It’s interesting, ya’ know, this path of hers: The lights go on in the bedroom and she walks east through the frames of three adjacent windows; then, the light in the bathroom, high and slim, nothing to see there but it’s on and she’s in there; then, five minutes later, the light flicks off and she appears again, now in the highest window of the twisting grand staircase, and this is the best part: She moves slowly, gliding downward through the strips of glass in the wall, her upper body, her face, hair pulled back, her chin never bobbing, her breasts just barely lifting the light fabric of her nightgown.
I watch this from my sunroom every morning, and I wonder if she’s doing it for me. It’s all so choreographed, each move so visible. I wonder if she keeps the nightgown on for my benefit, or if she does so out of modesty, or if it’s neither, if she just doesn’t like to get dressed right away. Today it is the blue one, pale and bright like a washed-out sky, so sheer that I can nearly pick apart the threads through my binoculars. I hope for a lucky slip of the fabric, a nipple, something, but nothing happens today as she descends the stairs, before she disappears onto the first floor, hidden from view by the tall green hedges that separate our yards.
Jay’s a smart kid, so he waits until 8:20 to bring me the report. I like him; he’s kind of a baller. Hillary like’s him too, but she doesn’t know the kid’s got game. He doesn’t tell her the things he tells me, like about that magazine tart he was banging. Hillary thinks he’s just a nice hometown boy, God love her. I got the kid’s number though. He’s just like me.
Eight-twenty, he knocks on my office door. I slip the binoculars into a drawer in the sunroom and walk back into the office, to my desk. I ease my loafers back on—they look funny with the sweatpants, but I’ve gotten over that—and then fall back into my sofa, throw my feet on the coffee table. “Come on in, Jay.”
Jay opens the door and slides through, closes it behind him and comes to the table. “Mr. President,” he says, then laughs. It’s a little joke we have. I told him to just call me Bill already, but he still says “Mr. President” just to mess with me.
“What’ve we got today, kiddo?”
Jay hands me the daily report. It’s an eyes-only manila folder, straight from intelligence. Stuff I need to know about. Today we got some business in Sudan and Russia, but it’s all out of my hands, has been for a while. They just send me this so I know what’s what, but, tell you the truth, I stopped reading it midway through the first Bush administration. What am I gonna do, call up Bam and tell him what he oughta do? The kid’ll be okay without my input. Anyway, under all the security stuff, the intel team likes to slip in something just for me. Jay gives me the summary.
“The woman from Los Angeles is dating a producer. He’s older, divorced, has a couple kids. We’re pretty sure she won’t say anything, but we’re adding him to surveillance just to be sure.”
“We’re talking about the redhead?”
“The redhead, that’s right, sir. That was two years ago this August, and—”
“Two years ago, my God! Seems like yesterday, right?”
“Right, sir. Two years ago and she still hasn’t Monica’d, so we don’t think there’s anything to worry about with this guy. That being said, he’ll be easy to take down if anything comes out of it. Lots of skeletons, this guy.”
“Good, good,” I say. “Ya’ll are too good to me, you know that?”
“Yes, sir. How’s the neighbor?”
We both glance at her house through the office windows. Without the binoculars, it’s hard to see through any of the windows. And the hedges block everything downstairs, everything out back. The pool, for instance. The security detail insisted on them, and Hillary signed off on it before I even had a chance to make the case for a simple fence.
“Damn those hedges,” I say, and Jay nods.
Next, breakfast. We have sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches Jay brought from the Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown Chappaqua. I love these things. It’s a nice day so we sit on the patio outside the living room. Bobby from the security detail joins us for some orange juice. Bobby’s always got good stories. He used to be on Hillary’s team, but I brought him over to my side because he’s fun. He’s a big black guy, still a kid—couldn’t even vote for me in ’96. He’s always going out to clubs in New York, got girls grinding all over him. He’s a pro.
“You gotta go over there, Prez,” he says to me.
“That’s absolutely not what you want to do, Bill.” Jay says. “Her house isn’t secure like this one. You could be photographed. Listen, get her to come over here.”
“Naw, just go ring her doorbell,” Bobby says. “Be all like, ‘I’m Bill, from next door!’”
“But what will I say to her, guys?”
“What are you talking about, Prez? Like you ever got nothing to say to a beautiful woman?”
“He’s right, Bill. You’re pretty good on your feet.”
“Yeah, I am, aren’t I?” I don’t need much more convincing. “Bobby, see where she’s at.”
Bobby puts his wrist to his mouth and speaks into the microphone in his sleeve. “Can we get a location on Grace Kelly?” There’s a pause. Someone’s talking into his earpiece. I’m getting excited.
Bobby lowers his arm. “You’re in luck, Prez. She’s out back.”
This is why I keep these guys close. Jay goes inside and comes out with a tennis ball. I scarf down the last couple bites of my sandwich. Bobby makes sure there’s none in my teeth. Then he takes the ball and throws it in a high arc over the hedges, into the woman’s back yard. It’s a great throw. We all hesitate for a couple seconds, but the first move’s been made, so there’s no backing out now. “You’re up, Mr. President,” Jay says.
I slip out of my loafers and into a pair of tennis shoes sitting by the door. I jog over to the tennis court, pick up a racket. The short run gets my breath going, moistens my hairline a little. It’s all part of the game. Then Bobby and I get in one of the Suburbans and drive around the block, out in front of her house. It takes a couple minutes. I don’t bother with the doorbell, just walk around back. She’s out by her pool, but I know this already because of the surveillance. Also know the husband would be at work. Also know there are no kids in the equation. She’s kneeling by a flowerbed in khaki shorts and a pink t-shirt, putzing with the plants. “Excuse me, ma’am, I don’t mean to bother you,” I say.
She turns around and then there’s the look, the surprise, the smile. She quickly brushes a strand of hair behind her ear. It’s prettier up close, this white-blonde shade that some women get before they go gray.
“Mr. President,” she says, then stands up and brushes off her shorts. She reaches her hand out to shake mine and I take it. I hold on for a second. Give it a quick squeeze. This is my favorite part. “Oh, that’s not necessary,” I say. “Call me Bill.”