TW: War, Current Affairs, Death
“Okay. Recording. Start from the beginning, when you’re ready.”
I placed my palm flat on the cool metal table. The man and woman opposite me were calm. I felt numb. I had no feelings. Their breath was caught, waiting. Waiting for the details of the event which could have started a third world war.
“It started with a look.”
A single glance. One that said ‘come ride me’. One that said ‘every single other woman on this planet is insignificant’. A pair of glacier-blue eyes across the room that made me stop and appreciate creation. A deputy Prime Minister in my own right, I was buffeted around to greet the varying levels of democracy from across the globe. Including President Blue Eyes. Known for cool exterior and a heart of ice, yet that first impression was blazing hot.
At a dinner held at a local Embassy palace, the aperitifs gave him the perfect excuse to come and talk. His interpreter followed him like a flailing puppy, but he waved him away.
“They certainly kept you hidden. If they’re not careful, you’ll be ruling the world.” A light blush crept over my cheeks. “A double-edged sword, too. Your beauty makes them all dismiss you.”
“A triple-edged sword, then,” I replied, smiling. “I’m also ‘an actress, a common dancer’ who wants to ‘play politics’, according to my own Prime Minister.” He laughed.
“A multi-faceted diamond, then. Funny and charming, too.”
“You flatter me, Mr President.”
“As was the intention. Dance?” I let him pull me around the room, unaware that all eyes were on us. The mutterings were bipolar; I’d used my slutty actress mouth to seduce him; I’d used my sharp mind and diplomacy. I was political marmite.
Over the summit, he and I got to know each other very well. So well, in fact, that on the penultimate night, he asked me to go to dinner with him, privately. I accepted, since the Prime Minister ‘didn’t need me’. So, naturally, when a sleek black car pulled up outside for me, I hopped in.
He was already waiting for me, alone at the private table, no-one else around save a single staffer of his who didn’t speak English. We drank wine, we ate, and as the night drew on, we grew closer over the table.
“Did you sleep together?” The female voice broke me out of my reverie. I nodded. Her mouth fell open in disgust.
“He was handsome, strong, charming, said all the right things. I fell hard. And he was amazing at sex, too. Arms around me, slowly, but loved going hard. Why do you think he was so willing to sign so many peace and trade treaties in the three years I was deputy PM? I kept him keen.” I grinned.
For those three years, I regularly went East. I went for the ballet, too; I’ve danced since I was 2. It’s in my blood, and they have the best ballet schools out there.
It wasn’t long before the President sent me a language teacher. I was soon fluent. No-one knew. I kept it to myself. I also didn’t tell anyone I’m fluent in Italian, nor that my German and Danish are conversational. See, the President was the only one who didn’t look down on me for being a dancer and an actress. He saw the intelligent side, the side that holds a starred First-class double-honours in Aerospace Engineering and Space Technology. A stark contrast to my own fucking country.
So, my ties with his country – and him – deepened.
“Were you the mystery superyacht woman? In the South of France?” I looked at the woman again. She was there for solidarity. I wanted to choke her for interrupting me a second time.
“Yes. I was. He invited me for the summer, and I accepted. And you all nearly found me out… That cut on my ankle nearly cost us everything. I didn’t realise it was visible at Cannes in that dress...” I gave a shrug. The look of disgust on this woman’s face was delicious. I’d forgotten how sensitive Westerners can be.
“So, you learned the language, the culture, the President… Did you ever give him intelligence?”
“That was our one rule. No politics. He knew I was smart enough to not be played. I knew he was sharp enough to not bother trying.”
“So… when he decided to invade his neighbours…” The woman flipped through her notebook. “You decided to go over there and take your place as his First Lady?”
“No.” She looked visibly shocked by this. “I didn’t go of my own accord at all.” I watched as a bead of water slid erratically down the side of the ice-cold bottle in front of me. “I couldn’t admit that on live TV, though.”
It was a summer morning. I’d been to the gym, and I was heading home when I noticed a car following me. I turned a few times to lose it – succeeded – and then I drove home properly. I needn’t have bothered with losing the car, though; when I got into my house, shared with my boyfriend, I found two guys stood there waiting for me.
“The President has sent us to collect you.” It wasn’t English.
“Oh… well…” I struggled for something to say. I hadn’t seen him for over a year at this point – why did he want me now? “I’m sorry. I can’t go.”
“Either you come consciously, of your own volition, or you come unconsciously. And I can’t guarantee nothing will happen to you if you choose the latter.” I looked down. One of them was stood beside my small suitcase, which had obviously been packed for me. Naturally, I chose their first option.
They drove me to the airport, but I didn’t get checked through security. I was, instead, driven straight onto the tarmac to a waiting private jet, boarded immediately, and then we took off quickly. For the four-hour duration of the flight, I was allowed to watch a movie and read, and I was given lunch. But my phone was confiscated, and I wasn’t allowed to use the internet. When we landed, I was taken to a prison-type place, and kept in a cell. I didn’t speak a word of English from that point on.
I didn’t know what they wanted from me, at first. Then, I twigged: they were checking to see if I didn’t have any ulterior motives, since I hadn’t had any personal contact with the President for over a year. I don’t know how long I was there for, but they beat the ever-loving shit out of me more than once, starved me, gave me ice-cold baths and showers… it was torture. But the role was to withstand it, so I did. I assume he had me kept there for at least a week. I honestly don’t know.
When I was finally deemed trustworthy, I was taken just outside the city, to a beautiful green belt of land. Through the gates of a large wall, where security was so tight there were three checkpoints just to get to the main drive. When I arrived, I was shown to a room, given a bath that had just been run, and a set of silk pyjamas. I passed out as soon as I was allowed to go to bed.
The following night, I finally met him. He was the same man I’d fallen for seven years ago, but a little older. I knew this time I wasn’t leaving. I met him in the dining room of the opulent palace, a similar setting to that first night we’d realised there was something more. The same glacier-blue eyes bore into my soul as he told me just how much he’d struggled to live – and lead – without me. He needed me. He needed everything I could offer. And, just before dessert, he held a beautiful ring out to me.
“Marry me,” he said softly. I looked at him, softened by alcohol. The conversations we’d had that night solidified the fact that he wasn’t letting me go. I had no passport, no contact with anyone outside. Did I really mind? Did I have a choice to mind?
“Holding a ring at me across the table? Vova, did you learn nothing about me over the years?” I mused, my face giving nothing away. His eye twitched. That got him. “Manners maketh man.” I leaned back and gestured to the floor. He took the meaning. The two staff members who were supposed to be unseen were peering over. He pulled back. I thought I’d ruined the moment, but he stood up and got down on one knee.
“Marry me… please.”
I realise now that, at that point, I was probably the most powerful woman on the planet. The woman who made him get on his knees and ask for something. Ask for her. I held out my hand and nodded, and he slid the ring onto my finger, kissing it. From that point on, I had little control over anything.
The ceremony was tiny, literally us two and two witnesses from his inner circle, and the Priest. But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t about the press anymore; it was about his inner circle being watertight at all times. I was part of it, and I didn’t know why he’d chosen that moment.
The next month went by, and I was cemented in society as the new First Lady. Obviously I was well-known there – I hadn’t exactly hidden over the years as an actress and dancer. Everyone there knew I was fluent, but the one time I was allowed to read Western media, it turned out everyone was stunned that I’d ‘jumped ship’. Branded a traitor, a dictator’s whore, a spy. I’d been cast out by them all, and I didn’t fully understand why until I overhead something about a ‘military operation’ to neighbouring countries which was going well.
“So you didn’t know about the war?” The woman asked quietly. She didn’t believe me.
“No, I didn’t. I spent my days in society in carefully-controlled situations that were heavily-guarded. When I wasn’t out, I was in my gilded cage dancing, or working out, or reading, or learning to play the fucking piano.” I licked my lip. “The day I did find out, though, I was sick. I threw up in his office.”
I’ll never forget it. The day I realised how quickly I’d been indoctrinated. I’d turned against those in the West, unaware that they were all asking why I’d gone East, why I directly supported the war. I was feeling bored, and I missed him, since he was working late. So I decided to pay his home office a little visit, surprise him when he came out of his virtual meeting with the defence council. I found a file that changed everything. The shit I read… invasion, the justification the killing spree he’d decided to go on across five bordering countries. Placements of spies to sour the milk and start spreading covert lies and falsehoods to inflame and destabilise. I then realised why the West hated me. I then realised why the people beyond those walls held up flags in protest, just far away enough that I couldn’t hear what was being chanted. I then realised that his ‘special demilitarisation and liberation of people’ wasn’t that at all. It was genocide.
And the worst part is, I understood exactly how we got there. I staggered to the open window and threw up uncontrollably.
“What are you doing?” The coldness of his voice made me freeze. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and turned.
“I came to give you a special surprise, but lunch didn’t agree with me.” He regarded me for a second, then believed me. I bit back tears. He moved over and held me.
“Thank you.” He kissed my forehead, his hand at the back of my neck. “I’m late this evening. The other sides want to talk things over. I want surrender. I doubt they will. I’ve armed the nuclear weaponry to show I’m serious.”
“They want diplomatic talking?” I said softly, looking up at him. I wanted to throw up again.
“Then send me.”
“Because maybe if they hear it from their kin, they might surrender unconditionally.” I prayed to whatever God I’d married him under that he’d believe me. He thought for a moment, and looked down at me.
“Perhaps you might prove even more useful that I first thought.” He grinned and kissed me. “Although you need a mint.” I rested my head against his chest. I couldn’t look at him. He’d said the n-word and I knew he’d happily use them.
See, I knew what needed to be done. After that meeting, I managed to get into one of the computers without restricted access, and I saw everything. I saw it all. Buildings and cities burned, military advance across all five countries was strong, city after city falling. I realised that he had no intention whatever of stopping. I saw the sanctions in place against the country. He wanted what he wanted. And I was in a very special position.
In the days leading up to the peace talks, the more I learned about the war via the meetings I was part of, the more I learned how much he’d kept hidden from me. By the time the main meeting came, and I was shipped to the neutral point, I had two plans. One depended on their total surrender. One depended on my very dodgy ‘spice cupboard’.
As I sat across the table from the delegates of the countries who’d lost hundreds of thousands of people, I felt sick to my core. They hated me. They didn’t hide it. I didn’t blame them. I stared one of them in the eye.
“Surrender. Lay down your arms. I’ll do the rest.”
“I?” one of the delegates on my side asked. I wasn’t speaking English.
“We. I misspoke.” I held the gaze of the other side’s delegate, begging him to understand. I repeated myself. I made the mistake twice more, and then we had to leave. As I left, I heard them talking.
It was no coincidence, then, when a day later, I was dragged off into a holding cell and questioned aggressively about a planned assassination attempt. I felt sick. They fucking knew! I had to endure the torture… until they stopped. Trustworthy again, I was given access to my husband, and I realised I had to play it very safe. Plan One was out of the window; getting the surrender and lowering his guard so he’d let me tie him up in bed so I could choke him out. So too was grabbing a gun and nailing him through the forehead.
What they don’t tell you is that, in the East, when you’re trying to build trust, you might have to dine with someone whose minutes are numbered. One such dinner saw me switching out a salt-shaker for one filled with a poison that looks and tastes like salt, but induces a heart-attack.
I still had that salt-shaker. I’d never given it back, and they thought I’d disposed of it when I’d left the restaurant.
I didn’t know if it would work. It wasn’t rocket science to figure out that a half-dose would weaken his heart just enough that any exercise would kill him.
That night, I had dinner laid out, and then I asked the staff to leave us alone. They understood. He sat down opposite me, oozing lust and desire after scoring another few major targets. Not enough for total victory, though. I watched as he picked up the salt and shook a healthy dose all over the borsch. I’d asked the cook to reduce the salt in it, under the guise that the President’s heart health needed to be preserved. A caring wife, nothing more.
“I wanted to hit the fork out of his hand and tell him what I’d done. I wanted him to stick a gun in my mouth and kill me.” I felt a tear escape.
“Why?” the man’s voice was gentle.
“I knew a different side to him. I knew why he’d done it. I didn’t agree with it at all – but I couldn’t reconcile the gentleman who made me feel like the queen of the world and this genocidal nuclear-ready war criminal. I couldn’t. When he was with me, he was soft, gentle, caring, forgiving. I had power over him. I was touted as the only one who could make him kneel, in a world of people who kneeled for him.” I wiped my eyes.
I watched as he ate the final mouthful. There was no going back now. A flight of stairs might kill him.
Afterwards, he held me, rocking his hips with mine, telling me how much he loved me, I watched the pain written on his face increase. His climax over, I rolled over on top of him and kissed him.
“Shhh,” I whispered. I was crying. He knew he was dying. He held me tightly, panicking. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry, I had to do it.”
“Wh-why?” he breathed.
“You were going to destroy us all, Vova.” I kissed him softly. “It wasn’t the way.”
“B-but – I l-love – you…”
“My name was the last word on his lips. It’s a peculiar feeling, having someone die inside you. Even more so when you realise it was the only way to stop the destruction of the planet. I’m no hero. If I’d failed, we’d all be dead.” I looked up, finally. “And that’s the end. His people rushed in and took me away. I cried, then stayed silent. They let me go because they realised I’d been his puppet, no more.”
“We won’t release this video. No-one can know this was an assassination.”
“No.” I pressed my lips together.