You can read this series from the beginning here.
"You have to admit," Emma said. "It’s been a nice week."
It was the Fourth of July, and we were on the deck of the Fairchild Conqueror, moored at the yacht club in Bimini in the Bahamas. We’d been able to get access for a solid week because the skipper was in Manila for his mother’s funeral. So we couldn’t sail the Fairchild Conqueror out into the Caribbean, but we could stay aboard and lounge in the sun and eat chilled shrimp and drink planter’s punch all day long. (Unfortunately, my mother had made my father get rid of the frozen drink machine because the coolant wasn’t environmentally safe, and the new one was stuck in customs in Miami. You can’t have everything.)
"If you say so," I said.
"I know you’re upset that you’re missing out on all of the fun," Emma said. "And I am too. But Monique is doing a great job with all the Obamacare and Confederate flag and same-sex marriage memes; you said so yourself."
"She did fine," I said. "There was a lot of competition out there, though, everyone getting in on the act. I did think she could have done more with the Dukes of Hazzard gifs that I sent her, though."
"Can’t you just relax and enjoy yourself? It’s a holiday, anyway. And we’ll be flying back to Dulles tomorrow morning. No more mimosas, no more seafood buffets, no more island sunsets."
"No more string bikinis," I said. "Unless you want to come with me for the board meeting here in August."
"I am not wearing a string bikini to meet your parents, Justin."
"It wouldn’t be both my parents," I said. "My mom is boycotting again because we haven’t invested enough in Cuba yet. Unless we’ve invested too much in something that’s not sustainable. It’s hard to keep up sometimes."
"You are making all of this up about your mom," Emma said. "I mean, come on. Nobody’s that liberal."
"You didn’t get her last e-mail. She is monumentally upset about this last week, because Obama is getting all the credit for health care and the Confederate flag and same-sex marriage, and Hillary isn’t getting any. Those were all issues that she should have been able to raise in her campaign, and now she’s not going to be able to."
"You’re not serious," Emma said.
"I mean, think about it. The press would have made the whole South Carolina primary about the Confederate flag issue, and made sure that all the debates focused on same-sex marriage. This leaves the Republicans free to talk about their issues."
"I can’t even," Emma said. "It’s good that Obamacare won’t fail. It’s good that the Confederate flag is coming down. It’s good that gay and lesbian couples can marry. There’s plenty of issues for the former Secretary to run on, problems that haven’t been solved. And you can tell your mother I said so."
"She’s a nice person when you meet her," I said. "If you ever do. She keeps busy. I had to audit one of her seminars when I was in high school, just so she would pay more attention to me."
"You are not serious."
"I am! It was about pre-Stalinist and post-Stalinist interpretations on lesbian themes in Emily Dickinson’s poetry."
"You are not serious."
"It wasn’t a very long seminar," I explained.
"I love your sense of humor, Justin," she said, which was very confusing because I hadn’t been joking. "And your sense of social justice, of course. So I was kind of wondering if maybe it wasn’t time that we moved in together."
"Moved in together?"
"That would be me moving in to your apartment. There’s plenty of space. I mean, we could get an apartment somewhere else if you wanted, but you seem to like where you are, and you aren’t paying any rent."
"Well, no, I’m not," I said.
"Because it looks like they’re going to ask all the junior staff to take a pay cut next month. Like, down to zero. Even though we’re raising more money than ever, which I don’t understand."
"Aunt Joan told me about it before we left," I said. "She’s getting pressure from the campaign because they’re not paying interns and we are, and they don’t want to lose anyone. So if nobody pays any of their interns, it’s all fair."
"I can’t stay in Washington if I’m not making any money," Emma said. "I either have to cut expenses, leave, or get a job on the Hill or something. The easiest way to cut expenses is to move in with my boyfriend. Which happens to be you."
"I thought we agreed that ‘boyfriend’ was on the outdated-words list," I said.
"Sorry. So what do you think? I’m already staying over most weekends anyway. Why not go ahead and move in together?"
I got up off the chaise lounge and walked to the rail and looked across the harbor at the other yachts. "I guess my question is," I said, "just how seriously are you taking this relationship? It’s not just moving in, Emma. I get why you want to do that. But do you have any long-term plans in mind?"
"I thought about that," she said. "I figured you would want to wait until after the election to make any specific plans in terms of marriage. Once we know where we’re going to be working after the transition, we can start thinking about planning the wedding–June 2017, let’s say. I figured we could have it in New York–that’s halfway between Montclair and New Haven."
"So you do have this planned out," I said.
"Just maybe a little," Emma said. "Is that so wrong?"
"We haven’t even talked about the cohab yet, much less getting married."
"The what?"
"The cohab. It’s like a pre-nup for moving in together. I’ll call the lawyers on Monday morning and have them draft something up for you. I don’t know if your family has an attorney on retainer, but if you do, you’re probably going to want him involved."
"I know I said I appreciate your sense of humor, Justin, but this isn’t really funny."
"You think I’m kidding? Look at this yacht, Emma. Okay? This is just a fraction of what my father’s private equity fund is worth. There is no way my family is going to let us just move in together without a legal framework. I’m sorry about that, and I wish it were otherwise. I wish they’d sell the yacht and donate all the money to Oxfam or something. But until that happens, I’m stuck with certain legal and familial obligations that involve things like cohabitation agreements."
"So, like, if I sign this cohab thingy, and I then dump you, I get a million dollars?"
"Probably something like that," I said.
"How much do I get if I dump you right now?"
"Emma, please," I said. "I know you’re upset about this, but really, it’s outside my control."
"I am not here because you’re rich," Emma said. "Although it’s very nice that you’re rich. I care about you because you care about the things I care about, and that’s very important to me. It makes me sick to my stomach to see you act like the one percent."
"I want you to move in with me. I do. But until Congress fixes the carried-interest loophole, I’ve got a responsibility as a Fairchild corporate director. Unless…"
"Unless what?"
"How would you like to go to work for Fairchild? You could be the assistant property manager for the apartment building. We could pay you a small stipend, and you wouldn’t have to actually do any work. Other than doing the dishes in our apartment, that is. We could even get you health insurance. Since you’d be on the corporate payroll, you’d be covered under workers’ comp, too, so that takes care of you if you fall in the bathtub or something."
"That is the least romantic proposal I have ever heard in my life."
"So do you accept?" I asked.
Emma sat on her chaise lounge, staring at me, thinking unfathomable thoughts. Did she love me? Did she respect me? Would she agree to share our lives (if not my fortune) throughout the course of an unpredictable campaign? I couldn’t tell from her blank expression.
And then Pedro appeared. "Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Justin, Miss Emma. We had planned on grouper and redfish for the buffet tonight, but the chef has obtained a very nice fresh swordfish. He can go ahead and put that on the grill if you’d like."
"This isn’t really the best time, Pedro," I said.
"Does that come with the lemon-teriyaki sauce and the caramelized onions?" Emma asked.
"Of course, Miss Emma," Pedro said.
"That sounds wonderful, then. I accept."
"You accept which?" I asked.
"Both," Emma said. "Your offer, and the swordfish."
"That’s a relief," I said.
"Maybe not in that order, though."
Emma was right. It had been a nice week, after all.
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