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Campaign Trail

“So what do you say, Lilly, want to go hear me give my campaign speech?” Jake asked his youngest daughter.

“Sure, it’s not really my thing, but I will be as supportive as I can be.” Lilly knew that it was a sure thing that her father would be re-elected, but she always thought how nice it was that he took the city of Savannah so seriously. He really wanted it to be the best city in America. Lilly always warned him that if he made it too desirable, they would lose their hidden treasure.

“Am I dressed ok?” Lilly asked, looking down at her sundress with daisies against the blue background. She had pulled her hair back into a French twist, and a few tendrils fell along her jawline. She had on sandals and wondered if she should change them.

“You look gorgeous!” her father remarked as he gave her two thumbs up for approval.

“Ok, but if I make a fool out of myself or you, it’s not my fault,” Lilly laughed out loud, remembering one year she showed up with Ricky, and they were caught kissing by the media. That got more news than her father’s election speech. Ironically, remembering it didn’t bother her, maybe because the story her father always told was how she was trying to catch him off-guard. He couldn’t imagine his daughter ever being old enough to kiss.

Lilly excused herself so she could go upstairs and finish her make-up. She wanted to look nice for her father but because of the heat, she opted to keep the sundress on as well as the sandals. She added some jewelry and grabbed her purse, and met her father at the bottom of the stairs.

“Ready,” she said with a huge smile. Lilly loved spending time with father, and she was glad that neither her mother nor he pressed her on the whole Ricky situation.

In the car, she listened as her dad went over his speech. He had an entire team that worked for him, and since this was a re- election, his staff were even more helpful, as it meant their jobs.

“Have you spoken to your competitor, Larry Bower? Does he think he has a real shot this time?” Lilly asked her father. Larry had run against him several times, but since Jake was doing such a good job, and there were no scandals in the Williams family, he was pretty much left high and dry in the slander arena. Jake, on the other hand, refused to show his constituent’s flaws. He didn’t like running a dirty race. He always said, “When the people don’t want me to lead, I won’t. No foul, no harm.” Lilly really respected her father because Larry was a blow-hard and always said he would do this or that to improve the community, but it was really her father and his team that made Savannah the city that it was.

“No, not really. He’s got a new campaign manager, but I haven’t spoken to her,” Jake said without looking at his daughter.

“Her? Really? Larry the Bozo is having a woman run his campaign? I am shocked. Do we know her? Is she a local?”

“Ok, stop calling him that, Lilly. He’s a nice enough man and yes we know the campaign manager,” her father reprimanded her.

“You are killing me. Who is it?” Lilly pleaded to know more.

“It’s Lauren,” Jake simply said.
“Lauren Waincroft?” Lilly asked in disbelief. “I knew she was taking political science, but I didn’t realize that she was already here, running a campaign.”

“I believe he just hired her maybe a couple of weeks ago,” Jake said softly, and then grabbed his daughter’s hand and asked if she would be ok.

“Sure, Dad. I’m fine. Just a little shocked.” To say the least, she was shocked. They had just graduated a couple of weeks ago. It had taken her nearly two weeks before she could get home and Lauren was already job-searching- no, take that back, she already had a job, and one for which the primary purpose was to take her father down.

“Honey, I know you are racking your pretty little head, but I’m not worried. Lauren has nothing on me, because truth be told, I’m pretty boring. I gather from your mother that you and Lauren aren’t speaking to each other, but that has nothing to do with me. I’m fine,” Jake tried to reassure her.

“It’s just that, Dad, Lauren isn’t the same person we knew growing up. She’s changed. She’s ambitious, and when she wants something, she doesn’t let anything stop her from getting it. Regardless of who she hurts,” Lilly said without thinking about her father, but her own friendship and her ex-boyfriend.

She knew that Ricky wasn’t innocent but Lauren had set her sights on him, and he just was intoxicated by her words and actions. Lauren was more detestable to her than Ricky because Lauren was her best friend, her confidant, her ally, her bodyguard. Lauren was closer to her than even her own sister, and she felt a huge betrayal from her.

“Sometimes that happens, honey. Lauren was probably jealous of you all those years, and it finally crept its little head and then she lost sight of herself and her morals. You need to learn to forgive Ricky and Lauren, otherwise those two will have an immense hold on you, emotionally,” Jake said while squeezing Lilly’s hand.

“I know, Dad. I promise I will work on it. I was just taken back by seeing Ricky at the airport and now Lauren at your campaign. It’s like they are pushing me out of my own home, my comfort spot,” Lilly said with her eyes downcast.

“You are not being pushed out of your home. Your mother and I love you dearly, and you are always welcomed home. Don’t worry about Ricky or Lauren. I just wanted you to be prepared in the event she approaches you.”

“She better not!” Lilly snapped back.

Her father just grinned and said, “Well I may have a show on my hand today, after all. Behave yourself,” he said, mocking her.

She just smiled back and reached over and kissed her father on the cheek.

When they reached the hotel, she was surprised by how many people were holding ‘Bower for Mayor’ posters.

“Where are your supporters, Dad?” Lilly asked.

“Good question,” he said as he reached for his cell phone and contacted his campaign manager. “Hey, Luke, I’m down at the hotel and all we see are Bower supporters. Where’s ours?”

Luke Calhoun was a very nice man. He was probably in his mid-thirties, about the same age as Cole. He was married and had three children, and worked very hard on keeping Lilly’s father in office.

“Jake, I don’t know. We gave everyone their posters and pins and sent them off. Let me see what’s going on.”

“Ok, we will circle the block and see if we see anything,” her father informed.

“Something is not right. I don’t know what it is, but we will figure it out,” Jake reassured his daughter.

She knew what was wrong: Lauren. Somehow she had gotten rid of her father’s supporters. Lilly knew it deep down in her toes.

Sure enough, Luke called back and said that someone called and said that the hotel had a fire, and that the rally was being held at city hall. “They are en route right now, Jake. Just stall as long as you can. They should be there in fifteen minutes or less,” Luke said, embarrassed. He wasn’t surprised that Larry had tried this, because he was desperate, but it really was beneath them.

“No problem, son. We’ll just go and get a soda while we wait.” Jake said in response, trying to calm his manager down.

“Dad, you know this is Lauren, right? Larry couldn’t think of this on his own.” Lilly appealed to her father to see Lauren in a different light.

“Perhaps. I can’t imagine Larry lying to people. He’s always been an honest competitor. But we don’t know that for sure, so no accusations. You hear me?”

“Yes, Dad, I hear you, but I’d bet my last dollar that Lauren is behind this.”

Lilly decided to drop the subject and enjoy the nice soda with her father. They talked about Luke and his family and how much they wanted to be grandparents.

“Mom told me that Sara is still having problems getting pregnant,” Lilly said, hoping that her mother hadn’t kept that from him.

“Yes, it’s really sad. She and Cole would make great parents.”

“Really? I guess I just don’t know Cole that much. He seems like a workaholic and Sara is high-strung. Not a great combination for parenting.” Lilly offered her opinion, although it wasn’t asked.

“You will get to know Cole better when you move there. He’s a great son-in-law. He really takes care of Sara, and yes, she’s high- strung but she always has been. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be good parents.”

“See, you said ‘good’, not great. I honestly, can’t see Sara being a mother, but I haven’t seen her in years.”

“I think it will be good for her, and you too, to be closer,” Jake said as he looked down at his watch.

He didn’t want to be late to his own rally, but wasn’t sure if being late was better than having the media see none of his supporters nearby.

Luke called as if on cue, and said that there were fully staffed and ready for his arrival.

Lilly knew this had to be fuming Lauren, and she let out a little smile knowing that her father wasn’t going to be brought down by Lauren Waincroft.

When they pulled up to the hotel, it was teeming with supporters carrying posters that read: “Williams for Mayor” and “Jake is not fake.”

Lilly couldn’t help but laugh when she saw them. The implications were that their opponent was fake, and even if he wasn’t, his campaign manager was.

Jake got out of the car, waving to his supporters and to the media, and walked over and opened the passenger door and let Lilly exit. She looked beautiful, with her blond hair twisted in a knot and light make-up. She looked light and summery; just what Savannah was known for.

She stood back and watched as her father worked the line, shaking hands, talking with the media, openly answering questions and finally escorting his daughter into the hotel lobby.

Once inside the hotel, Lauren came around the corner and said, “We were wondering if you were coming,” and then gave Lilly an up-and-down look.

Her father grabbed her hand and apologized for their tardiness but offered no excuses.

The three of them entered into the hotel ballroom, where they met up with Luke and his team. Lauren made her excuses and left, much to Lilly’s relief. She didn’t realize it but she had been holding her breath, wondering if Lauren was going to acknowledge her presence, which she didn’t.

Luke and Lilly exchanged hugs and pleasantries, and then they watched as Jake entered the stage and shook hands with his opponent, Larry Bowers.

Larry made his speech first, as he was the challenger. He mentioned how he wanted to beef up tourism, improve their shorelines against tropical or hurricane storms, and basically that was the extent of his speech.

To Savannah locals, they didn’t want to beef up tourism. Being the “Hostess City of the South,” they had their fare share of tourism. People each year came to see their cobblestone streets, their Southern Plantation landmarks, their parks and historical buildings. Added to that, their sailing competitions drew in plenty of spectators. Savannah was the most historical city in the state of Georgia, so millions naturally flocked to it.

So basically Larry was saying that they would crowd their cities up even more and make it harder on the police departments and civil servants.

“Yeah, that wouldn’t go over too well with the locals,” Lilly muttered under her breath.

Jake got up there and thanked everyone for another four years, and that he looked forward to continuing their success by winning the mayoral position for another four years.

The crowds cheered and clapped. Lilly was beaming with excitement. She knew that the locals loved her father and mother. They only wanted what was right for the city, and worked tirelessly to make it happen. Her father didn’t make specific campaign promises; instead he said that his goal was to have “not only the most beautiful city in Georgia, but the most respected and well-paid law enforcement in Georgia.” Again, the crowds cheered.

Jake then promised that he would continue with the Stevens- Day Bill, providing tax relief to Georgia homeowners. He closed by saying, “The people of Savannah have placed their trust in us, the Williams, and we will not fail them. We understand that the world is changing and that we have great problems, but we are a great people. As President Kennedy once said, “...Our problems are man-made, therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.” The solutions to our problems depend on us working together, united. Our city is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world for both tourist and locals alike. We must stand together, as if on the shoulders of giants and work to improve our city together.”

When Jake stopped speaking, everyone was applauding, except for Lauren, Lilly noticed.

“You think you can hurt us, but we are giants,” Lilly said looking at Lauren’s direction.

Jake and Lilly left the arena nearly an hour later, after speaking to so many people. When she walked outside, she slipped on her sunshades and noticed that Lauren was standing by their car.

Lilly excused herself and headed toward Lauren. She didn’t want to confront her, but Lauren was determined to speak whether Lilly wanted it or not.

“Hey, Lilly. Your dad did an amazing job. He is really good with the people,” Lauren said while looking at her feet.

“He was just being honest. He loves this city and will do everything he can to protect it from people bent on hurting it,” Lilly sneered. She, however, didn’t look away from Lauren. She had nothing to be ashamed of, so she held her head high.

“Look, Lilly, I know I owe you an explanation,” Lauren started, but Lilly interrupted her.

“No, Lauren, you don’t. What happened happened. I’m over it.

Ricky and I have been over for nearly six months, so if you want to date him, you can. I really don’t care.”

“He’s not interested in me. This is my fault,” Lauren said, still looking down.

“Honestly, I don’t care, Lauren. I have cried and yelled until there was nothing left in me. You and Ricky deserve each other. So let’s just call it as it is. We are no longer friends, and we will never be friends again. I don’t hate you, but I have no respect for you. You broke my heart, and I just want to cleanse myself of you and Ricky,” Lilly stated as she started to open the car door. She figured it was better if she sat in a hot car than to get overheated because of Lauren.

“I hate that. I really do. I wish we could be friends again, but I understand. Goodbye, Lilly,” Lauren said as she started to walk away.

Lauren stopped to talk to her father, and when Jake got back in the car, Lilly inquired about their conversation.

“She said that I deserved to be mayor, and that she was going to tell her client that he really didn’t have a platform to run against me. She also said that you told her that you didn’t want to be friends anymore,” he said, looking inquiringly at his daughter.

“Did she tell you why?” Lilly asked.

“Just that she broke your heart and that you could never forgive her.”

“Yep, that about sums it up,” Lilly said, looking out the window, trying to fight back the tears.

She remembered like it was yesterday when she walked into her dorm and caught Lauren and Ricky in bed. Lauren had slept with boys/men before, and knew that Lilly was not willing to go that far with Ricky. She had to be sure before she gave up her virginity. Boy, was she happy that she didn’t, because it was obvious that he wasn’t the one to have her.

“Honey, I don’t want to pry but are you sure there’s no way of fixing it? You guys have been friends for over twenty years,” Jake asked his daughter.

“No, Dad, there’s no way. We were friends for twenty years but in one night she robbed me of my trust, loyalty and friendship, not to mention my boyfriend,” Lilly said while trying to make light of the situation.

“Honey, I’m sorry. I was afraid that was it but I didn’t want to assume. Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ve had time to get over it. It’s been nearly six months. I just want to get on with the next chapter of my life. I am ready for Houston!” she said with more enthusiasm in her voice.

Later that night Larry called to renounce his candidacy, and said that he was going to recommend to city council to just cancel the voting, as Jake was now uncontested for another four years.

“Can they do that?” Jackie asked her husband.

“It’s never been done, to my knowledge. Either way, it’s ok. At least I don’t have to keep campaigning.” Jake laughed.

They said their goodnights, and Lilly went upstairs, reflecting on her visit thus far. She’s had run-ins with the two people she didn’t care to ever see again. Now she just needed to contact the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and officially accept the job and start getting prepared for adulthood.

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