“Remind me again why Amelia isn’t doing this?”
Celia glanced up from her desk at my question, looking surprised. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, shouldn’t she be more involved in her own campaign? Ethics aside, I feel like it would cultivate a better public image. If she were more involved in the process in here, then naturally she’d look more like she knows what she’s doing out there.”
“Oh.” She sounded almost embarrassed. “Well, I think she was, the first time. But now she has all her work for council as well, you see? So she hires people like us to do it for her.”
I shrugged, and returned my attention to the cork board I’d been scrutinising for the past half hour. Something about it was still bothering me. If Amelia was concerned about losing votes, then surely there must be a different, better way to campaign. I just had to work out what it was. I tilted my head to the side – as if that would help – and groaned in frustration.
“There has to be a solution here somewhere,” I muttered to myself. Amelia had sat on the town council for three years running, meaning three successful elections. Three successful (and, from what I could tell, more or less identical) campaigns. But this year, enthusiasm for her cause seemed to have dropped significantly. Volunteers were scarce, and fundraising had been disappointing thus far. Apparently, a change was needed if she wanted to secure a fourth year in office. But what could be done? Frustrated, I racked my brains for a new idea, some untapped resource I could use, even someone I could talk to…
Of course. Weren’t they always going on about connections at university? Hadn’t Professor Cadence herself assured me that she would always be available should I ever need someone to turn to for career advice? I retrieved my phone from my desk and dialled her number, ignoring Celia’s questioning looks. She picked up on the third ring.
“Marian Cadence speaking.”
“Hello, Professor? It’s Diana Hunter.”
“Diana!” She sounded both surprised and pleased. “It’s lovely to hear from you. How are you doing?”
“I’m doing fine, thank you. Actually, I’m at work right now; I’m working on an election campaign for a local politician, and I was wondering if maybe you could give me a few pointers.”
“Of course, I’d be happy to. Tell me about the campaign.”
I explained the situation to her as best I could. When I finished, she was silent for a few moments.
“Well, without enough volunteers for the cause, it’s going to be hard to carry out any kind of face-to-face canvasing. That’s a problem.”
I nodded eagerly. “That’s what I thought.”
“But volunteer numbers need to take a back seat for now. If your campaign is appealing, it won’t be a problem for long. I would recommend finding out what people are interested in, and gearing your aims towards that.”
I frowned. “But how are we going to get people’s opinions without having anyone to send out on surveys?”
“How’s your online presence?”
“Your online presence. People spend a lot more time glued to their computers nowadays! If you want your campaign to reach people, you need to have a strong online presence so people will remember you. Make your cause accessible.”
“Accessible. Got it. We’ll give it a try! Thank you so much, Professor.”
“Any time, Diana. Let me know how it goes.”
“What was all that about?” Celia asked as I ended the call.
“That was my college professor,” I told her. “She gave me some good ideas. I think we’re finally onto something!”
That evening as I sat alone at the family computer downstairs, I tried to come up with the best ways to get the campaign going online. I supposed the first step would be to make a page on every social media platform I could, and keep them all regularly updated. I sighed. That would mean a lot of extra work for Celia or me, or both. I logged onto my business profile and clicked on “create a page”. Immediately, I was presented with a slew of questions. What was our name? Were we a cause, an institution, a person, or a business? What was our target audience? What was our image, our slogan? And a hundred other things I hadn’t even begun to consider yet.
Step two: make people want to support it. We’d need something attractive, a good image, a good tagline. What exactly did Amelia stand for? “Vote Amelia Jefferson: Power to the People!” I snorted. The only way that would work was if by “power to the people” you meant “everyone else does all the work”. She had been in politics for a while, so in some ways “The devil you know” seemed more accurate, though I wasn’t sure if Amelia would be too pleased with the implications behind a slogan like that.
Around ten at night, Dad and Luc came downstairs and started making a ruckus in the kitchen, opening and closing cupboards and discussing recipes and ingredients. I sat up in the chair and stuck my head over the monitor so I could see what they were doing.
“What are you two up to?” I asked curiously.
Luc looked surprised as he turned to me. “We’re baking cakes. It’s the twins’ birthday tomorrow, remember?”
I gasped. “Crap, I totally forgot! I’m sorry, I’ve just been so busy with work…” I trailed off as Luc shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it, babe. You finish what you’re working on and your dad and I will take care of the cakes. Just as long as you’re here to celebrate with us tomorrow, okay?”
I nodded, feeling rather ashamed in spite of the lack of criticism. The next morning, I was in the kitchen bright and early with a twin on each hip, ready and determined to make up for almost having forgotten my babies’ birthday. The cakes were beautiful, and the twins were completely over-excited. Luc gave me his usual morning kiss on the lips as he took Hugo from my aching arms. As he pulled back, he examined the dark circles under my eyes with a critical frown.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Di?” he asked with concern. “You seem like you’ve been working really hard lately. Don’t you think you might be overdoing it a bit?”
I shook my head. “I’m fine,” I assured him, with what I hoped was a convincing smile. “Let’s not make the kids wait any longer.”
I watched happily as first Hugo, then Hope, blew out their birthday candles with the help of their daddy. Mum handed me a party horn, while Dad and Gabriel stood by with noisemakers, clacking them wildly.
I’m probably a little biased, but my kids were the most beautiful I’d ever seen. It was funny, because I’d never been overly fond of children before Gabriel was born. Now that I had three, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Hugo had inherited Dad’s white-blond hair and Mum’s dark blue eyes. Luc insisted that he looked just like me, but I could have sworn he had his father’s lips.
Hope, meanwhile, took after Luc in both features and attitude. She was lovely, but hot-tempered, and with a rebellious streak that (thank goodness) neither of her brothers seemed to share.
Luc tried to convince me to take a few days off work after the twins’ birthday to celebrate as a family, but with the campaign deadline this close I really couldn’t afford to rest. Celia and I were now hard at work promoting the campaign across social media, while Amelia demanded frequent updates on follower numbers, expected votes, ratings, and how the campaign itself was progressing. Celia also suggested that we throw a party to raise both funds and awareness for the campaign. Although Amelia disapproved at first, it was hard for her to protest once the simoleons started rolling in.
By the evening before the election, we had done all that we could to ensure Amelia’s political success, and our own job security. Now all we could do was wait.
“I really think we’ve got a good shot at winning this, Diana,” Celia confided to me as we left the office. “We’ve done everything we can.” I nodded, but didn’t reply. The fear of failure squeezing at my insides was all I could think about.
Amelia had agreed to give us both a week off work while the electoral votes were being tallied, which meant I had an entire week to spend with my family for the first time since I’d gone back to work. I felt guilty that I hadn’t been keeping up with my kids’ lives as I should have been, and told myself that this was my chance to change that.
For their birthdays, both Hugo and Hope had graduated from the nursery into their own brand-new bedrooms, decorated in their favourite colours. Hope’s was white and fit for a princess, with a small rocking horse in the corner that Hugo inexplicably preferred far above his own. When questioned, he simply explained that “this one rocks higher”.
Hugo had moved into Gabriel’s old room, while Gabriel had set himself and his easel up in the newly remodelled nursery.
When I returned home on the last Friday evening before my week off, I slipped into Hugo’s room to say goodnight and found my Dad reading Hugo his favourite book, Rise of the Gnomes: The Incredible Story of the Starlight Gnomes’ Journey to Victory. The Starlight Gnomes were Hugo’s favourite football team. He was sure he wanted to join them someday, and in the meantime his bedroom walls were plastered in orange-red-and-blue team posters.
“… but the Gnomes’ first victory was only one of many more to come.” Dad looked up as he finished the chapter and smiled when he saw me standing in the doorway. “Good night, buddy,” he murmured, bending down to kiss Hugo’s cheek. “I think your mum’s here to say goodnight as well!”
Hugo sat up in bed and grinned when he saw me. “Hi, Mummy.”
“Hey, sweetie,” I replied with a smile. “Are you going to sleep now?”
He nodded. “Yup! But not before we say goodnight.”
I laughed. “Of course not. Goodnight, my lad.” Hugo reached up to throw his arms around my neck as I kissed his flushed little cheek. “Sweet dreams.”
After I had switched off the light and left the room, I found Dad waiting outside the door for me. “I just wanted to say,” he said as we walked down the hallway towards Hope’s bedroom, “that I think it’s good that you’re doing this. Taking a week off work. You need it, honey, and the kids need it. They miss you. And Luc worries about you.”
I sighed. “I know. Thanks, Dad.”
Hope was already asleep when we got to her room, Luc having put her to bed after reading her own favourite story. Dad sat gently on the side of her bed and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Goodnight, sweet pea.”
She smiled in her sleep as I approached, and when I kissed her goodnight she halfheartedly pursed her lips in return. “Goodnight, Mummy,” she murmured sleepily. “I love you.”
The week that followed was, dare I saw it, one of the best I had enjoyed in a long time. Luc and I bought a slip-n-slide for the kids, and spent the hot summer days encouraging them to play on it, splashing around in the pool together, visiting the festival in town and roasting marshmallows over the backyard fire pit. When the week was finally over, I almost didn’t want to go back to work. Almost.
The night that the election results were announced, I got a phone call from Celia during dinner, and excused myself from the table to take it in the next room. “Hey, Celia. What’s going on? Did they release the election results yet?”
“Yes!” she almost yelled. “Diana, we did it! We won!”
I should have felt pleased, or relieved. Instead, all I could feel was envy for Amelia. I could never be satisfied where I was.