Well, this is the part of the story where do-do hits the blades. Ronnie has decided to quit because the Mayor hasn’t stopped pressing her to date him. The Mayor left his iPad in a hotel room and is freaking out that his personal data will be exposed.
So, what are the repercussions of Ronnie’s decision to quit and the Mayor’s personal exposure? If events turn radically bad, how will that affect our characters? Will they learn something? Grow? Fall further? Or stumble ahead? See if you can guess what happens.
WHEN IT’S TOO LATE TO QUIT, because it’s over. [Part 8 of 8]
It’s a scorching, muggy day as Ronnie trudges toward the city hall steps, rivulets of sweat tracing vertical streaks down her dress. Over her shoulder she carries a large catch-all leather bag holding a three-ring notebook, the hand recorder Jon gave her, and a letter of resignation. These items she will soon be handing to Anne, Jon’s assistant, in exchange for two checks – her last from City Hall. This is quitting day, with a get-in, get-out-fast plan. No explaining, no apologizing, no lying, and no contact with the mayor. But as she passes TV and radio trucks, she’s wondering if maybe she will see her boss. It appears he’s about to make a campaign speech, and it’s going to be televised.
Pulling open a huge heavy door, Miss Stein steps into City Hall. Cool air blasts relief to her glistening face. She immediately scoots toward security-check, moving through a sea of reporters who are probably waiting for the mayor, or something else. There are always reporters in City Hall.
“That’s her!” yells a man from somewhere in the crowd. A microphone is pushed towards her. “There are rumors that you’re the Mayor’s girlfriend. Will you respond to that?”
“What?” Ronnie gasps. “That’s absurd.”
“Another mic finds her mouth. “Why was your picture on the Mayor’s computer?”
“I, ah…I…work for him,” Ronnie stutters, now dazed.
Third reporter: “Do you know his other girls? Lusty Charm, Shy Rose, Daniella Love?”
Ronnie’s trapped, with a fence of microphones and cameras surrounding her head. The world starts to spin. “Were you setting up his dates with porn models?”
“How did you get a polling job? You were front desk at Hilborne, Novitch and Smegmah.”
“I was temping there. But I’m a web designer.”
“Are you planning to stay on now that Mayor Steadman has dropped out of the race?”
“Has Mayor Steadman asked you to stay with him since more polling won’t be necessary?”
“Miss Stein is no longer employed by the mayor’s office,” thunders from the rear of the room. A curtain of eyes ripple right to a tall, burley man marching straight to Jon’s pollster. It’s Max Jacobs. He reaches Ronnie with five aggressive strides and drops his thick arm over her shoulder. “The mayor issued his statement,” Max bellows to the press. “This will end the interviews.” Max pushes through the assault getting Ronnie to the front doors. He opens one. She turns to him.
“What about my checks?
“We’ll mail them. Go home. And don’t talk to the media. You’re poison.”
All she can do is stare, as if to ask, ‘How could you say that to me?’ The question goes unanswered. He’s armored in disinterest, and consequently, nudges her out the door. Seconds later, Max has disappeared into the crowd inside. And Ronnie? She’s on the outside, in so many ways.
She takes four baby steps toward the marble stairs leading to a down-hill future. People pass her right and left, as if she’s not there. But she is, barely, as she slows to a stop. She lowers her head, sniffs twice, tries starting again…and sobs; sad, sad sobs of lament, arms dangling by her sides. No one around her stops to help. No one. Which means, she must help herself and somehow get home. But she can’t. Not like this. Not as a battered woman stripped of dignity. She cannot…no, she will not, let Max tell her she’s poison. She will not be fired without provocation. She will quit, as planned, on her terms; not Max’s and Jon’s.
But mascara has streaked her cheeks. She wipes it away, dries her eyes, and rebuilds for confrontations she might meet inside. Decisions have been made. She will push through the throngs, find Max, hand in the recorder, her polling data, and announce her resignation. When the press asks, she will answer with truth, for she has nothing to hide. She will get past this. She will find a job, the right job. She will be strong, shake the anger and learn from this mistake. These choices she has chiseled in stone, because anything less would destroy her. She is Ronnie Judith Stein, web developer and now pollster, or anything else she wants to be. And no one, absolutely no one, will tell her otherwise.
She enters City Hall. To her left she sees the Channel Four new crew relaxed and waiting for more to happen. She is about to happen. Ronnie joins them, and introduces herself. “I’m Ronnie Stein. And I have a statement.”
Lauren Steadman is sitting on the family room sofa staring at the TV. A CNN anchor reports that Jonathon Steadman has just resigned as mayor, twelve days before voters would have decided his re-election. “After the Mayor’s personal computer was found in a Marriott Hotel room,” continues the anchor, “and announomously turned over to E! Online, Mayor Streadman admitted to extramarital affairs with a number of women, some in the adult film industry.”
The screen cuts to Mayor Steadman reading words off a page. “I feel a deep sense of remorse and shame. I have lied to my friends, my staff, and hurt my family. It’s only appropriate that I step down from the job of managing this great city, and focus my attention on personal healing and attending to the needs of my wife and son.”
“I meant it, Lauren,” comes from a solemn voice behind her. She doesn’t bother turning. Ex-Mayor Steadman walks into the room and stops between his wife’s gaze and the TV she’s watching. “It was my decision to quit, Lauren. To come back to you. And Andy.” She stands and leaves the room. He follows her into the hall, getting the bedroom door slammed in his face. He starts to tear, holds it back, musters what fortitude he has left in his soul, and gently knocks.
“GET OUT!” fires from the other side of the door. “Get out of my house!”
“Can’t we talk about it?” he pleads. He gets no response, except a whimper from his bedroom. “Where’s Andy?” he continues, hoping to talk his way inside.
After a moment, come the muffled words, “With my sister.”
“Does he know?”
“Of course he knows!”
“Does he understand?”
“He knows Daddy was bad! And he knows Daddy let him down. And he doesn’t think Daddy loves Mommy anymore. And I agree with him.”
Jon slowly opens the door, finding Lauren stretched out on the bed, her pillow wet from tears. “I do love you,” he softy declares, moving a few feet more into the room.
“Goddamn it, Jon! Don’t you ever stop?”
“You have? I don’t think you know how. I don’t think you even know who you are. Because I certainly don’t. I thought I did. But you fooled even me.”
“I realize I’ve made mistakes. I spun out of control. It was the pressure. But I never meant to hurt anyone. It was just a release. A way to forget the job.”
“Oh God, Jon. You are so fucked up.”
“I’ll get back together,” he sighs, looking like a shamed six year-old. “Will you help me?”
“Don’t even try.”
“The pity game. I fell for that once. Never again.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Take care of us by leaving us.”
“You really mean that? After fifteen years?”
“Just go away.” She rolls back onto her pillow.
“I don’t know where to go.”
“Go to your whores. Or your new girlfriend.”
“If you’re talking about Miss Stein, there was nothing sexual about our relationship.”
Lauren turns back to him, a tired, incredulous glare in her eyes.
“There wasn’t,” he affirms.
Her glare stays locked. “Of course there wasn’t.”
The room again falls into silence. A long silence. What more can he say? She won’t believe a word he says. And why should she? She right. So he starts for the door, hearing, “Before you go…” He stops, pivots back to his wife. She looks broken. “I need to know something,” she continues in a flat, detached tone.
“When you were banging those girls in whatever hotels you were in, what were you thinking?”
His gaze drops to the floor. “Not much of anything. It was an escape.”
“It never occurred to you that eventually you’d get caught?”
“No. Not really.”
“A man who runs a billion dollar budget, who deals with cause and effect every second of every day, didn’t think past the orgasm?”
“No. Not when it was happening.”
“At times.” His eyes raise to hers.
“And yet you did it again.”
He swallows, contemplating how recklessly warped his judgment had become. He takes time to answer, and finally says, “I thought it was worth the risk.”
So there you have it – a RESOLUTION, with a hint of more story to follow. In the end, both Ronnie and the Mayor fall for the same reason: they did not follow their conscience. Ronnie took the journey for money and employment. Jon blindly reached for validation, sexual and social. Both knew their paths were “risky.” Both hoped it would pay off. And in the end, they failed, with lessons to be learned all around.
Ronnie was tested, she overcame her defeat and rebuilt her resolve with more strength and conviction. Jon however, was left a broken man with just a glimmer of insight coming to his mind. Will he change now, for the better? We’re not sure. Will Ronnie again ignore her inner voice? Never again. But is there really a winner and loser? Can life be reduced to just black and white, good guys and bad guys? Or is it all shades of gray? You decide, and tell us…
When is the risk worth it?
And one more thing… This weekend I added social media link buttons and spam filters. If any of you cannot leave your comments because my program thinks you are spam, please notify me by using the CONTACT IRV box. Thank you.