FLASH FICTION:THE CURTAIN is a mini version of one that might go around a hospital bed, and the hall smells as sweetly antiseptic as a ward. I pull the curtain shut and study the ballot, the neat grid of portraits, names and boxes.
My husband’s ink-jetted face looks up with a confident, temperate smile, the almost-smirk his constituents trust so much. It is well practised.
I pick up the stubby pencil and wonder if I am actually going to do this.
I scan the list for my husband’s nearest rival: moustachioed, pained-looking. I mark a fat number one beside him, and continue scribbling in figures, saving my husband for last. There you are, darling, I think, as I give him my lowest preference.
Then I step outside the booth, hold hands with my husband, and beam for the cameras.
“You took your time, love – couldn’t make up your mind?” he says, and the photographers give a dutiful rumble of laughter. I beam some more.
Call it a rolling of the dice. An appeal to the fates. Maybe I just want to be assured that every vote really does count.
We leave the polling station and I picture my husband’s personal secretary, with her boy-short hair and kittenish titters, in a booth across town, giving him her number one.
Later, I am all anger and tension. I keep my party face in place. My husband pops champagne and I cheer, not faked entirely: I will need more champagne, lots of it.
His secretary stays on the fringe of the party, smiling discreetly, enjoying the moment. His heartbreakingly young campaign workers, previously afraid to even mention the L-word, now throw it about with abandon.
And I look at my husband and think: Landslide? I’ll give you a landslide.
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