Sonya’s documentary film featuring Simon and his work training First Nations people in organizing effective protests and demonstrations had just ended. The lights had come up and the twenty-five or so people who were in attendance at the small screening space in downtown Vancouver were now converging on Simon and the Sonya.
Matte was still trying to reconcile that the person on the screen was the same one she went to bed with every night, at least when he wasn’t out of town or in jail. The film was amazing; dramatic, funny, poignant, powerful, and entertaining. Some of that triumph was due to Sonya’s skill as a film maker, some to the timeliness of the subject matter, but more than anything it was due to Simon. If he was an eagle, the screen would be his sky; if a salmon it would be his river. The screen was his medium and on it he was natural, intense and beautiful.
Simon was attractive. Mattie thought he was friendly handsome, as opposed to being classically good looking. But on the screen his presence and confidence added another dimension. He was too good looking for his own good, or hers.
Mattie remained seated while around the star and the film maker cameras flashed, backs were slapped, hands were shaken, congratulations offered and offered again, and, no doubt, deals proffered. She should join them, but she was too disconcerted. Besides, when they arrived, she got more attention from the media than either Simon or Sonya. Simon didn’t care, but Sonya was pissed. This was their night and Mattie didn’t want her presence to diminish it even unintentionally.
She knew what she’d just witnessed would change her world. What was unnerving was she didn’t know if the change would be positive or negative? Part of her wanted to celebrate Simon’s success, another part wanted to deny it was happening. She needed to make a decision. She decided to go to the washroom.
When she came out of the stall, a woman was looking at her in the reflection of the mirror above the sinks. Mattie stood beside her washing her hands while her bathroom companion returned her lipstick to a thin purse, then brushed back her thick, shoulder-length blond hair.
“You’re the bird girl, Mattie Saunders.”
“No, you’re mistaken.”
“I’m Sylvie Dubois, vice-president for the Canadian division of Netflix.”
Her designer clothes, chunky gold jewelry and seven-hundred-dollar Jimmy Choo pumps said she wasn’t lying.
“Can you get me a discount on my subscription?”
Dubois laughed. “No, but I’d like to make a movie about you?”
“Why don’t you just take all the cell phone video out there and splice it together?”
“That’s the point. You’ve already done the promotion for us.” She plucked a business card from her purse.
Instead of taking it, Mattie placed her hands under the dryer.
“I’m serious, Mattie.” She put the card on the counter. “Call me.”
Sonya came in as Sylvia was leaving.
“Hi, Sylvia.” Sonya blocked the door. “Did you enjoy the film?”
“Sure.” Dubois tried to negotiate her way past, but Sonya held her ground.
“Did you have a chance to look at the proposal I sent you?”
“It’s still being considered.”
“Thanks for coming,” she said to the executive’s back as Dubois made her escape. “Sylvia Dubois, VP at Netflix,” Sonya said to Mattie. “Their investing $500 million in Canadian content development.” She saw the business card on the counter and picked it up. “You were talking to her?”
“She talked, I listened.”
“What did she want?”
“To make a movie of me.”
Sonya shook her head. “I’ve sent three film proposals to that woman and she doesn’t even acknowledge she received them.”
“I told her I wasn’t interested.”
“You meet her in a washroom and because of all the crazy shit that gets posted on social media about you and your fucking dead birds she offers you a movie deal.”
“I know. It’s not fair.”
“And you told her you weren’t interested.” Sonya snorted. “Fucking unbelievable.”
“Your documentary seemed to be well received?”
“Compared to Netflix, it’s bush league.”
When they came out of the washroom, Mattie saw Simon still standing in a cluster, only he wasn’t the center of attention. An attractive woman was talking, and everyone appeared to be listening–intently. It was rare to be able to finish a complete sentence at gatherings like this without being talked over, interrupted or dismissed, and Mattie wondered who this person was and what she had to say that was so important?
“That’s Wendy Walters,” Sonya said.
“What’s she doing here?” Mattie said. Walters was smiling. Even white teeth contrasted by tawny skin. She reminded Mattie of Simon. “I thought this preview was for media and industry people?”
“She’s the Member of Parliament for the area and The DOXA Festival receives a cultural grant from the federal government.”
Mattie watched as the politician shook Simon’s hand, hung on and positioned them to face the cameras and television crews.
“This is great,” Sonya said.
Mattie didn’t think so. She started toward them, only to have Sonya grab her arm.
“Wait. Walters is a news magnet right now. To have her associated with the documentary is publicity money can’t buy.”
“Let go of my arm.”
Sonya wasn’t letting go. “What are you planning to do, photo-bomb them?” Sonya said. “Another Mad Mattie moment?”
“If you want to see a Mad Mattie moment, keep holding on to my arm.”
Sonya let go just as Walters and entourage headed for the exit.
Sonya sat silent in the back seat of the Kona EV as Mattie drove her home.
“It looks like you got your distribution deal.” Simon was sitting beside Mattie.
“Any tips on attending the gala Friday?”
“Wear a tux and don’t bring Mattie.”
“What?” Simon turned and looked at Sonya.
“It’s okay, Simon. I don’t want to go.”
“Because her popularity, or rather her notoriety, eclipses us,” Sonya said. “If Mattie arrives with you, she’ll be the focus of the media attention. Not you. Not my film.”
“Sonya’s right,” Mattie said. “You two should go together.”
“Thank you,” Sonya said.
Mattie smiled in the dark. The last thing she wanted to do was to attend the gala. Sonya had given her a reason not to and made her look magnanimous in doing so.
“Wendy Walters seemed very friendly.” Mattie stared up at the dark ceiling of their bedroom.
To be on the job at seven, Simon had to be up at five-thirty. Once they’d dropped a disgruntled Sonya off, he’d fallen asleep in the car for the balance of the ride home. When they arrived, he’d gone directly to bed. Mattie had a shower and crawled under the covers an hour later.
She’d told herself she wasn’t going to say anything, she’d let Simon bring it up, but who was she kidding.
“Wendy Walters, the woman you were posing with for the media?”
“She said she liked the show,” Simon mumbled.
“That’s it?” Mattie said. “It took her five minutes, numerous press photos and a mini television interview to say she liked the show?” Mattie knew exactly what Walters had said. She’d watched the coverage on the late news before going to bed. According to the politician, the documentary was a scathing indictment of systemic racism, and Simon was an example of the courage, wisdom and forbearance shown by the new generation of First Nations leaders. Walters left little doubt she considered Simon an ally in the struggle to achieve justice and equality for their people.
“She wants me to work on her campaign.”
“And you said what?”
“I’d talk to you and let her know.”
Good answer, Mattie thought. If Simon had said otherwise, he would have faced the following day even more sleep deprived than he would now.
“Can we talk about this tomorrow?” Simon slid an arm around Mattie’s waist and pulled her close.
She could have dismissed the flattery as a politician playing to her constituency, but it was the way Walters looked at Simon, how she invaded his personal space, and couldn’t seem to keep her hands off him. She touched his fingers, patted his shoulder and held his arm all in a sixty-second news clip. It was sexist, but it was true, women knew when someone was after their man, and it was obvious to Mattie, Wendy was in heat for Simon.
Ironically, all the time she was with Bodine, a world-famous rock star who was the fantasy lover of millions of young women and quite a few men, she was never concerned about his fidelity. Was she stupid and naïve? Did she think she was more beautiful, more desirable than all those nubile young things who threw their panties at him on stage and waited, panting, at the dressing room door? Yes, actually she did, but she later realized that her confidence came from a lack of caring.
Mattie didn’t play hard to get, she was hard to get. She didn’t look for relationships, they found her. Once established, she made no assumptions and had no expectations. She loved in the moment, didn’t think forever. Things seemed to run their course and when they did, she was always the first to sense it and end it.
Maybe that would happen with her and Simon, but not yet and not because of Wendy Walters. Mattie wasn’t intimidated by the politician and felt secure with Simon. The only area their relationship was vulnerable was if race became an issue. For some First Nations activists, having a non-indigenous partner was being a traitor. It was an insult to indigenous women. It was denying your heritage. It was contaminating the bloodline.
Mattie imagined Walters didn’t feel that way personally, but if Simon became a prominent member of her campaign team, she could see herself becoming a liability. Candidates wanted to keep on message and not be distracted. The media wanted to identify distractions, to throw the candidate off message. Mattie would be that distraction.
She knew Simon wanted to join the Walters re-election campaign team and that she couldn’t stop him even if she wanted to. Even if it meant the beginning of the end for them.
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