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Devon Tells Flambé How It Has to Be

“You’ll be working closely with me,” the candidate told Flambé over miso soup and California rolls. “But we’re going to have to be careful about being seen together.”


“Franklin—Flambé—look. It’s not like the old days. I’m a public figure now. People are watching me, looking for something to bring me down. I have to watch my step, especially just six weeks before an election.”

“But what does that have to do with me?”

Devon looked around the restaurant. Public figures are always aware they’re being scrutinized. Devon knew that, merely by having lunch with the flamboyant Flambé, he was taking a risk. It might be a small risk in a town as tolerant as Oakland, and as he’d previously calculated, having a transsexual working for him could actually be a plus. But still, there were boundaries. It was one thing to have a transsexual employee. It was another for there to be talk about a private consensual relationship. Tongues would wag. Politics is the most gossipy profession. The last thing Devon needed was malicious gossip.

“You can’t be seen coming to my apartment,” Devon said. Flambé didn’t understand. Devon tried to explain. “I don’t mean you can never come. But we have to be careful. Late at night, maybe. And if you stay the night, you’ll have to leave early the next morning, like, by 5:30. People get up early to go to work. I can’t risk having them see you.”

Flambé’s eyes by now were welling with tears. “You haven’t even invited me to your place yet!”

Devon leaned in. “I will.” It was his eyes again—dark, flashing, penetrating. They made Flambé weak. “Dry your eyes.” He handed Flambé his napkin. “Stop crying. You’re making a scene.” Flambé took the cloth and dabbed her cheeks. The rest of their lunch was uneventful. When it was over, they walked back to campaign headquarters. “I’ll have Hedda show you around. You’ll mostly be working to keep my lists up to date: contributors, precinct workers, that kind of thing. I can give you $150 a week; it’s all we can afford now. If the war chest builds up, it’s more money for everyone.”

What Flambé didn’t say—what she should have said—was: I don’t want money. That’s not why I came. I came for you.

* * *

Devon asked her to his apartment the next day. They both were at headquarters. She was at her little desk, working a laptop, trying to figure out the intricacies of Excel. He was in his office with his campaign manager, a lanky, ex-Marine everyone called Grit. Flambé watched Devon through the window—the calm way he listened, chin in his left hand, with a barely perceptible nod of the head when he agreed; the way he became animated while making a point, slashing the air with one hand, sometimes bringing the other down on the desk with a hard “slap.”

After a while Devon came out of his office and towards the front door, accompanied by Grit. As he passed Flambé, he dropped, almost absent-mindedly, a post-it note on her desk. She picked it up, read: TONIGHT. 9:30. MY PLACE. RING BUZZER AND I’LL LET YOU IN. d.

She was numb for the rest of the day, in a state of high anticipation. At home, Nick noticed. “You’re distracted,” he told her. “Just tired,” she replied, then changed the subject. “How’s Danny?” It was the day his and Cindy’s belongings had been stolen from their tent, although neither Nick nor Flambé knew it. “I guess he’s okay,” Nick said. “I give them at most another two days. A tent!”

They were watching “Riverdale” that night when Flambé suddenly announced she had to go out. “My client just texted. Her Frenchie needs a walk and she’s with her boyfriend. I’ll be at most an hour.” Even as she said it, she knew she was in trouble: she would be gone, not an hour, but—if everything went as planned—the entire night. How she would explain that the next morning, Flambé had no idea. She wasn’t thinking clearly anyway. She was being led, not by her reason, but by another part of her body, a part that still existed, still stirred deep within her and drove her sometimes to acts of stupidity and excess. She not only could not afford to rid herself of this part just yet; she was far from certain she wanted to. It all could wait. Decisions always could wait. What could not wait, this night, was her overwhelming, physical desire to see, and be with, Devon.

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