“It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat.” Marjorie Williams crossed her arms triumphantly and smirked as Ezra Lee vibrated, his muscles tensing, hoping to some higher power that he could resist the urge to smack her.
Luckily Ezra knew how to lock his emotions up into a little stronghold box, then smash the box into smithereens and scatter the pieces across the Arctic—not that he supported littering. Ezra stared back at Marjorie’s soulless grey eyes. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Pink on blue, Ezra?” Her voice was gloopy and sticky, swirling around the room and suffocating them all like a moldy bottle of Windex. “Pink on blue campaign signs? This is an election, not a candy store.”
“Well at least I’m not red on red on more red, like a witch!” Ezra hissed.
Marjorie laughed. She may laugh but Ezra knew it was to cover up her inner hurt. “Calling me a witch, Ezra? That’s original.” She leaned forward, the podium trembling beneath her firm stance. “I bet you wanted to call me much worse, but you aren’t willing to sacrifice your whole campaign for a curse word. What are you going to call me next, nasty?”
“No.” Ezra paused for a moment, plotting his next move. “No, I’m not going to call you nasty.” He mimed holding a phone up to his ear. “I’m going to call your mother and ask why she hated you so much in infancy-“
“Well I’m going to call your mother and ask why she cheated on your father!” Marjorie shot back.
“And I’m going to call your father and ask why he raised a pickle of a daughter!” Ezra countered.
“And I’m going to call your father and ask why he abandoned you like a hot potato!”
Marjorie won that one. Ezra didn’t know enough about her family to aptly respond. But he did see that she was checking herself, her hands clasped as she tried to regain control of her escalating emotions.
“I-“ Cheryl Lewis began, but she barely finished her first syllable.
“Shut it, Cheryl!” both Ezra and Marjorie hissed. “Nobody cares.” Cheryl retreated back to her seat, swallowed by the rest of the audience.
“It’s time for the next question,” Devin Walter proclaimed. Devin Walter was the sympathy moderator, meaning that he was the only moderator but only chosen out of sympathy. He was dyslexic, couldn’t read, and terrible at telling time. Both Marjorie and Ezra knew that they could hold a good long debate themselves, but there had to be an air of inclusivity and progressiveness within the Council, so they agreed to give Devin an egg-timer and some questions on index cards and let the press sing their praises. Rebecca Son and Zarina Ali were the two most notable members of the press and Ezra knew he had to put up appearances so to get a good reputation going. He had even dressed up in a buttoned shirt and tie.
Marjorie had her hair curled and hanging loose. Ezra thought it was strange because her face was round and the whole style just made her look unnecessarily young, until he realized that the curls meant her ears—the only part of her body that changed color with emotion—were obscured and therefore unavailable for comment.
“Ezra?” Devin prompted.
Shoot. Ezra had gotten distracted. He straightened up and put on his best attempt at looking like he had prepared for that question specifically.
“I…” He faltered, realizing that his prepared topics ranged from sustainable action to a fairer legal system and a wrong answer would be very noticeably wrong. “I…think we should have a vice presidential debate right about now.”
“Right about now?” Marjorie asked. “Fellow citizens, do you hear Mr. Ezra Lee? He can’t even think up a specific time!”
“No,” Ezra mumbled, “I wanted to keep it casual. So that we don’t stress out the vice candidates.”
“We could have a vice presidential debate if you two didn’t take so long-“ Cheryl began.
“Shut it, Cheryl!” Ezra could have sworn he had said that before. “Nobody cares.”
“Ezra,” Devin lisped, “my question was: how will you deal with the stomach virus outbreak we get every year around Thanksgiving?”
Stomach virus? Ezra had never gotten the stomach virus. Food poisoning, yes, but that was only because his aunt didn’t know how to properly cook a chicken—the middle was not, apparently, supposed to be blue.
“Well,” Ezra shifted, so that he was facing the onlookers, “I would address it as it happens.”
“So you have no plan.” Marjorie summarized.
“I have a plan!” Ezra argued. “That plan is to deal with things as they come.”
“But the stomach virus is easily preventable,” Marjorie declared. She counted off her fingers. “We could encourage sick kids to stay home and healthy kids to stay apart, to avoid spreading symptoms. We could encourage everybody to wash their hands and eat enough vitamins. We could encourage-“
“Blah, blah, blah, we could encourage, we could encourage, we could encourage,” Ezra mocked. “You’re not a healthcare professional, I’m not a healthcare professional, and honestly we can’t do anything until the virus happens.”
“But we can-“ Marjorie started.
“No, we can’t-“ Ezra interrupted.
“Yes we can!” Marjorie banged one first on the podium, the whole thing shaking like a jelly cake.
“No, we can’t!” Ezra thumped his fist harder.
“I-“ Cheryl began again.
“Shut it, Cheryl!” the two chorused, but this time, Cheryl refused to be shut.
“Ms. Cormick!” she hollered. “I’m being bullied.”
Oh, no. That would be the end of the debate. Ms. Cormick took bullying very seriously. She was one of the strongest proponents of including Devin, she was the reason why Cheryl hadn’t yet been pushed out of the room, and she was the one who declared that Ezra and Marjorie had proven time and time again that they couldn’t conduct themselves with proper decorum and were therefore unfit to continue.
She pointed her fingers at Ezra and Marjorie. “You two, detention, with me. The rest of you can leave.” The rest of the class stampeded out of the room, excited to evade capture, though a few glum that they weren’t witness to anymore drama, while Ezra and Marjorie continued staring at each other.
“Ms. Cormick,” Marjorie chattered in a failed attempt at distracting, “we really should invest in podiums that aren’t made out of carboard. They’re so flimsy!”
Ms. Cormick payed her comment no mind. “This is a Student Council election! You two hold government power over maybe 100 students in the grade.” She sighed. “And you know that the administration is just going to say no to your ideas anyway.”
It was a shame. They were wasting such talent. Between Ezra and Marjorie, as much as he hated to admit it, there could be a new era of professional leadership. And who decided to make a Student Council if the president of said council, who would obviously be a student, wasn’t even going to be taken seriously? The whole system was corrupt.
Most of their “detention” was spent with Ezra and Marjorie staring intimidatingly at each other, as if that was a punishment and not their regular life.
Eventually, Ezra decided to climb out on a limb. “I was thinking-“
“You were thinking?” Marjorie raised one eyebrow.
“Yes, though I understand if you don’t know the concept,” Ezra replied.
“Actually, I think quite a lot,” Marjorie answered curtly. “I think an awful lot about you.”
Was she flirting?
“Every night,” she continued. “I think about you, and how you must be lying alone in bed, with not protection but pajamas and a blanket.” She leaned forward ominously. “You could roll right off that bed, and knock your head, and suffer from amnesia, and I could win the election.”
Definitely not flirting. If anything, it was a concerning threat.
“That is not remotely what I was thinking.” Ezra decided to steer the conversation as far away from that direction as he could. Why was he even going out on a limb with Marjorie? She probably had murderous thoughts, at least bloody ones.
She was the only other remotely ambitious and intelligent person in the grade, Ezra reminded himself. At least she had proven that.
“I was thinking that we should work together to disband the current political system-“
“You want to set up a dictatorship?” Marjorie raised her other eyebrow.
Ezra breathed in an out a few times. “Yes, I guess I do.” For the first time, Ezra looked down at the floor, counting the five tiles between his podium and Marjorie’s. He doubted she would go along with him being a dictator. It was shocking new for anybody, really.
“Sure.” Ezra looked up and saw Marjorie shrugging unnaturally nonchalantly. “So long as I’m the one with the title.”
“What?” Ezra stepped out so he was in front of the podium. “You want to go along with my government plan and not listen?”
“You really trust the girl who just told you she wishes you would get amnesia to not get what she wants?” Marjorie countered.
That was a valid point. Ezra bit his lower lip. He figured that the most logical plan would be to let Marjorie take control, but that would be surrender! He wouldn’t just forfeit! Though, Marjorie was scary, and he really wondered how he would feel in the dark of midnight aware that she was plotting his demise.
Wait…Marjorie didn’t have to be the only manipulative one, Ezra realized. If he were to be the vice-dictator, and something were to happen to the dictator, a logical chain of command would follow.
“Sure,” Ezra said sweetly, making sure nothing about his pose looked sarcastic. Marjorie nodded, not outwardly doubting him. “You can be the dictator.”
It would be a bad day for Marjorie when she could finally realize that she had ensured her own defeat.