Ms. Lora Donovan should be happy for him. She has been his assistant and secretary for six years. She has known him since he was nobody, and knows how he hates to be called George; all his friends know him as Joe. She had all the connections to rise him to his current status. His success is due to her diligence and persistence. Yet she could not be any more disgusted by the ostentatious act.
But why should she feel this way, she asks herself. She should be ecstatic! This is what they’ve dreamed of since day one. This is what they’ve worked for, through poverty, through bouncing checks at the supermarket. This is a sign of their hard work and their success. She is even being congratulated in his acceptance speech! What more could she ask for, she asks herself.
“...from his devotion to public service, there’s a reason you can catch him saying, ‘You can count on Counts!’”
A howl of laughter illuminates the lavish land of the law. A place designated for cruel interpretation of our nation’s precedent has been curated into entertainment and degradation. An aura of shame looms over Lora. She sits with her legs together, hands clasped, head down. She, too, chuckles at the slogan, however for different reason. When she hears the phrase now, all she can think of is the comment made at the office. “Good morning, Beautiful Lora.” She can’t help but think of the first handshake between them, and how his hands were just a little too soft, and a little to touchy. The playful slaps on the rear, where he grabs for just a bit too long. The “accidental” paper spills which brings Lora to her knees, carefully close to his masculine outline. “Stay perfect, just for me.” Another. “Any man would be lucky to be pleased by you.” Another. “You should work on your knees more--you look pretty that way.” Another. “You have such perfect lips, Lora.” Another. “Come into my office, Lora. It’ll only be a minute.” Another. “Do this for me, or I will replace you with another.” She shivers and returns to the show.
“Thank you,” Mr. Counts says, “I would just like to say a few words before my Endorsement.” He pauses, adjusts his tie, and quickly looks at Lora. He sneers. “This is all thanks to my sweet Lora. Without her, I would have nothing...”
His words ache Lora’s core. They shake her bones and puncture her heart like a child stomping on Legos. However the damage had already been done. It was more like reopening a wound that consistently attempts to scab over.
“...I remember when I became District Attorney, we all celebrated with a few drinks...”
Drinks. She hadn’t touched alcohol in two years. She hadn’t touched alcohol in three boyfriends and four therapists. Her father bought her a bottle of Brandy to celebrate the achievement, yet it remains unopened on the kitchen counter--still serving as a reminder of her shame two years, three boyfriends, and four therapists later.
Mr. George Counts boasts about his accomplishments, but Lora remembers differently. She remembers vividly. Perfectly. That night she had a few drinks--maybe four. Enough to make her tipsy; enough to feel wispy. She wore casual business attire--a pencil skirt with a blue cardigan. She must have asked for it to happen, she constantly tells herself. It was her fault this happened. She excused herself for the bathroom, and he offered to help. He led her to an unused room and pushed himself upon her. He tore through her and used his power and influence to win her over. She couldn’t resist. He was too strong. He had too much authority. She was too weak to scream for help. She was too scared to fight back. She looked ahead, trying to ignore his awesome presence. She looked upon a flag which read, You Can Count on Counts!” The only thought in her mind at the time was that phrase. She counted the seconds; 157. She collected the time; 11:34pm. She remembers the date; November 7th, 2016. She hears the laughter--oh the laughter, which bellowed from his boarous belly--at the same time every night before bed. His perspiration dribbled on her frozen body, and turned to ice. The only thing she can’t remember were the words he whispered into her virgin ears. The only thought in her mind was the phrase, “You Can Count on Counts!” She’s been counting the days; 747. He finished his work, and the two rejoined the party, as if he had done nothing. As if she had went to the bathroom and everything was normal.
“Thank you for your story, Mr. Counts,” booms the male voice over the intercom of the now darkening courtroom. “As the sun begins to set, I hereby endorse Mr. George Counts as Judge of Regency County, so long as no one holds any objections.”
The repugnant cloud of mortification storms over Lora. All his previous comments were shouting in her mind. The feeling of his eminence which was used against her made her legs quiver. A tear rolls down her cheek, still as icy as the sweat which covered her back all those years ago. She feels just as slimy and dirty even after two years, three boyfriends, four therapists, and 747 days later. Her fists clench as her teeth grind together. An anger and probity came from her fervor for justice. She will be humiliated no longer she thought as she whispered, “All but me,” beneath her dry breath.
She stood from the back. At first, a few heads turn. Then a few more. And then even more, until everyone had their eyes fixated on Lora. Like a wave, people stopped and stared and marveled in her presence. Counts looks upon her confused, then furious. For the first time in so long, she breaks a smile across her porcelain face. She might lose it all, but she doesn’t care. She can finally be rid of her shame--finally rid of her weakness. She will always reign supreme.