Playing Charlie Cool (contemporary fiction)
|Television producer Charlie Trager knows he’s lucky to have a successful career and good friends and family who support him. The man he loves, however, is not so lucky. Joshua Goldberg suffers the spite of an ex-wife gunning to keep him from their two children…and maybe Charlie. Determined not to let Joshua go, Charlie crafts a scheme that could remove the obstacles to their relationship…or destroy their love forever.|
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As if a stranger lived within the silvered glass of the master bedroom’s mirror, Adam Joshua Goldberg watched the reflection straighten his tie. His chest rose and fell rapidly as his lips moved, committing to memory the short speech for the cameras and microphones at Gracie Mansion. He’d already submitted his formal resignation from the mayor’s staff, which had been accepted with the respect he’d grown accustomed to by virtue of owning a last name famous beyond New York politics. But what would happen after he told the media, not often known for their kindness, he had no idea.
“Joshie, you don’t have to do this.” Deidre’s voice, and the nickname only she and his mother used, threatened to weaken him, but he could not afford to enter this arena unarmored. She reached toward the nightstand for a tissue, dabbing carefully beneath her eyes to preserve her makeup.
“Yeah.” He stared himself down in the mirror, willing away his pallor, such a contrast to his dark hair, eyes, and suit. “I do.”
“We could just”—she turned her palms up in surrender—“disappear. Until it blows over. People do that. Move upstate. Find a new school for the kids…”
“Deidre.” He knelt beside her and rested his head against her pink-skirted knees. “If you want to disappear, I wouldn’t blame you. I can handle it on my own.”
“A promise is a promise,” she said. “I agreed to stand beside you.”
The laugh strangled in his throat. “Isn’t that how we got into this in the first place?”
Her face softened.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just…ready to jump out of my skin, here. After hiding for so long, I need this.”
She patted his head. “Adam. Come up here. Sit with me.”
Reluctantly he rose and perched next to her on the bed. Her bed, technically. For the last six months—since he’d told her about Charlie—Adam had been sleeping in the guest room. The move was not out of anger on her part; on the contrary, she’d offered it to him as a courtesy, out of respect.
He took her hand, squeezed it.
“It’ll be okay, Deidre.”
“It most certainly will not be okay. Do you have any idea what they’re going to do to you? To your family?”
“Dad already knows.”
Her eyes widened.
“That’s where I was last night. You were asleep when I got home.”
She patted his arm as if to convince herself he was still there. “Well. The senator didn’t kill you, so I guess that’s good.”
A corner of his mouth crooked up. “I can’t say that he was thrilled. He tore me a new one about keeping it secret for so long. What it would do to his grandchildren. And any future I might have in politics. And you, of course.”
She didn’t answer.
He turned to look out the brownstone’s window at the terrace garden. “I can keep the press away from you. Anything they want to ask, they can ask me.”
She didn’t answer.
“Like I said, you can keep the house. I won’t contest it. I’ll move into that apartment Dad’s firm keeps near Columbus Circle.”
“That’s such a horrid little place.”
He shrugged. “It’s just for now. I want you to be happy, Dee. You deserve so much more.”
She didn’t answer.
“I know I’m in no position to make demands, but I want to see the kids. I want to be part of their lives.”
Her lower lip began to tremble. Tears streamed down her face. He curled her into his arms, acutely aware of how fragile she felt in them, and cried with her. After a while she sniffed and said, “You’ll be late.”
“For my own hanging?” He smirked. “I think the press will stick around.”
While Deidre freshened her makeup, he sent a text to Charlie, a favorite quote from Ben Franklin: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither.
The reply came within moments. He glanced down, expecting a quip, but nearly teared up again when he read: When strength and fear shake hands, it can move mountains. Go move mountains, my friend.
The words pulsed in him, confirmed that he was doing the right thing. Trying to keep his hands from shaking, he wrote back: When they speak of me, remember me well.
The phone trilled with a reply—Unforgettable, that’s what you are—followed by a smiling emoticon.
Adam grinned. That was the Charlie he knew. The Charlie who’d been so patient with him, and for so long.
High heels clicked into the doorway. She was staring at the phone in his hands, the remnants of the smile on his face.
Her voice barely broke into sound. “I envy you.”
“Aw, Deidre, don’t.”
“No. It’s true. When this is over, you’ll have support. You’ll have a community. I’ll have…pity. People looking at me everywhere I go, wondering how in this day and age a woman could be so clueless not to know that she’s marrying a gay man. Or worse, that I did it on purpose. That we’d made some sort of…political arrangement. The perfect candidate’s perfect wife.”
He crossed to her and took her in his arms. “Screw what they think. You’re none of those things, and I’ll defend you with my dying breath.”
She pushed away. “Stop. I don’t want to fix my makeup again. Just…let’s go.”