Heart's Passage

Chapter One

Five years later and half a world away ...

Disclaimer: See title page.

Arcadia Jones was bored. She had no business feeling bored, of course. After all, wasn't this every girl's dream? She was dressed to kill, squired by one of the most powerful women in the Midwest - or so people kept telling her - and she was currently sitting on a barstool in the middle of one of the year's swankiest cocktail parties. What was there to be bored about?

She sighed, and took another sip from the exceptionally dry martini she was nursing. Well, at least the venue for this schmoozefest was a little different than the norm. Over 200 of Chicago's well-heeled men and women were currently kissing butt on the observation deck of the Sears Tower - 1373 feet high, according to the natty little factbox on the gold-inscribed invitation. Not that she'd received her own invitation. This was, after all, her partner's party.

Arcadia gazed around the large room, which was essentially a square doughnut, with the central core of escalators and bathrooms surrounded by a seething mass of partygoers, wet bars and waiters. It was New Year's Eve and the observation deck was packed. Balloons, mirror balls, champagne and caviar provided the ambience, but Cadie had no taste for any of it. She slid off her stool and wandered over to the floor-to-ceiling windows on the eastern side of the building. As she made her way through the crowd it didn廠 surprise her that nobody bothered to stop her for a chat. This wasn廠 her scene after all. It never had been.

At last she reached the window and, with a feeling of tired relief, relaxed against the railing and stared out at the spectacular view. It was a clear night and if it was possible for deep cold to look like anything, the crystal-sharp twinkling of the city lights and the few boats out on Lake Michigan were it. Snow didn't stay long on the ground in downtown Chicago, but the lights caught the swirling drift of a fresh fall being blown between the skyscrapers.

Cadie knew it was freezing outside and part of her longed to be out there and away from the pressing heat of the crowd behind her. She sighed again and turned back to face the masses. She closed her eyes, draining the last of the drink. Loud conversations were going on all around her, the drinking was excessive, the politics fierce and, as usual, underhanded.

Here I am again, thought Cadie. Alone on New Year's Eve, despite the crowd and despite the presence of the one person who's supposed to make me feel - what? - Something. An ironic chuckle escaped her lips as the thought occurred to Cadie that feeling something, anything, would be better than this - loneliness.

She gazed across the room and caught sight of her lover - if that was the right word for what they were anymore. Cadie swore some days she felt more like an unpaid secretary cum ego-masseur than a partner. Certainly there hadn't been much in the way of loving lately. Actually there hadn't even been much civility.

The Republican Senator for Illinois was doing what she did best, talking up a storm, pressing the flesh and making nice with the powerbrokers of Chicago - the bankers, the newspaper editors, and those quieter men, the ones in the expensive Italian suits who listed their occupation in their passports as 'importer'. Cadie watched, as she always did, with a kind of disquieted fascination as her partner moved easily from one group to the next, slipping easily into the rhythms of political maneuvering.

Oh yes, Sen. Naomi Silverberg had come a long way from the bright-eyed college student Cadie had fallen in love with. Re-election in November had been almost a given, but, if anything, that had only increased Cadie's growing feeling of impending doom. Power had, as always, come at a price. In this case, it was Silverberg's soul and their relationship. She feared her own eternal damnation wasn't too far from assured either.

Where had it all gone? Twelve years of togetherness couldn't have been a waste of time, could it? That idealistic and principled fun-loving woman she had fallen in love with back in college was long gone, it seemed, buried under a ton of compromise, lobbying, fund-raisers and filibustering.

Cadie snagged a passing waiter and replaced her empty martini glass with a very full tequila sunrise. When in doubt, she sighed, opt for oblivion. Or at least a slightly blurred perspective. She turned back to the view.

It wasn廠 long before she felt that presence beside her. The stocky, well-dressed Senator leaned back against the railing and gazed back at the crowd.

"You could at least try and look like you're having a good time," Silverberg growled as she pasted a smile on her face and raised her hand to a passing socialite.

"I am having a good time. The view is lovely," said Cadie. "I'd rather enjoy myself over here on my own, than pretend to care what these people think."

"Give me a break, will you? This is payback for support through the re-election campaign. You know that. What is your goddamned problem?" Silverberg shifted gears quickly at the approach of a suit. "Jack! How are you? Thanks for coming." She shook his hand and pointed him in the direction of the buffet. "Help yourself, please. I'll be with you directly."

Cadie held her tongue until the local government official was out of earshot.

"My problem, Naomi, is that half the people in this room are of the '112 indictments, no convictions' philosophy of life and the other half are butt-kissing, lobbyist-schmoozing, semi-corrupt politicians, of which, my dear, you appear to be one," she snapped.

"Keep your voice down, Arcadia," muttered Silverberg. "When the hell did you get so holier than thou? You know this is how the game is played. You can't get anywhere in politics without these people, and more importantly, without their money. It's been like that since well before you and I got into it, and it will always be that way. You knew what you were buying into, so don't try and tell me it's come as a shock."

Cadie scrubbed her hand wearily across her eyes, aware belatedly that she probably wasn't doing much for her mascara.

"Look, I'm sorry, okay," she offered. "It's been a long day and you know I've never enjoyed these things." She tucked her hand into Naomi's elbow and looked up at her. "It's just that you and I haven't had time for each other in - well, in years, Nay - I'm tired of feeling like I'm alone in this marriage."

But the Senator was in no mood for that particular conversation and she impatiently shrugged Cadie's hand free as another lobbyist approached the couple.

"We're going on vacation together soon, aren't we? What more do you want? Now, come on, let's for God's sake try and look like we're together and happy or the goddamned P-Flag representative is going to get on my case."

The senator moved off, intercepting the lobbyist, and steering him towards a group of local Chicago councilors near the wet bar. Cadie sighed and drained her glass again. The mascara on her fingertips told her some repair work was in order, so she headed for the nearest restroom, sashaying through the crowd and into the starkly lit bathroom.

Her reflection did nothing for her mood. Her strawberry blonde hair was piled high in a loose bun, softly curling tendrils framing her face. She was wearing an off-the-shoulder green cocktail dress which was stunning on her compact, athletic frame, and would normally emphasize the color of her sea-green eyes, but right now the smudged mascara made her look like -

"Like an overdressed badger," she muttered to herself.

Just then a tall redhead staggered out of one of the cubicles, sniffing and wiping her nose suspiciously. The light sheen of sweat on her brow spoke volumes for the effect of whichever illicit substance she had just stuffed into her nasal passages. Cadie dodged out of the woman's way as she struggled to keep herself upright on her stilettos.

"Looking for a little blow, sweetie?" slurred the redhead. "It's quality shit, I promise." She held out a small cigarette paper of white powder to Cadie. "C'mon babe, it's free and it's flowing like water here tonight."

"No. Thanks. Really," said Cadie, fighting down a wave of nausea. She turned to get as far away from the woman as possible.

"Suit yourself, cupcake," shrugged the woman. "But you don't know what you're missing."

Cadie's curiosity warred with the sick feeling in her guts.

"You said it was freely available here tonight," she ventured. "Uh - where did you get it from, exactly?"

The woman laughed drunkenly and swayed a little as she tried haphazardly to reapply some lipstick.

"Well, you're here so you must be a friend of Naomi's. So I guess that means I can trust you," said the redhead, turning to face Cadie. "Have you noticed the maitre'd in each corner, not doing much, just waiting?"

Cadie nodded, realizing she had thought they were security guards blending in.

"Just say the word and they'll get you what you need. It's all been taken care of."

"By who?"

The woman laughed.

"Well, whose party is it, sweetie?" She laughed again and stumbled out of the restroom into the midst of the crowd, a wave of party noise taking her place as the door swung shut.

For a stunned minute Cadie tried to get a grip on what she'd just been told. What she knew about who Naomi was - or rather, who she had been, Cadie corrected herself - ran headlong into a battle with the information she'd just been handed on a platter. Another wave of nausea gripped her guts and suddenly she knew she was going to throw up. She made a dive for the nearest cubicle and emptied her stomach in a series of wracking spasms that left her curled up on the floor.

"Oh God," she muttered. "I haven't eaten that much in a month."

She picked herself up and flushed, leaning against the wall as she waited to make sure she'd cleaned up all the mess. When she looked down into the bowl she almost lost it again. The water sloshed back and forth of its own accord, testament to the wind's effect on one of the world's tallest buildings. Cadie groaned.

"That's just not right. I am SO outta here."

She quickly cleaned herself up and left the bathroom, looking left and right for the senator. Cadie spotted her, finally, tucked in a corner with a group of be-suited men who seemed to be hanging on her every word.

Good, she's not going to miss me any time soon, thought Cadie as she turned towards the hat-check room beside the bank of elevators.

"Leaving so soon, miss?" said the attendant as he handed over her coat. "It's not even close to midnight yet."

"I'm not feeling too well," replied Cadie. "Thought I'd be better off with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm fire."

"Ah well, happy new year, miss."

"Thanks. You too." Cadie pushed the button for the express lift. The ride down was swift at least, but did nothing for the equanimity of her stomach and she was more than grateful for the shock of the cold winter's air as she emerged on to South Wacker Drive. It was just occurring to her that finding a taxi on New Year's Eve would not necessarily be easy when a Yellow Cab pulled up at the kerb next to her.

"Something had to go right tonight," she murmured as she clambored gratefully into the back. "Indian Hill Road, Kenilworth, please," she quietly told the driver as she settled into the seat.

Happy New Year, Arcadia.

Cadie snapped out of her light doze when she felt the bed move as Naomi slid in. She flicked her eyes to the alarm clock and was unsurprised to see its red glare proclaiming 3.44am. Some cocktail party.

She held her breath, praying Naomi wouldn廠 attempt one of her infamous late-night displays of so-called affection. Thankfully she felt her partner settle into the bedclothes and heard her breathing slow into a sleepy rhythm. She closed her own eyes and tried desperately to still her mind enough to fall asleep.

No such luck. Cadie resigned herself to a sleepless night and gently rolled out of bed.

"Hot chocolate," she muttered. "A girl's best friend." She pulled on a thick pair of wool socks and her robe and padded down to the kitchen. She moved about fixing her favourite winter beverage, humming quietly. Then she tucked herself into a corner of the bay window seat and watched the moonlight on the snow in her backyard as she sipped.

Her brain was still spinning from the revelations of the evening. She didn廠 want to believe Naomi was capable of sliding to the depths of drug dealing to get what she wanted out of her political career. But it did make some things start to make sense. Whispered phone calls, late-night meetings that were never explained and a sudden decision two years ago to split their financial records after a decade of joint accounting, all bubbled up in Cadie's memory.

Cadie admitted that she had privately believed the senator was having an affair. The scary thing was, she hadn't been all that upset at the prospect. God knows it took the pressure off her in the bedroom, and that was more a relief than anything. There was something very unsexy about a politician on the make, Cadie had discovered. But this -

Cocaine. Cadie shuddered. She'd lost her older brother Mikey to a drug overdose when she was in high school. That trauma had led to a deep-seated distaste for illegal substances. She had thought her partner had shared that conviction, in fact had been certain of it until recently.

So I guess now we have to have a conversation, Cadie thought as she cupped her hands around the warm mug of chocolate. She sighed and leaned her head back against the cushions of the seat. Great. And we all know I do so well with confrontation. Finally she let her mind drift, and It wasn廠 long before she slipped off to sleep.

She was still there when Naomi came down for breakfast at 7am, clunking around the kitchen grumpily, banging pots onto the range and cursing.

"Morning," said Cadie quietly from the bay window.

"Where the fuck is Consuela? I've got a 9am meeting downtown and I'm desperate for some breakfast," replied the senator, looking decidedly unsenatorial in rumpled pajamas buttoned unevenly, her hair sticking out at all angles.

"It's New Year's Day, Naomi. I gave her the day off. There's eggs and bacon in the fridge though. That shouldn廠 take too long."

"Right. I'll have coffee too. M'gonna grab a shower."

And with that she was gone, harrumphing back upstairs.

"No, no, Senator, please allow me to cook your breakfast, your Highness," muttered Cadie as she reluctantly uncurled herself from her nook. She opened the fridge and pulled out bacon, eggs and orange juice, then put the coffee on to perk as she heated up the frying pan. Three slices of bacon and two eggs over easy soon slid their way onto a plate, a steaming mug of coffee sitting next to it. Cadie went back to the window seat and munched on the buttered toast she had made for herself.

Twenty minutes later the Senator re-emerged, power-suited up and ready for action. She put her briefcase on the counter and flopped down onto a stool, attacking the plate of food.

"Everything to your liking, Senator?" Cadie asked, trying hard to keep the sarcasm and weariness out of her voice.

Naomi glanced up and grunted.

"S'not hot enough," she muttered.

"Doesn't seem to be slowing you down any."

Naomi threw her knife and fork down onto the plate.

"What's your problem now, Cadie?" she growled. "And by the way, where the fuck did you get to last night?"

"Oh you noticed."

"Jesus. What, Cadie?"

"We need to talk."

"Not now. I've got a full day."

"Damn it, Nay, you're not the only one, you know."

The senator snorted.

"Come on, Cadie."

"Come on WHAT??" Cadie exploded. "I can't possibly be as busy as you? And even if I was, it's just not as important, right?" The blonde came out of her seat at speed, facing her partner across the kitchen island, green eyes blazing.

"Is that what this is about? You're jealous." Naomi leaned over, spitting the words out.

"Yeh that's right, Naomi. I'm jealous of a woman who's sold out every principle she used to believe in and has sunk to the depths, including the procurement of illegal narcotics for the bribery and seduction of her financial supporters. I am just SO jealous of the political whore you've become." The words poured out of Cadie on a wave of fury she hadn't known she was harboring. But one look at the senator's face made her bite back any further accusations.

Cold fury blazed out of the stocky woman's brown eyes and Cadie felt a chill.

"Whoever you've been talking to, they've told you a pack of lies, Cadie," the senator almost whispered. "Who was it?"

Cadie hesitated, thrown by the relative calm in her partner's attitude.

"A - just a woman at the party last night," she stammered.

"Just a woman? A stoned, high, fucked up woman, I presume?"


"So you'd take her word over mine? You'd take the word of a junkie who happened to have the bad taste to hit up in the middle of my cocktail party?"

Cadie stayed silent. She knew she was no match for Naomi in a debate so she opted not to continue this one. Besides she could feel her stomach wanting to rebel again, a sure sign she was out of her depth. She watched as the senator picked up her briefcase and came around the island towards her. She didn't move as Naomi brushed her cheek with an air kiss.

"I'm hurt, Cadie. Hurt and disappointed. You're right, we do need to talk, apparently. But I think it's you rather than me that needs to do some deep thinking. Perhaps an apology? I'll see you tonight."

And with that the senator stalked from the room, leaving Cadie stunned and bewildered in the middle of the kitchen, in her stockinged feet, feeling as if her life had just slipped through her fingers.


How the hell did I end up here, she thought.

Chapter Two

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Page updated October 1, 2001.