Melanie had been given a desktop device that told her where the president was at all times. "Wayfarer" was the president's Secret Service code name, and whenever the president moved anywhere?other than the bathroom?an automated voice would announce her whereabouts: "Wayfarer departing residence. Wayfarer arriving Oval Office. Wayfarer departing Oval Office. Wayfarer arriving Cabinet Room." The voice had driven Melanie crazy, so she'd moved the box to Annie's desk, and it fell to Annie to inform her of the president's movements.
Annie reappeared one minute later. "Sam just called. The president wants to see you," she said. Samantha Cohen was the president's assistant.
"Tell her I'm coming," Melanie said. She stood up and walked the twenty-five feet to the Oval Office, stopping briefly at Sam's desk.
"Morning, Samantha. Is anyone else in there?" Melanie asked, even though she knew no one would be.
"Nope, she's waiting for you," Sam said.
Melanie walked into the Oval Office and stood a few feet away from the president's desk.
"Good morning, Madam President," Melanie said.
"Good morning, Melanie," the president said.
"How are we doing today?" Melanie asked.
"Crappy. Did you see the jobs number?" the president asked.
"Yes. One hundred thousand is better than they predicted. The markets might hold up," Melanie said.
"I don't think so. We're going to get killed today. The story writes itself: 'President Proves She Is Tone-deaf on Economy.' I don't know why I'm giving this speech in Detroit. Why couldn't we go to Silicon Valley or New York or somewhere with an economy that isn't in the toilet?" the president asked as she took her black Sharpie to the speech text and started slashing huge sections?a tactic she employed to show her displeasure and make staffers nervous.
Melanie's head started to throb.
"Sam, get the boys from speechwriting down here," Charlotte ordered. "This speech was either written by an idiot or someone got drunk last night and wrote it as a joke. The press will kill me if I say the economy has turned a corner. Tell that to the unemployed mother of four. Who writes this garbage, Melanie?"
Melanie sighed. She had told Ralph Giacamo, the White House political director and Melanie's nemesis, that the president wouldn't like the spin. He'd launched into a tirade about how he was in charge of getting her reelected and needed to have his voice heard on message matters. Melanie didn't have the energy to fight with him, so his language remained in the draft that went to the president.
"Earth to Melanie? Did you even look at this?" the president snapped, tapping her perfect bone-colored high heel?a Manolo Blahnik, for sure?on the floor under her desk. The president always dressed in the same color from head to toe. Today she was in a crème skirt and matching belted jacket. She wore a silk camisole underneath and a single strand of tiny pearls. Her thick blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she didn't have any makeup on yet. Her hair and makeup team came in at seven forty-five. From a distance, she could easily pass for someone fifteen years younger than her forty-seven years.
"Of course I did, Madam President, and I'm sorry it isn't to your liking, Madam President. We'll write you a new speech, my lady," Melanie said, bowing her head down toward the president in an exaggerated act of deference. She stayed in that position until the president spoke.