She paced the floor hugging her folded arms to herself. She needed to keep calm, focus, but as usual, the jitters were betraying her. She felt breathless, and almost believed she was a stupid fool who knew nothing at all. She had already had to change, and reapply the makeup. Her short black hair had been messed up. She had dealt with all that. Her pulse was racing, her heart beating in her chest so fast and so hard, she almost believed she was in danger of a heart attack.
She could feel her whole body trembling in her fresh red suit. It wasn't the suit she had been going to wear but it worked. She had tidied her short black hair in the mirror and touched up her makeup so it was almost flawless again.
She wished she hadn't sent away her private secretary so early. It felt like the walls were closing in on her. She would have killed to have the opportunity to run home and hide under the blankets. That was not an option, and she didn't really feel that way. The stupid anxiety was trying to undo her again.
"How's it going?" The man asked as he entered the room. Max, her scriptwriter had been thoughtful enough to remember she needed him. "I brought you a glass of water."
"Thanks," she said, trying to focus on him. He was ordinary looking, not a man who fussed about his appearance, although he had looked stunning earlier in his traditional tuxedo. His brown hair was ruffled, and he had quickly changed into a less formal t-shirt and jeans. She supposed that meant he wasn't joining her in the reception later. She was oddly disappointed.
He handed her the tall glass of ice water, and she took a big gulp. It hit her empty stomach, with a shock, drowning the fluttering butterflies at least a little. "I am such a nuisance. You all must hate me so much."
"I love you, Terri. I've got you."
She tried a smile, lighting up her green eyes so they shone like emeralds. He always said that. He was more a friend than an employee especially when she was like this. It meant nothing of course. Her status would forbid anything further. Although… she blushed a little. She was too busy. Life was hectic and work was an obsession with her this year.
"Sit down. We have plenty of time," he said, taking the glass from her and placing it on the side table. He sat on the leather sofa and patted the seat beside him. "Loads of time."
"I'm sorry about...you know." She gestured to the ensuite, and the memory of her embarrassment made her feel nauseous all over again. She mastered it and took another drink of water.
"Don't think about it," he said. "I mean it, sit down."
"Your suit, you know I'll get it dry cleaned." She sat with a sigh. "Can you talk me through it again, Max? I can't seem to calm down. Thoughts are racing through my head. I don't think I can do it this time."
"Of course you can," he said gently. "Never been a speech you have run from yet."
He took a deep breath to focus on what he was saying. It was almost as if he had memorised every word. Maybe he had by now, she thought with a tinge of guilt.
"We remember that the anxiety you feel right now is really excitement. You are pumped full of adrenaline, but it is perfect for your speech. You have practiced for hours and hours, you could do this blindfolded, no trouble. We have visualised this speech so many times, it will be a walk in the park. The adrenaline is there to make sure we take it seriously and want to do a great job."
She nodded, remembering all of the practice, knowing that everything Max said was to help her. She had practiced before her mirror, then in front of her closest staff members, and had done it every day leading up to today. She didn't need the cue cards, she could say it with her eyes closed. She believed all the words in her speech, and they were important to her and vital to her nation. She could do this, just like all the other times. She wondered why she was always this way before a national address. It wasn't her first time.
Max flicked on a music player, and meditation music flooded the little room - orchestral with water and bird sounds. He showed her the timer set up on his phone - fifteen minutes.
"Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If thinking interrupts, just label it and go to the next breath. The only true time is now, it is the only time we can act. As we centre ourselves, we remind our minds that we are proactive and not reactive to life."
She had closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing. She loved listening to the calming tone of Max's voice. He was so soothing with her when the nerves hit her. Never once losing patience, always being of service. She wondered if he really did love her, as he always said it lightly.
That's thinking, she thought to herself - next breath - in, out. And again, in, out. The background sounds were there as they always were, but the breathing was the focus. It was easy to discard the distractions of her five senses and focus on the breathing when Max was there with her.
She opened her eyes at the sound of the alarm and stretched. The jitters had settled as they always did, and she silently thanked Max for his miracles. She was ready, she felt like she had been born ready.
"Break a leg, Princess. Show them who's in charge," Max said, and she nodded. She flashed a smile at him, making her face glow with sincerity. Max nodded back, satisfied that she was looking and feeling her best.
Then she walked confidently up the three half steps to the door to the stage, opened it, and strode out to address the people, once again confident, once again the beloved leader of her people. The cheers were deafening.