Reformism Interruptet

Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part Nine

History Repeats Itself

by Nick Lucas and Dee

 

This is a part of Reformism Interruptet and follows the part Royalty Reforms. Having read the previous parts is a prerequisite for fully enjoing this story.

Acquiescence

Hermione Slade could not talk to anyone. Not about how she really felt, at any rate. Not even her father. He would only say that he knew what was best for her. Just like her mother used to say. Miss Lewis was being very strict with her, and when Miss Scott came to visit Hermione half hoped that her original guardian might have some pity for her. But for the first two hours Miss Lewis left her muzzled and covered, listening to more lessons. Even so, when the heavy cover was finally removed and the headphones switched off, Hermione could not help smiling at Miss Scott, who had always been so kind to her.

“She has moved a little.” Miss Lewis commented as she folded the cover. “She has been much better of late, but perhaps the excitement of seeing you has affected her.”

“She knows better, and you must not make excuses for her, Miss Lewis.” Miss Scott replied as she took a seat beside her former charge. “She is a maiden the same as any other, and it does not do to pander to them...Hermione needs a firm hand now if she is going to make the best of herself.”

“Of course, Miss Scott,” The younger guardian nodded her agreement, still treating her former tutor as her superior.

“She is a dear child, I know we are both fond of her, Miss Lewis, but now that her future is settled, it is our duty to make sure that she develops.”

“Of course, Miss Scott...I shall paddle her before dinner.”

“Good, now let’s cover he again...if she moves this time, she can have double.”


Fatima stood still near the counter as Miss Freeman talked to the shop assistants. She was now considered obedient enough to be seen outside of the apartment, and Miss Freeman had started taking her shopping to get her used to the experience. It was as much of an ordeal as anything else. She had so much to remember, and Miss Freeman would always punish any mistakes. But she was getting quite good at standing still, she thought, as her eyes scanned the store. It was an old favourite. She had been there many times before in her previous life. She could actually see two muslimahs across the aisle, veiled but talking animatedly as she would have done with her sisters in their place. It seemed incredible that it was only a few weeks since she would have happily considered their behaviour normal, but something inside her head told her it was sinful, that they were not showing any respect for themselves or anyone watching them, moving around so freely and making so much noise. She held herself quite erect with her head down and her hands clasped together in front of her body, even though they were hidden inside her cloak, which was fastened from her throat to her ankles. She concentrated on her shape, her silhouette as Miss Freeman often called it, trying to be both decorous and invisible. Maidens should never draw attention to themselves.


“Hands.” Charlotte Sullivan instantly held out her hands for her mittens, obeying Miss Carpenter like a good maiden should as she was prepared for bed. She was used to the routine. Her father had just quizzed her about her lessons over dinner and had asked Miss Carpenter if his eldest daughter was making suitable progress. Her mother had just sat there. She pushed her fingers deep into the solid mass and lost their use.

“Open.” Miss Carpenter said, smiling gently at her charge. Charlotte did not hesitate. She opened her mouth wide to accept her muzzle. Miss Carpenter slipped it inside and clicked it into place. Miss Carpenter was quite pleased with her. She still had a lot to learn but she seemed to have accepted her place. Mrs Sullivan was doing as she was told, although she was rather more sullen than obedient, and no amount of punishment seemed to improve her. Miss Carpenter put Charlotte into her sleeping gown and walked across the main bedroom, where Mrs Sullivan had undressed and was waiting for her. Mr Sullivan let his wife clean her teeth and wash herself before bed, which Miss Carpenter thought was a mistake. She allowed it, because her employer said he was behaving himself and deserved a small say in his own house.

Robin Sullivan stayed downstairs until he was sure that his wife would be secure. He could not talk to her anymore. He did not know where to start, and every night he lay beside her, desperate to tell her everything and desperate to touch her again, but he did not trust himself to do either.


Mena Forbes looked at her surroundings as Miss Robinson removed her cloak and bonnet in the hall of their new house. It was large. That was her first impression, looking up the sweeping staircase in front of her. Her husband had always lived well but this was a step up, a step towards real power. She was not aware of what job he would be doing back in London, but she was sure it would involve close contact with Kieran Radcliffe. She was not sure what they meant for her. She had been useful in Washington, but Alistair had suggested that in London that would not be the case. Certainly no Reformist wife would be speaking to the press in London, and she did not know what he would let her do. He was amused at the thought of her being a Reformist wife. She had spent her whole married life abroad, so it would be new to her.

Miss Robinson took her arm and led her into a fine, large drawing room with large doors opening onto a terrace. She was sat on a sofa and prepared for her lessons. Her jetlag would not postpone those. But Mena thought about her father, not God’s love for once. He had the job he had always really wanted, the Foreign office. He had used her to get it, of course. She had admitted that much to herself, years ago, but she had been part of it too. She had agreed to marry Alistair. He had not forced her to do so although he never allowed her to change her mind either, and he might well have forced the issue if she had not got the message. Had she wanted this? She was no longer sure. She had not expected it to be like it was. She had dreamed of...what exactly? Power? Influence? Controlling Alistair Forbes? She almost laughed at that, because that was a joke. No one could control Alistair Forbes.

Presidential Address

“I am honoured to be elected the first President of the British Republic. I am honoured to serve you. The history of our proud country does not dim or die, but it must move on, we must move with the times and this process is about equipping the government of this country to maintain the success of the last twenty years. It is not the death of democracy as some people have said...that is just self-serving nonsense. The simple fact is that any parliamentary system delivers uncertainty far too often...a government must be able to rule. I intend to answer to the people. I believe in democracy...I am a democrat...but I need to have the freedom to act without wondering whether a small group of MP’s will vote against me for their own reasons. As President, I have a strong mandate from you to rule for ten years, not five. The longer period gives policies time to take effect, it gives breathing space to ride over natural economic cycles, and I believe our new system and the length of the government allows us to free ourselves of the negative aspects of the past. I do not want to be point scoring against the leader of the opposition every Wednesday morning in the House...I want to be working for you, not arguing about it for the sake of a sound bite on the evening news. I will make government smaller and more effective. I will make government more accountable. I will pick my team not from a pool of MP’s of dubious calibre, but from the best minds in their fields. For instance, my Foreign Minister will be Sir James Miller, a man who has dedicated his working life to the diplomatic service. He has served in fifteen different countries as Ambassador and that experience will be invaluable. My Chancellor will not be a career politician with a degree in economics from some ghastly polytechnic in Slough; he will be a real economist from the financial sector. The House of Commons is still important, as it gives your local members the chance to question and challenge, and I am recognising that by making Alistair Forbes my Prime Minister. It is a historic job title and as a professional communicator I hope he will help me get my ideas across to everyone. We have come a long way doing things differently and that is not going to change. I am as tired of party politics as you are. You have voted for me, and put your trust in me. I hope to make you all proud.”

Presidential Castration

“Shap, I asked for reasonable proposals...not this shit...are you freaking serious?” Aaron Lumsfield demanded, tossing the report back across the table. “Are your people seriously suggesting that I introduce National Service?”

“Yes we are...it works, it will play well with a lot of people.” Shap Nixon replied, aware of the blatant hostility coming from Lumsfield’s team and rather enjoying it. He had done the decent thing as far as most Republican’s were concerned by joining the Lumsfield campaign as his running mate. The Democrats were in chaos, but if the Reformists split the vote it would still be too close for comfort. So, the deal was they win together and form a right-wing partnership, but the policies were still up for debate of course. Lumsfield and his team seemed to think that Shap and his people would be happy with crumbs. He was in for quite a nasty surprise.

“Shap, this is never going to happen...you have to understand that...it’s impossible.”

“Our campaign has promised reform, Aaron...I am not going to lie to the people.”

“Shap, no...this stops here.” Lumsfield almost shouted, pulling rank it seemed, playing to his friends.

“Ok...a private word Aaron...just you and me.” Shap said quietly. Slowly, with a few shrugs and glares, the conference room cleared, and Lumsfield sat back in his chair, offering his best winning smile. “Aaron, you do it my way or not at all.”

“Is that a threat, Shap? You betray the GOP and you’re history friend, history.”

“Does a company called Sunshine Investments mean anything to you? Or Miami Credit? Or Good Health Inc?” Shap asked without checking his notes. Lumsfield did not respond but he was no longer smiling. “Some tax issues...a fairly big credit scam on some pension funds and a nursing home project that earned you fifty million and lost a lot of people their shirts. But you weren’t officially linked with any of them, of course. Except we both know you were, and I have the proof...so you call the nodding dogs back in here and you talk this through like a partner, Aaron and you might just make the White House. But if you fuck around with me boy it will be the shortest presidency in history friend, in history. I think you will find that there are a number of my policies which you can support now and that will be a start. And if you ever shout at me again my wife will be wearing your balls as earrings...are we clear, friend?”

Mothers and Daughters

“Surely you have been happy here, Hermione?” Lucy Slade asked as they walked arm and arm in the gardens behind the big house. It was a fair question, she thought, because before her husband denied her the right to leave and pursue her own idea of a future, her stepdaughter had seemed more than content with life in Meadvale. “I always thought you were...these ideas of yours have just distracted you, my dear.”

“Oh Mama...you just don’t understand...I was on holiday here.” Hermione sighed, searching for the right words. “It started out as giving a summer to my grandmother...making her last days as happy as possible. Dad...I mean Papa...urged me to enjoy the experience...and the more I immersed myself in it, the happier Gran was. I found it all so strange at first...I will always remember my first night with a guardian looking after me...but it was just a gap year for me. I didn’t want to go to the college my mother had chosen for me and I wanted to get away from it all...and although it wasn’t easy at times, I did that here. Papa encouraged me to take the time to think, and I did...I accepted my training from Miss Scott and Miss Lewis for his sake, and later on for yours as it felt right here.”

“Oh my darling Hermione, it is right, you are living in God’s love.” Lucy assured her, rather confused with what she was hearing as she had never heard of a gap year, and had grown up thinking that only boys went to college. She knew that was not always the case. Her parents talked of the time before the Renaissance. But things had changed, and those sorts of thoughts were simply not appropriate anymore. Hermione was talking heresy or at least madness. “Your father just feels that your mother’s bad influence on you in the past is affecting your judgement, and he is acting in your best interests.”

“Oh Mama, I don’t belong here.” Hermione insisted, although she realised that it would provoke a long lecture from her stepmother, and more, if their conversation was reported back to her guardian or her father. But she could not hate Lucy. She could not even bring herself to hate her father. Her stepmother was a product of her upbringing and her experience. Even if she was not a devout Reformist before she completed her national service, it was obvious to Hermione that anyone who had spent five years or more in a convent came out as a devout disciple. But her family were nice people. Lots of people she met were nice despite the repressive lives they were forced to lead because of the laws introduced for their own good. Hermione had heard all the excuses, over and over again, and she had also seen a lot of the evidence for herself. Britain worked on many levels, just not for people like her.

However, she was not stupid, and she realised she did not have any choice. If her father wanted to keep her there, he could do so with ease. Between him and Miss Lewis, she could be forced to do anything he wanted, although she could not imagine him doing anything other than find her a husband to keep her safe and ‘happy’ for the rest of her life. He was denying her the life her mother wanted for her by imposing one of his own, and he would not change his mind. So she stopped fighting just as everyone else must have done. Resistance really was futile. She told her mother she would try to accept her father’s decision, and when they went back inside Miss Lewis was told the good news. It did not change her routine one iota, but Miss Lewis seemed immediately more inclined to treat her with patience. Her afternoon lessons finished a little early and she joined her mother to watch the early evening news before they would change for dinner, and she heard a report that made her realise, once and for all, that she had been fighting a losing battle.

“Good evening and this is the BBC news at six o’clock. Republican Presidential candidate Aaron Lumsfield and his Reformist vice-presidential running mate Shapleigh Nixon III have cemented their lead in the polls by announcing a broad programme of reform, to be implemented if they win the election in November. In a move fully supported by British President Kieran Radcliffe, President-elect Lumsfield is planning a pilot national service initiative to provide nurses and teachers for underfunded hospitals and schools, plus a series of decency laws and a married man job swap scheme with unmarried women, designed to take the financial pressure off working class families...”


Imogen Sullivan sat on the sofa as her two maiden daughters were presented to her. Georgia, slightly shorter than her older sister Charlotte, managed a reasonable obeisance. She was only thirteen, but Robin Sullivan insisted that his daughters would follow the doctrine and begin their maiden training as soon as they reached puberty. Imogen had not argued with him, but the sight of another child retreating into her muzzle threatened her icy facade. Miss Carpenter was not gentle with the girls, or indeed their mother, and Georgia had already been beaten to help her learn her place. But Imogen refused to think about that or she would fall apart, forcing herself to think about Dee. Her old friend had suffered a worse fate. She was sure of that, as it was common knowledge that the convents were harsh places. Despite everything they had to suffer, Imogen felt that her girls were better off as maidens than nuns.


Mena held her curtsey for an agonising count of ten, as commanded by Miss Robinson, showing due deference to the girl she would be forced to call Mama within months. Alistair already found that hilarious. He had taunted her about it only the night before as he considered the delicious humiliation of his wife treating a girl some seven years her junior as her mother, but she was not unduly fazed by that, for once. It was the guardian standing beside her prospective stepmother that terrified her most of all, although they were yet to be introduced and she could see nothing but her eyes. She knew it was Jen Freeman, her erstwhile friend and nemesis, and Mena shivered inside, fear and revulsion rising within her. Miss Robinson was cruel and vindictive a lot of the time, but she was nothing compared to Jen Freeman to Mena. Her months as a maiden being trained to surrender to Alistair Forbes cast dark shadows throughout her psyche. Every memory she had of that time was confused, as she struggled to work out why she had begged to marry Alistair, and give up her other life. But at the edge of every confusion was a punishment from Miss Freeman, those endless sermons she had to learn by heart, and the brutal beatings she suffered for every tiny little mistake. Deep down, in the rational crevices of her mind where no lesson could reach, she knew she had been destroyed by the evil combination of Miss Freeman and her father. She had initially begged to marry Alistair to avoid another beating from Miss Freeman, and then the two of them had wiped her mind clean, removing her hopes and dreams and replacing them with their twisted ideas of duty to God and country.

She trembled inside her cloak at the thought of those times. Her father had betrayed her, as had her own delusions that if she suffered her maiden training she could somehow tame Alistair Forbes. She winced at her own arrogance. But she knew those thoughts were there, even when she was begging to be allowed to marry Alistair. Her father was crazy for power, but so was she at the time. But not anymore. She greeted Fatima Al Hussein like the high born Reformist wife she was, feeling only pity for the poor girl, not humiliation or anything else. If Fatima was being trained by Jen Freeman, Mena knew that the one thing she really needed was pity. She started praying to a God that she did not quite believe in that Miss Robinson would not be dismissed in favour of Miss Freeman, because if she was Alistair might achieve the impossible. He might find a way to make her miserable life even worse.


Madison Nixon did not miss her old guardian, of course. Miss Keller, an American Reformist from Florida, was hired as Miss Robinson’s replacement, and although she was hardly a breeze she was not a monster. In fact, although she was loathe to admit it to herself, her life improved considerably. Her mother seemed to take more interest in her, and have more command over Miss Keller, and they were both kept busy supporting the election campaign. Madison and Candice had already appeared in several gushing magazine articles championing the Reformist way of life, and even in a television commercial, telling their fellow Americans how wonderful it was to live in God’s loving embrace. Madison said what she was told to say and had no doubts about her future. Her father was going to be the vice president and she would never be allowed to embarrass him again so that much was obvious. She would marry and not for love. She would be like Mena Forbes.

Being a muzzled observer of the campaign, she saw things changing before her eyes. Reformism was taking hold, and the fervour of some of the people she met appalled her. She could not understand how people could be so stupid, but they most certainly were. In every town, in every state, she saw women dressed like her. She heard people screaming for reform, for the prosperity such policies would bring them, without any one of them apparently considering the potential cost.

Not that Candice Nixon cared about the cost. She would wear a veil in return for the title of First Lady. She had always had plans for Shap, and she remained the power behind his throne. It was still possible for a woman to have power, if she knew how to be subtle.

Pragmatism and Power

Sarah Lumsfield argued furiously with her husband, bitterly and at some length, telling him exactly what she thought of him and ending up with the classic demand for an immediate divorce. It was all about pressure. She still loved him, but as the end of months of campaigning came into sight, she did not feel inclined to give him anymore. Seeking the presidency had cost both of them dear, but their principles were not negotiable. Not as far as she was concerned, at any rate. She was a lawyer, not a bimbo like Candice Nixon who followed her husband around like a velvet poodle. She stormed out, of course. He was busy and had to stay where he was, but she was free. She was not sure whether she meant what she said about a divorce. It was a cruel thing to say and a difficult thing to do to him in the middle of an election, in a campaign where the family was very much at the centre of things. But his proposals for decency laws and compulsory nation service were insane. It went against everything they believed in and she could not understand why Shap Nixon was suddenly calling the shots.

She drove. Her protection detail were not exactly impressed, but she told them in no uncertain terms that she was going home without them for once. She wanted some time with her children, some time alone. Luckily the eruption had happened in New York, so it was not that long a drive out to the Berkshires. She made good time on the Tri-State and ended up stopping in the countryside, to calm herself down and think about what to do. Politics had become part of their lives, and therefore part of their marriage. She had supported Aaron every step of the way at the cost of her own career, to a certain extent, although the kids had an effect on that as well, to be fair. He was the candidate, but she was always there at his side. She was a lot more than just eye-candy and she intended to play her part, but not if Aaron thought he was going to impose Reformism lite. She could understand the basic attractions. Everyone had seen what the British had achieved economically but as a modern woman their regressive anti-female policies were impossible to support, and Sarah could not believe that a majority of the American people would ever vote for anyone who proposed them. It was quite insane. She understood getting into bed with Shap Nixon, and there were certain elements of reformism which could be used to great effect, but Aaron was getting screwed by him and she was not going to stand for it, even at the cost of her marriage.

It was that thought that calmed her down enough to head home. She was not bluffing she decided, as she left the freeway and headed down the road to the old family house. He could make a choice. He could get into bed with Shap Nixon or he could stay in bed with her. She was drawing the line. She had given up enough for him, and this really was the step too far. She drove around the side of the house and parked beside the kitchen door. She could take the kids out for pizza, and forget about everything else. Aaron would call later. She could give him his choice then, and wait for him to decide. She headed for the door with her attention on her bag as she searched for her keys, and she made it easy for them as a result. The chloroform rendered her senseless with a minimum of fuss, as she surrendered to God’s loving embrace. Miss Scott did not do the heavy work herself as she had three of her best students there to assist her. She had been asked to travel to America by Sir Charles Buckingham who was, in his retirement, acting for the American’s in a consultancy capacity, and he considered such a delicate assignment called for the best guardian care available.

Much like Philip Henderson, the Conservative Party leader at the start of the British renaissance, Aaron Lumsfield needed a little help to get across the line. Nixon would eat the Republican’s alive, but the carcass had to be relatively clean to allow the process to follow its natural course. Polling day was fast approaching and no one wanted a hysterical woman ruining things for everyone.

Reformism Interruptet is continued in Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part Ten Three Betrothals, One Death, Three Internments, One Wedding and One Last Christmas at Broomwaters.

 

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