SHYLOH AND AIYA SAT on the sofa in the hotel room looking at two televisions, sound muted, tuned to separate channels where election results would soon be broadcast. It had been a brutal four months, first winning the nomination and then fighting the campaign. Shyloh had hated the interviews, the door-to-door campaigning and the boisterous rallies. He felt awkward in these situations and resented the necessity to be “on” at all times. He hoped he’d made up for his aloofness with his ability to deliver impromptu speeches to supporters and, when the opportunity came to annihilate his opponents when debating the issues. The strategizing and drafting of policies he enjoyed, but questioned whether he could be effective in a role that felt so unnatural to him.
But then you couldn’t contribute to a better world by sitting on the sidelines.
“I’m sure you’ve won,” Aiya said.
“If I have it’s only because of your help.” Shyloh took her hand and squeezed it. “How did you get all your InterFaith members to work so hard on my behalf?”
Aiya’s InterFaith Council now had fourteen chapters and thousands of members, the largest being in the riding Shyloh had ran in, the neighbourhood where they’d grown up. Despite social media and digital technology playing a huge role in the outcome of elections, campaigns were still won or lost on the doorsteps of the constituents. Aiya had committed her group to house to house canvassing, and they’d covered the riding knocking on doors and delivering pamphlets not once, but three times.
“I had little to do with it,” Aiya said. She never took credit, success was always attributed to her volunteers, council members or her higher power. The failures or shortfalls she took sole responsibility for. Those were the qualities of a great leader and both Judith and Aiya possessed them, only Judith had learned them in officer training at the Royal Military Academy and Aiya came by them naturally.
“They believe in you, Shyloh.” Aiya’s face was inches away. “I believe in you,” she whispered.
Her warm breath had a hint of cinnamon, her dark eyes were summoning him.
Why did she do this? They’d been friends since grade school, she understood him and yet every once in a while she’d do this. It made for awkward moments and hurt feelings–hers, and it was so unnecessary and unfair. Unnecessary to think somehow sex would make this momentous occasion better; unfair because at times like this Aiya disregarded his feelings, which when it came to physical intimacy were none.
Shyloh turned toward the television, changing the mood as effectively as changing channels.
“Have the results started coming in yet?” Judith was hanging her coat up in the foyer. The room became energized.
“The polls have just closed.” Shyloh got up to greet her.
“You’d better win,” Judith said. “I’d rather go to war than fight another campaign. It’s more humane.”
The campaign had been bitter and divisive. The New Cascadia Party’s mandate was to take British Columbia out of confederation, to break from Canada and become a separate, sovereign nation. It was a bold move, too bold and early on Shyloh had advised them to play it down.
“This is what the people want,” Jonathon Bollen said, the leader of the new party.
Two years earlier, Bollen had defected from the governing BC Liberal Party and crossed the floor of the Legislature to sit with the fledgling New Cascadia Party. In the ruling party he’d held key posts in health and finance and had recently been demoted in a cabinet shuffle.
Many viewed the move as retaliation, but Shyloh saw it as opportunistic. Popular support for the government was falling faster than the value of the Canadian dollar while support for the NCP was climbing like interest rates. The provincial government’s fate was tied to the success or failure of the federal government’s policies and the government in Ottawa was more interested supporting their power base in Ontario and appeasing the separatistés in Quebec than protecting their few seats in the west.
British Columbians felt like their taxes were being sent to and spent by a foreign country who had no interest in their welfare, and they were right.
“It’s one thing to feel disenfranchised, it’s another to secede from Canada,” Shyloh had argued. “We’ll scare voters off.”
“Nonsense. This is not a time for the feint of heart,” Bollen said. “There is a tide in the affairs of men...”
Bollen saw himself as an orator, a statesman and a history maker. Shyloh saw him as long-winded, unprincipled and egotistical, more concerned with self aggrandizement than the future of the province and its people.
Governments weren’t elected, they were defeated and after years of moral decline and policy drift that was what would happen to the Liberals. This was not the time to advance the separation agenda. Yes, have it as a party platform, but play it down and make jobs and good governance the priority.
The majority of the NCP members sided with Shyloh which achieved two things; elevated the new candidate’s status and earned him Bollen’s enmity in perpetuity.
“Watch for polls thirty-one and five. If you win those, you’re in.” Judith sat down beside him and popped the tab on a can of beer. She’d spent her six weeks leave working on the campaign and running it with military precision. She’d identified these as bellwether polls, whoever won them would win the riding.
Tomorrow she shipped out to some country in North Africa leading a Canadian Special Forces unit to train the locals to fight against insurgents. She was vague about the mission’s details and actual location. Taalia, who was now six and in grade one, likely saw less of her mother than she did of Shyloh, which wasn’t much. It was difficult to find the time to make the long drive to Kelowna. He hoped when she was older she might be enrolled in a private school in Vancouver, but he had no influence on her upbringing.
“Regardless of the outcome, I’m proud of what we achieved,” Shyloh said.
“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment,” Aiya said. “Full effort is victory.”
“I don’t think anyone here will take much consolation in that bit of new age bullshit.” Judith sipped her beer.
Both were right as usual There was satisfaction in knowing you had knocked on every door in the riding–three times, had developed well-defined policies that responded to the concerns of the electorate, and had out thought and out fought your opponents. However, nothing would be as satisfying as victory, regardless if it was won with full effort or not.
“Here come some numbers,” Shyloh said.
Ten minutes later they were hugging each other. Shyloh had been declared winner in his riding and it looked to be a landslide for the NCP.
“You must come with me downstairs to the victory party,” Shyloh said. He held their hands and lead them toward the elevator.
Both women hesitated.
“This is your moment, Shy,” Judith said. She took his face in her hands and kissed him full on the mouth. “I’ve got a war to fight.” She went to get her coat.
Aiya gave him a full press body hug. “And I’ve got a peace to keep.”
They had discussed the need for both women and the organizations they represented to appear non-partisan. He understood and agreed.
Shyloh exited the elevator and was mobbed by supporters. "Shyloh, Shyloh", they shouted. They shook both his hands, slapped his back, some even hugged him. It took ten minutes to fight his way to the stage on the opposite side of the ballroom and he arrived disconcerted and dishevelled.
“The new member for Vancouver-South, Shyloh Tam.”
The raucous crowd went into a frenzy. Shyloh walked to the podium, shook Jonathon Bollen’s hand and then stepped back among the other victorious candidates on the stage. He didn’t share the jubilation of his colleagues or the euphoria of the supporters. He hated crowds and wondered how long he would have to stay at the party. He felt alone and missed his two friends.
For the first time he felt uncertain of their purpose, of his purpose. This was the beginning and so far it had been easy. They had achieved it more or less by strength of will. What was ahead was uncertain, but one thing Shyloh Tam, elected Member of the Legislative Assembly knew for sure, it would take more than strength of will to achieve it.
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