Joanna Clarke looked at her watch, and then across the table at her older son, Justin, who was on his phone.
‘He’s still not answering, Mum,’ said Justin. ‘I hope he’s on his way.’
It was ten minutes to two. Joanna didn’t know what to think. It wasn’t like Doug to be late, especially when it came to being in the spotlight, and today he was supposed to be introducing the Premier to launch Justin’s election campaign.
She looked across the restaurant. People were eating and drinking at every table. The air vibrated with the sounds of clinking cutlery and excited voices. She felt an inner glow of pride. Justin had certainly attracted a large crowd of supporters to launch his campaign to become their local member.
She looked at her watch again, and then towards the foyer, expecting to see Doug striding across it to make a grand entrance. But there was no sign of him, and the Premier was due to arrive in less than ten minutes.
Not wanting to show her concern, Joanna took a deep breath and set her smile, although she knew something had to be wrong. This launch meant as much to Doug as it did to Justin. He’d worked for years to get Justin selected as the party’s candidate, and she knew there was no way he’d be missing the launch of his campaign if he could help it. What worried her was she hadn’t heard from him since he’d left the house that morning to keep some appointment before joining them at the restaurant, and Doug was a stickler for letting her know when he was running late.
She looked at her watch again and turned to her younger son, Richard, sitting on her left with his wife, Kathy. ‘You’d better think of a few words to introduce the Premier. It doesn’t look like your father is going to make it in time.’
Richard, who was president of the local branch of the Liberal Party, smiled at her. ‘He’s sure cutting it fine.’
‘Something unexpected must have come up,’ said Joanna, ‘but I’m surprised he hasn’t called.’
Richard placed his hand on his mother’s. ‘I’ve got it covered, Mum. I’ve got a copy of Dad’s speech in my pocket. I wrote this one.’
Joanna cocked an eyebrow. She’d always believed Doug wrote his own speeches.
‘He didn’t have time,’ said Richard, ‘besides, the Premier’s office sent us the text, so it’s not as if he could have ad-libbed much in any case.’
A white car with a state flag fluttering from a short staff at its front end pulled up outside the restaurant and all heads turned to watch the Premier and his minders make their way inside.
Richard stood, walked out to the foyer to greet the Premier, and then escorted him to the microphone set up in front of the bar.
The noise level abated as the serious part of the campaign launch got under way. Richard introduced the Premier using the glowing words of the text the Premier’s office had sent him. The Premier spoke for ten minutes outlining the party’s policy platform and then introduced Justin Clarke as their local candidate.
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