Chapter 2: In Which Justin Trudeau Makes an Indecent Proposal,
But Probably Not the Kind You’re Hoping For.
So far, your second day of work has been better than your first. You haven’t gotten trapped inside any falling elevators, and you haven’t had any embarrassing encounters with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Maybe being a member of Canadian parliament won’t be so bad after all! That is, as long as you can continue to avoid (1) elevators and (2) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (And also (3) the ghost that haunts Parliament Hill. But that’s a story for another day!)
Avoiding elevators is pretty easy. The trick, you’ve learned, is to just not go inside any elevators. The only downside is that you’re stuck using the stairs, which means breaking your New Year’s resolution, to never use stairs. At least you get to slide down the bannister, which makes you feel like Mary Poppins. (Your outfit also makes you feel like Mary Poppins, because you are dressed like Mary Poppins. It’s really important to start a new job on the right foot, by establishing a personal brand.)
Avoiding Justin Trudeau is proving to be more difficult than avoiding elevators. Unlike an elevator, Justin Trudeau is not tethered to a bunch of steel cables, so he can meander wherever he wants. You had no choice but to hide out in your office all day, even though it meant skipping a bunch of important-sounding meetings. Part of you wonders if you’ll be able to keep avoiding Justin Trudeau for your entire term. And another part of you wonders just how long a term lasts, anyway. You make a mental note to look it up. As for now, it’s 5 o’clock, which means it’s time to go home and watch your favorite CBC show, What are Americans Saying about Canada?
You skip down the hallway to the stairs, congratulating yourself on having made it through your second day of work without having to endure a lecture from Justin Trudeau about election fraud. (You can’t remember if he was for election fraud or against election fraud, but either way it was not interesting.) You’re happily sliding down the bannister, gaining speed as you go, when you round a corner and see a dark-suited man coming up the stairs in the opposite direction. You try to stop yourself by tightening your grip on the railing, but you’re moving too fast, so instead you’re thrown forward, crashing right into him. It feels like hitting a big, muscular wall. He cries out in surprise but manages to catch you without being knocked backwards.
With your face smashed against his chest, the first thing you notice is his scent. He smells like chai tea and maple syrup, sweet but alluring. You recognize that scent immediately, and you feel heart sink into your stomach. You look up and yes, of course, it’s Justin Trudeau.
You scramble to get down from his arms as gracefully as possible, your face flushed with what you assume is anger.
“Hey!” he says, sounding surprised and annoyed at the same time. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Oh, really?” you say, holding onto the handrail to steady yourself. You notice that your palms have started sweating, also presumably from anger.
“Yeah,” he says testily. “I sent you like half a dozen emails.”
“I must have missed them,” you lie, inching backwards. Maybe if you move really slowly you’ll be able to escape down the stairs without him noticing.
“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” he sighs, his expression softening. “I’ve been looking for you because I need to speak with you…privately.” He glances around the deserted stairwell. “Come with me.” Before you can think of an excuse, he’s already striding up the stairs on his annoyingly long and shapely legs.
You follow him reluctantly, trying to figure out how you’re going to get out of this. He leads you to a cozy, octagon-shaped room that you take to be his office. It has wood-paneled walls and the windows are covered by wooden shutters, which has surprisingly soothing effect of making you feel like you’re inside of a giant block of wood. Trudeau sits behind the desk and gestures toward an empty chair, either because he wants you to sit there or because he wants to show you what a nice chair he has.
“I don’t have a lot of time…” you say, perching on the edge of what is, in fact, a very nice chair. You glance down at your cell phone as if you’re anxiously checking the time. Hopefully he doesn’t notice that your cell phone is plastic and filled with candy.
“This won’t take long,” he says. “I want to offer you a deal.”
“What kind of deal?” you ask. You hope that it’s deal to trade offices, because his office is a lot nicer than yours. Just look at all this wood!
“As I’m sure you already know from attending today’s sitting,” he says, giving you a sardonic look, “I just called for a snap election.”
“Yes, I know all about that,” you lie. You stroke your chin thoughtfully, as if you are reflecting back on your memories of the proceedings.
“Then I’m sure you also know that the vote is going to be six weeks from today. And if my party is going to perform well, I need to do something to boost my popularity.”
“But didn’t we just have an election?” you ask casually, as if you weren’t profoundly confused by the parliamentary system of government.
“Yeah,” he shrugs. “But I wanted to set the record for the shortest-ever session of parliament, lasting only one day.”
“Wow,” you say to be polite. (You can be very polite, when you want to be!)
“It was a risky move,” he adds. “I could be voted out of power. Believe it or not, some voters don’t appreciate my ability to set world records.”
“Where do I come into all of this?” you ask, absentmindedly dispensing candy out of your cell phone.
“Well, my chief of staff had kind of a crazy idea.” He pauses for a beat. “He thinks the fastest way to increase my already daunting popularity would be for me to get a girlfriend.”
You start choking on a piece of candy, and Trudeau leaps across his desk and thumps you on the back a few times to dislodge it.
“Are you…are you asking me out?” you finally manage. His hand is still resting on your back, and you’re having trouble thinking straight.
“No, definitely not,” he says emphatically. A little more emphatically than you think was necessary, to be honest.
He pulls his hand away and leans back against his desk, looking just like a model in a high-end desk catalog. “The thing is,” he continues, “I’m an extremely busy and important guy. I’m the prime minister of a semi-major country, after all. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, especially during an election. And girlfriends are unpredictable—a messy breakup at the wrong time could sink my poll numbers. What I need,” he says, his eyes finally meeting yours, “is a pretend girlfriend.”
You don’t know what to say, so at first you don’t say anything. Part of you feels disappointed, while another part of you feels angry at yourself for being disappointed. He’s so smug and arrogant—what do you even see in this guy? (Oh, that’s right, he’s really handsome. You forgot about that for a second!)
“Look, I don’t like this any more than you do,” he was says, breaking the silence. “But my aides have convinced me that this is the only way, since the public is no longer charmed by boyish good looks or my wacky socks.”
You glance down at his socks, which have tiny Justin Trudeaus printed on them.
“It would just be a few fake dates and the occasional state function,” he presses. “Two or three hours a week, tops.”
“Why are you asking me?” you say finally. “You’ve nothing but a jerk to me ever since we met. Well, except for that one time you saved me from choking on a piece of candy.”
“You’re the MP most at risk of losing your seat in this election,” he says matter-of-factly. “You don’t have a lot of name recognition, and you only won a seat in the first place by committing election fraud. But if you were dating the prime minister…” he smiles confidently. “This wouldn’t just help my popularity—it would help yours, too. But the whole thing is only going to work if I can keep it a secret. That’s why I have to choose someone who has as much to lose as I do.”
“If I lose the election, I’ll be out of a job,” you say, half to yourself. “I’d have to move back to America.” You really don’t want to move back to America. Though on the plus side, at least you wouldn’t have to recycle anymore.
“I’m doing you a huge favor here,” he says impatiently. “You realize that women would be lining up to pretend-date me if they could. Like if I put up a sign telling them where to line up.” He looks thoughtful, as if he is considering this.
“Fine,” you say. “I’ll do it if we can trade offices.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll still do it.”
“I knew you’d say yes,” he says, looking smug. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 8. Please don’t dress like Mary Poppins.”