Melanie watched Cheeto as he paced restlessly in the Oval Office, his orange skin crinkled in the corners of his mouth by a frown, hair flopped carelessly as he ran his hand through it, making it appear like it had a life of its own as it stood on end in patches. This discontent was aligned with the inky clouds outside, steadily gathering with ferocity. His feet dragged across the carpet, his attempt at hurried steps slowed by the drag of the rich fibers, tiny sparks of electricity generated from the weight of his footfalls. She could tell from his expression and posture that this wasn’t sufficient, being President. It hadn’t fulfilled his vast appetite for dominance fueled by bottomless insecurity.
“Melanie,” he finally barked, coming to a jerky halt. He threw his hands, swirling them by his head. “This isn’t what I expected. It’s so much work. Those people, out there, they can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves. It doesn’t feel like…enough, being the nation’s leader. Find Charity. I know what I want you to ask for.”
She sighed, weary of hunting down the cagey bruja. They had so much now living in The White House, more than they would have ever acquired without her secret charms. Melanie pined for nothing, and missed the simplicity of their former life.
“What is it now, Cheeto?” Melanie quietly asked, afraid of the answer, but more frightened to incite an argument.
“Look at the storm outside, the lightening and sky changing and shifting as if by its own will, even though you know something greater is in control. That’s the power I want. To control nature, the masses, everything. I don’t want to be worshipped like a god. I want to be one.” Cheeto responded with blind assurance.
Melanie’s eyes narrowed and she stared at him blankly, the last drop of emotion squeezed from her glance by his words. She silently stood, glided to the walnut door, and before taking her leave, turned, as if to say a final statement. Instead, she shook her head and left, knowing reason was useless, the door quaking in her wake.
As the Secret Service car raced through the streets of the Capital, all Melanie could focus on was the sky, its ugliness, the large swaths of jet-black, stratus clouds converging and dancing as they whipped a frenzy of lightening streaks, streaming across the sky like uncontrolled tears, the explosion of thunder rolling through the streets and echoing off the tinted panes of glass in the limousine. They pulled up to a dingy storefront, the awning tattered and flapping violently in the wind, and Melanie sprinted to the entrance in a choppy, high heeled jaunt, her hair slashing her face in the forceful gale. Once inside, she took a moment to smooth her appearance, and entered the poorly lit space, stepping gingerly.
Charity sat in the back of the Oaxacan restaurant, her hair riddled with more grey than last time Melanie visited, the contours in her face now crevices, her eyes sunken and dusty rings. She looked up from the tarot spread in front of her, fingering the card of The Fool, discerning the outline of Melanie in the framed doorway, closing her eyes for a few seconds longer than blinking, recognizing what was coming. Melanie stepped into the dim light, and approached the table with hesitance.
“What is it now? What more could you possibly want?” Charity’s shoulders slumped lower with each word, her hands balled into tense fists, her thumbs digging the sides of her fingers. Her sour breath wafted to Melanie, who cringed.
Melanie’s voice crackled. “He wants to be God.”
Charity’s eyes became Viper slits, and her hands fell limply on the surface of the table. Her finger, circling the worn surface of the card, came to an abrupt halt, leaving a long, jagged scratch. She chuckled, her lips frozen in a horizontal plane, until they parted to speak. Her words tumbled slowly, with intention and finality.
“It is done. Return to your former home. You will find him there.”
The dark tresses on Melanie’s head bounced with her acknowledgment, and she exhaled, not realizing she had swallowed her breath. Her mouth formed a circle, preparing to thank Charity, but she silenced the attempted exchange with a quick, stiff shake of her head. Melanie took three steps backward, pivoted on her heel, and exited swiftly.
As she left the restaurant, Melanie glanced upward, the storm arrested, clouds slowly melting and disbanding. She hailed a cab to the train station, watching the city race by in blurs of maroon brick, picket fence white, and marble. Her body sank into the leather upholstery, her mind slowing, her shoulders releasing from their tense resting place. She visualized Cheeto, at their home in New York City, and her eyes fluttered to a close, her breath gradually easing from her body in the steady rhythm of a newborn babe, but not before it captured the image of the sky outside her window, pristine cerulean, the sun clear and shining once more.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...