.

Nothing so indelicate, Marissa had said. God, was she wrong about that.

Johnny has Alicia on the edge of the couch. He’s down on his knees, her skirt pushed up to her hips.

He mouths at her through her panties and Alicia pushes her hips forward, the muscles in her thighs tensed, his hands hot as they inch higher up her bare legs. It’s a bad idea, she thinks, her breath sharp, her panties wet against his wet mouth. There’s responsibility to be found in at least recognizing it: this is a very bad idea. She can feel his tongue seeking against the fabric, pressing, pressing, like he’s testing her. His hands curl under her to cup her ass, drag her that much further down the couch, to drag her panties down. He yanks them off her, spreading her legs wider, his gaze switching between her cunt and her face, her breathing the loudest thing in the room. His stubble bites at the inside of her thighs; it makes her want to press her legs together, trap him there, the discomfort good, it complements his mouth on her. He slides two fingers into her (“fuck”) as he licks and sucks, and she grabs him by the hair. He makes a sound against her, makes her fingers pull harder, nails scratching against his scalp, and he makes the noise again, his own fingers, his mouth, working faster. She comes like that, her heel digging into his back, between his shoulder blades, spurring him on, and he doesn’t let up until she tries to squirm away from him.

Johnny leans back on his heels, looking up at her, while she struggles to catch her breath. He says, “Come here,” and she watches him, his weight on his elbows as he leans farther back. She doesn’t move, so he says it again – “come here” – and this time she does, her knees on other side of his face as he pulls her down by the hips, as he lays flat, making her ride his face. Alicia falls forward on her hands, her hips rolling, cunt wet against his nose, his mouth, his tongue, his fingers biting into her flesh as he holds her against him. Her thighs shake, his fingers bruise her, and she comes again, hands clawing at the carpet, her head dropped forward, voice cracking when she moans, wordless, just sound. Beneath her, he groans. She rolls off of him, everything too much, every part of her too open and wanting.

They lay beside each other on the floor. Johnny swipes at his mouth with the back of his hand. When he kisses her, she can still taste herself, she can taste him. It’s not even kissing, not really, just their open mouths locking together messily, all tongue and force.

He’s hard, pushing himself against her, and it’s fascinating, she’s never seen him this far outside his own control. He grabs at her ass, rolls her under him, rocking against her, in between her opened legs, panting into her mouth, and –

Her phone rings, Grace’s ringtone. Bad bad bad idea, as if Alicia’s conscience is tied to Grace. She stills under him. She can’t not answer it. (Mother of the year, right there; sorry, dear daughter, couldn’t answer your call, I was just about to fuck my campaign manager on the floor of our apartment, as one does).

“I have to,” Alicia says then stops, and she’s already trying to collect her breath, trying to sound like a normal person, like her daughter’s mother, not the strung-out fucked-out wreck she feels like right now.

“Yeah,” but he says it on the edge of a grunt, his hips still working against her, his mouth at the corner of her jaw.

She disentangles herself from him, manages to answer her phone right before it goes to voicemail. “Grace?” She rubs at her mouth, comes away with smeared lipstick. Behind her, Johnny does the same, seated on the couch now, he wipes her off his mouth. She smooths her hair, not that Grace can see her, but she pulls at her skirt anyway and her knees knock together once, her thighs wet, Christ. Grace’s voice is bright and happy, Johnny’s breathing hard and deep. He doesn’t try at all to disguise his movements as readjusts his cock – his hand over himself, even clothed, is somehow more obscene than anything that has already transpired between them.

Grace tells her she’s spending the night at a friend’s – the girl’s name is familiar but Alicia can’t place a face to it, and whatever guilt she feels over that is quickly eclipsed by the more obvious shame she feels when she hangs up: she didn’t even think about Grace coming home. She can feel Johnny’s eyes on her.

“This is a bad idea.” There, she’s said it.

“Yeah. It is,” he says. “You want, I can leave.”

“No.”

Neither of them moves; the anticipation expands to fill the room. He’s right though: they could stop right now. She’s not going to stop.

Alicia crosses the room to him. She straddles him on the couch, both of them breathing heavy as she settles against him, his hands moving instantly to the hem of her skirt. He pushes her skirt up while he hands move to his belt, the fly of his jeans, his cock still hard. She takes him in her hand and his eyes flicker shut and just as fast open, watching her. She rubs herself over him, leaving him wet. His jaw tightens, muscle flinching at the hinge; he lets out a low sound when she does it again, his fingers tightening against her hips.

When she slides down on him, a broken sigh escapes her. Only the worst of bad ideas could feel this good. She grabs at his shoulders, her grip too tight, tighter still when she buries a hand in his hair, jerks his head up to her. His own hips snap up into her, fast and harsh. His hands drag up under her shirt, covering her breasts – she’s panting now, hair sticking to her mouth – and then he pushes her bra up, his mouth wet against her.

He flips them easily, Alicia on her back and Johnny fucking into her. He kisses her and she kisses him back, arching up off the couch. He fucks the way she thought he would – dirty and rough and demanding while giving her what she wants. The pace loses its rhythm, she’s close, she clenches around him, frustrated when he stops.

“Get up,” he says against her mouth, “get on your knees.”

He fucks her from behind, and the change in angle – and depth, he’s so deep he makes her teeth chatter – has her gasping. Alicia’s fingers curl into the arm of the couch. She moans louder – Johnny wraps an arm around her and covers her mouth with his hand. She bites once and then sucks his middle finger into her mouth.

“Oh, goddamnit,” she hears him groan, his hips bucking sharply into her. “Fuck.”

His body drapes over hers, his mouth latches on to the cut of muscle between shoulder and neck, biting and sucking, muffling his own sounds. She comes hard, his fingers biting into her jaw as he cups her mouth. He’s still fucking her, the sound wet and sloppy, until he’s coming, too.

They both slump down on the couch, Johnny behind her, arm loosely wrapped around her, almost as if they are spooning.

“We can’t ever do that again,” he says.

“Okay,” she says, but it seems to her an empty thing to promise when she can feel his come slipping out of her. When she can feel the heat of his body right there at her back. Right at her beck and call.

 

 

 

 

 

12.

The debate is tomorrow.

“Do you think – ?” she asks Johnny. He interrupts.

“You are ready. Believe it. Stop asking.”

Alicia smiles to herself and Johnny doesn’t look up from either the tablet or the laptop he has before him. She’s ready. She repeats it to herself: she’s ready.

She had fought with Peter earlier that day. Low snarling voices in a back stairwell before a photo op. He didn’t know – he couldn’t know, no one knew – but he knew enough. He knew enough to recognize a loss, that what was gone from him was her.

“You think you’re above the the messes you get yourself into,” Peter had said. “You’re not. You’re just like everybody else. You’re just like me.”

“Say it again,” Alicia says to Johnny. They are in her office. The Chicago night is unfolding outside her dark windows; anyone could see inside.

Johnny cocks his head, like he is resisting. Like he knows how transparent saying it will make him. He says it anyway.

“I’ll do anything for you.” He says it in a flat voice, no romantic sentiment to it. He offers her something bodily sure instead, full of promise that doubles as heavy threat – both for her and for anyone who stands against her. Who stands against them.

“No,” Alicia had said to Peter in reply, cold and tight. “I’m better.”