State of Affairs - Delphines_puppy (2024)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

On the White House roof, nestled in a corner of the Promenade, there's a piece of loose panelling at the edge of the Solarium. With the right touch, you can peel it back just enough to reveal a message etched beneath, perhaps with the tip of a key or a borrowed West Wing letter opener.

In the secretive lore of First Families—an exclusive gossip network bound by absolute discretion on most matters—there's no definitive answer as to who wrote it. The consensus is that only a presidential son or daughter would have had the audacity to deface the White House. Some are convinced it was Jack Ford, with his Hendrix records and split-level room connected to the roof for late-night smoke breaks. Others believe it was a young Luci Johnson, with her hair tied in a thick ribbon. But the identity doesn't matter. The writing remains, a private mantra for those resourceful enough to discover it.

Cosima discovered it within her first week of living there. She’s never told anyone how.

It says:


The East and West Bedrooms on the second floor are generally reserved for the First Family. They were first designated as one giant state bedroom for visits from the Marquis de Lafayette in the Monroe administration, but eventually, they were split. Cosima has the East, across from the Treaty Room, and Sarah uses the West, next to the elevator.

Growing up in Texas, their rooms were arranged in the same configuration, on either side of the hallway. Back then, you could tell Sarah’s ambition of the month by what covered the walls. At twelve, it was graffiti art. At fifteen, skateboards and punk rock posters. At sixteen, clippings from Wired, a Caltech pennant, and the manifestos of hacker collectives.

Her own room was forever the same, just steadily more stuffed with biology journals and piles of lab equipment. It’s all gathering dust in the house they still keep back home. On a chain around her neck, always hidden from view, she’s worn the key to that house since the day she left for DC.

Now, straight across the hall, Sarah’s room is all black and neon, photographed by Vogue and famously inspired by old ’90s grunge aesthetics. Her own room was once Caroline Kennedy’s nursery and, later, warranting some sage burning from Sarah, Nancy Reagan’s office. She’s left up the nature field illustrations in a neat symmetrical grid above the sofa, but painted over Sasha Obama’s pink walls with a deep green.

Typically, the children of the president, at least for the past few decades, haven’t lived in the Residence beyond eighteen, but Cosima started at Georgetown the January her mom was sworn in, and logistically, it made sense not to split their security or costs to whatever one-bedroom apartment she’d be living in. Sarah came that fall, fresh out of Caltech. She’s never said it, but Cosima knows she moved in to keep an eye on her. She knows better than anyone else how much she gets off on being this close to the action.

Behind Cosima's bedroom door, she can sit and put Hall & Oates on the record player in the corner, and nobody hears her humming along like her dad to “Rich Girl.” She can wear the reading glasses she always insists she doesn’t need. She can make as many meticulous study guides with color-coded sticky notes as she wants. She’s not going to be the youngest elected congresswoman in modern history without earning it, but nobody needs to know how hard she’s working behind the scenes. Her sex-symbol stock would plummet.

“Hey,” says a voice at the door, and she looks up from her laptop to see Sarah edging into her room, two iPhones and a stack of magazines tucked under one arm, and a plate in her hand. She closes the door behind her with her foot.

“What'd you steal today?” Cosima asks, pushing the pile of papers on her bed out of Sarah's way.

“Assorted donuts,” Sarah says as she climbs up. She’s wearing a leather jacket with ripped jeans, and Cosima can already see next week’s fashion columns: a picture of her outfit today, a lead-in for some spon-con about punk fashion for the professional rebel.

She wonders what Sarah’s been up to all day. She mentioned a column for WaPo, or was it a photoshoot for her blog? Or both? She can never keep up.

She’s dumped her stack of magazines out on the bedspread and is already busying herself with them.

“Doing your part to keep the great American gossip industry alive?”

“That’s what my journalism degree’s for,” Sarah says.

“Anything good this week?” Cosima asks, reaching for a donut.

“Let’s see,” Sarah says. “In Touch says I'm... corrupting a young British model?”

“Are you?”

“I wish.” She flips a few pages. “Ooh, and they’re saying you got your asshole bleached.”

“That one is true,” Cosima says through a mouthful of chocolate with sprinkles.

“Thought so,” Sarah says without looking up. After riffling through most of the magazine, she shuffles it to the bottom of the stack and moves on to People. She flips through absently—People only ever writes what their publicists tell them to write. Boring. “Not much on us this week . . . oh, but you're a crossword puzzle clue.”

Following their tabloid coverage is something of an idle hobby of hers, one that amuses and annoys their mother, and Cosima’s narcissistic enough to let Sarah read her the highlights. They’re usually either complete fabrications or lines fed from their press team, but sometimes it comes in handy for heading off the odd, particularly nasty rumor.

“Do Us Weekly,” Cosima says.

“Hmm...” Sarah digs it out of the stack. “Oh, look, we made the cover this week.”

She flashes the glossy cover at her, which has a photo of the two of them inlaid in one corner, Sarah’s hair pinned on top of her head and Cosima looking slightly over served but still stunning, all winged eyeliner and dreadlocks. Below it in bold yellow letters, the headline reads: FIRST SIBLINGS’ WILD NYC NIGHT.

“Oh yeah, that was a wild night,” Cosima says, reclining back against the tall, leather headboard and pushing her glasses up her nose. “Two whole keynote speakers. Nothing sexier than shrimp co*cktails and an hour and a half of speeches on carbon emissions.”

“It says here you had some kind of tryst with a ‘mystery brunette man,’” Sarah reads. “Though the First Daughter was whisked off by limousine to a star-studded party shortly after the gala, twenty-one-year-old Cosima was snapped sneaking into the W Hotel to meet a mystery man in the presidential suite and leaving around four a.m. Sources inside the hotel reported hearing amorous noises from the room all night, and rumors are swirling the man was none other than . . . Felix Dawkins, the twenty-two-year-old grandson of Vice President Mike Holleran and third member of the White House Trio. Could it be the two are rekindling their romance?”

“Yes!” Cosima crows, and Sarah groans. “That’s less than a month! You owe me fifty dollars, baby.”

“Hold on. Was it Felix?”

Cosima thinks back to the week before, showing up at Felix’s room with a bottle of champagne. Their friendship started on the campaign trail a million years ago and Felix is as gay as they come. Not that the press know that for sure and it’s not her fault the press won’t let the idea of them together go, though; that they love the idea of them together as if they’re modern-day Kennedys. So, if she and Felix occasionally get drunk in hotel rooms together watching The West Wing and making loud moaning noises at the wall for the benefit of nosy tabloids, she can’t be blamed, really. They’re simply turning an undesirable situation into their own personal entertainment.

Scamming her sister is also a perk.

“Maybe,” she says, dragging out the vowels.

Sarah swats her with the magazine like she’s an especially obnoxious co*ckroach. “That’s cheating, you dick!”

“Bet’s a bet,” Cosima tells her. “We said if there was a new rumor in a month, you’d owe me fifty bucks. I take Venmo.”

“I’m not paying,” Sarah huffs. “I’m gonna kill him when we see him tomorrow. What are you wearing, by the way?”

“For what?”

“The wedding.”

“Whose wedding?”

“Uh, the royal wedding,” Sarah says. “Of France. It’s literally on every cover I just showed you.”

She holds Us Weekly up again, and this time Cosima notices the main story in giant letters: PRINCE MARCUS SAYS I DO! Along with a photograph of an extremely nondescript French prince and his equally nondescript blond fiancée smiling blandly.

She drops her donut in a show of devastation. “That’s this weekend?”

“Cosima, we leave in the morning,” Sarah tells her. “We’ve got two appearances before we even go to the ceremony. I can’t believe Siobhan hasn’t climbed up your ass about this already.”

“sh*t,” she groans. “I know I had that written down. I got sidetracked.”

“What, by conspiring with my best friend against me in the tabloids for fifty dollars?”

“No, with my research paper, smart-ass,” Cosima says, gesturing dramatically at her piles of notes. “I’ve been working on it for Evolutionary Development all week. And I thought we agreed Felix is our best friend.”

“That can’t possibly be a real class you're taking,” Sarah says rolling her eyes. “Is it possible you willfully forgot about the biggest international event of the year because you don’t want to see your arch nemesis?”

“Sarah, I’m the daughter of the President of the United States. Princess Delphine is a figurehead of the French Empire. You can’t just call her my ‘arch nemesis,’” Cosima says. She chews thoughtfully and adds, “‘Arch nemesis’ implies she’s actually a rival to me on any level and not, you know, a stuck-up product of royalty who probably jerks off to photos of herself.”


“I’m just saying.”

“Well, you don’t have to like her, you just have to put on a happy face and not cause an international incident at her brother’s wedding.”

“When do I ever not put on a happy face?” Cosima says. She pulls a painfully fake grin, and Sarah looks satisfyingly repulsed.

“Ugh. Anyway, you know what you're wearing, right?”

“Yeah, I picked it out and had mom approve it last month. I’m not an animal.”

“I’m still not sure about my dress,” Sarah says. She leans over and steals her laptop away from her, ignoring her noise of protest. “Do you think the maroon or the one with the lace?”

“Lace, obviously. It’s France. And why are you trying to make me fail this class?” she says, reaching for her laptop only to have her hand swatted away. “Go curate your Instagram or something. You're the worst.”

“I hate you.”

“Hmm, I know.”

Outside her window, the wind stirs up over the lawn, rustling the linden trees down in the garden. The record on the turntable in the corner has spun out into fuzzy silence. She rolls off the bed and flips it, resetting the needle, and the second side picks up on “London Luck, & Love.”

If she’s honest, private aviation doesn’t really get old, not even three years into her mother’s term.

She doesn’t get to travel this way a lot, but when she does, it’s hard not to let it go to her head. She was born in the Mission District of Austin to the daughter of a single mother and the son of Mexican immigrants, all of them dirt-poor—luxury travel is still a luxury.

Fifteen years ago, when her mother first ran for the House, the Austin Chronicle gave her a nickname: the Mission Miracle. She’d escaped her tiny hometown in the shadow of Silicon Valley, pulled night shifts at diners to put herself through law school, and was arguing discrimination cases before the Supreme Court by thirty. She was the last thing anybody expected to rise up out of California in the midst of the Iraq War: a whip-smart Democrat with high heels, an unapologetic drawl, and a little biracial family.

So, it’s still surreal that Cosima is cruising somewhere over the Atlantic, snacking on pistachios in a high-backed leather chair with her feet up. Felix is bent over the New York Times crossword opposite her, brown curls falling across his forehead. Beside him, the hulking Secret Service agent Victor—Vic for short—holds his own copy in one giant hand, racing to finish it first. The cursor on Cosima’s Evo-Devo paper blinks expectantly at her from her laptop, but something in her can’t quite focus on school while they're flying transatlantic.

Helena, her favorite Secret Service agent, a former Navy SEAL who is rumored around DC to have killed several men, sits across the aisle. She’s got a bulletproof titanium case of crafting supplies open on the couch next to her and is serenely embroidering flowers onto a napkin. Cosima has seen her stab someone in the kneecap with a very similar embroidery needle.

Which leaves Sarah, next to her, leaning on one elbow with her nose buried in the issue of People she’s inexplicably brought with them. She always chooses the most bizarre reading material for flights. Last time, it was a battered old Cantonese phrasebook. Before that, Death Comes for the Archbishop.

“What are you reading in there now?” Cosima asks her.

She flips the magazine around so she can see the double-page spread titled: ROYAL WEDDING MADNESS! Cosima groans.

“What?” she says. “I want to be prepared for my first-ever royal wedding.”

“You went to prom, didn’t you?” Cosima says. “Just picture that, only in hell, and you have to be really nice about it.”

“Can you believe they spent $75,000 just on the cake?”

“That’s depressing.”

“And apparently Princess Delphine is going sans date to the wedding and everyone is freaking out about it. It says she was,” she affects a comical French accent, “rumored to be dating a Belgian count last month, but now followers of the princess’s dating life aren’t sure what to think.”

Cosima snorts. It’s insane to her that there are legions of people who follow the intensely dull dating lives of the royal siblings. She understands why people care where she puts her own tongue—at least she has personality.

“Maybe the male population of Europe finally realized she’s as compelling as a wet ball of yarn,” Cosima suggests.

Felix puts down his crossword puzzle, having finished it first. Vic glances over and swears. “You gonna at least speak to her, then?”

Cosima rolls her eyes, suddenly imagining standing in a ballroom while Delphine drones sweet nothings about cycling and pastry baking in her ear. The thought makes her want to gag.

“In her dreams... Listen,” Cosima tells him, “royal weddings are trash, the prince and princesses that have royal weddings are trash, the imperialism that allows them to exist at all is trash. It’s trash all the way down.”

“Is this your TED Talk?” Sarah asks. “You do realize America is a genocidal empire too, right?”

“Yes, Sarah, but at least we have the decency not to keep a monarchy around,” Cosima says, throwing a pistachio at her.

There are a few things about Cosima and Sarah that new White House hires are briefed on before they start. Sarah’s peanut allergy. Cosima’s frequent middle-of-the-night requests for coffee. Sarah’s college boyfriend, Paul, who broke up with her when he moved to California but is still the only person whose letters come to her directly. Cosima’s long-standing grudge against the youngest princess.

It’s not a grudge, really. It’s not even a rivalry. It’s a prickling, unsettling annoyance. It makes her palms sweat.

The tabloids—the world—decided to cast Cosima as the American equivalent of Princess Delphine from day one, since the White House Trio is the closest thing America has to royalty. It has never seemed fair. Cosima’s image is all charisma and genius and smirking wit, thoughtful interviews and the cover of GQ at eighteen; Delphine’s is placid smiles and gentle chivalry and generic charity appearances, a perfectly blank princess. Delphine’s role, Cosima thinks, is much easier to play.

Maybe it is technically a rivalry. Whatever.

Paris is an absolute spectacle, crowds cramming the streets outside the Palace and all through the city, draped in Tricolour and waving tiny flags over their heads. There are commemorative royal wedding souvenirs everywhere; Prince Marcus and his bride’s face plastered on everything from chocolate bars to underwear. Cosima almost can’t believe this many people care so passionately about something so comprehensively dull. She’s sure there won't be this kind of turnout in front of the White House when she or Sarah get married one day, nor would she even want it.

The ceremony itself seems to last forever, but it’s at least sort of nice, in a way. It’s not that Cosima isn’t into love or can’t appreciate marriage. It’s just that the bride, Beatrice, is a perfectly respectable daughter of nobility, and Marcus is a prince. It’s as sexy as a business transaction. There’s no passion, no drama. Cosima’s kind of love story is much more Shakespearean.

It feels like years before she’s settled at a table between Sarah and Felix inside the Palace ballroom, and she’s irritated enough to be a little reckless. Felix passes her a flute of champagne, and she takes it gladly.

“Do either of you know what a viscount is?” Sarah is saying, halfway through a cucumber sandwich. “I’ve met like, five of them, and I keep smiling politely as if I know what it means when they say it. Cosima, you took comparative international governmental relational things. Whatever. What are they?”

“I think it’s that thing when a vampire creates an army of crazed sex waifs and starts his own ruling body,” she says.

“That sounds right,” Felix says. He’s folding his napkin into a complicated shape on the table, his shiny black manicure glinting in the chandelier light.

“I wish I were a viscount,” Sarah says. “I could have my sex waifs deal with my emails.”

“Are sex waifs good with professional correspondence?” Cosima asks.

Felix’s napkin has begun to resemble a bird. “I think it could be an interesting approach. Their emails would be all tragic and wanton.” He tries on a breathless, husky voice. “‘Oh, please, I beg you, take me—take me to lunch to discuss fabric samples, you beast!”

“Could be weirdly effective,” Cosima notes.

“Something is wrong with both of you,” Sarah says gently.

Cosima is opening her mouth to retort when a royal attendant materializes at their table like a dense and dour-looking ghost in a bad hairpiece.

“Miss Sarah,” says the man, who looks like his name is probably Reginald or Bartholomew or something. He bows, and miraculously his hairpiece doesn’t fall off into Sarah’s plate. Cosima shares an incredulous glance with her behind his back. “Her Royal Highness Princess Delphine wonders if you would do her the honor of accompanying her for a drink.”

Sarah’s mouth freezes halfway open, caught on a soft vowel sound, and Felix breaks out into a sh*t-eating grin.

“Oh, she’d love to,” Felix volunteers. “She’s been hoping Delphine would ask all evening.”

“Well—” Sarah starts and stops, her mouth smiling even as her eyes slice at Felix. “Of course. That would be lovely.”

“Excellent,” Reginald-Bartholomew says, and he turns and gestures over his shoulder.

And there Delphine is, in the flesh, as classically beautiful as ever in her emerald laced ballgown, all curly blonde hair and high cheekbones and a soft, friendly mouth. She holds herself with innately impeccable posture, as if she emerged fully formed and upright out of some beautiful Palace posy garden one day.

Her eyes lock on Cosima’s, and something like annoyance or adrenaline spikes in Cosima’s chest. She hasn’t had a conversation with Delphine in probably a year. Her face is still infuriatingly symmetrical.

Delphine decides to give her a perfunctory nod, as if she’s any other random guest, not the person she beat to a Vogue editorial debut in their teens. Cosima blinks, seethes, and watches Delphine angle her stupid chiseled jaw toward Sarah.

“Hello, Sarah,” Delphine says, and she extends a drink to Sarah.

“Your Royal Highness, its great to see you again,” she says, and she takes her the drink from Delphine. Delphine leads her off to the head table, all smiles and jokes.

“So is that what’s happening now?” Cosima says, glaring down at Felix’s napkin bird. “Has she decided to finally shut me up by befriending my sister?”

“Aw, little buddy,” Felix says. He reaches over and pats her hand. “It’s cute how you think everything is about you.”

“It should be, honestly.”

“That’s the spirit.”

She glances up into the crowd, where Sarah is being introduced to the newlyweds. She’s got a neutral, polite smile on her face, and Delphine keeps looking over her shoulder, which is even more annoying. Sarah is amazing. The least Delphine could do is pay attention to her.

“Do you think she actually likes her, though?”

Felix shrugs. “Who knows? Royals are weird. Might be a courtesy, or—Oh, there it is.”

A royal photographer has swooped in and is snapping a shot of them laughing together, one Cosima knows will be sold to People next week. So, that’s it, then? Using the First Daughter to start some idiotic rumor of international besties for attention? God forbid Marcus and Beatrice gets to dominate the news cycle for one week.

“She’s kind of good at this,” Felix remarks.

Cosima flags down a waiter and decides to spend the rest of the reception getting systematically drunk.

Cosima has never told—will never tell—anyone, but she saw Delphine for the first time when she was twelve years old. She only ever reflects upon it when she’s drunk.

She’s sure she saw her face in the news before then, but that was the first time she really saw her. Sarah had just turned fifteen and used part of her birthday money to buy an issue of a blindingly colorful teen magazine. Her love of trashy tabloids started early. In the center of the magazine were miniature posters you could rip out and stick up in your locker. If you were careful and pried up the staples with your fingernails, you could get them out without tearing them. One of them, right in the middle, was a picture of a girl.

She had thick, golden hair and big green eyes, a warm smile, and a tennis racket over one shoulder. It must have been a candid, because there was a happy, sun-bright confidence to her that couldn’t be posed. On the bottom corner of the page in pink and blue letters: PRINCESS DELPHINE.

Cosima still doesn’t really know what kept drawing her back, only that she would sneak into Sarah’s room and find the page and touch her fingertips to the girl’s hair, as if she could somehow feel its texture if she imagined it hard enough. The more her parents climbed the political ranks, the more she started to reckon with the fact that soon the world would know who she was. Then, sometimes, she’d think of the picture, and try to harness Princess Delphine’s easy confidence.

(She also thought about prying up the staples with her fingers and taking the picture out and keeping it in her room, but she never did. Her fingernails were too stubby; they weren’t made for it.)

But then came the first time she met Delphine—the first cool, detached words Delphine said to her—and Cosima guessed she had it all wrong, that the pretty, flung-open girl from the picture wasn’t real. The real Delphine is beautiful, distant, boring, and closed. This person the tabloids keep comparing her to, who she compares herself to, thinks she’s better than Cosima and everyone like her. Cosima can’t believe she ever wanted to be anything like her.

Cosima keeps drinking, keeps alternating between thinking about it and forcing herself not to think about it, disappears into the crowd, and dances with handsome European Princes.

She’s dancing away from one when she catches sight of a lone figure, hovering near the cake and the champagne fountain. It’s Princess Delphine yet again, glass in hand, watching Prince Marcus and his bride spinning on the ballroom floor. She looks politely half-interested in that obnoxious way of hers, like she has somewhere else to be. And Cosima can’t resist the urge to call her bluff.

She picks her way through the crowd, grabbing a glass of wine off a passing tray and downing half of it.

“When you have one of these,” Cosima says, sidling up to her, “you should do two champagne fountains instead of one. Really embarrassing to be at a wedding with only one champagne fountain.”

“Cosima,” Delphine says in that maddeningly posh French accent. Up close, the bustier under her dress is a lush gold and pokes ever so slightly out of her dress. It’s horrible. “I wondered if I’d have the pleasure.”

“Looks like it’s your lucky day,” Cosima says, smiling.

“Truly a momentous occasion,” Delphine agrees. Her own smile is bright white and immaculate, made to be printed on money.

The most annoying thing of all is Cosima knows Delphine hates her too—she must, they’re naturally mutual antagonists—but she refuses to outright act like it. Cosima is intimately aware politics involves a lot of making nice with people you loathe, but she wishes that once, just once, Delphine would act like an actual human and not some polished little wind-up toy sold in a palace gift shop.

She’s too perfect. Cosima wants to poke it.

“Do you ever get tired,” Cosima says, “of pretending you're above all this?”

Delphine turns and stares at her. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean, you’re out here, getting the photographers to chase you, swanning around like you hate the attention, which you clearly don’t since you're dancing with my sister, of all people,” Cosima says. “You act like you’re too important to be anywhere, ever. Doesn’t that get exhausting?”

“I’m ...a bit more complicated than that,” Delphine attempts.


“Oh,” Delphine says, narrowing her eyes. “You're drunk.”

“I’m just saying,” Cosima says, resting an overly friendly elbow on Delphine’s shoulder, which isn’t as easy as she’d like it to be since Delphine has about one infuriating foot of height on her. “You could try to act like you're having fun. Occasionally.”

Delphine laughs ruefully. “I believe perhaps you should consider switching to water, Cosima.”

“Should I?” Cosima says. She pushes aside the thought that maybe the wine is what gave her the nerve to stomp over to Delphine in the first place and makes her eyes as coy and angelic as she knows how. “Am I offending you? Sorry I’m not obsessed with you like everyone else. I know that must be confusing for you.”

“Do you know what?” Delphine says. “I think you are.”

Cosima’s mouth drops open, while the corner of Delphine’s turns smug and almost a little mean.

“Only a thought,” Delphine says, tone polite. “Have you ever noticed I have never once approached you and have been exhaustively civil every time we’ve spoken? Yet here you are, seeking me out again.” She takes a sip of her champagne. “Simply an observation.”

“What? I’m not—” Cosima stammers. “You’re the—”

“Have a lovely evening, Cosima,” Delphine says tersely, and turns to walk off.

It drives Cosima nuts that Delphine thinks she gets to have the last word, and without thinking, she reaches out and pulls Delphine’s shoulder back.

And then Delphine turns, suddenly, and almost does push Cosima off her this time, and for a brief spark of a moment, Cosima is impressed at the glint in her eyes, the abrupt burst of an actual personality.

The next thing she knows, she’s tripping over her own foot and stumbling backward into the table nearest her. She notices too late that the table is, to her horror, the one bearing the massive eight-tier wedding cake, and she grabs for Delphine’s arm to catch herself, but all this does is throw both of them off-balance and send them crashing together into the cake stand.

She watches, as if in slow motion, as the cake leans, teeters, shudders, and finally tips. There’s absolutely nothing she can do to stop it. It comes crashing down onto the floor in an avalanche of white buttercream, some kind of sugary $75,000 nightmare.

The room goes heart-stoppingly silent as momentum carries her and Delphine through the fall and down, down onto the wreckage of the cake on the ornate carpet, Delphine’s sleeve still clutched in Cosima’s fist. Delphine’s glass of champagne has spilled all over both of them and shattered, and out of the corner of her eye, Cosima can see a cut across the top of Delphine’s cheekbone beginning to bleed.

For a second, all she can think as she stares up at the ceiling while covered in frosting and champagne is that at least Delphine’s photo with Sarah won't be the biggest story to come out of the royal wedding.

Her next thought is that her mother is going to murder her in cold blood.

Beside her, she hears Delphine mutter slowly, “Putain de merde.”

She registers dimly that it’s the first time she’s ever heard the princess swear, before the flash from someone’s camera goes off.

Chapter 2

Chapter Text

With a resounding smack, Alison slaps a stack of magazines down on the West Wing briefing room table. “This is just what I saw on the way here this morning,” she says. “I don’t think I need to remind you I live two blocks away.” Cosima stares down at the headlines in front of her.




Each one is accompanied by a photo of herself and Delphine flat on their backs in a pile of cake, Delphine’s ridiculous gown all askew and covered in smashed buttercream flowers, her wrist pinned in Cosima’s hand, a thin slice of red across Delphine’s cheek.

“Are you sure we shouldn’t be in the Situation Room for this meeting?” Cosima attempts.

Neither Alison nor her mother, sitting across the table, seems to find it funny. The president gives her a withering look over the top of her reading glasses, and she clamps her mouth shut.

It’s not exactly that she’s afraid of Alison, her mom’s deputy chief of staff and right-hand woman. She has a spiky exterior, but Cosima swears there’s something soft in there somewhere. She’s more afraid of what her mother might do. They grew up made to talk about their feelings a lot, and then her mother became president, and life became less about feelings and more about international relations. She’s not sure which option spells a worse fate.

“Sources inside the royal reception report the two were seen arguing minutes before the ... caketastrophe,” Siobhan reads out loud with utter disdain from her own copy of Le Parisien. Cosima doesn’t even try to guess how she got her hands on today’s edition of a French tabloid. President Mom works in mysterious ways. “But royal family insiders claim the First Daughter’s feud with Delphine has raged for years. A source tells Le Parisien that Delphine and the First Daughter have been at odds ever since their first meeting at the Rio Olympics, and the animosity has only grown—these days, they can’t even be in the same room with each other. It seems it was only a matter of time before Cosima took the American approach: a violent altercation.”

“I really don’t think you can call tripping over a table a ‘violent—”

“Cosima,” Siobhan says, her tone eerily calm. “Shut up.”

She does.

“One can’t help but wonder,” Siobhan reads on, “‘if the bitterness between these two powerful daughters has contributed to what many have called an icy and distant relationship between President Siobhan Sadler’s administration and the monarchy in recent years.”

She tosses the magazine aside, folding her arms on the table.

“Please, tell me another joke,” Siobhan says. “I want so badly for you to explain to me how this is funny.”

Cosima opens her mouth and closes it a couple of times.

“She started it,” she says finally. “I barely touched her—she’s the one who pushed me, and I only grabbed her to try and catch my balance, and—”

“Honey, I cannot express to you how much the press does not give a f*ck about who started what,” Siobhan says. “As your mother, I can appreciate that maybe this isn’t your fault, but as the president, all I want is to have the CIA fake your death and ride the dead-kid sympathy into a second term.”

Cosima clenches her jaw. She’s used to doing things that piss her mother’s staff off—in her teens, she had a penchant for confronting her mother’s colleagues with their voting discrepancies at friendly DC fundraisers—and she’s been in the tabloids for things more embarrassing than this. But never in quite such a cataclysmically, internationally terrible way.

“I don’t have time to deal with this right now, so here’s what we’re gonna do,” Siobhan says, pulling a folder out of her padfolio. It’s filled with some official-looking documents punctuated with different colors of sticky tabs, and the first one says: AGREEMENT OF TERMS.

“Um,” Cosima says.

“You,” she says, “are going to make nice with Delphine. You're leaving Saturday and spending Sunday in France.”

Cosima blinks. “Is it too late to take the faking-my-death option?”

“Alison can brief you on the rest,” Siobhan goes on, ignoring her. “I have about five hundred meetings right now.” She gets up and heads for the door, stopping to kiss her hand and press it to the top of her head. “You’re a dumbass. Love you.”

Then she’s gone, heels clicking behind her down the hallway, and Alison settles into her vacated chair with a look on her face like she’d prefer arranging her death for real. She’s not technically the most powerful or important player in her mother’s White House, but she’s been working by Siobhan’s side since Cosima was five and Alison was fresh out of Howard. She’s the only one trusted to wrangle the First Family.

“All right, here’s the deal,” she says. “I was up all night conferencing with a bunch of uptight royal handlers and PR pricks and the princess’s equerry to make this happen, so you are going to follow this plan to the letter and not mess it up, got it?”

Cosima still privately thinks this whole thing is completely ridiculous, but she nods. Alison looks deeply unconvinced but presses on.

“First, the White House and the monarchy are going to release a joint statement saying what happened at the royal wedding was a complete accident and a misunderstanding—”

“Which it was.”

“—and that, despite rarely having time to see each other, you and Princess Delphine have been close personal friends for the past several years.”

“We’re what?”

“Look,” Alison says, taking a drag from her massive stainless steel thermos of coffee. “Both sides need to come out of this looking good, and the only way to do that is to make it look like your little slap-fight at the wedding was some overly excited mess of hugs and kisses, okay? So, you can hate the heir to the throne all you want, write mean poems about her in your diary, but the minute you see a camera, you act like the sun shines out of her ass, and you make it convincing.”

“Have you met Delphine?” Cosima says. “How am I supposed to do that? She has the personality of a cabbage.”

“Are you really not understanding how much I don’t care at all how you feel about this?” Alison says. “This is what’s happening so your stupid ass doesn’t distract the entire country from your mother’s reelection campaign. Do you want her to have to get up on the debate stage next year and explain to the world why her daughter is trying to destabilize America’s European relationships?”

Well, no, she doesn’t. And she knows, in the back of her mind, that she’s a better strategist than she’s been about this, and that without this stupid grudge, she probably could have come up with this plan on her own.

“So Delphine’s your new best friend,” Alison continues. “You will smile and nod and not piss off anyone while you and Delphine spend the weekend doing charity appearances and talking to the press about how much you love each other’s company. If somebody asks about her, I want to hear you gush like she’s your freaking prom date.”

She slides her a page of bulleted lists and tables of data so elaborately organized she could have made it herself. It’s labeled: HRH PRINCESS DELPHINE FACT SHEET.

“You're going to memorize this so if anybody tries to catch you in a lie, you know what to say,” she says. Under HOBBIES, it lists reading and competitive yachting. Cosima is going to set herself on fire.

“Does she get one of these for me?” Cosima asks helplessly.

“Yep. And for the record, making it was one of the most depressing moments of my career.” She slides another page over to her, this one detailing requirements for the weekend.

  • Minimum two (2) social media posts per day highlighting France/visit thereof.
  • One (1) on-air interview with TF1, lasting five (5) minutes, in accordance with determined narrative.
  • Two (2) joint appearances with photographers present: one (1) private meeting, one (1) public charity appearance.

“Why do I have to go over there? She’s the one who pushed me into the stupid cake—shouldn’t she have to come here and go on SNL with me or something?”

“Because it was the royal wedding you ruined, and they’re the ones out seventy-five grand,” Alison says. “Besides, we’re arranging her presence at a state dinner in a few months. She’s not any more excited about this than you are.”

Cosima pinches the bridge of her nose where a stress headache is already percolating. “I have class.”

“You'll be back by Sunday night, DC time,” Alison tells her. “You won’t miss anything.”

“So there’s really no way I’m getting out of this?”


Cosima presses her lips together. She needs a list.

When she was a kid, she used to hide pages and pages of loose-leaf paper covered in messy, loopy handwriting under the worn denim cushion of the window seat in the house in Austin. Rambling treatises on the role of government in America with all the Gs written backward, paragraphs translated from English to French, tables of her elementary school classmates’ strengths and weaknesses. And lists. Lots of lists. The lists help.

So: Reasons this is a good idea.

  1. Her mother needs good press.
  2. Having a sh*tty record on foreign relations definitely won't help her career.
  3. Free trip to Europe.

“Okay,” she says, taking the file. “I'll do it. But I won’t have any fun.”

“God, I hope not.”

The White House Trio is, officially, the nickname for Cosima, Sarah, and Felix coined by People shortly before the inauguration. In actuality, it was carefully tested with focus groups by the White House press team and fed directly to People. Politics—calculating, even in hashtags.

Before the Niehuas-Sadlers, the Kennedys and Clintons shielded the First Offspring from the press, giving them the privacy to go through awkward phases and organic childhood experiences and everything else. Sasha and Malia were hounded and picked apart by the press before they were out of high school. The White House Trio got ahead of the narrative before anyone could do the same.

It was a bold new plan: three attractive, bright, charismatic, marketable millennials—Cosima and Felix are, technically, just past the Gen Z threshold, but the press doesn’t find that nearly as catchy. Catchiness sells, coolness sells. Obama was cool. The whole First Family could be cool too; celebrities in their own right. It’s not ideal, her mother always says, but it works.

They’re the White House Trio, but here, in the music room on the third floor of the Residence, they’re just Cosima and Sarah and Felix, naturally glued together since they were teenagers stunting their growth with espresso in the primaries. Cosima pushes them. Sarah steadies them. Felix keeps them honest.

They settle into their usual places: Sarah, perched on her heels at the record collection, foraging for some Patsy Cline; Felix, cross-legged on the floor, uncorking a bottle of red wine; Cosima, sitting upside down with her feet on the back of the couch, trying to figure out what she’s going to do next.

She flips the HRH PRINCESS DELPHINE FACT SHEET over and squints at it. She can feel the blood rushing to her head.

“I thought you were liking the WaPo gig?” Felix says. With a dull pop, he pulls the cork out of the wine and takes a swig directly from the bottle.

“I was,” Sarah says. “I mean, I am. But it’s not much of a gig. It’s like, one op-ed a month, and half my pitches get shot down for being too close to Mom’s platform, and even then, the press team has to read anything political before I turn it in. So it’s like, email in these fluff pieces, and know that on the other side of the screen people are doing the most important journalism of their careers, and be okay with that.”

“So... you don’t like it, then.”

Sarah sighs. She finds the record she’s looking for, slides it out of the sleeve. “I don’t know what else to do, is the thing.”

“They wouldn’t put you on a beat?” Felix asks her.

“You kidding? They wouldn’t even let me in the building,” Sarah says. She puts the record on and sets the needle.

Felix tips his head and laughs. “ditch journalism, get really into essential oils, buy a cabin in the Vermont wilderness, and own six hundred LL Bean vests that all smell like patchouli.”

“You left out the investing in Apple in the nineties and getting stupid-rich part,” Sarah reminds him.


Sarah walks over and places her palm on the top of Felix’s head, deep in his nest of curls, and leans down to kiss the back of her own fingers. “I'll figure something out.”

Felix hands over the bottle, and Sarah takes a pull. Cosima heaves a dramatic sigh.

“I can’t believe I have to learn this garbage,” Cosima says. “I just finished midterms.”

“Look, you're the one who has to fight everything that moves,” Sarah says, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand, a move she’d only do in front of the two of them. “Including the French monarchy. So, I don’t really feel bad for you. Anyway, she was totally fine when I was chatting with her. I don’t get why you hate her so much.”

“I think it’s amazing,” Felix says. “Sworn enemies forced to make peace to settle tensions between their countries? There’s something totally Shakespearean about it.”

“Shakespearean in that hopefully I'll get stabbed to death,” Cosima says. “This sheet says her favorite food is Ratatouille. I literally cannot think of a more boring food. She’s like a cardboard cutout of a person.”

The sheet is filled with things Cosima already knew, either from the royal siblings dominating the news cycle or hate-reading Delphine’s Wikipedia page. She knows about Delphine’s parentage, about her older sibling Marcus, that she studied French literature at the Sorbonne and plays classical piano. The rest is so trivial she can’t imagine it'll come up in an interview, but there’s no way she'll risk Delphine being more prepared.

“Idea,” Felix says. “Let’s make it a drinking game.”

“Ooh, yes,” Sarah agrees. “Drink every time Cosima gets one right?”

“Drink every time the answer makes you want to puke?” Cosima suggests.

“One drink for a correct answer, two drinks for a Princess Delphine fact that is legitimately, objectively awful,” Felix says. Sarah has already dug two glasses out of the cabinet, and she hands them to Felix, who fills both and keeps the bottle for himself. Cosima slides down from the couch to sit on the floor with them.

“Okay,” he goes on, taking the sheet out of Cosima’s hands. “Let’s start easy. Parents. Go.”

Cosima picks up her own glass, already pulling up a mental image of Delphine’s parents, Catherine’s shrewd green eyes and Arthur’s movie-star jaw.

“Mother: Princess Catherine, oldest daughter of King Marty, first princess to obtain a doctorate—French literature,” she rattles off. “Father: Arthur Cormier, beloved English film and stage actor best known for his turn as James Bond in the eighties, died like half a year ago. Drink.”

They do, and Felix passes the list to Sarah.

“Okay,” Sarah says, scanning the list, apparently looking for something more challenging. “Let’s see. Dog’s name?”

“David,” Cosima says. “He’s a beagle. I remember because, like, who does that? Who names a dog David? He sounds like a tax attorney. Like a dog tax attorney. Drink.”

“Best friend’s name, age, and occupation?” Felix asks. “Best friend other than you, of course.”

Cosima casually gives him the finger. “Arthur Bell. Goes by Art. Heir to BEV Industries, French company leading in biomedical advancements. Twenty-two, lives in Paris, met Delphine at college. Manages the BEV Foundation, a humanitarian nonprofit. Drink.”

“Favorite book?”

“Uh,” Cosima says. “Um. f*ck. Uh. What’s the one—”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Niehaus, that is incorrect,” Sarah says. “Thank you for playing, but you lose.”

“Come on, what’s the answer?”

Sarah peers down at the list. “This says . . . Great Expectations?”

Both Felix and Cosima groan.

“Do you see what I mean now?” Cosima says. “This woman is reading Charles Dickens ... for pleasure.”

“I’ll give you this one,” Felix says. “Two drinks!”

“Well, I think—” Sarah says as Felix glugs away. “Guys, it’s kinda nice! I mean, it’s pretentious, but the themes of Great Expectations are all like, love is more important than status, and doing what’s right beats money and power. Maybe she relates—” Cosima makes a long, loud fart noise. “Y’all are such assholes! She seems really nice!”

“That’s because you are a nerd,” Cosima says. “You want to protect those of your own species. It’s a natural instinct.”

“I am helping you with this out of the goodness of my heart,” Sarah says. “I’m on deadline right now.”

“Hey, what do you think Alison put on my fact sheet?”

“Hmm,” Felix says, sucking his teeth. “Favorite summer Olympic sport: rhythmic gymnastics—”

“I’m not ashamed of that.”

“Favorite brand of khakis: Gap.”

“Listen, they look best on my ass. The J. Crew ones wrinkle all weird. And they’re not khakis, they’re chinos..”

“Allergies: dust, Tide laundry detergent, and shutting the f*ck up.”

“Age of first filibuster: nine, at SeaWorld San Antonio, trying to force an orca wrangler into early retirement for, quote, ‘inhumane whale practices.’”

“I stood by it then, and I stand by it now.”

Sarah throws her head back and laughs, loud and unguarded, and Felix rolls his eyes, and Cosima is glad, at least, that she’ll have this to come back to when the nightmare is over.

Cosima expects Delphine’s handler to be some stout storybook Frenchman with a beret, probably a walrus mustache, definitely scurrying to place a velvet footstool at Delphine’s carriage door.

The person who awaits her and her security team on the tarmac is very much not that. He’s a tall thirty-something dorky-looking man in an impeccably tailored suit, real dad-vibes with a shaven face and a shiny French flag pin on his lapel. Well, okay then.

“Agent Donnie,” the man says, extending his free hand to Helena. “Hope the flight was smooth.”

Helena nods. “As smooth as the third transatlantic flight in a week can be.”

The man half-smiles, commiserative. “The Land Rover is for you and your team for the duration.”

Helena nods again, releasing his hand, and the man turns his attention to Cosima.

“Ms. Niehuas,” he says. “Welcome back to France. Donnie Hendrix, Princess Delphine’s equerry.”

Cosima takes his hand and shakes it, feeling a bit like she’s in one of Delphine’s dad’s Bond movies. Behind her, an attendant unloads her luggage and carries it off in the direction of a sleek Aston Martin.

“Nice to meet you, Donnie. Not exactly how we thought we’d be spending our weekend, is it?”

“I’m not as surprised at this turn of events as I'd like to be, ma’am,” Donnie says coolly, with an inscrutable smile.

He pulls a small tablet from his jacket and pivots on his heel toward the waiting car. Cosima stares at his back, speechless, before hastily refusing to be impressed by a grown man whose job is handling the princess’s schedule, no matter how nice he is. She shakes her head a little and jogs to catch up, sliding into the backseat as Donnie checks the mirrors.

“Right,” Donnie says. “You'll be staying in the guest quarters at the Palace of Versailles. Tomorrow you'll do the TF1 interview at nine—we’ve arranged for a photo call at the studio. Then it’s children with cancer all afternoon and off you go back to the land of the free.”

“Okay,” Cosima says. She very politely does not add, could be worse.

“For now,” Donnie says, “you're to come with me to chauffeur the princess from the stables. One of our photographers will be there to photograph the princess welcoming you to the country, so do try to look pleased to be here.”

Of course, there are stables the princess needs to be chauffeured from. She was briefly worried she’d been wrong about what the weekend would look like, but this feels a lot more like it.

“If you'll check the seat pocket in front of you,” he says as he reverses, “there are a few papers for you to sign. Your lawyers have already approved them.” He passes back an expensive-looking black fountain pen.

NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENT, the top of the first page reads. Cosima flips through to the last page—there are at least fifteen pages of text—and a low whistle escapes her lips.

“This is ...” Cosima says, “a thing you do often?”

“Standard protocol,” he says. “The reputation of the royal family is too valuable to risk.”

The words “Confidential Information,” as used in this Agreement, shall include the following:

  1. Such information as HRH Princess Delphine or any member of the Royal Family may designate to the Guest as “Confidential Information”;

  2. All proprietary and financial information regarding HRH Princess Delphine’s personal wealth and estate;

  3. Any interior architectural details of Royal Residences including the Palace of Versailles, etc., and personal effects found therein;

  4. Any information regarding or involving HRH Princess Delphine’s personal or private life not previously released by official Royal documents, speeches, or approved biographers, including any personal or private relationship the Guest may have with HRH Princess Delphine;

  5. Any information found on HRH Princess Delphine’s personal electronic devices ...

This seems ... excessive, like the kind of paperwork you get from some perverted millionaire who wants to hunt you for sport. She wonders what the most mind-numbingly wholesome public figure on earth could possibly have to hide. She hopes it’s not people-hunting.

Cosima is no stranger to NDAs, though, so she signs and initials. It’s not like she would have divulged all the boring details of this trip to anyone anyway, except maybe Sarah and Felix.

They pull up to the stables after another fifteen minutes, her security close behind them. The royal stables are, of course, elaborate and well-kept and about a million miles from the old ranches she’s seen. Donnie leads her out to the edge of the paddock, and Helena and her team regroup ten paces behind.

Cosima rests her elbows on the lacquered white fence boards, fighting back the sudden, absurd feeling she’s underdressed for this. On any other day, her chinos and button-down would be fine for a casual photo op, but for the first time in a long time, she’s feeling distinctly out of her element. Does her hair look awful from the plane?

It’s not like Delphine is going to look much better after polo practice. She’ll probably be sweaty and disgusting.

As if on cue, Delphine comes galloping around the bend on the back of a pristine white horse.

She is definitely not sweaty or disgusting. She is, instead, bathed dramatically in a sweeping and resplendent sunset, wearing a crisp black jacket and riding pants tucked into tall leather boots, looking every inch an actual fairy-tale princess. She unhooks her helmet and takes it off with one gloved hand, and her hair underneath is just attractively tousled enough to look like it’s supposed to be that way.

“I’m going to throw up on you,” Cosima says as soon as Delphine is close enough to hear her.

“Hello, Cosima,” Delphine says. Cosima really resents the extra few feet of height Delphine has on her right now. “You look ... sober.”

“Only for you, Your Royal Highness,” she says with an elaborate mock-bow. She’s pleased to hear a little bit of ice in Delphine’s voice, finally done pretending.

“You're too kind,” Delphine says. She swings one long leg over and dismounts from her horse gracefully, removing her glove and extending a hand to Cosima. A well-dressed stable hand basically springs up out of the ground to whisk the horse away by the reins. Cosima has probably never hated anything more.

“This is idiotic,” Cosima says, grasping Delphine’s hand. The skin is soft, probably exfoliated and moisturized daily by some royal manicurist. There’s a royal photographer right on the other side of the fence, so she smiles winningly and says through her teeth, “Let’s get it over with.”

“I’d rather be waterboarded,” Delphine says, smiling back. The camera snaps nearby. Her eyes are big and soft and green, and she desperately needs to be punched in one of them. “Your country could probably arrange that.”

Cosima throws her head back and laughs handsomely, loud and false. “Go f*ck yourself.”

“Hardly enough time,” Delphine says. She releases Cosima’s hand as Donnie returns.

“Your Highness,” he greets Delphine with a nod. Cosima makes a concentrated effort not to roll her eyes. “The photographer should have what he needs, so if you’re ready, the car is waiting.”

Delphine turns to her and smiles again, eyes unreadable. “Shall we?”

There’s something vaguely familiar about the guest quarters at Versailles, even though she’s never been here before.

Donnie had an attendant show her to her room, where her luggage awaited her on an ornately carved bed with spun gold bedding. Many of the rooms in the White House have a similar hauntedness, a sense of history that hangs like cobwebs no matter how pristine the rooms are kept. She’s used to sleeping alongside ghosts, but that’s not it.

She wanders into the kitchen attached to her guest wing, where the ceilings are high and the countertops are shiny marble. She was allowed to submit a list to stock the kitchen, but apparently, it was too hard to get Ice Cream Sandwiches on short notice—all that’s in the freezer is French-brand packaged ice cream cones.

“What’s it like?” Felix’s voice says, tinny over her phone’s speaker. On the screen, his hair is up, and he’s poking at one of his dozens of window plants.

“Weird,” Cosima says, pushing her glasses up her nose. “Everything looks like a museum. I don’t think I’m allowed to show you, though.”

“Ooh,” Felix says, wiggling his eyebrows. “So secretive. So fancy.”

“Please,” Cosima says. “If anything, it’s creepy. I had to sign such a massive NDA that I’m convinced I’m gonna drop through a trapdoor into a torture dungeon any minute.”

“I bet she has a secret lovechild,” Felix says. “Or she’s gay. Or she has a secret gay lovechild.”

“It’s probably in case I see her equerry putting his batteries back in,” Cosima says. “Anyway, this is boring. What’s going on with you? Your life is so much better than mine right now.”

“Well,” Felix says, “I bought some new curtains. Narrowed down the list of grad school concentrations to statistics or data science.”

“Tell me those are both at GW,” Cosima says, hopping up to sit on one of the immaculate countertops, feet dangling. “You can’t leave me in DC to go back to MIT.”

“Haven't decided yet, but astonishingly, it will not be based on you,” Felix tells her. “Remember how we sometimes talk about things that are not about you?”

“Yeah, weirdly.” Cosima starts to laugh but cuts off when she hears rustling down the hall. Quiet footsteps approaching. Princess Beatrice lives in a different section of the palace, and so does Delphine. The PPOs and her own security sleep on this floor, though, so maybe—

“Hold on,” Cosima says, covering the speaker.

A light flicks on in the hallway, and the person who comes padding into the kitchen is none other than Delphine.

She’s rumpled and half awake, shoulders slumping as she yawns. She’s standing in front of Cosima wearing not a gown, but a heather-gray T-shirt and plaid pyjama bottoms. She has earbuds in, and her hair is a mess. Her feet are bare.

She looks, alarmingly, human.

She freezes when her eyes fall on Cosima perched on the countertop. Cosima stares back at her. In her hand, Felix begins a muffled, “Is that—” before Cosima disconnects the call.

Delphine pulls out her earbuds, and her posture has ratcheted back up straight, but her face is still bleary and confused.

“Hello,” she says, hoarse. “Sorry. Er. I was just. Délicieux Cornet.”

She gestures vaguely toward the refrigerator, as if she’s said something of any meaning.


She crosses to the freezer and extracts the box of ice cream cones, showing Cosima the brand name Délicieux Cornet across the front. “I was out. Knew they’d stocked you up.”

“Do you raid the kitchens of all your guests?” Cosima asks.

“Only when I can’t sleep,” Delphine says. “Which is always. Didn’t think you’d be awake.” She looks at Cosima, deferring, and Cosima realizes she’s waiting for permission to open the box and take one. Cosima thinks about telling her no, just for the thrill of denying a princess something, but she’s kind of intrigued. She usually can’t sleep either. She nods.

She waits for Delphine to take a cone and leave, but instead, Delphine looks back up at Cosima.

“Have you practiced what you'll say tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Cosima says, bristling immediately. This is why nothing about Delphine has ever intrigued her before. “You're not the only professional here.”

“I didn’t mean—” Delphine falters. “I only meant, do you think we should, er, rehearse?”

“Do you need to?”

“I thought it might help.” Of course, she thinks that. Everything Delphine’s ever done publicly has probably been privately rehearsed in stuffy royal quarters like this one.

Cosima hops down off the counter, swiping her phone unlocked. “Watch this.”

She lines up a shot: the box of Délicieux Cornet on the counter, Delphine’s hand braced on the marble next to it, her heavy signet ring visible along with the pattern of her pyjama bottoms. She opens up Instagram, slaps a filter on it.

“Nothing cures jet lag,” Cosima narrates in a monotone as she taps out a caption, “like midnight ice cream with @PrincessDelphine.” Geotag Versailles, and posted.” She holds the phone for Delphine to see as likes and comments immediately pour in. “There are a lot of things worth overthinking, believe me. But this isn’t one of them.”

Delphine frowns at her over her ice cream.

“I suppose,” she says, looking doubtful.

“Are you done?” Cosima asks. “I was on a call.”

Delphine blinks, then folds her arms over her chest, back on the defensive. “Of course. I won’t keep you.”

As she leaves the kitchen, she pauses in the doorframe, considering.

“I didn’t know you wore glasses,” she says finally.

She leaves Cosima standing there alone in the kitchen, the box of ice creams sweating on the counter.

The ride to the studio for the interview is bumpy but mercifully quick. Cosima should probably blame some of her queasiness on nerves but chooses to blame it all on this morning’s appalling breakfast spread—what kind of garbage country eats cold cheese and ham slices?

Delphine sits beside her, surrounded by a cloud of attendants and stylists. One adjusts her hair with a fine-toothed comb. One holds up a notepad of talking points. One tugs her collar straight. From the passenger seat, Donnie shakes a yellow pill out of a bottle and passes it back to Delphine, who readily pops it into her mouth and swallows it dry. Cosima decides she doesn’t want or need to know.

The motorcade pulls up in front of the studio, and when the door slides open, there’s the promised photo line and barricaded royal worshippers. Delphine turns and looks at her, a little grimace around her mouth and eyes.

“Princess goes first, then you,” Donnie says to Cosima, leaning in and touching his earpiece. Cosima takes one breath, two, and turns it on—the megawatt smile, the All-American charm.

“Go ahead, Your Royal Highness,” Cosima says, winking as she puts on her sunglasses. “Your subjects await.” Delphine clears her throat and unfolds herself, stepping out into the morning and waving genially at the crowd. Cameras flash, photographers shout. A middle-aged balding man in the crowd lifts up a homemade poster that reads in big, bold letters, LET ME INSIDE YOU, PRINCESS DELPHINE! for about five seconds until a member of the security team shoves it into a nearby trash can.

Cosima steps out next, swaggering up beside Delphine and throwing an arm over her shoulders.

“Act like you like me!” Cosima says cheerfully. Delphine looks at her like she’s trying to choose between a million choice words, before tipping her head to the side and offering up a well-rehearsed laugh, putting her arm around Cosima too. “There we go.”

The hosts of Télématin are agonizingly French. Cosima watches the introductions backstage as a makeup artist conceals a stress pimple on her forehead. So, this is happening. She tries to ignore Delphine a few feet to her left, currently getting a final preening from a royal stylist. It’s the last chance she'll get to ignore Delphine for the rest of the day.

Soon Delphine is leading the way out with Cosima close behind. Cosima shakes the female presenters hand first, smiling her Politics Smile at her, the one that makes a lot of congressmen and more than a few congresswomen want to tell her things they shouldn’t. She giggles and kisses her on the cheek. The audience claps and claps and claps.

Delphine sits on the prop couch next to her, perfect posture, and Cosima smiles at her, making a show of looking comfortable in Delphine’s company. Which is harder than it should be, because the stage lights suddenly make her uncomfortably aware of how fresh and beautiful Delphine looks for the cameras. She’s wearing a blue sweater over a button-down, and her hair looks soft.

Whatever, fine. Delphine is annoyingly attractive. That’s always been a thing, objectively. It’s fine.

She realizes, almost a second too late, that the presenter is asking her a question.

“What do you think of France, then, Cosima?” she says, clearly ribbing her. Cosima forces a smile. “You know, it’s gorgeous,” Cosima says. “I’ve been here a few times since my mom got elected, and it’s always incredible to see the history here, and the wine selection.” The audience laughs right on cue, and Cosima shakes out her shoulders a little. “And of course, it’s always great to see this gal.”

She turns to Delphine, extending her fist. Delphine hesitates before stiffly bumping her own knuckles against Cosima’s with the heavy air of an act of treason.

Cosima’s whole reason for wanting to go into politics, when she knows so many past presidential sons and daughters have run away screaming the minute they turned eighteen, is she genuinely cares about people.

The power is great, the attention fun, but the people—the people are everything. She has a bit of a caring-too-much problem about most things, including whether people can pay their medical bills, or marry whomever they love, or not get shot at school. Or, in this case, if kids with cancer have enough books to read at the Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades.

She and Delphine and their collective hoard of security have taken over the floor, flustering nurses and shaking hands. She’s trying—really trying—not to let her hands clench into fists at her sides, but Delphine’s smiling robotically with a little boy plugged full of tubes for some bullsh*t photograph, and she wants to scream at this whole stupid country.

But she’s legally required to be here, so she focuses on the kids, instead. Most of them have no idea who she is, but Delphine gamely introduces her as the president’s daughter, and soon they’re asking her about the White House and does she know Ariana Grande, and she laughs and indulges them. She unpacks books from the heavy boxes they’ve brought, climbs up onto beds and reads out loud, a photographer trailing after her.

She doesn’t realize she’s lost track of Delphine until the patient she’s visiting dozes off, and she recognizes the low rumble of Delphine’s voice on the other side of the curtain.

A quick count of feet on the floor—no photographers. Just Delphine. Hmm.

She steps quietly over to the chair against the wall, right at the edge of the curtain. If she sits at the right angle and cranes her head back, she can barely see.

Delphine is talking to a little girl with leukemia named Claudette. She’s got dark skin that’s turned sort of a pale gray and a bright orange scarf tied around her head, emblazoned with the Alliance Starbird.

Instead of hovering awkwardly like Cosima expected, Delphine is kneeling at her side, smiling and holding her hand.

“Star Wars fan, are you?” Delphine says in a low, warm voice Cosima has never heard from her before, pointing at the insignia on her headscarf.

“Oh, it’s my absolute favorite,” Claudette gushes. “I’d like to be just like Princess Leia when I’m older because she’s so tough and smart and strong, and she gets to kiss Han Solo.”

She blushes a little at having mentioned kissing in front of the princess but fiercely maintains eye contact. Cosima finds herself craning her neck farther, watching for Delphine’s reaction. She definitely does not recall Star Wars on the fact sheet.

“You know what,” Delphine says, leaning in conspiratorially, “I think you’ve got the right idea.”

Claudette giggles. “Who’s your favorite?”

“Hmm,” Delphine says, making a show of thinking hard. “I always liked Luke. He’s brave and good, and he’s the strongest Jedi of them all. I think Luke is proof that it doesn’t matter where you come from or who your family is—you can always be great if you're true to yourself.”

“All right, Miss Claudette,” a nurse says brightly as she comes around the curtain. Delphine jumps, and Cosima almost tips her chair over, caught in the act. She clears her throat as she stands, pointedly not looking at Delphine. “You two can go, it’s time for her meds.”

“Miss Beth, Delphine said we were friends now!” Claudette practically wails. “She can stay.”

“Excuse you!” Beth the nurse tuts. “That’s no way to address the princess. I am terribly sorry, Your Highness.”

“No need to apologize,” Delphine tells her. “Rebel commanders outrank royalty.” She shoots Claudette a wink and a salute, and she positively melts.

“I’m impressed,” Cosima says as they walk out into the hallway together. Delphine co*cks an eyebrow, and Cosima adds, “Not impressed, just surprised.”

“At what?”

“That you actually have, you know, feelings.”

Delphine is beginning to smile when three things happen in rapid succession.

The first: A shout echoes from the opposite end of the hall.

The second: There’s a loud pop that sounds alarmingly like gunfire.

The third: Helena grabs both Delphine and Cosima by the arms and shoves them through the nearest door.

“Stay down,” Helena grunts as she slams the door behind them.

In the abrupt darkness, Cosima stumbles over a mop and one of Delphine’s legs, and they go crashing down together into a clattering pile of tin bedpans. Delphine hits the floor first, facedown, and Cosima lands in a heap on top of her.

“Oh God,” Delphine says, muffled and echoing slightly. Cosima thinks hopefully that her face might be in a bedpan.

“You know,” she says into Delphine’s hair, “we have got to stop ending up like this.”

“Do you mind?”

“This is your fault!”

“How is this possibly my fault?” Delphine hisses.

“Nobody ever tries to shoot me when I’m doing presidential appearances, but the minute I go out with a f*cking royal—”

“Will you shut up before you get us both killed?”

“Nobody’s going to kill us. Helena is blocking the door. Besides, it’s probably nothing.”

“Then at least get off me.”

“Stop telling me what to do! You’re not the princess of me!”

“Jesus Cosima,” Delphine mutters, and she pushes hard off the ground and rolls, knocking Cosima onto the floor. Cosima finds herself wedged between Delphine’s side and a shelf of what smells like industrial-strength floor cleaner.

“Can you move over, Your Highness?” Cosima whispers, shoving her shoulder against Delphine’s. “I’d rather not be the little spoon.”

“Believe me, I’m trying,” Delphine replies. “There’s no room.”

Outside, there are voices, hurried footsteps—no signs of an all-clear.

“Well,” Cosima says. “Guess we better make ourselves comfortable.”

Delphine exhales tightly. “Fantastic.”

Cosima feels her shifting against her side, arms crossed over her chest in an attempt at her typical closed-off stance while lying on the floor with her feet in a mop bucket.

“For the record,” Delphine says, “nobody’s ever made an attempt on my life either.”

“Well, congratulations,” Cosima says. “You’ve officially made it.”

“Yes, this is exactly how I always dreamed it would be. Locked in a cupboard with your elbow inside my ribcage,” Delphine snipes. She sounds like she wants to punch Cosima, which is probably the most Cosima has ever liked her, so she follows the impulse and drives her elbow into Delphine’s side, hard.

Delphine lets out a muffled yelp, and the next thing Cosima knows, she’s been yanked sideways by her shirt and Delphine is halfway on top of her, pinning her down with one thigh. Her head throbs where she’s clocked it against the linoleum floor, but she can feel her lips split into a smile.

“So you do have some fight in you,” Cosima says. She bucks her hips, trying to shake Delphine off, but she’s taller and stronger and has a fistful of Cosima’s collar.

“Are you quite finished?” Delphine says, sounding strangled. “Can you perhaps stop putting our lives in danger now?”

“Aw, you do care,” Cosima says. “I’m learning all your hidden depths today, sweetheart.”

Delphine exhales and slumps off her. “I cannot believe even mortal peril will not prevent you from being the way you are.”

The weirdest part, Cosima thinks, is that what she said was true.

She keeps getting these little glimpses into things she never thought Delphine was. A bit of a fighter, for one. Intelligent, interested in other people. It’s honestly disconcerting. She knows exactly what to say to each Democratic senator to make them dish about bills, exactly when Alison’s running low on nicotine gum, exactly which look to give Felix for the rumor mill. Reading people is what she does.

She really doesn’t appreciate some royal baby upending her system. But she did rather enjoy that fight.

She lies there, and waits. Listens to the shuffling of feet outside the door. Lets minutes go by.

“So, uh,” she tries. “Star Wars?”

She means it in a non-threatening, offhanded way, but habit wins and it comes out accusatory.

“Yes, Cosima,” Delphine says archly, “believe it or not, the children of the crown don’t only spend their childhood going to galas.”

“I assumed it was mostly posture coaching and junior polo league.”

Delphine takes a deeply unhappy pause. “That ... may have been part of it.”

“So you're into pop culture, but you act like you’re not,” Cosima says. “Either you’re not allowed to talk about it because it’s unseemly for the crown, or you choose not to talk about it because you want people to think you're cultured. Which one?”

“Are you psychoanalyzing me?” Delphine asks. “I don’t think royal guests are allowed to do that.”

“I’m trying to understand why you're so committed to acting like someone you're not, considering you just told that little girl in there that greatness means being true to yourself.”

“I don’t know what you're talking about, and if I did, I’m not sure that’s any of your concern,” Delphine says, her voice strained at the edges.

“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I’m legally bound to pretend to be your best friend, and I don’t know if you've thought this through yet, but that’s not going to stop with this weekend,” Cosima tells her. Delphine’s fingers go tense against her forearm. “If we do this and we're never seen together again, people are gonna know we're full of sh*t. We’re stuck with each other, like it or not, so I have a right to be clued in about what your deal is before it sneaks up on me and bites me in the ass.”

“Why don’t we start ...” Delphine says, turning her head to squint at her. This close, Cosima can just make out the silhouette of Delphine’s strong royal nose. “... with you telling me why exactly you hate me so much?”

“Do you really want to have that conversation?”

“Maybe I do.”

Cosima crosses her arms, recognizes it as a mirror to Delphine’s tic, and uncrosses them.

“Do you really not remember being a dick to me at the Olympics?”

Cosima remembers it in vivid detail: herself at eighteen, dispatched to Rio with Sarah and Felix, the campaign’s delegation to the summer games, one weekend of photo ops and selling the “next generation of global cooperation” image. Cosima spent most of it drinking caipirinhas and subsequently throwing caipirinhas up behind Olympic venues. And she remembers, down to the Tricolore on Delphine’s anorak, the first time they met.

Delphine sighs. “Is that the time you threatened to push me into the Seine?”

“No,” Cosima says. “It was the time you were a condescending bitch at the diving finals. You really don’t remember?”

“Remind me?”

Cosima glares. “I walked up to you to introduce myself, and you stared at me like I was the most offensive thing you had ever seen. Right after you shook my hand, you turned to Donnie and said, 'get me out of here’.”

A pause.

“Ah,” Delphine says. She clears her throat. “I didn’t realize you’d heard that.”

“I feel like you’re missing the point,” Cosima says, “which is that it’s a douchey thing to say either way.”

“That’s ... fair.”

“Yeah, so.”

“That’s all?” Delphine asks. “Only the Olympics?”

“I mean, that was the start.”

Delphine pauses again. “I’m sensing an ellipsis.”

“It’s just...” Cosima says, and as she’s on the floor of a supply closet, waiting out a security threat with the Princess of France at the end of a weekend that has felt like some very specific ongoing nightmare, censoring herself takes too much effort. “I don’t know. Doing what we do is f*cking hard. But it’s harder for me. I’m the daughter of the first female president. People will always come down harder on me. And you're, you know, you, and you were born into all of this, and everyone thinks you're Princess f*cking Charming. You're basically a living reminder I'll always be compared to someone else, no matter what I do, even if I work twice as hard.”

Delphine is quiet for a long while.

“Well,” Delphine says when she speaks at last. “I can’t very well do much about the rest. But I can tell you I was, in fact, a dick that day. Not that it’s any excuse, but my father had died a month before, and I was still kind of a bitch every day of my life at the time. And I am sorry.”

Delphine twitches one hand at her side, and Cosima falls momentarily silent.

The cancer ward. Of course, Delphine chose a cancer ward—it was right there on the fact sheet. Father: Famed film star Arthur Cormier, deceased, pancreatic cancer. The funeral was televised. She goes back over the last twenty-four hours in her head: the sleeplessness, the pills, the tense little grimace Delphine does in public that Cosima has always read as aloofness.

She knows a few things about this stuff. She’s been aware for too long that most people don’t navigate thoughts of whether they'll ever be good enough or if they’re disappointing the entire world. She’s never considered Delphine might feel any of the same things.

Delphine clears her throat again, and something like panic catches Cosima. She opens her mouth and says, “Well, good to know you're not perfect.”

She can almost hear Delphine roll her eyes, and she’s thankful for it, the familiar comfort of antagonism.

They’re silent again, the dust of the conversation settling. Cosima can’t hear anything outside the door or any sirens on the street, but nobody has come to get them yet.

Then, unprompted, Delphine says into the stretching stillness, “Return of the Jedi.”

A beat. “What?”

“To answer your question,” Delphine says. “Yes, I do like Star Wars, and my favorite is Return of the Jedi.”

“Oh,” Cosima says. “Wow, you're so wrong.”

Delphine huffs out the tiniest, most poshly indignant puff of air. It smells minty. Cosima resists the urge to throw another elbow. “How can I be wrong about my own favorite? It’s a personal truth.”

“It’s a personal truth that is wrong and bad.”

“Which do you prefer, then? Please show me the error of my ways.”

“Okay, Empire.”

Delphine sniffs. “So dark, though.”

“Yeah, which is what makes it good,” Cosima says. “It’s the most thematically complex. It’s got the Han and Leia kiss in it, you meet Yoda, Han is at the top of his game, f*cking Lando Calrissian, and the best twist in cinematic history. What does Jedi have? f*ckin’ ewoks.”

“Ewoks are iconic.”

“Ewoks are stupid.”

“But Endor.”

“But Hoth. There’s a reason people always call the best, grittiest installment of a trilogy the Empire of the series.”

“And I can appreciate that. But isn’t there something to be valued in a happy ending as well?”

“Spoken like a true Princess Charming.”

“I’m only saying, I like the resolution of Jedi. It ties everything up nicely. And the overall theme you're intended to take away from the films is hope and love and ... er, you know, all that. Which is what Jedi leaves you with a sense of most of all.”

Delphine coughs, and Cosima is turning to look at her again when the door opens and Helena’s giant silhouette reappears.

“False alarm,” she says, breathing heavily. “Some dumbass kids brought fireworks for their friend.” She looks down at them, flat on their backs and blinking up in the sudden, harsh light of the hallway. “This looks cozy.”

“Yep, we're really bonding,” Cosima says. She reaches a hand out and lets Helena haul her to her feet.

Outside Versailles, Cosima takes Delphine’s phone out of her hand and swiftly opens a blank contact page before she can protest or stick a PPO on her for violating royal property. The car is waiting to take her back to the royals’ private airstrip.

“Here,” Cosima says. “That’s my number. If we’re gonna keep this up, it’s going to get annoying to keep going through handlers. Just text me. We'll figure it out.”

Delphine stares at her, expression blankly bewildered, and Cosima wonders how this woman has any friends.

“Right,” Delphine says finally. “Thank you.”

“No booty calls,” Cosima tells her, and Delphine chokes on a laugh.

Chapter 3

Chapter Text




For the first time in a week, Cosima isn’t pissed off scrolling through her Google alerts. It helps they’ve given People an exclusive—a few generic quotes about how much Cosima “cherishes” her friendship with Delphine and their “shared life experience” as daughters of world leaders. Cosima thinks their main shared life experience is probably wishing they could set that quote adrift on the ocean between them and watch it drown.

Her mother doesn’t want her fake-dead anymore, though, and she’s stopped getting a thousand vitriolic Tweets an hour, so she counts it as a win.

She dodges a starstruck freshman gawking at her and exits the hall onto the east side of campus, draining the last cold sip of her coffee. First class today was an elective she’s taking out of a combination of morbid fascination and academic curiosity: The Press and the Presidency. She’s currently jet-lagged to all hell from trying to keep the press from ruining the presidency, and the irony isn’t lost on her.

Today’s lecture was on presidential sex scandals through history, and she texts Felix:


𝚗𝚞𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚘𝚗 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚞𝚜 𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗𝚟𝚘𝚕𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚜𝚎𝚡 𝚜𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚊𝚕 𝚋𝚎𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚖?


𝟿𝟺% 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚋𝚊𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚞𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚘𝚗 𝙵𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙽𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗. 𝚋𝚝𝚠, 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜?

There’s a link attached: a blog post full of images, animated GIFs of herself and Delphine on Télématin. The fist bump. Shared smiles that pass for genuine. Conspiratorial glances. Underneath are hundreds of comments about how nice they look together.

𝗼𝗺𝗳𝗴, one commenter writes, 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙖𝙡𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙮.

Cosima laughs so hard she almost falls in a fountain.

As usual, the day guard at the Dirksen Building glares at her as she slides through security. She’s certain Cosima was the one who vandalized the sign outside one particular senator’s office to read BITCH MCCONNELL, but she'll never prove it.

Helena tags along for some of Cosima’s Senate recon missions so nobody panics when she disappears for a few hours. Today, Helena hangs back on a bench, catching up on her podcasts. She’s always been the most indulgent of Cosima’s antics.

Cosima has had the layout of the building memorized since her dad first got elected. It’s where she’s picked up her encyclopedic knowledge of policy and procedure, and where she spends more afternoons than she’s supposed to, charming aides and trawling for gossip. Her mom pretends to be annoyed but slyly asks for intel later.

Since Senator Oscar Diaz is in California speaking at a rally for gun control today, she punches the button for the fifth floor instead.

Her favorite senator is Rafael Luna, an Independent from Colorado and the newest kid on the block at only thirty-nine. Cosima’s dad took him under his wing back when he was merely a promising attorney, and now he’s the darling of national politics for A, winning a special election and a general in consecutive upsets for his Senate seat, and B, dominating The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful.

Cosima spent summer 2018 in Denver on Luna’s campaign, so they have their own dysfunctional relationship built on tropical-flavored Skittles from gas stations and all-nighters drafting press releases. She sometimes feels the ghost of carpal tunnel creeping back, a fond ache.

She finds Luna in his office, horn-rimmed reading glasses doing nothing to detract from his usual appearance of a movie star who tripped and fell sideways into politics. Cosima has always suspected the soulful brown eyes and perfectly groomed stubble and dramatic cheekbones won back any votes Luna lost by being both Latino and openly gay.

The album playing low in the room is an old favorite Cosima remembers from Denver: Muddy Waters. When Luna looks up and sees Cosima in his doorway, he drops his pen on a haphazard pile of papers and leans back in his chair.

“f*ck you doing here, kid?” he says, watching her like a cat.

Cosima reaches into her pocket and pulls out a packet of Skittles, and Luna’s face immediately softens into a smile.

“Atta girl,” he says, scooping the bag up as soon as Cosima drops it on his blotter. He kicks the chair in front of the desk out for her. Cosima sits, watching Luna rip open the packet with his teeth. “Whatcha working on today?”

“You already know more than you're supposed to about everything on this desk.” Cosima does know—the same health care reform since last year, the one stalled out since they lost the Senate in midterms. “Why are you really here?”

“Hmm.” Cosima hooks a leg over one armrest of the chair. “I resent the idea I can’t come visit a dear family friend without ulterior motives.”


She clutches her chest. “You wound me.”

“You exhaust me.”

“I enchant you.”

“I'll call security.”

“Fair enough.”

“Instead, let’s talk about your little European vacation,” Luna says. He fixes Cosima with shrewd eyes. “Can I expect a joint Christmas present from you and the princess this year?”

“Actually,” Cosima swerves, “since I’m here, I do have a question for you.”

Luna laughs, leaning back and lacing his hands together behind his head. Cosima feels her face flash hot for half a second, a zip of good-banter adrenaline that means she’s getting somewhere. “Of course you do.”

“I wondered if you had heard anything about Connor,” Cosima asks. “We could really use an endorsem*nt from another Independent senator. Do you think he’s close to making one?”She kicks her foot innocently where it’s dangling over the armrest, like she’s asking something as innocuous as the weather.

Luna sucks on a Skittle. “Are you asking if he’s close to endorsing, or if I know what strings need to be pulled to get him to endorse?”

“Raf. Pal. Buddy. You know I'd never ask you anything so unseemly.”

“He’s a free agent. Social issues might push him your way, but you know how he feels about your mom’s economic platform. You probably know his voting record better than I do, kid. He doesn’t fall on one side of the aisle.”

“And as for something you know that I don’t?”

Luna smirks. “I know Richards is promising Independents a centrist platform with big shake-ups on nonsocial issues. And part of that platform might not line up with Connor’s position on healthcare. Somewhere to start, perhaps. Hypothetically, if I were going to engage with your scheming.”

“And you don’t think there’s any point in chasing down leads on Republican candidates that aren’t Richards?”

“Chances of your mother facing off against a candidate who’s not the f*cking anointed messiah of right-wing populism and heir to the Richards family legacy? Highly f*cking unlikely.”

“You complete me, Raf,” Cosima smiles.

Luna rolls his eyes. “We can discuss all that later. Let’s circle back to you,” he says. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you changing the subject. For the record, I won the office pool on how long it’d take you to cause an international incident.”

“Wow, I thought I could trust you,” Cosima gasps, mock-betrayed.

“What’s the deal there?”

“There’s no deal,” Cosima says. “Delphine is ... a person I know. And we did something stupid. I had to fix it. It’s fine.”

“Okay, okay,” Luna says, holding up both hands. “She’s a looker, huh?”

Cosima pulls a face. “Yeah, I mean, if you're into like, fairy-tale princesses.”

“Is anyone not?”

“I’m not,” Cosima says.

Luna arches an eyebrow. “Right.”


“Just thinking about last summer,” he says. “I have this really vivid memory of you basically making a Princess Delphine voodoo doll on your desk.”

“I did not.”

“Or was it a dartboard with a photo of her face on it?”

Cosima swings her foot back over the armrest so she can plant both feet on the floor and fold her arms indignantly. “I had a magazine with her face on it at my desk, once, because I was in it and she happened to be on the cover.”

“You stared at it for an hour.”

“Lies,” Cosima says. “Slander.”

“It was like you were trying to set her on fire with your mind.”

“What is your point?”

“I think it’s interesting,” he says. “How fast the times they are a-changin’.” “Come on,” Cosima says. “It’s ... politics.”


Cosima shakes her head, doglike, as if it’s going to disperse the topic from the room. “Besides, I came here to talk about endorsem*nts, not my embarrassing public relations nightmares.”

“Ah,” Luna says slyly, “but I thought you were here to pay a family friend a visit?”

“Of course. That’s what I meant.”

“Cosima, don’t you have something else to do on a Friday afternoon? You're twenty-one. You should be playing beer pong or getting ready for a party or something.”

“I do all of those things,” she lies. “I just also do this.”

“Come on. I’m trying to give you some advice, from one old man to a much younger version of himself.”

“You're thirty-nine.”

“My liver is ninety-three.”

“That’s not my fault.”

“Some late nights in Denver would beg to differ.”

Cosima laughs. “See, this is why we're friends.”

“Cosima, you need other friends,” Luna tells her. “Friends who aren’t in Congress.”

“I have friends! I have Sarah and Felix.”

“Yes, your sister and a guy who is also like another sister,” Luna deadpans. “You need to take some time for yourself before you burn out, kid. You need a bigger support system.”

“Stop calling me ‘kid,” Cosima says.

“Ay,” Luna sighs. “Are you done? I do have some actual work to do.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Cosima says, gathering herself up from her chair. “Hey, is Maxine in town?”

“Waters?” Luna asks, crooking his head. “sh*t, you really have a death wish, huh?”

Her phone buzzes under a stack of files on her desk. A text from Sarah: Dinner? I miss your face. She loves Sarah—truly, more than anything in the world—but she’s kind of in the zone. She’ll respond when she hits a stopping point in like, thirty minutes.

She glances at the video of a Richards interview pulled up in a tab, checking the man’s face for nonverbal cues. Gray hair—natural, not a piece. Shiny white teeth, like a shark’s. Heavy, Uncle Sam jaw. Great salesman, considering he’s blatantly lying about a bill in the clip. Cosima takes a note.

It’s an hour and a half later before another buzz pulls her out of a deep dive into Richards’s uncle’s suspicious 1986 taxes. A text from her mother in the family group chat, a pizza emoji. She bookmarks her page and heads upstairs.

Family dinners are rare but less over-the-top than everything else that happens in the White House. Her mother sends someone to pick up pizzas, and they take over the game room on the third floor with paper plates and bottles of Shiner shipped in from Texas. It’s always amusing to catch one of the burly suits speaking in code over their earpieces: “Black Bear has requested extra banana peppers.”

Sarah’s already on the chaise and sipping a beer. A stab of guilt immediately hits when Cosima remembers her text.

“sh*t, I’m an asshole,” she says.

“Mm-hmm, you are.”

“But, technically ... I am having dinner with you?”

“Just bring me my pizza,” Sarah says with a sigh. After Secret Service misread an olive-based shouting match in 2017 and almost put the Residence on lockdown, they now each get their own pizzas.

“Sure thing,” She finds Sarah’s—margherita—and hers—pepperoni and mushroom.

“Hey budy,” says a voice from somewhere behind the television as she settles in with her pizza.

“Hey,” she answers. Her dad, John, is fiddling with the wiring, probably rewiring it to do something that’d make more sense in an Iron Man comic, like he does with most electronics—eccentric millionaire inventor habits die hard. She’s about to ask for a dumbed-down explanation when her mother comes blazing in.

“Why did y’all let me run for president?” she says, tapping too forcefully at her phone’s keyboard in little staccato stabs. She kicks off her heels into the corner, throwing her phone after them.

“Because we all knew better than to try to stop you,” John's voice says. He peeks his bearded, bespectacled head out and adds, “And because the world would fall apart without you, my radiant orchid.”

Her mother rolls her eyes but smiles. It’s always been like that with them, ever since they first met at a charity event. She was the Speaker of the House, and he was a genius with a dozen patents and money to burn on women’s health initiatives. Now, she’s the president, and he’s sold his companies to spend his time fulfilling First Gentleman duties.

Siobhan releases two inches of zipper on the back of her skirt, the sign she’s officially done for the day, and scoops up a slice.

“All right,” she says. She does a scrubbing gesture in the air in front of her face—president face off, mom face on. “Hi, babies.”

“'Lo,” Cosima and Sarah mumble in unison through mouthfuls of food.

Siobhan sighs and looks over at John. “I did that, didn’t I? No goddamn manners. Like a couple of little opossums. This is why they say women can’t have it all.”

“They are masterpieces,” he says.

“One good thing, one bad thing,” she says. “Let’s do this.”

It’s her lifelong system for catching up on their days when she’s at her busiest. Cosima grew up with a mother who was a sometimes baffling combination of intensely organized and committed to lines of emotional communication, like an overly invested life coach.

“Mmm.” Sarah swallows a bite. “Good thing. Oh! Oh my God. Ronan Farrow tweeted about my essay for New York Magazine, and we totally engaged in witty Twitter repartee. Part one of my long game to force him to be my friend is underway.”

“Don’t act like this isn’t all part of your extra-long game of abusing your position to murder Woody Allen and make it look like an accident,” Cosima says.

“He’s just so frail; it’d only take one good push—”

“How many times do I have to tell you not to discuss your murder plots in front of a sitting president?” their mother interrupts. “Plausible deniability. Come on.”

“Anyway,” Sarah says. “One bad thing would be, uh ... well, Woody Allen’s still alive. Your turn, Cosima.”

“Good thing,” Cosima says, “I filibustered one of my professors into agreeing a question on our last exam was misleading so I would get full credit for my answer, which was correct.” She takes a swig of beer. “Bad thing—Mom, I saw the new art in the hall on the second floor, and I need to know why you allowed a George W. Bush terrier painting in our home.”

“It’s a bipartisan gesture,” Siobhan says. “People find them endearing.”

“I have to walk past it whenever I go to my room,” Cosima says. “Its beady little eyes follow me everywhere.”

“It’s staying.”

Cosima sighs. “Fine.”

John goes next—as usual, his bad thing is somehow also a good thing—and then Siobhan’s up.

“Well, my UN ambassador f*cked up his one job and said something idiotic about Israel, and now I have to call Netanyahu and personally apologize. But the good thing is it’s two in the morning in Tel Aviv, so I can put it off until tomorrow and have dinner with you two instead.”

Cosima smiles at her. She’s still in awe, sometimes, of hearing her talk about presidential pains in the ass, even three years in. They lapse into idle conversation, little barbs and inside jokes, and these nights may be rare, but they’re still nice.

“So,” Siobhan says, starting on another slice crust-first. “I ever tell you I used to hustle pool at my mom’s bar?”

Sarah stops short, her beer halfway to her mouth. “You did what now?”

“Yep,” she tells them. Cosima exchanges an incredulous look with Sarah. “Momma managed this sh*tty bar when I was sixteen. The Drunk Irishman. She’d let me come in after school and do my homework at the bar, had a bouncer friend make sure none of the old drunks hit on me. I got pretty good at pool after a few months and started betting the regulars I could beat them, except I’d play dumb. Pick up the wrong stick, pretend to forget if I was stripes or solid. I’d lose one game, then take them double or nothing and get twice the payout.”

“You've got to be kidding me,” Cosima says, except she can totally picture it. She has always been scary-good at pool and even better at strategy.

“All true,” John says. “How do you think she learned to get what she wants from strung-out old white men? The most important skill of an effective politician.”

Cosima’s mother accepts a kiss to the side of her square jaw from John as she passes by, like a queen gliding through a crowd of admirers. She sets her half-eaten slice down on a paper towel and selects a cue stick from the rack.

“Anyway,” she says. “The point is, you’re never too young to figure out your skills and use them to get sh*t accomplished.”

“Okay,” Cosima says. She meets her eyes, and they swap appraising looks. “Including... a job on a presidential reelection campaign, maybe.”

Sarah puts down her slice. “Mom, she’s not even out of college yet.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s the point,” Cosima says impatiently. She’s been waiting for this offer. “No gaps in the resume.”

“It’s not only for Cosima,” their mother says. “It’s for both of you.”

Sarah’s expression changes from pinched apprehension to pinched dread. Cosima makes a shooing motion in Sarah’s direction. A mushroom flies off her pizza and hits the side of her nose. “Tell me, tell me, tell me.”

“I’ve been thinking,” Siobhan says, “this time around, you guys—the ‘White House Trio.” She puts it in air quotes, as if she didn’t sign off on the name herself. “You shouldn’t only be faces. You're more than that. You have skills. You’re smart. You’re talented. We could use y’all not only as surrogates but as staffers.”

“Mom...” Sarah starts.

“What positions?” Cosima interjects.

She pauses, drifts back over to her slice of pizza. “Cosima, you’re the family wonk,” she says, taking a bite. “We could have you running point on policy. This means a lot of research and a lot of writing.”

“f*ck yes,” Cosima says. “Lemme romance the hell out of some focus groups. I’m in.”

“Cosima—” Sarah starts again, but their mom cuts her off.

“Sarah, I’m thinking communications,” she goes on. “Since your degree is mass comm, I was thinking you can come handle some of the day-to-day liaising with media outlets, working on messaging, analyzing the audience—”

“Mom, I have a job,” she says.

“Oh, yeah. I mean, of course, darling. But this could be full-time. Connections, upward mobility, real experience in the field doing some amazing work.”

“Um...” Sarah rips a piece of crust off her pizza. “I don’t remember ever saying I wanted to do anything like that. That’s, uh, kind of a big assumption to make, Mom. And you realize if I go into campaign communications now, I’m basically shutting down my chances of ever being a journalist, because like, journalistic neutrality and everything. I can barely get anyone to let me write a column as it is.”

“Baby girl,” their mom says. She’s got that look on her face she gets when she’s saying something with a fifty-fifty chance of pissing you off. “You’re so talented, and I know you work hard, but at some point, you have to be realistic.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I just mean ... I don’t know if you're happy,” she says, “and maybe it’s time to try something different. That’s all.”

“I’m not you guys,” Sarah tells her. “This isn’t my thing.”

“Sarahhhhh,” Cosima says, tilting her head back to look at her upside down over the arm of her chair. “Just think about it? ’m doing it.” She looks back at their mom. “Are you offering a job to Felix too?”

She nods. “Mike is talking to him tomorrow about a position in analytics. If he takes it, he'll start ASAP. You, mister, are not starting until after graduation.”

“Oh man, the White House Trio, riding into battle. This is awesome.” She looks over at John, who has abandoned his project with the TV and is now happily eating a slice of cheesy bread. “They offer you a job too, dad?”

“No,” he says. “As usual, my duties as First Gentleman are to work on my tablescapes and look pretty.”

“Your tablescapes are really coming along, baby,” Siobhan says, giving him a sarcastic little kiss. “I really liked the burlap placemats.”

“Can you believe the decorator thought velvet looked better?”

“Bless her heart.”

“I don’t like this,” Sarah says to Cosima while their mother is distracted talking about decorative pears. “Are you sure you want this job?”

“It’s gonna be fine, Sarah,” she tells her. “Hey, if you wanna keep an eye on me, you can always take the offer too.”

She shakes her off, returning to her pizza with an unreadable expression. The next day there are three matching sticky notes on the whiteboard in Alison’s office. CAMPAIGN JOBS: COSIMA-FELIX-SARAH, the board reads. The sticky notes under her and Felix’s names read YES. Under Sarah’s, in what is unmistakably her own handwriting, No.

Cosima is taking notes in a policy lecture when she gets the first text.

𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

There’s a picture attached, an image of a laptop screen paused on Chief Chirpa from Return of the Jedi: tiny, commanding, adorable, pissed off.

𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎, 𝚋𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢.

She rolls her eyes but adds the new contact to her phone: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

She’s honestly not planning to respond, but a week later she sees a headline on the cover of People—PRINCESS DELPHINE FLIES SOUTH FOR WINTER—complete with a photo of Delphine artistically posed on an Australian beach in a sensible yet slightly skimpy navy bikini, and she can’t stop herself. She sends the spread to Delphine with the message,


𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊 𝚕𝚘𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚘𝚕𝚎𝚜, 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚞𝚕𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚒𝚗𝚋𝚛𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐?

Delphine’s retort comes two days later by way of a screenshot of a Daily Mail tweet that reads, Is Cosima Niehaus going to be a mother? The attached message says,

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚘 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚏𝚞𝚕, 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚛

Which surprises a big enough laugh out of Cosima that Alison ejects her from her weekly debriefing with her and Sarah.

So, it turns out Delphine can be funny. Cosima adds that to her mental file. It also turns out Delphine is fond of texting when she’s trapped in moments of royal monotony, like being shuttled to and from appearances, or sitting through meandering briefings on her family’s land holdings, or, once, begrudgingly and hilariously receiving a spray tan.

Cosima wouldn’t say she likes Delphine, but she does enjoy the quick rhythm of arguments they fall into. She knows she talks too much, hopeless at moderating her feelings, which she usually hides under ten layers of charm, but she ultimately doesn’t care what Delphine thinks of her, so she doesn’t bother. Instead, she’s as weird and manic as she wants to be, and Delphine jabs back in sharp flashes of startling wit.

So, when she’s bored or stressed or between coffee refills, she’ll check for a text bubble popping up. Delphine with a dig at some weird quote from her latest interview, Delphine with a random thought about French wine versus American beer, a picture of Delphine’s dog wearing a Slytherin scarf.


𝙸 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚆𝙷𝙾 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞'𝚛𝚎 𝚔𝚒𝚍𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚞𝚏𝚏𝚕𝚎𝚙𝚞𝚏𝚏-𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚋𝚒𝚝𝚌𝚑

Cosima texts back, before Delphine clarifies her dog, not her, is a Slytherin.

She learns about Delphine’s life through a weird osmosis of text messages and social media. It’s meticulously scheduled by Donnie, with whom Cosima remains slightly obsessed, especially when Delphine texts her things like, Did I tell you Donnie has a classic pinball machine collection? or Donnie is on the phone with Portugal.

It’s quickly becoming apparent the HRH Princess Delphine Fact Sheet either omitted the most interesting stuff or was outright fabricated. Delphine’s favorite food isn’t Ratatouille but a cheap falafel stand ten minutes from the palace, and she’s spent most of her gap year thus far working on charities around the world, half of them owned by her best friend, Art.

Cosima learns Delphine’s super into classical mythology and can rattle off the configurations of a few dozen constellations if you let her get going. Cosima hears more about the tedious details of operating a sailboat than she would ever care to know and sends back nothing but: cool. Eight hours later. Delphine hardly ever swears, but at least she doesn’t seem to mind Cosima’s filthy f*cking mouth.

Delphine sees and talks to her brother often since he lives in the Palace as well. From what she gathers, the two of them are close, closer since their father passed away. They compare notes on the trials and tribulations of older siblings.

More common are cameos by Art, a man who cuts such an intriguing and bizarre dress sence that Cosima wonders how someone like her ever became best friends with someone like Delphine, who can drone on about Louis XVI until you threaten to block her number. Art is always either doing something insane—BASE jumping in Malaysia, eating dinner with someone who might be Jay-Z, showing up to lunch wearing a studded, hot-pink Gucci jacket—or launching a new nonprofit. It’s kind of incredible.

Cosima realizes that she’s shared Sarah and Felix too, when Delphine remembers Sarah’s Secret Service codename is Bluebonnet or jokes about how eerie Felix’s photographic memory is. It’s weird, considering how fiercely protective she is of them, she never even noticed until Delphine’s Twitter exchange with Sarah about their mutual love of the 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie goes viral.

“That’s not your emails-from-Alison face,” Felix says, nosing his way over her shoulder. She elbows him away. “You keep doing that stupid smile every time you look at your phone. Who are you texting?”

“I don’t know what you're talking about, and literally no one,” Cosima tells him. From the screen in her hand, Delphine’s message reads,

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙸𝚗 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍’𝚜 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚖𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚖. 𝙳𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚕𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚊𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚐𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚘𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚝.

“Wait,” he says, reaching for her phone again, “are you watching videos of Justin Trudeau speaking French again?”

“That’s not a thing I do!”

“That is a thing I have caught you doing at least twice since you met him at the state dinner last year, so yeah, it is,” he says. Cosima flips him off. “Wait, oh my God, is it fan fiction about yourself? And you didn’t invite me? Who do they have you boning now? Did you read the one I sent you with Macron? I died.”

“If you don’t stop, I’m gonna call Taylor Swift and tell her you changed your mind and want to go to her Fourth of July party after all.”

“That is not a proportionate response.”

Later that night, once she’s alone at her desk, she replies:


𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚒𝚝 𝚊 𝚖𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚜 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚢 𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚊 𝚙𝚒𝚎𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝙵𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚑 𝚏𝚊𝚛𝚖𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍?

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙷𝚊. 𝙸𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚛𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜. 𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎'𝚜 𝚟𝚘𝚒𝚌𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚜 “𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚗 𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚗𝚟𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝” 𝚒𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎.


𝙾𝚑 𝚖𝚢! 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚐𝚐𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚋𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚢.

Delphine’s response comes a minute later.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚛𝚞𝚡 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐—𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚏𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚗’𝚜 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚢. 𝙳𝚊𝚍 𝚕𝚎𝚏𝚝 𝚞𝚜 𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚗𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸’𝚍 𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚢 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚗𝚜𝚎𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚒𝚕𝚜 𝚘𝚏, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠, 𝚌𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚎𝚗𝚘𝚌𝚒𝚍𝚎. 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙲𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝙸’𝚖 𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚛𝚒𝚍𝚒𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚘𝚞𝚜.

Cosima scans the message twice to make sure she’s read it correctly.


𝚆𝚘𝚠. 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚕𝚘𝚠-𝚔𝚎𝚢 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍.

She stares at the screen, at her own message, for a few seconds too long, suddenly afraid it was a stupid thing to say. She shakes her head, puts the phone down. Locks it. Changes her mind, picks it up again. Unlocks it. Sees the little typing bubble on Delphine’s side of the conversation. Puts the phone down. Looks away. Looks back.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙾𝚗𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚊 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚂𝚝𝚊𝚛 𝚆𝚊𝚛𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗 “𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚎” 𝚒𝚜𝚗’𝚝 𝚊 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐.

She would really appreciate it if Delphine would stop proving her wrong.

𝗢𝗰𝘁 𝟯𝟬, 𝟮𝟬𝟭𝟵, 𝟭:𝟬𝟳 𝗣𝗠


𝚒 𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚛𝚝

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚛𝚝?


𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸𝚗𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚖 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚍

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚝? 𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚢.


𝚎𝚡𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚕𝚢. 𝚝𝚛𝚢 𝚙𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚙 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚙𝚑𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚛𝚗

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙿𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚊 “𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝.” 𝚁𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚙𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚊𝚛.


𝚍𝚘 𝚒𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 ’𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚖

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎.



𝗡𝗼𝘃 𝟭𝟳, 𝟮𝟬𝟭𝟵, 𝟭𝟭:𝟬𝟰 𝗔𝗠

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚎𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚊 𝟻-𝚔𝚒𝚕𝚘 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚎𝚕 𝚘𝚏 𝚂𝚒𝚘𝚋𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚂𝚊𝚍𝚕𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚐𝚗 𝚋𝚞𝚝𝚝𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖. 𝙸𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚊 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚔?


𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚛𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚞𝚙 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚛𝚘𝚋𝚎, 𝚜𝚞𝚗𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙸 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚜 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚐𝚗 𝚏𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙼𝚢 𝚜𝚎𝚌𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚋𝚘𝚖𝚋. 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚗𝚒𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚛 𝚍𝚘𝚐𝚜.


𝚘𝚑, 𝚍𝚎𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚝. 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚝 𝚗𝚘𝚠. 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚒 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚑𝚒 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚝 𝚜𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚝 𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚇𝙾𝚇𝙾𝚇𝙾

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚗𝚘𝚝.

Chapter 4

Chapter Text

“It’s public knowledge. It’s not my problem you just found out,” Siobhan is saying, pacing double time down a West Wing corridor.

“You mean to tell me,” Cosima half shouts, jogging to keep up, “every Thanksgiving, those stupid turkeys have been staying in a luxury suite at the Willard on the taxpayer dime?”

“Yes, Cosima, they do—”

“Gross government waste!”

“—and there are two forty-pound turkeys named Cornbread and Stuffing in a motorcade on Pennsylvania Avenue right now. There is no time to reallocate the turkeys.”

Without missing a beat, she blurts out, “Bring them to the house.”

“Where? Are you hiding a turkey habitat up your ass, Cosima? Where, in our historically protected house, am I going to put a couple of turkeys until I pardon them tomorrow?”

“Put them in my room. I don’t care.”

Siobhan outright laughs. “No.”

“How is it different from a hotel room? Put the turkeys in my room, Mom.”

“I’m not putting the turkeys in your room.”

“Put the turkeys in my room.”


“Put them in my room, put them in my room, put them in my room—”

That night, as Cosima stares into the cold, pitiless eyes of a prehistoric beast of prey, she has a few regrets.



Cornbread stares emptily back at her from inside a huge crate next to Cosima’s couch. A farm vet comes by once every few hours to check on them. Cosima keeps asking if she can detect a lust for blood.

From the en suite, Stuffing releases another ominous gobble.

Cosima was going to get things accomplished tonight. She really was. Before she learned of exorbitant turkey expenditures from CNN, she was watching the highlights of last night’s Republican primary debate. She was going to finish an outline for an exam, study the demographic engagement binder she convinced her mother to give her for the campaign job.

Instead, she is in a prison of her own creation, sworn to babysit these turkeys until the pardoning ceremony, and is just now realizing her deep-seated fear of large birds. She considers finding a couch to sleep on, but what if these demons from hell break out of their cages and murder each other during the night when she’s supposed to be watching them? BREAKING: BOTH TURKEYS FOUND DEAD IN BEDROOM OF FDOTUS, TURKEY PARDON CANCELED IN DISGRACE, FDOTUS A SATANIC TURKEY RITUAL KILLER.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚑𝚘𝚝𝚘𝚜

Is Delphine’s idea of a comforting response. Cosima drops onto the edge of her bed. She’s grown accustomed to texting with Delphine almost every day; the time difference doesn’t matter, since they’re both awake at all ungodly hours of the day and night. Delphine will send a snap from a seven a.m. polo practice and promptly receive one of Cosima at two a.m., glasses on and coffee in hand, in bed with a pile of notes. Cosima doesn’t know why Delphine never responds to her selfies from bed. Her selfies from bed are always hilarious.

She snaps a shot of Cornbread and presses send, flinching when the bird flaps at her threateningly.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚑𝚎’𝚜 𝚌𝚞𝚝𝚎.


𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚊𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚐𝚘𝚋𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚈𝚎𝚜, 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚕 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚜, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚋𝚋𝚕𝚎.

“You know what, you little sh*t,” Cosima says the second the call connects, “you can hear it for yourself and then tell me how you would handle this—”

“Cosima?” Delphine’s voice sounds scratchy and bewildered across the line. “Have you really rung me at three o’clock in the morning to make me listen to a turkey?”

“Yes, obviously,” Cosima says. She glances at Cornbread and cringes. “Jesus Christ, it’s like they can see into your soul. Cornbread knows my sins, Delphine. Cornbread knows what I have done, and she is here to make me atone.”

She hears a rustling over the phone, and she pictures Delphine in her heather-grey pyjamas, rolling over in bed and maybe switching on a lamp. “Let’s hear the cursed gobble, then.”

“Okay, brace yourself,” she says, and she switches to speaker and gravely holds out the phone.

Nothing. Ten long seconds of nothing.

“Truly harrowing,” Delphine’s voice says tinnily over the speaker.

“It—okay, this is not representative,” Cosima says hotly. “They’ve been gobbling all f*cking night, I swear.”

“Sure they were,” Delphine says, mock-gently.

“No, hang on,” Cosima says. “I’m gonna .. . I’m gonna get one to gobble.”

She hops off the bed and edges up to Cornbread’s cage, feeling very much like she is taking her life into her own hands and also very much like she has a point to prove, which is an intersection at which she finds herself often.

“Um,” she says. “How do you get a turkey to gobble?”

“Try gobbling,” Delphine says, “and see if she gobbles back.”

Cosima blinks. “Are you serious?”

“We hunt loads of wild turkeys in the spring,” Delphine says sagely. “The trick is to get into the mind of the turkey.”

“How the hell do I do that?”

“So,” Delphine instructs. “Do as I say. You have to get quite close to the turkey, like, physically.”

Carefully, still cradling the phone close, Cosima leans toward the wire bars. “Okay.”

“Make eye contact with the turkey. Do you have it?”

Cosima follows Delphine’s instructions in her ear, planting her feet and bending her knees so she’s at Cornbread’s eye level, a chill running down her spine when her own eyes lock on the beady, black little murder eyes. “Yeah.”

“Right, now hold it,” Delphine says. “Connect with the turkey, earn the turkey’s trust . . . befriend the turkey.”


“Buy a summer home in Majorca with the turkey . . .”

“Oh, I f*cking hate you!” Cosima shouts as Delphine laughs at her own idiotic prank, and her indignant flailing startles a loud gobble out of Cornbread, which in turn startles a very unflattering scream out of Cosima. “Goddammit! Did you hear that?”

“Sorry, what?” Delphine says. “I’ve been stricken deaf.”

“You're such a dick,” Cosima says. “Have you ever even been turkey hunting?”

“Cosima, you can’t even hunt them in France.”

Cosima returns to her bed and face-plants into a pillow. “I hope Cornbread does kill me.”

“No, all right, I did hear it, and it was . . . very frightening,” Delphine says. “So, I understand. Where’s Sarah for all this?”

“She’s having some kind of artsy night with Felix, and when I texted them for backup, they sent back,” she reads out in a monotone, “hahahahahahahaha good luck with that,’ and then a turkey emoji and a poop emoji."

“That’s fair,” Delphine says. Cosima can picture her nodding solemnly. “So what are you going to do now? Are you going to stay up all night with them?”

“I don’t know! I guess! I don’t know what else to do!”

“You couldn’t just go sleep somewhere else? Aren’t there a thousand rooms in that house?”

“Okay, but, uh, what if they escape? I’ve seen Jurassic Park. Did you know birds are directly descended from raptors? That’s a scientific fact. Raptors in my bedroom, Delphine. And you want me to go to sleep like they’re not gonna bust out of their enclosures and take over the island the minute I close my eyes?”

“I’m really going to have you killed,” Delphine tells her. “You'll never see it coming. Our assassins are trained in discretion. They will come in the night, and it will look like a humiliating accident.”

“Autoerotic asphyxiation?”

“Toilet heart attack.”


“You've been warned.”

“I thought you’d kill me in a more personal way. Silk pillow over my face, slow and gentle suffocation. Just you and me. Sensual.”

“Ha. Well.” Delphine coughs.

“Anyway,” Cosima says, climbing fully up onto the bed now. “It doesn’t matter because one of these goddamn turkeys is gonna kill me first.”

“I really don’t think—Oh, hello there.” There’s rustling over the phone, the crinkling of a wrapper, and some heavy snuffling that sounds distinctly doglike. “Who's a good boy? David says hello.”

“Hi, David.”

“He—arrêt! Not for you, Mr. Câlins! Those are mine!” More rustling, a distant, offended meow. “No, Mr. Câlins, you -merde!”

“What in the f*ck is a Mr. Câlins?”

“My brother's idiot cat,” Delphine tells her. “The thing weighs a ton and is still trying to steal my biscuits. He and David are friends.”

“What are you even doing right now?”

“What am I doing? I was trying to sleep.”

“Okay, but you’re eating cookies so...”

“Biscuits, my God,” Delphine says. “I’m having my entire life haunted by a deranged American Neanderthal and a pair of turkeys, apparently.”


Delphine heaves another almighty sigh. She’s always sighing when Cosima is involved. It’s amazing she has any air left. “And... don’t laugh.”

“Oh, yay,” Cosima says readily.

“I was watching Great British Bake Off.”

“Cute. Not embarrassing, though. What else?”

“I, er, might be ... wearing one of those peely face masks, lying here waiting for my fake tan to dry,” she says in a rush.

“Oh my God! So scandalous!”

“Instant regret.”

“I knew you had one of those crazy expensive Scandinavian self-care regimens. Do you have that, like, eye cream with diamonds in it?”

“No!” Delphine pouts, and Cosima has to press the back of her hand against her lips to stifle her laugh.

“Look, I have an appearance tomorrow, all right? I didn’t know I'd be scrutinized.”

“I’m not scrutinizing. We all gotta keep those pores in check,” Cosima says. “So you like Bake Off, huh?”

“It’s just so soothing,” Delphine says. “Everything’s all pastel-colored and the music is so relaxing and everyone’s so lovely to one another. And you learn so much about different types of biscuits, Cosima. So much. When the world seems awful, such as when you're trapped in a Great Turkey Calamity, you can put it on and vanish into biscuit land.”

“American cooking competition shows are nothing like that. They’re all sweaty and, like, dramatic death music and intense camera cuts,” Cosima says. “Bake Off makes Chopped look like the f*cking Manson tapes.”

“I feel like this explains loads about our differences,” Delphine says, and Cosima gives a small laugh.

“You know,” Cosima says. “You're kind of surprising.”

Delphine pauses. “In what way?”

“In that you’re not a totally boring asshole.”

“Wow,” Delphine says with a laugh. “I’m honored.”

“I guess you have your depths.”

“You thought I was a dumb blonde, didn’t you?”

“Not exactly, just, boring,” Cosima says. “I mean, your dog is named David, which is pretty boring.”

“After Bowie.”

“J—” Cosima’s head spins, recalibrating. “Are you serious? What the hell? Why not call him Bowie, then?”

“Bit on the nose, isn’t it?” Delphine says. “A woman should have some element of mystery.”

“I guess,” Cosima says. Then, because she can’t stop it in time, lets out a tremendous yawn. She’s been up since seven for a run before class. If these turkeys don’t end her, exhaustion will.

“Cosima,” Delphine says firmly.


“The turkeys are not going to Jurassic Park you,” she says. “You're not the guy that gets eaten. You're Jeff Goldblum. Go to sleep.”

Cosima bites down a smile that feels bigger than the sentence has truly earned. “You go to sleep.”

“I will,” Delphine says, and Cosima thinks she hears the weird smile returned in Delphine’s voice, and honestly, this night is really, really weird, “as soon as you get off the phone.”

“Okay,” Cosima says, “but like, what if they gobble again?”

“Go sleep in Sarah's room, you numpty.”

“Okay,” Cosima says.

“Okay,” Delphine agrees.

“Okay,” Cosima says again. She’s suddenly very aware they’ve never spoken on the phone before, and so she’s never had to figure out how to hang up the phone with Delphine before. She’s at a loss. But she’s still smiling. Cornbread is staring at her like she doesn’t get it. Me f*ckin’ too, buddy, she thinks.

“Okay,” Delphine repeats. “So. Good night.”

“Cool,” Cosima says lamely. “Good night.”

She hangs up and stares at the phone in her hand, as if it should explain the static electricity in the air around her.

She shakes it off, gathers up her pillow and a bundle of clothes, and crosses the hall to Sarah's room, climbing up into her tall bed. But she can’t stop thinking there’s some end left loose.

She takes her phone back out.


𝙸 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚔𝚎𝚢𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝙸 𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚟𝚎 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚕𝚜 𝚝𝚘𝚘.

A minute and a half later: Delphine, in a massive, palatial, hideous bed of white and gold linens, her face looking slightly pink and recently scrubbed, with a beagle’s head on one side of her pillow and an obese Siamese cat curled up on the other around a biscuit wrapper. She’s got faint circles under her eyes, but her face is soft and amused, one hand resting above her head on the pillow while the other holds up the phone for the selfie.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚞𝚛𝚎. 𝙶𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚑𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚕𝚢.

Chapter 5

Chapter Text

It’s not that Cosima doesn't lose her temper often, it's just that she doesn't usually lose it with her family.

Cosima slams her laptop shut, her pulse still racing from the article she just read. "Always a kid playing politics," she mutters under her breath. "Who the hell do they think they are?"

Her mom looks up from her dinner plate, sighing. "Cosima, you need to learn to ignore these things. It's just noise."

"Noise?" Cosima snaps, her voice rising. "They're saying I'll never be taken seriously, that I'll always be in your shadow!"

Sarah exchanges a wary glance with their mom. "Cos, it's just one article. You know how the media can be."

Cosima stands up abruptly, her chair scraping loudly against the floor. "It's not just one article, Sarah. It's every article. Every single time I try to do something, it's always about mom."

Her mom puts down her fork, her expression calm but firm. "Cosima, sit down. Getting upset won't change anything."

"Maybe I don't want to sit down," Cosima retorts, her eyes flashing. "Maybe I'm tired of being told to just ignore it and move on."

Sarah reaches out a hand, trying to calm her. "We all deal with this. It's part of being in this family."

Cosima shakes her head, stepping away from the table. She turns on her heel and storms out of the dining room, leaving an uneasy silence in her wake. She needs space, needs to clear her head. She heads up to her room, slamming the door behind her. Her hand twitches for her phone, seeking some kind of distraction or solace.

But Felix is doing Hanukkah in Vermont, and she doesn't want to bother him. Her best friend from high school, Shay, has barely spoken to her since she moved to DC.

She digs an old lacrosse T-shirt out of her dresser, and when she turns and catches her reflection in the mirror by the closet, she’s right back in her teens, caring too much about her reputation and helpless to change her situation. Except now she doesn’t have any AP classes to enroll in as a distraction.

Her hand twitches for her phone. Her brain is a two-passenger minimum ride as far as she’s concerned—alone and busy or thinking with company.

Which leaves . . .

“What could I possibly have done to have brought this upon myself now?” says Delphine’s voice, low and sleepy. It sounds like “Mozart” is playing in the background.

“Hey, um, sorry. I know it’s late, and it’s Christmas Eve and everything. You probably have, like, family stuff, I’m just realizing. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Wow, this is why I don’t have friends. I’m a dick. Sorry. I'll, uh, I'll just—”

“Cosima, Christ,” Delphine interrupts. “It’s fine. It’s half three here, everyone’s gone to bed. Except Marcus. Say hi, Marcus.”

“Hi, Cosima!” he says in a giggly voice on the other end of the line. “Delphine’s got her candy-cane PJs on.”

“That’s quite enough,” Delphine’s voice comes back through, and there’s a muffled sound like maybe a pillow has been shoved in Marcus’s direction. “What’s happening, then?”

“Sorry,” Cosima blurts out, “I know this is weird, and you're with your brother and everything, and like, argh. I kind of didn’t have anyone else to call who would be awake? And I know we're, uh, not really friends, and we don’t really talk about this stuff, but I just read this article about myself and like-I don't know...”

There’s a long pause before Delphine says, “Hang on. Marcus, can I have a minute? … All right, I’m listening.”

Cosima exhales, telling Delphine about everything — the article, those weird, tumultuous years when her mom was campaigning, the day she came home from a summer camp to discover they had to move, the nights of ice cream— and it doesn’t feel as uncomfortable as it probably should. She’s never bothered to filter herself with Delphine, at first because she honestly didn’t care what Delphine thought, and now because it’s how they are. Maybe it should be different, bitching about her course load versus spilling her guts about this. It isn’t.

She doesn’t realize she’s been talking for an hour until she finishes and Delphine says, “It sounds like you did your best.”

Cosima forgets what she was going to say next.She just... Well, she gets told she’s great a lot. She just doesn’t often get told she’s good enough.Before she can think of a response, there’s a soft triple knock on the door—Sarah.

“Ah—okay, thanks, I gotta go,” Cosima says, her voice low as Sarah eases the door open.


“Seriously, um. Thank you,” Cosima says. She really does not want to explain this to Sarah. “Merry Christmas. ’Night.”

She hangs up and tosses the phone aside as Sarah settles down on the bed. She’s wearing her pink bathrobe, and her hair is wet from the shower.

“Hey,” she says. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Cosima says. She was about to continue when Sarah’s phone buzzes from her robe pocket. “Oh. Hmm,” she says when she slides it out to eye the screen.


“Nothing, uh.” She thumbs open the message. “Merry Christmas text. From Paul.”

“Paul . . . as in ex-boyfriend Paul, in California? You guys still text?”

Sarah’s biting her lip now, her expression a little distant as she types out a response. “Yeah, sometimes.”

“Cool,” Cosima says. “I always liked him.”

“Yeah. Me too,” Sarah says softly. She locks her phone and drops it on the bed, blinking a couple times as if to reset. “Anyway, what’d Felix say when you told him?”


“On the phone?” she asks her. “I figured it was him, you never talk to anyone else about this crap.”

“Oh,” Cosima says. She feels inexplicable, traitorous warmth flash up the back of her neck. “Oh, um, no. Actually, this is gonna sound weird, but I was talking to Delphine?”

Sarah’s eyebrows shoot up, and Cosima instinctively scans the room for cover. “Really.”

“Listen, I know, but we kind of weirdly have stuff in common and, I guess, similar weird emotional baggage and neuroses, and for some reason I felt like she would get it.”

“Oh my God, Cosima,” she says, lunging at her to yank her into a rough hug, “you made a friend!”

“I have friends! Get off me!”

“You made a friend! I’m so proud of you!”

“I’m gonna murder you, stop it,” she says, alligator-rolling out of Sarah's clutches. She lands on the floor. “She’s not my friend. She’s someone I like to antagonize all the time, and one time I talked to her about something real.”

“That’s a friend, Cosima.”

Cosima’s mouth starts and stops several silent sentences before she points to the door. “You can leave, Sarah! Go to bed!”

The staff has barely finished packing up the Christmas trees when it starts.

There’s the dance floor to set up, menu to finalize, Snapchat filter to approve. Cosima spends the entire 26th holed up in the Social Secretary’s office with Sarah, going over the waivers they’ve gotten for everyone to sign after a daughter of a Real Housewife fell down the rotunda stairs last year; Cosima remains impressed that she didn’t spill her margarita.

It’s time once more for the Legendary Balls-Out Bananas White House Trio New Year’s Eve party.

Technically, the title is the Young America New Year’s Eve Gala, or as at least one late-night host calls it, the Millennial Correspondents’ Dinner. Every year, Cosima, Sarah, and Felix fill up the second-floor ballroom with three hundred or so of their friends, vague celebrity acquaintances, former hookups, potential political connections, and otherwise notable twenty-somethings. The party is, officially, a fundraiser, and it generates so much money for charity and so much good PR for the First Family that even her mom approves of it.

“Um, excuse me,” Cosima is saying from a first-floor conference table, one hand full of confetti samples—do they want a metallic color palette or a more subdued navy and gold?—while staring at a copy of the finalized guest list. Sarah and Felix are stuffing their faces with cake samples. “Who put Delphine on here?” Felix says through a mouthful of chocolate cake, “Wasn’t me.”


“Look, you should have invited her yourself!” Sarah says, by way of admission. “It’s really nice you’re making friends who aren’t us. Sometimes when you get too isolated, you start to go a little crazy. Remember last year when Felix and I were both out of the country for a week, and you almost got a tattoo?”

“I still think we should have let her get a tramp stamp.”

“It wasn’t going to be a tramp stamp,” Cosima says hotly. “You were in on this, weren’t you?”

“You know I love chaos,” Felix tells her serenely.

“I have friends that aren’t you guys,” Cosima says.

“Who, Cosima?” Sarah says. “Literally who?”

“People!” she says defensively. “People from class! Shay!”

“Please. We all know you haven’t talked to Shay in a year,” Sarah says. “You need friends. And I know you like Delphine.”

“Shut up,” Cosima says. She brushes a finger under her collar and finds her skin damp. Do they always have to crank the heat up this high when it’s snowing outside?

“This is interesting,” Felix observes.

“No, it’s not,” Cosima snaps. “Fine, she can come. But if she doesn’t know anybody else, I’m not babysitting her all night.”

“I gave her a plus-one,” Sarah says.

“Who is she bringing?” Cosima asks immediately, reflexively. Involuntarily. “Just wondering.”

“Art,” she says. She’s giving her a weird look she can’t parse, and she decides to chalk it up to Sarah being confusing and strange. She often works in mysterious ways, organizes and orchestrates things Cosima never sees coming until all the threads come together.

So, Delphine is coming, she guesses, confirmed when she checks Instagram the day of the party and sees a post from Art of him and Delphine on a private jet. Art’s hair has been dyed pastel pink for the occasion, and beside him, Delphine is smiling in a soft-looking gray sweatshirt, her socked feet up on the windowsill. She actually looks well-rested for once.

USA bound! Art’s caption reads. #YoungAmericaGala2019

Cosima smiles despite herself and texts Delphine.


𝙰𝚃𝚃𝙽: 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝚋𝚞𝚛𝚐𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚢 𝚟𝚎𝚕𝚟𝚎𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚘𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝. 𝚙𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚕 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎. 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚏𝚊𝚒𝚕 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚆𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚘𝚏 𝚒𝚝.

From there everything speeds up, and a hairstylist is wrangling her into the Cosmetology Room, and she gets to watch Sarah and Felix transform into their camera-ready selves. Felix’s short curls are swept to one side with a silver pin shaped to match the sharp geometric lines on the bodice of his black dress; Sarah’s gown is a plunging Zac Posen number in a shade of midnight blue that perfectly complements the navy-and-gold color palette they chose.

The guests start arriving around eight, and the liquor starts flowing, and Cosima orders a middle-shelf whiskey to get things going. There’s live music, a pop act that owed Sarah a personal favor, and they’re covering “American Girl” right now, so Cosima grabs Sarah’s hand and spins her onto the dance floor.

First arrivals are always the first-time political types: a small gaggle of White House interns, an event planner for Center for American Progress, the daughter of a first-term senator. Then, the wave of politically strategic invites chosen by the press team, and lastly, the fashionably late—minor to mid-range pop stars, teen soap actors, children of major celebrities.

She’s just wondering when Delphine’s going to make her appearance, when Sarah appears at her side and yells, “Incoming!”

Cosima’s gaze is met by a bright burst of color that turns out to be Art’s bomber jacket, which is a shiny silk thing in such an elaborate, colorful floral print that Cosima almost has to squint. The colors fade slightly, though, when her eyes slide to the right.

It’s the first time Cosima has seen Delphine in person since the weekend in Paris and the hundreds of texts and weird in-jokes and late-night phone calls that came after, and it almost feels like meeting a new person. She knows more about Delphine, understands her better, and she can appreciate the rarity of a genuine smile on the same famously beautiful face.

It’s a weird cognitive dissonance, Delphine present and Delphine past. That must be why something feels so restless and hot somewhere beneath her sternum. That and the whiskey.

Delphine’s wearing a simple dark blue dress, but she’s opted for a bright gold fringe jacket. She spots Cosima, and her smile broadens, giving Art’s arm a tug.

“Nice jacket, the fringe is an interesting choice,” Cosima says as soon as Delphine is close enough to hear over the crowd.

“Thought I might be escorted off the premises for anything less exciting,” Delphine says, and her voice is somehow different than Cosima remembers. Like very expensive velvet, something moneyed and lush and fluid all at once.

“And who is this?” Sarah asks from Cosima’s side, interrupting her train of thought.

“Ah yes, you’ve not officially met, have you?” Delphine says. “Sarah, Cosima, this is my best friend, Arthur Bell.”

“But you can call me Art,” he says cheerfully, extending his hand to Cosima. Several of his fingernails are painted blue. When he redirects his attention to Sarah, his eyes grow brighter, his grin spreading. “Please do smack me if this is out of line, but you are the most exquisite woman I have ever seen in my life, and I would like to procure for you the most lavish drink in this establishment if you will let me.”

“Uh,” Cosima says.

“You’re a charmer,” Sarah says, smiling indulgently.

“And you are a goddess.”

Cosima watches them disappear into the crowd, Art a blazing streak of colour, already spinning Sarah in a pirouette as they go. Delphine’s smile has gone sheepish and reserved, and Cosima understands their friendship at last. Delphine doesn’t want the spotlight, and Art naturally absorbs what Delphine deflects.

“That man has been begging me to introduce him to your sister since the wedding,” Delphine says.


“We’ve probably just saved him a tremendous amount of money. He was going to start pricing skywriters soon.”

Cosima tosses her head back and laughs, and Delphine watches, still grinning. Sarah and Felix had a point. She does, against all odds, really like her.

“Well, come on,” Cosima says. “I’m already two whiskeys in. You’ve got some catching up to do.”

More than one conversation drops out as Cosima and Delphine pass, mouths hanging open over entremets. Cosima tries to imagine what they must look like: the princess and the First Daughter, the two leading young ladies of their respective countries, shoulder to shoulder on their way to the bar. It’s intimidating and thrilling, living up to that kind of rich, untouchable fantasy. That’s what people see, but none of them know about the Great Turkey Calamity. Only Cosima and Delphine do.

She scores the first round and the crowd swallows them up. Cosima is surprised how pleased she is by the physical presence of Delphine next to her. She doesn’t even mind having to look up at her anymore. She introduces Delphine to some White House interns and laughs as they blush and stutter, and Delphine’s face goes pleasantly neutral, an expression Cosima used to mistake as unimpressed but can now read for what it is: carefully concealed bemusem*nt.

There’s dancing, and mingling, and a speech by Sarah about the immigration fund they’re supporting with their donations tonight, and Cosima ducks out of an aggressive come-on by a man from the latest superhero movie and into a haphazard conga line, and Delphine actually seems to have fun.

Sarah finds them at some point and steals Delphine away to chat at the bar. Cosima watches them from afar, wondering what they could possibly be talking about that has Sarah nearly falling off her barstool laughing, until the crowd overtakes her again.

After a while, the band breaks and a DJ takes over with a mix of early 2000s hip-hop, all the greatest hits of songs that came out when Cosima was a child and were somehow still in rotation at dances in her teens. That’s when Delphine finds her, like a woman lost at sea.

“You don’t dance?” she says, watching Delphine, who is very visibly trying to figure out what to do with her hands. It’s endearing. Wow, Cosima is drunk.

“No, I do,” Delphine says. “It’s just, the family-mandated ballroom dancing lessons didn’t exactly cover this.”

“C’mon, it’s like, in the hips. You have to loosen up.” She reaches down and puts both hands on Delphine’s hips, and Delphine instantly tenses under the touch. “That’s the opposite of what I said.”

“Cosima, I don’t—”

“Here,” Cosima says, moving her own hips, “watch me.”

With a grave gulp of champagne, Delphine says, “I am.”

The song crossfades into another buh-duh dum-dum-dum, dum-duh-dum duh-duh-dum—

“Shut up,” Cosima yells, cutting off whatever else Delphine was saying, “shut your dumb face, this is my sh*t!” She throws her hands up in the air as Delphine stares at her blankly, and around them, people start cheering too, hundreds of shoulders shimmying to the shouty, Lil Jon-flavored nostalgia of “Get Low.

“Did you seriously never go to an awkward middle school dance and watch a bunch of teenagers dry hump to this song?”

Delphine is holding onto her champagne for dear life. “You absolutely must know I did not.”

Cosima flails one arm out and snatches Felix from a nearby huddle, where he’s been flirting with superhero-actor man. “Felix! Felix! Delphine has never watched a bunch of teenagers dry hump to this song!”


“Please tell me nobody is going to dry hump me,” Delphine says.

“Oh my God, Delphine,” Cosima yells, seizing Delphine around the waist as the music pounds on, “you have to dance. You have to dance. You need to understand this formative American coming-of-age experience.”

Felix grabs Cosima, pulling her away from Delphine and spinning her around, his hands on her waist, and starts grinding with abandon. Cosima whoops and Felix cackles and the crowd jumps around and Delphine just gawks at them.

“Did that man just say ‘sweat drop down my balls’?”

It’s fun—Felix against her back, sweat on her brow, bodies pushing in around her. To one side, a podcast producer and that guy from Stranger Things are hitting the Kid ’n Play, and to the other, Art is literally bending over to the front and touching his toes as instructed. Delphine’s face is shocked and confused, and it’s hilarious. Cosima accepts a shot off a passing tray and drinks to the strange spark in her gut at the way Delphine watches them. Cosima pouts her lips and shakes her ass, and with extreme trepidation, Delphine starts bopping her head a little.

“f*ck yes!” Cosima yells, and Delphine laughs despite herself. She even gives her hips a little shake.

“I thought you weren’t going to babysit her all night,” Sarah stage-whispers in her ear as she twirls by.

“I thought you were too busy for guys,” Cosima replies, nodding significantly at Art in the periphery. She winks at her and disappears.

From there, it’s a series of crowd-pleasers until midnight, the lights and music blasting at full capacity. Confetti, somehow blasting into the air. Did they arrange for confetti cannons? More drinks—Delphine starts drinking directly from a bottle of Moét & Chandon. Cosima likes the look on Delphine’s face, the sure curl of her hand around the neck of the bottle, the way her lips wrap around the mouth of it. Delphine’s willingness to dance is directly proportionate to her proximity to Cosima, and the amount of giddy warmth bubbling under Cosima’s skin is directly proportionate to the cut of Delphine’s mouth when she watches her. It’s an equation she is not nearly sober enough to examine.

They all huddle up at 11:59 for the countdown, eyes blurry and arms around one another. Felix screams “three, two, one” right in her ear and slings his arm around her neck as she yells her approval and kisses him sloppily, laughing through it. They’ve done this every year, both of them perpetually single and affectionately drunk and happy to make everyone else intrigued and jealous. Felix’s mouth is warm and tastes horrifying, like Peach Schnapps, and he bites her lip and messes up her hair for good measure.

When she opens her eyes, Delphine’s looking back at her, expression unreadable.

She feels her own smile grow wider, and Delphine turns away and toward the bottle of champagne clutched in her fist, from which she takes a hearty swig before disappearing into the crowd.

Cosima loses track of things after that, because she’s very, very drunk and the music is very, very loud and there are very, very many hands on her, carrying her through the tangle of dancing bodies and passing her more drinks. Felix bobs by on the back of some hot rookie NFL running back.

It’s loud and messy and wonderful. Cosima has always loved these parties, the sparkling joy of it all, the way champagne bubbles on her tongue and confetti sticks to her shoes. It’s a reminder that even though she stresses and stews in private rooms, there will always be a sea of people she can disappear into, that the world can be warm and welcoming and fill up the walls of this big, old house she lives in with something bright and infectiously alive.

But somewhere, beneath the liquor and the music, she can’t stop noticing that Delphine has disappeared.

She checks the bathrooms, the buffet, the quiet corners of the ballroom, but she’s nowhere. She tries asking Art, shouting Delphine’s name at him over the noise, but Art just smiles and shrugs and steals a snapback off a passing yacht kid.

She’s ... worried isn’t exactly the word. Bothered. Curious. She was having fun watching everything she did play out on Delphine’s face. She keeps looking, until she trips over her own feet by one of the big windows in the hallway. She’s pulling herself up when she glances outside, down into the garden.

There, under a tree in the snow, exhaling little puffs of steam, is a tall, lean, broad-shouldered figure that can only be Delphine.

She slips out onto the portico without really thinking about it, and the instant the door closes behind her, the music snuffs out into silence, and it’s just her and Delphine and the garden. She’s got the hazy tunnel vision of a drunk person when they lock eyes on a goal. She follows it down the stairs and onto the snowy lawn.

Delphine stands quietly, hands in her pockets, contemplating the sky, and she’d almost look sober if not for the wobbly lean to the left she’s doing. Stupid French dignity, even in the face of champagne.

Cosima trips over a bench, and the sound catches Delphine’s attention. When she turns, the moonlight catches on her, and her face looks softened in half shadows, inviting in a way Cosima can’t quite work out.

“What’re you doing out here?” Cosima says, trudging up to stand next to her under the tree.

Delphine squints. "Looking for Orion.”

Cosima huffs a laugh, looking up to the sky. Nothing but fat winter clouds. “You must be really bored with the commoners to come out here and stare at the clouds.”

“I’m not bored,” Delphine mumbles. “What are you doing out here? Doesn’t America’s golden girl have some swooning crowds to beguile?”

“Says Princess f*cking Charming,” Cosima answers, smirking.

Delphine pulls a very unprincessly face up at the clouds. “Hardly.”

Her knuckle brushes the back of Cosima’s hand at their sides, a little zip of warmth in the cold night. Cosima considers her face in profile, blinking through the booze, following the smooth line of her nose and the gentle dip at the center of her lower lip, each touched by moonlight. It’s freezing and Cosima is only wearing her short dress, but her chest feels warmed from the inside with liquor and something heady her brain keeps stumbling over, trying to name. The garden is quiet except for the blood rushing in her ears.

“You didn’t really answer my question, though,” Cosima notes.

Delphine groans, rubbing a hand across her face. “You can’t ever leave well enough alone, can you?” She leans her head back. It thumps gently against the trunk of the tree. “Sometimes it gets a bit ... much.”

Cosima keeps looking at her. Usually, there’s something about the set of Delphine’s mouth that betrays a bit of friendliness, but sometimes, like right now, her mouth pinches in the corner instead, pins her guard resolutely in place.

Cosima shifts, almost involuntarily, leaning back against the tree too. She nudges their shoulders together and catches that corner of Delphine’s mouth twitching, sees something move featherlight across her face. These things—big events, letting other people feed on her own energy—are rarely too much for Cosima. She’s not sure how Delphine feels, but some part of her brain that is likely soaked in tequila thinks maybe it would be helpful if Delphine could take what she can handle, and Cosima could handle the rest. Maybe she can absorb some of the “much” from the place where their shoulders are pressed together.

A muscle in Delphine’s jaw moves, and something soft, almost like a smile, tugs at her lips. “Do you ever wonder,” she says slowly, “what it’s like to be some anonymous person out in the world?”

Cosima frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Just, you know,” Delphine says. “If your mother weren’t the president and you were just a normal girl living a normal life, what things might be like? What you’d be doing instead?”

“Ah,” Cosima says, considering. She stretches one arm out in front of her, makes a dismissive gesture with a flick of her wrist. “Well, I mean, obviously I’d be a model. I’ve been on the cover of Teen Vogue twice. These genetics transcend all circ*mstances.” Delphine rolls her eyes again. “What about you?”

Delphine shakes her head ruefully. “I'd be a writer.”

Cosima gives a little laugh. She thinks she already knew this about Delphine, somehow, but it’s still kind of disarming. “Can’t you do that?”

“Not exactly seen as a worthwhile pursuit for a woman in line for the throne, scribbling verses about quarter-life angst,” Delphine says dryly. “Besides, the traditional family career track is military, so that’s about it, isn’t it?”

Delphine bites her lip, waits a beat, and opens her mouth again. “I’d date more, probably, as well.”

Cosima can’t help but laugh again. “Right, because it’s so hard to get a date when you're a f*cking beautiful princess.”

Delphine cuts her eyes back down to Cosima. “You’d be surprised.”

“How? You’re not exactly lacking for options.”

Delphine keeps looking at her, holding her gaze for two seconds too long. “The options I'd like . . .” she says, dragging the words out. “They don’t quite seem to be options at all.”

Cosima blinks. “What?”

“I’m saying that I have... people... who interest me,” Delphine says, turning her body toward Cosima now, speaking with a fumbling pointedness, as if it means something. “But I shouldn’t pursue them. At least not in my position.”

Are they too drunk to communicate in English? She briefly curses not learning French in high school.

“I don’t know what the hell you're talking about,” Cosima says.

“You don’t?”


“You really don’t?”

“I really, really don’t.”

Delphine’s whole face grimaces in frustration, her eyes casting skyward like they’re searching for help from an uncaring universe. “Mon Dieu Cosima, you can be so stupid sometimes,” she says, and she grabs Cosima’s face in both hands and kisses her.

Cosima is frozen, registering the press of Delphine’s lips and the wool cuffs of her coat grazing her jaw. The world fuzzes out into static, and her brain is swimming hard to keep up, adding up the equation of teenage grudges and wedding cakes and two a.m. texts and not understanding the variable that got her here, except it’s . . . well, surprisingly, she really doesn’t mind. Like, at all.

In her head, she tries to cobble a list together in a panic, gets as far as,

  1. Delphine’s lips are soft.

And short-circuits.

She tests leaning into the kiss and is rewarded by Delphine’s mouth sliding and opening against hers, Delphine’s tongue brushing against hers, which is, wow. It’s nothing like kissing Felix earlier—nothing like kissing anyone she’s ever kissed in her life. It feels as steady and huge as the ground under their feet, as encompassing of every part of her, it's likely to knock the wind out of her lungs. One of Delphine’s hands pushes into her hair and grabs it at the root at the back of her head, and she hears herself make a sound that breaks the breathless silence, and—

Just as suddenly, Delphine releases her roughly enough that she staggers backward, and Delphine’s mumbling a curse and an apology, eyes wide, and she’s spinning on her heel, crunching off through the snow at double time. Before Cosima can say or do anything, she’s disappeared around the corner.

“Oh,” Cosima says finally, faintly, touching one hand to her lips. Then: “sh*t.”

Chapter 6

Chapter Text

So, the thing about the kiss is, Cosima absolutely cannot stop thinking about it.

She’s tried.

Delphine and Art and their bodyguards were long gone by the time Cosima made it back inside. Not even a drunken stupor or the next morning’s pounding hangover can scrub the image from her brain.

She tries listening in on her mom’s meetings, but they can’t hold her attention, and Alison bans her from the West Wing. She studies every bill trickling through Congress and considers making rounds to sweet-talk senators, but can’t muster the enthusiasm. Not even starting a rumor with Felix sounds enticing.

She starts her last semester, goes to class, sits with the social secretary to plan her graduation dinner, and buries herself in highlighted annotations and supplemental readings.

But beneath it all, there’s the Princess of France kissing her under a linden tree in the garden, moonlight in her hair, and Cosima’s insides feel positively molten, and she wants to throw herself down the presidential stairs.

She hasn’t told anyone, not even Felix or Sarah. She has no idea what she’d even say if she did. Is she even technically allowed to tell anyone, since she signed an NDA? Was this why she had to sign it? Is this something Delphine always had in mind? Does that mean Delphine has feelings for her? Why would Delphine have acted like a dick for so long if she liked her?

Delphine’s not offering any insights, or anything at all. She hasn’t answered a single one of Cosima’s texts or calls.

“Okay, that’s it,” Sarah says on a Wednesday afternoon, stomping out of her room and into the sitting room by their shared hallway. She’s in her workout clothes with her hair tied up. Cosima hastily shoves her phone back into her pocket. “I don’t know what your problem is, but I have been trying to write for two hours and I can’t do it when I can hear you pacing.” She throws a baseball cap at her. “I’m going for a run, and you’re coming with me.”

Helena accompanies them to the Reflecting Pool, where Sarah kicks the back of Cosima’s knee to get her going, and Cosima grunts and swears and picks up the pace. She feels like a dog that has to be taken on walks to get her energy out. Especially when Sarah says, “You’re like a dog that has to be taken on walks to get her energy out.”

“I hate you sometimes,” she tells her, and she shoves her earbuds in and cranks up Kid Cudi.

She thinks, as she runs and runs and runs, the stupidest thing of all is that she’s straight. Like, she’s pretty sure she’s straight.

She can pinpoint moments throughout her life when she thought to herself, “See, this means I can’t possibly be into girls.” Like when she was in middle school and she kissed a boy for the first time, and she didn’t think about a girl when it was happening, just that his hair was soft and it felt nice. Or when she was a sophom*ore in high school and one of her friends came out as gay, and she couldn’t imagine ever doing anything like that.

Or her senior year, when she got drunk and made out with Shay in her twin bed for an hour, and she didn’t have a sexual crisis about it—that had to mean she was straight, right? Because if she were into girls, it would have felt scary to be with one, but it wasn’t. That was just how horny teenage best friends were sometimes, like when they would get off at the same time watching p*rn in Shay's bedroom . . . or that one time Shayreached over to finish her off, and Cosima didn’t stop it.

She glances over at Sarah, at the suspicious quirk of her lips. Can she hear what she’s thinking? Does she know, somehow? Sarah always knows things. She doubles her pace if only to get the expression on her mouth out of her periphery.

On their fifth lap, she thinks back over her hormonal teens and remembers thinking about boys in the shower, but she also remembers fantasizing about a girl’s hands on her, about soft curves and sweet smiles. She remembers pulling her eyes off a teammate in the locker room a couple of times, but that was, like, an objective thing. How was she supposed to know back then if she wanted to look like other girls, or if she wanted other girls? Or if her horny teenage urges actually even meant anything?

She’s a daughter of Democrats. It’s something she’s always been around. So, she always assumed if she weren’t straight, she would just know, like how she knows that she loves caramel on her ice cream or that she needs a tediously organized calendar to get anything done. She thought she was smart enough about her own identity that there weren’t any questions left.

They’re rounding the corner for their eighth lap now, and she’s starting to see some flaws in her logic. Straight people, she thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves they’re straight.

There’s another reason she never cared to examine things beyond the basic benchmark of being attracted to men. She’s been in the public eye since her mom became the favored nominee, the White House Trio the administration’s door to the teen and twenty-something demographic almost as long. All three of them—herself, Sarah, and Felix—have their roles.

Felix is the cool brainy one, the one who makes inappropriate jokes on Twitter about whatever sci-fi show everyone’s watching, a bar trivia team ringer. He’s not straight—he’s never been straight—but to him, it’s an incidental part of who he is. He doesn’t worry about going public with it; feelings don’t consume him the way hers do.

She looks at Sarah—ahead of her now, caramel highlights in her swinging ponytail catching the midday sun—and she knows her place too. The intrepid Washington Post columnist, the fashion trendsetter everyone wants to have at their wine-and-cheese night.

But Cosima is the golden girl. The heartthrob, the beautiful rogue with a heart of gold. The girl who moves through life effortlessly, who makes everyone laugh. Highest approval ratings of the entire First Family. The whole point of her is that her appeal is as universal as possible.

Being ... whatever she’s starting to suspect she might be, is definitely not universally appealing to voters.

She wants her mom to keep her approval ratings up without having to manage a complication from her own family. She wants to be the youngest congresswoman in US history. She’s absolutely sure that girls who kissed the Princess of France and liked it don’t get elected to represent Texas.

But she thinks about Delphine, and, oh.

She thinks about Delphine, and something twists in her chest, like a stretch she’s been avoiding for too long.

She thinks about Delphine’s voice low in her ear over the phone at three in the morning, and suddenly she has a name for what ignites in the pit of her stomach. Delphine’s hands on her, her thumbs braced against her temples back in the garden, Delphine’s hands other places, Delphine’s mouth, what she might do with it if Cosima let her. Delphine’s delicate shoulders and long legs and narrow waist, the place her jaw meets her neck and the place her neck meets her shoulder and the tendon that stretches the length between them, and the way it looks when Delphine turns her head to shoot her a challenging glare, and her impossibly green eyes—

She trips on a crack in the pavement and goes tumbling down, skinning her knee and ripping her earbuds out.

“Dude, what the hell?” Sarah’s voice cuts through the ringing in her ears. She’s standing over her, hands on her knees, brow furrowed, and panting. “Your brain could not be more clearly in another solar system. Are you gonna tell me or what?”

She takes her hand and lets her pull her and her bloody knee up. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

Sarah sighs, shooting her another look before finally dropping it. Once she’s limped back home behind her, she disappears to shower and Cosima stems the bleeding with a Captain America Band-Aid from her bathroom cabinet.

She needs a list. So: Things she knows right now.

  1. She’s attracted to Delphine.

  2. She wants to kiss Delphine again.

  3. She has maybe wanted to kiss Delphine for a while. As in, probably this whole time.

Sidling up to her desk, she pulls out the binder her mother gave her: DEMOGRAPHIC ENGAGEMENT: WHO THEY ARE AND HOW TO REACH THEM. She drags her finger down to the LGBTQ+ tab and turns to the page she’s looking for, titled with her mother’s typical flair. THE B ISN’T SILENT: A CRASH COURSE ON BISEXUAL AMERICANS

“I wanna start now,” Cosima says as she slams into the Treaty Room.

Her mother lowers her glasses to the tip of her nose, eyeing her over a pile of papers. “Start what? Getting your ass beat for barging in here while I’m working?”

“The job,” she says. “The campaign job. I don’t wanna wait until I graduate. I already read all the materials you gave me. Twice. I have time. I can start now.”

She narrows her eyes at her. “You got a bug up your butt?”

“No, I just . . .” One of her knees is bouncing impatiently. She forces it to stop. “I’m ready. I have less than one semester left. How much more could I possibly need to know to do this? Put me in, Coach.”

Which is how she finds herself out of breath on a Monday afternoon after class, following a staffer who’s managed to surpass even her in the caffeination department, on a breakneck tour of the campaign offices. She gets a badge with her name and photo on it, a desk in a shared cubicle, and a WASPy cubicle mate from Boston named Hunter with an extremely punchable face.

Cosima is handed a folder of data from the latest focus groups and told to start drafting policy ideas for the end of the following week, and WASPy Hunter asks her five hundred questions about her mom. Cosima very professionally does not punch him. She just gets to work.

She’s definitely not thinking about Delphine.

She’s not thinking about Delphine when she puts in twenty-three hours in her first week of work, or when she’s filling the rest of her hours with class and papers and going for long runs and drinking triple-shot coffees and poking around the Senate offices. She’s not thinking about Delphine in the shower or at night, alone and wide awake in her bed.

Except for when she is. Which is always.

This usually works. She doesn’t understand why it’s not working.

When she’s in the campaign offices, she keeps gravitating over to the big, busy whiteboards of the polling section, where Felix sits every day enshrined in graphs and spreadsheets. He’s made easy friends with his coworkers, since competence translates directly to popularity in the campaign social culture, and nobody’s better at numbers than him.

She’s not jealous, exactly. She’s popular in her own department, constantly cornered at the Keurig for second opinions on people’s drafts and invited to after-work drinks she never has time for. At least four staffers of various genders have hit on her, and WASPy Hunter won’t stop trying to convince her to come to his improv shows. She smiles handsomely over her coffee and makes sarcastic jokes, and the Cosima Niehaus-Sadler Charm Initiative is as effective as ever.

But Felix makes friends, and Cosima ends up with acquaintances who think they know her because they’ve read her profile in New York Magazine, and perfectly fine people with perfectly fine bodies who want to take her home from the bar. None of it is satisfying—it never has been, not really, but it never mattered as much as it does now that there’s the sharp counterpoint of Delphine, who knows her. Delphine who’s seen her in glasses and tolerates her at her most annoying and still kissed her like she wanted her, singularly, not the idea of her.

So it goes, and Delphine is there, in her head and her lecture notes and her cubicle, every single stupid day, no matter how many shots of espresso she puts in her coffee.

Felix would be the obvious choice for help, if not for the fact that he’s neck deep in polling numbers. When he gets into his work like this, it’s like trying to have a meaningful conversation with a high-speed computer that loves Chipotle and makes fun of what you’re wearing.

But he’s her best friend, and he’s sort of vaguely bisexual. He never dates—no time or desire—but if he did, he says it’d be an even split of the intern pool. He’s as knowledgeable about the topic as he is about everything else.

“Hello,” he says from the floor as she drops a bag of burritos and a second bag of chips with guacamole on the coffee table. “You might have to put guacamole directly into my mouth with a spoon because I need both hands for the next forty-eight hours.”

Felix’s grandparents, the Veep and Second Lady, live at the Naval Observatory, and his parents live just outside of Montpelier, but he’s had the same airy one-bedroom in Columbia Heights since he transferred from MIT to GW. It’s full of books and plants he tends to with complex spreadsheets of watering schedules. Tonight, he’s sitting on his living room floor in a glowing circle of screens like some kind of Capitol Hill séance.

To his left, his campaign laptop is open to an indecipherable page of data and bar graphs. To his right, his personal computer is running three news aggregators at the same time. In front of him, the TV is broadcasting CNN’s Republican primary coverage, while the tablet in his lap is playing an old episode of Drag Race. He’s holding his iPhone in his hand, and Cosima hears the little whoosh of an email sending before he looks up at her.

“Barbacoa?” he says hopefully.

“I’ve met you before today, so, obviously.”

“There’s my future wife.” He leans over to pull a burrito out of the bag, rips off the foil, and shoves it into his mouth.

“I’m not going to have a marriage of convenience with you if you’re always embarrassing me with the way you eat burritos,” Cosima says, watching him chew. A black bean falls out of his mouth and lands on one of his keyboards.

“Aren't you from Texas?” he says through his mouthful. “I’ve seen you shotgun a bottle of barbecue sauce. Watch yourself or ’m gonna marry Sarah instead.”

This might be her opening into “the conversation.” Hey, you know how you’re always joking about dating Sarah? Well, like, what if I dated a girl? Not that she wants to date Delphine. At all. Ever. But just, like, hypothetically.

Felix goes off on a data nerd tangent for the next twenty minutes about his updated take on whatever the f*ck the Boyer—Moore majority vote algorithm is and variables and how it can be used in whatever work he’s doing for the campaign, or something. Honestly, Cosima’s concentration is drifting in and out. She’s just working on summoning up courage until he talks himself into submission.

“Hey, so, uh,” Cosima attempts as he takes a burrito break. “Remember when we 'dated'?”

Felix swallows a massive bite and grins. “Why yes, I do.”

Cosima forces a laugh. “So, knowing me as well as you do— Numbers on me being into girls?”

That pulls Felix up short before he co*cks his head to the side and says, “Seventy-eight percent probability of latent bisexual tendencies. One hundred percent probability this is not a hypothetical question.”

“Yeah. So.” She coughs. “Weird thing happened. You know how Delphine came to New Year’s? She kinda... kissed me?”

“Oh, no sh*t?” Felix says, nodding appreciatively. “Nice.”

Cosima stares at him. “You’re not surprised?”

“I mean.” He shrugs. “She’s gay, and you’re hot, so.”

She sits up so quickly she almost drops her burrito on the floor. “Wait, wait—what makes you think she’s gay? Did she tell you she was?”

“No, I just . . . like, you know.” He gesticulates as if to describe his usual thought process. It’s as incomprehensible as his brain. “I observe patterns and data, and they form logical conclusions, and she’s just, gay. She’s always been gay.”

“I... what?”

“Dude. Have you met her? Isn’t she supposed to be your best friend or whatever? She’s gay. Like, Fire Island on the Fourth of July, gay. Did you really not know?”

Cosima lifts her hands helplessly. “No?”

“Cosima, I thought you were supposed to be smart.”

“Me too! How can she—how can she spring a kiss on me without even telling me she’s gay first?”

“I mean, like,” he attempts, “is it possible she assumed you knew?”

“But she goes on dates with guys all the time.”

“Yeah, because princesses aren’t allowed to be gay,” Felix says as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Why do you think they’re always photographed?”

Cosima lets that sink in for half a second and remembers this is supposed to be about her gay panic, not Delphine’s. “Okay, so. Wait. Jesus. Can we go back to the part where she kissed me?”

“Ooh, yes,” Felix says. He licks a glob of guacamole off the screen of his phone. “Happily. Was she a good kisser? Was there tongue? Did you like it?”

“Never mind,” Cosima says instantly. “Forget I asked.”

“Since when are you a prude?” Felix demands. “Last year you made me listen to every nasty detail about going down on Michael Rogers from Sarah’s internship.”

“Do not,” she says, hiding her face behind the crook of her elbow.

“Then, spill.”

“I seriously hope you die,” she says. “Yes, she was a good kisser, and there was tongue.”

“I f*cking knew it,” he says.

“Stop,” she groans.

“Princess Delphine is a biscuit,” Felix says, “let her sop you up.”

“I’m leaving.”

He throws his head back and cackles, and seriously, Cosima has got to get more friends. “Did you like it, though?”

A pause.

“What, um,” she starts. “What do you think it would mean .. . if I did?”

“Well. Babe. You’ve been wanting her to f*ck you forever, right?”

Cosima almost chokes on her tongue. “What?”

Felix looks at her. “Oh, sh*t. Did you not know that either? sh*t. I didn’t mean to, like, tell you. Is it time for this conversation?”

“I... maybe?” she says. “Um. What?”

He puts his burrito down on the coffee table and shakes his fingers out like he does when he’s about to write a complicated code. Cosima suddenly feels intimidated at having his undivided attention.

“Let me lay out some observations for you,” he says. “You extrapolate. First, you’ve been, like, Draco Malfoy—level obsessed with Delphine for years—do not interrupt me—and since the royal wedding, you’ve gotten her phone number and used it not to set up any appearances but instead to long-distance flirt with her all day every day. You’re constantly making big cow eyes at your phone, and if somebody asks you who you're texting, you act like you got caught watching p*rn. You know her sleep schedule, she knows your sleep schedule, and you're in a noticeably worse mood if you go a day without talking to her. You spent the entire New Year’s party straight-up ignoring the who’s who of hot people who want to f*ck America’s most eligible bachelorette to literally watch Delphine stand next to the croquembouche. And she kissed you—with tongue!—and you liked it. So, objectively. What do you think it means?”

Cosima stares. “I mean,” she says slowly. “I don’t . . . know.”

Felix frowns, visibly giving up, resumes eating his burrito, and returns his attention to the newsfeed on his laptop. “Okay.”

“No, okay, look,” Cosima says. “I know like, objectively, on a f*cking graphing calculator, it sounds like a huge embarrassing crush. But, ugh. I don’t know! She was my sworn enemy until a couple months ago, and then we were friends, I guess, and now she’s kissed me, and I don’t know what we... are.”

“Uh-huh,” Felix says, very much not listening. “Yep.”

“And, still,” she barrels on. “In terms of, like, sexuality, what does that make me?”

Felix’s eyes snap back up to her. “Oh, like, I thought we were already there with you being bi and everything,” he says. “Sorry, are we not? Did I skip ahead again? My bad. Hello, would you like to come out to me? I’m listening. Hi.”

“I don’t know!” she half yells, miserably. “Am I? Do you think I’m bi?”

“I can’t tell you that, Cosima!” he says. “That’s the whole point!”

“sh*t,” she says, dropping her head back on the cushions. “I need someone to just tell me. How did you know you were?”

“I don’t know. I was in my junior year of high school, and I touched a dick. It wasn’t very profound. Nobody’s gonna write an Off-Broadway play about it.”

“Really helpful.”

“Yup,” he says, chewing thoughtfully on a chip. “So, what are you gonna do?”

“I have no idea,” Cosima says. “She’s totally ghosted me, so I guess it was awful or a stupid drunk mistake she regrets or—”

“Cosima,” he says. “She likes you. She’s freaking out. You’re gonna have to decide how you feel about her and do something about it. She’s not in a position to do anything else.”

Cosima has no idea what else to say about any of it. Felix’s eyes drift back to one of his screens, where Anderson Cooper is unpacking the latest coverage of the Republican presidential hopefuls.

“Any chance someone other than Richards gets the nomination?”

Cosima sighs. “Nope. Not according to anybody I’ve talked to.”

“It’s almost cute how hard the others are still trying,” he says, and they lapse into silence.

Cosima is late, again.

Her class is reviewing for the first exam today, and she’s late because she lost track of time going over her speech for the campaign event she’s doing in f*cking Nebraska this weekend, of all godforsaken places. It’s Thursday, and she’s hauling ass straight from work to the lecture hall, and her exam is next Tuesday, and she’s going to fail because she’s missing the review.

The class is Ethical Issues in International Relations. She really has got to stop taking classes so painfully relevant to her life.

She gets through the review in a haze of half-distracted shorthand and books it back toward the Residence. She’s pissed, honestly. Pissed at everything; a crawling, directionless bad mood that’s carrying her up the stairs toward the East and West Bedrooms.

She throws her bag down at the door of her room and kicks her shoes into the hallway, watching them bounce crookedly across the ugly antique rug.

“Well, good afternoon to you too, honey biscuit,” Sarah’s voice says. When Cosima glances up, she’s in her room across the hall, perched on a pastel-pink wingback chair. “You look like sh*t.”

“Thanks, asshole.”

She recognizes the stack of magazines in Sarah's lap as her weekly tabloid roundup, and she’s decided she doesn’t want to know when Sarah chucks one at her.

“New People for you,” she says. “You’re on page fifteen. Oh, and your BFF’s on page thirty-one.”

Cosima casually extends her the finger over her shoulder and retreats into her room, slumping down onto the couch by the door with the magazine. Since she has it, she might as well.

Page fifteen is a picture of her the press team took two weeks ago, a nice, neat little package on her helping the Smithsonian with an exhibit about her mom’s historic presidential campaign. She’s explaining the story behind a SADLER FOR CONGRESS ’04 yard sign, and there’s a brief write-up alongside it about how dedicated she is to the family legacy, blah-blah-blah.

She turns to page thirty-one and almost swears out loud.


Three photos: the first, Delphine out at a cafe in Paris, smiling over coffees at some anonymously handsome blonde man; the second, Delphine, slightly out of focus, holding his hand as they duck behind the cafe; the third, Delphine, halfway obscured by a shrub, kissing the corner of his mouth.

“What the f*ck?”

There’s a short article accompanying the photos that gives the man's name, Anton something, an actor, and Cosima was generally pissed before, but now she’s very singularly pissed, her entire sh*tty mood funneled down to the point on the page where Delphine’s lips touch somebody’s skin that’s not hers.

Who the f*ck does Delphine think she is? How f*cking—how entitled, how aloof, how selfish do you have to be, to spend months becoming someone’s friend, let them show you all their weird gross weak parts, kiss them, make them question everything, ignore them for weeks, and go out with someone else and put it in the press?

Everyone who’s ever had a publicist knows the only way anything gets into People is if you want the world to know.

She throws the magazine down and lunges to her feet, pacing. f*ck Delphine. She should never have trusted the silver spoon little sh*t. She should have listened to her gut.

She inhales, exhales.

The thing is. The thing. Is. She doesn’t know if, beyond the initial rush of anger, she actually believes Delphine would do this. If she takes the Delphine she saw in a teen magazine when she was twelve, the Delphine who was so cold to her at the Olympics, the Delphine who slowly came unraveled to her over months, and the Delphine who kissed her in the shadow of the White House, and she adds them up, she doesn’t get this.

Cosima has a tactical brain. A politician’s brain. It works fast, and it works in many, many directions at once. And right now, she’s thinking through a puzzle. She’s not always good at thinking: What if you were her? How would your life be? What would you have to do? Instead, she’s thinking: How do these pieces slot together?

She thinks about what Felix said: “Why do you think they’re always photographed?”

And she thinks about Delphine’s guardedness, the way she carries herself with a careful separation from the world around her, the tension at the corner of her mouth. Then she thinks: If there was a princess, and she was gay, and she kissed someone, and maybe it mattered, that princess might have to run a little bit of interference.

And in one great mercurial swing, Cosima is not just angry anymore. She’s sad too.

She paces back over to the door and slides her phone out of her messenger bag, thumbs open her messages. She doesn’t know which impulse to follow and wrestle into words that she can say to someone and make something, anything, happen.

Faintly, under it all, it occurs to her: This is all a very not-straight way to react to seeing your female frenemy kissing someone else in a magazine.

A little laugh startles out of her, and she walks over to her bed and sits on the edge of it, considering. She considers texting Felix, asking him if she can come over to finally have some big epiphany. She considers calling Rafael Luna and meeting him for beers and asking to hear all about his first gay sexual exploits as an REI-wearing teenage antifascist.

But in the moment, it feels right to go back to the source, to ask someone who’s seen whatever is in her eyes when a girl touches her.

Delphine’s out of the question. Which leaves one person.

“Hello?” says the voice over the phone. It’s been at least a year since they last talked, but Shay's Texan drawl is unmistakable and warm in Cosima’s eardrum.

She clears her throat. “Uh, hey, Shay. It’s Cosima.”

“I know,” she says, desert-dry.

“How, um, how have you been?”

A pause. The sound of quiet talking in the background, dishes. “You wanna tell me why you’re really calling, Cosima?”

“Oh,” she starts and stops, tries again. “This might sound weird. But, um. Back in high school, did we have, like, a thing? Did I miss that?”

There’s a clattering sound on the other side of the phone, like a fork being dropped on a plate. “Are you seriously calling me right now to talk about this? I’m at lunch with my girlfriend.”

“Oh.” She didn’t know Shay had a partner. “Sorry.”

The sound goes muffled, and when Liam speaks again, it’s to someone else. “It’s Cosima. Yeah, her. I don’t know, babe.” His voice comes back clear again. “What exactly are you asking me?”

“I mean, like, we messed around, but did it, like, mean something?”

“I don’t think I can answer that question for you,” Shay tells her.

“Right,” she says. “You’re right.”

“Look, Cosima,” Shay says. “I don’t know what kind of sexual crisis you’re having right now like, four years after it would have been useful, but, well. I’m not saying what we did in high school makes you gay or bi or whatever, but I can tell you I’m gay, and that even though I acted like what we were doing wasn’t gay back then, it super was.” She sighs. “Does that help, Cosima? My Bloody Mary is here and I need to talk to it about this phone call.”

“Um, yeah,” Cosima says. “I think so. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Shay sounds so long-suffering and tired that Cosima thinks about all those times back in high school, the way she used to look at her, the silence between them since, and feels obligated to add, “And, um. I’m sorry?”

“Jesus Christ,” Shay groans, and hangs up.

Chapter 7

Chapter Text

There’s one part of the post-royal wedding arrangement left to fulfill: Delphine's presence at a state dinner at the end of January.

France has a relatively new prime minister, and Siobhan wants to meet her. Delphine's coming too, staying in the Residence as a courtesy. Cosima smooths out the pleats on her dress and hovers close to Sarah and Felix as the guests roll in, waiting at the north entrance near the photo line.

She’s aware that she’s rocking anxiously on her heels but can’t seem to stop. Felix smirks but says nothing. She's keeping it quiet. Cosima's still not ready to tell Sarah just yet. Telling her sister is irreversible, and she can’t do that until she’s figured out what exactly this is.

Delphine enters stage right. Her ballgown is golden, smooth, elegant. Perfect. Cosima wants to rip it off.

Her face is reserved, then downright ashen when she sees Cosima in the entrance hall. Her footsteps stutter, as if she’s thinking of making a run for it. Cosima is not above a flying tackle. Instead, she keeps walking up the steps, and—

“All right, photos,” Alison hisses over Cosima's shoulder.

“Oh,” Delphine says, like an idiot.

Cosima hates how much she likes the way that one stupid vowel curls in her accent. She’s not even into French accents. She’s into Delphine's French accent.

“Hey,” Cosima says under her breath. Fake smile, handshake, cameras flashing. “Cool to see you’re not dead or anything.”

“Er,” Delphine says, adding to the list of vowel sounds she has to show for herself. It is, unfortunately, also sexy. After all these weeks, the bar is low.

“We need to talk,” Cosima says, but Alison is physically shoving them into a friendly formation, and there are more photos until Cosima is being shepherded off with the girls to the State Dining Room while Delphine is hauled into photo ops with the prime minister.

The entertainment for the night is a French indie rocker who looks like a root vegetable and is popular with people in Cosima's demographic for reasons she can’t even begin to understand. Delphine is seated with the prime minister, and Cosima sits and chews her food like it’s personally wronged her and watches Delphine from across the room, seething. Every so often, Delphine will look up, catch Cosima's eye, go pink around the ears, and return to her rice pilaf as if it’s the most fascinating dish on the planet.

How dare Delphine come into Cosima's house looking like the goddamn goddess that she is, drink red wine with the prime minister, and act like she didn’t slip Cosima the tongue and ghost her for a month.

“Felix,” she says, leaning over to her while Sarah is off chatting with an actress from TV. The night is starting to wind down, and Cosima is over it. “Can you get Delphine away from her table?”

He slants a look at her. “Is this a diabolical scheme of seduction?” he asks. “If so, yes.”

“Sure, yes, that,” she says, and she gets up and heads for the back wall of the room, where the Secret Service is stationed. “Helena,” she hisses, grabbing her by the wrist. She makes a quick, aborted movement, clearly fighting a hardwired takedown reflex. “I need your help.”

“Where’s the threat?” she says immediately.

“No, no, Jesus.” Cosima swallows. “Not like that. I need to get Princess Delphine alone.”

She blinks. “I don’t follow.”

“I need to talk to her in private.”

“I can accompany you outside if you need to speak with her, but I'll have to get it approved with her security first.”

“No,” Cosima says. She scrubs a hand across her face, glancing back over her shoulder to confirm Delphine's where she left her, being aggressively talked at by Felix. “I need her alone.”

The slightest of expressions crosses over Helena's face. “The best I can do is the Red Room. You take her any farther and it’s a no-go.”

She looks over her shoulder again at the tall doors across the State Dining Room. The Red Room is empty on the other side, awaiting the after-dinner co*cktails. “How long can I have?” she says.

“Five min—”

“I can make that work.” She turns on her heel and stalks over to the ornamental display of chocolates, where Felix has apparently lured Delphine with the promise of profiteroles. She plants herself between them. “Hi,” Cosima says.

Felix smiles. Delphine's mouth drops open.

“Sorry to interrupt. Important, um. International. Relations. Stuff.” And she seizes Delphine by the elbow and yanks her bodily away.

“Do you mind?” Delphine has the nerve to say.

“Shut your face,” Cosima says, briskly leading her away from the tables, where people are too busy mingling and listening to the music to notice Cosima frog-marching the heir to the throne out of the dining room. They reach the doors, and Helena is there.

She hesitates, hand on the knob. “You're not going to kill her, are you?” she says.

“Probably not,” Cosima tells her seriously. She opens the door just enough to let them through, and Cosima hauls Delphine into the Red Room with her.

“What on God’s earth are you doing?” Delphine demands.

“Shut up, shut all the way up, oh my God,” Cosima hisses, and if she weren’t already hell-bent on destroying Delphine's infuriating idiot face with her mouth right now, she would consider doing it with her fist.

Cosima’s focused on the burst of adrenaline carrying her feet over the antique rug, Delphine's pashmina wrapped around her fist, the flash in Delphine's eyes. She reaches the nearest wall, shoves Delphine against it, and crushes their mouths together. Delphine's too shocked to respond, mouth falling open slackly in a way that’s more surprise than invitation, and for a horrified moment Cosima thinks she calculated all wrong, but then Delphine's kissing her back, and it’s everything.

It feels as good as—better than— she remembered, and she can’t recall why they haven’t been doing this the whole time, why they’ve been running belligerent circles around each other for so long without doing anything about it.

“Wait,” Delphine says, breaking off. She pulls back to look at Cosima, wild-eyed, mouth a vivid red, and Cosima could f*cking scream if she weren’t worried dignitaries in the next room might hear her. “Should we—”


“I mean, er, should we, I don't know, slow down?” Delphine says, cringing so hard at herself that one eye closes. “Go for dinner first, or—”

Cosima is actually going to kill her. “We just had dinner.”

“Right. I meant—I just thought—”

“Stop thinking.”

“Yes. Gladly.”

In one frantic motion, Cosima knocks the candelabra off the table next to them and pushes Delphine onto it so she’s sitting with her back against—Cosima looks up and almost breaks into deranged laughter—a portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Delphine's legs fall open readily and Cosima crowds up between them, wrenching Delphine's head back into another searing kiss. They’re really moving now, wrecking each other’s dresses, Delphine's lip caught between Cosima's teeth, the portrait’s frame rattling against the wall when Delphine's head drops back and bangs into it.

Cosima is at her throat, and she’s somewhere between angry and giddy, caught up in the space between years of sworn hate and something else she’s begun to suspect has always been there. It’s white-hot, and she feels crazy with it, lit up from the inside.

Delphine gives as good as she gets, hooking one knee around the back of Cosima's thigh for leverage, delicate royal sensibilities nowhere in the cut of her teeth.

Cosima has been learning for a while Delphine isn’t what she thought, but it’s something else to feel it this close up, the quiet burn in her, the pent-up person under the perfect veneer who tries and pushes and wants.

She drops a hand onto Delphine's thigh, feeling the electrical pulse there, the smooth fabric over hard muscle. She pushes up, up, and Delphine's hand slams down over hers, digging her nails in. “Time’s up!” comes Helena's voice through a crack in the doors.

They freeze, Cosima falling back onto her heels. They can both hear it now, the sounds of bodies moving too close for comfort, wrapping up the night. Delphine's hips give one tiny push up into her, involuntary, surprised, and Cosima swears.

“I'm going to die,” Delphine says helplessly.

“I'm going to kill you,” Cosima tells her.

“Yes, you are,” Delphine agrees.

Cosima takes an unsteady step backward. “People are gonna be coming in here soon,” Cosima says, reaching down and trying not to fall on her face as she scoops up the candelabra and shoves it back onto the table.

Delphine is standing now, looking wobbly, her pashmina lying on the floor and her hair a mess. Cosima reaches up in a panic and starts patting it back into place. “f*ck, you look—f*ck.” Delphine fumbles with her dress, eyes wide, and starts frantically wiping her dress.

“What are you doing?”

“Dieu, I'm trying to make it”—she gestures inelegantly at the front of her dress, a tiny wet patch where Cosima had pressed her thigh against Delphine's crotch—“go away.”

Cosima very pointedly does not look down.

“Okay, so,” Cosima says. “Yeah. So here’s what we’re gonna do. You are gonna go be, like, five hundred feet away from me for the rest of the night, or else I am going to do something that I will deeply regret in front of a lot of very important people.”

“All right...”

“And then,” Cosima says, and she grabs Delphine's pashmina again, and draws her mouth up to a breath away from Delphine's. She hears Delphine swallow. She wants to follow the sound down her throat. “And then you are going to come to the East Bedroom on the second floor at eleven o’clock tonight, and I am going to do very bad things to you, and if you f*cking ghost me again, I’m going to get you put on a f*cking no-fly list. Got it?”

Delphine bites down on a sound that tries to escape her mouth, and rasps, “Perfectly.”

Cosima is. Well, Cosima is losing her mind. It’s 10:48. She's pacing.

She threw her shawl over the back of the chair as soon as she returned to her room, and she’s got the first two clasps of her dress undone to allow her to breath easier. This is fine. It’s fine. It’s definitely a terrible idea. But it’s fine. She's not sure if she should take anything else off. She’s unsure of the dress code for inviting your sworn enemy - turned - fake - best- friend up to your room to have sex with you, especially when that room is in the White House, and especially when that person is a woman, and especially when that woman is the Princess of France.

The room is dimly lit—a single lamp, in the corner by the couch, washing the deep blues of the walls neutral. She's moved all her campaign files from the bed to the desk and straightened out the bedspread. She looks at the ancient fireplace, the carved details of the mantel almost as old as the country itself, and it may not be the Palace of Versailles, but it looks all right. God, if any ghosts of Founding Fathers are hanging around the White House tonight, they must really be suffering.

She’s trying not to think too hard about what comes next. She may not have experience in practical application, but she’s done research. She has diagrams. She can do this. She really, really wants to do this. That much she’s sure about.

She closes her eyes, grounds herself with her fingertips on the cool surface of her desk, the feathery little edges of papers there. Her mind flashes to Delphine, the smooth lines of her dress, the way her breath brushed Cosima's cheek when she kissed her. Her stomach does some embarrassing acrobatics she plans to never tell anyone about, ever. Delphine, the princess. Delphine, the girl in the garden. Delphine, the girl in her bed. She doesn’t, she reminds herself, even have feelings for the girl. Really.

There’s a knock on the door. Cosima checks her phone: 10:54. She opens the door. Cosima stands there and exhales slowly, eyes on Delphine. She’s not sure she’s ever let herself just look. Delphine is tall and gorgeous, half royalty, half movie star, red wine lingering on her lips. She’s left her pashmina and heels behind.

She looks nervous around the corners of her eyes, but she smiles at Cosima with one side of her pink mouth and says, “Sorry I’m early.”

Cosima bites her lip. “Find your way here okay?”

“There was a very helpful Secret Service agent,” Delphine says. “I think her name was Helena?”

Cosima smiles fully now. “Get in here.”

Delphine's grin takes over her entire face, not her photograph grin, but one that is crinkly and unguarded and infectious.She hooks her fingertips behind Cosima's elbow, and Cosima follows her lead, bare feet nudging between Delphine's. Delphine's breath ghosts over Cosima's lips, their noses brushing, and when she finally connects, she’s smiling into it.

Delphine shuts and locks the door behind them, sliding one hand up the nape of Cosima's neck, cradling it. There’s something different about the way she’s kissing now—it’s measured, deliberate.Soft.

Cosima isn’t sure why, or what to do with it.

She settles for pulling Delphine in by the sway of her waist, pressing their bodies flush.She kisses back, but lets herself be kissed however Delphine wants to kiss her, which right now is exactly how she would have expected Princess Charming to kiss in the first place: sweet and deep and like they’re standing at sunrise in the f*cking moors.

She can practically feel the wind in her hair. It’s ridiculous.

Delphine breaks off and says, “How do you want to do this?”

And Cosima remembers, suddenly, this is not a sunrise-in-the-moors type of situation.

She grabs Delphine by her shoulders, pushes a little, and says, “Get on the couch.”

Delphine's breath hitches and she complies.

Cosima moves to stand over her, looking down at that soft pink mouth. She feels herself standing at a very tall, very dangerous precipice, with no intention of backing away.Delphine looks up at her, expectant, hungry.

“You've been dodging me for weeks,” Cosima says, widening her stance so her knees bracket Delphine's.

She leans down and braces one hand against the back of the couch, the other grazing over the vulnerable dip of Delphine's throat.

“You went out with a boy. You kissed a boy.”

“I'm gay,” Delphine tells her flatly.

One of her palms flattens over Cosima's hip and squeezes, and Cosima inhales sharply, either at the touch or at hearing Delphine finally say it out loud.

“Not something wise to pursue as a member of the royal family. And I wasn’t sure you weren’t going to murder me for kissing you.”

“Then why'd you do it?” Cosima asks her.

She leans into Delphine's neck, dragging her lips over the sensitive skin just behind her ear.She thinks Delphine might be holding her breath.

“Because I—I hoped you wouldn’t. Murder me. I had ... suspicions you might want me too,” Delphine says.

She hisses a little when Cosima bites down lightly on the side of her neck.

“Or I thought. until I saw you with Felix, and then I was... jealous … and I was drunk and an idiot who got sick of waiting for the answer to present itself.”

“You were jealous,” Cosima says.“You want me.”

Delphine moves abruptly, heaving Cosima off balance with both hands and down into her lap, eyes blazing, and she says in a low and deadly voice Cosima has never heard from her before, “Yes, you annoying brat, I’ve wanted you long enough that I won’t have you tease me for another f*cking second.”

Turns out being on the receiving end of Delphine's royal authority is an extreme f*cking turn-on. She thinks, as she’s hauled into a bruising kiss, that she'll never forgive herself for it.

So, like, f*ck the moors.

Delphine gets a grip on Cosima's hips and pulls her close, so Cosima is properly straddling her lap, and she kisses hard now, more like she had in the Red Room, with teeth. It shouldn’t work so perfectly—it makes absolutely no sense—but it does. There’s something about the two of them, the way they ignite at different temperatures, Cosima's frenetic energy and Delphine's aching sureness.

She grinds down into Delphine's lap, grunting as she’s met with Delphine's already smoldering heat under her, and Delphine's curse in response is buried in Cosima's mouth. The kisses turn messy, then, urgent and graceless, and Cosima gets lost in the drag and slide and press of Delphine's lips, the sweet liquor of it. She pushes her hands into Delphine's hair, and it’s as soft as she always imagined when she would trace the photo of Delphine in Sarah's magazine, lush and thick under her fingers.

Delphine melts at the touch, wraps her arms around Cosima's waist and holds her there. Cosima isn’t going anywhere.

She kisses Delphine until it feels like she can’t breathe, until it feels like she’s going to forget both of their names and titles, until they’re only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake. Cosima manages to unfasten the remaining clasps on her dress, before Delphine grabs it and pulls it off over her head and makes quick work of her own. Cosima tries not to be in awe of the simple agility of her hands, tries not to think about classical piano or how swift and smooth years of polo have trained Delphine to be.

“Hang on,” Delphine says, and Cosima is already groaning in protest, but Delphine pulls back and rests her fingertips on Cosima's lips to shush her. “I want—” Her voice starts and stops, and she’s looking like she’s resolving not to cringe at herself again. She gathers herself, stroking a finger up to Cosima's cheek before exhaling defiantly. “I want you on the bed.”

Cosima goes fully silent and still, looking into Delphine's eyes and the question there: Are you going to stop this now that it’s real?

“Well, come on, Your Highness,” Cosima says, shifting her weight to give Delphine a last tease before she stands.

“You're a bitch,” Delphine says, but she follows, smiling.

Cosima climbs onto the bed, sliding back to prop herself up on her elbows by the pillows, watching as Delphine regains her bearings. She looks transformed in the lamplight, like a goddess of debauchery, painted gold with her hair all mussed up and her eyes heavy-lidded. Cosima lets herself stare. The spot right at the dip of her waist below her ribs looks impossibly soft, and Cosima might die if she can’t fit her hand into that little curve in the next five seconds.

In an instant of sudden, vivid clarity, she can’t believe she ever thought she was straight.

“Quit stalling,” Cosima pleads.

“Bossy,” Delepine says, and she complies.

Delphine's body settles over her with a warm, steady weight, one of her thighs sliding between Cosima's legs and her hands bracing on the pillows, and Cosima feels the points of contact like a static shock at her shoulders, her hips, the center of her chest.

One of Delphine's hands slides up her stomach and stops, having encountered the old silver key on the chain resting over her sternum. “What’s this?”

Cosima huffs impatiently. “The key to my parent's house in Austin,” she says, winding a hand back into Delphine's hair. “I started wearing it when I moved here. I guess I thought it would remind me of where I came from or something—did I or did I not tell you to quit stalling?”

Delphine looks up into her eyes, speechless, and Cosima tugs her down into another all-consuming kiss, and Delphine bears down on her fully, pressing her into the bed. Cosima's other hand finds that dip of Delphine's waist, and she swallows a sound at how devastating it feels under her palm.

She’s never been kissed like this, as if the feeling could swallow her up whole, Delphine's body grinding down and covering every inch of hers. She moves her mouth from Delphine's to the side of her neck, the spot below her ear, kisses and kisses it, and bares her teeth. Cosima knows it'll probably leave a mark, which is against rule number one of clandestine hookups for political offspring—and probably royals too. She doesn’t care.

She feels Delphine find the waistband of her underwear, and then everything goes very hazy, very quickly. She opens her eyes to see Delphine bringing her hand demurely up to her elegant royal mouth to lick her fingers. And then slowly position them at Cosima's entrance.

“Oh my f*cking God,” Cosima moans as Delphine slides inside her, and Delphine grins crookedly as she gets back to work.

“f*ck.” Cosima's body is moving, her mouth spilling words. “I can’t believe—God, you are the most insufferable goddamn bitch on the face of the planet, do you know that—f*ck—you’re infuriating, you’re the worst—you're—”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Delphine says. “Such a mouth on you.”

And when Cosima looks again, she finds Delphine watching her raptly, eyes bright and smiling. She keeps eye contact and her rhythm at the same time, and Cosima was wrong before, Delphine's going to be the one to kill her, not the other way around.

“Wait,” Cosima says, clenching her fist in the bedspread, and Delphine immediately stills. “I mean, yes, obviously, oh my God, but like, if you keep doing that ’m gonna”—Cosima breath catches—“it’s, just that— that’s not allowed before I get to see you naked.”

Delphine tilts her head and smirks. “All right.”

Cosima flips them over, ripping off her own bra and panties. She climbs up the length of Delphine's body, watching her face grow anxious, eager. “Hi,” she says, when she reaches Delphine's eye level.

“Hello,” Delphine says back.

“I'm gonna take your underwear off now,” Cosima tells her.

“Yes, good, carry on.”

Cosima does, and one of Delphine's hands slides down, leveraging one of Cosima's thighs up so their bodies meet again right at the hard crux between them, and they both groan. Cosima thinks, dizzily, that it’s been nearly five years of foreplay, and enough is enough. She moves her lips down to Delphine's chest, playing special attention to her puckered nipples, and she feels under her mouth the beat Delphine's heart skips at the realization of what Cosima intends. Her own heartbeat is probably falling out of rhythm too. She's in so far over her head, but that’s good—that’s pretty much her comfort zone.

She kisses Delphine's rib cage, her stomach, the stretch of skin above where her waistband typically lies. “I've, uh,” Cosima begins. “I’ve never actually done this before.”

“Cosima,” Delphine says, reaching down to stroke at her hair, “you don’t have to, m—”

“No, I want to,” Cosima says, kissing Delphine's palm, “I just need you to tell me if it’s awful.”

Delphine is speechless again, shaking her head in disbelief. “Okay. Of course.”

Cosima pictures Delphine barefoot in the Palace kitchen and the little sliver of vulnerability she got to see so early on, and she thrills at Delphine now, in her bed, spread out and naked and wanting. This can’t be really happening after everything, but miraculously, it is. If she’s going by the way Delphine's body responds, by the way Delphine's hand sweeps up into her hair and clutches onto a fistful of dreadlocks, she guesses she does okay for a first try.

She looks up the length of Delphine's body and is met with burning eye contact, a red lip caught between white teeth. Delphine drops her head back on the pillow and groans. She's maybe a little bit in awe of how Delphine arches up off the mattress, at hearing her sweet, posh accent reciting a litany of profanities up to the ceiling. Cosima is living for it, watching Delphine come undone, letting her be whatever she needs to be while alone with Cosima behind a locked door.

She's surprised to find herself hauled up to Delphine's mouth and kissed hungrily. She’s been with guys who didn’t like to be kissed afterward, but Delphine revels in it, based on the deep and comprehensive way she’s kissing her. It occurs to her to make a comment about narcissism, but instead—

“Not awful?” Cosima says between kisses, resting her head on the pillow next to Delphine's to catch her breath.

“Definitely not,” Delphine answers, grinning, and she scoops Cosima up against her chest greedily as if she’s trying to touch all of her at once. Delphine's hands are comforting on her back, her shoulders soft, so soft Cosima moans when she rolls them over and pins Delphine to the mattress.

None of it feels anything like anything she’s felt before, but it’s just as good, maybe better.

Delphine's kissing her aggressively once more, confident in a way that’s rare from Delphine. Messy earnestness and rough focus, not a dutiful princess but any other twenty-something girl enjoying herself doing something she likes, something she’s good at. And she is good at it.

Delphine returns the favor happily, hungrily, and Cosima doesn’t know or care what sounds or words come out of her mouth. She thinks one of them is “baby” and another is “motherf*cker” and some of it might not be in English.

When she’s done, she presses a sticky kiss in the crease of Cosima's leg where she’d slung it over her shoulder, managing to come off polite, and Cosima wants to drag Delphine up by the hair, but her body is boneless and wrecked. She’s blissed out, dead. Ascended to the next plane, merely a pair of eyes floating through a dopamine haze.

The mattress shifts, and Delphine moves up to the pillows, nuzzling her face into the hollow of Cosima's throat. Cosima makes a vague noise of approval, and her arms fumble around Delphine's waist, but she’s helpless to do much else. She’s sure she used to know quite a lot of words, in more than one language, in fact, but she can’t seem to recall any of them. “Hmm,” Delphine hums, the tip of his nose catching on Cosima's.

“If I had known this was all it took to shut you up, I'd have done it ages ago.”

With a feat of Herculean strength, she summons up two whole words: “f*ck you.”

Distantly, through a slowly clearing fog, through a messy kiss, Cosima can’t help but marvel at the knowledge that she’s crossed some kind of Rubicon, here in this room that’s almost as old as the country it’s in, like Washington crossing the Delaware. She laughs into Delphine's mouth, instantly caught up in her own dramatic mental portrait of the two them painted in oils, young icons of their nations, naked and shining wet in the lamplight. She wishes Delphine could see it, wonders if she’d find the image as funny.

Delphine rolls over onto her back. Cosima's body wants to follow and tuck into her side, but she stays where she is, watching from a few safe inches away.

She can see a muscle in Delphine's jaw flexing. “Hey,” she says. She pokes Delphine in the arm. “Don’t freak out.”

“I'm not freaking out,” she says, enunciating the words.

Cosima wriggles an inch closer in the sheets. “It was fun,” Cosima says. “I had fun. You had fun, right?”

“Definitely,” she says, in a tone that sends a lazy spark up Cosima's spine.

“Okay, cool. So, we can do this again, anytime you want,” Cosima says, dragging the back of her knuckles down Delphine's shoulder. “And you know this doesn’t like, change anything between us, right? We're still ... whatever we were before, just, you know. With cunniling*s.”

Delphine covers her eyes with one hand. “Right.”

“So,” Cosima says, changing tracks by stretching languidly, “I guess I should tell you, I’m bisexual.”

“Good to know,” Delphine says. Her eyes flicker down to Cosima's hip, where it’s bared above the sheet, and she says as much to Cosima as to herself, “I am very, very gay.”

Cosima watches her small smile, the way it wrinkles the corners of her eyes, and very deliberately does not kiss it. Part of her brain keeps getting stuck on how strange, and strangely wonderful, it is to see Delphine like this, open and bare in every way.

She leans across the pillow to Delphine and presses a soft kiss to her mouth, and Cosima feels fingertips brush over her jaw. The touch is so gentle she has to once again remind herself not to care too much.

“Hey,” Cosima tells her, sliding her mouth closer to Delphine's ear, “you’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but I should warn you it’s probably in both of our best interests if you go back to your room before morning. Unless you want the PPOs to lock the Residence down and come requisition you from my boudoir.”

“Ah,” Delphine says. She pulls away from Cosima and rolls back over, looking up to the ceiling again like a woman seeking penance from a wrathful god. “You're right.”

“You can stay for another round, if you want to,” Cosima offers.

Delphine coughs, scrubs a hand through her hair. “I rather think d—I’d better get back to my room.”

Cosima watches her fish her underwear from the foot of the bed and start pulling them back on, sitting up and shaking out her shoulders. It’s for the best this way, she tells herself; nobody will get any wrong ideas about what exactly this arrangement is. They’re not going to spoon all night or wake up in each other’s arms or eat breakfast together. Mutually satisfying sexual experiences do not a relationship make. Even if she did want that, there are a million reasons why this will never, ever be possible.

Cosima follows her to the door, watching her turn to hover there awkwardly. “Well, er...” Delphine attempts, looking down at her feet.

Cosima rolls her eyes. “For f*ck’s sake, Delphine, you just had my puss* in your mouth, you can kiss me goodnight.”

Delphine looks back up at her, her mouth open and incredulous, and she throws her head back and laughs, and it’s only her, the nerdy, neurotic, sweet, insomniac rich girl who constantly sends Cosima photos of her dog, and something slots into place.

She leans down and kisses her fiercely, and then she’s grinning and gone.

“You're doing what?” It’s sooner than either of them expected—only two weeks since the state dinner, two weeks of wanting Delphine back under her as soon as possible and saying everything short of that in their texts. Sarah keeps looking at her like she’s going to throw her phone in the Potomac.

“An invitation-only charity polo match this weekend,” Delphine says over the phone. “It’s in ...” She pauses, probably referring back to whatever itinerary Donnie has given her “Greenwich, Connecticut? It’s $10,000 a seat, but I can have you added to the list.”

Cosima almost fumbles her coffee all over the south entryway. Helena glares at her. “Jesus f*ck. That is obscene, what are you raising money for, monocles for babies?” She covers the mouthpiece of the phone with her hand.

“Where’s Alison? I need to clear my schedule for this weekend.” She uncovers the phone. “Look, I guess I'll try to make it, but I’m really busy right now.”

“I'm sorry, Alison said you're bailing on the fundraiser this weekend because you're going to a polo match in Connecticut?” Sarah asks from her bedroom doorway that night, almost startling another cup of coffee out of her hands.

“Listen,” Cosima tells her, “I’m trying to keep up a geopolitical public relations ruse here.”

“Dude, don't lie to—”

“The crown wants me to be there!” she lies quickly.

Sarah seems unconvinced and leaves her with a parting look she’d probably be concerned about if she cared more about things that aren’t Delphine's mouth right now.

Which is how she ends up in her J. Crew best on a Saturday at the Greenwich Polo Club, wondering what the hell she’s gotten herself into.The woman in front of her is wearing a hat with an entire taxidermied pigeon on it. High school lacrosse did not prepare her for this kind of sporting event.

Delphine on horseback is nothing new. Delphine in full polo gear—the helmet, the polo sleeves capped right at the bulge of her biceps, the snug white pants tucked into tall leather boots, the intricately buckled leather knee padding, the leather gloves—is familiar. She has seen it before. Categorically, it should be boring. It should not provoke anything visceral, carnal, or bodice-ripping in nature in her at all. But Delphine urging her horse across the field with the power of her thighs, her ass bouncing hard in the saddle, the way the muscles in her arms stretch and flex when she swings, looking the way she does and wearing the things she’s wearing—it’s a lot. Cosima is sweating. It’s February in Connecticut, and Cosima is sweating under her coat.

Worst of all, Delphine is good. Cosima doesn’t pretend to care about the rules of the game, but her primary turn-on has always been competence. It’s too easy to look at Delphine's boots digging into the stirrups for leverage and conjure up a memory of bare calves underneath, bare feet planted just as firmly on the mattress. Delphine's thighs open the same way, but with Cosima between them. Sweat dripping down Delphine's brow onto her throat. Just, uh... well, just like that. She wants—God, after all the months ignoring it, she wants it again, now, right now.

The match ends after a circle-of-hell amount of time, and Cosima feels like she'll pass out or scream if she doesn’t get her hands on Delphine soon, like the only thought possible in the universe is Delphine's body and Delphine's flushed face and every other molecule in existence is just an inconvenience.

“I don’t like that look,” Helena says when they reach the bottom of the stands, peering into her eyes. “You look .. sweaty.”

“I'm gonna go, uh,” Cosima says. “Say hi to Delphine.”

Helena's mouth settles into a grim line. “Please don’t elaborate.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cosima says. “Plausible deniability.”

“I don’t know what you could possibly mean.”

“Sure.”She rakes a hand through her hair. “Yep.”

“Enjoy your summit with the French delegation,” she tells her flatly, and Cosima sends up a vague prayer of thanks for staff NDAs.

She legs it toward the stables, limbs already buzzing with the steady knowledge of Delphine's body getting incrementally closer to hers. Long, lean legs, grass stains on pristine, tight pants, why does this sport have to be so completely repulsive while Delphine looks so damn good doing it— “Oh sh*t—” She barely stops herself from running headfirst into Delphine in the flesh, who has rounded the corner of the stables.

“Oh, hello.” They stand there staring at each other, fifteen days removed from Delphine swearing at the ceiling of Cosima's bedroom and unsure how to proceed. Delphine is still in her full polo regalia, gloves and all, and Cosima can’t decide if she is pleased or wants to thrash her with a polo stick. Polo bat? Polo club? Polo... mallet? This sport is a travesty.

Delphine breaks the silence by adding, “I was coming to find you, actually.”

“Yeah, hi, here I am.”

“Here you are.” Cosima glances over her shoulder. “There’s, uh. Cameras. Three o’clock.”

“Right,” Delphine says, straightening her shoulders. Her hair is messy and slightly damp, color still high in his cheeks from exertion. She's going to look like goddamn Apollo in the photos when they go to press. Cosima smiles, knowing they'll sell.

“Hey, isn’t there, uh, a thing?” Cosima says. “You needed to. Uh. Show me?”

Delphine looks at her, glances at the dozens of millionaires and socialites milling around, and back at her. “Now?”

“It was a four-and-a-half-hour car ride up here, and I have to go back to DC in an hour, so I don’t know when else you're expecting to show it to me.”

Delphine takes a beat, her eyes flickering to the cameras again before she switches on a stage smile and a laugh, cuffing Cosima on the shoulder. “Ah, yes. Right. This way.” She turns on her boot heel and leads the way around the back of the stables, veering right into a doorway, and Cosima follows.

It’s a small, windowless room attached to the stables, fragrant with leather polish and stained wood from floor to ceiling, the walls lined with heavy saddles, riding crops, bridles, and reins. “What in the rich - people- sex- dungeon hell?” Cosima wonders aloud as Delphine crosses behind her.

She whips a thick leather strap off a hook on the wall, and Cosima almost blacks out.

“What?” Delphine says offhandedly, bypassing her to bind the doors shut. She turns around, sweet-faced and unbelievable. “It’s called a tack room.”

Cosima drops her coat and takes three swift steps toward her. “I don’t actually care,” she says, and grabs Delphine by the stupid collar of her stupid polo and kisses her stupid mouth.

It’s a good kiss, solid and hot, and Cosima can’t decide where to put her hands because she wants to put them everywhere at once. “Ugh,” she groans in exasperation, shoving Delphine backward by the shoulders and looking her up and down. “You look insane.”

“Should I—” She steps back and puts a foot up on a nearby bench, moving to undo her kneepads.

“What? No, of course not, keep them on,” Cosima says. Delphine freezes, standing there all artistically posed with her thighs apart and one knee up, the fabric straining.

“Oh my God, what are you doing? I can’t even look at you.”

Delphine frowns.

“No, Jesus, I just meant—why did you have to be wearing that.

Delphine gingerly puts her boot back on the floor.

Cosima wants to die. “Just, come here. f*ck.”

“I’m quite confused.”

“Me too,” Cosima says, profoundly suffering for something she must have done in a previous life. “Listen, I don’t know why, but this whole thing”—she gestures at Delphine's entire physical presence—“is ... really doing it for me, so, I just need to-”

Without any further ceremony, she drops to her knees and starts undoing Delphine's belt, tugging at the fastenings of her pants.

“Oh, God,” Delphine says.

“Yeah,” Cosima agrees, and she gets Delphine's underwear down.

“Oh, God,” Delphine repeats, this time with feeling.

It’s all still so new to Cosima, but it’s not difficult to follow through on what’s been playing out in elaborate detail in her head for the past hour.

When she looks up, Delphine's face is flushed and transfixed, her lips parted. It almost hurts to look at her—the athlete’s focus, all the dressings of aristocracy laid wide open for her. She's watching Cosima, eyes blown dark and hazy, and Cosima is watching her right back, every nerve in both bodies narrowed down to a single point.

It’s fast and dirty and Delphine is swearing up a storm, which is still disarmingly sexy, but this time it’s punctuated by the occasional word of praise, and somehow that’s even hotter. Cosima isn’t prepared for the way “that’s good” sounds in Delphine's rounded French vowels, or for how luxury leather feels when it strokes approvingly down her cheek, a gloved thumb brushing the corner of her mouth.

As soon as Delphine's finished, she’s got Cosima on the bench and is putting her kneepads to use. “I’m still f*cking mad at you,” Cosima says, destroyed, slumped forward with her forehead resting on Delphine's shoulder.

“Of course you are,” Delphine says vaguely.

Cosima completely undermines her point by pulling Delphine into a deep and lingering kiss, and another, and they kiss for an amount of time she decides not to count or think about. They sneak out quietly, and Delphine touches Cosima's shoulder at the gate near where her SUV waits, presses her palm into the wool of her coat and the knot of muscle. “I don’t suppose you'll be anywhere near Paris anytime soon?”

“That sh*thole?” she says with a wink. “Not if I can help it.”

“Merde,” Delphine says. She’s grinning now. “That’s disrespect of the crown, that is. Insubordination. I’ve thrown men in the dungeons for less.”

Cosima turns, walking backward toward the car, hands in the air. “Hey, don’t threaten me with a good time.”

𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟯/𝟯/𝟮𝟬 𝟳:𝟯𝟮 𝗣𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗


𝙷𝚎𝚛 𝚁𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝙷𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛,

𝙳𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚝𝚒𝚝𝚕𝚎.

𝙰𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚛 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚟𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚍?

𝚈𝚘𝚞'𝚛𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚟𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛,


𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟭𝟰 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖


𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝙵𝚘𝚛𝚖𝚎𝚛 𝙲𝚘𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚢,

𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚘𝚝𝚌𝚑 𝚖𝚢 𝚝𝚒𝚝𝚕𝚎. 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚊 𝚛𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚌𝚞𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚕é𝚜𝚎-𝚖𝚊𝚓𝚎𝚜𝚝é. 𝙵𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚞𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚛.

𝚂𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚕𝚢, 𝚗𝚘, 𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚋𝚎 𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚛; 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚟𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝚎𝚗𝚐𝚊𝚐𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚌𝚕𝚘𝚊𝚔𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖.


𝙷𝚎𝚛 𝚁𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝙷𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝙵𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎

𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟮𝟳 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗


𝙷𝚞𝚐𝚎 𝚁𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙷𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚆𝚑𝚘 𝙲𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚜,

𝙸𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚖𝚊𝚣𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚜𝚒𝚝 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚎𝚖𝚊𝚒𝚕𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚐𝚒𝚐𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝚛𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝚞𝚙 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚜𝚜. 𝙸 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚖 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚎𝚗𝚓𝚘𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 “𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚘𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚍.”

𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚢. 𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐?

𝚈𝚘𝚞'𝚛𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚟𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚜𝚎𝚡𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚝,

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟯𝟮 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖

𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊, 𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚂𝚑𝚒𝚛𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚁𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚎𝚜,

𝙰 𝚛𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚊𝚜 𝚊 “𝚜𝚌𝚎𝚙𝚝𝚎𝚛.”

𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚊 𝚜𝚞𝚖𝚖𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝙶𝚎𝚛𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚌𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚒𝚏 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚘𝚠𝚎𝚛. 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚕𝚢, 𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚋𝚢 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚎𝚗 𝚒𝚗 𝚕𝚎𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚙𝚑𝚘𝚝𝚘𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚜.𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚑𝚢 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚎𝚛𝚐𝚢, 𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚕𝚢—𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚝 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚝𝚘. 𝙰𝚗 𝚞𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚛𝚘𝚖𝚙.

𝚁𝚎: 𝚏𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚛 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚜, 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐?


𝙷𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚍 𝚁𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝙷𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜

𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟯𝟰 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗


𝙷𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚁𝚎𝚟𝚘𝚕𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙷𝚎𝚒𝚛,

𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚕𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚚𝚞𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚜 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝. 𝚂𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜. 𝙽𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚝𝚘𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚎.

𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚀𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝙻𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝙽𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝙴𝚖𝚊𝚒𝚕𝚜,


𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟯𝟳 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖


𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊, 𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝙸𝚗𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚃𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝙴𝚖𝚊𝚒𝚕𝚜 𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸’𝚖 𝚒𝚗 𝙴𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝙼𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙼𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜,

𝙰𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚛𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚑 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎?


𝙶𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝚁𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝙷𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚌

𝗖 <𝗖𝗡𝗦@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟰𝟭 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗


𝙷𝚎𝚛 𝚁𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝙷𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜,

𝙸𝚏 𝙸 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚑 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚝.

𝙵𝚘𝚛 𝚎𝚡𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚎: 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚗 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙸’𝚍 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚗 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚙𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚞𝚜𝚎.

𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚜𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚘 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝙵𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚑 𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚜. 𝙽𝚘𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚊 𝚘𝚏 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚎.

𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝙲𝚑𝚎𝚎𝚜𝚎 𝚂𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙲𝚞𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚜,


𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟯/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟰𝟯 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖


𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊, 𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝙼𝚊𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙼𝚎 𝚂𝚙𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝙼𝚢 𝚃𝚎𝚊 𝚒𝚗 𝚂𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝙴𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝙼𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙼𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐,

𝙷𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝚆𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝙶𝚎𝚛𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚢. 𝚡

Chapter 8

Chapter Text

Sarah's words echo in Cosima's mind as she moves through the remainder of the summer, balancing work, family, and her increasingly complicated relationship with Delphine. She’s made peace with her path but remains restless, always feeling like there’s something more she should be doing.

It’s an August afternoon when she gets a text from Delphine that changes everything.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙵𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚊 𝚏𝚎𝚠 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜. 𝚆𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛. 𝙱𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚝𝚘𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚘𝚠 𝚊𝚝 𝟼 𝚙𝚖.

Cosima’s heart leaps. She knows better than to ask too many questions over text. Delphine always has a plan, and she trusts her to make it work. She texts back a thumbs-up emoji and spends the next day trying to focus on work and failing miserably.

The clock hits 5:30, and Cosima bolts from her desk, racing home to change. By 5:50, she’s in a casual blazer and jeans, the least conspicuous outfit she owns. At 6 pm sharp, a black SUV with tinted windows pulls up in front of the Residence.

Cosima hops in, finding Felix already inside, grinning at her. "Ready for a surprise adventure?" he asks.

"As ready as I'll ever be," Cosima replies, excitement bubbling in her chest.

The SUV weaves through the city streets, heading toward an unknown destination. Felix chatters away, keeping the mood light and distracting Cosima from her nervous anticipation. Finally, the car pulls up to a private airstrip where a sleek jet waits on the tarmac.

Felix nudges her. "Your chariot awaits."

Cosima steps out of the SUV, her heart pounding as she approaches the jet. Delphine stands at the top of the stairs, waving. She looks effortlessly elegant, as always, in a simple dress and a radiant smile that makes Cosima’s breath catch.

“Hey,” Delphine says softly as Cosima reaches the top of the stairs.

“Hey,” Cosima replies, unable to keep the grin off her face. She steps into the jet, and Delphine follows, closing the door behind them.

Once inside, Cosima takes in the luxurious interior. “What’s the plan?”

Delphine takes Cosima’s hand and leads her to a plush seat. “We’re going to London. I have a few days free, and I thought we could spend them together without any interruptions.”

Cosima’s eyes widen. “London? You really know how to plan a surprise.”

Delphine laughs softly. “I aim to please.”

The flight is smooth, and they spend it wrapped up in each other, talking, laughing, and stealing kisses. By the time they land, the city is bathed in the golden glow of early evening.

They step out into the cool London air, and a car takes them to a charming boutique hotel in Westminster. Delphine checks them in under assumed names, and they make their way to a cozy suite overlooking the city streets.

“I can’t believe we’re really here,” Cosima says as she looks out at the view.

Delphine comes up behind her, wrapping her arms around Cosima’s waist. “Believe it. We have three whole days to ourselves.”

They spend the next few days exploring the city, visiting museums, strolling along the Thames, and indulging in British cuisine. They laugh and talk, rediscovering each other in the city of possibilities.

One evening, they find themselves near Covent Garden, surrounded by tourists eating fish and chips. Delphine wears a sharp blue blazer and a wicked smile, and Cosima feels her heart swell with affection and desire. They stumble back to their hotel after two bottles of wine, and Delphine sinks to her knees on the white marble and looks up at Cosima with big, green, bottomless eyes, and Cosima doesn’t know a word in any language to describe it.

She’s so drunk, and Delphine’s mouth is so soft, and it’s all so perfectly French that she forgets to send Delphine back to her own hotel. She forgets they don’t spend the night. So, they do.

Cosima discovers that Delphine sleeps curled up on her side, her spine poking out in little sharp points that are actually soft if you reach out and touch them, very carefully so as not to wake her because she’s actually sleeping for once. In the morning, room service brings up crusty baguettes and sticky tarts filled with fat apricots and a copy of The Times that Cosima makes Delphine translate out loud.

She vaguely remembers telling herself they weren’t going to do things like this. It’s all a little hazy right now.

When Delphine’s gone, Cosima finds the stationery by the bed:

State of Affairs - Delphines_puppy (1)

Leaving your clandestine hookup directions to a London cheese shop. Cosima has to admit: Delphine really has a solid handle on her personal brand.

Later, Felix texts her a screencap of a BuzzFeed article about her “best friendship ever” with Delphine. It’s a mix of photos: the state dinner, a couple of shots of them grinning outside the stables in Greenwich, one picked up from a British girl’s Twitter of Cosima leaning back in her chair at a tiny cafe table while Delphine finishes off the bottle of red between them.

Beneath it, Felix has begrudgingly written: 𝙶𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚔, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚝.

She guesses this is how they’re going to do this—the world is going to keep thinking they’re best friends, and they’re going to keep playing the part.

She knows, objectively, she should pace herself. It’s only physical. But Perfect Stoic Princess Charming laughs when she comes and texts Cosima at weird hours of the night:

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚖𝚊𝚍, 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚏𝚞𝚕, 𝚞𝚗𝚖𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚐𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚍𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚗, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚔.

And Cosima is kind of obsessed with it.

Cosima decides not to think too hard. Normally they’d only cross paths a few times a year; it takes creative schedule wrangling and a little sweet-talking of their respective teams to see each other as often as their bodies demand. At least they’ve got a ruse of international public relations.

Their birthdays, it turns out, are less than three weeks apart, which means, for most of March, Delphine is twenty-three and Cosima is twenty-one. (“I knew she was a goddamn Pisces,” Sarah says). Cosima happens to have a voter registration drive at NYU at the end of March, and when she texts Delphine about it, she gets a brisk response fifteen minutes later:

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙷𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚍𝚞𝚕𝚎𝚍 𝚟𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝙽𝚎𝚠 𝚈𝚘𝚛𝚔 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚗𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚏𝚒𝚝 𝚋𝚞𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚍. 𝚆𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚢 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚋𝚒𝚛𝚝𝚑𝚍𝚊𝚢 𝚜𝚙𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜𝚎𝚝 𝚊𝚕.

The photographers are readily visible when they meet in front of the Met, so they clasp each other’s hands and Cosima says through her big on-camera smile, “I want you alone, now.”

They’re more careful in the States, and they go up to the hotel room one at a time—Delphine through the back flanked by two tall PPOs, and later, Cosima with Vic, who grins and knows and says nothing.

There’s a lot of champagne and kissing and buttercream from a birthday cupcake Delphine’s inexplicably procured smeared around Cosima’s mouth, Delphine’s chest, Cosima’s throat, between Delphine’s hips. Delphine pins her wrists to the mattress and swallows her down, and Cosima is drunk and f*cking transported, feeling every moment of twenty-two years and not a single day older, some kind of hedonistic youth of history. Birthday head from another country’s princess will do that.

It’s the last time they see each other for weeks, and after a lot of teasing and maybe some begging, she convinces Delphine to download Snapchat. Delphine mostly sends tame, fully-clothed thirst traps that make Cosima sweat in her lectures: a mirror shot, mud-stained white polo pants, a sharp suit. On a Saturday, the C-SPAN stream on her phone gets interrupted by Delphine on a sailboat, smiling into the camera with the sun bright on her bare shoulders, and Cosima’s heart goes so f*cking weird that she has to put her head in her hands for a full minute.

(But, like. It’s fine. It’s not a whole thing.)

Between it all, they talk about Cosima’s campaign job, Delphine’s nonprofit projects, both of their appearances. They talk about how Art is now proclaiming himself fully in love with Sarah and spends half his time with Delphine rhapsodizing about her or begging her to ask Cosima if she likes flowers (yes) or exotic birds (to look at, not to own) or jewelry in the shape of her own face (no).

There are a lot of days when Delphine is happy to hear from her and quick to respond, a fast, cutting sense of humor, hungry for Cosima’s company and the tangle of thoughts in Cosima’s head. But sometimes, she’s taken over by a dark mood, an unusually acerbic wit, strange and vitrified. She'll withdraw for hours or days, and Cosima comes to understand this as grief time, little bouts of depression, or times of “too much.” Delphine hates those days completely. Cosima wishes she could help, but she doesn’t particularly mind. She’s just as attracted to Delphine’s cloudy tempers, the way she comes back from them, and the millions of shades in between.

She’s also learned that Delphine’s placid demeanor is shattered with the right poking. She likes to bring up things she knows will get Delphine going, including:

“Listen,” Delphine is saying, heated, over the phone on a Thursday night. “I don’t give a damn what Joanne has to say, Remus John Lupin is gay as the day is long, and I won’t hear a word against it.”

“Okay,” Cosima says. “For the record, I agree with you, but also, tell me more.”

She launches into a long-winded tirade, and Cosima listens, amused and a little awed, as Delphine works her way to her point: “I just think, as the princess of this country, that when it comes to France's positive cultural landmarks, it would be nice if we could not throw our own marginalized people under the proverbial bus.”


t’s another thing Delphine does—whipping out these analyses of what she reads or watches or listens to that confronts Cosima with the fact that she has both a degree in English literature and a vested interest in the gay history of her family’s country. Cosima has always known her gay American history—after all, her parents’ politics have been part of it—but it wasn’t until she figured herself out that she started to engage with it like Delphine.

She’s starting to understand what swelled in her chest the first time she read about Stonewall, why she ached over the SCOTUS decision in 2015. She starts reading voraciously in her spare time: Walt Whitman, the Laws of Illinois 1961, The White Night Riot, Paris is Burning. She’s pinned a photo over her desk at work, a man at a rally in the ’80s in a jacket that says across the back: IF I DIE OF AIDS—FORGET BURIAL—JUST DROP MY BODY ON THE STEPS OF THE F.D.A.

Sarah’s eyes stick on it one day when she drops by the office to have lunch with her, giving her the same strange look she gave her over coffee the morning after Delphine snuck into her room. But she doesn’t say anything, carries on through sushi about her latest project, pulling all her journals together into a memoir. Cosima wonders if any of this stuff would make it into there. Maybe, if she tells her soon. She should tell her soon.

It’s weird the thing with Delphine could make her understand this huge part of herself, but it does. When she sinks into thoughts of Delphine’s hands, square knuckles and elegant fingers, she wonders how she never realized it before. When she sees Delphine next at a gala in Berlin, and she feels that gravitational pull, chases it down in the back of a limo, and binds Delphine’s wrists to a hotel bedpost with her own bra, she knows herself better.

When she shows up for a weekly briefing two days later, Alison grabs her jaw with one hand and turns her head, peering closer at the side of her neck. “Is that a hickey?”

Cosima freezes. “I... um, no?”

“Do I look stupid to you, Cosima?” Alison says. “Who is giving you hickeys, and why have you not gotten them to sign an NDA?”

“Oh my God,” she says, because really, the last person Alison needs to be concerned about leaking sordid details is Delphine. “If I needed an NDA, you would know. Chill.”

Alison does not appreciate being told to chill.

“Look at me,” she says. “I have known you since you were still leaving skid marks in your drawers. You think I don’t know when you're lying to me?” She jabs a pointy, polished nail into her chest. “However you got that, it better be somebody off the approved list of guys you are allowed to be seen with during the election cycle, which I will email to you again as soon as you get out of my sight in case you have misplaced it.”

“Jesus, okay.”

“And to remind you,” she goes on, “I will chop my own tit off before I let you pull some idiotic stunt to cause your mother, our first female president, to be the first president to lose reelection since H f*cking W. Do you understand me? I will lock you in your room for the next year if I have to, and you can take your finals by f*cking smoke signal.”

She returns to her notes with smooth professionalism, as if she has not just threatened her life. Behind her, she can see Sarah at her place at the table, very clearly aware that she’s lying too.

“Do you have a last name?”

Cosima has never actually offered a greeting when calling Delphine.

“What?” The usual bemused, elongated, one-syllable response.

“A last name,” Cosima repeats. It’s late afternoon and stormy outside the Residence, and she’s on her back in the middle of the Solarium, catching up on drafts for work. “That thing I have two of. Do you use your dad’s? Delphine Cormier? That sounds f*cking dope. Or does royalty outrank? Do you use your mom’s name, then?”

She hears some shuffling over the phone and wonders if Delphine’s in bed. They haven’t been able to see each other in a couple weeks, so her mind is quick to supply the image.

“The official family name is Beraud-Cormier, but we also take the Crown's name. It's complicated,” Delphine says. “Hyphenate, like yours. So my full name is... Delphine AmélieAdalene Beraud-Cormier-Versailles. Or Delphine VersaillesIII for short. ”

Cosima gapes up at the ceiling. “Oh... my God.”


“I thought Cosima Juliet Niehaus-Sadler was bad.”

“Is that after someone?”

“Cosima after the pioneering scientist, Juliet after the literary heroine.”

“That’s a bit on the nose.”

“Yeah, I didn’t have a choice,” Cosima laughs and kicks her files for the campaign away. She’s not coming back to them tonight. “Three last names is just mean.”

Delphine sighs. “In school, Marcus and I just went by Versailles.”

“Don't forget the third. Delphine Versailles III. That’s not too bad.”

“No, it’s not. Is this the reason you phoned?”

“Maybe,” Cosima says. “Call it historical curiosity.” Except the truth is closer to the slight drag in Delphine’s voice and the half step of hesitation before she speaks that’s been there all week. “Speaking of historical curiosity, here’s a fun fact: I’m sitting in the room Nancy Reagan was in when she found out Ronald Reagan got shot.”

“Good Lord.”

“And it’s also where ol’ Tricky Dick told his family he was gonna resign.”

“I’m sorry—who or what is a Tricky Dick?”

“Nixon! Listen, you're undoing everything this country’s crusty forefathers fought for and deflowering the darling of the republic. You at least need to know basic American history.”

“I hardly think deflowering is the word,” Delphine deadpans. “These arrangements are supposed to be with virgin brides, you know. That certainly didn’t seem to be the case.”

“Uh-huh, and I’m sure you picked up all those skills from books.”

“Well, I did go to uni. It just wasn’t necessarily the reading that did it.”

Cosima hums in suggestive agreement and lets the rhythm of banter fall out. She looks across the room—the windows that were once only gauzy curtains on a sleeping room for Taft’s family on hot nights, the corner now stacked with her fathers old comic book collectibles where Eisenhower used to play cards. The stuff underneath the surface. Cosima has always sought those things out.

“Hey,” she says. “You sound weird. You okay?”

Delphine’s breath catches and she clears her throat. “I’m fine.”

Cosima doesn’t say anything, letting the silence stretch in a thin thread between them before she cuts it. “You know, this whole arrangement we have ... you can tell me stuff. I tell you stuff all the time. Politics stuff and school stuff and nutso family stuff. I know I’m like, not the paragon of normal human communication, but. You know.”

Another pause.

“I’m not... historically great at talking about things,” Delphine says.

“Well, I wasn’t historically great at cunniling*s, but we all gotta learn and grow.”


“Hey,” Cosima huffs. “Are you trying to say I’m still not good at it?”

“No, no, I wouldn’t dream of it,” Delphine says, and Cosima can hear the small smile in her voice. “It was just the first time that was... Well. It was enthusiastic, at least.”

“I don’t remember you complaining.”

“Yes, well, I’d only been fantasizing about it for ages.”

“See, there’s a thing,” Cosima points out. “You just told me that. You can tell me other stuff.”

“It’s hardly the same.”

She rolls over onto her stomach, considers, and very deliberately says, “Baby.”

It’s become a thing: baby. She knows it’s become a thing. She’s slipped up and accidentally said it a few times, and eachtime, Delphine positively melts, and Cosima pretends not to notice, but she’s not above playing dirty here.

There’s a slow hiss of an exhale across the line, like air escaping through a crack in a window.

“It’s, ah. It’s not the best time,” Delphine says. “How did you put it? Nutso family stuff.”

Cosima purses her lips, bites down on her cheek. There it is.

She wondered when Delphine would finally start talking about the royal family. She makes oblique references to Lucile, her grandmother - and legit Queen, being wound so tight as to double as an atomic clock, and she mentions Marcus as often as Cosima mentions Sarah, but Cosima knows there’s more to it than that. She couldn’t tell you when she started noticing, though, just like she doesn’t know when she started ticking off the days of Delphine’s moods.

“Ah,” she says. “I see.”

“I don’t suppose you keep up with any French tabloids, do you?”

“Not if I can help it.”

Delphine offers the bitterest of laughs. “Well, the Nord éclair paper has always had a bit of an affinity for airing our dirty laundry. They, er, they gave my brother this nickname years ago. ‘The Powder Prince.’”

A ding of recognition. “Because of the...”

“Yes, the cocaine, Cosima.”

“Okay, that does sound familiar.”

Delphine sighs. “Well, someone’s managed to bypass security to spray-paint ‘Powder Prince’ on the side of his car.”

“sh*t,” Cosima says. “And he’s not taking it well?”

“Marcus?” Delphine laughs, a little more genuinely this time. “No, he doesn’t usually care about those things. He’s fine. More shaken up that someone got past security than anything. Grand-mère had an entire PPO team fired. But... I don't know.”

She trails off, and Cosima can guess.

“But you care. Because you want to protect him even though you're the little sister.”

“I... yes.”

“I know the feeling. Last summer I almost punched a guy at Lollapalooza because he tried to grab Sarah’s ass.”

“But you didn’t?”

“Sarah had already dumped her milkshake on him,” Cosima explains. She shrugs a little, knowing Delphine can’t see it. “And then Helena Tased him. The smell of burnt strawberry milkshake on a sweaty frat guy is really something.”

Delphine laughs fully at that. “They never do need us, do they?”

“Nope,” Cosima agrees. “So you're upset because the rumors aren’t true.”

“Well... they are true, actually,” Delphine says.

Oh, Cosima thinks.

“Oh,” Cosima says. She’s not sure how else to respond, reaching into her mental store of political platitudes and finding them all clinical and intolerable.

Delphine, with a little trepidation, presses on. “You know, Marcus has only ever wanted to play music,” she starts. “Mum and Dad played too much Joni Mitchell for him growing up, I think. He wanted guitar lessons; grand-mèrewanted violin since it was more proper. Marcus was allowed to learn both, but he went to uni for classical violin. Anyway, his last year of uni, Dad died. It happened so... quickly. He just went.”

Cosima shuts her eyes. “f*ck.”

“Yeah,” Delphine says, voice rough. “We all went round the bend a bit. I was an arsehole, and Mum didn’t leave her room. I was starting uni when Marcus had just finished, and he was out every single night with all the posh Parisian hipsters, sneaking out to play guitar at secret shows and doing mountains of cocaine. The papers loved it.”

“Jesus,” Cosima hisses. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Delphine says, steadiness rising in her voice as if she’s stuck out her chin in that stubborn way she does sometimes. Cosima wishes she could see it. “In any event, the speculation and paparazzi photos and the damn nickname got to be too much, and grand-mèreliterally put him in a car and had him driven to rehab and called it a wellness retreat to the press.”

“Wait—sorry,” Cosima says before she can stop herself. “Just. Where was your mom?”

“Mum hasn’t been involved in much since Dad died,” Delphine says on an exhale, then stops short. “Sorry. That’s not fair. It’s... the grief has been total for her. It was paralyzing. It is paralyzing. She was such a spitfire. I dunno. She still listens, and she tries, and she wants us to be happy. But I don’t know if she has it in her anymore to be a part of anyone’s happiness.”

“That’s... horrible.”

A pause, heavy.

“Anyway, Marcus went,” Delphine goes on, “against his will, and didn’t think he had a problem at all, even though you could see his bloody ribs and he’d barely spoken to me in months, when we grew up inseparable. Checked himself out after six hours. I remember him calling me that night from a club, and I lost it. I was, what, eighteen? I drove there and he was sitting on the back steps, high as a kite, and I sat down next to him and cried and told him he wasn’t allowed to kill himself because Dad was gone and I was gay and I didn’t know what the hell to do, and that was how I came out to him. The next day, he went back, and he’s been clean ever since, and neither of us has ever told anyone about that night. Until now, I suppose. And I’m not sure why I’ve said all this, I just, I’ve never really said any of it. I mean, Art was there for most of it, so, and I—I don’t know.” She clears her throat. “Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever said this many words out loud in a row in my entire life, so please feel free to put me out of my misery any time now.”

“No, no,” Cosima says, stumbling over her own tongue in a rush. “I’m glad you told me. Does it feel better at all to have said it?”

Delphine goes silent, and Cosima wants so badly to see the shadows of expressions moving across her face, to be able to touch them with her fingertips. Cosima hears a swallow across the line, and Delphine says, “I suppose so. Thank you. For listening.”

“Yeah, of course,” Cosima tells her. “I mean, it’s good to have times when it’s not all about me, as tedious and exhausting as it may be.”

That earns her a groan, and she bites back a smile when Delphine says, “You are a bitch.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Cosima says, and she takes the opportunity to ask a question she’s been wanting to ask for months. “So, um. Does anybody else know? About you?”

“Marcus is the only one in the family I’ve told, though I’m sure the rest have suspected. I was always a bit different, never quite had the stiff upper lip. I think Dad knew and never cared. But grand-mèresat me down the day I finished college and made it abundantly clear I was not to let anyone know about any deviant desires I might be beginning to harbor that may reflect poorly upon the crown, and there were appropriate channels to maintain appearances if necessary. So.”

Cosima’s stomach turns over. She pictures Delphine, a teenager, back-broken with grief and told to keep it and the rest of her shut up tight.

“What the f*ck. Seriously?”

“The wonders of the monarchy,” Delphine says loftily.

“God.” Cosima scrubs a hand across her face. “I’ve had to fake some sh*t for my mom, but nobody’s ever outright told me to lie about who I am.”

“I don’t think she sees it as lying. She sees it as doing what must be done.”

“Sounds like bullsh*t.”

Delphine sighs. “Hardly any other options, are there?”

There’s a long pause, and Cosima is thinking about Delphine in her palace, Delphine and the years behind her, how she got here. She bites her lip.

“Hey,” Cosima says. “Tell me about your dad.”

Another pause.


“I mean, if you don’t—if you want to. I was just thinking I don’t know much about him except that he was James Bond. What was he like?”

Cosima paces the Solarium and listens to Delphine talk, stories about a man with Delphine’s same sandy hair and strong, straight nose, someone Cosima has met in shadows that pass through the way Delphine speaks and moves and laughs. She hears about sneaking out of the palace and joyriding around the countryside, learning to sail, being propped up in director’s chairs. The man Delphine remembers is both superhuman and heartbreakingly flesh and blood, a man who encompassed Delphine’s entire childhood and charmed the world but was also simply a man.

The way Delphine talks about him is a physical feat, drifting up in the corners with fondness but sagging in the middle under the weight. She tells Cosima in a low voice how her parents met—Princess Catherine, dead set on being the first princess with a doctorate, mid-twenties and wading through Shakespeare. How she went to see King Louis at the theatre and Arthur was starring, how she pushed her way backstage and shook off her security to disappear into Paris with him and dance all night. How the Queen forbid it, but she married him anyway.

She tells Cosima about growing up in Versailles, how Marcus sang constantly – happily, buttoned up in cashmere and knee socks and whisked through foreign countries in helicopters and shiny cars. A brass telescope from her father for her seventh birthday. How she realized by the time she was four that every person in the country knew her name, and how she told her mother she didn’t know if she wanted them to, and how she knelt down and told her she’d let nothing touch her, not ever.

Cosima starts talking too. Delphine already hears nearly everything about Cosima’s current life, but talking about how they grew up has always been some invisible line of demarcation. She talks about her home town, making campaign posters with construction paper for fifth grade student council, family trips to Surfside, running headlong into the waves. She talks about the big bay window in the house where she grew up, and Delphine doesn’t tell her she’s crazy for all the things she used to write and hide under there.

It starts to grow dark outside, a dull and soggy evening around the Residence, and Cosima makes her way down to her room and her bed. She hears about the assortment of girls from Delphine’s university days, all of them enamored with the idea of sleeping with a princess, almost all of them immediately alienated by the paperwork and secrecy and, occasionally, Delphine’s dark moods about the paperwork and secrecy.

“But of course, er,” Delphine says, “nobody since... well, since you and I—” unsure of why she had to make sure Cosima knew that.

“No,” Cosima says, faster than she expects, “me neither. Nobody else.”

She hears words coming out of her mouth, ones she can’t believe she’s saying out loud. About Shay, about those nights, but also how she’d sneak pills out of Shay’s Adderall bottle when her grades were slipping and stay awake for two, three days at a time. About Sarah, the unspoken knowledge that she only lives here to watch out for her, the quiet sense of guilt she carries when she can’t tear herself away. About how much some of the lies people tell about her mother hurt, the fear she'll lose.

They talk for so long Cosima has to plug her phone in to keep the battery from dying. She rolls onto her side and listens, trails the back of her hand across the pillow next to her and imagines Delphine lying opposite in her own bed, two parentheses enclosing 3,700 miles. She looks at her chewed-up cuticles and imagines Delphine there under her fingers, speaking into only inches of distance. She imagines the way Delphine’s face would look in the bluish-gray dark.

Somehow, this is the same person who had Cosima so convinced she didn’t care about anything, who still has the rest of the world convinced she’s a mild, unfettered Princess Charming. It’s taken months to get here: the full realization of just how wrong she was.

“I miss you,” Cosima says before she can stop herself.

She instantly regrets it, but Delphine says, “I miss you too.”

“Hey, wait.”

Cosima rolls her chair back out of her cubicle. The woman from the after-hours cleaning crew stops, her hand on the handle of the coffee pot. “I know it looks disgusting, but would you mind leaving that? I was gonna finish it.”

She gives her a dubious look but leaves the last burnt, sludgy vestiges of coffee where they are and rolls off with her cart.

She peers down into her SADLER FOR AMERICA mug and frowns at the almond milk that’s pooled in the middle. Why doesn’t this office keep normal milk around?

On her desk, there are three stacks of papers. She keeps staring at them, hoping if she recites them enough times in her head, she'll figure out how to feel like she’s doing enough.

One. The Gun File. A detailed index of every kind of insane gun Americans can own and state-by-state regulations, which she has to comb through for research on a new set of federal assault rifle policies. It’s got a giant smudge of pizza sauce on it because it makes her stress-eat.

Two. The Trans-Pacific Partnership File, which she knows she needs to work on but has barely touched because it’s mind-numbingly boring.

Three. The Texas File.

She’s not supposed to have this file. It wasn’t given to her by the policy chief of staff or anyone on the campaign. It’s not even about policy. It’s also more of a binder

than a file. She guesses she should call it: The Texas Binder.

The Texas Binder is her baby. She guards it jealously, stuffing it into her messenger bag to take home with her when she leaves the office and hiding it from WASPy Hunter. It contains a county map of Texas with complex voter demographic breakdowns, matched up with the populations of children of undocumented immigrants, unregistered voters who are legal residents, voting patterns over the last twenty years. She’s stuffed it with spreadsheets of data, voting records, projections she had Felix calculate for her.

Back in 2016, when her mother squeezed out a victory in the general election, the bitterest sting was losing Texas, her mother’s home state. She was the first president since Nixon to win the presidency but lose her own state. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, considering Texas had been polling red, but they were all secretly holding out for the Lometa Longshot to take it in the end. She didn’t.

Cosima keeps coming back to the numbers from 2016 and 2018 precinct by precinct, and she can’t shake this nagging feeling of hope. There’s something there, something shifting, she swears it.

She doesn’t mean to be ungrateful for the policy job, it’s just... not what she thought it was going to be. It’s frustrating and slow-moving. She should stay focused, give it more time, but instead, she keeps coming back to the binder.

She plucks a pencil out of WASPy Hunter’s Harvard pencil cup and starts sketching lines on the map of Texas for the millionth time, redistricting the districts old white men drew years ago to force votes their way.

Cosima has this spark at the base of her spine to do the most good she can, and when she sits here in her cubicle for hours a day and fidgets under all the minutiae, she doesn’t know if she is. But if she could only figure out a way to make Texas’ vote reflect its soul... she’s nowhere near qualified to singlehandedly dismantle Texas’ iron curtains of gerrymandering, but what if she—

An incessant buzzing snaps her present, and she digs out her phone from the bottom of her bag.

“Where are you?” Sarah’s voice demands over the line.

f*ck. She checks the time: 9:44. She was supposed to meet Sarah for dinner over an hour ago.

“sh*t, Sarah, I’m so sorry,” she says, jumping up from her desk and shoving her things into her bag. “I got caught up at work—I, I completely forgot.”

“I sent you like a million texts,” she says. She sounds like she’s vision-boarding her funeral.

“My phone was on silent,” she says helplessly, booking it for the elevator. “I’m seriously so sorry. I’m a complete jackass. I’m leaving now.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she says. “I got mine to go. I'll see you at home.”


“I’m gonna need you to not call me that right now.”


The call drops.

When she gets back to the Residence, Sarah is sitting on her bed, eating pasta out of a plastic container, with Parks & Recreation playing on her tablet. She pointedly ignores her when she comes to her doorway.

She’s reminded of when they were kids—around eight and eleven years old. She recalls standing next to her at the bathroom mirror, looking at the similarities between their faces: the same round tips of their noses, the same thick, unruly brows, the same square jaw inherited from their mother. She remembers studying her expression in the reflection as they brushed their teeth, the morning of the first day of school, their dad having braided Sarah’s hair for her because their mom was in DC and couldn’t be there.

She recognizes the same expression on her face now: carefully tucked-away disappointment.

“I’m sorry,” she tries again. “I honestly feel like complete and total sh*t. Please don’t be mad at me.”

Sarah keeps chewing, looking steadfastly at Leslie Knope chirping away in the background.

“We can do lunch tomorrow,” Cosima says desperately. “I'll pay.”

“I don’t care about a stupid meal, Cosima.”

Cosima sighs. “Then what do you want me to do?”

“I want you not to be Mom,” Sarah says, finally looking up at her. She closes her food container and gets up off her bed, pacing across the room.

“Okay,” Cosima says, raising both hands, “is that what’s happening right now?”

“I—” She takes a deep breath. “No. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, you obviously meant it,” Cosima says. She drops her messenger bag and steps into the room. “Why don’t you say whatever it is you need to say?”

She turns to face her, arms folded, her spine braced against her dresser. “You really don’t see it? You never sleep, you're always throwing yourself into something, you're willing to let Mom use you for whatever she wants, the tabloids are always after you—”

“Sarah, I’ve always been this way,” she interrupts gently. “I’m gonna be a politician. You always knew that. I’m starting as soon as I graduate... in a month. This is how my life is gonna be, okay? I’m choosing it.”

“Well, maybe it’s the wrong choice,” Sarah says, biting her lip.

She rocks back on her heels. “Where the hell is this coming from?”

“Cosima,” she says, “come on.”

She doesn’t know what the hell she’s getting at. “You’ve always backed me up until now.”

She flings one arm out emphatically enough to upset an entire potted cactus on her dresser and says, “Because until now you weren’t f*cking the Princess of France!”

That effectively snaps Cosima’s mouth shut. She crosses to the sitting area in front of the fireplace, sinking down into an armchair. Sarah watches her, cheeks bright scarlet.

“Felix told you.”

“What?” she says. “No. He wouldn’t do that. Although it kinda sucks you told him and not me.” She folds her arms again. “I’m sorry, I was trying to wait for you to tell me yourself, but, Jesus, Cosima. How many times was I supposed to believe you were volunteering to take those international appearances we always found excuses to get out of? And, like, did you forget I’ve lived across the hall from you for almost my entire life?”

Cosima looks down at her shoes, Sarah’s perfectly curated midcentury rug. “So you’re mad at me because of Delphine?”

Sarah makes a strangled noise, and when she looks back up, she’s digging through the top drawer of her dresser. “Oh my God, how are you so smart and so dumb at the same time?” she says, pulling a magazine out from underneath her underwear. She’s about to tell her she’s not in the mood to look at her tabloids when she throws it at her.

An ancient issue of J14, opened to a center page. The photograph of Delphine, age thirteen.

She glances up. “You knew?”

“Of course I knew!” she says, flopping dramatically into the chair opposite her. “You were always leaving your greasy little fingerprints all over it! Why do you always assume you can get away with things?” She releases a long-suffering sigh. “I never really... got what she was to you, until I got it. I thought you had a crush or something, or that I could help you make a friend, but, Cosima. We meet so many people. I mean, thousands and thousands of people, and a lot of them are morons, and a lot of them are incredible, unique people, but I almost never meet somebody who’s a match for you. Do you know that?” She leans forward and touches her knee, pink fingernails on her navy chinos. “You have so much in you, it’s almost impossible to match it. But she’s your match, dumbass.”

Cosima stares at her, trying to process what she’s said.

“I feel like this is your starry-eyed romantic thing projecting onto me,” is what she decides to say, and Sarah immediately withdraws her hand from her leg and returns to glaring at her.

“You know Paul didn’t break up with me?” she says. “I broke up with him. I was gonna go to California with him, get a job at the f*cking Sacramento Bee or something. But I gave all that up to come here, because it was the right thing to do. I went where I was most needed, because it was my responsibility.”

“And you regret it?”

“No,” she says. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I—I wonder. Cosima, you don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to be our parents. You can keep Delphine, and figure the rest out.” Now she’s looking at her evenly, steadily. “Sometimes you have a fire under your ass for no good goddamn reason. You’re gonna burn out like this.”

Cosima leans back, thumbing the stitching on the armrest of the chair.

“So, what?” she asks. “You want me to quit politics and go marry a princess? That’s not very feminist of you.”

“That’s not how feminism works,” she says, rolling her eyes. “And that’s not what I mean. I mean... I don’t know. Have you ever considered there might be more than one path to use what you have? Or to get where you want to be to make the most difference in the world?”

“I’m not sure I’m following.”

“Well.” She looks down at her cuticles. “It’s like the whole Sac Bee thing—it never actually would have worked out. It was a dream I had before Mom was president. The kind of journalism I wanted to do is the kind of journalism that being a First Daughter pretty much disqualifies you from. But the world is better with her where she is, and right now I’m looking for a new dream that’s better too.” Her big brown Sadler eyes blink up at her. “So, I don’t know. Maybe there’s more than one dream for you, or more than one way to get there.”

She gives a crooked shrug, tilting her head to look at her openly. Sarah is often a mystery, a big ball of complex emotions and motivations, but her heart is honest and true. She’s very much what Cosima holds in her memory as the sanctified idea of Southerness at its best: always generous and warm and sincere, work-strong and reliable, a light left on. She wants the best for her, plainly, in an unselfish and uncalculating way. She’s been trying to talk to her for a while, she realizes.

She looks down at the magazine, she feels the corner of her mouth tug upward. She can’t believe Sarah kept it all these years.

“She looks so different,” she says after a long minute, gazing down at the baby Delphine on the page and her easy, unfledged sureness. “I mean, like, obviously. But the way she carries herself.” Her fingertips brush the page in the same place they did when she was young, over the sun-gold hair, except now she knows its exact texture. It’s the first time she’s seen it since she learned where this version of Delphine went. “It pisses me off sometimes, thinking about everything she’s been through. She’s a good person. She really cares, and she tries. She never deserved any of it.”

Sarah leans forward, looking at the picture too. “Have you ever told her that?”

“We don’t really... ” Cosima coughs. “I don’t know. Talk like that?”

Sarah inhales deeply and makes an enormous fart noise with her mouth, shattering the serious mood, and Cosima is so grateful for it that she melts onto the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.

“Ugh!” she groans. “No emotional vocabulary. I can’t believe our ancestors survived centuries of wars and plagues and genocide just to wind up with your sorry ass.” She throws a pillow at her, and Cosima scream-laughs as it hits her in the face. “You should try saying some of that stuff to her.”

“Stop trying to Jane Austen my life!” she yells back.

“Listen, it’s not my fault she’s a mysterious and retiring young royal and you're the tempestuous ingénue that caught her eye, okay?”

She laughs and tries to crawl away, even as she claws at her ankle and wallops another pillow at her head. She still feels guilty for blowing her off, but she thinks they’re okay now. She'll do better. They fight for a spot on her big canopy bed, and she makes her spill what it’s like to be secretly hooking up with a real-life princess. And so Sarah knows; she knows about her and she hugs her and doesn’t care. She didn’t realize how terrified she was of her knowing until the fear is gone.

She puts Parks back on and has the kitchen send up ice cream, and Cosima thinks about how she said, “You don’t have to be our parents”—she’s never mentioned their dad in the same context as their mom like that before. She’s always known Sarah resents their mom for the position they occupy in the world, for not having a normal life, for taking herself away from them.

Cosima thinks Sarah's wrong about her, mostly—she doesn’t necessarily believe she has to choose between politics and this thing with Delphine yet, or that she’s moving too fast in her career. But... there’s the Texas Binder, and the knowledge of other states like Texas and millions of other people who need someone to fight for them, and the feeling at the base of her spine, like there’s a lot of fight in her that could be honed down to a more productive point.

There’s law school.

Every time she looks at the Texas Binder, she knows it’s a big fat case for her to go take the damn LSAT like she knows both her parents wish she would instead of diving headfirst into politics. She’s always, always said no. She doesn’t wait for things. Doesn’t put in the time like that, do what she’s told.

She’s never given much thought to options other than a crow’s path ahead of her. Maybe she should.

“Is now a good time to point out Delphine’s very hot, very rich best friend is basically in love with you?” Cosima says to Sarah. “He’s like some kind of billionaire, genius, manic-pixie-dream philanthropist. I feel like you would be into that.”

“Please shut up,” she says, and she steals the ice cream back.

Once Sarah knows, their circle of “knowing” is up to a tight seven.

Before Delphine, most of her romantic entanglements as FDOTUS were one-off incidents that involved Vic or Helena confiscating phones before the act and pointing at the dotted line on the NDA on the way out—Helena with mechanical professionalism, Vic with the air of a cruise ship director. It was inevitable they be looped in.

And there’s Donnie, the only member of the royal staff who knows Delphine is gay, excluding her therapist. Donnie ultimately doesn’t care about Delphine’s sexual preferences as long as they’re not getting her into trouble. He’s a consummate professional parceled in immaculately tailored Tom Ford, ruffled by absolutely nothing, whose affection for Delphine shows in the way he tends to her like a favorite houseplant. Donnie knows for the same reason Helena and Vic know: absolute necessity.

Then Felix, who still looks smug every time the subject arises. And Marcus, who found out when he walked in on one of their after-dark FaceTime sessions, leaving Delphine capable of nothing but flustered French stammering and thousand-yard stares for the next day and a half.

Art seems to have been in on the secret all along. Cosima imagines he demanded an explanation when Delphine literally made them flee the country under the cover of night after putting her tongue in Cosima’s mouth in the Kennedy Garden.

It’s Art who answers when Cosima FaceTimes Delphine at four a.m. DC time, expecting to catch Delphine over her morning tea. Delphine is holidaying in one of the family’s country homes while Cosima suffocates under her last week of college. She doesn’t reflect on why her migraine demands soothing images of Delphine looking cozy and picturesque, sipping tea by a lush green hillside. She just hits the buttons on the phone.

“Cosima, babes,” Art says when he picks up. “How lovely for you to give your auntie Art a ring on this magnificent Sunday morning.” He’s smiling from what looks like the passenger seat of a luxury car, wearing a cartoonishly large sunhat and a striped pashmina.

“Hi, Art,” Cosima says, grinning back. “Where are you guys?”

“We are out for a drive, taking in the scenery of Carmarthenshire,” Art tells her. He tilts the phone over toward the driver’s seat. “Say good morning to your strumpet, Delphine.”

“Good morning, strumpet,” Delphine says, glancing away from the road to wink at the camera. She’s looking fresh-faced and relaxed, all rolled up sleeves and soft gray linen, and Cosima feels calmer knowing somewhere in Wales, Delphine got a decent night’s sleep. “What’s got you up at four in the morning this time?”

“My f*cking economics final,” Cosima says, rolling over onto her side to squint at the screen. “My brain isn’t working anymore.”

“Can’t you get one of those Secret Service earpieces with Felix on the other end?”

“I can take it for you,” Art interjects, turning the camera back to himself. “I’m aces with money.”

“Yes, yes, Art, we know there’s nothing you can’t do,” says Delphine’s voice off-camera. “No need to rub it in.”

Cosima laughs under her breath. From the angle Art is holding the phone, she can see Wales rolling by though the car window, dramatic and plunging. “Hey, Delphine, say the name of the house you're staying at again.”

Art turns the camera to catch Delphine in a half smile. “Llwynywermod,” she says. Her French accent falling uneasy over the Welsh name of the stately home gifted to her family by the King of England.

“One more time.”


Cosima groans. “Jesus.”

“I was hoping you two would start talking dirty,” Art says. “Please, do go on.”

“I don’t think you could keep up, Art,” Cosima tells him.

“Oh really?” The picture returns to Art. “What if I put my co—”

“Art,” comes the sound of Delphine’s voice, and a hand with a signet ring on the smallest finger covers Art’s mouth. “I beg of you. Cosima, what part of ‘nothing he cannot do’ did you think was worth testing? Honestly, you are going to get us all killed.”

“That’s the goal,” Cosima says happily. “So what are you gonna do today?”

Art frees himself by licking Delphine’s palm and continues talking. “Frolic naked in the hills, frighten the sheep, return to the house for the usual: tea, biscuits, casting ourselves upon the Thighmaster of love to moan about Niehaus-Sadler siblings, which has become tragically one-sided since Delphine took up with you. It used to be all bottles of cognac and shared malaise and ‘when will they notice us’—”

“Don’t tell her that!”

“—and now I just ask Delphine, ‘What is your secret?’ And she says, ‘I insult Cosima all the time and that seems to work.’”

“I will turn this car around.”

“That won't work on Sarah,” Cosima says.

“Let me get a pen—”

It turns out they’re spending their holiday workshopping philanthropy projects. Delphine’s been telling Cosima for months about their plans to go international, and now they’re talking three refugee programs around Western Europe, HIV clinics in Nairobi and Los Angeles, LGBT youth shelters in four different countries. It’s ambitious, but since Delphine still staunchly covers all her own expenses with her inheritance from her father, her royal accounts are untouched. She’s determined to use them for nothing but this.

Cosima curls around her phone and her pillow as the sun comes up over DC. She’s always wanted to be a person with a legacy in this world. Delphine is undoubtedly, determinedly that. It’s a little intoxicating. But it’s fine. She’s just a little sleep-deprived.

All in all, finals come and go with much less fanfare than Cosima imagined. It’s a week of cramming and presentations and the usual amount of all-nighters, and it’s over.

The whole college thing in general went by like that. She didn’t really have the experiences everyone else has, always isolated by fame or harangued by security. She never got a stamp on her forehead on her twenty-first birthday at The Tombs, never jumped in Dalhgren Fountain. Sometimes it’s like she barely went to Georgetown, merely powered through a series of lectures that happened to be in the same geographical area.

Anyway, she graduates, and the whole auditorium gives her a standing ovation, which is weird but kind of cool. A dozen of her classmates want to take a photo with her afterward. They all know her by name. She’s never spoken to any of them before. She smiles for their parents’ iPhones and wonders if she should have tried.

Cosima Niehaus-Sadler graduates summa cum laude from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in Government, her Google alerts read when she checks them from the back seat of the limo, before she’s even taken her cap and gown off.

There’s a huge garden party at the White House, and Felix is there in a fitted suit and blazer and a sly smile, pressing a kiss to the side of Cosima’s jaw.

“The last of the White House Trio finally graduates,” he says, grinning. “And she didn’t even have to bribe any professors with political or sexual favors to do it.”

“I think some of them might finally manage to purge me from their nightmares soon,” Cosima says.

“You guys do school weird,” Sarah says, crying a little.

There’s a mixed bag of political power players and family friends in attendance—including Rafael Luna, who falls under the heading of both. Cosima spots him looking tired but handsome by the ceviche, involved in animated conversation with Felix’s grandfather, the Veep. Alison hands her a card that says, Good job doing what was expected of you, and nearly shoves her into the punch bowl when she tries to hug her.

An hour in, her phone buzzes in her pocket, and Sarah gives her a mild glare when she diverts her attention mid-sentence to check it. She’s ready to brush it off, but all around her iPhones and Blackberries are coming out in a flurry of movement.

It’s WASPy Hunter: Jacinto just called a presser, word is he’s dropping out of the primary a.k.a. officially Sadler vs. Richards 2020.

“sh*t,” Cosima says, turning her phone around to show Sarah the message.

“So much for the party.”

She’s right—in a matter of seconds, half the tables are empty as campaign staffers and congresspeople leave their seats to huddle together over their phones.

“This is a bit dramatic,” Felix observes, sucking an olive off the end of a toothpick. “We all knew he was gonna give Richards the nomination eventually. They probably got Jacinto in a windowless room and benchclamped his dick to the table until he said he’d concede.”

It starts with a fundraiser, a silk suit and a big check, a nice white-tablecloth event. It starts, as it always does, with a text:

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝙵𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚛 𝚒𝚗 𝙻𝙰 𝚗𝚎𝚡𝚝 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙷𝙸𝚅 𝚌𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚒𝚌. 𝙰𝚛𝚝 𝚜𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚑𝚎’𝚜 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚞𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚛𝚘𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚔𝚒𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚘𝚜. 𝙿𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚙𝚕𝚞𝚜-𝚝𝚠𝚘?

Cosima gets to properly meet Marcus for the first time. He’s much taller than Delphine, with Delphine’s clever mouth but their mom’s brown hair and heart-shaped face. He’s wearing a motorcycle jacket over his suit and has a slight posture she recognizes from her own mother as a reformed chainsmoker. He smiles at Cosima, wide and mischievous, and she gets him immediately: another rebel kid.

It’s a lot of champagne and too many handshakes and a speech by Art, charming as always, and as soon as it’s over, their collective security convenes at the exit and they’re off.

Art has, as promised, six matching silk kimonos waiting in the limo, each one embroidered across the back with a different riff on a name from a movie. Cosima’s is a lurid teal and says HOE DAMERON. Delphine’s lime-green one reads PRINCESS BUTTERCUP.

They end up somewhere in West Hollywood at a sh*tty, sparkling karaoke bar Art somehow knows about, neons bright enough that it feels spontaneous even though Cash and the rest of their security has been checking it and warning people against taking photos for half an hour before they arrived. The bartender has immaculate pink lipstick and stubble poking through thick foundation, and they rapidly line up five shots and a soda with lime.

“Oh, dear,” Delphine says, peering down into her empty shot glass. “What’s in these? Vodka?”

“Yep,” Felix confirms, to which both Art and Marcus break out into fits of giggles.

“What?” Cosima says.

“Oh, I haven’t had vodka since uni,” Delphine says. “It tends to make me, erm. Well—”

“Flamboyant?” Art offers. “Uninhibited? Randy?”

“Fun?” Marcus suggests.

“Excuse you, I am loads of fun all the time! I am a delight!”

“Hello, excuse me, can we get another round of these please?” Cosima calls down the bar.

Marcus screams, Delphine laughs and throws up a V, and it all goes hazy and warm in the way Cosima loves. They all tumble into a round booth, and the lights are low, and she and Delphine are keeping a safe distance, but Cosima can’t stop staring at how the special-effect beams keep hitting Delphine’s cheekbones, hollowing her face out in blues and greens. She’s something else—half-drunk and grinning in a $2,000 suit and a kimono, and Cosima can’t tear her eyes away.

Once things get going, it’s impossible to tell how Marcus is the one persuaded up to the stage first, but he unearths a plastic crown from the prop chest onstage and rips through a cover of “Call Me” by Blondie. They all wolf whistle and cheer, and the bar crowd finally realizes they’ve got two members of the royal family, a millionaire philanthropist, and the White House Trio crammed into one of the sticky booths in a rainbow of vivid silk. Three rounds of shots appear—one from a drunk bachelorette party, one from a herd of surly butch chicks at the bar, and one from a table of drag queens. They raise a toast, and Cosima feels more welcomed than she ever has before, even at her family’s victory rallies.

Art gets up and launches into “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston in a shockingly flawless falsetto that has the whole club on their feet in a matter of moments, shouting their approval as he belts out the glory notes. Cosima looks over in giddy awe at Delphine, who laughs and shrugs.

“I told you, there’s nothing he can’t do,” she shouts over the noise.

Sarah is watching the whole performance with her hands clapped to her face, her mouth hanging open, and she leans over to Felix and drunkenly yells, “Oh, no... he’s... so... hot...”

“I know, babe,” Felix yells back.

“I want to... put my fingers in his mouth... ” she moans, sounding horrified.

Felix cackles and nods appreciatively and says, “Can I help?”

Marcus, who has gone through five different lime and sodas so far, politely passes over a shot that’s been handed to him as Art pulls Sarah up on stage, and Cosima throws it back. The burn makes her smile and her legs spread a little wider, and her phone is in her hand before she registers sliding it out of her pocket. She texts Delphine under the table:


𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚍𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚙𝚒𝚍?

She watches Delphine pull her own phone out, grin, and arch a brow over at her.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚙𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜?

Delphine’s mouth falls open into a very unflattering expression of drunken, bewildered arousal, like a hot halibut, at her reply several beats later. Cosima smiles and leans back into the booth, making a show of wrapping wet lips around the bottle of her beer. Delphine looks like her entire life might be flashing before her eyes, and she says, an octave too high, “Right, well, I'll just—use the bathroom”

And she’s off while the rest of the group is still caught up in Art and Sarah’s performance. Cosima gives it to the count of ten before slipping past Felix and following.

She swaps a glance with Vic, who’s standing against one wall, gamely wearing a bright pink feather boa. He rolls his eyes but peels off to watch the door.

Cosima finds Delphine leaningagainst the sink, arms folded.

“Have I mentioned lately that you’re a demon?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Cosima says, double-checking the coast is clear before grabbing Delphine by the belt and backing into a stall. “Tell me again later.”

“You—you know this is still not convincing me to sing, don’t you?” Delphine chokes out as Cosima mouths along her throat.

“You really think it’s a good idea to present me with a challenge, baby?”

Which is how, thirty minutes and two more rounds later, Delphine is in front of a screaming crowd, absolutely butchering “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen while Felix sings backup and Marcus throws glittery gold roses at her feet. Her kimono is dangling off one shoulder so the embroidery across the back reads PRINCESS BUTT. Cosima does not know where the roses came from, and she can’t imagine asking would get her anywhere. She also wouldn’t be able to hear the answer because she’s been screaming at the top of her lungs for two minutes straight.

“I wanna make a supersonic woman of youuu!” Delphine shouts, “Don’t stop me! Don’t stop me! Don’t stop me!”

“Hey, hey, hey!” the entire bar yells back. Art is practically on top of the table now, pounding the back of the booth with one hand and helping Sarah up onto a chair with the other.

“Don't stop me! Don’t stop me!”

Cosima cups her hands around her mouth. “Ooh, ooh, ooh!”

In a cacophony of shouting and kicking and pelvic-thrusting and flashing lights, the song blasts into the guitar solo, and there’s not a single person in the bar in their seat, not when the Princess of France is kneesliding across the stage, playing passionate and somewhat erotic air guitar.

Felix has produced a bottle of champagne and starts spraying Delphine with it, and Cosima loses her mind laughing, climbs on top of her seat, and wolf whistles. Marcus is absolutely beside himself, tears streaming down his face, and Art is actually on top of the table now, Sarah dancing beside him, and a bright fuschia smear of lipstick in his platinum hair.

Cosima feels a tug on her arm—Marcus, dragging her down to the stage. He grabs her hand and spins her in a ballerina twirl, and she puts one of his roses between her teeth, and they watch Delphine and grin at each other through the noise. Cosima feels somewhere, under the fifty layers of booze, something crystal clear radiating off him, a shared knowledge of how rare and wonderful this version of Delphine is.

Delphine is yelling into the microphone again, stumbling to her feet, her suit and kimono stuck to her with champagne and sweat in a confusingly sexy mess. Her eyes flick upward, hazy and hot, and unmistakably lock with Cosima’s at the edge of the stage, smiling broad and messy. “I wanna make a supersonic man outta youuuuu!”

By the end, there’s a standing ovation awaiting her, and Marcus, with a steady hand and a devilish smile, ruffling her champagne-sticky hair. He steers her into the booth and Cosima’s side, and he pulls her in after him, and the six of them fall together in a tangle of hoarse laughter and expensive shoes.

Cosima doesn’t catch much of the next hour—the back of the limo, Felix and Delphine jostling for a spot in her lap, an In-N-Out drive-thru and Sarah screaming next to her ear, “Animal Style, did you hear me say Animal Style? Stop f*cking laughing, Art.” There’s the hotel, three suites booked for them on the very top floor, riding through the lobby on Vic's impossibly broad back.

Sarah keeps shushing them as they stumble to their rooms with hands full of grease-soaked burger bags, but she’s louder than any of them, so it’s a zero-sum game.

Marcus, perpetually the lone sober voice of the group, picks one of the suites at random and deposits Sarah and Felix in the king-size bed and Art in the empty bathtub.

“I trust you two can handle yourselves?” he says to Cosima and Delphine in the hallway, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes as he hands them the third key. “I fully intend to put on a robe and investigate this french-fries-dipped-in-milkshake thing Felix told me about.”

“Yes, Marcus, we shall behave in a manner befitting the crown,” Delphine says.

“Don’t be a loser,” he says, and quickly kisses them both on the cheek before vanishing around the corner.

Delphine’s laughing into the curls at the nape of Cosima’s neck by the time Cosima is fumbling the door open, and they stumble together into the wall, and then toward the bed, clothes dropping in their wake.

Delphine smells like expensive perfume and champagne and a distinctly Delphine smell that never goes away, clean and grassy, and her chest encompasses Cosima’s back when she crowds up behind her at the edge of the bed, splaying her hands over her hips.

“Supersonic man out of youuuu,” Cosima mumbles low, craning her head back into Delphine’s ear, and Delphine laughs and kicks her knees out from under her.

It’s a clumsy, sideways tumble into bed, both of them grabbing greedy handfuls of the other, Delphine’s pants still dangling from one ankle, but it doesn’t matter because Delphine’s eyes are fluttered shut and Cosima is finally kissing her again.

Her hands start traveling south on instinct, sweet muscle memory of Delphine’s body against hers, until Delphine reaches down to stop her.

“Hold on, hold on,” Delphine says. “I’m just realizing. All that earlier, and you haven’t gotten off yet tonight, have you?” She drops her head back on the pillow, regards her with narrowed eyes. “Well. That just shall not do.”

“Hmm, yeah?” Cosima says. She takes advantage of the moment to kiss the column of Delphine’s throat, the hollow at her collarbone. “What are you gonna do about it?”

Delphine pushes a hand into her hair and gives it a little pull. “I shall just have to make it the best org*sm of your life. What can I do to make it good for you? Talk about American tax reform during the act? Have you got talking points?”

Cosima looks up, and Delphine is grinning at her. “I hate you.”

“Maybe some light lacrosse role-play?” She’s laughing now, arms coming up around Cosima’s shoulders to squeeze her to her chest. “O captain, my captain.”

“You’re literally the worst,” Cosima says, and undercuts it by leaning up to kiss her once more, gently, then deeply, long and slow and heated. She feels Delphine’s body shifting beneath hers, opening up.

“Hang on,” Delphine says, breaking off breathlessly. “Wait.”

Cosima opens her eyes, and when she looks down, the expression on Delphine’s face is a more familiar one: nervous, unsure. “I do actually. Er. Have an idea.”

She slides a hand up Delphine’s chest to the side of her jaw, ghosting over her cheek with one finger. “Hey,” she says, serious now. “I’m listening. Really.”

Delphine bites her lip, visibly searching for the right words, and apparently comes to a decision.

“Come here,” she says, surging up to kiss Cosima, and she’s putting her whole body into it now, sliding her hands down to palm at Cosima’s ass as she kisses her.

Cosima feels a sound tear itself from her throat, and she’s following Delphine’s lead blindly now, kissing her deep into the mattress, riding a continuous wave of Delphine’s body.

She feels Delphine’s thighs—those goddamn horseback-riding, polo-playing thighs—moving around her, soft, warm skin wrapping around her waist, heels pressing into her back. When Cosima breaks off to look at her, the intention on Delphine’s face is as plain as anything she’s ever read there.

Delphine's wash bag is on the nightstand, and she reaches over and fumbles blindly through it before finding what she’s looking for—a double ended strap on and a tiny bottle of lube. Cosima almost laughs at the sight. Travel-size lube. She’s had some experimental sex in his lifetime, but it never occurred to her to consider if such a thing existed, much less if Delphine was jetting around with it alongside her dental floss.

“I know we haven’t,” Delphine says quietly. “But, er. I have, before, so, I can show you.”

“I mean, I’m familiar with the mechanics,” Cosima says, smirking a little, and she sees a corner of Delphine’s mouth quirk up to mirror her. “But you want me to wear it?”

“Oui, if that's -,” she says shyly.

Cosima answers with a soft, deep kiss and a gentle nod of her head. Delphine pushes Cosima's hips up and helps her slide into the strap on, making sure it's comfortable when it's inside her.

“This is new," Cosima moans, as Delphine gently starts moving the dild* in and out of Cosima's already soaking entrance.

“Yes, well,” Delphine says, and she takes one of Cosima's hands in hers and brings it to her own mouth, kissing her fingertips. “We all must learn and grow, mustn’t we?”

Cosima rolls her eyes, ready to snark, except Delphine sucks two fingers into her mouth, very effectively shutting her the hell up.

It’s incredible and baffling, the way Delphine's confidence comes in waves like this, how she struggles so much to get through the asking for what she wants and then readily takes it the moment she’s given permission, like at the bar, how the right push had her dancing and shouting as if she’d been waiting for someone to tell her she was allowed to do it.

They’re not as drunk as they were, but there’s enough alcohol in their systems, and it doesn’t feel as daunting as it would otherwise, the first time.

Delphine's head falls back onto the pillows, her back against the mattress and her legs spread wide. She closes her eyes and lets Cosima take over.

The thing about sex with Delphine is, it’s never the same twice. Sometimes she moves easily, caught up in the rush, and other times she’s tense and taut and wants Cosima to work her loose and take her apart. Sometimes nothing gets her off faster than being talked back to, but other times they both want her to use every inch of authority in her blood, not to let Cosima get there until she’s told, until she begs.

It’s unpredictable and it’s intoxicating and it’s fun, because Cosima has never met a challenge she didn’t love, and she—well, Delphine is a challenge, head to toe, beginning to end.

Tonight, Delphine's silly and warm and ready, her body quick and smooth to give Cosima what she’s looking for, laughing and incredulous at her own responsiveness to touch. Cosima leans down to kiss her, and Delphine murmurs into the corner of her mouth, “Ready when you are, mon bébé.”

Cosima shivers, takes a breath, holds it. She’s ready.

Delphine's hand comes up to stroke along her jaw, her sweaty hairline, and Cosima settles herself between her legs, lets Delphine lace the fingers of her right hand with Cosima's left. She’s watching Delphine's face—she can’t imagine looking at anything other than Delphine's face right now—and her expression goes so soft and her mouth so happy and astonished that Cosima's voice speaks without his permission, a hoarse “baby.”

Delphine nods, so small that someone who didn’t know all her tics might miss it, but Cosima knows exactly what it means, so she leans down and sucks Delphine's earlobe between her lips and calls her baby again, and Delphine says, “Yes,” and, “Please,” and tugs her hair at the root. Cosima nips at Delphine's throat and palms at her breasts and sinks into the white-out bliss of being that impossibly close to her, of getting to share her body. Somehow it still amazes her that all this seems to be as unbelievably, singularly good for Delphine as it is for her.

Delphine's face should be illegal, the way it’s turned up toward her, flushed and undone. The way she's moaning "putain Cosima, you feel incredible."

Cosima feels her own lips spreading into a pleased smile, awed and proud.

Afterward, she comes back into her own body in increments—her knees, still dug into the mattress and shaking; her stomach, slick and sticky; her hands, twisted up in Delphie's hair, stroking it gently. She feels like she’s stepped outside of herself and returned to find everything slightly rearranged. When she pulls her face back to look at Delphine, the feeling comes back into her chest: an ache in answer to the curve of Delphine's top lip over white teeth.

“Jesus Christ,” Cosima says at last, and when she looks over at Delphine again, she’s squinting at her impishly out of one eye, smirking.

“Would you describe it as supersonic?” she says, and Cosima groans and slaps her across the chest, and they both dissolve into messy laughter.

They slide apart and make out and argue over who has to sleep in the wet spot until they pass out around four in the morning.

Delphine rolls Cosima onto her side and burrows behind her until she’s covering her completely, her shoulders a brace for Cosima's shoulders, one of her thighs pressed on top of Cosima's thighs, her arms over Cosima's arms and her hands over Cosima'shands, nowhere left untouched. It’s the best Cosima has slept in years.

Their alarms to go off three hours later for their flights home.

They shower together. Delphine's mood turns dark and sour over morning coffee at the harsh reality of returning to Paris so soon, and Cosima kisses her dumbly and promises to call and wishes there was more she could do.

She watches Delphine lather up, put hairspray in her hair, put on her Chanel for the day, and she catches herself wishing she could watch it every day. She likes taking Delphine apart, but there’s something incredibly intimate about sitting on the bed they wrecked the night before, the only one who watches her create Princess Delphine of France for the day.

Through her throbbing hangover, she’s got a suspicion all these feelings are why she held off on f*cking Delphine for so long.

Also, she might puke. It’s probably unrelated.

They meet the others in the hallway, Delphine passing for hungover but beautiful, and Cosima just doing her best. Marcus is looking well-rested, fresh, and very smug about it.

Sarah, Felix, and Art all emerge disheveled from their suite looking like the cats that caught the canaries, but it’s impossible to tell who is a cat and who is a canary.

Sarah has a smudge of lipstick on the back of her neck. Cosima doesn’t ask. Vic chuckles under his breath when he meets them at the elevators, a tray of six coffees balanced on one hand. Hangover tending isn’t part of his job description, but he’s a mother hen. “So this is the gang now, huh?”

And through it all, Cosima realizes with a startthat she has friends now.

Chapter 9

Chapter Text

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟲/𝟴/𝟮𝟬 𝟯:𝟮𝟯 𝗣𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖

𝗥𝗘: 𝗥𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝘇-𝗩𝗼𝘂𝘀? 𝗦'𝗶𝗹 𝘁𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮î𝘁?


I can’t think of a single other way to start this email except to say, and I do hope you will forgive both my language and my utter lack of restraint: You are so f*cking beautiful.

I’ve been useless for a week, driven around for appearances and meetings, lucky if I’ve made a single meaningful contribution to any of them. How is a woman to get anything done knowing Cosima Juliet Niehaus-Sadler is out there on the loose? I am driven to distraction.

It’s all useless because when I’m not thinking about your face, I’m thinking about your breasts or your hands or your smart mouth. I suspect the latter is what got me into this predicament in the first place. No one has ever had the nerve to be cheeky to a princess, except you. The moment you first called me a dick, my fate was sealed.

I’ll be damned, but I miss you.


𝗖 <𝗖𝗡𝗦@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟲/𝟴/𝟮𝟬 𝟱:𝟬𝟮 𝗣𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗

𝗥𝗘: 𝗥𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝘇-𝗩𝗼𝘂𝘀? 𝗦'𝗶𝗹 𝘁𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮î𝘁?


Don’t apologize for calling me pretty. Because then you’re putting me in a position where I have to apologize for saying you blew my f*cking mind in LA and I’m gonna die if it doesn’t happen again soon. How’s that for lack of restraint, huh?

I’ll fly to Paris right now and pull you out of whatever pointless meeting you’re in and make you admit how much you love it when I call you “baby.” I’ll take you apart with my teeth.


𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟲/𝟴/𝟮𝟬 𝟳:𝟮𝟭 𝗣𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖

𝗥𝗘: 𝗥𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝘇-𝗩𝗼𝘂𝘀? 𝗦'𝗶𝗹 𝘁𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮î𝘁?


You know, when I was doing a press tour in the UK, a few journalists asked me who my favourite English author is.

The press team compiled a list of acceptable answers. They wanted a realist, so I suggested George Eliot—no, Eliot was actually Mary Anne Evans under a pen name, not a strong male author. They wanted one of the inventors of the English novel, so I suggested Daniel Defoe—no, he was a dissenter from the Church of England. At one point, I threw out Jonathan Swift just to watch the collective coronary they had at the thought of an Irish political satirist.

In the end they picked Dickens, but truthfully, between you and I, my favorite author is Jane Austen.

So, to borrow a passage from Sense and Sensibility: “You want nothing but patience—or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.

To paraphrase: I hope to see you put your green American money where your filthy mouth is soon.

Yours in sexual frustration,


Cosima feels like somebody has probably warned her about private email servers before, but she’s a little fuzzy on the details. She assumes that the White House has the most secure servers in the world. It doesn’t feel important.

At first, like most things that require time when instant gratification is possible, she doesn’t see the point of Delphine’s emails.

But when Richards tells Sean Hannity that her mother hasn’t accomplished anything as president, Cosima screams into her elbow and goes back to: 𝙳𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚍'𝚜 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜, 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

When WASPy Hunter brings up the Harvard rowing team for the fifth time in one workday: 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚜 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚛𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚌𝚛𝚒𝚖𝚎.

When she’s tired of being touched by strangers: 𝙲𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎.

Now she gets it.

Things are ugly with Richards leading the ticket. Right-wing think pieces about entitlement thrown in her and Sarah’s direction, reeking of: Neihaus? Immigrants stole the First Family jobs too.

She can’t allow the fear of losing in. She drinks coffee and brings her policy work on the campaign trail and drinks more coffee, reads emails from Delphine, and drinks even more coffee.

The first DC Pride since her “bisexual awakening” happens while Cosima is in Nevada, and she spends the day jealously checking Twitter—confetti raining down on the Mall, grand marshal Rafael Luna with a rainbow bandana around his head. She goes back to her hotel and talks to her minibar about it.

The biggest bright spot in all the chaos is that her lobbying with one of the campaign chairs (and her own mother) has finally paid off: They’re doing a massive rally at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Polls are shifting in directions they’ve never seen before. Politico’s top story of the week: IS THIS THE YEAR TEXAS BECOMES A TRUE BATTLEGROUND STATE?

“Yes, I will make sure everyone knows the Houston rally was your idea,” her mother says, barely paying attention, as she goes over her speech on the plane to Texas.

“You should say ‘grit,’ not ‘fortitude’ there,” Sarah says, reading the speech over her shoulder. “Texans like grit.”

“Can you both go sit somewhere else?” she says, but she adds a note.

Cosima knows a lot of the campaign is skeptical, even when they’ve seen the numbers. So when they pull up to Minute Maid and the line wraps around the block twice, she feels beyond gratified. She feels smug. Her mom gets up to make her speech to thousands, and Cosima thinks, Hell yeah, Texas. Prove the bastards wrong.

She’s still riding the high when she swipes her badge at the door of the campaign office the following Monday. She’s been getting tired of sitting at a desk and going through focus groups again and again and again, but she’s ready to pick the fight back up.

The fact that she rounds the corner into her cubicle to find WASPy Hunter holding the Texas Binder brings her right the f*ck back down.

“Oh, you left this on your desk,” WASPy Hunter says casually. “I thought maybe it was a new project they were putting us on.”

“Do I go on your side of the cubicle and turn off your Dropkick Murphys Spotify station, no matter how much I want to?” Cosima demands. “No, Hunter, I don’t.”

“Well, you do kind of steal my pencils a lot—”

Cosima snatches the binder away before he can finish. “It’s private.”

“What is it?” WASPy Hunter asks as Cosima shoves it back into her bag. She can’t believe she left it out. “All that data, and the district lines—what are you doing with all that?”


“Is it about the Houston rally you pushed for?”

“Houston was a good idea,” she says, instantly defensive.

“Listen... you don’t honestly think Texas can go blue, do you? It’s one of the most backward states in the country.”

“You're from Boston, Hunter. You really want to talk about all the places bigotry comes from?”

“Look, I’m just saying.”

“You know what?” Cosima says. “You think y’all are off the hook for institutional bigotry because you come from a blue state. Not every white supremacist is a meth-head in Bumf*ck, Mississippi—there are plenty of them at Duke or UPenn on Daddy’s money.”

WASPy Hunter looks startled but not convinced. “None of that changes that red states have been red forever,” he says, laughing, like it’s something to joke about, “and none of those populations seem to care enough about what’s good for them to vote.”

“Maybe those populations might be more motivated to vote if we made an actual effort to campaign to them and showed them that we care, and how our platform is designed to help them, not leave them behind,” Cosima says hotly. “Imagine if nobody who claims to have your interests at heart ever came to your state and tried to talk to you, man. Or if you were a felon, or—f*cking voter ID laws, people who can’t access polls, who can’t leave work to get to one?”

“Yeah, I mean, it’d be great if we could magically mobilize every eligible marginalized voter in red states, but political campaigns have a finite amount of time and resources, and we have to prioritize based on projections,” WASPy Hunter says, as if Cosima, the First Daughter of the United States, is unfamiliar with how campaigns work. “There just aren’t the same number of bigots in blue states. If they don’t want to be left behind, maybe people in red states should do something about it.”

And Cosima has, quite frankly, had it.

“Did you forget that you’re working on the campaign of someone Texas f*cking created?” she says, and her voice has officially risen to the point where staffers in the neighboring cubicles are staring, but she doesn’t care. “Why don’t we talk about how there’s a chapter of the Klan in every state? You think there aren’t racists and hom*ophobes growing up in Vermont? Man, I appreciate that you’re doing the work here, but you’re not special. You don’t get to sit up here and pretend like it’s someone else’s problem. None of us do.”

She takes her bag and her binder and storms out.

The minute she’s outside the building, she pulls out her phone on impulse, opens up Google. There are test dates this month. She knows there are.

*LSAT Washington DC area test center,* she types.

The invitation comes certified airmail straight from Versailles Palace. Gilded edges, spindly calligraphy:


Cosima takes a picture and texts it to Delphine.


𝟷. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜? 𝙰𝚛𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚙𝚘𝚘𝚛 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚛𝚢?

𝟸. 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝚋𝚘𝚡 😏

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗲

𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚍𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚐𝚞𝚎.

𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎?

And here Cosima is, spending her one day off from the campaign at The French Open, only to get her body next to Delphine’s again.

“So, as I’ve warned you,” Delphine says as they approach the doors to the Royal Box, “Philip, my older cousin, will be here. And assorted other nobility with whom you may have to make conversation. People named Raphaël or Sébastien.”

“I think I’ve proven that I can handle royals.”

Delphine looks doubtful. “You’re brave. I could use some of that.”

The sun is, for once, bright over Paris when they step outside, flooding the stands around them, which have already mostly filled with spectators. She notices Léa Seydoux in a well-tailored power suit and once again wonders how had she convinced herself she was straight? Léa turns away and Cosima sees it was Marcus she was talking to, his face bright when he spots them.

“Bonjour, Cosima! Delphine!” he chirps over the murmur of the Box. He's a vision in a lime-green, expensive suit, a pair of huge, round Gucci sunglasses embellished with gold honeybees perched on his nose.

“You look incredible,” Cosima says, accepting a kiss on her cheek.

“Why thank you,” he says.

He takes one of their arms in each of his and whisks them off down the steps. “Felix helped me pick the suit, actually. It’s McQueen. He's a genius - Felix, not McQueen.”

“I’ve been made aware.”

“Here we are,” Marcussays when they’ve reached the front row. “These are ours.”

Delphine looks at the lush, green cushions of the seats topped with thick and shiny THE FRENCH OPEN 2020 programs, right at the front edge of the box. “Front and center?” she says, a note of nervousness. “Really?”

“Yes, Delphine, in case you have forgotten, you are a royal and this is the Royal Box.” Marcus waves down to the photographers below, who are already snapping photos of them, before leaning into them and whispering, “Don’t worry, I don’t think they can detect the thick air of lesbianism betwixt you two from the lawn.”

“Ha-ha, Marcus,” Delphine monotones, ears pink, and despite her apprehension, she takes her seat between Cosima and Marcus. She keeps her elbows carefully tucked into her sides and out of Cosima’s space.

It’s halfway through the day when Philip and Celine arrive, Philip looking as generically handsome as ever. Cosima wonders how such rich genetics conspired to make Marcus and Delphine both so interesting to look at, all mischievous smiles and swooping cheekbones, but punted so hard on Philip. He looks like a stock photo.

“Morning,” Philip says as he takes his reserved seat to the side of Marcus. His eyes track over Cosima twice, and Cosima can sense skepticism as to why she was even allowed to attend. Maybe it’s weird she’s here. She doesn’t care. Celine's looking at her weird too, but maybe she’s simply holding a grudge about the wedding cake splatter that ruined her vintage dress when Delphine, and Delphine alone, pushed it over.

“Afternoon, Pip,” Marcus says politely. “Celine.”

Beside her, Delphine’s spine stiffens.

“Delphine,” Philip says. Delphine’s hand is tense on the program in her lap. “Good to see you. Been a bit busy, have you? Gap year and all that?”

There’s an implication under his tone. Where exactly have you been? What exactly have you been doing? A muscle flexes in Delphine’s jaw.

“Yes,” Delphine says. “Loads of work with Art. It’s been very productive.”

“Right, the BEV Foundation, isn’t it?” he says. “Shame he couldn’t make it today. Suppose we’ll have to make do with our American friend, then?”

At that, he tips a dry smile at Cosima.

“Yep,” Cosima says, too loud. She grins broadly.

“Though, I do suppose Art would look a bit out of place in the Box, wouldn’t he?”

“Philip,” Marcus says.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Marcy,” Philip says dismissively. “I only mean he’s a peculiar sort, isn’t he? Those frocks he wears? A bit much for The French Open.”

Delphine’s face is calm and genial, but one of her knees has shifted over to dig into Cosima’s. “They’re called dashikis, Philip, and he wore one once.”

“Right,” Philip says. “You know I don’t judge. I just think, you know, remember when we were younger and you’d spend time with my friends from university? Or Lady Elise's son, the one that’s always quail hunting? You could consider more friends of ... similar standing.”

Delphine’s mouth is a thin line, but she says nothing.

“We can’t all be best mates with the Count of Monpezat like you, Philip,” Marcus mutters.

“In any event,” Philip presses on, ignoring her, “you’re unlikely to find a husband unless you’re running in the right circles, aren’t you?” He chuckles a little and returns to watching the match.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Delphine says. She drops her program in her seat and vanishes.

Ten minutes later, Cosima finds her in the clubhouse by a gigantic vase of lurid fuschia flowers. Her eyes are intent on Cosima the moment she sees her, her lip chewed the same furious red as the embroidered Union Jack on her pocket square.

“Hello, Cosima,” she says placidly.

Cosima takes her tone. “Hi.”

“Has anyone shown you round the clubhouse yet?”


“Well, then.”

Delphine touches two fingers to the back of her elbow, and Cosima obeys immediately.

Down a flight of stairs, through a concealed side door and a second hidden corridor, there is a small room full of chairs and tablecloths and one old, abandoned tennis racquet. As soon as the door is closed behind them, Delphine slams her up against it.

She moves into Cosima’s space, but she doesn’t kiss her. She hovers there, a breath away, her hands at Cosima’s hips and her mouth split open in a crooked smirk.

“Do you know what I want?” she says, her voice so low and hot that it burns right through Cosima’s skin, right into the core of her.


“I want,” she says, “to do the absolute last thing I’m supposed to be doing right now.”

Cosima juts out her chin, grinningly defiant. “Then tell me to do it, Delphine.”

And Delphine, tonguing the corner of her own mouth, tugs hard to undo Cosima’s skirt bow and says, “f*ck me.”

“Well,” Cosima grunts, “when at The French Open.”

Delphine laughs hoarsely and leans down to kiss her, open-mouthed and eager. She’s moving fast, knowing they’re on borrowed time, quick to follow the lead when Cosima groans and pulls at her shoulders to change their positions. She gets Delphine’s back to her chest, Delphine’s palms braced against the door.

“Just so we’re clear,” Cosima says, “I’m about to have sex with you in this storage closet to spite your family. Like, that’s what’s happening?”

Delphine, shucks her trousers and panties off, braces her front against the old wooden door and says, “Right,” over her shoulder.

“Awesome, f*ckin’ love doing things out of spite,” she says without a hint of sarcasm, and she kicks Delphine’s feet apart.

And it should be—it should be funny. It should be hot, stupid, ridiculous, obscene, another wild sexual adventure to add to the list. And it is, but shouldn’t also feel like last time, like Cosima might die if it ever stops. There’s a laugh in her mouth, but it won’t get past her tongue, because she knows this is her helping Delphine get through something. Rebellion.

You’re brave. I could use some of that.

After, she's f*cked Delphine over a stack of old chairs, she kisses her mouth fiercely, pushes her fingers deep into Delphine’s hair, sucks the air out of her.

Delphine smiles breathlessly against her neck, looking extremely pleased with herself, and says, “I’m rather finished with tennis, aren’t you?”

So, they steal away behind a crowd, blocked by PPOs and umbrellas, and back at Versailles, Delphine brings Cosima up to her rooms.

Delphine’s bedroom is as cavernous and opulent and insufferably beige as Cosima could have imagined, with a gilded baroque bed and windows overlooking the gardens. She watches Delphine shrug out of her suit and imagines having to live in it, wondering if Delphine simply isn’t allowed to choose what her rooms look like or if she never wanted to ask for something different. All those nights Delphine can’t sleep, just knocking around these endless, impersonal rooms, like a bird trapped in a museum.

The only thing that is distinctly Delphine is the baby grand piano under the bay window. Delphine sits down at it and plucks away idly, toying with the melody of something that sounds like an old song by The Killers. David napping quietly near the pedals.

“Play me something I don’t know,” Cosima says softly.

And Delphine does, how could she not when Cosima asks her like that.

She listens and nods and smiles a little while Delphine explains that this is what Brahms sounds like, and this is Wagner, and how they were on the two opposing sides of the Romantic movement. “Do you hear the difference there?” Her hands are fast, almost effortless, even as she goes off into a tangent about the War of the Romantics and how Liszt’s daughter left her husband for Wagner, tout un scandaleaccording to Delphine.

She switches to an Alexander Scriabin sonata. The andante—the third movement—is her favorite, she explains, because she read once that it was written to evoke the image of a castle in ruins, which she found darkly funny at the time. She goes quiet, focused, lost in the piece for long minutes.

Then, without warning, it changes again, turbulent chords circling back into something familiar—the Elton John songbook. Delphine closes her eyes, playing from memory. It’s Your Song.


And Cosima’s heart doesn’t spread itself out in her chest, and she doesn’t have to grip the edge of the couch to steady herself. Because that’s what she would do if she were here in this palace to fall in love with Delphine, and not just continuing this thing where they fly across the world to touch each other and don’t talk about it.

That’s not why she’s here. It’s not.

They make out lazily for what could be hours on the chaise longue—Cosima wants to do it on the piano, but it’s a priceless antique or whatever—and then they stagger over to Delphine’s bed, the palatial bed. Delphine lets Cosima take her apart with painstaking patience and precision, moans the name of God so many times that the room feels consecrated.

It pushes Delphine over some kind of edge, melted and overwhelmed on the lush bedclothes. Cosima spends nearly an hour afterward coaxing little tremors out of her, in awe of her elaborate expressions of wonder and blissful agony, ghosting featherlight fingertips over her collarbone, her ankles, the insides of her knees, the small bones of the backs of her hands, the dip of her lower lip. She touches and touches until she brings Delphine to another brink with only her fingertips, only her breath on the inside of her thighs, the promise of Cosima’s mouth where she’d pressed her fingers before.

Delphine says the same two words from the secret room at The French Open, this time dressed up in, “Please, I need you to.” She still can’t believe Delphine can talk like this, that she gets to be the only one who hears it.

So she does.

When they come back down, Delphine practically passes out on her chest without another word, f*cked-out and boneless, and Cosima laughs to herself and pets her sweaty hair and listens to the soft snores that come almost immediately.

It takes her hours to fall asleep, though.

Delphine drools on her. David finds his way into the bed and curls up at their feet. Cosima has to be back on a plane for DNC prep in a matter of hours, but she can’t sleep. It’s jet lag. It’s just jet lag.

“As your president,” Jeffrey Richards is saying on one of the flat screens in the campaign office, “one of my many priorities will be encouraging young people to get involved with their government. If we’re going to hold our control of the Senate and take back the House, we need the next generation to stand up and join the fight.”

The College Republicans of Vanderbilt University cheer on the live feed, and Cosima pretends to barf onto her latest policy draft.

“Why don’t you come up here, Brittany?” A pretty blond student joins Richards at the podium, and he puts an arm around her. “Brittany here was the main organizer we worked with for this event, and she couldn’t have done a better job getting us this amazing turnout!”

More cheers. A mid-level staffer lobs a ball of paper at the screen.

“It’s young people like Brittany who give us hope for the future of our party. Which is why I’m pleased to announce that, as president, I'll be launching the Richards Youth Congress program. Other politicians don’t want people—especially discerning young people like you—to get up close in our offices and see just how the sausage gets made—”

Cosima texts Delphine as she turns back to her cubicle


𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚊 𝚌𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚖𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚐𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕 𝚛𝚞𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚖𝚘𝚖.

It’s the last days before the DNC, and she hasn’t been able to catch the coffee pot before it’s empty in days. The policy inboxes are overflowing since they released the official platform two days ago, and WASPy Hunter has been firing off emails like his life depends on it. He hasn’t said anything else to Cosima about her rant from last month, but he has started wearing headphones to spare Cosima his musical choices.

She types out another text, this one to Luna: 𝙲𝚊𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚙𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚐𝚘 𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚌𝚘𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚛 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚝𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚝𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚊𝚡 𝚕𝚊𝚠 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚙 𝚊𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐?

She’s been texting Luna all week, ever since the Richards campaign leaked that they’ve tapped an Independent senator for his prospective cabinet. That old bastard Stanley Connor flat out denied every last request for an endorsem*nt—by the end, Luna privately told Cosima they were lucky Connor didn’t try to primary them. Nothing’s official, but everyone knows Connor is the one joining Richards’s ticket. But if Luna knows when the announcement’s coming, he’s not sharing.

It’s a week. The polls aren’t great, Paul Ryan is getting sanctimonious about the Second Amendment, and there’s some stupid headline going around, 𝙒𝙊𝙐𝙇𝘿 𝙎𝘼𝘿𝙇𝙀𝙍 𝙃𝘼𝙑𝙀 𝙂𝙊𝙏𝙏𝙀𝙉 𝙀𝙇𝙀𝘾𝙏𝙀𝘿 𝙄𝙁 𝙎𝙃𝙀 𝙒𝙀𝙍𝙀𝙉’𝙏 𝘾𝙊𝙉𝙑𝙀𝙉𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉𝘼𝙇𝙇𝙔 𝘽𝙀𝘼𝙐𝙏𝙄𝙁𝙐𝙇?

If it weren’t for her morning meditation sessions, Cosima is sure her mom would have throttled an aide by now.

For her part, she misses Delphine’s bed, Delphine’s body, just Delphine. That night after The French Open feels like something out of a dream now, all the more tantalizing because Delphine is in New York for a few days with Art to do paperwork for an LGBT youth shelter in Brooklyn. There aren’t enough hours in the day for Cosima to find a pretense to get there, and no matter how much the world enjoys their public friendship, they’re running out of plausible excuses to be seen together.

This time is nothing like their first breathless trip to the DNC in 2016. Cosima and Sarah introduced their mother before her acceptance speech, and Sarah’s hands were shaking but Cosima’s were steady. The crowd roared, and Cosima’s heart roared back.

This year, they’re all frizzy-haired and exhausted from trying to run the country and a campaign simultaneously, and even one night of the DNC is a stretch. On the second night of the convention, they pile onto Air Force One—it’d be Marine One, but they won’t all fit in one helicopter.

“Have you run a cost-benefit analysis on this?” Alison is saying into her phone as they take off. “Because you know I’m right, and these assets can be transferred at any time if you disagree. Yes. Yeah, I know. Okay. That’s what I thought.” A long pause, then, under her breath, “Love you too.”

“Um,” Cosima says when she’s hung up. “Something you’d like to share with the class?”

Alison doesn’t even look up from her phone. “Yes, that was my boyfriend, and no, you may not ask me any further questions about him.”

Sarah has shut her journal in sudden interest. “How could you possibly have a boyfriend we don’t know about?”

“I see you more than I see my own reflection,” Cosima says.

“You’re not doing self care enough sweetie,” her mother interjects from across the cabin.

“Is this like a ‘my Canadian boyfriend’ thing? Does he”—she does very animated air quotes—“‘go to a different school’?”

“You really are determined to get shoved out of an emergency hatch one day, huh?” she says. “It’s long distance. But not like that. No more questions.”

Vic jumps in too, insisting he deserves to know as the resident love guru of the staff, and there’s a debate about appropriate information to share with your coworkers, which is laughable considering how much Vic already knows about Cosima’s personal life.

They’re circling New York when Sarah suddenly stops talking, focused again on Alison, who has gone silent.


Cosima turns and sees Alison sitting perfectly still, such a departure from her usual constant motion that everyone else freezes too. She’s staring at her phone, mouth open.

“Alison,” her mother echoes now, deadly serious. “What?”

She looks up finally, her grip on her phone tight. “The Post just broke the name of the Independent senator joining Richards’s cabinet,” she says. “It’s not Stanley Connor. It’s Rafael Luna.”

“No,” Sarah is saying. Her heels are dangling from her hand, her eyes bright in the warm light near the hotel elevator where they’ve agreed to meet. Her hair is coming out of its braid in angry spikes. “You’re damn lucky I agreed to talk to you in the first place, so you get this or you get nothing.”

The Post reporter blinks, fingers faltering on his recorder. He’s been hounding Sarah on her personal phone since the minute they landed in New York for a quote about the convention, and now he’s demanding something about Luna. Sarah is not typically an angry person, but it’s been a long day, and she looks about three seconds from using one of those heels to stab the guy through the eye socket.

“What about you?” the guy asks Cosima.

“If she’s not giving it to you, I’m not giving it to you,” Cosima says. “She’s much nicer than me.”

Sarah snaps her fingers in front of the guy’s hipster glasses, eyes blazing. “You don’t get to speak to her,” Sarah says. “Here is my quote: My mother, the president, still fully intends to win this race. We’re here to support her and to encourage the party to stay united behind her.”

“But about Senator Luna—”

“Thank you. Vote Sadler,” Sarah says tightly, slapping her hand over Cosima’s mouth. She sweeps her off and into the waiting elevator, elbowing her when she licks her palm.

“That goddamn f*cking traitor,” Cosima says when they reach their floor. “Duplicitous f*cking bastard! I—I f*cking helped him get elected. I canvassed for him for twenty-seven hours straight. I went to his sister’s wedding. I memorized his goddamn Five Guys order!”

“I f*cking know, Cosima,” Sarah says, shoving her keycard into the slot.

“How did that Vampire Weekend-looking little sh*t even have your personal number?”

Sarah throws her shoes at the bed, and they bounce off onto the floor in different directions. “Because I slept with him last year, Cosima, how do you think? You’re not the only one who makes stupid sexual decisions when you’re stressed out.” She drops onto the bed and starts taking off her earrings. “I just don’t understand what the point is. Like, what is Luna’s endgame here? Is he some kind of f*cking sleeper agent sent from the future to give me an ulcer?”

It’s late—they got into New York after nine, hurtling into crisis management meetings for hours. Cosima still feels wired, but when Sarah looks up at her, she can see some of the brightness in her eyes has started to look like frustrated tears, and she softens a little.

“If I had to guess, Luna thinks we’re going to lose,” she tells her quietly, “and he thinks he can help push Richards farther left by joining the ticket. Like, putting the fire out from inside the house.”

Sarah looks at her, eyes tired, searching her face. She may be the oldest, but politics is Cosima’s game, not hers. She knows she would have chosen this life for herself given the option; she knows Sarah wouldn’t have.

“I think . . . I need to sleep. For like, the next year. At least. Wake me up after the general.”

“Okay, Sar,” Cosima says. She leans down to kiss the top of her head. “I can do that.”

“Thanks, baby sis.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Tiny, miniature, itty-bitty, baby sister.”

“f*ck off.”

“Go to bed.”

Vic is waiting for her out in the hallway, his suit abandoned for plainclothes.

“Hanging in there?” he asks Cosima.

“I mean, I kind of have to.”

Vic pats her on the shoulder with one gigantic hand. “There’s a bar downstairs.”

Cosima considers. “Yeah, okay.”

The Beekman is thankfully quiet this late, and the bar is low-lit with warm, rich shades of gold on the walls and deep-green leather on the high-backed barstools. Cosima orders a whiskey neat.

She looks at her phone, swallowing down her frustration with the whiskey. She texted Luna three hours ago, a succinct: 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔? An hour ago, she got back: 𝙸 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚍.

She wants to call Delphine. She guesses it makes sense—they’ve always been fixed points in each other’s worlds, little magnetic poles. Some laws of physics would be reassuring right now.

God, whiskey makes her maudlin. She orders another.

She’s contemplating texting Delphine, even though she’s probably somewhere over the Atlantic heading home, when a voice curls around her ear, smooth and warm. She’s sure she must be imagining it.

“I’ll have a gin and tonic, merci,” it says, and there’s Delphine in the flesh, sidled up next to her at the bar, looking a little tousled in a soft baby pink button-down and jeans. Cosima wonders for an insane second if her brain has conjured up some kind of stress-induced sex mirage, when Delphine says, voice lowered, “You looked rather tragic drinking alone.”

Definitely the real Delphine, then. “You’re—what are you doing here?”

“You know, as a figurehead of one of the most powerful countries in the world, I do manage to keep abreast on international politics.”

Cosima raises an eyebrow.

Delphine inclines her head, sheepish. “I sent Art home without me because I was worried about you.”

“There it is,” Cosima says with a wink. She goes for her drink to hide what she suspects is a small, sad smile; the ice clacks against her teeth. “Speak not the bastard’s name.”

“Thank you,” Delphine says as the bartender returns with her drink.

Delphine takes the first sip, sucking lime juice off her thumb, and f*ck, she looks good. There’s color in her cheeks and lips, the glow of Brooklyn summertime warmth that her Parisian blood isn’t accustomed to. She looks like something soft and downy Cosima wants to sink into, and she realizes the knot of anxiety in her chest has finally slackened.

It’s rare anyone other than Sarah goes out of their way to check on her. It’s by her own design, mostly, a barricade of charm and fitful monologues and hard-headed independence. Delphine looks at her like she’s not fooled by any of it.

“Get moving on that drink, Versailles,” Cosima says. “I got a king-size bed upstairs that’s calling my name.” She shifts on her stool, letting one of her knees graze against Delphine’s under the bar, nudging them apart.

Delphine squints at her. “Bossy.”

They sit there until Delphine finishes her drink, Cosima listening to the placating murmur of Delphine talking about different brands of gin, thankful that for once Delphine seems happy to carry the conversation alone. She closes her eyes, wills the disaster of the day away, and tries to forget. She remembers Delphine’s words in the garden months ago: “Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be some anonymous person out in the world?”

If she’s some anonymous, normal person, removed from history, she’s twenty-two and she’s tipsy and she’s pulling a girl into her hotel room by the belt loop. She’s pulling a lip between her teeth, and she’s fumbling behind her back to switch on a lamp, and she’s thinking, I like this person.

They break apart, and when Cosima opens her eyes, Delphine is watching her.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

Cosima groans.

The thing is, she does, and Delphine knows this too.

“It’s...” Cosima starts. She paces backward, hands on her hips. “He was supposed to be me in twenty years, you know? I was fifteen the first time I met him, and I was ... in awe. He was everything I wanted to be. And he cared about people, and about doing the work because it was the right thing to do, because we were making people’s lives better.”

In the low light of the single lamp, Cosima turns and sits down on the edge of the bed.

“I’ve never been more sure that I wanted to do politics than when I went to Denver. I saw this young, queer guy who looked like me, sleeping at his desk because he wants kids at public schools in his state to have free lunches, and I was like, I could do this. I honestly don’t know if I’m good enough or smart enough to ever be either of my parents. But I could be that.” She drops her head down. She’s never said the last part out loud to anyone before. “And now I’m sitting here thinking, that son of a bitch sold out, so maybe it’s all bullsh*t, and maybe I really am just a naive kid who believes in magical sh*t that doesn’t happen in real life.”

Delphine comes to stand in front of Cosima, her thigh brushing against the inside of Cosima’s knee, and she reaches one hand down to still Cosima’s nervous fidgeting.

“Someone else’s choice doesn’t change who you are.”

“I feel like it does,” Cosima tells her. “I wanted to believe in some people being good and doing this job because they want to do good. Doing the right things most of the time and most things for the right reasons. I wanted to be the kind of person who believes in that.”

Delphine’s hands move, brushing up to Cosima’s shoulders, the dip of her throat, the underside of her jaw, and when Cosima finally looks up, Delphine’s eyes are soft and steady. “You still are. Because you still care so much.” She leans down and presses a kiss into Cosima’s hair. “And you are good. Most things are awful most of the time, but not you, never you.”

Cosima takes a breath. There’s this way Delphine has of listening to the erratic stream of consciousness that pours out of Cosima’s mouth and answering with the clearest, crystallized truth that Cosima has been trying to arrive at all along.

She lets Delphine push her backward on the bed and kiss her until her mind is blissfully blank, lets Delphine undress her carefully. She pushes into Delphine and feels the tight cords of her shoulders start to release, like how Delphine describes unfurling a sail.

Delphine kisses her mouth over and over again and says quietly, “You are good.”

The pounding on her door comes much too early for Cosima to handle loud noises. There’s a sharpness to it she recognizes instantly as Alison's before she even speaks, and she wonders why the hell she didn’t just call before she reaches for her phone and finds it dead. sh*t. That would explain the missed alarm.

“Cosima Niehaus-Sadler, it is almost seven,” Alison shouts through the door. “You have a strategy meeting in fifteen minutes and I have a key, so I don’t care how naked you are, if you don’t answer this door in the next thirty seconds, I’m coming in.”

She is, she realizes as she rubs her eyes, extremely naked. A cursory examination of the body pressed up against her back: Delphine, very comprehensively naked as well.

“Oh f*ck me,” Cosima swears, sitting up so fast she gets tangled in the sheet and flails sideways out of bed.

“Ugh,” Delphine groans.

“f*cking sh*t,” says Cosima, whose vocabulary is apparently now only expletives. She yanks herself free and scrambles for her t-shirt. “Goddammit f*ck.”

“What,” Delphine says flatly to the ceiling.

“I can hear you in there, Cosima, I swear to God—”

There’s another sound from the door, like Alison has kicked it, and Delphine flies out of bed too. She is truly a picture, wearing an expression of bewildered panic and absolutely nothing else. She eyes the curtains furtively, as if considering hiding in them.

“Jesus,” Cosima continues as she fumbles to pull her pants up. She snatches a shirt and underwear at random from the floor, shoves them at Delphine’s chest, and points her toward the closet. “Get in there.”

“Oui,” she observes.

“Yes, we can unpack the ironic symbolism later. Go,” Cosima says, and Delphine does, and when the door swings open, Alison is standing there with her thermos and a look on her face that says she did not get a master’s degree to babysit a fully grown adult who happens to be related to the president.

“Uh, morning,” she says.

Alison's eyes do a quick sweep of the room—the sheets on the floor, the two pillows that have been slept on, the two phones on the nightstand.

“Who is he?” she demands, marching over to the bathroom and yanking open the door like she’s going to find some Hollywood heartthrob in the bathtub. “You let him bring a phone in here?”

“Nobody, Jesus,” Cosima says, but her voice cracks in the middle. Alison arches an eyebrow. “What? I got kinda drunk last night, that’s all. It’s chill.”

“Yes, it is so very, very chill that you’re going to be hungover for today,” Alison says, rounding on her.

“I’m fine,” she says. “It’s fine.”

As if on cue, there’s a series of bumps from the other side of the closet door, and Delphine, halfway into Cosima’s underwear, comes literally tumbling out of the closet.

It is, Cosima thinks half-hysterically, a very solid visual pun.

“Er,” Delphine says from the floor. She finishes pulling Cosima’s underwear up her hips. Blinks. “Hello.”

The silence stretches.

“J—” Alison begins. “Do I even want you to explain to me what the f*ck is happening here? Literally how is she even here, like, physically or geographically, and why—no, nope. Don’t answer that. Don’t tell me anything.” She takes another pull of coffee. “Oh my God, did I do this? I never thought... when I set it up... oh my God.”

Delphine has pulled herself off the floor and put on her trousers, and her ears are bright red. “I think, perhaps, if it helps. It was. Er. Rather inevitable. At least for me. So you shouldn’t blame yourself.”

Cosima looks at her, trying to think of something to add, when Alison jabs a manicured finger into her shoulder.

“Well, I hope it was fun, because if anyone ever finds out about this, we’re all f*cked,” Alison says. She points viciously at Delphine. “You - can I assume I don’t have to make you sign an NDA?”

“I’ve already signed one for her,” Cosima offers up, while Delphine’s ears turn from red to an alarming shade of purple. Six hours ago, she was sinking drowsily into Delphine’s chest, and now she’s standing here talking about the paperwork. She f*cking hates paperwork. “I think that covers it.”

“Oh, wonderful,” Alison says. “I’m so glad you thought this through. Great. How long has this been happening?”

“Since, um. New Year’s,” Cosima says.

“New Year’s?” Alison repeats, eyes wide. “This has been going on for seven months? That’s why you—Oh my God, I thought you were getting into international relations or something.”

“I mean, technically—”

“If you finish that sentence, I’m gonna spend tonight in jail.”

Cosima winces. “Please don’t tell Mom.”

“Seriously?” she practically yells. “You’re literally putting your tongue in the leader of a foreign state, who is a woman, at the biggest political event before the election, in a hotel full of reporters, in a city full of cameras, in a race close enough to f*cking hinge on some bullsh*t like this, like a manifestation of my f*cking stress dreams, and you’re asking me not to tell the president about it?”

“Um. Yeah? I haven’t, um, come out to her. Yet.”

Alison blinks, presses her lips together, and makes a noise like she’s being strangled. “Listen,” she says. “We don’t have time to deal with this, and your mother has enough to manage without having to process her daughter’s f*cking quarter-life NATO sexual crisis, so—I won’t tell her. But once the convention is over, you have to.”

“Okay,” Cosima says on an exhale.

“Would it make any difference at all if I told you not to see her again?”

Cosima looks over at Delphine, looking rumpled and nauseated and terrified at the corner of the bed. She walks over and takes Delphine's hand in her own. “No. No difference whatsoever.”

“God f*cking dammit,” she says, rubbing the heel of her hand against her forehead. “Every time I see you, it takes another year off my life. I’m going downstairs, and you better be dressed and there in five minutes so we can try to save this goddamn campaign. And you”—she rounds on Delphine—“you need to get back to f*cking France now, and if anyone sees you leave, I will personally end you. I am not afraid of the crown.”

“Duly noted,” she says in a faint voice.

Alison fixes her with a final glare, turns on her heel, and stalks out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

Chapter 10

Chapter Text

"Okay," Cosima says.

Her mother, sits across the table, hands folded, looking at her expectantly. Cosima's palms are starting to sweat. The room is small, one of the lesser conference rooms in the West Wing. She knows she could have asked her mom to lunch or something, but, well, she kind of panicked.

She guesses she should just do it.

"I’ve been, um," she starts. "I’ve been figuring some stuff out about myself lately. And... I wanted to let you know because you’re my mom, and I want you to be a part of my life, and I don’t want to hide things from you. And also it’s, um, relevant to the campaign, from an image perspective."

"Okay," Siobhan says, her voice neutral.

"Okay," Cosima repeats. "All right. Um. So, I’ve realized I’m not straight. I’m actually bisexual."

Her expression clears, and she laughs, unclasping her hands. "Oh, that’s it, Cos? Thank God, I was worried you we're going to tell me you were sick or something!" She reaches across the table, covering Cosima's hand with hers. "That’s great, baby. I’m proud of you and I'm so glad you told me."

Cosima smiles back, the anxious bubble in her chest shrinking slightly, but there’s one more bomb to drop. "Um. There’s something else. I kind of... met somebody."

Siobhan tilts her head. "You did? Well, I’m happy for you. I hope you had them do all the paperwork—"

"It’s, uh," Cosima interrupts her. "It’s Delphine."

A beat. Siobhan frowns, her brow knitting together. "Delphine... ?"

"Yeah, Delphine."

"Delphine, as in... the princess?"


"Of France?"


"So, not another Delphine?"

"No, Mom. Princess Delphine. Of France."

"I thought you hated her?" Siobhan says. "Or... now you’re friends with her?"

"Both true at different points. But, uh, now we’re like, a thing. Have been. A thing. For like, seven-ish months? I guess?"

"I... see."

She stares at Cosima for a very long minute. Cosima shifts uncomfortably in her chair.

Suddenly, Siobhan's phone is in her hand, and she’s standing, kicking her chair under the table. "Okay, I’m clearing my schedule for the afternoon," she says. "I need, uh, time to prepare some materials. Are you free in an hour? We can reconvene here. I'll order food. Bring, uh, your passport and any receipts and relevant documents you have, honey."

She doesn’t wait to hear if Cosima’s free, just walks backward out of the room and disappears into the corridor. The door isn’t even finished closing when a notification pops up on Cosima’s phone. 𝐂𝐀𝐋𝐄𝐍𝐃𝐀𝐑 𝐑𝐄𝐐𝐔𝐄𝐒𝐓 𝐅𝐑𝐎𝐌 𝐌𝐎𝐌: 𝟐 𝐏.𝐌. 𝐖𝐄𝐒𝐓 𝐖𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐅𝐈𝐑𝐒𝐓 𝐅𝐋𝐎𝐎𝐑, 𝐈𝐍𝐓𝐄𝐑𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐀𝐋 𝐄𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐂𝐒 & 𝐒𝐄𝐗𝐔𝐀𝐋 𝐈𝐃𝐄𝐍𝐓𝐈𝐓𝐘 𝐃𝐄𝐁𝐑𝐈𝐄𝐅.

An hour later, there are several cartons of Chinese food and a PowerPoint cued up. The first slide says: 𝙎𝙀𝙓𝙐𝘼𝙇 𝙀𝙓𝙋𝙀𝙍𝙄𝙈𝙀𝙉𝙏𝘼𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 𝙒𝙄𝙏𝙃 𝙁𝙊𝙍𝙀𝙄𝙂𝙉 𝙈𝙊𝙉𝘼𝙍𝘾𝙃𝙎: 𝘼 𝙂𝙍𝘼𝙔 𝘼𝙍𝙀𝘼. Cosima wonders if it’s too late to swan dive off the roof.

"Okay," Siobhan says when Cosima sits down, in almost exactly the same tone Cosima used on her earlier. "Before we start, I—I want to be clear, I love you and support you always. But this is, quite frankly, a logistical and ethical clusterf*ck, so we need to make sure we have our ducks in a row. Okay?"

The next slide is titled: 𝙀𝙓𝙋𝙇𝙊𝙍𝙄𝙉𝙂 𝙔𝙊𝙐𝙍 𝙎𝙀𝙓𝙐𝘼𝙇𝙄𝙏𝙔: 𝙃𝙀𝘼𝙇𝙏𝙃𝙔, 𝘽𝙐𝙏 𝘿𝙊𝙀𝙎 𝙄𝙏 𝙃𝘼𝙑𝙀 𝙏𝙊 𝘽𝙀 𝙒𝙄𝙏𝙃 𝙏𝙃𝙀 𝙋𝙍𝙄𝙉𝘾𝙀𝙎𝙎 𝙊𝙁 𝙁𝙍𝘼𝙉𝘾𝙀? She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles. Cosima actively wishes for the sweet release of death.


She’s mostly concerned with making sure Cosima hasn’t used any federally funded private jets to see Delphine for exclusively personal visits—she hasn’t—and with making her fill out a bunch of paperwork to cover both their asses. It feels clinical and wrong, checking little boxes about her relationship, especially when half are asking things she hasn’t even discussed with Delphine yet.

It’s agonizing, but eventually it’s over, and she doesn’t die, which is something. She makes a mental note to send Delphine the slides later, she knows she will find this presentation hysterical. Siobhan takes the last form and seals it up in an envelope with the rest. She sets it aside and takes off her reading glasses, setting those aside too.

"So," she says. "Here’s the thing. I know I put a lot on you. But I do it because I trust you. You’re a dumbass, but I trust you, and I trust your judgment. I promised you years ago I would never tell you to be anything you’re not. So I’m not gonna be the president or the mother who forbids you from seeing her."

She takes another breath, waiting for Cosima to nod that she understands.

"But," she goes on, "this is a really, really big deal. This is not just some person from class or some intern. You need to think really long and hard because you are putting yourself and your career and, above all, this campaign and this entire administration, in danger here. I know you're young, but this is a forever decision. Even if you don’t stay with her forever, if people find out, that sticks with you forever. So you need to figure out if you feel forever about her. And if you don’t, you need to cut it off."

She rests her hands on the table in front of her, and the silence hangs in the air between them. Cosima feels like her heart is caught somewhere between her tonsils.

Forever. It seems like an impossibly huge word, something she’s supposed to grow into ten years from now.

"Also," Siobhan says. "I am so sorry to do this, honey. But you're off the campaign."

Cosima snaps back into razor-sharp reality, stomach plummeting.

"Wait, no—"

"This is not up for debate, Cosima," she tells her, and she does look sorry, but Cosima knows the set of her jaw too well. "I want to be clear, this is NOT a punishment. But I can’t risk this. You’re way too close to the sun. We're telling the press you're focusing on other career options. I’ll have your desk cleaned out for you over the weekend."

She holds out one hand, and Cosima looks down into her palm, the worried lines there, until the realization clicks.

She reaches into her pocket, pulls out her campaign badge. The first artifact of her entire career, a career she’s managed to derail in a matter of months. And she hands it over.

"Oh, one last thing," Siobhan says, her tone suddenly businesslike again, shuffling something from the bottom of her files. "I know Austin public schools don’t have sex ed for sh*t, and we didn’t go over this when we had the talk—which is on me for assuming—so I just wanted to make sure you know you still need to be using condoms even if you’re using dild*—"

"Okay, thanks, Mom!" Cosima half yells, nearly knocking over her chair in her rush for the door.

"Wait, honey," Siobhan calls after her, "I love you. And when this is all over, I can't wait to meet the Delphine you know."

𝗖 <𝗖𝗡𝗦@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟴/𝟭𝟬/𝟮𝟬 𝟭:𝟬𝟰 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗

𝗥𝗘: 𝗔 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗢𝗳 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗡𝗮𝘃𝗲𝘀


𝙷𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝙰𝚕𝚎𝚡𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝙷𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚝𝚘𝚗’𝚜 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝙹𝚘𝚑𝚗 𝙻𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚜?

𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚖 𝙸 𝚜𝚊𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐? 𝙾𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚗’𝚝. 𝚈𝚘𝚞’𝚍 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚋𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚟𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚜𝚢𝚖𝚙𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚎𝚜.

𝚆𝚎𝚕𝚕, 𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝙸 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚘𝚘𝚝 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚐𝚗, 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑 𝚌𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚗𝚎𝚠𝚜 (𝚍𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚕𝚢 𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚙𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚌𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚜 𝚋𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢), 𝚛𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝙷𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚢 𝙿𝚘𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚢 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚝 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚐𝚎. 𝙹𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚝 𝚙𝚊𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜, 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐: 𝙴𝚡𝚌𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝚢𝚎𝚜, 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚐𝚕𝚊𝚍 𝙸 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚍 𝚞𝚙 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝟿𝟾 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚜, 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚖𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚓𝚘𝚋 𝙸 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚎𝚡𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚍𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖! 𝙶𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚓𝚘𝚋, 𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊!

𝙸𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚊𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎? 𝙸𝚝 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚜.

𝚂𝚘 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚢, 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑 𝚖𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚐𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚏𝚏, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚊𝚕𝚢𝚜𝚒𝚜 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝙷𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚝𝚘𝚗’𝚜 𝚠𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚖𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝: 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝙷𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚝𝚘𝚗 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚋𝚒. 𝙷𝚒𝚜 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝙻𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚛𝚘𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝚊𝚜 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚏𝚎. 𝙷𝚊𝚕𝚏 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚗𝚎𝚍 “𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜” 𝚘𝚛 “𝙰𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚢𝚛𝚜,” 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝙻𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚜 𝚍𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚗𝚎𝚍 “𝚈𝚛𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛.” 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚢 𝚗𝚘𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 𝙵𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙵𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 (𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝙲𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚘𝚠’𝚜 𝚋𝚒𝚘𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑𝚢, 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚒𝚜 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚋𝚝𝚠, 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚋𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚘𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑𝚢). 𝙸 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗, 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚑𝚢, 𝚋𝚞𝚝.

𝙰𝚗𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚢, 𝙸 𝚏𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝙻𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚜, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚎, 𝙸 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚜:

𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚜 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚊𝚗 𝚞𝚗𝚕𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚢 𝚑𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚗, 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚔 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚑𝚊𝚜𝚒𝚜. 𝙸 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚐𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚟𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚢. 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝙲𝚘𝚗𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜—𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚖𝚢—𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍—𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚖𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚕𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚔𝚗𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚜; 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚕𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚎𝚙𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞...

𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚑𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚜 𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚏𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢, 𝙸 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚜. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘𝚘. 𝙸 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚊 𝚠𝚒𝚜𝚑 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚝𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝.

𝙷𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢, 𝚑𝚞𝚑? 𝙱𝚎𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎.

𝙰𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚢𝚛𝚜, 𝚜𝚕𝚘𝚠𝚕𝚢 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚊𝚗𝚎,

𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊, 𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝙵𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙵𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚂𝚊𝚌𝚛𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚐𝚎

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟴/𝟭𝟬/𝟮𝟬 𝟰:𝟭𝟴 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖

𝗥𝗘: 𝗔 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗢𝗳 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗡𝗮𝘃𝗲𝘀

𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊, 𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝙳𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝙼𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚋𝚊𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢 𝙷𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝚁𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜:

𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚑𝚛𝚊𝚜𝚎 “𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚋𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚘𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑𝚢” 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚕𝚎 𝚜𝚎𝚡𝚒𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎.

𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚕𝚘𝚠 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚢 𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚆𝚑𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝙷𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎, 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚕𝚙 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚒𝚝’𝚜 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚊𝚞𝚕𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚜𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚖𝚊𝚌𝚑 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢. 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚜𝚘, 𝚜𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢. 𝙸 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚗 𝚞𝚙 𝚊𝚝 𝚊 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝. 𝙸 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢; 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔. 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚓𝚘𝚋 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝙸 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘... 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠. 𝙴𝚡𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚙𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗. 𝙸𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎, 𝚘𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚕, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝—𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚔, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚞𝚗𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜—𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚍. 𝚃𝚛𝚞𝚕𝚢.

𝙸𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗𝚝... 𝙱𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚝, 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚊 𝚋𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚗 𝙷𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚝𝚘𝚗, 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚗𝚞𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚘𝚗𝚜. 𝙵𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝, 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚋𝚛𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚛. 𝚂𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚍, 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚎𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚏𝚊𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚒𝚜 (𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚕𝚊𝚛𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚗𝚞𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚝𝚜, 𝚋𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚢: 𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗, 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚑𝚞𝚝 𝚞𝚙). 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚛𝚍, 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝙰𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚝𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚞𝚐𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚟𝚒𝚛𝚝𝚞𝚎 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚗 𝚘𝚒𝚕 𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚒𝚖 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚁𝚎𝚍 𝚁𝚘𝚘𝚖, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚢, 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚍𝚎𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚡𝚝.

𝙰𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚛𝚎𝚟𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚍𝚒𝚎𝚛 𝚛𝚘𝚕𝚎-𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚢 𝚜𝚌𝚎𝚗𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚘? 𝙸 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚒𝚗𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝙻𝚘𝚞𝚒𝚜 𝚘𝚛 𝙽𝚊𝚙𝚘𝚕𝚎𝚘𝚗'𝚜 𝚋𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚌𝚞𝚛𝚍𝚕𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚟𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚎 𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝙾𝚛 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚞𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚍 𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎 𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚋𝚢 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚕𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝?

𝚂𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝙸 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚎’𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝, 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖𝚜? 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚜𝚕𝚎𝚎𝚙, 𝙸 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚙 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚜𝚝, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚔𝚕𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚒𝚙, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚞𝚙 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚒𝚝 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚘𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚗𝚎𝚌𝚔 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚍? 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚗 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚝 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚜 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚋𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎? 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝, 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚏𝚎𝚠 𝚖𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚜, 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖, 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖𝚜, 𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚕?

𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚜 𝙷𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚝𝚘𝚗 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝙴𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚊:

𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚎𝚗𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚜 𝚖𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚜 𝚝𝚘𝚘 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚘𝚠 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚘𝚏 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎—𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚘𝚢 𝚖𝚢 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚍𝚊𝚢; 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚍𝚎 𝚞𝚙𝚘𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚕𝚎𝚎𝚙. 𝙸 𝚖𝚎𝚎𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚗 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖—𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚌𝚕𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚖𝚢 𝚎𝚢𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚛𝚞𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜.

𝙸𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚒𝚍 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚙𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚎𝚖𝚊𝚒𝚕, 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜.


𝙷𝚊𝚙𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚕𝚢 𝚁𝚘𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝙷𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚄𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝙳𝚊𝚏𝚝

𝗖 <𝗖𝗡𝗦@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃> 𝟴/𝟭𝟬/𝟮𝟬 𝟱:𝟯𝟲 𝗔𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗

𝗥𝗘: 𝗔 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗢𝗳 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗡𝗮𝘃𝗲𝘀


𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚋𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚙𝚒𝚍. 𝙽𝚘 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚎 𝚞𝚗𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍. 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗'𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚊 𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚘𝚙𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗.

𝙰𝚗𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚢, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚊 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚛. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚛.

𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜, 𝙸 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙳𝚘𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚌𝚛𝚊𝚣𝚢? 𝙸 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚒𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛, 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚜 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚏𝚏 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝙷𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚝𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜? 𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖? 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝙸 𝚜𝚘 𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚗𝚐?

𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚠𝚎𝚒𝚛𝚍 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝙸 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎, 𝚐𝚞𝚝 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚞𝚜𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚛 𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚍𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗. 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝙸 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚊 𝚐𝚞𝚝 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝙸 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚝. 𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚔𝚎𝚙𝚝 𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚢, 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚌𝚎𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚜𝚝. 𝙸 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙽𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚑 𝚂𝚝𝚊𝚛?

𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗. 𝙸 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑 𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚗𝚎. 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎. 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘𝚘. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎. 𝚆𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚂𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙵𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚡 𝚘𝚗 𝚃𝚅 𝚍𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎.

𝚆𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚘𝚕𝚔𝚜 𝚕𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚃𝚎𝚡𝚊𝚜. 𝚆𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚛𝚒𝚍. 𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚊 𝚕𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚊 𝚙𝚒𝚎𝚛, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝚍𝚊𝚍 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚌𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚖𝚊𝚣𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝙼𝚢 𝚖𝚘𝚖 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚍𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎? 𝙸 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚙 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚞𝚗𝚋𝚞𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚢 𝚜𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚛𝚢. 𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚗𝚎𝚡𝚝. 𝙸𝚏 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝙰𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚘𝚛 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚏𝚕𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝙰𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚗, 𝚠𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚞𝚙 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎. 𝚂𝚊𝚢 𝚢𝚎𝚜?



𝙿.𝚂. 𝙰𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚗 𝙶𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚋𝚎𝚛𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝙿𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝙾𝚛𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚜𝚔𝚢—𝟷𝟿𝟻𝟾:

𝚃𝚑𝚘 𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚜𝚞𝚗𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚌𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚞𝚜 𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚊 𝚑𝚘𝚖𝚎. 𝚂𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚑𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚢 & 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺> 𝟴/𝟭𝟬/𝟮𝟬 𝟴:𝟮𝟮 𝗣𝗠 𝗧𝗢 𝗖

𝗥𝗘: 𝗔 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗢𝗳 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗡𝗮𝘃𝗲𝘀


𝙸𝚏 𝙸’𝚖 𝚗𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚑, 𝙸 𝚜𝚑𝚞𝚍𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝙶𝚘𝚍’𝚜 𝚗𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚎’𝚛𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐.

𝙸’𝚖 𝚛𝚞𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚒𝚝, 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚊 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢:

𝙾𝚗𝚌𝚎, 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚗 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚌𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚕𝚎. 𝙷𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚜𝚌𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚊𝚛, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎, 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚔𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍. 𝙰𝚜 𝚊 𝚐𝚒𝚛𝚕, 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚘𝚏 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚜𝚒𝚕𝚔 𝚌𝚕𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚜, 𝚛𝚒𝚙𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚞𝚒𝚝 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛𝚢. 𝙰𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜, 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢, 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚝 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜.

𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚊 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐, 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚚𝚞𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚑𝚎𝚛: 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚗 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢.

𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚖𝚊𝚕𝚕, 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚠 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢. 𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚠, 𝚒𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜, 𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚟𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎. 𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚍𝚊𝚢, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢’𝚜 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚍𝚘𝚖 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔𝚜 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜.

𝙷𝚎𝚛 𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚖𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚎𝚗, 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚑𝚒𝚐𝚑 𝚝𝚘𝚠𝚎𝚛, 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚔𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜, 𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎.

𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚗, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜’𝚜 𝚏𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚌𝚔 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚒𝚗 𝚋𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚗 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚖𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚎𝚏𝚝 𝚑𝚒𝚖 𝚋𝚕𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚞𝚜𝚝. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘, 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚗𝚎𝚠 𝚌𝚕𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚜, 𝚊𝚛𝚖𝚘𝚛 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚎𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚜𝚊𝚏𝚎, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜’𝚜 𝚖𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚍𝚒𝚍 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚙 𝚑𝚎𝚛. 𝙵𝚘𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚏𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚍, 𝚗𝚘𝚠: 𝚊𝚏𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚍𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛’𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚗 𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚘𝚘.

𝚂𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚜, 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝. 𝚄𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚕 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚍𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚕𝚢 𝚐𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚐𝚒𝚛𝚕 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚊 𝚗𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚋𝚢 𝚟𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚐𝚑𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚌𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚛, 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚓𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚞𝚙 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚟𝚘𝚍𝚔𝚊 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚝𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚜 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚞𝚙 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚙𝚞𝚏𝚏 𝚘𝚏 𝚍𝚊𝚣𝚣𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚞𝚛𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚜𝚖𝚘𝚔𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚍𝚘𝚖 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍, “𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚠𝚎’𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚘 𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚍.”

𝙸’𝚖 𝚒𝚗 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎. 𝙸 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚍𝚖𝚒𝚝, 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚕𝚊𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎. 𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚊𝚢 𝚋𝚞𝚛𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗. 𝙳𝚘𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛?

𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞.


𝙿.𝚂. 𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚞𝚍𝚕𝚒𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍, 𝚑𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚕𝚢, 𝙸 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚟𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚒𝚝.

𝙿.𝙿.𝚂. 𝙵𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝙷𝚎𝚗𝚛𝚢 𝙹𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝙷𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚛𝚒𝚔 𝙲. 𝙰𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚗, 𝟷𝟾𝟿𝟿:

𝙼𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚏𝚒𝚌 𝚄.𝚂.𝙰. 𝚋𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚊 𝚋𝚛𝚞𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙸 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚏𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎, 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝙶𝚒𝚛𝚕—𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚓𝚘𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎. 𝙼𝚢 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚢𝚖𝚙𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚖𝚕𝚢, 𝚐𝚘 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚂𝚘 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚞𝚙 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚎, 𝚊𝚜 𝚒𝚝 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚎𝚜 𝚒𝚝𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏, 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝙰𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢. 𝙼𝚊𝚢, 𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚎, 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚋𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

"Do not," Felix says, leaning over the passenger seat. "There is a system, and you must respect the system."

"I don’t believe in systems when I’m on vacation," Sarah says, her body folded halfway over Cosima's, trying to slap Felix’s hand out of the way.

"It’s math," Felix says.

"Math has no authority here," Sarah tells her.

"Math is everywhere, Sarah."

"Get off me," Cosima says, shoving Sarah off her shoulder.

"You’re supposed to back me up on this!" Sarah yelps, pulling her hair and receiving a very ugly face in response.

"Pleeeeeease," Felix says.

Cosima sighs. "Sorry, Sar, but Felix did put more hours into his playlist, so he should get the aux cord."

There’s a combination of sounds from the back seat, disgust and triumph, and Felix plugs his phone in, swearing he’s developed some kind of foolproof algorithm for the perfect road trip playlist. The first trumpets of "Loco in Acapulco" by the Four Tops blast, and Cosima finally pulls out of the gas station.

The jeep is a refurb, a project her dad took on when Cosima was around ten. He drives it into the lake house once a year for this weekend, leaves it in Austin so Cosima and Sarah can drive it in. Cosima learned to drive one summer in the valley in this jeep, and the accelerator feels just as good under her foot now as she falls into formation with two black Secret Service SUVs and heads for the interstate. She hardly ever gets to drive herself anywhere anymore.

The sky is wide open and bluebonnet blue for miles, the sun low and heavy with an early morning start, and Cosima has her sunglasses on and her arms bare and the doors and roof off. She cranks up the stereo and feels like she could throw anything away on the wind whipping through her hair and it would just float away like it never was, as if nothing matters but the rush and skip in her chest.

But it’s all right behind the haze of dopamine: losing the campaign job, the restless days pacing her room, the Do you feel forever about her?

She tips her chin up to the warm, sticky hometown air, catches her own eye in the rearview mirror. She looks bronzed and soft-mouthed and young, a Texas girl, the same kid she was when she left for DC. So, no more big thoughts for today.

Outside the hangar are a handful of PPOs and Delphine in short-sleeved chambray, shorts, and a pair of fashionable sunglasses, Burberry weekender over one shoulder—a goddamn summer dream. Felix’s playlist has segued into "Here You Come Again" by Dolly Parton by the time Cosima swings out of the side of the jeep by one arm.

"Yes, hello, hello, it’s good to see you too!" Delphine is saying from somewhere inside a smothering hug from Sarah and Felix. Cosima bites her lip and watches Delphine squeeze their waists in return, and then Cosima has her, inhaling the clean smell of her, laughing into the crook of her neck.

"Bonjour, mon amour," she hears Delphine say quietly, privately, right into the hair above her ear, and Cosima’s breath forgets how to do anything but laugh helplessly.

"Drums, please!" erupts from the jeep’s stereo and the beat on "Summertime" kicks in, and Cosima whoops her approval. Once Delphine’s security team has fallen in with the Secret Service cars, they’re off.

Delphine is grinning wide beside her as they cruise down 45, happily bopping her head along to the music, and Cosima can’t help but keep glancing over at her, feeling giddy that Delphine—Delphine the princess—is here, in Texas, coming home with her. Sarah pulls four bottles of Mexican co*ke out of the cooler under her seat and passes them around, and Delphine takes the first sip and practically melts. Cosima reaches over and takes Delphine’s free hand into her own, lacing their fingers together on the console between them.

It takes an hour and a half to get out to the Lake LBJ from Austin, and when they start weaving their way toward the water, Delphine asks, "Why is it called Lake LBJ?"

"Felix?" Cosima says.

"Lake LBJ," Felix says, "or Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, is one of six reservoirs formed by dams on the Colorado River known as the Texas Highland Lakes. Made possible by LBJ enacting the Rural Electrification Act when he was president. And LBJ had a place out here."

"That’s true," Cosima says.

"Also, fun fact: LBJ was obsessed with his own dick," Felix adds. "He called it Jumbo and would whip it out all the time. Like, in front of colleagues, reporters, anybody."

"Also true."

"American politics," Delphine says. "Truly fascinating."

"You wanna talk, Louis XV?" Cosima says.

"Anyway," Delphine says airily, "how long have you guys come out here?"

"Mom and dad bought it when I was like twelve," Cosima tells her. "We used to spend so much time here in the summers."

"Aw, Cosima, remember when you got drunk for the first time out here?" Sarah says.

"Strawberry daiquiris all day."

"You threw up so much," she says fondly.

They pull into a driveway flanked by thick trees and drive up to the house at the top of the hill, the same old vibrant orange exterior and smooth arches, tall cactuses and aloe plants. Her dad went all in on the decor when they bought the lake house, tall teal doors and heavy wooden beams and Spanish tile accents in pinks and reds. There’s a big wrap-around porch and stairs leading down the hill to the dock, and all the windows facing the water have been flung open, the curtains drifting out on a warm breeze.

Their teams fall back to check the perimeter—they’re renting out the place next door for added privacy and the obligatory security presence. Delphine effortlessly lifts Sarah’s cooler up onto one shoulder and Cosima pointedly does not swoon about it.

There’s the loud yell of John Niehaus coming around the corner. "Kids!" he says as he spins Sarah around. Felix is next, and then a bone-crushing hug for Cosima.

Delphine steps forward, and John looks her up and down—the Burberry bag, the cooler on her shoulder, the elegant smile, the extended hand. Her dad had been confused but ultimately willing to roll with it when Cosima asked if she could bring a friend and casually mentioned the friend would be the Princess of France. She’s not sure how this will go.

"Hello," Delphine says. "Good to meet you. I’m Delphine."

John gently slaps his hand into Delphine’s. "Hi Your Royal Highness, hope you’re hungry."

The kitchen of the lake house faces the water, always smelling like citrus and salt and herbs, and her dad keeps it stocked with plump tomatoes and clay-soft avocados when they’re visiting. He’s standing in front of the big, open windows now, three racks of ribs spread out on pans on the counter in front of him. Her dad is at the sink, shucking ears of corn and humming along to an old Chente record.

Brown sugar. Smoked paprika. Onion powder. Chili powder. Garlic powder. Cayenne pepper. Salt. Pepper. More brown sugar. Cosima measures each one out with her hands and dumps them into the bowl.

Down by the dock, Sarah and Felix are embroiled in what looks like an improvised jousting match, charging at each other on the backs of inflatable animals with pool noodles. Delphine is tipsy and shirtless and attempting to referee, standing on the dock with one foot on a piling and waving a bottle of Shiner around like a madwoman.

Cosima smiles a little to herself, watching them. Delphine and her family.

"So, you wanna talk about it?" says her father’s voice, somewhere to her left.

Cosima jumps a little, startled. Her dad has relocated to the bar a few feet down from her, mixing up a big batch of cotija and crema and seasonings for elotes.

"Uh." Has she been that obvious already?

"About Raf."

Cosima exhales, her shoulders dropping, and returns her attention to the dry rub.

"Ah. That motherf*cker," she says. They’ve only broached the topic in passing obscenities over text since the news broke. There’s a mutual sting of betrayal. "Do you have any idea what he’s thinking?"

"I don’t have anything kinder to say about him than you do. And I don’t have an explanation either. But..." He pauses thoughtfully, still stirring. Cosima can sense him weighing out several thoughts at once, as he often does. "I don’t know. After all this time, I want to believe there’s a reason for him to put himself in the same room as Jeffrey Richards. But I can’t figure out what."

"Why’d you guys pick him?" Cosima asks. "I remember that campaign. We met a lot of people who would’ve made great politicians. Why wouldn’t you pick someone easier to elect?"

"You mean, why’d we roll the dice on the gay one?"

Cosima concentrates on keeping her face neutral.

"I wasn’t gonna put it like that," she says, "but yeah."

"Raf ever tell you his parents kicked him out when he was sixteen?"

Cosima winces. "I knew he had a hard time before college, but he didn’t specify."

"Yeah, they didn’t take the news so well. He had a rough couple of years, but it made him tough. The night we met him, it was the first time he’d been back in Texas since he got kicked out, but he was damn sure gonna come in to support our cause. It was like when Alison showed up at your mom’s office in Austin and said she wanted to prove the bastards wrong. You know a fighter when you see one."

"Yeah," Cosima says.

There’s another pause of Chente crooning in the background while John stirs, before he speaks again.

"You know..." he says. "That summer, we sent you to work on his campaign because you’re the best point person we have. I knew you could do it. But I really thought there was a lot you could learn from him too. You got a lot in common."

Cosima says nothing for a long moment.

"I gotta be honest," her dad says, and when Cosima looks up again, he’s watching the window. "I thought a princess would be more of a candy-ass."

Cosima laughs, glancing back out at Delphine, the sway of her back under the afternoon sun. "She’s tougher than she looks."

"Not bad for a European," her dad says. "Better than half the idiots Sarah’s brought home." Cosima’s hands freeze, and her head jerks back to her dad, who’s still stirring with his heavy wooden spoon, face impartial. "Half the guys you’ve brought around too." Cosima stares at him, until her dad finally looks up. "What? You’re not as subtle as you think."

"I—I don’t know," Cosima sputters. "I thought you might need to, like, have a moment about this or something?"

Her dad slaps her on the bicep with the spoon, leaving a splatter of crema and cheese behind. "Have a little more faith in your old man than that, eh? A little appreciation for the patron saint of gender-neutral bathrooms in Texas? Little sh*t."

"Okay, okay, sorry!" Cosima says, laughing. "I just know it’s different when it’s your own kid."

Her dad laughs too, rubbing a hand over his goatee. "It’s really not. Not to me, anyway. I see you."

Cosima smiles again. "I know."

"Does your ma know?"

"Yeah, I told her. She told me I had to tell you ASAP because she couldn't keep it from you, but apparently it had to come from me."

"What'd she say?"

"I mean, she doesn’t care that I’m bi. She kind of freaked out it was her. There was a PowerPoint."

"That sounds about right."

"She fired me. And, uh. She told me I need to figure out if the way I feel about her is worth the risk."

"Well, is it?"

Cosima groans. "Please, for the love of God, do not ask me. I’m on vacation. I want to get drunk and eat barbecue in peace."

Her dad laughs ruefully. "You know, in a lot of ways, your mom and me were a stupid idea. But God, that woman. Your mother is, without question, the love of my life. I'll never love anyone else like that. That kind of love is rare." He sucks his teeth, considering. "Sometimes you just jump and hope it’s not a cliff."

Cosima closes her eyes. "Are you done with dad monologues for the day?"

"You’re such a sh*t," he says, throwing a kitchen towel at her head. "Go put the ribs on. I wanna eat today." He calls after Cosima’s back, "You two better take the bunk beds tonight! I like you together, I don't want to hear you together!"

They eat later that evening, big piles of elotes, pork tamales with salsa verde, a clay pot of frijoles charros, ribs. Delphine gamely piles her plate with some of each and eyeballs it as if waiting for it to reveal its secrets to her, and Cosima realizes Delphine has never eaten barbecue with her hands before.

Cosima demonstrates and watches with poorly concealed glee as Delphine gingerly picks up a rib with her fingertips and considers her approach, cheering as Delphine dives in face-first and rips a hunk of meat off with her teeth. She chews proudly, a huge smear of barbecue sauce across her upper lip and the tip of her nose.

Her dad keeps an old guitar in the living room, and Sarah brings it out on the porch so the two of them can pass it back and forth. Felix, one of Cosima’s college sweatshirts thrown on over his trunks, floats barefoot in and out, keeping all their glasses filled from a pitcher of sangria brimming with white peaches and blackberries.

They sit around the fire pit and play old Johnny Cash songs, Selena, Fleetwood Mac. Cosima sits and listens to the cicadas and the water and her dad’s rough, ranger voice, and when her dad slumps off to bed, Sarah’s songbird one. She feels wrapped up and warm, turning slowly under the moon.

She and Delphine drift to a swing at the edge of the porch, and she curls into Delphine’s side, buries her face in the collar of her shirt. Delphine puts an arm around her, touches the hinge of Cosima’s jaw with fingers.

Sarah plucks away at "Annie’s Song," you fill up my senses like a night in a forest, and the breeze keeps moving to meet the highest branches of the trees, and the water keeps rising to meet the bulkheads, and Delphine leans down to meet Cosima’s mouth, and Cosima is - well, Cosima is so in love she could die.

Cosima falls out of bed the following morning with a low-grade hangover and one of Delphine’s swimsuits tangled around her elbow. They did, technically, sleep in separate bunks. They just didn’t start there. Over the kitchen sink, she chugs a glass of water and stares out the window, the sun blinding and bright on the lake, and there’s an incandescent little stone of certainty at the bottom of her chest.

It’s this place—the absolute separation from DC, the familiar old smells of cedar trees and dried chile de arbol, the sanity of it. The roots. She could go outside and dig her fingers into the springy ground and understand anything about herself.

And she does understand, really. She loves Delphine, and it’s nothing new. She’s been falling in love with Delphine for years, probably since she first saw her in glossy print on the pages of J14, almost definitely since she pinned Cosima to the floor of a medical supply closet and told her to shut the hell up. That long. That much.

She smiles as she reaches for a frying pan because she knows it’s exactly the kind of insane risk she can’t resist.

By the time Delphine comes wandering into the kitchen in her pyjamas, there’s an entire breakfast spread on the long green table, and Cosima is at the stove, flipping her dozenth pancake.

"Is that an apron?"

Cosima flourishes toward the polka-dotted thing she’s got on over her nightshirt with her free hand, as if showing off one of her tailored dresses. "Morning, baby."

"Sorry," Delphine says. "I was looking for someone else. Beautiful, petulant, short, not pleasant until after 10 am? Have you seen her?"

"f*ck off, five-four is average."

Delphine crosses the room with a laugh and nudges up behind her at the stove to peck her on the cheek. "Bébé, you and I both know you’re rounding up."

It’s only a step on the way to the coffeemaker, but Cosima reaches back and gets a hand in Delphine’s hair before she can move, pulling her into a kiss on the mouth this time. Delphine huffs a little in surprise but returns it fully.

Cosima forgets, momentarily, about the pancakes and everything else, not because she wants to do absolutely filthy things to Delphine—maybe even with the apron still on—but because she loves her, and isn’t that wild, to know that that’s what makes the filthy things so good.

"I didn’t realize this was a jazz brunch," says Felix’s voice suddenly, and Delphine springs backward so fast she almost puts her ass in the bowl of batter. She sidles up to the forgotten coffeemaker, grinning slyly at them.

"That doesn’t seem sanitary," Sarah is saying with a yawn as she folds herself into a chair at the table.

"Sorry," Delphine says sheepishly.

"I’m not," Cosima says.

"I’m hungover," Sarah says as she reaches for the pitcher of mimosas. "Cosima, you did all this?"

Cosima shrugs, and Sarah squints at her, bleary but knowing.

That afternoon, over the sounds of the boat’s engine, Delphine talks to Cosima’s dad at length about the sailboats that jut up from the horizon, getting into a complex discussion on outboard motors that Cosima can’t hope to follow. John is very impressed. Cosima leans back against the bow and watches, and it’s so easy to imagine it: a future Delphine who comes to the lake house with her every summer, who learns how to make elotes and ties neat cleat hitches and fits right into place in her weird family.

They go swimming, yell over one another about politics, pass the guitar around again. Delphine takes a photo of herself with Sarah and Felix, one under each arm and both in their swimwear. Felix is holding her chin in one hand and licking the side of her face, and Sarah has her fingers tangled up in her hair and her head in the crook of her neck, smiling angelically at the camera. She sends it to Art and receives anguished keysmashes and crying emojis in response, and they all almost piss themselves laughing.

It’s good. It’s really, really good.

Cosima lies awake that night, drunk on Shiner and way too many campfire marshmallows, and she stares at whorls in the wood panels of the top bunk and thinks about coming of age out here. She remembers when she was young and freckly and unafraid when the world seemed like it was blissfully endless but everything still made perfect sense. She used to leave her clothes in a pile on the pier and dive headfirst into the lake. Everything was in its right place.

She wears a key to her childhood home around her neck, but she doesn’t know the last time she actually thought about the girl who used to push it into the lock.

Maybe losing the job isn’t the worst thing that could have happened.

She thinks about roots, about first and second languages. What she wanted when she was a kid and what she wants now and where those things overlap. Maybe that place, the meeting of the two, is here somewhere, in the gentle insistence of the water around her legs, crude letters carved with an old pocket knife. The steady thrum of another person’s pulse against hers.

"D?" she whispers. "You awake?"

Delphine sighs. "Always."

They sneak through the grass in hushed voices past one of Delphine’s PPOs dozing on the porch, racing down the pier, shoving at each other’s shoulders. Delphine’s laugh is high and clear, her sunburned shoulders bright pink in the dark, and Cosima looks at her and something so buoyant fills up her chest that she feels like she could swim the length of the lake without stopping for air. She throws her T-shirt down at the end of the pier and starts to lose her underwear, and when Delphine arches an eyebrow at her, Cosima laughs and jumps.

"You’re a menace," Delphine says when Cosima breaks back to the surface. But she only hesitates briefly before she’s stripping out of her clothes in solidarity.

She stands naked at the edge of the pier, looking at Cosima’s head and shoulders bobbing in the water. The lines of her are long and languid in the moonlight, just skin and skin and skin lit soft and blue, and she’s so beautiful that Cosima thinks this moment, the soft shadows and pale thighs and crooked smile, should be the portrait of Delphine that goes down in history. There are fireflies winking around her head, landing in her hair. A crown.

Her dive is infuriatingly graceful.

"Can’t you ever just do one thing without having to be so goddamn extra about it?" Cosima says, splashing her as soon as she surfaces.

"That is rich coming from you," Delphine says, and she’s grinning like she does when she’s drinking in a challenge, like nothing in the world pleases her more than Cosima’s antagonizing elbow in her side.

"I don’t know what you’re talking about," Cosima says, kicking over to her.

They chase each other around the pier, race down to the lake’s shallow bottom and shoot back up in the moonlight, all elbows and knees. Cosima finally manages to catch Delphine around the waist, and she pins her, slides her wet mouth over the thudding pulse of Delphine’s throat. She wants to stay tangled up in Delphine’s legs forever. She wants to match the new freckles across Delphine’s nose to the stars above them and make her name the constellations.

"Hey," she says, her mouth right up in a breath’s space from Delphine’s. She watches a drop of water roll down Delphine’s perfect nose and disappear into her mouth.

"Hi," Delphine says back, and Cosima thinks, Goddamn, I love her. It keeps coming back to her, and it’s getting harder to look into Delphine’s soft smiles and not say it.

She kicks out a little to turn them in a slow circle. "You look good out here."

Delphine’s grin goes a little shy, dipping down to brush against Cosima’s jaw. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Cosima says. She twists Delphine’s wet hair around her fingers. "I’m glad you came this weekend," Cosima hears herself say. "It’s been so intense lately. I... I really needed this."

Delphine’s fingers give a little jab to her ribs, gently scolding. "You carry too much."

Her instinct has always been to shoot back, No, I don’t, or, I want to, but she bites it back and says, "I know," and she realizes it’s the truth. "You know what I’m thinking right now?"


"I’m thinking about, after inauguration, like next year, taking you back out here, just the two of us. And we can sit under the moon and not stress about anything."

"Oh," Delphine says. "That sounds nice, if unlikely."

"Come on, think about it. Next year. My mom will be in office again, and we won’t have to worry about winning any more elections. I'll finally be able to breathe. Ugh, it’ll be amazing. I'll cook migas in the mornings, and we'll swim all day and never put clothes on and make out on the pier, and it won’t even matter if the neighbors see."

"Well. It will matter, you know. It will always matter."

She pulls back to find Delphine’s face indecipherable.

"You know what I mean."

Delphine’s looking at her and looking at her, and Cosima can’t shake the feeling Delphine’s really seeing her for the first time. She realizes it’s probably the only time she’s ever invited love into a conversation with Delphine on purpose, and it must be lying wide open on her face.

Something moves behind Delphine’s eyes. "Where are you going with all this?"

Cosima tries to figure out how the hell to funnel everything she needs to tell Delphine into words.

"Sarah says I have a fire under my ass for no good reason," she says. "I don’t know. You know how they always say to take it one day at a time? I think I take it ten years in the future. Like when I was in high school, it was: my sister is leaving for college, and sometimes I look at other girls in the shower, but if I keep looking directly ahead, that stuff can’t catch up to me. Or if I take this class, or this internship, or this job. I used to think, if I pictured the person I wanted to be and took all the crazy anxiety in my brain and narrowed it down to that point, I could rewire it. Use it to power something else. It’s like I never learned how to just be where I am."

Cosima takes a breath. "And where I am is here. With you. And I’m thinking maybe I should start trying to take it day by day. And just... feel what I feel."

Delphine doesn’t say anything.

"Baby." The water ripples quietly around her as she slides her hands up to hold Delphine’s face in both palms, tracing her cheekbones with the wet pads of her thumbs.

The cicadas and the wind and the lake are probably still making sounds, somewhere, but it’s all faded into silence. Cosima can’t hear anything but her heartbeat in her ears.

"Delphine, I—"

Abruptly Delphine shifts, ducking beneath the surface and out of her arms before she can say anything else.

She pops back up near the pier, hair sticking to her forehead, and Cosima turns around and stares at her, breathless at the loss. Delphine spits out lake water and sends a splash in her direction, and Cosima forces a laugh.

"Christ," Delphine says, slapping at a bug that’s landed on her, "what are these infernal creatures?"

"Mosquitos," Cosima supplies.

"They’re awful," Delphine says loftily. "I’m going to catch an exotic plague."

"I’m... sorry?"

"I just mean to say, you know, Marcus is the heir and I’m the spare, and if he has a heart attack at thirty-five and I’ve got malaria, whither the spare?"

Cosima laughs weakly again, but she’s got a distinct feeling of something being pulled out of her hands right before she could grasp it. Delphine’s tone has gone light, clipped, superficial. Her press voice.

"At any rate, I’m really tired," Delphine is saying now. And Cosima watches helplessly as she turns and starts hauling herself out of the water and onto the dock, pulling her shorts back up shivering legs. "If it’s all the same to you, I think we should go back."

Cosima doesn’t know what to say, so she watches Delphine walk the long line of the dock, disappearing into the darkness.

A ringing, scooped-out sensation starts behind her molars and rolls down her throat, into her chest, down to the pit of her stomach. Something’s wrong, and she knows it, but she’s too afraid to push back or ask. That, she realizes suddenly, is the danger of allowing love into this—the acknowledgment that if something went wrong, she doesn’t know how she would stand it.

For the first time since Delphine grabbed her and kissed her with so much certainty in the garden, the thought enters Cosima’s mind: What if it was never her decision to make? What if she got so wrapped up in everything Delphine is—the words she writes, the earnest, heartsickness of her—she forgot to take into account that it’s just how she is, all the time, with everyone?

What if she’s done the thing she swore she would never do, the thing she hates, and fallen in love with a princess because it was a fantasy?

When she gets back to their room, Delphine’s already in her bunk and silent, her back turned.

And in the morning, Delphine is gone.

Cosima wakes up to find her bunk empty and made up, the pillow tucked neatly beneath the blanket. She practically throws the door off its hinges running out onto the patio, only to find it empty as well. The yard is empty, the pier is empty. It’s like she was never even there.

She finds the note in the kitchen:

State of Affairs - Delphines_puppy (2)

It’s the last message Delphine sends her.

Chapter 11

Chapter Text

Cosima sends Delphine ten texts the first day. Five the second. By day three, none. She’s spent too much of her life talking, talking, talking to not know the signs when someone doesn’t want to hear her anymore.

She starts forcing herself to only check her phone once every hour instead of every time it buzzes, makes herself hang on by her fingernails until the minutes tick down. A few times, she gets wrapped up in obsessively reading press coverage of the campaign and realizes she hasn’t checked in hours, and every time she’s hit with a hiccupping, desperate hope that there will be something. There never is.

She thought she was reckless before, but she understands now—holding love off was the only thing keeping her from losing herself in this completely and she’s gone, stupid, lovesick, a f*cking disaster.

So, instead:

A Tuesday night, hiding on the roof of the Residence, pacing so many furious laps that the skin on the back of her heel splits open and blood soaks into her Adidas.

Her SADLER FOR AMERICA mug, returned in a carefully marked box from her desk at the campaign office, a concrete reminder of what this already cost her smashed in her bathroom sink.

The smell of earl gray, Delphine's morning drink of choice, curling up from the kitchens, and her throat going painfully tight.

Two and a half different dreams about curly blonde hair wrapped around her fingers.

A three-line email, an excerpt dug up from an archived letter, Hamilton to Laurens, 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚗 𝚊𝚍𝚟𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚕 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝, and not knowing if Delphine felt a pang when she read it, if she opened it at all.

On day five, Rafael Luna makes his fifth campaign stop as a surrogate, the Richards campaign’s token twofer minority. Cosima hits a momentary emotional impasse: either destroy something or destroy herself. She ends up smashing her phone on the pavement outside the Capitol. The screen is replaced by the end of the day. It doesn’t make any messages from Delphine magically appear.

On the morning of day seven, she’s digging in the back of her closet when she stumbles upon a bundle of teal silk—the stupid kimono Art had made for her. She hasn’t taken it out since LA.

She’s about to shove it back into the corner when she feels something in the pocket. She finds a small folded square of paper. It’s stationery from their hotel that night, the night everything inside Cosima rearranged. Delphine’s writing.

State of Affairs - Delphines_puppy (3)

She fumbles her phone out so fast she almost drops it on the floor and smashes it again. The search tells her Pyramus and Thisbe were lovers in a Greek myth, children of rival families, forbidden to be together. Their only way to speak to each other was through a thin crack in the wall built between them.

And that is, officially, too f*cking much.

What she does next, she’s sure she’ll have no memory of doing, simply a white-noise gap of time that got her from point A to point B. She texts Vic, 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚎𝚡𝚝 𝟸𝟺 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜?

Cosima unearths the emergency credit card from her wallet and buys two plane tickets, first class, nonstop. Boarding in two hours. Dulles International to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Alison nearly refuses to secure a car after Cosima “had the goddamn nerve” to call her from the runway at Dulles. It’s dark and pissing down rain when they land in Paris around nine in the evening, and she and Vic are both soaked the second they climb out of the car inside the back gates of Versailles.

Clearly, someone has radioed for Donnie, because he’s standing there at the entrance door to Delphine’s wing in an impeccable gray peacoat, dry and unmoved under a black umbrella.

“Ms. Niehaus-Sadler,” he says. “What a treat.”

Cosima has not got the damn time. “Move, Donnie.”

“Alison called ahead to warn that you were on the way,” he says. “As you might have guessed by the ease with which you were able to get through our gates. We thought it best to let you kick up a fuss somewhere more private.”


Donnie smiles, looking as if he might be genuinely enjoying watching two hapless Americans become slowly waterlogged. “You're aware it’s quite late, and it’s well within my power to have security remove you. No member of the royal family has invited you into the palace.”

“Bullsh*t,” Cosima bites out. “I need to see Delphine.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. The princess does not wish to be disturbed.”

“Goddammit—Delphine!” She steps back and starts shouting up at Delphine’s bedroom windows, where there’s a light on. Fat raindrops are pelting right into her eyeballs. “Delphine, you motherf*cker!”

“Cosima—” says Vic's nervous voice behind her.

“Delphine, you piece of sh*t, get your ass down here!”

“You are making a scene,” Donnie says placidly.

“Yeah?” Cosima says, still yelling. “How ‘bout I just keep yelling and we see which of the papers show up first!” She turns back to the window and starts flailing her arms too. “Delphine! Your Royal f*cking Highness!”

Donnie touches a finger to his earpiece. “Team Bravo, we’ve got a situa—”

“For Christ’s sake, Cosima, what are you doing?”

Cosima freezes, her mouth open around another shout, and there’s Delphine standing behind Donnie in the doorway, barefoot in worn-in sweats. Cosima’s heart is going to fall out of her ass. Delphine looks unimpressed.

She drops her arms. “Tell him to let me in.”

Delphine sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. “It’s fine. She can come in.”

“Thank you,” she says, pointedly looking at Donnie, who does not seem to care at all if she dies of hypothermia. She sloshes into the palace, ditching her soaked shoes as Vic and Donnie disappear behind the door.

Delphine, who led the way in, hasn’t even stopped to speak to her, and all Cosima can do is follow her up the grand staircase toward her room.

“Really nice,” Cosima yells after her, dripping as aggressively as she can manage along the way. She hopes she ruins a rug. “f*cking ghost me for a week, AGAIN, make me stand in the rain like John Cusack, and now you won't even talk to me. I’m really just having a great time here. I can see why you all had to marry your f*cking cousins.”

“I’d rather not do this where we might be overheard,” Delphine says, taking a left on the landing.

Cosima stomps up after her, following her into her bedroom. “Do what?” she says as Delphine shuts the door behind them. “What are you gonna do, Delphine?”

Delphine turns to face her at last, and now that Cosima’s eyes aren’t full of rainwater, she can see the skin under her eyes is papery and purple, rimmed pink at her eyelashes. There’s a tense set to her shoulders Cosima hasn’t seen in months, not directed at her at least.

“I’m going to let you say what you need to say,” Delphine says flatly, “so you can leave.”

Cosima stares. “What, and then we’re over?”

Delphine doesn’t answer her.

Something rises in Cosima’s throat—anger, confusion, hurt, bile. Unforgivably, she feels like she might cry.

“Seriously?” she says, helpless and indignant. She’s still dripping. “What the f*ck is going on? A week ago it was emails about how much you missed me, how much you cared for me and meeting my f*cking dad, and that’s it? You thought you could f*cking ghost me? I told you in the Red Room that you can't just do that to me Delphine. I can’t shut this off like you do.”

Delphine paces over to the elaborately carved fireplace across the room and leans on the mantelpiece. “You think I don’t care as much as you?”

“You're sure as hell acting like it.”

“I honestly haven’t got the time to explain to you all the ways you’re wrong—”

“Jesus, could you stop being an obtuse f*cking asshole for, like, twenty seconds?”

“So glad you flew here to insult me—”

“I f*cking love you, okay?” Cosima half yells, finally, irreversibly. Delphine goes very still against the mantelpiece. Cosima watches her swallow, watches the muscle that keeps twitching in her jaw, and feels like she might shake out of her skin. “f*ck, I swear. You don’t make it f*cking easy. But I’m in love with you.”

A small click cuts the silence: Delphine has taken her signet ring off and set it down on the mantel. She holds her naked hand to her chest, kneading the palm, the flickering light from the fire painting her face in dramatic shadows. “Do you have any idea what that means?”

“Of course I do—”

“Cosima, please,” Delphine says, and when she finally turns to look at her, she looks wretched, miserable. “Don’t. This is the entire reason I can’t dothis, and you know why I can’t do this, so please don’t make me say it.”

Cosima swallows hard. “You're not even gonna try to be happy?”

“Putain” Delphine says, “I’ve been trying to be happy my entire f*cking life. My birthright is a country, not happiness.”

Cosima yanks the soggy note out of her pocket, I wish there wasn’t a wall, and throws it at Delphine viciously, watches her pick it up. “Then what is that supposed to mean, if you don’t want this?”

Delphine stares down at her words from months ago. “Cosima, Thisbe and Pyramus both die at the end.”

“Oh my God,” Cosima groans. “So, what, this was never going to be anything real to you? I was just someone you f*ck occasionally when we're in the same country?”

And Delphine snaps.

“You really are a complete idiot if you believe that,” Delphine hisses, the note balled in her fist. “When have I ever, since the first instant I touched you, pretended to be anything less than in love with you? Are you so f*cking self-absorbed as to think this is about you and whether or not I love you, rather than the fact I’m an heir to the f*cking throne? You at least have the option to not choose a public life eventually, but I will live and die in these palaces and in this family, so don’t you dare come to me and question if I love you when it’s the thing that could ruin everything.”

Cosima doesn’t speak, doesn’t move, doesn’t breathe, her feet rooted to the spot. Delphine isn’t looking at her, but staring at a point on the mantel somewhere, tugging at her own hair in exasperation.

“It was never supposed to be an issue,” she goes on, her voice hoarse. “I thought I could have some part of you, and just never say it, and you’d never have to know, and one day you’d get tired of me and leave, because I’m—” She stops short, and one shaking hand moves through the air in front of her in a helpless sort of gesture at everything about herself. “I never thought I’d be standing here faced with a choice I can’t make, because I never ... I never imagined you could love me back.”

“Well,” Cosima says swallowing hard, “I do. And you can choose.”

“You know full well I can’t.”

“You can try,” Cosima tells her, feeling as if it should be the simplest f*cking truth in the world. “What do you want?”

“I want you—”

“Then f*cking have me.”

“—but I don’t want this.”

Cosima wants to grab Delphine and shake her, wants to scream in her face, wants to smash every priceless antique in the room. “What does that even mean?”

“I don’t want it!” Delphine practically shouts. Her eyes are flashing, wet and angry and afraid. “Don’t you see? I’m not like you. I can’t afford to be reckless. I don’t have a family who will support me. I don’t go about shoving who I am in everyone’s faces and dreaming about a career in f*cking politics, so I can be more scrutinized and picked apart by the entire godforsaken world. I can love you and want you and still not want that life. I’m allowed, all right, and it doesn’t make me a liar; it makes me a woman with some infinitesimal shred of self-preservation, unlike you, and you don’t get to come here and call me a coward for it.”

Cosima takes a breath. “I never said you were a coward.”

Delphine blinks. “Well. The point stands.”

“You think I want your life? Gilded f*cking cage? Barely allowed to speak in public, or have a goddamn opinion—”

“Then what are we even doing here? Why are we fighting, then, if the lives we have to lead are so incompatible?”

“Because you don’t want that either!” Cosima insists. “You don’t want any of this bullsh*t. You hate it.”

“Don’t tell me what I want,” Delphine says. “You haven’t a clue how it feels.”

“Look, I might not be a f*cking royal,” Cosima says, crosses the horrible rug, moves into Delphine’s space, “but I know what it’s like for your whole life to be determined by the family you were born into, okay? The lives we want—they’re not that different. Not in the ways that matter. You want to take what you were given and leave the world better than you found it. So do I. We can—we can figure out a way to do that together.”

Delphine stares at her silently, and Cosima can see the scales balancing in her head.

“I don’t think I can.”

Cosima turns away from her, falling back on her heels like she’s been slapped. “Fine,” she finally says. “You know what? Fine. I'll leave, you're right it's probably for the best.”


“I'll leave,” she says, and she turns back and leans in, “as soon as you tell me to leave.”


She’s in Delphine’s face now. If she’s getting her heart broken tonight, she’s sure as hell going to make Delphine have the guts to do it right.

“Tell me you’re done with me. For good Delphine. No more emails, or texts, or letters or phone calls. I'll get back on the plane and that will be it. And you can live here in your tower and be miserable. Eventually, you'll see me around at functions and I'll be there with my husband or wife and you can just carry on like it's nothing. You can watch me be held by them, kissed by them, loved by them and you can stand there knowing I wanted it all with you but you didn't want it enough-”

“-f*ck you,” Delphine says, her voice breaking, and she gets a handful of Cosima’s shirt neckline, and Cosima knows she’s going to love this stubborn dick forever.

“Tell me,” she says, “to leave.”

She feels before she registers being shoved backward into a wall, and Delphine’s mouth is on hers, desperate and wild. The faint taste of blood blooms on her tongue, and she smiles as she opens up to it, pushes it into Delphine’s mouth, tugs at her hair with both hands. Delphine groans, and Cosima feels it in her spine.

They grapple along the wall until Delphine physically picks her up off the floor and staggers backward, toward the bed. Cosima bounces when her back hits the mattress, and Delphine stands over her for several breaths, staring. Cosima would give anything to know what’s going through that f*cking head of hers.

She realizes, suddenly, Delphine’s crying.

She swallows.

That’s the thing: she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know if this is supposed to be some kind of consummation, or if it’s one last time. She doesn’t think she could go through with it if she knew it was the latter. But she doesn’t want to go home without having this.

“Come here, baby.”

She f*cks Delphine slow and deep, and if it’s the last time, they go down shivering and gasping and epic, all wet mouths and wet eyelashes, and Cosima is a cliché on an ivory bedspread, and she hates herself but she’s so in love. She’s in stupid, unbearable love, and Delphine loves her too, and at least for one night it matters, even if they both have to pretend to forget in the morning.

Delphine comes with her face turned into Cosima’s open palm, her bottom lip catching on the knob of her wrist, and Cosima tries to memorize every detail down to how her lashes fan across her cheeks and the pink flush that spreads all the way up to her ears. She tells her too-fast brain: Don’t miss it this time. She’s too important.

It’s pitch black outside when Delphine’s body finally subsides, and the room is impossibly quiet, the fire gone out. Cosima rolls over onto her side and touches two fingers to her chest, right next to where the key on the chain rests. Her heart is beating the same as ever under her skin. She doesn’t know how that can be true.

It’s a long stretch of silence before Delphine shifts in the bed beside her and rolls onto her back, pulling a sheet over them. Cosima reaches for something to say, but there’s nothing.

Cosima wakes up alone.

It takes a moment for everything to reorient around the fixed point in her chest where last night settled. The elaborate gilded headboard, the heavy embroidered duvet, the soft twill blanket beneath that’s the only thing in the room Delphine actually chose. She slides her hand across the sheet, over to Delphine’s side of the bed. It’s cool to the touch.

Versailles Palace is gray and dull in the early morning. The clock on the mantelpiece says it’s not even seven, and there’s a violent rain lashing against the big bay window, half-revealed by parted curtains.

Delphine’s room has never felt much like Delphine, but in the quiet of morning, she shows up in pieces. A pile of journals on the desk, the topmost splotched with ink from a pen exploding in her bag on a plane. An oversized cardigan, worn through and patched at the elbows, slung over an antique wingback chair near the window. David’s leash hanging from the doorknob.

And beside her, there’s a copy of The Financial Times on the nightstand, tucked under a gigantic leather-bound volume of Wilde’s complete works. She recognizes the date: London. The first time they woke up next to each other. She kept the newspaper from their first morning spent together. Cosima doesn't know how to process it.

She squeezes her eyes shut, feeling for once in her life that she should stop being so damn nosy. It’s time, she realizes, to start accepting only what Delphine can give her.

The sheets smell like Delphine. She knows:

  1. Delphine isn’t here.
  2. Delphine never said yes to any kind of future last night.
  3. This could very well be the last time she gets to inhale Delphine’s scent on anything.
  4. Next to the clock on the mantel, Delphine’s ring still sits.

The doorknob turns, and Cosima opens her eyes to find Delphine, holding two mugs and smiling a wan, unreadable smile. She’s in soft sweats again, brushed with morning mist.

“Your dreads in the mornings is truly a wonder to behold,” is how she breaks the silence. She crosses and kneels on the edge of the mattress, offering Cosima a mug. It’s coffee, one sugar, cinnamon. She doesn’t want to feel anything about Delphine knowing how she likes her coffee, not when she’s about to be dumped, but she does.

Except, when Delphine looks at her again, watches her take the first blessed sip of coffee, the smile comes back in earnest. She reaches down and palms one of Cosima’s feet through the duvet.

“Hi,” Cosima says carefully, squinting over her coffee. “You seem ... less pissy.”

Delphine huffs a laugh. “You're one to talk. I wasn’t the one who stormed the palace in a fit of pique to call me an ‘obtuse f*cking asshole.’

“In my defense,” Cosima says, “you were an obtuse f*cking asshole.”

Delphine pauses, takes a sip of her tea, and places it on the nightstand. “I was,” she agrees, and she leans forward and presses her mouth to Cosima’s, one hand steadying her mug so it doesn’t spill. She tastes like toothpaste and earl gray, and maybe Cosima isn’t getting dumped after all.

“Hey,” she says when Delphine pulls back. “Where were you?”

Delphine doesn’t answer, and Cosima watches her kick her wet sneakers onto the floor before climbing up to sit between Cosima’s open legs. She places her hands on Cosima’s thighs, bracketing her with her full attention, and when she looks up into Cosima’s eyes, hers are clear and focused.

“I needed a run,” she says. “To clear my head a bit, figure out ... what’s next. And I ran into Philip. I hadn’t mentioned it, but he and Celine are here for the week while they’re doing renovations on their residence. He was up early for some appearance or other, eating toast. Plain toast. Have you ever seen someone eat toast without anything on it? Harrowing, truly.”

Cosima chews her lip. “Where’s this going, D?”

“We chatted for a bit. He didn’t seem to know about your ... visitation ... last night, thankfully. But he was on about Celeine, and land holdings, and the hypothetical heirs they have to start working on, even though Philip hates children, and suddenly it was as if . . . as if everything you said last night came back to me. I thought, God, that’s it, isn’t it? Just following the plan. And it’s not that he’s unhappy. He’s fine. It’s all very deeply fine. A whole lifetime of fine.” She’s been pulling at a thread on the duvet, but she looks back up, squarely into Cosima’s eyes, and says, “That’s not good enough for me.”

There’s a desperate stutter in Cosima’s heartbeat. “It’s not?”

She reaches up and touches a thumb to Cosima’s cheekbone. “I’m not... good at saying these things like you are, but. I’ve always thought ... ever since I knew about me, and even before, when I could sense I was different—and, after everything the past few years, all the mad things my head does—I’ve always thought of myself as a problem that deserved to stay hidden. Never quite trusted myself, or what I wanted. Before you, I was okay letting everything happen to me. I honestly have never thought I deserved to choose.” Her hand moves, fingertips brushing a dread behind Cosima’s ear. “But you treat me like I do.”

There’s something painfully hard in Cosima’s throat, but she pushes past it. She reaches over and sets her mug down next to Delphine’s on the nightstand.

“You do,” she says.

“I think I’m actually beginning to believe that,” Delphine says. “And I don’t know how long it would have taken if I didn’t have you to believe for me.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with you,” Cosima tells her. “I mean, aside from the fact that you’re occasionally an obtuse f*cking asshole.”

Delphine laughs again, wetly, her eyes crinkling up in the corners, and Cosima feels her heart lift into her throat, up to the embellished ceilings, pushing out to fill the whole room.

“I am sorry about that,” Delphine says. “I—I wasn’t ready to hear it. That night, at the lake ... it was the first time I let myself think you might actually say it. I panicked, and it was daft and unfair, and I won’t do it again."

“You better not,” Cosima tells her. “So, you’re saying ... you’re in?”

“I’m saying,” Delphine starts, her expression tense yet her voice steady, “I’m terrified, but trying to push you away this week nearly destroyed me. There were moments I understood why Marcus became dependent on Cocaine, I understood the appeal in getting so high that you just might not come down.”

Cosima clasps Delphine's face tenderly, "Baby-"

Delphine’s voice cracks as she continues, "-So, mon amour, even though I've hurt you this week, please never doubt that it was also breaking my heart.

"I know It was."

"But then when I woke up this morning and looked at you ... there’s no trying to get by for me anymore. I don’t know if I'll ever be allowed to tell the world, but I... I want to. One day. If there’s any legacy for me on this earth, I want it to be true, so I can offer you all of me, in whatever way you'll have me, and I can offer you the chance of a life. If you can wait, I want you to help me try.”

Cosima looks at her, taking in the whole parcel of her, the centuries of royal blood sitting under an antique Versailles chandelier, and she reaches out to wipe her tears and looks at her fingers and thinks about holding the Bible at her mother’s inauguration with the same hand.

It hits her, fully: the weight of this. How completely neither of them will ever be able to undo it.

“Okay,” she says. “I’m into making history.”

Delphine rolls her eyes and seals it with a smiling kiss, and they fall back into the pillows together, Delphine’s wet hair and sweatpants and Cosima’s naked limbs all tangled up in the lavish bedclothes.

When Cosima was a kid, before anyone knew her name, she dreamed of love like it was a fairy tale, as if it would come sweeping into her life on the back of a dragon one day. When she got older, she learned about love as a strange thing that could fall apart no matter how badly you wanted it, a choice you make anyway. She never imagined it’d turn out she was right both times.

Delphine’s hands on her are unhurried and soft, and they make out lazily for hours or days, basking in the rare luxury of it. They take breaks to finish their lukewarm coffee and tea, and Delphine has scones and blackcurrant jam sent up. They waste away the morning in bed, watching The Great British Bake Off on Delphine’s laptop, listening to the rain slow to a drizzle.

At some point, Cosima disentangles her jeans from the foot of the bed and fishes out her phone. She’s got three missed calls from Alison, one ominous voicemail from her mother, and forty-seven unread messages in her group text with Sarah and Felix.



𝗙𝗲𝗲 𝗙𝗲𝗲

𝙲𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚖𝚊, 𝚘𝚑 𝚖𝚢 𝚐𝚘𝚍!!!


𝙸 𝚜𝚠𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚘𝚍 𝚒𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚙𝚒𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚔𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏

𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚛!!! 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚂𝙾 𝙹𝚊𝚗𝚎 𝙰𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚗

𝗙𝗲𝗲 𝗙𝗲𝗲

𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚙𝚞𝚗𝚌𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔. 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚎


It turns out forty-six out of forty-seven texts are Sarah and the forty-seventh is Felix asking if either of them know where he left his white Chuck Taylors. Cosima texts back:


𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚑𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚑𝚒.

The message has barely delivered before her phone erupts with a call from Sarah, who demands to be put on speaker and told everything. After, rather than facing Alison’s wrath herself, she convinces Delphine to call Donnie.

“Do you think you could, er, phone Alison and let her know Cosima is safe and with me?”

“Yes, Your Royal Highness,” Donnie says. “And shall I arrange a car for her departure?”

“Er,” Delphine says, and she looks at Cosima and mouths, Stay? Cosima nods. “Tomorrow?”

There’s a very long pause over the line before Donnie says, “I'll let her know,” in a voice like he’d rather do literally anything else.

Cosima laughs as Delphine hangs up, but she returns to her phone again, to the voicemail waiting from her mother. Delphine sees her thumb hovering over the play button and nudges her ribs.

“I suppose we do have to face the consequences at some point,” Delphine says.

Cosima sighs. “I don’t think I told you, but she, uh. Well, when she fired me, she told me that if I wasn’t a thousand percent serious about you, I needed to break things off.”

Delphine nuzzles her nose behind Cosima’s ear. “A thousand percent?”

“Yeah, don’t let it go to your head.”

Delphine elbows her again, and Cosima laughs and grabs her head and aggressively kisses her cheek, smashing her face into the pillow. When Cosima finally relents, Delphine is pink-faced and mussed and definitely pleased.

“I was thinking about that, though,” Delphine says, “the chance being with me is going to keep ruining your career. Congress by thirty, wasn’t it?”

“Come on. Look at this face. People love this face. I'll figure out the rest.” Delphine looks deeply skeptical, and Cosima sighs again. “Look, I don’t know. I don’t even exactly know, like, how being a legislator would work if I’m with a princess of another country. So, you know. There’s stuff to figure out. But way worse people with way bigger problems than me get elected all the time.”

Delphine’s looking at her in the piercing way she has sometimes that makes Cosima feel like a bug stuck under a shadowbox with a pushpin. “You’re really not frightened of what might happen?”

“No, I mean, of course I am,” she says. “It definitely stays secret until after the election. And I know it'll be messy. But if we can get ahead of the narrative, wait for the right time and do it on our own terms, I think it could be okay.”

“How long have you been thinking about this?”

“Consciously? Since, like, the DNC. Subconsciously, in total denial? A long-ass time. At least since you kissed me.”

Delphine stares at her from the pillow. “That’s ... kind of incredible.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?” Delphine says. “Merde, Cosima. The whole time.”

“The whole time?”

“Since the Olympics.”

“The Olympics?” Cosima yanks Delphine’s pillow out from under her. “But that’s, that’s like—”

“Yes, Cosima, the day we met, nothing gets past you, does it?” Delphine says, reaching to steal the pillow back. “What about you,’ she says, as if she doesn’t know—”

“Shut your mouth,” Cosima says, grinning like an idiot, and she stops fighting Delphine for the pillow and instead straddles her and kisses her into the mattress. She pulls the blankets up and they disappear into the pile, a laughing mess of mouths and hands, until Delphine rolls onto the phone and her ass presses the button on the voicemail.

Cos, you insane, hopeless romantic little sh*t,” says the voice of the President of the United States, muffled in the bed. “It had better be forever. Be safe. Love you.

Sneaking out of the palace without security at two in the morning was, surprisingly, Delphine’s idea. She pulled hoodies and hats out for both of them—the incognito uniform of the internationally recognizable—and Art staged a noisy exit from the opposite end of the palace while they sprinted through the gardens. Now they’re on the deserted, wet pavement of South Versailles, flanked by tall, red brick buildings and a sign for—

“Stop, are you kidding me?” Cosima says. “Rue Princess Consort? Oh my God, take a picture of me with the sign.”

“Not there yet!” Delphine says over her shoulder. She gives Cosima’s arm another pull to keep her running. “Keep moving, you wastrel.”

They cross to another street and duck into an alcove between two pillars while Delphine fishes a keyring with dozens of keys out of her hoodie. “Funny thing about being a princess—people will give you keys to just about anything if you ask nicely.”

Cosima gawks, watching Delphine feel around the edge of a seemingly plain wall. “All this time, I thought I was the Ferris Bueller of this relationship.”

Delphine laughs, pushing the panel open a crack and yanking Cosima into a wide, dark plaza.

The grounds are sloping, white tiles carrying the sounds of their feet as they run. Glass ceilings shaping the night, framing the courtyard, and Cosima thinks, Oh. The Louvre. Delphine has a key to the The Louvre.

There’s a stout old security guard waiting at the doors.

“Can't thank you enough, Andre,” Delphine says, and Cosima notices the thick wad of cash Delphine slips into their handshake.

“Renaissance City tonight, oui?” Andre says.

“If you would be so kind,” Delphine tells him.

And they’re off again, hustling through rooms of Chinese art and French sculptures. Delphine moves fluidly from room to room, past a black stone sculpture of a seated Buddha and John the Baptist nude and in bronze, without a single false step.

“You do this a lot?”

Delphine laughs. “It’s, ah, sort of my little secret. When I was young, my mum and dad would take us early in the morning, before opening. They wanted us to have a sense of the arts, I suppose, but mostly history.” She slows and points to a massive piece, a wooden tiger mauling a man dressed as a European soldier, the sign declaring: TIPU’S TIGER. “Mum would take us to look at this one and whisper to me, ‘See how the tiger is eating him up? That’s because my great-great-great-great grandad stole this from India on his travels. I think we should give it back, but your grand-mère says no.”

Cosima watches Delphine’s face in quarter profile, the slight pain that moves under her skin, but she shakes it off quickly and takes Cosima’s hand back up. They’re running again.

“Now, I like to come at night,” she says. “A few of the higher-up security guards know me. Sometimes I think I keep coming because, no matter how many places I’ve been or people I’ve met or books I read, this place is proof I'll never learn it all. It’s like Versailles: You can look at every individual carving or pane of stained glass and know there’s this wealth of stories there, that everything was put in a specific place for a reason. Everything has a meaning, an intention. Everything is a story, never finished. Isn’t it incredible? And the archives, God, I could spend hours in the archives, they—mmph.”

She’s cut off mid-sentence because Cosima has stopped in the middle of the corridor and yanked her backward into a kiss.

“Bonjour,” Delphine says when they break apart. “What was that for?”

“I just, like.” Cosima shrugs. “Really love you.”

The corridor dumps them out into a cavernous atrium, rooms sprawling out in each direction. Only some of the overhead lighting has been left on, and Cosima can see an enormous chandelier looming high in the rotunda, tendrils and bubbles of glass in blues and greens and yellows. Behind it, there’s an elaborate iron choir screen standing broad and gorgeous on the landing above.

“This is it,” Delphine says, pulling Cosima by the hand to the left, where light spills out of an immense archway. “I called ahead to Andre to make sure they left a light on. It’s my favorite room.”

Cosima has personally helped with exhibitions at the Smithsonian and sleeps in a room once occupied by Ulysses S. Grant’s father-in-law, but she still loses her breath when Delphine pulls her through the marble pillars.

In the half-light, the room is alive. The vaulted glass roof seems to stretch up forever into the inky Parisian sky, and beneath it, the room is arranged like a city square somewhere in Florence, climbing columns and towering altars and archways. Deep basins of fountains are planted in the floor between statues on heavy pedestals, and effigies lie behind black doorways with the Resurrection carved into their slate. Dominating the entire back wall is a colossal, Gothic choir screen carved from marble and adorned with ornate statues of saints, black and gold and imposing, holy.

When Delphine speaks again, it’s soft, as if she’s trying not to break the spell.

“In here, at night, it’s almost like walking through a real piazza,” Delphine says. “But there’s nobody else around to touch you or gawk at you or try to steal a photo of you. You can just be.”

Cosima looks over to find Delphine’s expression careful, waiting, and she realizes this is the same as when she took Delphine to the lake house—the most sacred place she has.

She squeezes Delphine’s hand and says, “Tell me everything.”

Delphine does, leading her around to each piece in turn. There’s a life-size sculpture of Zephyr, the Greek god of the west wind brought to life by Francavilla, a crown on hishead and one foot on a cloud. Narcissus on his knees, mesmerized by his own reflection in the pool, once thought to be Michelangelo’s lost Cupid but actually carved by Cioli—“Do you see here, where they had to repair his knuckles with stucco?”—Pluto stealing Proserpina away to the underworld, and Jason with his golden fleece.

They wind up back at the first statue, Samson Slaying a Philistine, the one that knocked the wind out of Cosima when they walked in. She’s never seen anything like it—the smooth muscles, the indentations of flesh, the breathing, bleeding life of it, all carved by Giambologna out of marble. If she could touch it, she swears the skin would be warm.

“It’s a bit ironic, you know,” Delphine says, gazing up at it. “Me, the cursed gay heir, standing here in Francis I museum, considering how much he loved those sodomy laws.” She smirks. “Actually... you remember how I told you about the British gay king, James I?”

“The one with the dumb jock boyfriend?”

“Yes, that one. Well, his most beloved favorite was a man named George Villiers. ‘The handsomest-bodied man in all of England,’ they called him. James was completely besotted. Everyone knew. This French poet, de Viau, wrote a poem about it.” She clears her throat and starts to recite:

“One man f*cks Monsieur le Grand, another f*cks the Comte de Tonnerre, and it is well known that the King of England, f*cks the Duke of Buckingham.”

Cosima must be staring, because she adds, “Well, it rhymes in French. Anyway. Did you know the reason the King James translation of the Bible exists is because the Church of England was so displeased with James for flaunting his relationship with Villiers that he had the translation commissioned to appease them?”

“You're kidding.”

“He stood in front of the Privy Council and said, ‘Christ had John, and I have George.”


“Precisely.” Delphine’s still looking up at the statue, but Cosima can’t stop looking at her and the sly smile on her face, lost in her own thoughts. “And James’s son, Charles I, is the reason we have dear Samson. It’s the only Giambologna that ever left Florence. He was a gift to Charles from the King of Spain, and Charles gave it, this massive, absolutely priceless masterpiece of a sculpture, to Villiers. And a few centuries later, here he is. One of the most beautiful pieces we own, and we didn’t even steal it. We only needed Villiers and his trolloping ways with the queer monarchs. To me, if there were a registry of international gay landmarks, Samson would be on it.”

Delphine’s beaming like a proud parent, like Samson is hers, and Cosima is hit with a wave of pride in kind.

She takes her phone out and lines up a shot, Delphine standing there all soft and rumpled and smiling next to one of the most exquisite works of art in the world.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m taking a picture of an international gay landmark,” Cosima tells her. “And also a statue.”

Delphine laughs indulgently, and Cosima closes the space between them, takes Delphine’s baseball cap off, and stands on her toes to kiss the ridge of her brow.

“It’s funny,” Delphine says. “I always thought of the whole thing as the most unforgivable thing about me, but you act like it’s one of the best.”

“Oh, yeah,” Cosima says. “The top list of reasons to love you goes brain, then puss*, then imminent status as a revolutionary gay icon.”

“You are quite literally King Francis I worst nightmare.”

“And that’s why you love me.”

“My God, you’re right. All this time, I was looking for the girl who'd most infuriate my hom*ophobic forebears.”

“Ah, and we can’t forget they were also racist... Niehaus

“Certainly not.” Delphine nods seriously. “Next time we shall visit some of the George III pieces and see if they burst into flame.”

Through the marble choir screen at the back of the room is a second, deeper chamber, this one filled with church relics. Past stained glass and statues of saints, at the very end of the room, is an entire high altar chapel removed from its church. The sign explains its original setting was the apse of the convent church of Santa Chiara in Florence in the fifteenth century, and it’s stunning, set deep into an alcove to create a real chapel, with statues of Santa Chiara and Saint Francis of Assisi.

“When I was younger,” Delphine says, “I had this very elaborate idea of taking somebody I loved here and standing inside the chapel, that she’d love it as much as I did, and we’d slow dance right in front of the Blessed Mother. Just a... stupid pubescent fantasy.”

Cosima hesitates, before finally sliding her phone out of her pocket. She presses a few buttons and extends a hand to Delphine, and, quietly, Your Songstarts to play from the tiny speaker.

Cosima exhales a laugh. “Aren’t you gonna ask if I know how to waltz?”

“No waltzing,” Delphine says. “Never cared for it.”

Cosima takes her hand, and Delphine turns to face the chapel like a nervous postulant, her cheeks hollowed out in the low light, before pulling Cosima into it.

She brings Delphine’s hand to her mouth and kisses the little knob of her knuckle, the skin over the blue vein there, bloodlines, pulses, the old blood kept in perpetuity within these walls, and she thinks, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

Delphine charters a private plane to get her back home, and Cosima is dreading the dressing-down she’s going to get the minute she’s stateside, but she’s trying not to think about it. At the airstrip, the wind whipping her hair across her forehead, Delphine fishes inside her jacket for something.

“Listen,” she says, pulling a curled fist out of her pocket. She takes one of Cosima’s hands and turns it to press something small and heavy into her palm. “I want you to know, I’m sure. A thousand percent.”

She removes her hand and there, sitting in the center of Cosima’s palm, is the signet ring.

“What?” Cosima’s eyes flash up to search Delphine’s face and find her smiling softly. “I can’t—”

“Keep it,” Delphine tells her. “Think of me every time you look at it.”

It’s a private airstrip, but it’s still risky, so she folds Delphine in a hug and whispers fiercely, “I completely f*cking love you.”

At cruising altitude, she takes the chain off her neck and slides the ring on next to the old house key. They clink together gently as she tucks them both under her shirt, two homes side by side.

Chapter 12

Chapter Text

From: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>
Date: 𝟵/𝟮/𝟮𝟬 𝟱:𝟭𝟮 𝗣𝗠
To: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>

𝗥𝗘: 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗳𝗳


𝙷𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚑𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜. 𝙰𝚕𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚋𝚞𝚕𝚕𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚝.

𝙷𝚎𝚢, 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚋𝚛𝚊𝚟𝚎? 𝙸 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚛𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝚐𝚒𝚛𝚕 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚕 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝙻𝚞𝚔𝚎 𝚂𝚔𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚕𝚔𝚎𝚛: “𝙷𝚎’𝚜 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜𝚗’𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚘𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚜.” 𝙳, 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚘𝚘.

(𝙱𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢, 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚙, 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙷𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙻𝚎𝚒𝚊. 𝙳𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚝𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚛𝚐𝚞𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚗𝚐.)

𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚜𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚃𝚎𝚡𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗, 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝙸 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚊 𝚕𝚘𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚏𝚏. 𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚏𝚏 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚢𝚎𝚝. 𝚆𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝙰𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚗! 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝙵𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚕𝚒𝚗 𝙱𝚊𝚛𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚞𝚎. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎. 𝙸 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚊 𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚘𝚢𝚊𝚕 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚠 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚜. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚊𝚛𝚖 𝚖𝚢 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝.

𝙷𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚋𝚎𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝙸 𝚕𝚎𝚏𝚝? 𝙰𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢? 𝙾𝚋𝚟𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚕𝚢, 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚘𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝.

𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎, 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚚𝚞𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚆𝚑𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝙷𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎 (𝚊𝚝 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝙼𝚘𝚖 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚔𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜), 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝙻𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞.



𝙿.𝚂. 𝚅𝚒𝚝𝚊 𝚂𝚊𝚌𝚔𝚟𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚎-𝚆𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚅𝚒𝚛𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚒𝚊 𝚆𝚘𝚘𝚕𝚏-𝟷𝟿𝟸𝟽:

"𝚆𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚚𝚞𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚔: 𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚍; 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚕."

From: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>
Date: 𝟵/𝟯/𝟮𝟬 𝟮:𝟰𝟵 𝗔𝗠
To: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>

𝗥𝗘: 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗳𝗳


𝙸𝚝 𝚒𝚜, 𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚎𝚍, 𝚋𝚞𝚕𝚕𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚝. 𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚙𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚊 𝚋𝚊𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛. 𝙿𝚎𝚛𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚜 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚊 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚕𝚞𝚜𝚎. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚞𝚙 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸'𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚕𝚞𝚛𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚐𝚞𝚒𝚜𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚗𝚜𝚠𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚘𝚛. 𝙸𝚝’𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚏𝚞𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝙹𝚊𝚗𝚎 𝙴𝚢𝚛𝚎.

𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙼𝚊𝚒𝚕 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚍 𝚜𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚎, 𝚒𝚏 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚘𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚘𝚛 𝚟𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙵𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚑 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸’𝚖 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚙𝚛𝚊𝚠𝚕𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚍, 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚏𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚕𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚕𝚢 𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚕 𝚠𝚎 𝚋𝚘𝚝𝚑 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚑𝚊𝚣𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚑𝚘𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚞𝚌𝚎. 𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝙸’𝚍 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚘.

𝙸’𝚖 𝚊𝚏𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚍, 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑, 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚌𝚔 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎. 𝙶𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚍-𝚖è𝚛𝚎 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙𝚜 𝚊𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚖𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚎𝚗𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚝, 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚜 𝚐𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚒𝚜 𝚗𝚘 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚋𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚍𝚒𝚍 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚊𝚕𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚊 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚋𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚐𝚎. 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘, 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝙸’𝚖 𝚌𝚎𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚌𝚕𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚎𝚙𝚝𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚊𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚐𝚊𝚙 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛. 𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚍𝚘 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛—𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚝 𝙰𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚙𝚘𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚜𝚊𝚢?— 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚛𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚛𝚜.

𝙰𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚗 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚋𝚛𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚊𝚗𝚝. 𝙼𝚊𝚢𝚋𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚏𝚎𝚠 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚑𝚜, 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚜𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚊 𝚋𝚒𝚝? 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚊 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚍. 𝙲𝚊𝚗 𝚠𝚎 𝚟𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚂𝚊𝚗 𝙵𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚘? 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖? 𝙳𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚘𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚎𝚜? 𝚃𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚞𝚙. 𝙻𝚎𝚝 𝚖𝚎 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚜: 𝙷𝚊𝚗 𝚂𝚘𝚕𝚘, 𝙱𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝙾𝚋𝚊𝚖𝚊, 𝚊𝚗𝚍... 𝚁𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝙱𝚊𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝙶𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚋𝚞𝚛𝚐.

(𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙷𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝙻𝚎𝚒𝚊 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎, 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚍𝚘𝚞𝚋𝚝, 𝚊 𝚜𝚌𝚛𝚞𝚏𝚏𝚢-𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚗𝚎𝚛𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚙𝚒𝚕𝚘𝚝 𝚞𝚜 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚒𝚍 𝚏𝚒𝚎𝚕𝚍. 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚗𝚒𝚌𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚗.)

𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢, 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚒𝚜 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚠𝚑𝚢 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚠. 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚞𝚜 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚘𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙 𝚒𝚏 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝, 𝚜𝚘 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕. 𝙰𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗, 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚛𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚛𝚜.

𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚢, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗. 𝙸 𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚕𝚙 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊 𝚗𝚎𝚠 𝚋𝚎𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚢 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖; 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚛𝚒𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚐𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚝𝚢.



𝙿.𝚂. 𝙵𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚁𝚊𝚍𝚌𝚕𝚢𝚏𝚏𝚎 𝙷𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚘 𝙴𝚟𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚗𝚒𝚊 𝚂𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚎, 𝟷𝟿𝟹𝟺:

"𝙳𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐—𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚒𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝙴𝚗𝚐𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍, 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚒𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎—𝚒𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕, 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜, 𝚊𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕, 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚎, 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍... 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚝𝚠𝚘, 𝚠𝚎 𝚝𝚠𝚘 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚝 𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛."

From: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>
Date: 𝟵/𝟯/𝟮𝟬 𝟲:𝟮𝟬 𝗔𝗠
To: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>

𝗥𝗘: 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗳𝗳


𝚂𝚑𝚒𝚝. 𝙳𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚎𝚗𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚝? 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚝 𝚢𝚎𝚝. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚊 𝚊𝚜𝚔 𝙰𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚙𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚘𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚊 𝚋𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚝. 𝚆𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗? 𝚆𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚊 𝚕𝚘𝚝? 𝚆𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚋𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚜??? 𝙾𝚛 𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚝 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎, 𝚠𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚞𝚗𝚒𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚝 𝚊 𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚔?

𝚂𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚙𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝙸 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚣𝚘𝚗. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘, 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎, 𝚕𝚎𝚝 𝚖𝚎 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚏 𝙸 𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚙𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚐𝚊𝚣𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚏𝚞𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚘𝚠, 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚢 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚗 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚠𝚊𝚛.

𝙸𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚖𝚎 𝚗𝚞𝚝𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎. 𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢, 𝙸 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚊𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚊𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚔 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚘𝚐𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝙸’𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎, 𝚞𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚞𝚙 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚘 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚌𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚊𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚞𝚙 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚖𝚗 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚣𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐.

𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚜 𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛, 𝚠𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚎’𝚕𝚕 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚎𝚡𝚝. 𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚋𝚒𝚝, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘. 𝙹𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠, 𝙸 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝚁𝚎: 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙, 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚊 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚗. 𝙸𝚏 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚒𝚕𝚜, 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚍𝚘 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚌𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚊 𝚑𝚞𝚐𝚎 𝚓𝚊𝚌𝚔𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚕 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚜 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚘𝚠𝚗.

𝙻𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚃𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚞𝚜 𝚑𝚒.


𝙿.𝚂. 𝙴𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚘𝚛 𝚁𝚘𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚕𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝙻𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚊 𝙷𝚒𝚌𝚔𝚘𝚌𝚔—𝟷𝟿𝟹𝟹:

"𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚕𝚢 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚛. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚒𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢 𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚖𝚒𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚜 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑, 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔. 𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚆𝚊𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚝𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚜 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚜 𝙸’𝚖 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞!"

From: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>
Date: 𝟵/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟳:𝟱𝟴 𝗣𝗠
To: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>

𝗥𝗘: 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗳𝗳


𝙷𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚐𝚘 𝚜𝚘 𝚑𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚢, 𝚑𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚢, 𝚞𝚗𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚊𝚍𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚍 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚕𝚘𝚊𝚍𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚊 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚓𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚌𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚋𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚖𝚊𝚠 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚙𝚊𝚌𝚎?

𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎, 𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝙸 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚙𝚊𝚌𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚊 𝚋𝚊𝚐 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝙸 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍. 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚍, 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚕 𝙸 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚑, 𝚏𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚎𝚡𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍, 𝚜𝚗𝚞𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑. 𝙷𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝙳𝚎𝚕𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝙵𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎. 𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚍: 𝚊𝚟𝚘𝚒𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚞𝚜𝚜𝚢.

𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙. 𝙽𝚘𝚝 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚢—𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚖𝚎.

𝚂𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚏𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢, 𝚠𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚞𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚎𝚗𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙 𝙸’𝚍 𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚕 𝚙𝚊𝚝𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝙸’𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚢. 𝙷𝚎 𝚊𝚜𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚢 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚘𝚗 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚘𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 (𝚑𝚊) 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗, 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝙸 𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍, “𝙱𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝙸’𝚖 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢, 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚍𝚎𝚎𝚙𝚕𝚢 𝚐𝚊𝚢, 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙.”

𝙾𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚊𝚐𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚕𝚘𝚍𝚐𝚎 𝚑𝚒𝚖 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚛, 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚚𝚞𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚊 𝚏𝚎𝚠 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎, 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 “𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚏𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚐𝚞𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚍” 𝚊𝚗𝚍 “𝚎𝚗𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚙𝚎𝚝𝚞𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚍𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚎” 𝚊𝚗𝚍 “𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚐𝚊𝚌𝚢.” 𝙷𝚘𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚕𝚢, 𝙸 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚒𝚝. 𝙴𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢, 𝙸 𝚐𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚡𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚞𝚙𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚙𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚡𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚞𝚙𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎.

𝚂𝚘, 𝚢𝚎𝚜, 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚞𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚊 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚙. 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚗 𝚛𝚎: 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚘𝚍𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚞𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚌.

𝙸 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠. 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚊 𝚝𝚛𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝚊𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚋𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚞𝚒𝚝𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝, 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚔.

𝚂𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝙸 𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝙽𝚎𝚠 𝚈𝚘𝚛𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚕𝚊𝚞𝚗𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙰𝚛𝚝'𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚕𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎. 𝙹𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝙽𝚘𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔. 𝙼𝚊𝚢𝚋𝚎 𝚋𝚞𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚘𝚞𝚝. 𝙸𝚝 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚗𝚒𝚌𝚎.

𝙷𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚊: 𝙳𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠, 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚝?

𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚎𝚎, 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎, 𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚏𝚏𝚒𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚝. 𝚅𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚘𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚗, 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚑𝚞𝚛𝚝. 𝙰 𝚌𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚐𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚏 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚒𝚝 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎, 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚊𝚕 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚝𝚘 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚞𝚙𝚘𝚗 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎, 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚍𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢’𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚒𝚗𝚟𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚗𝚎𝚠 𝚜𝚢𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚖.

𝙸 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝚠𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚛𝚔, 𝚍𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚢 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙿𝚊𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎. 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝙸 𝚟𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚌𝚞𝚜 𝚒𝚗 𝚛𝚎𝚑𝚊𝚋 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚍 𝚑𝚒𝚖 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚕𝚢, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚙𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚗𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚙𝚊𝚙𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚐𝚘𝚕𝚍𝚎𝚗 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚙 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚛. 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚞𝚗𝚔𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎, 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚟𝚊𝚙𝚒𝚍 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚊𝚗 𝚜𝚘𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚜 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚎𝚗, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚏𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚖𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚝, 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚌𝚛𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚎𝚍 𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝚋𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖 𝚌𝚞𝚙𝚋𝚘𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗. 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛’𝚜 𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚜𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚔, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚖𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚜, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚜𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝-𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚏𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚒𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖, 𝚊 𝚋𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖, 𝚠𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚍𝚊𝚛𝚔, 𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚜 𝚍𝚛𝚊𝚠𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚌𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍. 𝙻𝚘𝚌𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚘𝚛𝚜.

𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝙸 𝚜𝚊𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚁𝚒𝚘. 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚜. 𝙸 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 𝚜𝚒𝚕𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚊𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚅𝚊𝚜𝚎. 𝙸𝚝 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚏𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖𝚜.

𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝙵𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚡 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚂𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚑, 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚏𝚞𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎, 𝚊 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕. 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚊𝚒𝚛 𝚠𝚊𝚜𝚗'𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚕𝚘𝚌𝚔𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚗. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚝’𝚜 𝚍𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚢𝚎𝚝, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚊𝚏𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚍. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚊 𝚢𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚙é-𝚊𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚘 𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜.

𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚛𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚗, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚒𝚝 𝚊 𝚜𝚊𝚏𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚖𝚎. 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚒𝚏 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎, 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚎𝚝 𝚖𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚎.

𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚕, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚒𝚗 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚗𝚢𝚠𝚊𝚢. 𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚐 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚕𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚔𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚐𝚞𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚞𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚌 𝚝𝚘𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚙𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚑𝚘𝚝𝚎𝚕 𝚋𝚊𝚛𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢 𝚒𝚗 𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚒𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚒𝚝 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚘𝚌𝚌𝚞𝚛𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚕𝚎𝚍-𝚞𝚙, 𝚕𝚘𝚌𝚔𝚎𝚍-𝚞𝚙 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢, 𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚗, 𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚕𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚢, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎 𝚊𝚞𝚍𝚊𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔. 𝙲𝚊𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚒𝚝?

𝚂𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜, 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚗𝚘𝚠, 𝙸 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝.

𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚐𝚘 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝙿𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚙. 𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚜𝚑 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎.



𝙿.𝚂. 𝙵𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝙼𝚒𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚕𝚘 𝚝𝚘 𝚃𝚘𝚖𝚖𝚊𝚜𝚘 𝙲𝚊𝚟𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚛𝚒, 𝟷𝟻𝟹𝟹:

"𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝, 𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚛, 𝙸 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚜 𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚗𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚋𝚢 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝙸 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎; 𝚗𝚊𝚢, 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚒𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚍, 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚗𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚢, 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚗𝚊𝚖𝚎, 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚗𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚝𝚑 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚕, 𝚏𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚜𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚜𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚗𝚎𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚛 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚝 𝚋𝚢 𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚢 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍. 𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔, 𝚒𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚢𝚎𝚜 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚕𝚜𝚘 𝚎𝚗𝚓𝚘𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗, 𝚒𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝙸 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏."

From: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>
Date: 𝟵/𝟰/𝟮𝟬 𝟴:𝟯𝟭 𝗣𝗠
To: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>

𝗥𝗘: 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗳𝗳



𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢. 𝙸 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚊𝚢. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢. 𝚂𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙵𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚡 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎. 𝙽𝚘𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚜 𝚖𝚎. 𝙾𝚋𝚟𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚕𝚢.

𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚖𝚎. 𝚆𝚎’𝚕𝚕 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚝. 𝙸𝚝 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚖𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎. 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚗 𝚙𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎. 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚙𝚒𝚌𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚞𝚙 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝙶𝚘𝚍, 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝙸 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛?

𝙷𝚎𝚛𝚎: 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚒𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚎𝚖𝚊𝚒𝚕𝚜 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚛 𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜. 𝚂𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝙸 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚊 𝚏𝚞𝚗𝚗𝚢-𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚛𝚘𝚌𝚔 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚍𝚍𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚌𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚘𝚌𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚋𝚒𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏, 𝚋𝚒𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚕𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚢 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚝𝚘 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚒𝚝—𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚒𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚒𝚝, 𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚢𝚘𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚞𝚌𝚔 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚝𝚎. 𝙲𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚒𝚌 𝙶𝚘𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝. 𝙸’𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚏𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝙷𝚊𝚒𝚕 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚢𝚜. 𝙼𝚎𝚛𝚌𝚒, 𝚂𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚊 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚊.

𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚎, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚍𝚘 𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊 𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚝.


𝟷. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚙𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚘𝚏𝚏.
𝟸. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚖𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚢 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚏𝚞𝚖𝚎, 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚌𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚗𝚜 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚊𝚕𝚜𝚘 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚑 𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚜𝚜 (𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚌 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜?).
𝟹. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚝𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑.
𝟺. 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚢 𝚙𝚒𝚊𝚗𝚘.
𝟻. 𝙰𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝙸 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞.
𝟼. 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚁𝚎𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙹𝚎𝚍𝚒 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚂𝚝𝚊𝚛 𝚆𝚊𝚛𝚜 (𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚗𝚐) 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚐𝚒𝚐𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌, 𝚜𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢, 𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚛𝚘𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛.
𝟽. 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝙺𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚜.
𝟾. 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚊𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝙱𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚊𝚍𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎’𝚜 “𝙳𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚕𝚎𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚊𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗” 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚘𝚕𝚘𝚐𝚞𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝙿𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚊, 𝚀𝚞𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙳𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚝.
𝟿. 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚛𝚢.
𝟷𝟶. 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚝𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚍.
𝟷𝟷. 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚍𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚝𝚛𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐.
𝟷𝟸. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚌𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚎, 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚙𝚒𝚍 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜.
𝟷𝟹. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚍𝚍𝚊𝚖𝚗 𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚞𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙵𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚕 𝚃𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚋𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚔𝚎𝚙𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚍 (𝚢𝚎𝚜, 𝙸 𝚜𝚊𝚠 𝚒𝚝).
𝟷𝟺. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚞𝚙.
𝟷𝟻. 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍𝚎𝚛-𝚝𝚘-𝚠𝚊𝚒𝚜𝚝 𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘.
𝟷𝟼. 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕, 𝚐𝚎𝚗𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚜, 𝚛𝚒𝚍𝚒𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚘𝚞𝚜, 𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝.
𝟷𝟽. 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚎𝚚𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚙𝚞𝚜𝚜𝚢.
𝟷𝟾. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚎.
𝟷𝟿. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚞𝚙 (𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝙸 𝚊𝚕𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢, 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚒𝚝).
𝟸𝟶. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐.

𝙸 𝚔𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚍𝚒𝚘𝚝 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜. 𝙸𝚝’𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝙸’𝚖 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚍, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝙸 𝚋𝚛𝚞𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚘𝚏𝚏 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚘𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚕𝚎𝚝 𝚖𝚎 𝚐𝚘 𝚊𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙳𝙽𝙲, 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝙸 𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚌𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜. 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏. 𝙶𝚘𝚍, 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚘’𝚜 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚞𝚛𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘𝚘, 𝚠𝚊𝚜𝚗’𝚝 𝚒𝚝? 𝙰𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢.

𝙿𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚢 𝚐𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚞𝚗𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎. 𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝙸 𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚜 𝙸 𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚜𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗.


𝙿.𝚂. 𝚁𝚒𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝚆𝚊𝚐𝚗𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝙴𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚊 𝚆𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚎, 𝚛𝚎: 𝙻𝚞𝚍𝚠𝚒𝚐 𝙸𝙸-𝟷𝟾𝟼𝟺 (𝚁𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚍 𝚆𝚊𝚐𝚗𝚎𝚛 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎? 𝙷𝚎’𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐.)

"𝙸𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚖𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚐 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚗𝚞𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚊𝚍𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚜 𝚖𝚎. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖 𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚊 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜. 𝙸 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑. 𝙸 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚂𝚑𝚊𝚔𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚎: 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚜𝚊𝚠 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚒𝚖: 𝙸 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚖𝚎. 𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝙸 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝙱𝚎𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚗, 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚍. 𝚂𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎. 𝙷𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜 𝚖𝚎. 𝙽𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚗𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎."

Chapter 13

Chapter Text

There’s a diamond ring on Alison’s finger when she shows up with her coffee thermos and a thick stack of files. They’re in Sarah’s room, scarfing down breakfast before Alison, Felix and Sarah leave for a rally in Pittsburgh, and Sarah drops her waffle on the bedspread.

“Oh my God, what is that? Did you get engaged?”

Alison looks down at the ring and shrugs. “I had the weekend off.”

Sarah gapes at her.

“When are you going to tell us who you're dating?” Cosima asks. “Also, how?”

“Uh-uh, nope,” she says. “You don’t get to say sh*t to me about secret relationships in and around this campaign, princess.”

“Fair,” Cosima concedes.

She brushes past the topic as Sarah starts wiping syrup off the bed with her pyjama pants. “We've got a lot of ground to cover this morning, so focus up.”

She’s got detailed agendas for each of them, bullet-pointed and double-sided, and she dives right in. They’re already on Thursday’s voter registration drive in Cedar Rapids (Cosima is pointedly not invited) when her phone pings with a notification. She picks it up, scrolling through the screen offhandedly.

“So I need both of you to be dressed and ready .. . by. . .” She’s looking more closely at the screen, distracted. “By, uh...” Her face is taken over with a furious gasp. “Oh, f*ck my ass.”

“What—?” Cosima starts, but her own phone buzzes in her lap, and she looks down to find a push notification from CNN: LEAKED SURVEILLANCE FOOTAGE SHOWS PRINCESS DELPHINE AT DNC HOTEL.

“Oh, sh*t,” Cosima says.

Sarah reads over her shoulder; somehow, some “anonymous source” got the security camera footage from the lobby of the Beekman that night of the DNC.

It’s not ... explicitly damning, but it very clearly does show the two of them walking out of the bar together, shoulder to shoulder, flanked by Vic, and it cuts to footage from the elevator, Delphine’s arm around Cosima’s waist while they talk with Vic. It ends with the three of them getting off together at the top floor.

Alison looks up at her, practically murderous. “Can you explain to me why this one day of our lives will not stop haunting me?”

“I don’t know,” Cosima says miserably. “I can’t believe this is the one that’s—I mean, we've done riskier things than this—”

“That’s supposed to make me feel better how?”

“I just mean, like, who is leaking f*cking elevator tapes? Who’s checking for that? It’s not like Solange was in there—”

A chirp from Sarah’s phone interrupts her, and she swears when she looks at it. “Jesus, that Post reporter just texted to ask for a comment on the speculation surrounding your relationship with Delphine and whether it —whether it has to do with you leaving the campaign after the DNC.” She looks between Cosima and Alison, eyes wide. “This is really bad, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Alison says. She’s got her nose buried in her phone, furiously typing out what are probably very strongly worded emails to the press team. “What we need is a f*cking diversion. We have to—to send you on a date or something.”

“What if we—” Sarah attempts.

“I have an idea!” Felix finally half shouts. When they all look at him, he’s biting his lip, looking for something on his computer. “But I don’t know if you’re gonna like it Cos."

He turns his laptop around to show them the screen. It’s a photo Cosima recognizes as one of the ones they took for Art in Texas, Felix and Delphine lounging on the dock together. He’s cropped Sarah out so it’s just the two of them, Delphine sporting a wide, teasing grin under her sunglasses and Felix planting a kiss on his cheek. "Just send Delphine on a date with me,” Felix offers. “I was on that floor too,” Felix says. “We don’t have to, like, confirm or deny anything. But we can imply something. Just to take the heat off.”

Cosima swallows.

She’s always known Felix was one inch from taking a bullet for her, but this? She would never ask him to do this.

But the thing is ... it would work. Their social media friendship is well documented, even if half of it is GIFs of Colin Firth. Out of context, the photo looks as couple-y as anything, like a nice, gorgeous, heterosexual couple on vacation together. She looks over to Alison.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Alison says. “We'd have to get Delphine on board. Can you do that?”

Cosima releases a breath. She absolutely doesn’t want this, but she’s also not sure what other choice she has. “Um. Yeah, I. Yeah, I think so.”

“This is kind of exactly what we said we didn’t want to do,” Cosima says into her phone.

“I know,” Delphine tells her across the line. Her voice is shaky. Philip is waiting on Delphine’s other line. “But.”

“Yeah,” Cosima says. “But.”

Felix posts the picture from Texas, and it immediately burns through his stats to become his new most-liked post.

Within hours, it’s everywhere. BuzzFeed puts up a comprehensive guide to Delphine and Felix’s relationship, leading off with that goddamn photo of them lying in their swimsuits in Texas. They dig up photos from the night in LA and photos from the Royal Wedding. They analyze Twitter interactions. “Just when you thought Delphine couldn’t get any more #goals,” one article writes, “she secretly had her own Prince Charming all along?” Another one speculates, “Did HRH’s best friend Cosima introduce them?”

Felix is relieved, only because he managed to find a way to protect her, even though it means the world is digging through his life for answers and evidence, which makes Cosima want to murder everyone. She also wants to grab people by the shoulders and shake them and tell them Delphine is hers, you idiots, even though the whole point of this was for it to be believable. She shouldn’t feel wronged deep in her gut. But that everyone seems enamoured, when the only difference between the lie and the truth that would burn up Fox News is the gender involved ... well, it f*cking stings.

Delphine is quiet. She says enough for Cosima to glean that Philip is apoplectic and The Queen is annoyed but pleased Delphine has finally found herself a boyfriend. Cosima feels horrible about it. The stifling orders, pretending to be someone she’s not—Cosima has always tried to be a refuge for Delphine from it all. It was never supposed to come from her side too.

Just two weeks ago, Cosima was in Paris, sharing a tender kiss with Delphine in front of a Giambologna sculpture.

Now, she's grappling with a new crisis.

There's a strategic play they're implementing, one that involves Delphine putting on a show that could fool anyone. Dressed in a sleek pencil skirt and bright red lipstick, Delphine arrives at the White House, ready to play her part. Cosima watches, barely containing a surge of frustration strong enough to make her fantasize about murdering the Secret Service agents guarding her door.

Delphine is flawless in her role, her hands possessively on Felix; an arm around his waist, fingers interlaced with his, her head resting against his chest. Every move is calculated and for reasons Cosima tries to convince herself aren’t meant to torment her, Alison ensures it's all captured and broadcasted live on the White House's Instagram Story.

And just as the camera focuses, Delphine's voice, unmistakably seductive, floats through the air, directed at Felix, "Take me on a date." The words are deliberate, part of their desperate strategy, yet they sting Cosima with their feigned intimacy.

They opt for a bustling college neighborhood, where discreet smartphone photos are inevitable. As Delphine slips her hand into Felix's back pocket, he strives to appear utterly smitten, as though he’s in love with her rather than sharing the sisterly love he has for her—a key reason he agreed to this charade.

For a fleeting moment, Delphine entertains the thought of how simple life would be if their ruse reflected reality: she imagines leaving playful fingerprints along his jaw, sending him love-soaked emails, and sharing laughter over his bold humor. If only she could genuinely love him in the romantic way everyone expects. But she doesn’t, and she can’t, and her heart is back at The White House staring at her phone for updates on Felix's Instagram.

Alison sends Cosima an email full of Twitter threads about Felix and Delphine that night when she’s in bed. She knows Alison was coming from a place of 'look how well this is working' but she feels sick.

The next morning Delphine sounds exhausted when Cosima calls her, and Cosima holds the phone close and promises she'll try to find a way to see her before she flies back out that afternoon. She has one lunch date left with Felix in a local café to get through.

“Please,” Delphine says, paper-thin.

Cosima's mother, the rest of the administration, and half of the press at this point are caught up for the day dealing with news of a North Korean missile test; nobody notices when Felix lets Cosima climb into his SUV with him that morning. Felix holds onto her elbow and makes half-hearted jokes, and when they pull up a block from the café, he offers her an apologetic smile.

“I’ll tell Delphine you're here,” he says. “If nothing else, maybe that'll make it a little easier for her”

“Thanks,” she says. Before he opens the door to leave, she catches him by the wrist and says, “Seriously. Thank you.”

He gives her hand a squeeze, and he and Helena are gone, and she’s alone in a tiny, secluded alleyway with the second car of backup security and a twisted-up feeling in her stomach.

It takes all of an hour before Felix texts her, 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗱𝗼𝗻𝗲, followed by, 𝗕𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂.

They worked it out before they left: Helena brings Felix and Delphine back to the alley, they have Delphine swap cars like a political prisoner. Cosima leans forward to the two agents sitting silently in the front seats. She doesn’t know if they’ve figured out what this really is yet, and she honestly doesn’t care.

“Hey, can I have a minute?”

They exchange a look but get out, and a minute later, there’s another car alongside her and the door is opening, and she’s there. Delphine, looking tense and unhappy, but within arm’s reach.

Cosima pulls her in by the shoulder on instinct, the door shutting behind her. She holds her there, and this close she can see the faint gray tinge to Delphine’s complexion, the way her eyes aren’t connecting. It’s the worst she’s ever seen her, worse than a violent fit or the verge of tears. She looks hollowed-out, vacant.

“Hey,” Cosima says. Delphine’s gaze is still unfocused, and Cosima shifts toward the middle of the seat and into her line of vision. “Hey. Look at me. Hey. I’m right here.”

Delphine’s hands are shaking, her breaths coming shallow, and Cosima knows the signs, the low hum of an impending panic attack. She reaches down and wraps her hands around one of Delphine’s wrists, feeling the racing pulse under her thumbs.

Delphine finally meets her eyes. “I hate it,” she says. “I hate this.”

“I know,” Cosima says.

“It was... tolerable before, somehow,” Delphine says. “When there was never—never the possibility of anything else. But, this is—it’s vile. It’s a farce. And poor Felix, what, he just gets to be used? Grand-mère wanted me to bring my own photographers for this. Did you know that?” She inhales, and it gets caught in her throat and shudders violently on the way back out. “Cosima. I don’t want to do this.”

“I know,” Cosima tells her again, reaching up to smooth out Delphine’s brow with the pad of her thumb. “I hate it too.”

“It’s not f*cking fair!” she goes on, her voice nearly breaking. “My ancestors walked around doing a thousand times worse than any of this, and nobody cared!”

“Baby,” Cosima says, moving her hand to Delphine’s chin to bring her back down. “I know. I’m so sorry. But it won't be like this forever, okay? I promise.”

Delphine closes her eyes and exhales through her nose. “I want to believe you. I do. But I’m so afraid I'll never be allowed.”

Cosima wants to go to war for this woman, wants to get her hands on everything and everyone that ever hurt her, but for once, she’s trying to be the steady one. So she rubs the side of Delphine’s neck gently until her eyes drift back open, and she smiles softly, tipping their foreheads together.

“Hey,” she says. “I’m not gonna let that happen. Listen, I’m telling you right now, I will physically fight your grandmother myself if I have to, okay? And, like, she’s old. I know I can take her.”

“I wouldn’t be so co*cky,” Delphine says with a small laugh. “She’s full of dark surprises.”

Cosima laughs, cuffing her on the shoulder.

“Seriously,” she says. Delphine’s looking back at her, beautiful and vital and heartsick and still, always, the person Cosima is willing to risk ruining her life for. “I hate this so much. I know. But we’re gonna do it together. And we're gonna make it work. You and me and history, remember? We're just going to f*cking fight. Because you’re it, okay? I’m never going love anybody in the world like I love you. So, I promise you, one day we'll be able to just be, and f*ck everyone else.”

She pulls Delphine in by the nape of her neck and kisses her hard, Delphine’s knee knocking against the center console as her hands move up to Cosima’s face. Even though the windows are tinted black, it’s the closest they've ever come to kissing in public, and Cosima knows it’s reckless, but all she can think is a supercut of other people’s letters they’ve quietly sent to each other. Words that went down in history. “Meet you in every dream... Keep most of your heart in Washington . . . Miss you like a home. . . We two longing loves . .. My young queen.”

One day, she tells herself. One day, us too.

The anxiety feels like buzzing little wings in Cosima's ear in the silence, like a petulant wasp. It catches her when she tries to sleep and startles her awake, follows her on laps paced up and down the floors of the Residence. It’s getting harder to brush off the feeling she’s being watched.

The worst part is that there’s no end in sight. They'll definitely have to keep it up at least until the election is over, and even then, there’s the always looming possibility of the queen outright forbidding it. Cosima's idealistic streak won’t let her fully accept it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

She keeps waking up in DC, and Delphine keeps waking up in Paris, and the whole world keeps waking up to talk about Delphine and Felix being in love. Speculation about whether Felix will get an official announcement of royal courtship. And the two of them, Delphine and Cosima, like the world’s worst illustration of the Symposium: split down the middle and sent bleeding into separate lives.

Even that thought depresses her because Delphine’s the only reason she’s become a person who cites Plato. Delphine and her classics. Delphine in her palace, in love, in misery, not talking much anymore.

Even with both of them trying as hard as they are, it’s impossible to feel like it’s not pulling them apart. The whole charade takes and takes from them, takes days that were sacred—the night in LA, the weekend at the lake, the missed chance in Rio—and records over the tape with something more palatable. The narrative: two fresh-faced young women who are the worlds most eligible bachelorettes and definitely not ever dating each other.

Cosima doesn’t want Delphine to know how hard it’s hitting her. Delphine has a hard enough time as it is, looked at sideways by her whole family, Philip who knows and has not been kind. She tries to sound calm and whole over the phone when they talk, but she doesn’t think it’s convincing.

The first debate is in a matter of weeks. She doesn’t even have work to keep her busy, so she stews and stresses and goes for long, punishing runs until she has the satisfaction of blisters. She wants to set herself on fire, but she can’t afford for anyone to see her burn.

She’s returning a box of borrowed files to the camping office in the Dirksen Building after hours when she hears the faint sound of Muddy Waters from the floor above, and it hits her. There’s one person she can burn down instead.

She finds Rafael Luna hunched at his office’s open window, sucking down a cigarette. There are two empty, crumpled packs of Marlboros next to a lighter and an overflowing ashtray on the sill. When he turns around at the slam of the door, he coughs out a startled cloud of smoke.

“Those things are gonna f*cking kill you,” Cosima says. She said the same thing about five hundred times that summer in Denver, but now she means, I kinda wish they would.


“Don’t call me that.”

Luna turns, stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray, and Cosima can see a muscle clenching in his jaw. As handsome as he always is, he looks like sh*t. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“No sh*t,” Cosima says. “I just wanted to see if you would have the balls to actually talk to me.”

“You do realize you're talking to a United States Senator,” he says placidly.

“Yeah, big f*cking man,” Cosima says. She’s advancing on Luna now, kicking a chair out of the way. “Important f*cking job. Hey, how ’bout you tell me how you’re serving the people who voted for you by being Jeffrey Richards’s chickensh*t little sellout?”

“What the hell did you come here for, Cosima, eh?” Luna asks her, unmoved. “You gonna fight me?”

“I want you to tell me why.”

His jaw clenches again. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re—”

“I swear to God, if you say I’m too young, I’m gonna lose my sh*t.”

“This isn’t you losing your sh*t?” Luna asks mildly, and the look that crosses Cosima’s face must be murderous because he immediately puts a hand up. “Okay, bad timing. Look, I know. I know it seems sh*tty, but there’s—there are moving parts at work here that you can’t even imagine. You know I'll always be indebted to your family for what you all have done for me, but—”

“I don’t give a sh*t about what you owe us. I trusted you,” she says. “Don’t condescend to me. You know as much as anyone what I’m capable of, what I’ve seen. If you told me, I would get it.”

She’s so close she’s practically breathing Luna’s reeking cigarette smoke, and when she looks into his face, there’s a flicker of recognition at the bloodshot, blackened eyes and the gaunt cheekbones. It reminds her of how Delphine looked in the back of the Secret Service car.

“Does Richards have something on you?” she asks. “Is he making you do this?”

Luna hesitates. “I’m doing this because it’s what needs to be done, Cosima. It was my choice. Nobody else’s.”

“Then tell me why.”

Luna takes a deep breath and says, “No.”

Cosima imagines her fist in Luna’s face and removes herself by two steps, out of range.

“You remember that night in Denver,” she says, measured, her voice quavering, “when we ordered pizza and you showed me pictures of all the kids you fought for in court? And we drank that nice bottle of scotch from the mayor of Boulder? I remember lying on the floor of your office, on the ugly-ass carpet, drunk off my ass, thinking, ‘God, I hope I can be like him.’ Because you were brave. Because you stood up for things. And I couldn’t stop wondering how you had the nerve to get up and do what you do every day with everyone knowing what they know about you.”

Briefly, Cosima thinks she’s gotten through to Luna, from the way he closes his eyes and braces himself against the sill. But when he faces her again, his stare is hard.

“People don’t know a damn thing about me. They don’t know the half of it. And neither do you,” he says. “Jesus, Cosima, please, don’t be like me. Find another f*cking role model.”

Cosima, finally at her limit, lifts her chin and spits out, “I already am like you.”

It hangs in the air between them, as physical as the kicked-over chair. Luna blinks. “What are you saying?”

“You know what I’m saying. I think you always knew, before I even did.”

“You don’t—” he says, stammering, trying to put it off. “You’re not like me.”

Cosima levels her stare. “Close enough. And you know what I mean.”

“Okay, fine, kid,” Luna finally snaps, “you want me to be your f*cking sherpa? Here’s my advice: Don’t tell anyone. Go find a nice man and marry him. You're luckier than me—you can do that, and it wouldn’t even be a lie.”

And what comes out of Cosima’s mouth, comes so fast she has no chance to stop it, “ It would be a lie, because it wouldn’t be her.”

She knows immediately Raf has caught her meaning, because he takes a sharp step backward, his back hitting the sill again.

“You can’t tell me this sh*t, Cosima!” he says, clawing inside his jacket until he finds and removes another pack of cigarettes. He shakes one out and fumbles with the lighter. “What are you even thinking? I’m on the opponent’s f*cking campaign! I can’t hear this! How can you possibly think you can be a politician like this?”

“Who f*cking decided that politics had to be about lying and hiding and being something you're not?”

“It’s always been that, Cosima!”

“Since when did you buy into it?” Cosima spits. “You, me, my family, the people we run with—we were gonna be the honest ones! I have absolutely zero interest in being a politician with some perfect veneer and twopoint-five kids. Didn’t we decide it was supposed to be about helping people? About the fight? What part of that is so f*cking irreconcilable with letting people see who I really am? Who you are, Raf?”

“Cosima, please. Please. Jesus Christ. You have to leave. I can’t know this. You can’t tell me this. You have to be more careful than this.”

“God,” Cosima says, voice bitter, her hands on her hips. “You know, it’s worse than trust. I believed in you.”

“I know you did,” Luna says. He’s not even looking at Cosima anymore. “I wish you hadn’t. Now, I need you to get out.”


“Cosima. Get. Out.”

She goes, slamming the door behind her.

Back at the Residence, she tries to call Delphine. She doesn’t pick up, but she texts: 𝗦𝗼𝗿𝗿𝘆. 𝗠𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗣𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗽. 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂.

She reaches under the bed and gropes in the dark until she finds it: a bottle of Maker’s. The emergency stash.

“Salud,” she mutters under her breath, and she unscrews the top.

From: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>
Date: 𝟵/𝟮𝟱/𝟮𝟬 𝟯:𝟮𝟭 𝗔𝗠
To: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>



𝚒 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚜𝚔𝚎𝚢. 𝚋𝚘𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎. 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎.

𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘. 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝚒𝚝 𝚍𝚛𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚖𝚎 𝚌𝚛𝚊𝚣𝚢. 𝚒 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎.

𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚊 𝚌𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚐𝚘𝚎𝚜. 𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚏𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝚒 𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚒𝚝. 𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝚘𝚏 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚟𝚊𝚕.

𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚒’𝚟𝚎 𝚔𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑, 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚛, 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚐𝚘𝚎𝚜, 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚠. 𝚒’𝚟𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚣𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚝. 𝚝𝚘𝚙𝚘𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑𝚢 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚙 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚊 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍 𝚒’𝚖 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝚒 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚝. 𝚒 𝚊𝚍𝚍𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚔𝚎𝚢. 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎: 𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚜. 𝚒 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚖𝚞𝚕𝚝𝚒𝚙𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚝, 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚝𝚞𝚍𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐𝚒𝚝𝚞𝚍𝚎. 𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚕𝚊 𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚊.

𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑, 𝚒𝚝𝚜 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎. 𝚒𝚝’𝚜 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢. 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎, 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚝𝚢, 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚢 𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚋𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚒 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚒𝚛𝚍, 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚏𝚎𝚌𝚝 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝. 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚜𝚝.

𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚙 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞, 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚞𝚜𝚢 𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚢, 𝙿𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜. 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚛𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚌𝚒𝚛𝚌𝚕𝚎, 𝚜𝚊𝚌𝚛𝚘𝚜𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚝. 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚎’𝚜 𝚊 𝚛𝚒𝚍𝚐𝚎 𝚒’𝚍 𝚍𝚒𝚎 𝚌𝚕𝚒𝚖𝚋𝚒𝚗𝚐.

𝚒𝚏 𝚒 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚔, 𝚒’𝚍 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚖𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚑 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚝 𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛𝚜, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒’𝚍 𝚜𝚖𝚘𝚘𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚝 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚙𝚜. 𝚒 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚠—𝚜𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚜’ 𝚗𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚒𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚕𝚎𝚜.

𝚐𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜. 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞.

𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛,


𝚙.𝚜. 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚠𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚒𝚎𝚐𝚏𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚜𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗—𝟷𝟿𝟷𝟽:

𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚡𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚢 𝙻𝚒𝚏𝚎—𝚑𝚘𝚠𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚛𝚝. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚒𝚍 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚖𝚎: 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚊 𝚖𝚊𝚍 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝; 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚡𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎. 𝙸 𝚜𝚙𝚞𝚗 𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊 𝚜𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚑, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗, 𝚊 𝚍𝚊𝚛𝚔 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚛𝚋𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚕𝚊𝚣𝚎.

From: 𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗗 <𝗵𝗿𝗵𝗱𝗰@𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀.𝗰𝗼𝗺>
Date: 𝟵/𝟮𝟱/𝟮𝟬 𝟲:𝟬𝟳 𝗔𝗠
To: 𝗖 <𝗰𝗻𝘀@𝘄𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲.𝗴𝗼𝘃>


𝙵𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝙹𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝙲𝚘𝚌𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝙹𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚒𝚜, 𝟷𝟿𝟹𝟿:

𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚘𝚝𝚝𝚘𝚖 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎. 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚍𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚠 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚜𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗, 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚊 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔𝚠𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔.

The sound of Cosima’s phone buzzing on her nightstand startles her out of a dead sleep. She falls halfway out of bed, fumbling to answer it. “Hello?”

“What did you do?” Alison's voice nearly shouts. By the clicking of heels in the background and muttered swearing, she’s running somewhere.

“Um,” Cosima says. She rubs her eyes, trying to get her brain back online. What did she do? “Be more specific?”

“Check the f*cking news, you horny little miscreant—how could you possibly be stupid enough to get photographed? I swear to God—”

Cosima doesn’t even hear the last part of what Alison says, because her stomach has just dropped all the way down through the floor and into the f*cking Map Room two floors below.


Hands shaking, she switches Zahra to speaker, opens up Google, and types her own name.





A bubble of hysterical laughter emerges from her throat.

Her bedroom door flies open, and Alison slams on the light, a steely expression of rage barely concealing the sheer terror on her face. Cosima’s brain flashes to the panic button behind her headboard and wonders if the Secret Service will be able to find her before she bleeds out.

“You're on communications lockdown,” Alison says, and instead of punching her, she snatches Cosima's phone out of her hand and shoves it down the front of her blouse, which has been buttoned wrong in her rush. She doesn’t even blink at Cosima's state of half-nakedness, just dumps an armload of magazines onto her bedspread.

Twenty copies of the Daily Mail proclaim in gigantic letters. 𝗜𝗡𝗦𝗜𝗗𝗘 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗣𝗥𝗜𝗡𝗖𝗘𝗦𝗦’𝗦 𝗟𝗘𝗦𝗕𝗜𝗔𝗡 𝗔𝗙𝗙𝗔𝗜𝗥 𝗪𝗜𝗧𝗛 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗙𝗜𝗥𝗦𝗧 𝗗𝗔𝗨𝗚𝗛𝗧𝗘𝗥 𝗢𝗙 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗧𝗘𝗗 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗧𝗘𝗦!

The cover is splashed with a blown-up photo of what is undeniably herself and Delphine kissing in the back seat of the car behind the café, apparently shot with a long-range lens through the windshield. Tinted windows, but she forgot about the f*cking windshield.

Two smaller photos are inset on the bottom of the page: one of the shots of them on the Beekman’s elevator and a photo of them side by side at The French Open, her whispering something in Delphine’s ear while Delphine smiles a soft, private smile.

f*cking sh*tting hell. She is so f*cked. Delphine is so f*cked. And, Jesus Christ, her mother’s campaign is f*cked, and her political career is f*cked, and her ears are ringing, and she’s going to throw up.

“f*ck,” Cosima says again. “I need my phone. I have to call Delphine—”

“No, you do f*cking not,” Alison says. “We don’t know yet how the emails got out, so it’s radio silence until we find the leak.”

“The—what? Is Delphine okay?” God, Delphine. All she can think about is Delphine’s big green eyes looking terrified, Delphine’s breathing coming shallow and quick, locked in her bedroom in the Palace and desperately alone, and her jaw locks up, something burning in the back of her throat.

“The president is sitting down right now with as many members of the Office of Communications as we could drag out of bed at three in the morning,” Alison tells her, ignoring her question. Her phone is buzzing nonstop in her hand. “It’s about to be gay DEFCON five in this administration. For God’s sake, put some clothes on.”

Alison disappears into Cosima’s closet, and she flips the magazine open to the story, her heart pounding. There are even more photos inside. She glances over the copy, but there’s too much to even begin to process.

On the second page, she sees them: printed and annotated excerpts of their emails. One is labeled: 𝗣𝗥𝗜𝗡𝗖𝗘𝗦𝗦 𝗗𝗘𝗟𝗣𝗛𝗜𝗡𝗘: 𝗦𝗘𝗖𝗥𝗘𝗧 𝗣𝗢𝗘𝗧? It begins with a line she’s read about a thousand times by now.

𝚂𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝙸 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚎'𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝, 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖𝚜...

“f*ck!” she says a third time, spiking the magazine at the floor. That one was hers. It feels obscene to see it there. “How the f*ck did they get these?”

She throws a white button-down and a pair of jeans at her, and she pitches herself out of bed. Alison gamely holds out an arm for her to steady herself while she pulls her pants up, and despite it all, she’s struck with overwhelming gratitude for her.

“Listen, I need to talk to Delphine as soon as possible. I can’t even imagine—God, I need to talk to her.”

“Get some shoes, we’re running,” Alison tells her. “Priority one is damage control, not feelings.”

She grabs a pair of sneakers, and they take off while she’s still pulling them on, running west. Her brain is struggling to keep up, running through about five thousand possible ways this could go, imagining herself ten years down the road being frozen out of Congress, plummeting approval ratings, Delphine’s name scratched off the line of succession, her mother losing reelection on a swing state’s disapproval of her. She’s so screwed, and she can’t even decide who to be the angriest with, herself or the Mail or the monarchy or the whole stupid country.

Cosima nearly crashes into Alison's back as she skids to a stop in front a door. She pushes the door open, and the whole room goes silent. Her mother stares at her from the head of the table and says flatly, “Out.” At first she thinks she’s talking to her, but she cuts her eyes down to the people around the table with her. “Was I not clear? Everyone, out, now,” she says. “I need to talk to my daughter.”

Chapter 14

Chapter Text

“Sit down,” her mother instructs, and Cosima feels a knot of dread tighten in her stomach. Understanding a parent as the leader of a nation is different from knowing them as the person who raised you.

She sits, and a heavy silence stretches between them. Her mother appears weary, her hands folded, resting against her lips in thought.

"Are you okay?" her mother finally asks, and when Cosima glances up, surprised, she sees genuine concern rather than anger in her eyes.

The president, at the brink of a career-ending scandal, regulates her breathing and waits for her daughter's response.


It strikes Cosima that she hasn't paused to consider her own emotions amidst the chaos. When she tries to identify what she’s feeling, she finds it difficult to pin down a specific emotion, feeling instead a mix of undefined anxieties.

In this moment, she wishes she could have this conversation under different circ*mstances—not as the president and the First Daughter in a West Wing briefing room, but simply as mother and daughter at the dinner table, discussing Cosima's relationship with her girlfriend, Delphine, in a normal, everyday context. Not with their scandalous emails laid out between them like a battlefield.

"I'm..." she starts, her voice wavering slightly, which she quickly tries to control. "I don’t know. This isn’t how I wanted everyone to find out. I hoped we’d have the chance to handle this more gracefully."

Her mother's expression softens and resolves, indicating Cosima has answered more than the question posed.

Her mother reaches over to cover one of Cosima's hands with her own, her grip firm and assuring.

"Listen to me," she says, her tone firm yet tender, the command in her voice that Cosima has seen intimidate Congress and world leaders alike. "I am your mother first and foremost, before being the president, and I will be your mother long after my term ends. You are my child, and if you are serious about this—if this is the person you love—I will support you."

Cosima is silent, her mind racing with the implications— the debates, the upcoming election.

Her mother's gaze is intense, unyielding. She knows better than to voice her fears. Her mother will manage those challenges.

"So," her mother continues, "do you feel this is forever with her?"

Faced with her mother’s straightforward question, Cosima realizes there's no room left for doubt or fear. The answer comes from deep within her heart.

"Yes," she says firmly. "I do."

Siobhan exhales slowly, a small, knowing grin crossing her features—the same private smile she rarely shows in public, the one Cosima remembers from her childhood.

"Then, f*ck it. We’ll handle it together."

As the weight of her mother’s words sinks in, offering both comfort and the courage to face whatever comes next, Cosima feels a profound gratitude mixed with the resolve to stand by Delphine, no matter the headlines or the public scrutiny. Together, they would face the future, backed by the unwavering support of the second most important person in her life—her mother.



𝗦𝗘𝗣𝗧𝗘𝗠𝗕𝗘𝗥 𝟮𝟳, 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟬

"𝐑𝐞𝐟𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐬 𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐲 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐚𝐲," 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐂𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐦𝐚 𝐍𝐢𝐞𝐡𝐚𝐮𝐬-𝐒𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐮𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐃𝐞𝐥𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐞, 𝐮𝐧𝐯𝐞𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐌𝐚𝐢𝐥. "𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐥."

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝, 𝐮𝐧𝐯𝐞𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐃𝐞𝐥𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐞—𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐟𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐰𝐨 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝’𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐟𝐥𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬, 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐫'𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦.

𝐀𝐦𝐢𝐝𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐦𝐨𝐢𝐥, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐮𝐬𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐅𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝, 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐧𝐨 𝐨𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫.

“𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐅𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬,” 𝐖𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐃𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐬 𝐒𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠. “𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐩𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜'𝐬 𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐧𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞.”

𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠’𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐌𝐚𝐢𝐥 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐢𝐧𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐃𝐞𝐥𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐅𝐞𝐛𝐫𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫, 𝐚𝐬 𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐡𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐰𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐩𝐞𝐫.

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐥 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐩𝐭𝐬, 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐮𝐩𝐥𝐨𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐖𝐢𝐤𝐢𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐬 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞 “𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐨𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐋𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬”—𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐮𝐩 𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐒𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐲. 𝐈𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐮𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐧 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐚 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐥 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐖𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬.

“𝐁𝐞𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐫'𝐬 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐋𝐆𝐁𝐓𝐐+ 𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞𝐬,” 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐑𝐞𝐩𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐒𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐫 𝐉𝐞𝐟𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐲 𝐑𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐛𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐲, “𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐝𝐞𝐞𝐩𝐥𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐥 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐫. 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐚 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐯𝐢𝐚 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐫?”

𝐒𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐫 𝐑𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐫'𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐫.

𝐖𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐢𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐆𝐞𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐞 𝐖. 𝐁𝐮𝐬𝐡’𝐬 𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐮𝐫𝐞, 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐅𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐩𝐚𝐥 𝐖𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐟𝐟.

𝐈𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐲𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 “𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐨𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐋𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬” 𝐛𝐲 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐨 𝐟𝐚𝐫 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐧𝐨 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐚 𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐟𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐃𝐞𝐥𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐞.

For five endless, unbearable hours, Cosima is shuffled from room to room in the West Wing, meeting with what seems to be every strategist, press staffer, and crisis manager her mother’s administration has to offer.

The only moment she recalls with any clarity is pulling her mother into an alcove to say, “I told Raf.”

She stares at her. “You told Rafael Luna that you’re bisexual?”

“I told Rafael Luna about Delphine,” she says flatly. “Two days ago.”

She doesn’t ask why, just sighs grimly, and they both hover over the implication before she says, “No. No, those pictures were taken before that. It couldn’t have been him.”

She runs through pros and cons lists, models of different outcomes, f*cking charts and graphs and more data than she has ever wanted to see about her own relationship and its ramifications on the world around her. This is the damage you cause, Cosima, it all seems to say, right there in hard facts and figures. This is who you hurt.

She hates herself, but she doesn’t regret anything, and maybe that makes her a bad person and a worse politician, but she doesn’t regret Delphine.

For five endless, unbearable hours, she’s not allowed to even try to contact Delphine. The press sec drafts a statement. It looks like any other memo.

For five hours, she doesn’t shower or change her clothes or laugh or smile or cry. It’s eight in the morning when she’s finally released and told to stay in the Residence and standby for further instructions.

She’s handed her phone, at last, but there’s no answer when she calls Delphine, and no response when she texts. Nothing at all.

Helena walks her through the colonnade and up the stairs, saying nothing, and when they reach the hallway between the East and West Bedrooms, she sees them.

Sarah, her hair in a haphazard knot on the top of her head and a pink bathrobe, her eyes red-rimmed. Her mom, in a sharp, no-nonsense black dress and pointed heels, jaw set. Felix, barefoot in his pyjamas. And her dad, a leather duffel still hanging off one shoulder, looking harried and exhausted.

They all turn to look at her, and Cosima feels a wave of something so much bigger than herself sweep over her, like when she was a child standing bowlegged in the Gulf of Mexico, riptide sucking at her feet. A sound escapes her throat uninvited, something that she barely even recognizes, and Sarah has her first, then the rest of them, arms and arms and hands and hands, pulling her close and touching her face and moving her until she’s on the floor, the goddamn terrible hideous antique rug that she hates, sitting on the floor and staring at the rug and the threads of the rug and hearing the Gulf rushing in her ears and thinking distantly that she’s having a panic attack, and that’s why she can’t breathe, but she’s just staring at the rug and she’s having a panic attack and knowing why her lungs won’t work doesn’t make them work again.

She’s faintly aware of being shifted into her room, to her bed, which is still covered in the godforsaken f*cking magazines, and someone guides her onto it, and she sits down and tries very, very hard to make a list in her head.




She sleeps in fits and starts, wakes up sweating, wakes up shivering. She dreams in short, fractured scenes that swell and fade erratically. She dreams of herself at war, in a muddy trench, love letter soaking red in her chest pocket. She dreams of a house in Travis County, doors locked, unwilling to let her in again. She dreams of a crown.

She dreams once, briefly, of the lake house, an orange beacon under the moon. She sees herself there, standing in water up to her neck. She sees Delphine, sitting naked on the pier. She sees Sarah and Felix, hands clasped together, and Art on the grass between them, and Marcus, digging pink fingertips into the wet soil.

In the trees next to them, she hears the snap, snap, snap of branches.

“Look,” Delphine says, pointing up at the stars.

And Cosima tries to say, Don’t you hear it? Tries to say, Something’s coming. She opens her mouth: a spill of fireflies, and nothing.

When she opens her eyes, Sarah is sitting up against the pillows next to her, bitten nails pressed against her bottom lip, still in her bathrobe and keeping watch. She reaches down and squeezes her hand. Cosima squeezes back.

Between dreams she catches the sound of muffled voices in the hallway.

“Nothing,” Alison's voice is saying. “Not a thing. Nobody is taking our calls.”

“How can they not be taking our calls? I’m the goddamn president.”

“Permission to do a thing, ma’am, slightly outside diplomatic protocol.”

A comment: 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘍𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵 𝘍𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘏𝘢𝘴 𝘉𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘓𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘛𝘰 𝘜𝘴, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦!!1 𝘞𝘏𝘈𝘛 𝘌𝘓𝘚𝘌 𝘈𝘳𝘦 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘓𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘈𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵??!?!


A comment: 𝘔𝘺 12 𝘺/𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘤𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘢𝘺. 𝘏𝘦'𝘴 𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘋𝘦𝘭𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘣𝘰𝘺. 𝘏𝘦'𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘣𝘳𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯.

A comment: 𝘈𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘯𝘰 𝘧𝘦𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘧𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘶𝘱?

A tweet: 𝘭𝘮𝘢𝘰𝘰𝘰𝘰 𝘸𝘢𝘪𝘵 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘢𝘵 𝘱𝘢𝘨𝘦 22 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘴 𝘊𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘮𝘢 𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢 𝘩𝘰𝘦

A tweet: 𝘖𝘔𝘍𝘎 𝘋𝘐𝘋 𝘠𝘖𝘜 𝘚𝘌𝘌 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘸𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘶𝘯𝘪 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘋𝘦𝘭𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘵 𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘭𝘺 𝘎𝘢𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘪’𝘮 𝘴𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨

A tweet: 𝘙𝘌𝘈𝘋-𝘔𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘮𝘯 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 @𝘞𝘚𝘑 𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 #𝘗𝘰𝘦𝘵𝘓𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘢𝘥𝘭𝘦𝘳 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘏𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦.

More comments. Slurs. Lies.

Sarah takes her phone away and shoves it under a couch cushion. She doesn’t bother protesting. Delphine's not going to call. Delphine may never call again.

At one in the afternoon, for the second time in twenty-four hours, Alison bursts through her bedroom door.

“Pack a bag,” she says. “We’re going to Paris.”

Sarah helps her stuff a backpack with jeans and a pair of shoes and a broken-in copy of Prisoner of Azkaban, and she stumbles into a clean shirt and out of her room. Alison is waiting in the hall with her own bag and a freshly pressed power suit of Cosima's, a sensible navy one that she has apparently decided is appropriate for meeting the queen.

Alison's told her very little, except that Versailles Palace has shut down communication channels in and out, and they’re just going to show up and demand a meeting. She seems confident Donnie will agree to it and willing to physically overpower him if not.

The feeling rolling around in her gut is bizarre. Her mom has signed off on them going public with the truth, which is incredible, but there’s no reason to expect that from the crown. She could get marching orders to deny everything. She thinks she might grab Delphine and run if it comes down to that.

She’s almost completely sure Delphine wouldn’t go along with pretending it was all fake. She trusts Delphine, and she believes in her.

But they were also supposed to have more time.

There’s a secluded side entrance of the Residence that Cosima can sneak out of without being seen, and Sarah and her parents meet her there.

“I know this is scary,” her mom says, “but you can handle it. Just please remember to curtsey to Her Majesty.”

“Give ’em hell,” her dad adds.

Sarah hugs her, and Cosima shoves on her sunglasses and a hat and jogs out the door and toward whatever way this is all going to end.

Vic and Helena are waiting on the plane. Cosima wonders briefly if they volunteered for the assignment, but she’s trying to get her emotions back under control, and that’s not going to help. She bumps her fist against Vic's as he passes, and Helena nods up from the denim jacket she’s needling noughts and crosses into.

It’s all happened so quickly that now, knees curled up to her chin as they leave the ground, is the first time Cosima is able to actually think about everything.

She’s not, she thinks, upset people know. She’s always been pretty unapologetic when it came to things like who she dates and what she’s into, although those were never anything like this. Still, the co*cky sh*thead part of her is slightly pleased to finally have a claim on Delphine. Yep, the princesses? Most eligible bachelorette in the world? French accent, face like a Greek goddess, legs for days? Mine.

But that’s only a tiny, tiny fraction of it. The rest is a knot of fear, anger, violation, humiliation, uncertainty, panic. There are the flaws everyone’s allowed to see—her big mouth, her mercurial temper, her searing impulses—and then there’s this. It’s like how she only wears her reading glasses when nobody’s around: Nobody’s supposed to see how much she needs.

She doesn’t care that people think about her body and write about her sex life, real or imagined. She cares that they know, in her own private words, what’s pumping out of her heart.

And Delphine. God, Delphine. Those emails—those letters—were the one place Delphine could say what she was really thinking. There’s nothing that wasn’t laid out in there: Delphine being gay, Marcus going to rehab, the queen tacitly keeping Delphine in the closet. Cosima hasn’t been a good Catholic in a long time, but she knows confession is a sacrament. They were supposed to stay safe.


She can’t sit still. She tosses Prisoner of Azkaban aside after four pages. She encounters a think piece on her own relationship on Twitter and has to shut down the whole app. She paces up and down the aisle of the jet, kicking at the bottoms of the seats.

“Can you please sit down?” Alison says after twenty minutes of watching her twitch around the cabin. “You're giving my ulcer an ulcer.”

“Are you sure they’re gonna let us in when we get there?” Cosima asks her. “Like, what if they don’t? What if they like, call the Royal Guard on us and have us arrested? Can they do that? Helena could probably fight them. Will she get arrested if she tries to fight them?”

“For f*ck’s sake,” Alison groans, and she pulls out her phone and starts dialing.

“Who are you calling?”

She sighs, holding the phone up to her ear as it rings. “Donnie.”

“What makes you think he'll answer?”

“It’s his personal line.”

Cosima stares at her. “You have his personal line and you haven’t used it until now?”

“Donnie,” Alison snaps. “Listen up, you f*ck. We are in the air right now. FDOTUS is with me. ETA six hours. You will have a car waiting. We will meet the queen and whoever the f*ck else we have to meet to hash this sh*t out, or so help me God I will personally make your balls into f*cking earrings. I will scorched-earth your entire motherf*cking life.” She pauses, presumably to listen to him agree because Cosima can’t imagine him doing anything else. “Now, put Delphine on the phone, and do not try to tell me she’s not there, because I know you haven't let her out of your sight.”

And she shoves her phone at Cosima's face.

She takes it uncertainly and lifts it to her ear. There’s rustling, a confused noise.


It’s Delphine's voice, sweet and posh and shaky and confused, and relief knocks the wind out of her


She hears Delphine's exhale over the line. “Mon amour, are you okay?”

She laughs wetly, amazed. “f*ck, are you kidding me? I’m fine, I’m fine, are you okay?”

“I'm... managing.”

Cosima winces. “How bad is it?”

“Philip broke a vase that belonged to Anne Boleyn, grand-mère ordered a communications lockdown, and mother hasn’t spoken to anyone,” Delphine tells her. “But, er, other than that. All things considered. It’s, er.”

“I know,” Cosima says. “I'll be there soon. Remember the option you gave me after the DNC? It goes both ways, I understand if you want out - ”

Delphine's breath shaky over the receiver. “- Non! I’m not sorry,” she says. “That people know.”

Cosima feels her heart climb up into her throat.

“Delphine,” she attempts, “I...” / “Maybe—”

“I talked to my mom—” / “I know the timing isn’t ideal—”

“Would you—” / “I want—”

“Hang on,” Cosima says. “Are we. Um. Are we both asking the same thing?”

“That depends. Were you going to ask me if I want to tell the truth?”

“Yeah,” Cosima says, and she thinks her knuckles must be white around the phone. “Yeah, I was.”

“Then, oui.”

A breath, barely. “You want that?”

Delphine takes a moment to respond, but her voice is level. “I don’t know if I would have chosen it yet, but it’s out there now, and... I won’t lie. Not about this. Not about us and certainly not about you. You are it for me Cosima.”

Cosima's eyelashes are wet.

“I f*cking love you.”

“I love you too, mon bébé”

“I thought when I couldn't reach you that maybe you couldn't deal with it. That you was just going to ghost me again and that would be it for us."

"Non, non, non, désolée. They took my phone, my laptop, everything. They even took Marcus's. And I wasn't allowed to see Art or anyone outside the household. I told you when you came to Paris after the lake house that I wouldn't do that to you again and I meant it. I swear. No more ghosting or lying or pretending. It's us now, and I'm terrified but I love you."

"Just hold on until I get there; we’re gonna figure this out. I’m coming. I'll be there soon.”

Delphine exhales a wet, broken laugh. “Please, do hurry. I really need you right now.”

They hang up, and she passes the phone back to Alison, who takes it wordlessly and tucks it back into her bag.

“Thank you, Alison, I—”

She holds up one hand, eyes closed. “Don’t.”

“Seriously, you didn’t have to do that.”

“Look, I’m only going to say this once, and if you ever repeat it, I'll have you kneecapped.” She drops her hand, fixing Cosima with a glare that manages to be both chilly and fond. “I’m rooting for you and Delphine, okay?”

“Wait. Alison. Oh my God. I just realized. You’re ... kind of my friend.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Alison! You're my mean friend.”

“Am not.” She yanks a blanket from her pile of belongings, turning her back to Cosima and wrapping it around her. “Don’t speak to me for the next six hours. I deserve a f*cking nap.”

“Wait, wait, okay, wait,” Cosima says. “I have one question.”

She sighs heavily. “What?”

“Why'd you wait to use Donnie's personal number?”

“Because he’s my fiancé, asshole, but some of us understand the meaning of discretion, so you wouldn’t know about it,” she tells her without even so much as looking at her, curled up against the window of the plane. “We agreed we’d never use our personal numbers for work contact. Now shut up and let me get some sleep before we have to deal with the rest of this. I’m running on nothing but black coffee, an Aunt Annie's Pretzel, and a fistful of B12. Do not even breathe in my direction.”

It’s not Delphine but Marcus who answers when Cosima knocks on the closed door of the music room on the second floor of Palace.

“I told you to stay away—” Marcus is saying as soon as the door is open, brandishing a guitar over his shoulder. He drops it as soon as he sees Cosima. “Oh, Cosima, I’m so sorry, I thought you were Philip.” He scoops her up with his free hand into a surprisingly bone-crushing hug. “Thank God you're here, I was about to come get you myself.”

When he releases her, she’s finally able to see Delphine behind him, slumped on the couch with a bottle of brandy. She smiles at Cosima, weakly, and says, “Bit short for a stormtrooper.”

Cosima's laugh comes out half sob, and it’s impossible to know if she moves first or if Delphine does, but they meet in the middle of the room, Delphine's arms around Cosima's neck, swallowing her up. If Delphine's voice on the phone was a tether, her body is the gravity that makes it possible, her hand gripping the back of Cosima's neck a magnetic force.

“I’m sorry,” is what comes out of Cosima's mouth, miserably, earnestly, muffled against Delphine's throat. “It’s my fault. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Delphine releases her, hands on her shoulders, jaw set. “Don’t you dare. It's not your fault and I’m not sorry for a thing.”

Cosima laughs again, incredulous, looking into the heavy circles under Delphine's eyes and the chewed-up bottom lip and, for the first time, seeing a woman born to lead a nation.

“You're unbelievable,” Cosima says. She leans up and kisses the underside of Delphine's jaw. She pushes her nose, her cheek into it, feels some of the tension sap out of Delphine at the touch. “You know that?”

They find their way onto the lush purples and reds of the Persian rugs on the floor, Delphine's head in Cosima's lap as she rubs her scalp and Marcus on a pouf, plucking away at a weird little instrument he tells Cosima is called an autoharp. Marcus pulls over a tiny table and sets out crackers and a little chunk of soft cheese and takes away the brandy bottle.

From the sound of it, the queen is absolutely livid—not just to finally have confirmation about Delphine, but because it’s via something as undignified as a tabloid scandal. Philip drove in from his residence in the countryside the minute the news broke and has been rebuffed by Marcus every time he tries to get near Delphine for what he says “will simply be a stern discussion about the consequences of her actions.” Their mother, Catherine, has been by, once, three hours ago, stone-faced and sad, to tell Delphine that she loves her and she could have told her sooner.

“And I said, ‘That’s great, mother, but as long as you're letting grand-mère keep me trapped, it doesn’t mean a thing,” Delphine says. Cosima stares down at her, shocked and a little impressed. Delphine rests an arm over her face. “I feel awful. I was—I don't know. All the times she should have been there the past few years, it caught up to me.”

Marcus sighs. “Maybe it was the kick in the behind she needs. We’ve been trying to get her to do anything for years since Dad.”

“Still,” Delphine says. “The way grand-mère is—mother isn’t to blame for that. And she did manage to protect us, before. It’s not fair.”

“D,” Marcus says firmly. “It’s hard, but she needed to hear it.” He looks down at the little buttons of the autoharp. “We deserve to have one parent, at least.”

The corner of his mouth pinches, so much like Delphine's.

“Are you okay?” Cosima asks him. “I know I—I saw a couple articles.” She doesn’t finish the sentence. “The Powder Prince” was the fourth-highest Twitter trend ten hours ago.

His frown twitches into a half-smile. “Me? Honestly, it’s almost a relief. I’ve always said that the most comfortable I could be is everyone knowing my story upfront, so I don’t have hear the speculations or lie to cover the truth—or explain it. I’d rather it, you know, hadn’t been this way. But here we are. At least now I can stop acting as if it’s something to be ashamed of.”

“I know the feeling,” Delphine says softly.

The quiet ebbs and flows after a while, the Paris night black and pressing in against the windowpanes. David the beagle curls up protectively at Delphine's side, and Marcus picks a Bowie song to play. He sings under his breath, “I, I will be king, and you, you will be queen,” and Cosima almost laughs. It feels like how Alison has described hurricane days to him: stuck together, hoping the sandbags will hold.

Delphine drifts asleep at some point lying in Cosima's arms, and Cosima is thankful for it, but she can still feel tension in every part of Delphine's body against her.

“She hasn’t slept since the news,” Marcus tells her quietly.

Cosima nods slightly, searching his face. "Do you think she hates me for it?"

Marcus smiled softly, shaking his head gently, "Cosima, my sister loves you more than I have known anyone to love anything. Ever since you popped up at the Olympics, you are all she could talk about that trip - and if we're being honest, she hasn't stopped talking about you since."

"I just wish I could protect her from all of it you know?"

And he does, of course he does. "But you can't. And believe it or not, she said the same thing about you when your emails were released. She fought so hard to find a way to contact you. It's the closest I've ever seen her to genuinely running away."

“Can I ask you something?”


“I feel like she’s not telling me something,” Cosima whispers. “I believe her when she says she’s in, and she wants to tell everyone the truth. But there’s something else she’s not saying, and it’s freaking me out that I can’t figure out what it is.”

Marcus looks up, his fingers stilling. “Oh, mon amie,” he says simply. “She misses Dad.”


She sighs, putting her head in her hands. Of course.

“Can you explain?” she attempts lamely. “What that’s like? What I can do?”

He shifts on his pouf, repositioning the harp onto the floor, and reaches into his sweater. He withdraws a silver coin on a chain: his sobriety chip.

“Do you mind if I go a bit sponsor?” he asks with a smirk. Cosima offers him a weak half smile, and he continues.

“So, imagine we're all born with a set of feelings. Some are broader or deeper than others, but for everyone, there’s that ground floor, a bottom crust of the pie. That’s the maximum depth of feeling you’ve ever experienced. And then, the worst thing happens to you. The very worst thing that could have happened. The thing you had nightmares about as a child, and you thought, it’s all right because that thing will happen to me when I’m older and wiser, and I'll have felt so many feelings by then that this one worst feeling, the worst possible feeling, won’t seem so terrible.

But it happens to you when you're young. It happens when your brain isn’t even fully done forming— when you've barely experienced anything, really. The worst thing is one of the first big things that ever happens to you in your life. It happens to you, and it goes all the way down to the bottom of what you know how to feel, and it rips it open and carves out this chasm down below to make room. And because you were so young, and because it was one of the first big things to happen in your life, you'll always carry it inside you. Every time something terrible happens to you from then on, it doesn’t just stop at the bottom—it goes all the way down, to the bottom of the chasm.”

He reaches across the tiny tea table and the sad little pile of water crackers and touches the back of Cosima's hand.

“Do you understand?” he asks her looking right into her eyes. “You need to understand this to be with Delphine. She is the most loving, nurturing, selfless person you could hope to meet, but there is a sadness and a hurt in her that is tremendous, and you may very well never truly understand it, but you need to love it as much as you love the rest of her, because that’s her. That is her, part and parcel. And she is prepared to give it all to you, which is far more than I ever, in a thousand years, thought I would see her do.”

Cosima sits, trying for a long moment to absorb it, she stokes Delphine's hair nestled against her chest and says, “I’ve never ... I haven’t been through anything like that,” she says, voice rough. “But I’ve always felt it, in her. There’s this side of her that’s ... unknowable.” She takes a breath. “But the thing is, jumping off cliffs is kinda my thing. That’s the choice. I love her, with all that, because of all that. On purpose. I love her on purpose.”

Marcus smiles gently. “Then you'll do fine.”

Sometime around four in the morning, Cosima climbs into bed behind Delphine, Delphine whose spine pokes out in soft points, Delphine who has been through the worst thing and now the next worst thing and is still alive. She reaches out a hand and touches the ridge of Delphine's shoulder blade, the skin where the sheet has slid off her, where her lungs stubbornly refuse to stop pulling air. Five foot, 9 inches of woman curled around kicked-in ribs and a recalcitrant heart.

Carefully, Cosima slides her chest to Delphine's back, she slots herself into place and thinks 'I understand you.'

“It’s foolishness, Delphine,” Philip is saying. “You’re too young to understand.”

Cosima's ears are ringing.

They sat in Delphine's kitchen this morning with scones and a note from Marcus that he’d gone to meet with Catherine. And then suddenly, Philip was bursting through the door, suit askew, hair uncombed, shouting at Delphine about the nerve to break the communications embargo, to bring Cosima here while the palace is being watched, to keep embarrassing the family.

Presently, Cosima is thinking about breaking his nose with the coffee percolator.

“I'm twenty-three, Philip,” Delphine says, audibly struggling to keep her voice even. “Mother was barely more than that she met Dad.”

“Yes, and you think that was a wise decision?” Philip says nastily. “Marrying a man who spent half your childhood making films, who never served his country, who got sick and left you and aunt Cathrine—”

“Don't, Philip,” Delphine says. “I swear to God. Just because your obsession with family legacy didn’t impress him—”

“You clearly don’t know the first thing about what a legacy means if you can let something like this happen,” Philip snaps. “The only thing to do now is bury it and hope that somehow people will believe that none of it was real. That’s your duty, Delphine. It’s the least you can do.”

“I'm sorry,” Delphine says, sounding wretched, but there’s a bitter defiance rising in her too. “I’m sorry that I’m such a disgrace for being the way I am.”

“I don’t care if you’re gay,” Philip says, dropping that big fat if like Delphine hasn’t already specifically told him. “I care that you’ve made this choice, with her”—he cuts his eyes sharply to Cosima as if she finally exists in the same room as this conversation—“someone with a f*cking target on her back, to be so stupid and naive and selfish as to think it wouldn’t completely f*ck us all.”

“Oh, I knew, Philip. Christ,” Delphine says. “I knew it could ruin everything. I was terrified of exactly this. But how could I have predicted? How?”

“As I said, naive,” Philip tells her. “This is the life we live, Delphine. You’ve always known it. I’ve tried to tell you. I wanted to be a good cousin to you, but you don’t listen. It’s time to remember your place in this family. Be a grown-up. Stand up and take responsibility. Fix this. For once in your life, don’t be a coward.”

Delphine flinches like she’s been physically slapped. Cosima can see it now—this is how she was broken down over the years. Maybe not always as explicitly, but always there, always implied. Remember your place.

And she does the thing Cosima loves so much: She sticks her chin out, steeling herself up. “I’m not a coward,” she says. “And I don’t want to fix it.”

Philip slants a harsh, humorless laugh at her. “You don’t know what you're talking about. You can’t possibly know.”

“f*ck off, Philip, I love her,” Delphine says.

“Oh, you love her, do you?” It’s so patronizing that Cosima's hand twitches into a fist under the table. “What exactly do you intend to do, then, Delphine? Hmm? Marry her? Make her the Countess of Paris? The First Daughter of the United bloody States, fourth in line to be Queen of France?”

“I'll f*cking abdicate!” Delphine says, voice rising. “I don’t care!”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Philip spits back.

“We have a great uncle who abdicated because he was a f*cking Nazi, so it’d hardly be the worst reason anyone’s done it, would it?” Delphine's yelling now, and she’s out of her chair, hands shaking. “What are we even defending here, Philip? What kind of legacy? What kind of family, that says, we'll take the murder, we'll take the raping and pillaging and the colonizing, we'll scrub it up nice and neat in a museum, but oh no, you're a dyke? That’s beyond our sense of decorum! I’ve had it. I’ve sat about long enough letting you and grand-mère and the weight of the damned world keep me pinned, and I’m finished. I don’t care. You can take your legacy and your decorum and you can shove it up your f*cking asshole, Philip. I. am. Done.”

She huffs out an almighty breath, turns on her heel, and stalks out of the kitchen.

Cosima, mouth hanging open, remains frozen in her seat for a few seconds. Across from her, Philip is looking red-faced and queasy. Cosima clears her throat, stands, and buttons her blazer.

“For what it’s worth,” she says to Philip, “that is the bravest thing I have ever witnessed. And that right there, is why I love her too.”

And she leaves too, running after Delphine and enveloping her in the biggest of embraces.

Donnie looks like he hasn’t slept in thirty-six hours. Well, he looks perfectly composed and groomed, but the tag is sticking out of his sweater and the strong smell of whiskey is emanating from his tea.

Next to him, in the back of the incognito van they’re taking to the Palace, Alison has her arms folded resolutely. The engagement ring on her left hand glints in the muted London morning.

“So, uh,” Cosima attempts. “Are you two in a fight now?”

Alison looks at her. “No. Why would you think that?”

“Oh. I just thought because—”

“It’s fine,” Donnie says, still typing on his iPhone. “This is why we set rules about the personal-slash-professional lines at the outset of the relationship. It works for us.”

“If you want a fight, you should have seen it when I found out he had known about you two all along,” Alison says. “Why do you think I got a rock this big?”

“It usually works for us,” Donnie amends.

“Yep,” Alison agrees. “Plus, we banged it out last night.”

Without looking up, Donnie meets her hand in a high five.

Alison and Donnie's forces combined have managed to secure them a meeting with the queen at the Palace, but they’ve been told to take a winding, circ*mspect route to avoid the paparazzi. Cosima can feel a buzzing static electricity in Paris this morning, millions of voices murmuring about her and Delphine and what might happen next. But Delphine's beside her, holding her hand, and she’s holding Delphine's hand back, so at least that’s something.

With her free hand, Cosima discreetly retrieves her phone and begins typing.

Meanwhile, Delphine gazes out the window, her attention fixed on the Eiffel Tower—this being their fifth time circling past it. As they complete their seventh loop, her phone buzzes quietly with a notification. It's a WhatsApp message, their chosen platform now for its encrypted security. She opens it slowly, careful not to catch Donnie or Alison's attention.

𝗠𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗺𝗼𝘂𝗿 (𝗙𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗹𝘆 𝗙𝗗𝗢𝗧𝗨𝗦)

𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗻𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘄𝗲'𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲, 𝗺𝘆 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻’𝘁 𝗴𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲. 𝗜 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗜'𝘃𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝗜 𝗱𝗶𝗱𝗻'𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗹𝗶𝗲, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗹𝘆, 𝘁𝗼 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝘆𝗼𝘂, 𝗜’𝗱 𝗱𝗼 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴. 𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗳 𝗶𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗴𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗲’𝗿𝗲 𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗼𝗿 𝘀𝗻𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱, 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗷𝗲𝘁 𝗹𝗮𝗴.

𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗜 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘀𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲'𝘀 𝗮 𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲, 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁’𝘀 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂, 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗮𝗳𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗼𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗲.

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘄𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗳𝗲𝗹𝗹 𝗶𝗻 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗶𝗼 𝗢𝗹𝘆𝗺𝗽𝗶𝗰𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝟭𝟳. 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗻𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘀𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗳𝗲𝗹𝗹 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂. 𝗜 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 w𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗪𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗛𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗯𝗲𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁.

𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝟭𝟯. 𝗦𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗵 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝟭𝟱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗯𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳 𝗮 𝗴𝗹𝗼𝘀𝘀𝘆 𝗝𝟭𝟰 𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗮𝘇𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗿𝘁𝗵𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘆. 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗽𝘂𝘁 𝘂𝗽 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗶 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿𝘀. 𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗴𝗶𝗿𝗹 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗸, 𝗴𝗼𝗹𝗱𝗲𝗻 𝗵𝗮𝗶𝗿, 𝗯𝗶𝗴 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗲𝘆𝗲𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘂𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝘀𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗲, 𝗮 𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗻𝗶𝘀 𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗲𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱𝗲𝗿. 𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂, 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲. 𝟭𝟯 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗼𝗹𝗱, 𝗮𝗹𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗤𝘂𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗙𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲.

𝗜 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗰𝗮𝗻’𝘁 𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝘂𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝗺𝗲 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗽𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝗜 𝗸𝗲𝗽𝘁 𝘀𝗻𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝗦𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗵’𝘀 𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗺 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗶𝘁. 𝗜’𝗱 𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗺𝘆 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗵𝗮𝗶𝗿 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗶𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲, 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗜 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗶𝘁. 𝗔𝘀 𝗺𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗺𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝘂𝗽 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗜 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘇𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗽𝘂𝗯𝗹𝗶𝗰 𝗺𝘆 𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗴𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗴𝗲𝘁, 𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗽𝗶𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗿𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗿𝗼𝘄 𝗮 𝗯𝗶𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲.

𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗶𝘁 𝗳𝗮𝘁𝗲, 𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗮, 𝗼𝗿 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗮 𝗺𝗶𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗹𝗲, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝟭𝟯-𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿-𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗺𝗲 𝗸𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂, 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲. 𝗜 𝗸𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗵𝗼𝘄, 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘄𝗮𝘆, 𝘄𝗲’𝗱 𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝗽 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲.

𝗦𝗼, 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗵, 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗜'𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁, 𝟭𝟬 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘄? 𝗜𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗰𝗿𝘂𝘀𝗵. 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘁𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗽𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗹𝘆 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘀𝗲𝘁? 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗴𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗿.

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗜 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘁 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁?

𝗣.𝗦. 𝗙𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗖𝗼𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗮 𝗡𝗶𝗲𝗵𝗮𝘂𝘀-𝗦𝗮𝗱𝗹𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗔𝗺é𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝗮𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘂𝗱-𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗲𝗿-𝗩𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘀, 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟬:

𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗹𝘆 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗣𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗽 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴. 𝗙𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗰𝘂𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱, 𝗜'𝘃𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗮 𝗽𝗶𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗹𝘆 𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗻—𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗯𝗲 𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘆𝗼𝘂'𝘃𝗲 𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗱. 𝗪𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗜'𝗺 𝘀𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗜 𝗻𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗴𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗺𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝗵𝗶𝗺, 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜 𝗮𝗺 𝗮𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗲𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗶𝗺. 𝗔𝘀 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝘀 𝘄𝗲'𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗼𝗴𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿, 𝘄𝗲'𝗹𝗹 𝗵𝗼𝗻𝗼𝗿 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗹𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗷𝗼𝘆.

Delphine wipes away a tear and kisses Cosima with so much passion, Alison has to scream about inappropriate PDA within seconds.

"I'm done hiding you, never again Cosima. I promise," Delphine declares as they approach the Palace entrance, her voice a determined whisper.

Cosima extends her hand, a silent invitation, which Delphine accepts with a smile, their fingers intertwining as they face their future together.

There’s a small, older woman with Marcus's upturned nose and Delphine's green eyes waiting outside the conference room when they approach it. She’s wearing thick glasses, a worn-in maroon sweater, and a pair of cuffed jeans, looking decidedly out of place in the halls of Versailles Palace. She has a paperback tucked into her back pocket.

Delphine's mother turns to face them, and Cosima watches her expression flutter through something pained to reserved to gentle when she lays eyes on them.

“Hi, my baby,” she says as Delphine draws up even with her.

Delphine's jaw is tight, but it’s not anger, only fear. Cosima can see on her face an expression she recognizes: Delphine wondering if it’s safe to accept the love offered to her, and wanting desperately to take it regardless.

Delphine puts her arm around Cosima, and gives her a chaste kiss on her cheek.

“Mère, this is Cosima,” Delphine says, and adds, as if it’s not obvious, “my girlfriend.”

Cosima turns to Delphine, they've never actually said those labels before. She decides she likes it, she actually loves it. Cosima pulls her toward her and kisses her cheek too.

“My Marcus has told me what you’ve done for my daughter,” she says, her gaze piercing. “Thank you.”

Marcus is behind her, looking tired but focused, and Cosima can only imagine the come-to-Jesus talk he must have given their mother before they got to the palace. She locks eyes with Alison as their little party assembles in the hall, and Cosima feels like they couldn’t possibly be in more capable hands. She wonders if Catherine is up to joining the ranks.

“What are you going to say to her?” Delphine asks her mother.

She sighs, touching the edge of her glasses. “Well, the old woman isn’t much moved by emotion, so I suppose I'll try to appeal to her with political strategy.”

Delphine blinks. “Sorry—what are you saying?”

“I'm saying that I’ve come to fight,” she says, straightforward and plain. “You want to tell the truth, don’t you?”

“I—oui, maman.” A light of hope has switched on behind her eyes. “Yes, I do.”

“Then we can try.”

They take their seats around the long, ornately carved table in the meeting room, awaiting the queen’s arrival in nervous silence. Philip is there, looking like he’s about to chew through his tongue, and Delphine can’t stop fidgeting with the buttons on her blazer.

The queen glides in wearing slate-gray separates and a stony expression, her gray bob arranged with razor precision around the edges of her face. Cosima is struck by how tall she is, straight-backed and fine-jawed even in her early eighties. She’s not exactly beautiful, but there’s a definite story in her shrewd green eyes and angular features, the heavy creases of frowns around her mouth.

The temperature in the room drops as she takes her seat at the head of the table. A royal attendant fetches the teapot from the center of the table and pours into the pristine china, and the quiet hangs as she fixes her tea at a glacial pace, making them wait. The milk, poured with one gently tremoring, ancient hand. One cube of sugar, picked up with deliberate care with the tiny silver tongs. A second cube.

Cosima coughs, a genuine cough. Donnie shoots her a look. Marcus presses his lips together.

“I had a visit earlier this year,” the queen says at last. She takes up her teaspoon and begins to stir slowly. “The President of China. You'll forgive me if the name escapes me. But he told me the most fascinating story about how technology has advanced in different parts of the world for these modern times. Did you know, one can manipulate a photograph to make it appear as if the most outlandish things are real? Just a simple ... program, is it? A computer. And any manner of unbelievable falsehood could be made actual. One’s eyes could hardly detect a difference.”

The silence in the room is total, except for the sound of the queen’s teaspoon scraping circular motions in the bottom of her teacup.

“I’m afraid I am too old to understand how things are filed away in space,” she goes on, “but I have been told any number of lies can be manufactured and disseminated. One could ... create files that never existed and plant them somewhere easy to find. None of it real. The most flagrant of evidence can be discredited and dismissed, just like that.”

With the delicate tinkling of silver on porcelain, she rests her spoon on the saucer and finally looks at Delphine.

“I wonder, Delphine. I wonder if you think any of this had to do with these unseemly reports.”

It’s right on the table between them: an offer. Keep ignoring it. Pretend it was a lie. Make it all go away.

Delphine grits her teeth.

“It’s real,” she says. “All of it.”

The queen’s face moves through a series of expressions, settling on a terse frown as if she’s found something unsightly on the bottom of one of her kitten heels.

“Very well. In that case.” Her gaze shifts to Cosima. “Cosima. Had I known you were involved with my grand daughter, I would have insisted upon a more formal first meeting.”


“Do be quiet, Delphine, dear.”

Catherine speaks up, then. “Maman—”

The queen holds up one wizened hand to silence her. “I thought we had been humiliated enough in the papers when Marcus had his little problem. And I made myself clear, Delphine, years ago, that if you were drawn in unnatural directions, appropriate measures could be taken. Why you have chosen to undermine the hard work I’ve done to maintain the crown’s standing is beyond me, and why you seem set on disrupting my efforts to restore it by demanding I summit with some... girl—” here, a nasty lilt to her polite tone, under which Cosima can hear epithets for everything from her heritage to her sexuality, “when you were told to await orders, is truly a mystery. Clearly you have taken leave of your senses. My position is unchanged, dear: Your role in this family is to perpetuate our bloodline and maintain the appearance of the monarchy as the ideal of French excellence, and I simply cannot allow anything less.”

Delphine is looking down, eyes distant and cast toward the grain of the table, and Cosima can practically feel the energy roiling up from Catherine across from her. An answer to the fury tight in her own chest. The princess who ran away with James Bond, who told her children to give back what their country stole, making a choice.

“Maman,” she says evenly. “Don’t you think we ought to at least have a conversation about other options?”

The queen’s head turns slowly. “And what options might those be, Catherine?”

“Well, I think there’s something to be said for being honest. It could save us a great deal of face to treat it not as a scandal, but as an intrusion upon the privacy of the family and the victimization of a young woman in love.”

“Which is what it was,” Marcus chimes in.

“We could integrate this into our narrative,” Catherine says, choosing her words with extreme precision. “Reclaim the dignity of it. Make Cosima an official suitor.”

“I see. So your plan is to allow her to choose this life?”

Here, a slight tell. “It’s the only life for her that’s honest, Maman.”

The queen purses her lips. “Delphine,” she says, returning to her, “wouldn’t you have a more pleasant go of it without all these unnecessary complications? You know we have the resources to find a husband for you and compensate him handsomely. You understand, I’m only trying to protect you. I know it seems important to you in this moment, but you really must think of the future. You do realize this would mean years of reporters hounding you, all sorts of allegations? I can’t imagine people would be as eager to welcome you into children’s hospitals—”

“Stop it!” Delphine bursts out. All the eyes in the room swivel to her, and she looks pale and shocked at the sound of her own voice, but she goes on. “You can’t—you can’t intimidate me into submission forever!”

Cosima's hand gropes across the space between them under the table, and the minute her fingertips catch on the back of Delphine's wrist, Delphine's hand is gripping hers, hard.

“I know it will be difficult,” Delphine says. “I... It’s terrifying. And if you’d asked me a year ago, I probably would have said it was fine, that nobody needs to know. But... I’m as much a person and a part of this family as you. I deserve to be happy as much as any of you do. And I don’t think I ever will be if I do that without Cosima.”

“Nobody’s saying you don’t deserve to be happy,” Philip cuts in. “First love makes everyone mad—it’s foolish to throw away your future because of one hormonal decision based on less than a year of your life when you were barely in your twenties.”

Delphine looks Philip square in the face and says, “I’ve been gay since the day I came out of méré, Philip.”

In the silence that follows, Cosima has to bite down very hard on her tongue to suppress the urge to laugh hysterically.

“Well.” the queen eventually says. She’s holding her teacup daintily in the air, eyeing Delphine over it. “Even if you're willing to submit to the flogging in the papers, it doesn’t erase the stipulations of your birthright: You are to produce heirs.”

And Cosima apparently hasn’t been biting her tongue hard enough, because she blurts out, “We could still do that.”

Even Delphine's head whips around at that.

“I don’t recall giving you permission to speak in my presence,” the queen says.

“Maman—” Cathrine tries to help.

“That raises the issue of surrogates, or donors,” Philip jumps back in, “and rights to the throne—”

“Are those details pertinent right now, Philip?” Catherine interrupts.

“We can entertain hypotheticals, but the fact of the matter is that anything but maintaining the royal image is out of the question,” the queen says, setting down her teacup. “The country simply will not accept a princess of her proclivities. I am sorry, dear, but to them, it’s perverse.”

“Perverse to them or perverse to you?” Catherine asks her.

“That isn’t fair—” Philip says.

“We haven't even gotten a chance yet to see how people will react.”

“I have been ruling this country for forty-seven years, Catherine. I believe I know its heart by now. As I have told you since you were a little girl, you must remove your head from the clouds—”

“Oh, will you all shut up for a second?” Marcus says. He’s standing now, brandishing his tablet in one hand. “Look.”

He thunks it down on the table so the queen and Philip can see it, and the rest of them stand to look too.

It’s a news report from the BBC, and the sound is off, but Cosima reads the scroll at the bottom of the screen: WORLDWIDE SUPPORT POURS IN FOR PRINCESS DELPHINE AND FIRST DAUGHTER OF US.

The room falls silent at the images on the screen.

A rally in New York outside the Beekman, decked out in rainbows, waving signs that say things like: FIRST DAUGHTER OF OUR HEARTS.

A banner on the side of a bridge in London that reads: DELPHINE + COSIMA WERE HERE.

A hasty mural on a wall in Mexico City of Cosima's face in blue, purple, and pink, the French crown on her head.

A herd of people in Forêts National Park with rainbow Tricolore and Delphine's face ripped out of magazines and pasted onto poster boards reading: FREE DELPHINE.

A young woman with a buzz cut throwing two fingers up at the windows of the Daily Mail.

A crowd of teenagers in front of the White House, wearing homemade T-shirts that all say the same thing in crooked Sharpie letters, a phrase she recognizes from one of her own emails: HISTORY, HUH?

Cosima tries to swallow, but she can’t. She looks up, and Delphine is looking back at her, mouth smiling, eyes wet.

Princess Catherine turns and crosses the room slowly, toward the tall windows on the east side of the room.

“Catherine, don’t—” the queen says, but Catherine grabs the heavy curtains with both hands and throws them open.

A burst of sunlight and color pushes the air out of the room. Down on the mall in front of Versailles Palace, there’s a mass of people with banners, signs, American flags, Tricolore, pride pennants streaming over their heads. It’s not as big as the royal wedding crowd, but it’s huge, filling up the pavement and pressed up to the gates. Cosima and Delphine were told to come in through the back of the palace—they never saw it.

Delphine has carefully approached the window, and Cosima watches from across the room as she reaches out and grazes her fingertips against the glass.

Catherine turns to her and says on a shaky sigh, “Oh, my love, those are your people” and pulls her into her chest.

The queen clears her throat.

“This is . .. hardly representative of how the country as a whole will respond,” she says.

“Merde, Maman!” Catherine says, releasing Delphine and nudging her behind her on protective reflex.

“This is precisely why I didn’t want you to see. Youre too soft-hearted to accept the truth, Catherine, given any other option. The majority of this country still wants the ways of old.”

Catherine draws herself up, her posture ramrod straight as she approaches the table again. It’s a product of royal breeding, but it comes off more like a bow being drawn. “That’s not the point. Are you so determined to believe nothing could change? That nothing should change? We can have a real legacy here, of hope, and love, and change. Not the same tepid sh*te and drudgery we've been selling since World War II—”

“You will not speak to me this way,” the queen says icily, one tremulous, ancient hand still resting on her teaspoon.

“I’m sixty years old, Maman,” Catherine says. “Can’t we eschew decorum at this point?”

“No respect. Never an ounce of respect for the sanctity—”

“Or, perhaps I should bring some of my concerns to Parliament?” Catherine says, leaning in to lower her voice right in the queen. Cosima recognizes the glint in her eyes.

She never knew—she always assumed Delphine got it from her dad.

“You know, I do think the government is rather finished with the old guard. I wonder, if I were to mention those meetings you keep forgetting about, or the names of countries you can’t quite keep straight, if they might decide that eighty-five is perhaps enough years for the people of France to expect you to serve?”

The tremor in the queen’s hand has doubled, but her jaw is steely. The room is deadly silent. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Wouldn’t I? Would you like to find out?”

She turns to face Delphine, and Cosima is surprised to see tears on her face.

“I'm sorry, Delphine,” she says. “You needed your mother, and I wasn’t there. And I was so frightened that I started to think maybe it was for the best, to let you all be kept behind glass.” She turns back to her mother. “Look at them, maman. They’re not props of a legacy. They're my children. And I swear on my life, and Arthur’s, I will take you off the throne before I will let them feel the things you made me feel.”

The room hangs in suspense for a few agonizing seconds, then:

“I still don’t think—” Philip begins, but Marcus seizes the pot of tea from the center of the table and dumps it into his lap.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry, Pip!” he says, grabbing him by the shoulders and shoving him, sputtering and yelping, toward the door. “So dreadfully clumsy. You know, I think all that cocaine I did must have really done a job on my reflexes! Let’s go get you cleaned up, shall we?”

He heaves him out, throwing Delphine a thumbs-up over his shoulder, and shuts the door behind them.

The queen looks over at Cosima and Delphine, and Cosima sees it in her eyes at last: She’s afraid of them. She’s afraid of the threat they pose to the perfect Faberge veneer she’s spent her whole life maintaining. They terrify her.

And Catherine isn’t backing down.

“Well,” the queen says. “I suppose. I suppose you don’t leave me much choice, do you?”

“Oh, you have a choice, maman,” Catherine says. “You’ve always had a choice. Perhaps today you'll make the right one.”

In the corridor of Versailles Palace, as soon as the door has shut behind them, they fall sideways into a tapestry on a wall, breathless and delirious and laughing, cheeks wet. Delphine pulls Cosima close and kisses her, whispers, “I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you,” and it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter if anyone sees.

She’s on the way back to the airstrip when she sees it, emblazoned onto the side of a brick building, a shock of color against a gray street.

“Wait!” Cosima yells up to the driver. “Stop! Stop the car!”

Up close, it’s beautiful. Two stories tall. She can’t imagine how somebody was able to put together something like this so fast.

It’s a mural of herself and Delphine, facing each other, haloed by a bright yellow sun, depicted as Han and Leia. Delphine in all white, starlight in her hair. Cosima dressed as a scruffy smuggler, a blaster at his hip. A royal and a rebel, arms around each other.

She snaps a photo on her phone, and fingers shaking, types out a tweet: Never tell me the odds.

She calls Sarah from the air over the Atlantic. “I need your help,” she says. She hears the click of her pen co*cking on the other end of the line. “Whatcha got?”

Chapter 15

Chapter Text

The very first time Cosima pulled up to Pennsylvania Avenue as the First Daughter of the United States, she almost fell into a bush.

She can remember it vividly, even though the whole day was surreal. She remembers the interior of the limo, how she was still unused to the way the leather felt under her clammy palms, still green and jittery and pressed too close to the window to look at all the crowds.

She remembers her mother, her long hair pulled back from her face in an elegant, no-nonsense twist at the back of her head. She’d worn it down for her first day as mayor, her first day in the House, her first day as Speaker, but that day it was up. She said she didn’t want any distractions. She thought it made her look tough, like she was ready for a brawl if it came down to it, as if she might have a razor in her shoe. She sat there across from her, going over the notes for her speech, a twenty-four-karat gold American flag on her lapel, and Cosima was so proud she thought she’d throw up.

There was a changeover at some point—Siobhan and John escorted to the north entrance and Cosima and Sarah shuffled off in another direction. She remembers, very specifically, a handful of things. Her earrings, custom sterling silver X-wings. A tiny scuff in the plaster on a western wall of the White House, which she was seeing up close for the first time. Her own shoelace, untied. And she remembers bending over to tie her shoe, losing her balance because of nerves, and Sarah grabbing the back of her jacket to keep her from plunging face-first into a thorny rosebush in front of seventy-five cameras.

That was the moment she decided she wasn’t going to allow herself nerves ever again. Not as Cosima Niehaus-Sadler First Daughter of the United States, and not as Cosima Niehaus-Sadler, rising political star.

Now, she’s Cosima Niehaus-Sadler, center of an international political sex scandal and girlfriend of the Princess of France, and she’s back in a limo on Pennsylvania Avenue, and there’s another crowd, and the imminent barf feeling is back.

When the car door opens, it’s Sarah, standing there in a bright yellow T-shirt that says: HISTORY, HUH?

“You like it?” she says. “There’s a guy selling them down the block. I got his card. Gonna put it in my next column for Vogue.”

Cosima launches herself at her, engulfing her in a hug that lifts her feet off the ground, and she yelps and pulls her hair, and they topple sideways into a shrub, as Cosima was always destined to do.

Their mother is in a decathlon of meetings, so they sneak out onto the Truman Balcony and catch each other up over hot chocolates and a plate of donuts. Art has been trying to play telephone between the respective camps, but it’s only so effective. Sarah cries first when she hears about the phone call on the plane, then again at Delphine standing up to Philip, and a third time at the crowd outside Versailles Palace. Cosima watches her text Delphine about a hundred heart emojis, and she sends her back a short video of herself and Catherine drinking champagne while Marcus plays “La Marseillaise” on electric guitar.

“Okay, here’s the thing,” Sarah says afterward. “Nobody has seen Felix in two days.”

Cosima stares at her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’ve called him, Alison’s called him, Mike and his parents have all called him, he’s not answering anyone. The guard at his apartment says he hasn’t left this whole time. Apparently, he’s ‘fine but busy.’ I tried just showing up, but he’d told the doorman not to let me in.”

“That’s ... concerning. And also, uh, kind of sh*tty.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Cosima turns away, pacing over to the railing. She really could have used Felix’s nonplussed approach in this situation, or, really, just her best friend’s company. She feels somewhat betrayed he’s abandoned her when she needs him most—when she and Sarah both need him most. He has a tendency to bury himself in complex calculations on purpose when especially bad things happen around him.

“Oh, hey,” Sarah says. “And here’s the favor you asked for.”

She reaches into the pocket of her jeans and hands her a folded-up piece of paper.

She skims thefirst few lines.

“Oh my God, Sar,” she says. “I—Oh my God.”

“Do you like it?” She looks a little nervous. “I was trying to capture, like, who you are, and your place in history, and what your role means to you, and—”

She’s cut off because she’s scooped her up in another bear hug, teary-eyed. “It’s perfect, Sarah.”

“Hey, First Offsprings,” says a voice suddenly, and when Cosima puts Sarah down, Helena is waiting in the doorway connecting the balcony to the Oval Room. “Madam President wants to see you in her office.” Her attention shifts, listening to her earpiece. “She says to bring the donuts.”

“How does she always know?” Sarah mutters, scooping up the plate.

“I have Bluebonnet and Barracuda, on the move,” Helena says, touching her earpiece.

“I still can’t believe you picked that for your stupid codename,” Sarah says to her. Cosima trips her on the way through the door.

The donuts have been gone for two hours.

One, on the couch: Sarah, tying and untying and retying the laces on her Keds, for lack of anything else to do with her hands. Two, against a far wall: Alison, rapidly typing out an email on her phone, then another. Three, at the Resolute Desk: Siobhan, buried in probability projections. Four, on the other couch: Cosima, texting Delphine.

The doors to the Oval Office fly open and Felix comes careening in.

He’s wearing a bleach-stained HOLLERAN FOR CONGRESS ’72 sweatshirt and the frenzied, sun-blinded expression of someone who has emerged from a doomsday bunker for the first time in a decade. He nearly crashes into the bust of Abraham Lincoln in his rush to Siobhan’s desk.

Cosima is already on her feet. “Where the f*ck have you been?”

He slaps a thick folder down on the desk and turns halfway to face Cosima and Sarah, out of breath. “Okay, I know you're pissed, and you have every right to be, but”—he braces himself against the desk with both hands, gesturing toward the folder with his chin—“I have been holed up in my apartment for two days doing this, and you are super not gonna be mad anymore when you see what it is.”

Cosima’s mother blinks at him, perturbed. “Felix, honey, we're trying to figure out—”

“Siobhan,” Felix practically yells. The room goes silent, and Felix freezes, realizing. “Uh. Ma’am. Mom-in-law. Please, just. You need to read this.”

Cosima watches her sigh and put down her pen before pulling the folder toward her. Felix looks like he’s about to pass out on top of the desk. She looks across to Sarah on the opposite couch, who appears as clueless as she feels, and—

“Holy ... f*cking sh*t,” her mother says, a dawning mix of fury and bemusem*nt. “Is this—?”

“Yup,” Felix says.

“And the—?”


Siobhan covers her mouth with one hand. “How the hell did you get this? Wait, let me rephrase—how the hell did you get this?”

“Okay, so.” Felix withdraws himself from the desk and steps backward. Cosima has no idea what the f*ck is happening, but it’s something, something big. Felix is pacing now, both hands clutched to his forehead. “The day of the leaks, I get an anonymous email. Obvious sockpuppet account, but untraceable. I tried. They sent me a link to a f*cking massive file dump and told me they were a hacker and had obtained the contents of the Richards campaign’s private email server in their entirety.”

Cosima stares at him. “What?”

Felix looks back at her. “I know.”

Alison, who has been standing behind Siobhan’s desk with her arms folded, cuts in to ask, “And you didn’t report this to any of the proper channels because?”

“Because I wasn’t sure it was anything at first. And when it was, I didn’t trust anybody else to handle it. They said they sent it specifically to me because they knew I was personally invested in Cosima and Delphine's relationship and would work as fast as possible to find what they didn’t have time to.”

“Which is?” Cosima can’t believe she still has to ask.

“Proof,” Felix says. And his voice is shaking now. “That Richards f*cking set you up.”

She hears, distantly, the sound of Sarah swearing under her breath and getting up from the couch, walking off to a far corner of the room. Her knees give out, so she sits back down.

“We... we suspected that maybe the RNC had somehow been involved with some of what happened,” her mother says. She’s coming around the desk now, kneeling on the floor in front of her in her starched gray dress, the folder held against her chest. “I had people looking into it. I never imagined ... the whole thing, straight from Richards campaign.”

She takes the folder and spreads it open on the coffee table in the middle of the room.

“There were—I mean, just, hundreds of thousands of emails,” Felix is saying as Cosima climbs down onto the rug and starts staring at the pages, “and I swear a third of them were from dummy accounts, but I wrote a code that narrowed it down to about three thousand. I went through the rest manually. This is everything about Cosima and Delphine.”

Cosima notices her own face first. It’s a photo: blurry, out of focus, caught on a long-range lens, only barely recognizable. It’s hard to place where she is, until she sees the elegant ivory curtains at the edge of the frame. Delphine’s bedroom.

She looks above the photo and sees it’s attached to an email between two people. Negative. Nilsen says that’s not nearly clear enough. You need to tell the P we're not paying for Bigfoot sightings. Nilsen. Nilsen, as in Richards’s campaign manager.

“Richards outed you, Cosima,” Felix says. “As soon as you left the campaign, it started. He hired a firm that hired the hackers who got the surveillance tapes from the Beekman.”

Her mother is next to her with a highlighter cap already between her teeth, slashing bright yellow lines across pages. There’s movement to her right: Alison is there too, pulling a stack of papers toward her and starting in with a red pen.

“I—I don’t have any bank account numbers or anything but, if you look, there are pay stubs and invoices and requests of service,” Felix says. “Everything, guys. It’s all through back channels and go-between firms and fake names but it’s—there’s a digital paper trail for everything. Enough for a federal investigation, which could subpoena the financial stuff, I think. Basically, Richards hired a firm that hired the photographers who followed Cosima and the hackers who breached your server, and then he hired another third party to buy everything and resell it to the Daily Mail. I mean, we're talking about having private contractors surveil a member of the First Family and infiltrate White House security to try to induce a sex scandal to win a presidential race, that is some f*cked-up shi—”

“Felix, can you—?” Sarah says suddenly, having returned to one of the couches. “Just, please.”

“Sorry,” Felix says. He sits down heavily. “I drank like nine Red Bulls to get through all of those and ate a weed gummy to level back out, so I’m flying at fasten-seat-belts right now.”

Cosima closes her eyes.

There’s so f*cking much in front of her, and it’s impossible to process it all right now, and she’s pissed, furious, but she can also put a name on it. She can do something about it. She can go outside. She can walk out of this office and call Delphine and tell her: “We're safe. The worst is over.”

She opens her eyes again, looks down at the pages on the table.

“What do we do with this now?” Sarah asks.

“What if we just leaked it?” Cosima offers. “WikiLeaks—”

“I’m not giving them sh*t,” Siobhan cuts her off immediately, not even looking up, “especially not after what they did to you. This is real sh*t. I’m taking this motherf*cker down. It has to stick.” She finally puts her highlighter down. “We're leaking it to the press.”

“No major publication is going to run this without verification from someone on the Richards campaign that these emails are real,” Sarah points out, “and that kind of thing takes months.”

“Felix,” Siobhan says, fixing him with a steely gaze, “is there anything you can do at all to trace the person who sent this to you?”

“I tried,” Felix says. “They did everything to obscure their identity.” He reaches down into his shirt and produces his phone. “I can show you the email they sent.”

He swipes through a few screens and places his phone face up on the table. The email is exactly as she described, with a signature at the bottom that’s apparently a random combination of numbers and letters: 2021 SCB. BAC CHZ GR ON A1.

2021 SCB.

Cosima’s eyes stop on the last line. She picks up the phone. Stares at it.


She keeps staring at the stupid letters. 2021 SCB.

2021 South Colorado Boulevard.

The closest Five Guys to the office where she worked that summer in Denver. She still remembers the order she was sent out to pick up at least once a week. Bacon cheeseburger, grilled onions, A1 Sauce. Cosima memorized the goddamn Five Guys order. She feels herself start to laugh.

It’s code, for Cosima and Cosima only: You're the only one I trust.

“This isn’t a hacker,” Cosima says. “Rafael Luna sent this to you. That’s your verification.” She looks at her mother. “If you can protect him, he'll confirm it for you.”


VOICEOVER: This is a Range Audio podcast.

You’re listening to “Bills, Bills, Bills,” hosted by Oliver Westbrook, Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU.


WESTBROOK: Hi. I’m Oliver Westbrook, and with me, as always, is my exceedingly patient, talented, merciful, and lovely producer, Sufia, without whom I would be lost, bereft, floating on a sea of bad thoughts and drinking my own piss. We love her. Say hi, Sufia.

SUFIA JARWAR, PRODUCER, RANGE AUDIO: Hello, please send help.

WESTBROOK: And this is Bills, Bills, Bills, the podcast where I attempt every week to break down for you, in layman’s terms, what’s happening in Congress, why you should care, and what you can do about it.

Well. I gotta tell you, guys, I had a very different show planned out a few days ago, but I don’t really see the point in getting into any of it.

Let’s just, ah. Take a minute to review the story the Washington Post broke this morning. We've got emails, anonymously leaked, confirmed by an anonymous source on the Richards campaign, that clearly show Jeffrey Richards—or at least high-ranking staffers at his campaign—orchestrated this f*cking diabolical plan to have Cosima Niehaus-Sadler stalked, surveilled, hacked, and outed by the Daily Mail as part of an effort to take down Siobhan Sadler in the general. And then, about—uh, what is it, Suf? Forty minutes?—forty minutes before we started recording this, Senator Rafael Luna tweeted he was parting ways with the Richards campaign.

So. Wow.

I don’t think there’s any need to discuss a leak from that campaign other than Luna. It’s obviously him. From where I sit, this looks like the case of a man who—maybe he didn’t really want to be there in the first place, maybe he was already having second thoughts. Maybe he even infiltrated the campaign to do something exactly like this—Sufia, am I allowed to say that?

JARWAR: Literally, when has that ever stopped you?

WESTBROOK: Point. Anyway, Casper Mattresses is paying me the big sponsorship bucks to give you a Washington analysis podcast, so I’m gonna attempt to do that here, even though what has happened to Cosima Niehaus-Sadler—and Princess Delphine too—over the past few days has been obscene, and it feels cheap and gross to even talk about it like this. But in my opinion, here are the three big things to take away from the news we've gotten today.

  1. The First Daughter of the United States didn’t actually do anything wrong.
  2. Jeffrey Richards committed a hostile act of conspiracy against a sitting president, and I am eagerly awaiting the federal investigation that is coming to him once he loses this election.
  3. Rafael Luna is perhaps the unlikeliest hero of the 2020 presidential race.

A speech has to be made.

Not just a statement. A speech.

“You wrote this?” their mother says, holding the folded-up page Sarah handed Cosima on the balcony. “Cosima told you to scrap the statement our press secretary drafted and write this whole thing?” Sarah bites her lip and nods. “This is—this is good, Sarah. Why the hell aren’t you writing all our speeches?”

The press briefing room in the West Wing is ruled too impersonal, so they've called the press pool to the Diplomatic Reception Room on the ground floor. It’s the room where FDR once recorded his fireside chats, and Cosima is going to walk in there and make a speech and hope the country doesn’t hate her for the truth.

They’ve flown Delphine in from Paris for the telecast. She'll be positioned right at Cosima’s shoulder, steady and sure, the emblematic politician’s spouse. Cosima’s brain can’t stop sprinting laps around it. She keeps picturing it: an hour from now, millions andmillions of TVs across America simulcasting her face, her voice, Sarah’s words, Delphine at her side. Everyone will know. Everyone already knows now, but they don’t know, not the right way.

In an hour, every person in America will be able to look at a screen and see their First Daughter and her girlfriend.

And, across the Atlantic, almost as many will look up over an americano at a café or dinner with their family or a quiet night in and see their youngest princess, the most beautiful one, Princess Charming.

This is it. October 2, 2020, and the whole world watched, and history remembered.

Cosima waits on the South Lawn, within view of the linden trees of the Kennedy Garden, where they first kissed. Marine One touches down in a cacophony of noise and wind and rotors, and Delphine emerges in head-to-toe Chanel looking dramatic and windswept, like a dashing hero here to rip bodices and mend war-torn countries, and Cosima has to laugh.

“What?” Delphine shouts over the noise when she sees the look on Cosima’s face.

“My life is cosmic joke and you're not a real person,” Cosima says, wheezing.

“What?” Delphine yells again.

“I said, you look great, baby!”

They sneak off to make out in a stairwell until Alison finds them and drags Delphine off to get camera-ready, mainly to cover up the blooming hickey Cosima just gave her, and soon they’re being shuffled to the Diplomatic Reception Room, and it’s time.

It’s time.

It’s been one long, long year of learning Delphine inside and out, learning herself, learning how much she still had to learn, and just like that, it’s time to walk out there and stand at a podium and confidently declare it all as fact.

She’s not afraid of anything she feels. She’s not afraid of saying it. She’s only afraid of what happens when she does.

Delphine touches her hand, gently, two fingertips against her palm. “Five minutes for the rest of our lives,” she says, laughing a little laugh.

Cosima reaches for her in return, presses one thumb into the hollow of her collarbone, straightening the lapels on her dress. “You are,” she says, “the absolute worst idea I’ve ever had.”

Delphine’s mouth spreads into a slow smile, and Cosima kisses it.


Good morning.

I am, and always have been—first, last, and always—a child of America.

You raised me. I grew up in the pastures and hills of Texas, but I had been to thirty-four states before I learned how to drive. When I caught the stomach flu in the fifth grade, my mother sent a note to school written on the back of a holiday memo from Vice President Biden. Sorry, sir—we were in a rush, and it was the only paper she had on hand.

I spoke to you for the first time when I was eighteen, on the stage of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, when I introduced my mother as the nominee for president. You cheered for me. I was young and full of hope, and you let me embody the American dream: that a girl who grew up speaking two languages, whose family was blended and beautiful and enduring, could make a home for herself in the White House.

You pinned the flag to my lapel and said, “We’re rooting for you.” As I stand before you today, my hope is that I have not let you down.

Years ago, I met a princess. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, her country had raised her too.

The truth is, Delphine and I have been together since the beginning of this year. The truth is, as many of you have read, we have both struggled every day with what this means for our families, our countries, and our futures. The truth is, we have both had to make compromises that cost us sleep at night in order to afford us enough time to share our relationship with the world on our own terms.

We were not afforded that liberty.

But the truth is, also, simply this: love is indomitable. America has always believed this. And so, I am not ashamed to stand here today where presidents have stood and say that I love her, the same as Jack loved Jackie, the same as Lyndon loved Lady Bird. Every person who bears a legacy makes the choice of a partner with whom they will share it, whom the American people will hold beside them in hearts and memories and history books.

America: Delphine is my choice.

Like countless other Americans, I was afraid to say this out loud because of what the consequences might be. To you, specifically, I say:

I see you. I am one of you. As long as I have a place in this White House, so will you. I am the First Daughter of the United States, and I’m bisexual. History will remember us.

If I can ask only one thing of the American people, it’s this: Please, do not let my actions influence your decision in November. The decision you will make this year is so much bigger than anything I could ever say or do, and it will determine the fate of this country for years to come. My mother, your president, is the warrior and the champion that each and every American deserves for four more years of growth, progress, and prosperity. Please, don’t let my actions send us backward.

I ask the media not to focus on me or on Delphine, but on the campaign, on policy, on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans at stake in this election.

And finally, I hope America will remember that I am still the daughter you raised. I still remember the sound of your voices from that stage in Philadelphia. I wake up every morning thinking of your hometowns, of the families I've met at rallies in Idaho and Oregon and South Carolina. I have never hoped to be anything other than what I was to you then, and what I am to you now—the First Daughter, yours in actions and words.

And I hope when Inauguration Day comes again in January, I will continue to be.

The first twenty-four hours after the speech are a blur, but a few snapshots will stay with her for the rest of her life.

A picture: the morning after, a new crowd gathered on the Mall, the biggest yet.

She stays in the Residence for safety, but she and Delphine and Sarah and Felix and her parents sit in the living room on the second floor and watch the live stream on CNN.

In the middle of the broadcast: Helena at the front of the cheering crowd wearing Sarah’s yellow HISTORY, HUH? T-shirt and a trans flag pin. Next to her: Vic, with Helena's wife on his shoulders, in what Cosima can now tell is the jean jacket Helena was embroidering on the plane in the colors of the pansexual flag. She whoops so hard she spills her coffee on George Bush’s favorite rug.

A picture: Senator Jeffrey Richards’s stupid Sam the Eagle face on CNN, talking about his grave concern for President Sadler's ability to remain impartial on matters of traditional family values due to the acts her son engages in on the sacred grounds of the house our forefathers built. Followed by: Senator Oscar Diaz, responding via satellite, that President Sadler's primary value is upholding the Constitution, and that the White House was built by slaves, not our forefathers.

A picture: the expression on Rafael Luna’s face when he looks up from his paperwork to see Cosima standing in the doorway of his office.

“Why do you even have a staff?” Cosima says. “Nobody has ever tried to stop me from walking straight in here.”

Luna has his reading glasses on, and he looks like he hasn’t shaved in weeks. He smiles, a little apprehensive.

“If you think I don’t tell every hire on their first day that you have a free pass,” he says, “you do not have an accurate sense of yourself.”

Cosima grins, and she reaches into her pocket and produces a packet of Skittles, lobbing them underhand onto Luna’s desk.

Luna looks down at them.

The chair is next to his desk these days, and he pushes it out.

Cosima hasn’t gotten a chance to thank him yet, and she doesn’t know where to start. She doesn’t even feel like it’s the first order of business. She watches Luna rip open the packet and dump the candy out onto his papers.

There’s a question hanging in the air, and they can both see it. Cosima doesn’t want to ask. They just got Luna back. She’s afraid of losing him again to the answer. But she has to know.

“Did you know?” she finally says. “Before it happened, did you know what he was going to do?”

Luna takes his glasses off and sets them down grimly on his blotter.

“Cosima, I know I... completely destroyed your faith in me, so I don’t blame you for asking me,” he says. He leans forward on his elbows, his eye contact hard and deliberate. “But I need you to know I would never, ever intentionally let something like that happen to you. Ever. I had no idea until it came out. Same as you.”

Cosima releases a long breath.

“Okay,” she says. She watches Luna lean back, looks at the fine lines on his face, slightly heavier than they were before. “So, what happened?”

Lunasighs, a hoarse, tired sound in the back of his throat. It’s a sound that makes Cosima think about what her dad told her at the lake, about how much of Luna is still hidden.

“So,” he says, “you know I interned for Richards?”

Cosima blinks. “What?”

Luna barks a small, humorless laugh. “Yeah, you wouldn’t have heard. Richards made pretty damn sure to get rid of the evidence. But, yeah, 2001. I was nineteen. It was back when he was AG in Utah. One of my professors called in a favor.”

There were rumors, Luna explains, among the low-level staffers. Usually the female interns, but occasionally an especially pretty boy—a boy like him. Promises, from Richards: mentorship, connections, if “you’d just get a drink with me after work.” A strong implication that “no” was unacceptable.

“I had nothing back then,” Luna says. “No money, no family, no connections, no experience. I thought, ‘This is your only way to get your foot in the door. Maybe he means it.”

Luna pauses, taking a breath. Cosima’s stomach is twisting uncomfortably.

“He sent a car, made me meet him at a hotel, got me drunk. He wanted—he tried to—” Luna grimaces away from finishing the sentence. “Anyway, I got away. I remember I got home that night, and the guy I was renting a room with took one look at me and handed me a cigarette. That’s when I started smoking, by the way.”

He’s been looking down at the Skittles on his desk, sorting the reds from oranges, but here he looks up at Cosima with a bitter, cutting smile.

“And I went back to work the next day like nothing happened. I made small talk with him in the break room, because I wanted it to be okay, and that’s what I hated myself the most for. So the next time he sent me an email, I walked into his office and told him that if he didn’t leave me alone, I’d take it to the paper. And that’s when he pulled out the file.

“He called it an ‘insurance policy.’ He knew stuff I did as a teenager, how I got kicked out by my parents, and a youth shelter in Seattle. That I have family who are undocumented. He told me that if I ever said a word about what happened, not only would I never have a career in politics, but he would ruin my life. He’d ruin my family’s lives. So, I shut the f*ck up.”

Luna’s eyes when they meet hers again are ice cold, sharp. A window slammed shut.

“But I’ve never forgotten. I’d see him in the Senate chamber, and he’d look at me like I owed him something, because he hadn’t destroyed me when he could have. And I knew he was going to do whatever shady sh*t it took to win the presidency, and I couldn’t let a f*cking predator be the most powerful man in the country if it was within my power to stop it.”

He turns now, a tiny shake of his shoulders like he’s dusting off a light snowfall, pivoting his chair to pluck up a few Skittles and pop them into his mouth, and he’s trying for casual but his hands aren’t steady.

He explains that the moment he decided was this summer, when he saw Richards on TV talking about the Youth Congress program. That he knew, with more access, he could find and leak evidence of abuse. Even if he was too old for Richards to want to f*ck, he could play him. Convince him he didn’t believe Siobhan would win, that he’d get the Hispanic and moderate vote in exchange for power.

“I f*cking hated myself every minute of working with that campaign, but I spent the whole time looking for evidence. I was close. I was so focused, so zeroed in that, that I... I never noticed if there were whispers about you. I had no idea. But when everything came out . . . I knew. I just couldn’t prove it. But I had access to the servers. I don’t know much, but I’d been around the block enough in my teenage anarchist days to know people who know how to do a file dump. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not that old.”

Cosima laughs, and Luna laughs too, and it’s a relief, like the air coming back in the room.

“Anyway, getting it straight to you and your mother was the fastest way to expose him, and I knew Felix could do that. And I... I knew you would understand.”

“I believe you,” Cosima says readily. “I just wish you would have told me what you were doing. Or, like, anybody.”

“You would have tried to stop me,” Luna says. “You all would have.”

“I mean... Raf, it was a f*cking crazy plan.”

“I know. And I don’t know if I'll ever be able to fix the damage I’ve done, but I honestly don’t care. I did what I had to do. There was no way in hell I was going to let Richards win. My whole life has been about fighting. I fought.”

Cosima thinks it over. She can relate—it echoes the same deliberations she’s been having with herself. She thinks of something she hasn’t allowed herself to think about since all this started after Paris: her LSAT results, unopened and tucked away inside the desk in her bedroom. How do you do all the good you can do?

“I’m sorry, by the way,” Luna says. “For the things I said to you.” He doesn’t have to specify which things. “It was... f*cked up.”

“It’s cool,” Cosima tells him, and she means it. She forgave Luna before she ever walked into the office, but she appreciates the apology. “I’m sorry too. But also, I hope you know that if you ever call me ‘kid’ again after all this, I am literally going to kick your ass.”

Luna laughs in earnest. “Listen, you’ve had your first big sex scandal. No more sitting at the kids’ table.”

Cosima nods appreciatively, stretching in her chair and folding her hands behind her head. “Man, it f*cking sucks it has to be like this, with Richards. Even if you expose him now, straight people always want the hom*ophobic bastards to be closet cases so they can wash their hands of it. As if ninety-nine out of a hundred aren’t just regular old hateful bigots.”

“Yeah, especially since I think I’m the only male intern he ever took to a hotel. It’s the same as any f*cking predator—it has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with power.”

“Do you think you'll say anything?” Cosima says. “At this point?”

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot.” He leans in. “Most people have kind of already figured out that I’m the leak. And I think, sooner or later, someone is going to come to me with an allegation that is within the statute of limitations. Then we can open up a congressional investigation. Big time. And that will make a difference.”

“I heard a ‘we’ in there,” Cosima says.

“Well,” Luna says. “Me and someone else with law experience.”

“Is that a hint?”

“It’s a suggestion,” Luna says. “But I’m not gonna tell you what to do with your life. I’m busy trying to get my own sh*t together. Look at this.” He lifts his sleeve. “Nicotine patch, bitch.”

“No way,” Cosima says. “Are you actually quitting for real?”

“I am a changed man, unburdened by the demons of my past,” Luna says solemnly, with a jerk-*ff hand gesture.

“You f*cker, I’m proud of you.”

Delphine gets her own room in the White House while she’s in. The crown spared her for two nights before she returns to Paris for her own damage control tour. Once again, they’re lucky to have Catherine back in the game; Cosima doubts the queen would have been so generous.

This particularly is what makes it a little funny that Delphine’s room—the customary quarters for royal guests—is called the Queen’s Bedroom.

“It’s quite . . . aggressively pink, right?” Delphine mutters sleepily.

The room is, really, aggressively pink, done up in the Federal style with pink walls and rose-covered rugs and bedding, pink upholstery on everything from the chairs and settee in the sitting area to the canopy on the four-poster bed.

Delphine’s agreed to sleep in the room rather than Cosima’s “because I respect your mother,” as if every person who had a hand in raising Cosima has not read in graphic detail the things they get up to when they share a bed. Cosima has no such hang-ups and enjoys Delphine’s half-hearted grumblings when she sneaks in from the East Bedroom right down the hall.

They’ve woken up naked and warm, tucked in tight while the first autumn chill creeps in under the lacy curtains. Humming low in her chest, Cosima presses the length of her body against Delphine’s under the blankets, her back to Delphine’s chest, the swell of her ass—

“Well, hello,” Delphine mumbles, her hips hitching at the contact. Delphine can’t see her face, but Cosima smiles anyway.

“Morning,” Cosima says. She gives her ass a little wiggle.

“Time is it?”

“Seven thirty-two.”

“Plane in two hours.”

Cosima makes a small sound in the back of her throat and turns over, finding Delphine’s face soft and close, eyes only half-open. “You sure you don’t need me to come with you?”

Delphine shakes her head without picking it up from the pillow, so her cheek squishes against it. It’s cute. “You're not the one who disrespected the crown and your own family in the emails that everybody in the world has read. I’ve got to handle that on my own before you come back over.”

“That’s fair,” Cosima says. “But soon?”

Delphine’s mouth tugs into a smile. “Absolutely. You’ve got the royal suitor photos to take, the Christmas cards to sign ... Oh, I wonder if they'll have you do a line of skincare products like Celine—”

“Stop,” Cosima groans, poking her in the ribs. “You’re enjoying this too much.”

“I’m enjoying it the perfect amount,” Delphine says. “But, in all seriousness, it’s ... frightening but a bit nice. To do this on my own. I’ve not gotten to do that much, well, ever.”

“Yeah,” Cosima says. “I’m proud of you.”

“Ew,” Delphine says in a flat American accent, and she laughs and Cosima throws an elbow.

Delphine’s pulling her and kissing her, blonde curls on a pink bedspread, long lashes and long legs and green eyes, elegant hands pinning her wrists to the mattress. It’s like everything she’s ever loved about Delphine in a moment, in a laugh, in the way she shivers, in the confident roll of her spine, in happy, unfettered sex in the well-furnished eye of a storm.

Today, Delphine goes back to Paris. Today, Cosima goes back to the campaign trail. They have to figure out how to do this for real now, how to love each other in plain sight.

Cosima thinks they’re up for it. Delphine agrees.

Chapter 16

Chapter Text


“Let me just get this hair, D.”


“Sorry, am I embarrassing you?” Catherine says, her glasses on the tip of her nose as she rearranges Delphine’s thick hair. “You'll thank me when you've not got a great curls in your official portrait.”

Cosima has to admit, the royal photographer is being exceedingly patient about the whole thing, especially considering they waffled through three different locations—Louvre Museum, a stuffy Versailles Palace library, the courtyard of Musée d'Orsay—before they decided to screw it all for a bench in Tuileries Garden.

There’s a certain need for formal portraits now that Cosima is officially in “courtship” with Delphine. She tries not to think too hard about her face on chocolate bars and thongs in Versailles gift shops. At least it'll be next to Delphine’s.

Some psychological math always goes into styling photos like these. The White House stylists have Cosima in something she’d wear any day—black leather kitten heels, slim-fit chinos in a soft tan, a loose-collared Ralph Lauren blouse—but in this context, it reads confident, roguish, decidedly American. Delphine’s in a Burberry button-down dress and a navy cardigan that the royal shoppers squabbled over for hours. They want a picture of a perfect, dignified, French intellectual and a loved-up girlfriend with a bright future as an academic and philanthropist. They even staged a little pile of books on the bench next to her.

Cosima looks over at Delphine, groaning and rolling her eyes under her mother’s preening, and smiles at how much closer this packaging is to the real, messy, complicated Delphine. As close as any PR campaign is ever going to get.

They take about a hundred portraits just sitting on the bench next to each other and smiling, and part of Cosima keeps stumbling over the disbelief she’s actually here, in the middle of Tuileries Garden, in front of God and everybody, holding Delphine’s hand atop her own knee for the camera.

“If Cosima from this time last year could see this,” Cosima says, leaning into Delphine’s ear.

“She'd say, ‘Oh, I’m in love with Delphine? That must be why I’m such a bitch to her all the time,’” Delphine suggests.

“Hey!” Cosima squawks, and Delphine’s chuckling at her own joke and Cosima’s indignation, one arm coming up around Cosima’s shoulders. Cosima gives into it and laughs too, full and deep, and that’s the last hope for a serious tone for the day gone. The photographer finally calls it, and they’re set loose.

Catherine’s got a busy day, she says—three meetings before afternoon tea. She kisses them both and leaves them with Delphine’s PPOs.

It’s a short walk over the Long Water back to Versailles, and they meet Marcus at the Orangery, where a dozen members of her event-planning team are scurrying around, setting up a stage. He's tromping up and down rows of chairs on the lawn in rain boots, speaking very tersely on the phone about something called “cullen skink” and why on earth would he ever request cullen skink and even if he had in fact requested cullen skink in what universe would he ever need twenty gallons of cullen skink for anything, ever.

“What in the hell is a ‘cullen skink’?” Cosima asks once he’s hung up.

“Smoked haddock chowder,” he says. “Enjoy your first royal dog show, Cosima?”

“It wasn’t too bad,” Cosima says, smirking.

“Méré is beyond,” Delphine says. “She offered to edit my manuscript this morning. It’s like she’s trying to make up for five years of absentee parenting all at once. Which, of course, I love her very much, and I appreciate the effort, but, Christ.”

“She’s trying, D,” Macrus says. “She’s been on the bench for a while. Let her warm up a bit.”

“I know,” Delphine says with a sigh, but her eyes are fond. “How are things over here?”

“Oh, you know,” he says, waving her phone in the air. “Just the maiden voyage of my very controversial fund upon which all future endeavors will be judged, so, no pressure at all. I’m only slightly cross with you for not making it a Delphine Foundation—Marcus Fund double feature so I could unload half the stress onto you. All this fundraising for sobriety is going to drive me to drink.” He pats Cosima on the arm. “That’s drunk humor for you, Cosima.”

Marcus and Delphine both had an October as busy as their mother’s. There were a lot of decisions to be made in that first week: Would they ignore the revelations about Marcus in the emails (no), would Delphine be forced to enlist after all (after days of deliberation, no), and, above all, how could all this be made into a positive? The solution had been one Marcus and Delphine came up with together, twin philanthropic efforts under their own names. Marcus's, a charity fund supporting addiction recovery programs all over the UK, and Delphine’s, an LGBT rights foundation.

To their right, the lighting trusses are going up quickly over the stage where Marcus will be playing an €8,000-a-ticket concert with a live band and celebrity guests tonight, his first solo fundraiser.

“Man, I wish I could stay for the show,” Cosima says.

Marcus beams. “It’s a shame Delphine here was too busy signing papers with Art all week to learn some sheet music or we could have fired our pianist.”

“Papers?” Cosima says, co*cking an eyebrow.

Delphine shoots Marcus a silencing glare. “Marcus—”

“For the youth shelters,” he says.

“Marcus,” Delphine admonishes. “It was going to be a surprise.”

“Oh,” Marcus says, busying himself with his phone. “Oops.”

Cosima looks at Delphine. “What’s going on?”

Delphine sighs. “Well. We were going to wait to announce it—and to tell you, obviously—until after the election, so as not to step on your moment. But ...” She puts her hands in her pockets, in that way she does when she’s feeling proud of something but trying not to act like it. “Méré and I agreed the foundation shouldn’t just be national, that there was work to be done all over the world, and I specifically wanted to focus on homeless queer youth. So, Art signed all our BEV Foundation youth shelters over.” She bounces on her heels a little, visibly tamping down a broad smile. “You're looking at the proud mother of four worldwide soon-to-be shelters for disenfranchised queer teenagers.”

“Oh my God, you bitch,” Cosima practically yells, lunging at Delphine and throwing her arms around her neck. “That’s amazing. I stupid love you. Wow.” She yanks back suddenly, stricken. “Wait, oh my God, this means the one in Brooklyn too? Right?”

“Yes, it does.”

“Didn’t you tell me you wanted to be hands-on with the foundation?” Cosima says, her pulse jumping. “Don’t you think maybe direct supervision might be helpful while it gets off the ground?”

“Cosima,” Delphine tells her, “I can’t move to New York.”

Marcus looks up. “Why not?”

“Because I’m the princess of—” Delphine looks over at her and gestures at the Orangery, at Versailles, sputtering. “Here!”

Marcus shrugs, unmoved. “And? It doesn’t have to be permanent. You spent a month of your gap year talking to yaks in Mongolia, D. It’s hardly unprecedented.”

Delphine moves her mouth a couple times, ever the skeptic, and swivels back to Cosima. “Well, I’d still hardly see you, would I?” she reasons. “If you’re in DC for work all the time, beginning your meteoric rise to the political stratosphere?”

And this, Cosima has to admit, is a point. A point that after the year she’s had, after everything, after the finally opened and perfectly passable LSAT scores sitting expectantly on her desk back home, feels less and less concrete every day.

She thinks about opening her mouth to say as much.

“Hello,” says a polished voice from behind, and they all turn to see Philip, starched and well-groomed, striding across the lawn.

Cosima feels the slight flutter through the air of Delphine’s spine automatically straightening beside her. Philip came to Versailles two weeks ago to apologize to both Delphine and Marcus for the years since their father’s death, the harsh words, the domineeringness, the intense scrutiny. For basically growing from an uptight people-pleaser into an abusive, self-righteous dictator under the pressure of his position and the manipulation of the queen.

“He’s fallen out with gran-méré,” Delphine had told Cosima over the phone. “That’s the only reason I actually believe anything he says.”

Yet, there’s blood that can’t be unshed. Cosima wants to throw a punch every time she sees Philip’s stupid face, but it’s Delphine’s family, not hers, so she doesn’t get to make that call.

“Philip,” Marcus says coolly. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“Just had a meeting at Versailles,” Philip says. The meaning hangs in the air between them: a meeting with the queen because he’s the only one still willing. “Wanted to come by to see if I could help with anything.” He looks down at Marcus's Wellington boots next to his shiny dress shoes in the grass. “You know, you don’t have to be out here—we’ve got plenty of staff that can do the grunt work for you.”

“I know,” Marcus says haughtily, every inch a prince. “I want to do it.”

“Right,” Philip says. “Of course. Well, er. Is there anything I can help with?”

“Not really, Philip.”

“All right.” Philip clears his throat. “Delphine, Cosima. Portraits go all right?”

Delphine blinks, clearly startled Philip would ask. Cosima has enough diplomatic instincts to keep her mouth shut.

“Yeah,” Delphine says. “Er, yes. It was all right. A bit awkward, you know, just having to sit there for ages.”

“Oh, I remember,” Philip says. “When Celine and I did our first ones, I had this horrible rash on my arse from some idiotic poison-oak prank one of my uni friends had played on me that week, and it was all I could do to hold still and not rip my trousers off in the middle of Versailles, much less try to take a nice photo. I thought she was going to murder me. Here’s hoping yours turn out better.”

He chuckles a little awkwardly, clearly trying to bond with them. Cosima scratches her nose.

“Well, anyway, good luck, Marcus.”

Philip walks off, hands in his pockets, and all three of them watch his retreating back until it starts to disappear behind the tall hedges.

Marcus sighs. “D’you think I should have let him have a go at the cullen skink man for me?”

“Not yet,” Delphine says. “Give him another six months. He hasn’t earned it yet.”

Blue or gray? Gray or blue?

Cosima has never been so torn between two equally innocuous blazers in her entire life.

“This is stupid,” Felix says. “They’re both boring.”

“Will you please just help me pick?” Cosima tells him. She holds up a hanger in each hand, ignoring his judgmental look from where he’s perched atop her dresser. The pictures from election night tomorrow, win or lose, will follow her for the rest of her life.

“Cosima, seriously. I hate them both. You need something killer. This could be your f*cking swan song.”

“Okay, let’s not—”

“Yes, okay, you're right, if the projections hold, we’re fine,” he says, hopping down. “So, do you want to talk about why you're choosing to punt so hard on this particular moment in your career as a risk-taking fashion plate?”

“Nope,” Cosima says. She waves the hangers at him. “Blue or gray?”

“Okay, so.” He’s ignoring her. “I'll say it, then. You’re nervous.”

She rolls her eyes. “Of course I’m nervous, Felix, it’s a presidential election and the president gave birth to me.”

“Try again.”

He’s giving her that look. The “I’ve already analyzed all the data on how much sh*t you're full of” look.

She releases a hiss of a sigh. “Fine,” she says. “Fine, yeah, I’m nervous about going back to Texas.”

She tosses both the blazers at the bed. sh*t.

“I always felt like Texas claiming me as their daughter was, you know, kind of conditional.” She paces, rubbing the back of her neck. “There’s a very loud contingent there that does not like me and does not want me to represent them. And now, it’s just. Not being straight. Having a girlfriend. Having a gay sex scandal with a European princess. I don’t know anymore.”

She loves Texas—she believes in Texas. But she doesn’t know if Texas still loves her.

She’s paced all the way to the opposite side of the room from him, and he watches her and co*cks his head to one side.

“So... you're afraid of wearing anything too flashy for your first post-coming-out trip home, on account of Texans’ delicate hetero sensibilities?”


He’s looking at her now more like she’s a very complex problem set. “Have you looked at our polling on you in Texas? Since September?”

Cosima swallows.

“No. I, uh.” She scrubs her face with one hand. “The thought, like ... stresses me out? Like, I keep meaning to go look at the numbers, and then I just. Shut down.”

Felix’s face softens, but he doesn’t move closer yet, giving her space. “Cosima. You could have asked me. They’re ... not bad.”

She bites her lip. “They’re not?”

“Cosima, our base in Texas hasn’t shifted on you since September, at all. If anything, they like you more. And a lot of the undecideds are pissed Richards came after a Texas kid. You're really fine.”


Cosima exhales a shaky breath, running one hand through her hair. She starts to pace back, away from the door, which she realizes she’s gravitated near as some fight-or-flight reflex.


She sits down heavily on the bed.

Felix sits gingerly next to her, and when she looks at him, he’s got that sharpness to his eyes like he does when he’s practically reading her mind.

“Look. You know I’m not good at the whole like, tactful emotional communication thing, but, uh, Sarah’s not here, so. I’m gonna. f*ckin’. Give it a go.” He presses on. “I don’t think this is just about Texas. You were recently f*cking traumatized in a big way, and now you're scared of doing or saying the kind of stuff you actually like and want to because you don’t want to draw any more attention to yourself.”

Cosima almost wants to laugh.

Felix is like Delphine sometimes, in that he can cut right down to the truth of things, but Delphine deals in heart and Felix deals in facts. It takes his razor’s edge, sometimes, to get her to pull her head out of her ass.

“Uh, well, yeah. That’s. Probably part of it,” she agrees. “I know I need to start rehabilitating my image if I want any chance in politics, but part of me is like ... really? Right now? Why? It’s weird. My whole life, I was hanging on to this imaginary future person I was gonna be. Like, the plan—graduation, campaigns, staffer, Congress. That was it. Straight into the game. I was gonna be the person who could do that ... who wanted that. And now here I am, and the person I’ve become is ... not that person.”

Felix nudges their shoulders together. “But do you like her?”

Cosima thinks; she’s different, for sure, maybe a little darker. More neurotic, but more honest. Sharper head, wilder heart. Someone who doesn’t always want to be married to work, but who has more reasons to fight than ever.

“Yeah,” she says finally. Firmly. “Yeah, I do.”

“Cool,” he says, and she looks over to see him grinning at her. “So do I. You're Cosima. In all this stupid sh*t, that’s all you ever needed to be.” He grabs her face in both hands and squishes it, and she groans but doesn’t push him off. “So, like. You want to throw out some contingency plans? You want me to run some projections?”

“Actually, uh,” Cosima says, slightly muffled from how Felix is still squishing her face between his hands. “Did I tell you that I kind of... snuck off and took the LSAT this summer?”

“Oh! Oh... law school,” he says, as simply as he said dick you down all those months ago, the simple answer to where she’s been unknowingly headed all along. He releases her face, shoving her shoulders instead, instantly excited. “That’s it, Cosima. Wait—yes! I’m about to start applying for my master’s; we can do it together!”

“Yeah?” she says. “You think I can hack it?”

“Cosima. Yes. Cosima.” He’s on his knees on the bed now, bouncing up and down. “Cosima, this is genius. Okay— listen. You go to law school, I go to grad school, Sarah becomes a speechwriter-slash-author Rebecca Traister— Roxane Gay voice of a generation, I become the data scientist who saves the world, and you—”

“—become a badass civil rights attorney with an illustrious Captain America-esque career of curbstomping discriminatory laws and fighting for the disenfranchised—”

“—and you and Delphine become the world’s favorite geopolitical power couple—”

“—and by the time I’m Rafael Luna’s age—”

“—People are going to be begging you to run for Senate,” he finishes, breathless. “Yeah. So, like, a lot slower than planned. But.”

“Yeah,” Cosima says, swallowing. “It sounds good.”

And there it is. She’s been teetering on the edge of letting go of this specific dream for months now, terrified of it, but the relief is startling, a mountain off her back.

She blinks in the face of it, thinks of Sarah’s words, and has to laugh. “Fire under my ass for no good goddamn reason.”

Felix pulls a face. He recognizes the Sarah-ism. “You are ... passionate, to a fault. If Sarah were here, she would say taking your time is going to help you figure out how best to use that. But I’m here, so, I’m gonna say: You are great at hustling, and at policy, and at leading and rallying people. You are so f*cking smart that most people want to punch you. Those are all skills that will only improve over time. So, like, you are gonna crush it.”

He jumps to his feet and ducks into her closet, and she can hear hangers sliding around. “Mostly important,” he goes on, “you have become an icon of something, which is, like, a very big deal.”

He emerges with a hanger in his hand: a dress she’s never worn out before, one he convinced her to buy online for an obscene price the night they got drunk and watched The West Wing in a hotel in New York and let the tabloids think they were screwing. It’s f*cking Gucci, a midnight-blue double breasted blazer dress with red, white, and blue stripes at the waistband and cuffs.

“I know it’s a lot, but”—he slaps the jacket against her chest—“you give people hope. So, get back out there and be Cosima.”

She takes the dress from him and tries it on, checks her reflection in the mirror. It’s perfect.

The moment is split with a half scream from the hallway outside of her bedroom, and she and Felix both run to the door.

It’s Sarah, tumbling into Cosima’s bedroom with her phone in one hand, jumping up and down, her hair bouncing on her shoulders. She’s clearly come straight from one of her runs to the newsstand because her other arm is laden with tabloids, but she dumps them unceremoniously on the floor.

“I got the book deal!” she shrieks, waving her phone in their faces. “I was checking my email and—the memoir—I got the f*cking deal!”

Cosima and Felix both scream too, and they haul her into a six-armed hug, whooping and laughing and stomping on one another’s feet and not caring. They all end up kicking off their shoes and jumping on the bed, and Felix FaceTimes Art, who finds Delphine and Marcus in one of Delphine’s rooms, and they all celebrate together. It feels complete, the gang, as Vic once called them. They’ve earned their own media nickname in the wake of everything: The Super Six. Cosima doesn’t mind it.

Hours later, Felix and Sarah fall asleep against Cosima’s headboard, Sarah’s head in Felix’s lap and Felix’s fingers in her hair, and Cosima sneaks off to the en suite to brush her teeth. She nearly slips on something on the way back, and when she looks down, she has to do a double take. It’s an issue of HELLO! US from Sarah’s abandoned stack of magazines, and the image dominating the cover is one of the shots from her and Delphine’s portrait session.

She bends down to pick it up. It’s not one of the posed shots—it’s one she didn’t even realize had been taken, one she definitely didn’t think would be released. She should have given the photographer more credit. They managed to capture the moment right when Delphine cracked a joke, a candid, genuine photo, completely caught up in each other, Delphine’s arm around her and her own hand reaching up to grasp for Delphine’s on her shoulder.

The way Delphine’s looking at her in the picture is so affectionate, so openly loving, that seeing it from a third person’s perspective almost makes Cosima want to look away, like she’s staring into the sun. She called Delphine the North Star once. That wasn’t bright enough.

She thinks again about Brooklyn, about Delphine’s youth shelter there. Her mom knows someone at NYU Law, right?

She brushes her teeth and climbs into bed. Tomorrow they find out, win or lose. A year ago—six months ago—it would have meant no sleep tonight. But she’s a new kind of icon now, someone who laughs on even footing with her royal girlfriend on the cover of a magazine, someone willing to accept the years stretching ahead of her, to give herself time. She’s trying new things.

She props a pillow up on Sarah’s knees, stretches her feet out over Felix’s legs, and goes to sleep.

Cosima tugs her bottom lip between her teeth. Scuffs the heel of her boot against the linoleum floor. Looks down at her ballot.

Vote for One

She picks up the stylus chained to the machine, her heart behind her molars, and selects:

The machine chirps its approval, and to its gently humming mechanisms, she could be anybody. One of millions, a single tally mark, worth no more or less than any of the others. Just pressing a button.

It’s a risk, doing election night in their hometown. There’s no rule, technically, saying that the sitting president can’t host their rally in DC, but it is customary to do it at home.

2016 was bittersweet. Austin is blue, deep blue, and Siobhan won Travis County by 76 percent, but no amount of fireworks and champagne corks in the streets changed the fact that they lost the state they stood in to make the victory speech. Still, the Lometa Longshot wanted to come home again.

There’s been progress in the past year: a few court victories Cosima has kept track of in her trusty binder, registration drives for young voters, the Houston rally, the shifting polls. Cosima needed a distraction after the whole tabloid nightmare, so she threw herself into an after-hours committee with a bunch of the campaign’s Texas organizers, Skyping in to figure out the logistics of a massive election day shuttle service throughout Texas. It’s 2020, and Texas is a battleground state for the first time.

Her last election night was on the wide-open stretch of Zilker Park, against the backdrop of the Austin skyline. She remembers everything.

She was eighteen years old in her first custom-made dress, corralled into a hotel around the corner with her family to watch the results while the crowd swelled outside, running with her arms open down the hallway when they called 270. She remembers it felt like her moment because it was her mom and her family, but also realizing it was, in a way, not her moment at all, when she turned around and saw Alison’s mascara running down her face.

She stood next to the stage set into the hillside of Zilker and looked into eyes upon eyes upon eyes of women who were old enough to have marched on Congress for the VRA in ’65 and girls young enough never to have known a president who was a white man. All of them looking at their first Madam President. And she turned and looked at Sarah at her right side and Felix at her left, and she distinctly remembers pushing them out onto the stage ahead of her, giving them a full thirty seconds of soaking it in before following them into the spotlight.

The soles of her boots hit brown grass behind the Palmer Events Center like she’s coming down from a much greater altitude than the back seat of a limo.

“It’s early,” Felix is saying, thumbing through his phone as he climbs out behind her in a plunging black jumpsuit and killer heels. “Like, really early for these exit polls, but I’m pretty sure we have Illinois.”

“Cool, that was projected,” Cosima says. “We’re on target so far.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Felix tells her. “I don’t like how Pennsylvania looks.”

“Hey,” Sarah says. Her own dress is carefully selected, off-the-rack J. Crew, white lace, girl-next-door. Her hair is braided down one shoulder. “Can’t we, like, have one drink before y’all start doing this? I heard there are mojitos.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Felix says, but he’s still staring down at his phone, brow furrowed.

𝗛𝗥𝗛 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗕𝗮𝗯𝘆

𝙿𝚒𝚕𝚘𝚝 𝚜𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚠𝚎’𝚛𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚟𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚋𝚕𝚎𝚖𝚜? 𝙼𝚊𝚢 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚝𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎.
𝙻𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗 𝙳𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚊𝚜? 𝙸𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚏𝚊𝚛?? 𝙸’𝚟𝚎 𝚗𝚘 𝚌𝚕𝚞𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝙰𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚐𝚎𝚘𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚙𝚑𝚢.
𝙳𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚒𝚗𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜, 𝚒𝚗 𝚏𝚊𝚌𝚝, 𝚏𝚊𝚛. 𝙻𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚘𝚘𝚗. 𝚆𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚛𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚘𝚏𝚏 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚜.
𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢, 𝙸’𝚖 𝚜𝚘 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢. 𝙷𝚘𝚠 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚘𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚎𝚗𝚍?

𝗠𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗺𝗼𝘂𝗿

𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚝
𝚙𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚎 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚊𝚜𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚜𝚊𝚙 𝚒’𝚖 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚏 𝚘𝚞𝚝

They’ve partitioned off the smaller exhibit hall for VIPs only—campaign staff, friends and family, congresspeople. On the other side of Austin’s Palmer Event Center is the crowd of supporters with their signs, their SADLER 2020 and HISTORY, HUH? T-shirts, overflowing under the architectural canopies and into the surrounding hills. It’s supposed to be a party.

Cosima has been trying not to stress. She knows how presidential elections go. When she was a kid, this was her Super Bowl. She used to sit in front of the living room TV and color each state in with red and blue magic markers as the night went on, allowed to stay up hours past her bedtime for one blessed night at age ten to watch Obama beat McCain. She watches her dad’s jaw in profile now, trying to remember the triumph in the set of it that night.

There was a magic, then. Now, it’s personal.

And they’re losing.

The sight of her dad coming in through a side door isn’t entirely unexpected, and Sarah rises from her chair and meets them both in a quiet corner of the room on the same instinct. He’s holding his phone in one hand. “Your mother wants to talk to you,” he says, and Cosima automatically reaches out until he holds out a hand to stop her. “No, sorry, Cosima, not you. Sarah.”

Sarah blinks. “Oh.” She steps forward, pushes her hair away from her ear. “Mom?”

“Sarah,” says the sound of their mother’s voice over the little speaker. On the other end, she’s in one of the arena’s meeting rooms, a makeshift office with her core team. “Baby. I need you to, uh. I need you to come in here.”

“Okay, Mom,” she says, her voice measured and calm. “What’s going on?”

“I just. I need you to help me rewrite this speech for, uh.” There’s a considerable pause. “Well. Just in case of concession.”

Sarah’s face goes utterly blank for a second, and suddenly, vividly furious.

“No,” she says, and she grabs her dad by the forearm so she can talk directly into the speaker. “No, I’m not gonna do that, because you're not gonna lose. Do you hear me? You're not losing. We’re gonna f*cking do this for four more years, all of us. I am not writing you a goddamn concession speech, ever.”

There’s another pause across the line, and Cosima can picture their mother in her little makeshift Situation Room upstairs, glasses on, high heels still in the suitcase, staring at the screens, hoping and trying and praying. President Mom.

“Okay,” she says evenly. “Okay. Cosima. Do you think you could get up and say something for the crowd?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure, Mom,” she says. She clears her throat, and it comes out as strong as hers the second time. “Of course.” A third pause, then. “God, I love you both so much.”

Their dad returns to the room, and he’s quickly replaced by Alison, whose sleek red dress and ever-present coffee thermos are the biggest comfort Cosima has seen all night. Her ring flashes at Cosima, and she thinks of Donnie and wishes desperately Delphine was here already.

“Fix your face,” she says, straightening her collar as she shepherds her and Sarah through to the main exhibit hall and into the back of the stage area. “Big smiles, high energy, confidence.”

She turns helplessly to Sarah. “What do I say?”

“Little bit, ain’t no time for me to write you anything,” she tells her. “You're a leader. Go lead. You got this.”

Oh God.

Confidence. She looks down at the cuffs of her jacket again, the red, white, and blue. Be Cosima, Felix said when he handed it to her. Be Cosima.

“Alison,” she asks. “Did they call Texas yet?”

“No,” she says. “Still too close.”


Her smile is knowing. “Still.”

The spotlight is almost blinding when she walks out, but she knows something. Deep down in her heart. They still haven’t called Texas.

“Hey, everyone,” she says to the crowd. Her hand squeezes the microphone, but it’s steady. “I’m Cosima, your First Daughter.” The hometown crowd goes wild, and Cosima grins and means it, leans into it. When she says what she says next, she intends to believe it.

“You know what’s crazy? Right now, Anderson Cooper is on CNN saying Texas is too close to call. Too close to call. Y’all may not know this about me, but I’m kind of a history nerd. So I can tell you, the last time Texas was too close to call was in 1976. In 1976, we went blue. It was Jimmy Carter, in the wake of Watergate. He just barely squeezed out fifty-one percent of our vote, and we helped him beat Gerald Ford for the presidency.

“Now, I’m standing here, and I’m thinking about it ... A reliable, hardworking, honest, Southern Democrat versus corruption, and maliciousness, and hate. And one big state full of honest people, sick as hell of being lied to.”

The crowd absolutely loses it, and Cosima almost laughs. She raises her voice into the microphone, speaks up over the sound of cheers and applause and boots stomping on the floor of the hall. “Well, it sounds a little familiar to me, is all. So, what do y’all think Texas? Are we gonna make history repeat itself tonight?”

The roar says it all, and Cosima yells with them, lets the sound carry her off the stage, lets it wrap around her heart and squeeze back in the blood that’s drained out of it all night. The second she steps backstage, there’s a hand on her back, the achingly familiar gravity of someone else’s body reentering her space before it even touches her, a clean, familiar scent light in the air between.

“That was brilliant,” Delphine says, smiling, in the flesh, finally. She’s gorgeous in a baby blue dress and a pin that, upon closer inspection, is patterned with little yellow roses.

“Your pin—”

“Oh, yes, ipé-amarelo” she says, “yellow rose of Texas, is it? I remember you wearing one the first time I saw you. Thought it might be good luck.”

All at once, Cosima is in love all over again. She wraps her hand around Delphine's neck and reels her in and kisses her like she never has to stop. Which—she remembers, and laughs into Delphine’s mouth—she doesn’t.

If she’s talking about who she is, she wishes she’d been someone smart enough to have done this last year. She wouldn’t have made Delphine banish herself to a bunch of frozen shrubbery, and she wouldn’t have just stood there while Delphine gave her the most important kiss of her life. It would have been like this. She would have taken Delphine’s face in both hands and kissed her hard and deep and on purpose and said, “Take anything you want and know you deserve to have it.”

She pulls back and says, “You're late, Your Highness.”

Delphine laughs. “Actually, I’m just in time for the upswing, it would seem.”

She’s talking about the latest round of calls, which apparently came in while Cosima was onstage. Out in their VIP area, everyone’s out of their seat, watching Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer parse the returns on the big screens. Virginia: Sadler. Colorado: Sadler. Michigan: Sadler. Pennsylvania: Sadler. It almost fully makes up the difference in votes, with the West Coast still to go.

Donnie is here too, in one corner with Alison, huddled with Luna and Helena and Vic, and Cosima’s head almost spins at the thought of how many nations could be brought to their knees by this particular gang. She grabs Delphine’s hand and pulls her into it all.

The magic comes in a nervous trickle—Delphine’s pin, hopeful lilts in voices, a few stray bits of confetti that escape the nets laced through the rafters and get stuck in Felix’s hair—and then, all at once.

10:30 brings the big rush: Richards steals Iowa, yes, and sews up Utah and Montana, but the West Coast comes storming in with California’s fifty-five f*cking electoral votes.

By midnight, they've taken the lead, and it does, finally, feel like a party, even if they’re not out of the woods, yet. Drinks are flowing, voices are loud, the crowd on the other side of the partition is electric. Gloria Estefan wailing through the sound system feels fitting again, not a stabbing, sick irony at a funeral. Across the room, Delphine’s with Sarah, making a gesture at her hair, and she turns and lets her fix a piece of her braid that came loose earlier in a fit of anxiety.

Cosima is just opening her call over to them when someone shouts her name—a photo op or interview or something for BuzzFeed.

“Come on, you backyard-shooting-range motherf*ckers,” Alison is muttering under her breath beside her when she falls in with her people.

“Did she just say backyard shooting range?” Delphine asks, leaning into Cosima’s ear. “Is that a real thing a person can have?”

“You really have a lot to learn about America, mija,” Luna tells her, not unkindly.

The screen flashes red—RICHARDS—and a collective groan grinds through the room.

“Felix, what’s the math?” Sarah says, rounding on him, a slightly frantic look in her eyes. “I majored in nouns.”

“Okay,” Felix says, “at this point we just need to get over 270 or make it impossible for Richards to get over 270—”

“Yes,” Sarah cuts in impatiently, “I am familiar with how the electoral college works—”

“You asked!”

“I didn’t mean to remediate me!”

“You're kinda hot when you get all indignant.”

“Can we focus?” Cosima puts in.

“Okay,” Felix says. He shakes out his hands. “So, right now we can get over 270 with Texas or Nevada and Alaska combined. Richards has to get all three of those. So nobody is out of the game yet.”

“So, we have to get Texas now?”

“Not unless they call Nevada,” Felix says, “which never happens this early.”

He barely has time to finish before Anderson Cooper is back onscreen with breaking news. Cosima wonders briefly what it’s going to be like to have future Anderson Cooper stress hallucinations. NEVADA: RICHARDS.

“Are you f*cking kidding me?”

“So, now it’s essentially—”

“Whoever wins Texas,” Cosima says, “wins the presidency.”

There’s a heavy pause, and Sarah says, “I’m gonna go stress eat the cold pizza the polling people have. Sound good? Cool.” And she’s gone.

By 12:30, nobody can believe it’s down to this.

Texas has never in history gone this long without being called. If it were any other state, Richards probably would have called to concede by now.

Luna is pacing. Cosima’s dad is sweating through his suit. Sarah is going to smell like pizza for a week. Alison is on the phone, yelling into someone’s voicemail, and when she hangs up, she explains that her sister is having trouble getting into a good daycare and agreed to put Alison on the job as an outlet for her stress. Siobhan is stalking through it all like a hungry lioness.

And that’s when Sarah comes charging up to them, her hand on the arm of a girl Cosima recognizes—her college roommate, her brain supplies. She’s got on a poll volunteer shirt and a broad smile.

“Guys—” Sarah says, breathless. “Molly just—she just came from—f*ck, just, tell them!”

And Molly opens her blessed mouth and says, “We think you have the votes.”

Felix drops his phone. Siobhan steps over it to grab Molly’s other arm. “You think or you know?”

“I mean, we’re pretty sure—”

“How sure?”

“Well, they just counted another 10,000 ballots from Harris County—”

“Oh my God—”

“Wait, look—”

It’s on the projection screen now. They’re calling it. Anderson Cooper, you handsome bastard.

Texas is gray for five more seconds, before flooding beautiful, beautiful, unmistakable, Lake LBJ blue.

Thirty-eight votes for Sadler, for a grand total of 301. And the presidency.

“Four more years!” Cosima’s mom outright screams, louder than she’s heard her scream in years.

The cheers come in a hum, in a rumble, and finally, in a storm, pressing from the other side of the partition, from the hills surrounding the arena and the city surrounding the streets, from the country itself. From, maybe, a few sleepy allies in Paris.

From her side, Delphine, whose eyes are wet, seizes Cosima’s face roughly in both hands and kisses her like the end of the movie, whoops, and shoves her at her family.

The nets are cut loose from the ceiling, and down come the balloons, and Cosima staggers into a press of bodies and her father’s chest, a delirious hug, into Sarah, who is a crying disaster, and Felix is sandwiched between both beaming, proud parents, screaming at the top of his lungs, and Luna is throwing Sadler campaign pamphlets in the air like a mafioso with hundred dollar bills. She sees Vic, severely testing the weight limits of the venue’s chairs by dancing on one, and Helena, waving around her phone so her wife can see it all over FaceTime, and Alison and Donnie, aggressively making out against a giant stack of SADLER/HOLLERAN 2020 yard signs. WASPy Hunter hoisting another staffer up on his shoulders. They did it. They did it. The Lometa Longshot and a long-awaited blue Texas.

The crowd pushes her back into Delphine’s chest, and after absolutely everything, all the emails and texts and months on the road and secret rendezvous and nights of wanting, the wholeaccidentally - falling -in-love - with -your- sworn - enemy-at-the - absolute - worst- possible- time thing, they made it. Cosima said they would —she promised. Delphine’s smiling so wide and bright that Cosima thinks her heart’s going to break trying to hold the size of this entire moment, the completeness of it, a thousand years of history swelling inside her ribcage.

“I need to tell you something,” Delphine says, breathless, when Cosima pulls back. Delphine slides a chain around Cosima's neck, a key on the end of it. “I bought a brownstone. In Brooklyn.”

Cosima’s mouth falls open. “You didn’t!”

“I did.”

And for a fraction of a second, a whole crystallized life flashes into view, a next term and no elections left to win, a schedule packed with classes and Delphine smiling from the pillow next to her in the gray light of a Brooklyn morning. It drops right into the well of her chest and spreads, like how hope spreads. It’s a good thing everyone else is already crying.

“Okay, people,” says Alison’s voice through the rush of blood and love and adrenaline and noise in her ears. Her mascara is streaming, her lipstick smeared across her chin. Beside her, she can hear her mother on the phone with one finger jammed into her ear, taking Richards’s concession call. “Victory speech in fifteen. Places, let’s go!”

Cosima finds herself shuffled sideways, through the crowd and over to a little corral near the stage, behind the curtains, and then her mother’s on stage, and her dad, and Mike and his wife, and Felix and his parents and Sarah. Cosima strides out after them, waving into the white glow of the spotlight, shouting a jumble of languages into the noise. She’s so caught up that she doesn’t realize at first Delphine isn’t at her side, and she turns back to see her hovering in the wings, just behind a curtain. Always hesitant to step on anyone’s moment.

That’s not going to fly anymore. She’s family. She’s part of it all now, headlines and oil paintings and pages in the Library of Congress, etched right alongside. And she’s part of them. Goddamn forever.

“Come on!” Cosima yells, waving her over, and Delphine spares a second to look panicked before she’s tipping her chin up and buttoning her jacket and stepping out onto the stage. She gravitates to Cosima’s side, beaming. Cosima throws one arm around her and the other around Sarah. Felix presses in at Sarah’s other side.

And President Siobhan Claremont steps up to the podium.

The second round of confetti is still falling when Cosima grabs Delphine by the hand and says, “Follow me.”

Everyone’s too busy celebrating or doing interviews to see them slip out the back door. She borrows some bikes from the interns, and Delphine doesn’t ask questions, just kicks the stand out and disappears into the night behind her.

Austin feels different somehow, but it hasn’t changed, not really. Austin is dried flowers from a homecoming corsage in a bowl by the cordless phone, the washed-out bricks of the rec center where she tutored kids after school, a beer bummed off a stranger on the spill of the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The nopales, the hipster cold brews. It’s a weird, singular constant, the hook in her heart that’s kept tugging her back to earth her whole life.

Maybe it’s just that she’s different.

They cross the bridge into downtown, the gray grids intersecting Lavaca, the bars overflowing with people yelling her mother’s name, wearing her own face on their chests, waving Texas flags, American flags, pride flags. There’s music echoing through the streets, loudest when they reach the Capitol, where someone has climbed up the front steps and erected a set of loudspeakers blasting Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” Somewhere above, against the thick clouds: fireworks.

Cosima takes her feet off the pedals and glides past the massive, Italian Renaissance Revival facade of the Capitol, the building where her mom went to work every day when she was a kid. It’s taller than the one back in DC. Everything’s bigger, after all.

It takes twenty minutes to reach Pemberton Heights, and Cosima leads the Princess of France up onto the high curb of a neighborhood in Old West Austin and shows her where to throw her bike in the yard, spokes still spinning little shadow lines across the grass. The sounds of expensive soles on the cracked front steps of the old house on Westover don’t sound any stranger than her own boots. Like coming home.

She steps back and watches Delphine take it all in—the butter-yellow siding, the big bay windows, the handprints in the sidewalk. Cosima hasn’t been inside this house since she was twenty. They pay a family friend to look after it, wrap the pipes, run the water. They can’t bear to let it go. Nothing’s changed inside, just been boxed up.

There are no fireworks out here, no music, no confetti. Just sleeping, single-family homes, TVs finally switched off. Just a house where Cosima grew up, where she saw Delphine’s picture in a magazine and felt a flicker of something, a start.

“Hey,” Cosima says. Delphine turns back to her, her eyes silver in the wash of the streetlight. “We won.”

Delphine takes her hand, one corner of her mouth tugging gently upward. “Yeah. We won.”

Cosima reaches down into the front of her dress and finds the chain with her fingers, pulls it out carefully. The ring, the key's. Her past next to their future.

Under winter clouds, victorious, she unlocks the door.

State of Affairs - Delphines_puppy (2024)
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