Victoria falls for her husband's political rival
|This is a sequel to "Love in the Time of the Pandemic Part 1" by The Puppet Master |
Victoria Naberg, new wife of President Gabriel Naberg, settled into her new life at the Presidential Palace of DeLorea. While her previous pre-pandemic days had been taken up with shooting assignments for the Katzenstadt Herald she now spent them attending international summits and press conferences, representing DeLorea. She also got to ride atop convertibles in parades and give motivational speeches at graduations. She continued her puppet shows at the local schools, which she edited based on her stepchildren's reactions.
She called home to her mother in California. "How do you like being First Lady?" asked her mother.
"It's fun and interesting, but I never knew how stressful it is to be in front of the camera instead of behind it."
"True. How's it going with Gabriel?" said her mother.
"My marriage to him isn't what I thought it would be. He's not as affectionate as I expected. By the time he gets out of the office, it's late. He doesn't have much energy left to give me and the kids."
"Sorry to hear. How are the kids?"
"They're great. I love how responsive they are to my shows, and I'm having a blast watching them learn and grow. I hope I'm being a suitable mother to them. But Gabriel doesn't give them much attention, either. I'm disappointed in him."
"You should have a talk with him. Maybe you can get him to improve."
"Will do. Thanks, Mom. Love you."
"Love you too. Talk to you again soon." After hanging up, Victoria decided to confront Gabriel that very night
Around 11 pm, Victoria sat in the living room, with its ornate furniture and quaint wallpaper, as Gabriel arrived home. "I need to talk to you," she said.
"What's the matter, love?" He set down his briefcase and removed his jacket before sitting across from her.
"You're not giving the kids and I enough attention," she said. "Our marriage isn't what I expected, and I feel disappointed."
"I thought you would shower me with love and attention, but all you do is work..."
"My old wife, Janet, said the same thing," he sighed. "I have to work like that to give the kids a better upbringing than what I had. I'm sorry I am disappointing you." He crossed the room and hugged her. "I will try to do better."
Victoria kept waiting for him to make good on that promise, yet he continued his workaholic ways. A couple of years after their marriage, Gabriel learned of a threat to his Presidency. He would be up for reelection against a young, mysterious challenger. Soon the two contenders took the stage of a large, crowded auditorium with cameras rolling. Each stood behind a podium.
"Welcome to the first DeLorea Presidential Debate of 2022," said the moderator. "Tonight, we host the liberal President Gabriel Naberg and his conservative opponent, Parliament Member Kyle Kirby. We will ask both of you questions and you will have a maximum of two minutes to reply. First question is for Mr.Kirby - what would you do differently from the President if elected?"
The cameras and all eyes in the auditorium fell on Kirby. "The first thing I would do would be to reverse the current State of Emergency maintained by Naberg. We've dealt with it for two years now. If he can take vacations and host events in Delorea, then such a proclamation is no longer necessary. The second thing I would do would be to repeal the masking and vaccination mandates as Naberg lacks the authority to institute them..."
Victoria sat in the front row. She stared at Kirby as he spoke in a relatively high-pitched, rapid voice. She gazed at his short, auburn hair and clean-shaven face. He's pretty attractive, she thought to herself. Gabriel isn't giving me enough attention, and Kyle seems like he would be more attentive. And he has such a pleasant voice and strong speaking style...
"President Naberg, what is your reply to Mr. Kirby's statements?" asked the moderator.
"We need to keep the State of Emergency. People are still dying from the virus in droves. We aren't done with the pandemic yet." Gabriel smoothed his greying hair.
"Then why did you just get back from a vacation on the French Riviera? And why are you inviting the Prague Comic-Con to move to DeLorea?" shot Kirby.
"I took my family to France for the sake of my children. I wanted them to see the world and have a better upbringing than what I had. And I encouraged Comic-Con to move here because it would help our faltering economy..."
"The reason why the economy is faltering in the first place is because you shut everything down!" said Kirby. "You overstepped your authority by doing that and instituting the mandates."
"Without the mandates, not enough people will wear masks or get vaccinated," said Naberg. "The pandemic would be prolonged even more."
"People should be doing those things if they can because it's the smart, right thing to do, not because you mandated them to do it. They should have freedom of choice with what they do with their bodies," said Kirby.
"Your ideas sound pretty American for a European legislator," said Naberg.
"That's because I am originally from America," said Kirby.
"Okay, let's stick to the questions," said the moderator. The two men debated for an hour on a myriad of topics. As Victoria watched and listened, she thought, The more I listen to Kyle, the more I want to be with him. Gabriel is a disappointment. I need something new.
After a while, the moderator asked, "Mr. Kirby, what is one thing President Naberg has done well?"
"He's done an excellent job of screwing us over." Kirby pounded the podium as he finished his statement.
"President Naberg, why should the people of DeLorea keep you in office for another term?" asked the moderator.
Naberg looked straight into the cameras and said, "If you elect this young whippersnapper, he won't do jack to protect you and keep you healthy. At least I can go to bed at night knowing I did everything I could to help you. Remember that at the polls this November."
"Mr. Kirby, similar question - why should DeLorea elect you to the presidency?"
"Voting for me means you won't have to deal with government overreach any more. You will be free to live your life as you see fit, not as the President tells you to."
After the debate, the Nabergs went home and got ready for bed. "How did I do, love?" asked Gabriel.
"You did fine, but I think Kyle won."
"Screw him!" said Naberg.
They went to sleep. As Victoria lay next to Gabriel, she fantasized that it was Kyle.
The next day, Victoria stopped by a nearby coffee shop for her morning fix. Her eyes lit up as she realized the man in front of her in line was Kirby. "Hello, Kyle," she ventured.
Kirby turned around. "Oh, hello, Mrs. Naberg." He turned back towards the counter.
"You can call me Victoria. I thought you did a stellar job last night." She gently placed her hand on his shoulder and relished the soft texture of his jacket. He turned around a second time.
"Thanks," said Kirby. Their brown eyes met for the first time, .
"I think you're cute," whispered Victoria.
Kirby smiled. "Thanks. May I buy you your coffee?"
"That's so sweet!" said Victoria. "Thank you!"
Kirby ordered the coffees and paid for them before the two took a seat outside. "Tell me about yourself," said Victoria, leaning in.
"Well, there's not a whole lot to tell. I'm not a very interesting person..." Kirby fidgeted.
"I think you are," said Victoria. "I heard you say in the debate you're from America?"
"Affirmative," said Kirby.
"So am I! I grew up in California," said Victoria.
"So did I," said Kirby.
"Nice! We have something in common," said Victoria. "What do you enjoy doing?"
"Well,...I love flying," said Kirby. "I'm an amateur pilot."
"Fascinating," said Victoria as she sipped her coffee. "What type of plane do you fly?"
"Cessna 172," said Kirby. "I've flown other Cessnas, but I like the 172 the best. My dad used to fly one and he'd take my brothers and I on flights when we were kids..."
Victoria gazed into Kirby's eyes as he spoke. He's gorgeous, she thought. She suddenly cut him off mid-sentence. "Are you taken?"
"Not yet," said Kirby. "I was expecting to be married by now, but it just didn't work out that way."
"Sometimes life is like that," said Victoria. "What else do you do?"
Kirby fidgeted for a moment before saying, "Well...I swing dance."
"Me too! I heard there's a swing dance tomorrow night at the Schloss Tavern in downtown Katzenstadt. Would you like to go with me?" said Victoria.
"But you're married to my opponent! I can't be seen out in public with my enemy's wife..."
"You're younger, more attractive, and more confident than Gabriel. Come with me. It's just for fun."
"I'm going for a flight tomorrow. Would you like to ride along instead?" asked Kirby.
"I would love that! I've never been on a Cessna before!" said Victoria.
"I'll pick you up at nine," said Kirby.
"Great!," said Victoria. She reached across the table and squeezed Kirby's hand. "See you tomorrow."
Kirby returned the gesture with the words, "See you then," before departing. Victoria sighed as he left.
As Victoria arrived home, Gabriel stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. "Where have you been all morning?"
"I was having coffee with Kyle," said Victoria as she nervously smoothed her hair.
"What the deuce are you doing, running off with him like that? Don't you know you're still married to me?!"
"It was just coffee. Relax," said Victoria. "It's not like we were doing anything immoral..."
"But you're going to!" Gabriel slammed his fist on the table.
"I didn't say that! Kyle and I are going for a flight tomorrow and you can't stop us!"
"He's going after my job and my wife! I will make him pay for this!" said Naberg as his eyes narrowed.
The next morning, Kirby pulled up to the gates of the Palace in his sapphire blue sedan. He stopped at the gate and said to the attendant, "I'm here to pick up the First Lady."
"Is she expecting you?" said the attendant.
"Affirmative," said Kirby.
"Let me call her to verify." The attendant called Victoria's cell.
Victoria, seated in the kitchen with its maple cabinets, pale yellow walls and a bay window looking out to the garden, finished eating her pancakes as she answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, there's a man at the gate who says he is here to pick you up. Is this legit?"
"Yes, it's my friend," she said. "I will be out to meet him in a few minutes."
"Okay, I will let him in." He opened the gate, and Kirby drove up to the palace.
Victoria left the kitchen and crossed the living room, which had a small organ in the corner and tall windows covered in lace curtains. Antique furniture of a dark sapphire hue surrounded a circular rug with blue roses depicted on it. Victoria opened the ornate, white double doors, smoothed her hair, grabbed her purse, and approached the car. Gabriel looked out a third story window of the Victorian styled palace, which had a pale blue exterior with navy blue trim and tiles that resembled fish scales. There was a wraparound porch and a turret on the left side. As Gabriel peered out of the turret through the white lace curtains, he could make out Kirby in the driver's seat. He won't get away with this, thought Naberg. He gathered his bodyguards and had his driver follow Kirby's car to the airport. Upon arrival, they left the car and approached the tarmac, surreptitiously watching as Kirby and Victoria boarded the plane, noting which plane it was and where Kirby parked it. They then departed.
Victoria listened to Kirby communicate with air traffic control but couldn't understand most of what they said. As Kirby pulled the yoke, commencing the flight, Victoria grinned as they took to the air. "Wow! This is really cool!" she said.
"Glad you're enjoying it," said Kirby.
They flew for a few kilometers. Victoria marveled at how small everything on the ground looked. It's so peaceful up here, she thought.
After landing, Victoria said, "That was awesome. Thank you!"
"Welcome," replied Kirby. Victoria waited in the car while Kirby refueled and locked the plane. He then drove her home.
That evening, close to closing time, Naberg had his entourage return to the airport. "Wait here while I go check on something," he said to his bodyguards. He approached Kirby's Cessna 172 and opened the fuel tank. It was already dark, and no one else was around. I'll leave some fuel so he can reach a dangerous altitude, then the plane will run out of fuel and crash. I won't have to put up with him any more. thought Naberg as the fuel dripped out of the plane. He quietly departed from the plane and returned to the car, unnoticed.
The next morning, a maintenance worker at the airport passed Kirby's Cessna 172 and noticed all of the spilled oil under it. "That's odd," he said before mopping it up.
A couple hours later, Kirby arrived at the airport and boarded the Cessna. I just refueled after yesterday's flight, so everything should be good, he thought to himself. He radioed air traffic control, "984VB Cessna 172 requesting permission for takeoff."
"Taxi to five seven, line up and wait," they replied.
"Ten four," said Kirby before approaching runway 57. There was another Cessna ahead of him. After a few minutes, it took off. Air traffic control transmitted, "984VB cleared for takeoff."
Kirby pulled the yoke and took off. After about ten minutes, he noticed his plane was starting to falter. He looked at his fuel level. "Almost empty?! What the hell?" he said aloud. He radioed air traffic control. "984VB having trouble, mayday! Mayday!" The plane took a sharp descent and crashed into a lush, flowery field.
That evening, as the Nabergs watched the news, the anchor said, "Parliament Member Kyle Kirby, challenger to President Naberg, lost his life in a plane crash this morning..."
Victoria's jaw dropped. As the reality began to sink in, she started sobbing uncontrollably. Naberg rubbed her back, trying to comfort her. I effed up, he thought.
That night, Victoria dreamed she was seated next to Kirby on a train. "I'm getting off now," he said to her.
"But we still have so far to go..." said Victoria.
"It's my time to go. I will still stay with you, though. We will meet again in Heaven someday." They embraced before Kirby stepped off the train. Just as he passed through the doors, she awoke.
That same night, Gabriel tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Kirby. "I learned upon my death that you were responsible for it. Why did you have to kill me?" said Kirby in Naberg's mind. "You're a murderer! You'll never live this down!"
Naberg couldn't shake the gut-wrenching feeling. He felt physically sick in a way he had never felt before.
A week later, unable to purge the guilty feeling, Naberg sat his family down for a talk. "Daddy did something really, really bad, and now he has to go to jail to make up for it," he said.
"What are you talking about, Gabriel?" asked Victoria.
Naberg paused before saying, "...I'm responsible for Kirby's crash. I drained the fuel out of his plane. I no longer deserve my freedom or my job. I have to turn myself in." His head hung.
Victoria gasped. "How could you?!"
Naberg was silent.
"Who will be the President now?" asked their son.
"My Vice President, Jim, will step up until the election," said Gabriel, wiping away a tear. The whole family wept together before Naberg departed to turn himself in.
While in jail, Naberg passed the time by reading the Bible and talking with the prison ministry Pastor. One day, Gabriel got another visit from the Pastor.
"I can't shake this sick, guilty feeling after what I did," said Naberg, with his head hung low.
"That is understandable," said Pastor. "But even so, Jesus paid the price for it. He died on the cross so you, even you, could be forgiven. Your sin is bright red, but He can wash it away and give you a clean slate."
"Wow, He did all that for me?"
"You and every other sinner in history. Confess it to Him, repent, accept that He paid for it all, and your conscience will be clear." The Pastor patted him on the shoulder.
"That's amazing! Thank you for showing me this, Pastor." Naberg decided that day to become a Christian and lead others to the path of peace he experienced.
One night, Victoria sobbed as she lay in bed, alone. Around 3 am, she looked at the doorway and saw a translucent figure standing in it. The figure resembled Kirby.
"....Kyle?! Is that you?" said Victoria, trembling.
"It is," he said. "I may be gone physically, but I can still be with you in a friendly way."
"So now I'm in love with a ghost? This is weird."
"I'm flattered that you're interested in me, but your marriage to my enemy prohibits anything happening between us."," said Kirby. "I will see you at my funeral tomorrow."
"How will I know you're there?" asked Victoria.
"You will feel it." said Kirby before he faded away.
The next morning, Kirby's body lay in a pristine white casket in Katzenstadt's Lutheran cathedral.The interior of the cathedral was covered in brilliantly colored stained-glass windows depicting Biblical events. A long aisle extended from the entrance up to the altar and had wooden pews on either side. The casket sat at the end of the aisle, just in front of the altar. Victoria approached the casket and gently ran her hand over his folded hands. They were stone cold. Staring at his sewn-closed eyes, she said, "Why did you have to go?"
Kirby's ghost stood behind her and sighed as she said her goodbyes. He placed his hand on her shoulder. "I'm still here," he said. Feeling his touch and hearing his voice, she turned around but saw no one.
Later, Kirby's mother delivered his eulogy in front of a full cathedral. "Kyle was such a joy," she said, wiping away tears. "He was a phenomenal legislator and fought hard for what he believed in. He would have made an excellent President despite his youth."
After the chapel service, everyone processed to the cemetery for the graveside service. The casket sat next to a six-foot hole under a liquid amber tree whose leaves had fallen and not yet regrown. Victoria looked at the headstone, which read, "Kyle Paul Kirby, September 18, 1984 - January 30, 2022. Beloved son, brother, friend and politician." As Victoria watched him being buried, a white butterfly flew over to her and landed on her hand. It smelled like Kirby's cologne. "You must be from Kyle," she said to the butterfly. It nodded before taking off.
Since the Nabergs were no longer in office, Victoria and the kids moved to an apartment in downtown Katzenstadt. She reapplied for her old job at the newspaper and they hired her back on as a photojournalist. It took her years to forgive Gabriel for what he had done, but after being released from prison he entered the seminary and eventually became a Pastor.
Over the years, she never forgot the youthful legislator with the rapid voice, frequently seeing him in her dreams.
The killer-turned-Pastor, Naberg, called her up one day. "I miss you, and I am sorry for what I did, but I am a changed man and would like to give our relationship another try."
Victoria thought back to when she first fell in love with Gabriel, and how excited she had been to marry him. "I am not blameless for this either," she said. "If I hadn't been tempted from our marriage, none of this would have happened. I am at fault as well." She wiped a tear from her eye.
"We both screwed up. but we are both forgiven by Jesus. Can we forgive each other and continue on together?"
After much consideration, she decided, "Yes!"
They renewed their vows, with their grown children thrilled for their family to be restored. Once renewed, their love was even stronger than before. Victoria adjusted to being a Pastor's wife, particularly enjoying the weekly Bible studies at their home. While her attraction to Kirby was not permissible, it led her to a renewed marriage and newfound peace.
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