“As she walked to the podium, a hush descended over the crowd.”
As she walked to the podium, a hush descended over the crowd. The lights from the camera crews blinded her at first, but her eyes adjusted and she was able to register the solemn stares of the press conference attendees. Some faces displayed glimmers of hope, while the expressions of others made it clear she had already been judged and found wanting. These were her constituents and, regardless of individual party affiliations, they were the people she had sworn to represent.
They deserved the truth.
A cluster of family members and friends filled one corner of the room. She couldn’t look at them, her dedicated supporters who had stood by side through three decades of political storms. How many would even speak to her after today? She had rewarded their trust with duplicity, exchanged the fine gold of their friendship for the dross of ambition. Her husband, Christopher, stood at her side, faithful beyond expectation. She wondered if his unswerving commitment would continue when he learned the rest of her story.
No one knew the true extent of her involvement — even her closest advisers hadn’t yet learned the worst of her missteps — but she knew it was it only a matter of time before her enemies revealed her secrets. This conference offered her only chance to salvage a measure of integrity from the wreckage of her career.
She had been arrogant, believing herself beyond culpability. Her capacity for risk flourished as her escapades went undetected, sliding over the line of questionable practices until her actions were indisputably illegal. It was a rush, addictive and exciting, not to mention profitable. Her returns grew larger, and the possibility of discovery seemed less likely with each passing day.
And then the envelopes started to arrive.
They were filled with glossy 8 x 10 photos, grainy, and poorly lit, but even so, she was easily identified. Others contained overlooked documents, creating a paper trail leading straight to her. The envelopes came to her home, not with the regular post, but arriving at odd hours and tucked in strange places — peeking out from beneath the welcome mat or taped to the steering wheel of her car. One she found pinned to the dartboard in her husband’s workshop, shocking her like a blast of cold water from the garden hose.
She paid them off, sending more than they demanded, and after a year of silence she dared to hope her tormentors had decided to leave her alone. She distanced herself from her illegal affiliations, and began to believe her sins would remain hidden.
She was wrong.
More pictures arrived, at her political offices this time, and now with demands for even larger sums of cash. She sent all she had, even dipping into her campaign contributions to add to the pot, but it wasn’t enough. The first inkling of her indiscretions leaked to the press, and it was clear to her that more disclosures would follow if she didn’t pony up the remaining cash.
She knew then that no amount of money could ever guarantee her peace of mind — not while she still had secrets to keep.
It was time to let go of the fantasy of fading quietly from the spotlight of inquisition. She would take responsibility for her crimes, though it meant suffering an embarrassing end to her years of public service. She grabbed the edges of the podium to steady herself, and began to speak.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming today. I will not prolong these proceedings with prevarications or half truths. I –I,” she stuttered a bit, forgetting her prepared words. Shame and fear stole her breath. Behind the podium, Christopher grabbed her hand and squeezed. She took a deep breath and tried again.
“I have a confession to make.”
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