On her first day, whispers followed Ainsley from room to room. Stares as she walked, her face forward and shoulders squared, her box of personal items pressed tightly to her chest. "That's her," voices repeated, low and quiet. "The Republican." Republican, spat at her like a dirty word. She deciphered the subtext: spy, traitor, fascist.
As she followed Leo through the counsel's office, she scanned the staff with peripheral glances. Self-proclaimed Democrats eyed her with disdain, their desks adorned with tiny American flags and miniature donkey figures. Several times, she nearly paused, a question held behind a polite smile. Would you serve under a Republican president? But she stayed close to Leo, repressing the lecture that her father had never spared her: patriotism should stretch beyond the limits of the Party, and country mattered more than Democrat or Republican. Country mattered more.
Instead, she led by example from her basement office. She silently launched a campaign of bipartisan cooperation that only reached a few ears. Most staffers still raised their eyebrows. Ainsley still overheard assistants when they asked, "So what do you really think of that Republican girl?" But now Sam, Josh, CJ, even Toby, even Mr. Tribbey-they all had similar answers.
"Absolutely and certifiably backwards."
"She drives me up a wall."
"-I hate to admit it-"
"-once you get to know her-"
"-she's pretty damn-"