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Devon Comes Back Into Flambé’s Life

Flambé’s dog walking business turned out to be a big success. Oakland seemed to have hundreds of dogs on each block. Their owners worked all day and didn’t want to keep Poochie confined in their apartments until they finally made it home, via congested freeways or packed BART trains, at the end of the workday, often after the sun had set. When these owners met Flambé, they were instantly attracted to her smile and affectionate nature. Her transsexualism was, if anything, a plus in liberal Oakland. Most of the time, she had a waiting list for clients.

Flambé was good with the animals. They obeyed her; her natural sweetness was appealing. No dog had ever harassed or insulted her for being different. When she showed love to her dogs, they loved her back. It was good being with them. She would walk them in Lakeside Park, or, occasionally, if she could get a ride from Nick or Danny, take the brood up into the East Bay Hills, where they would run free on the fire trails.

She’d never been particularly political, despite her views on housing. All politicians, it seemed to Flambé, were basically the same: hustlers who made cheap promises to the voters, promises they had no way or intention of keeping. Bush, Obama, Hillary, Trump, Newsom, Sanders, Harris, what were they to Flambé? Just famous people on T.V.

One day, one of her dog-walking clients asked whom she was voting for in the upcoming City Council election. Flambé, who had never registered much less voted in her life, had no response. The client, a young videographer, said she should check out the website of one of the candidates running in District 3, which the Adams Point neighborhood where Flambé, Nick and Danny lived. Not wanting to be impolite, even though she had no intention of going to the website, Flambé said, Sure, what was the URL?, her client replied.

Flambé nearly did a spit take. Camber had been Devon’s last name. She hadn’t seen her former idol for years, ever since Devon had split San Francisco to go grad school at Stanford, on a scholarship. And now, he was running for City Council?

As soon as she got home Flambé opened her MacBook Air (which Nick had paid for) and looked at the website. There he was: Devon. Eight or nine years older, but still wickedly handsome. In one photo, he was dressed in a neat, fitted dark suit and tie. In another, leaning against a building in jeans and a tight T-shirt, more muscled than Flambé remembered him. Flambé read up on his biography. After graduating Stanford with an M.A. in public policy, Devon had become a community organizer, working in the Western Addition to register voters, getting immigrants to lawyers who would protect their rights, lobbying for more funding for inner-city libraries, daycare centers and anti-violence activities. He’d been successful: S.F. Magazine had named him a “Rising Star” in 2017. Now, Devon had moved to Oakland, a protegé of Mayor Schaaf, and was running for the Council.

There was a link on the website. “Interested in volunteering to help Devon? Click here.” Flambé thought for a moment. She clicked. This, she said to herself, will be interesting.

* * *

Less than 24 hours later someone from Devon’s campaign replied. Would Ms. Wilkerson care to come into campaign headquarters for a brief interview? Flambé dressed herself carefully: a Bishop-Sleeve V-neck silk dress with a blue-and-pink floral print, a tan-colored linen sweater with big shell buttons, a chic fringed cashmere scarf tossed around her shoulders. Looking over the shoe collection, she chose a pair of braided cork Espadrilles, on this mild October day. A single strand of cultured pearls on her neck complete the ensemble. When she looked at herself in the full-length mirror, she liked what she saw. Devon Camber, here I come.

What was Flambé’s thinking? She was living with Nick. They were still considered a couple. But the space between them had grown. They still had sex, but not as often, and never at night, as they had used to, but only quickly, in the morning. Flambé was faithful, and thought Nick was, too, but there was no denying it: they had drifted apart. Now, the idea of seeing Devon again stirred something deep inside her. On the walk to his headquarters, only a few blocks away on Franklin, she thought to herself, Calm down, girl. Don’t get your hopes up. But she did, anyway.

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