The words and the voice…are mine.
Surprised, I freeze.
This is an odd feeling.
For the first time in…gosh, in I don’t know how long… I feel as though I’ve said something.
I’m almost proud of this unscripted moment.
But my pride has no effect on one year old Natalie.
Ignoring my request, our daughter continues to squirm in my arms, her tiny blonde head bumping into my tie.
The photographer, stooped just below the four of us, camera in hand, pauses and glances at us with something of a nervous plea in his expression.
I vaguely wonder why he’s shooting from such a low angle.
Tilly’s going to hate that.
During the campaign, every close-up taken at a low angle meant one more skipped meal for Tilly.
She’s always been strict on herself when it comes to dieting.
I don’t think all of the skipped meals and calorie counting are necessary, or even healthy, but I’ll readily admit that whatever she’s doing works, because she looks fantastic.
I tell her all the time…well, I used to tell her all the time.
In the early stages of the campaign, when Tilly found an unflattering picture of herself in some magazine or news article, she’d show me the photo, make a face, say something disparaging about herself, and we both knew I’d set her straight with a brief remark about her blue eyes, her perfect body…or any one of the many things I loved about her.
But towards the end of the campaign, Donald Lightwater was by my side more often than Tilly.
Rewriting my speeches, reviewing tapes of my speeches, speaking to me in front of the writers who wrote my speeches, even picking out the perfect tie for me to wear as a compliment to the perfect speech he’d written…
I used to need Tilly to pick out my ties.
She used to need me to remind her of her beauty.
But, somewhere along the way, a man named Donald Lightwater, slightly overbearing and the unsuccessful fighter of a sweating problem, nominated himself to be the one to pick out my ties.
That’s when Tilly stopped needing me.
“Um…Mr. President? How about a smile Sir?”
My attention darts away from the fuzzy mental image of Tilly, grinning as she straightens my tie, and I focus on the nervous photographer stooped below our family of four.
I look at him and his left eye twitches.
Now I can’t help but smile.
“Of course, sorry about that.” I say, once again relishing the unscripted words.
“Daddy!” Our four-year old’s voice, from his spot on Tilly’s lap, catches my attention and I automatically glance down into his blue eyes, “Daddy, Natalie’s foot touched my arm.”
“That’s alright…” The widening smile on my lips feels natural.
“Sweetheart, Natalie’s just trying to love you.” Tilly’s voice is soft as she pats our son on his curly head.
His dark curls come from me, but those blue eyes of his come from Tilly.
She looks up and for just a moment, our eyes meet.
The camera flashes, it makes a snapping sound as our moment is caught, snatched up to be preserved, analyzed by millions of strange eyes.
“That was great, perfect.” I hear the photographer say.
But his voice is out of focus because I’m concentrating on watching Tilly break our moment.
She gulps, turning to acknowledge the photographer.
The smile is still on my lips, hiding the unscripted words that reverberate in my head.
I found this hanging out in a random folder on the desktop at work. It was a short story I'd submitted for a writing contest on NPR. Just thought I'd post it since I haven't been blogging much these days : )