“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”
— Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)
Faye Marie Polkinghorne was born helpful. She was also born with six toes on both feet.
Throughout her life, Faye would consistently be the first person to volunteer to lend a hand in any situation, and she always appeared to genuinely delight in giving her time and energy to others. Her mother, Alison Polkinghorne, recalls Faye climbing out of her crib one night—well before she could walk—to rescue the pacifier that her older sister had dropped onto the floor. Helping others was a compulsion that Faye seemed to have come into this life with.
The Polkinghorne family was comfortably wealthy when Faye was growing up thanks to savvy real estate investments made by Faye’s great-great-great-great-grandfather almost two centuries before. The family lived on a sprawling country estate east of New Haven, Connecticut, where Faye could ride any one of a stable of horses around the expansive grounds, or along the beach that edged Long Island Sound at the southern border of the property, whenever she desired. From a very young age, however, it was clear that Faye was a hard worker. She was never one to loll about in front of television, or to leave domestic responsibilities up to the estate’s sizable staff.
Faye’s two siblings—an older sister, Nancy, and a younger brother, Neville—were, in comparison, decidedly lazy, and much more inclined to take advantage of the family’s fortunate financial position; Faye liked to earn her own rewards. She was more likely to be found in the kitchen helping cook prepare dinner, or in the stables helping the stableman feed and care for the horses, than laying around the house or the exquisitely manicured gardens and swimming pool.
Faye’s first grade teacher had never seen anything quite like her. On the first day of the school year, Faye compiled a list of her classmates' names, and recorded all of their birthdays, so that she could be sure not to miss a single one throughout the year. Dutifully on each of the birthdays Faye would bring a gift basket and a handcrafted birthday card for her fellow student. Even the students who disliked Faye, or who openly taunted her, received her special birthday gift. When Faye’s birthday came and went without a single mention of it, her teacher did notice a little of the sparkle go out of Faye’s birthday offerings, but she soldiered on regardless.
Faye wasn’t the most popular girl in her privileged elementary school, but she was the most well-known. By the time she moved on to junior high, Faye had acquired the reputation of being the social coordinator for the entire school. Moving seamlessly between the various school cliques, Faye could create harmony where none existed. "I just don’t understand why the jocks can’t be nice and get along with the nerdy boys, or why the pretty girls can’t allow the smart girls to share their space. It would make my life so much easier." Still, it was Faye's special challenge to bring these opposing factions together, and to create successful social events where everyone was equally at ease, and where all had a good time.
Through her early school years, Faye also became known—both at home and at school—for her propensity to pay particular attention to detail. Whether it was the extraordinary effort she put into a class project about the Founding Fathers, or whether it was arranging the flowers for one of her mother’s many dinner parties, Faye would always go the extra mile and strive for perfection. The tireless energy that Faye put into her projects, and into doing things for others, did occasionally receive appropriate recognition, but as a rule Faye received only minimum praise for her efforts. On the surface this didn’t bother Faye, but deep down it made her furious. "How can people fail to notice how thoughtful I’ve been? Really, they can be just total brutes sometimes."
The one person who appeared to most pointedly turn a blind eye to Faye’s helpful efforts was her father, Rupert Polkinghorne. Rupert was a tight-lipped lawyer with a successful boutique property law firm in Hartford under his watchful and domineering guidance. Rupert was also a workaholic, and he rarely returned home from work before his children were in bed for the night. When she was four years old, Faye decided that she would start waking up early each morning and make breakfast for her father before he left for the day.
Rupert was astonished at 5am one morning to find his sweet little blond-haired baby girl beaming across the breakfast table at him. In his place was a stack of pancakes swimming in maple syrup, a mound of crispy strips of bacon, toast dripping with butter, and two fried eggs staring wide-eyed up at him from his plate. A vase containing a single yellow rose, the morning newspaper, and a steaming cup of perfectly brewed coffee rounded out the breakfast tableau. This was the beginning of a morning ritual that would last for almost twenty years.
Rupert’s heart melted a little more each day as Faye unfailingly showed up to brighten his mornings. It was only Rupert’s sudden death from a ruptured brain aneurysm that put an end to their morning ritual. Faye—who was 23 years old at the time—was devastated by her father’s death; it was the most painful thing ever to have happened to her. For many years afterwards Faye would wake at 4am as usual, and, momentarily not remembering that Rupert was dead and gone, she would smile at the thought of him. Then, as the memories of her life switched on again and she picked up her story once more, she would feel the pain of his death all over again, as if for the first time. Later in life, if you were ever to catch Faye looking sad or reflective you could be pretty sure that a memory of Rupert Polkinghorne was lurking somewhere nearby.
Faye’s mother, Alison, was an attractive woman. She was tall and slender, possessing decidedly fine features, suspiciously large breasts, and a mane of luxurious auburn hair. Alison Polkinghorne was also one of the most self-absorbed humans on the planet. She spent her days attending to her own appearance, and to her own personal desires. Her three children were essentially raised by the hired help, and were strangers to her.
Alison loved to throw parties where she would invariably drink to excess. Rupert had no interest in Alison’s hedonistic gatherings, and he particularly had no interest in her astonishingly self-focused friends. Rupert generally made himself scarce once Alison’s posse had arrived for the evening. Scandal erupted at the Polkinghorne estate in the late '70s when one of Alison’s male drinking companions, Herb Johnson—a suave dandy with a pencil moustache, a stutter, and a tendency to wear excessive cologne—turned out to be more than just a friend. The night Rupert discovered the sozzled couple fornicating with gay abandon in the pool cabana, Herb was banished, and Alison’s allowance and freedom considerably re-evaluated.
Faye—who was extremely observant for a seven-year-old—could see that her mother enjoyed the drama caused by the affair, and that Alison reveled in outraging Rupert whenever she could. In fact, it seemed to Faye that her mother enjoyed the drama caused by it all more than the affair itself. The seemingly inevitable divorce failed to eventuate due to Rupert’s inability to find the time to file the necessary papers. Rupert had the last laugh, however, leaving not a single penny to his money-hungry wife in his last will and testament. Alison had to be carried, crying hysterically, from the solicitor's office after the reading of the will; the prospect of living out the latter part of her life in poverty too much for her to bear.
When it came to her children, Alison was simply uninterested. Nannies and tutors were hired for the general child-rearing and educating duties. An odd kiss on the forehead—usually accompanied by a strong waft of gin or whisky—was as close as Faye ever got to intimacy with her mother. This arrangement was perfectly fine with Faye. After all, she had her daddy, and daddy was all that she ever needed to be happy.
On transferring from elementary school to junior high, Faye followed family tradition and was enrolled at The Foote School in New Haven. Settling into this historic school—known for its propensity to nurture creativity, and encourage freedom of expression—was a challenging transition for Faye. She was comfortable and competent when given well-defined tasks to complete; her excellent academic record to this point was ample proof of that. When school assignments were left open-ended and up to the creative whim of the student—as they were at Foote—however, Faye tended to get lost, and her grades started to suffer accordingly. Faye’s sixth grade teacher at Foote, Mr. Humble, suggested that she might find some focus in her new environment if she became involved in the production of the annual school play. Faye wasn’t convinced, but agreed so as not to let Mr. Humble down.
The play that year, 1981, was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Culturally unfamiliar to Faye, and somehow lacking in the joie de vivre that she associated with the two plays she had actually seen to date—A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Pygmalion—Faye struggled to find enthusiasm about it in the lead up to the rehearsals.
As Faye had no experience or apparent talent in the acting field, she was immediately placed in the behind-the-scenes crew. When the director gave her a choice between scenery and props, or costumes and makeup, there was no question. Faye loved to dress up and paint her face with makeup, and her sizable dress-up box was one of her most cherished possessions. Faye could help the cast of Hot Tin Roof do that too; she was excited.
Under the guidance of Mrs Bradshaw, the senior home economics teacher and head of wardrobe for the school play, Faye was put to work sewing raggedy, thread-bare trousers and coats for the ensemble. In her typical fashion, Faye labored painstakingly over every detail, putting her own signature touch into each piece of the extras wardrobe. She sewed until her fingers bled, some nights until the small hours of the morning, for more than a month. Faye was exhausted, but she loved feeling useful.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was scheduled for two dress rehearsals and three full performances, making up the busy week of Hot Tin Roof’s run at Foote. Faye flitted and floated through the dress rehearsals, applying makeup with flair and enthusiasm, helping the cast dress and make costume changes, complimenting everyone on how wonderful they looked, and generally being a useful part of the production. Impressed with Faye’s capabilities, the stage manager—Mrs Bradshaw’s husband, Fred—assigned Faye more and more duties in order to ease the work load on his ever more stressed, and ever more difficult to live with, wife. Come opening night the process was familiar, and Faye was having fun. Everything was progressing well until, minutes before the curtain went up, Big Daddy’s beard was nowhere to be found.
Faye looked everywhere. She turned the backstage area and temporary dressing rooms upside-down, throwing things about, getting progressively more frantic. Fred Bradshaw heard the ruckus and came to help Faye, but the beard was nowhere to be found. Thinking outside the box—in exemplary Foote fashion—Faye quickly fashioned a beard out of a sheet of cardboard, some elastic bands, and a brown crayon. The effect was not aesthetically pleasing, but Faye thought it was passable.
Big Daddy made his entrance, just in time, only to be greeted by raucous laughter, and a volley of disparaging comments. Faye was mortified. She ran out of the school auditorium and across the deserted playground crying. How humiliating. Oh, I can never show my face in school ever again.
Faye cried herself to sleep every night for weeks after the Hot Tin Roof incident, and, needless to say, it was her first and last foray into the theatre. The incident did, however, act as a catalyst for Faye to be more selective with her school classes, and she discovered that she had a particular propensity for history, politics, accounting, and home economics. By focusing on her strengths, Faye was able to finish high school at Foote with a GPA high enough to be offered entry into all but two Ivy League schools.
Upon finishing high school, however, Faye encountered a dilemma. In the depths of her soul she knew that the role she was predestined to play in her lifetime was to be the best wife she could be to a good husband, and the best mother she could be to her future children. Faye imagined that she would have three children, but four or even five wasn’t out of the question. The dilemma was how to meet the perfect man who would become the centerpiece of her life story. Her intuition told her that politics would be the most likely profession of her husband—she often daydreamed of being a governor’s wife—but he could equally well be a successful lawyer, a supreme court judge, or a senior diplomat of some sort. Faye would even be happy with a member of a minor royal family as long as he was from a politically stable country where English was widely spoken, and suitable health-care was freely available for the children.
Faye finally decided that the best course of action would be for her to enroll in law school; she was sure to meet her perfect man that way, surely. She chose Yale not only for its outstanding reputation among its graduates working in the legal profession and in high levels of politics, but also for its proximity to home (after all she wanted to maintain her morning breakfast ritual with Rupert).
Faye encountered a number of suitable potential husbands during her time at Yale, some of whom she dated for several months, but much to her disappointment none proved themselves worthy of her undivided attention; these young men simply couldn’t measure up to the high standards of her father. The most promising lead came in her fourth year when a jovial student named Henry Fraser was introduced to Faye by one of her girlfriends. Henry was enrolled in an MBA rather than law, and he had no interest in politics, but his family connections were impressive, and he had a safe appointment in his father’s financial planning firm lined up for after graduation; by this time Faye had relaxed the criteria of her husband hunting significantly as her undergraduate degree was nearly over.
Henry was fun to be around, and, unlike some of her other beaus, he was a gentleman. After they’d been dating for a few weeks, however, Faye started to become concerned about Henry’s habit of squinting to see things, and his complete inability to read menus in dimly lit restaurants. When questioned about it, Henry admitted to having inherited a severe form of retinal dystrophy that caused not only a complete absence of color discrimination—accounting for Henry’s unfortunate taste in clothing—but also very poor vision in low lighting conditions. In fact, Faye discovered that Henry had very little vision at all. Henry was entirely unable to navigate his way through a darkened cinema, and finding his way back to his dormitory after dark was comical at best. Faye made the difficult, but pragmatic, decision that she didn’t want to risk passing Henry’s defective vision genes onto her future children, made an excuse about moving to Venezuela on an exchange program, and promptly ended the relationship.
After Yale Faye was momentarily disillusioned with life, but her positivity and boundless desire to be helpful soon picked her up, and she bounced back into the husband hunting game. She decided that she would relocate to New Eden City; with Rupert recently deceased there was nothing keeping her in Connecticut anymore. Faye was confident that if she became peripherally involved in the political circles in New Eden that she would find her holy grail.
After a year laying the groundwork, including becoming involved in event planning for a number of well-reputed charities and volunteering for various political support groups, Faye found herself moving in the circles that included the young, powerful, and eligible bachelors of New Eden City. The name on everyone’s lips that year, 1993, was Ken Abercrombie. Again and again Faye heard that Ken was the hottest prospect on the bachelor real estate market, with the potential to become not just mayor or governor, but to go all the way to the White House; Faye set her sights firmly on snaring Ken Abercrombie as her husband.
Faye trolled the tabloids, and even taught herself to use the fascinating new technology known as the World Wide Web, reading every piece of publicly available information on Ken Abercrombie that she was able to find. Pleasingly, it all sounded very positive and above board . . . though perhaps a little too good to be true.
At 5’3”, Faye Polkinghorne was shorter than average for a woman in America. She was in excellent shape physically, however, thanks to her regular Pilates classes and gym workouts. Her hair was mousy blonde, and cut into a cute angular bob reminiscent of Vidal Sassoon, circa 1965. When Faye spun her head around her hair would cascade seductively over her face—something she’d practiced over and over in front of a mirror until she’d perfected the move. Faye’s eyes, like her father’s, were dark brown, her complexion was fair, and she liked to wear makeup, particularly to accentuate her eyes. Faye generally thought that her makeup application was tasteful, but behind her back other women frequently commented on how thick and heavy Faye's makeup was, and how slutty she looked at times as a result.
Faye also liked to dress to impress. She’d accumulated a sizable wardrobe of stunning dresses and suits from various designers—mostly local New Edeners as she liked to support the city’s home-grown talent—with a few classic Chanel and Dior pieces thrown in to add some timelessness to her collection. The overall impression Faye made when she left her apartment to attend a function was of an attractive, confident, and successful young woman. Not head turning perhaps, but someone who stood out in a crowd for more subtle reasons. Faye moved extremely gracefully, and she possessed the most impeccable poise. The evening she sat down opposite Ken Abercrombie in a quiet corner of a chic mid-town eatery, Faye radiated confidence and charm. Ken was instantly impressed and she knew it.
"Why this is just lovely, isn’t it? How lucky am I? Having you, such a handsome and busy man, all to myself for an evening. Thank you so much for the invitation; I’m flattered.”
“I’m pleased you came. You look great, by the way. Nice suit.”
"Oh, phew-ee, this old thing. Now you, on the other hand, look so incredibly handsome tonight. And that suit is terrific. Armani?”
“Balenciaga. What would you like to drink?”
“Ooh, let’s have Champagne. It’d go perfectly with the foie gras, which I hear is to die for. Do you have any dietary restrictions? I suggest we have the degustation. Don’t you just love everything French?” Faye swung her head towards Ken, and glanced coyly at him, batting her eyelids seductively as her hair cascaded perfectly across her face exactly on queue.
“Are you enjoying living in New Eden?” Ken asked, changing the subject.
“After Connecticut? Are you kidding? I love it; it’s so exciting. But that’s enough about me. I want you to tell me everything there is to know about you. That’s what I’m really interested in talking about.” Faye settled back into her chair and opened up space for Ken to reveal everything he was willing to share about himself and his life. She soaked up every detail, uh-huh-ing and nodding at appropriate intervals, her eyes never leaving his. Behind Faye’s interested facade, however, her mind was jumping ahead to engagement parties, wedding invitations, honeymoons, new homes, and, of course, children; Ken was perfect in every way.
Subtly—or perhaps not so subtly—Faye took charge of the evening. She ordered the food and wine; she complimented Ken on his life choices; she agreed with his stance on abortion and tax reform; and when dinner was over she hailed Ken a cab and sent him home to bed. It was a perfectly executed performance. Faye knew only too well that powerful men like Ken Abercrombie needed to focus the majority of their time and energy on the demanding public aspects of their life and work, and that they desperately wanted—and most assuredly needed—a strong capable woman to manage the more mundane aspects of such a busy and challenging lifestyle. Faye was more than prepared for just such a role. In fact, she was born for it, and she was determined to be that woman for Ken Abercrombie.
Her plan worked perfectly. They both sensed on some level that each was going to be good for the other, and it was quickly settled. Ken proposed to Faye the very next weekend, and they hosted a thrilling engagement party at Tavern on the Green a month later. Before she knew it, Faye was walking down the aisle of Grace Church with a bouquet of white roses and lily-of-the-valley pressed firmly between her cool palms.
The wedding guest list read like the index of Marquis Who’s Who. There were movie stars, musicians, and models. There were politicians, prominent businessmen and women, and some minor European and Caribbean royalty. A smattering of family completed the gathering. Ken’s sisters, Bonnie and Margie, were there with their husbands, as well as a handful of aunts and uncles. Faye’s whole extended family was in attendance, with her recently widowed mother, Alison Polkinghorne, looking ravishing in a plum-sequined gown, with a deeply plunging neckline, from Jean Paul Gaultier. Alison was secretly—though not so discretely—on the lookout for a new husband of her own.
The honeymoon consisted of four days on the exotic Caribbean Island of Aruba. There was just enough time for Ken and Faye to unwind after the hype of the wedding before they were back on the plane home to New Eden. Faye didn’t give too much significance to the lack of intimacy and sexual relations on their wedding night, or during the honeymoon; they were both exhausted, and there would be plenty of time for all of that later. And besides, Faye didn’t possess a particularly active sex drive anyway, so it was just fine with her.
Back in New Eden, Faye moved into Ken’s elegant five-room apartment on Columbus Avenue. Ken had suggested finding something new, but while there was just the two of them Faye had decided that they would make do with Ken’s bachelor pad.
Faye loved having a man to focus all of her attention on again; it made her feel whole in a way that nothing else did. The little things—like rearranging Ken’s closet, or planting petunias in the window boxes in spring—made her feel so happy and fulfilled. Ken was generous to Faye, not that she needed his money, and occasionally he expressed his gratitude for her input to his life, though she did sometimes feel that he didn’t notice or comment on her extra special touches as much as he could.
Even in the early years of the marriage the Abercrombie marital bed was most definitely for sleeping, and not for more intimate pursuits. Occasionally Faye would persuade Ken to make love to her. She would choose these moments carefully, according to her monthly cycles, and, as she hoped, within six months of the wedding she fell pregnant.
On the day Adrian Abercrombie was born he was perfect in every way. Tragically, he died just three weeks later of sudden infant death syndrome. Faye suffered through a painful period of grieving after little Adrian’s death, during which she withdrew from Ken and from the world. It was during this period of introspection that Faye realized she would have to re-evaluate her earlier plans of having a large family. Thanks to regular therapy sessions, Faye was able to come to a place where she was happy with her life again, and she vowed to devote herself 100% to her husband and his busy career.
Adrian’s death had only a minor impact on Ken emotionally; he hadn’t been overly exciting about Faye’s pregnancy in the first place as the timing hadn’t fit well with his political ambitions. Faye made the pragmatic decision that supporting her husband and his political aspirations was the most important thing she could do for now. If he didn’t want children yet then she was perfectly fine with that. Who was she to get pregnant against his wishes anyway? Perhaps Adrian’s death had in some way been punishment for her trying to trick Ken? Oh dear, have I been a bad person? Does Ken still love me? I couldn’t bear to lose him.
When a suitable opportunity arose, Faye broached the subject of children with Ken once more. They came to an amicable agreement that children would benefit Ken’s political career in a few years from now, and that two children would be the ideal number. Faye was pleased with the outcome of the conversation and with this arrangement, or at least that was the outward impression she gave Ken; two children would just have to be enough.
Having put aside her plans of raising children temporarily, Faye got busy making herself useful promoting her husband’s political career. There was no role for Faye in Ken’s work life — Abercrombie Industries remained a mystery to Faye as Ken continued to be very secretive about his work. Faye didn’t really understand Ken’s reticence to discuss his work with her; she thought it sounded wonderfully exciting, and she often told him so. Occasionally Ken would let some details slip if he was particularly excited about something that had happened, or if he was very relaxed late at night . . . usually after his third balloon of Armagnac. So long as Ken’s business ventures kept bringing in enough money for the Abercrombie’s to live a comfortable lifestyle, and enough money to fund political campaigns when they were needed, Faye was content to remain ignorant on that front.
The place where Faye found her niche during this period was in acting as Ken’s political PR manager. Faye had the unique position of being able to observe Ken and his charismatic personality up close and personal. She would notice him shift into high-gear when he came into contact with powerful individuals who he wanted on his team. She marveled at his capacity to turn it on in these situations, and to easily enlist people onto his campaign. Ken’s politics were conservative, somewhat to the right of center—in keeping with the ethos of his chosen political partner, the Partisan Party—but he also liked to think of himself as a revolutionary: A Crusader for Good. It was when Ken got talking about this aspect of himself that his passion would really start to flow. During these discourses, that he delivered impeccably time and time again, Ken Abercrombie could charm and persuade anyone onto his side with clear, uplifting, and convincing arguments. What Faye observed was that after these spectacular conversions, however, Ken would move on to his next conquest, leaving the converted one hanging and wanting more. This is where Faye would step in:
“Good evening Senator Mumford. Isn’t it a glorious evening? What a lovely location for the reception; thank you so much for the invitation,” Faye said as she stepped forward and took hold of the senator’s right hand firmly with both of her own. Turning to the senator’s wife, “Oh my, Hanna, the blue in your frock brings out the blue in your eyes so beautifully tonight. You look delightful.” Faye observed the faint hint of a smile flash across Hanna Mumford’s face, a momentary dilation of her pupils, and a slight relaxation of her shoulders, all of which indicated that the senator’s wife had accepted her compliment.
“Now, Senator, how do you see the fallout of the High Court ruling on native land titles? Isn’t it going to be an interesting year ahead?” Faye sensed the subtle shift of the senator's body towards her, indicating his interest in sharing his opinions about one of his favorite subjects. Faye relaxed and settled in to listen attentively to the senator’s treatise. She estimated that Senator Mumford would be happy with ten minutes of her undivided attention, and exactly ten minutes later—without needing to look at her watch—Faye leaned towards him, lowered her voice to a seductive whisper, and said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, Senator. I am just so happy to have had this conversation. I feel so much more informed on the issue than I ever did before. Thank you, I’m so grateful.” Faye’s left hand squeezed the senator’s right shoulder firmly as she shook his hand once more. Her gaze, focused and strong, lingered just long enough on Senator Mumford’s bloodshot eyes to give him a warm fuzzy feeling in the vicinity of his moderately enlarged prostate gland. “Please excuse me. I’ve just spotted Barbara Turner—she had a miscarriage last week you know, poor dear—I must go and say hello. So nice to have spoken with you. Oh, and here’s my card. Call me any time. I would love to continue this fascinating conversation we’ve been having, and perhaps we could talk about one or two of my little projects too. Au revoir.”
And so it went, Ken blazing a trail, Faye rounding up the lambs in his wake. Faye set up an office with a small staff to help keep track of Ken’s supporters and donors. When she wasn’t busy with this sizeable task, she put her attention onto her own charity work. Rather than being one of the junior organizers now, however, having rapidly developed such a high public profile—and particularly thanks to the regular large donations being made by the Abercrombies—Faye was now being asked to speak at these charity dinners and galas. Faye saw these speeches as opportunities to promote Ken’s political career, as well as to raise her own public profile. The prospect of being future First Lady had a strong appeal to Faye. To be the wife of the most powerful man in America . . . Faye felt completely comfortable filling that role.
It was just a few years later that Ken gave Faye the go ahead to start a family. By this time, however, Ken was finding it impossible to fulfil his role in the bedroom. Faye was yet to discover Ken’s elaborate extramarital sex life—that revelation would come a few years later—so Faye arranged a surreptitious visit to New Eden’s leading fertility specialist. That way, she thought, the fertilizing could be performed in a test-tube rather than the bedroom, taking Ken’s poor performance record out of the equation.
As soon as the pregnancy was established—twins, she was overjoyed—and the placental hormones started coursing through her bloodstream, Faye felt like she was on a permanent high. Having children became her life's principal focus again, and she looked forward eagerly to their arrival. In the months prior to the twins' birth Faye interviewed for a nanny who would live full time in their new, larger, and significantly more sumptuous Central Park West penthouse, and be responsible for the routine day-to-day care of the Abercrombie family’s new additions. The successful candidate was a jovial woman of South Asian background named Yantra Srinivasan. Yantra was the same age as Faye, and Faye warmed to Yantra's sweet, gentle, but bubbly personality, and her soft, well-rounded figure immediately. She knew Yantra would cherish her future children as her own, and raise them with love and affection.
As Faye entered the final month of her pregnancy her obstetrician became concerned that Faye's blood pressure was elevating dangerously, and she was admitted to hospital for rest and observation. Serial ultrasounds had shown nice growth of the two fetuses up until the end of the seventh month of the pregnancy, but there seemed to have been no further weight gain of the developing babies in the eighth month. The doctor told Faye she was showing signs of developing pre-eclampsia, and that he was concerned about the state of the twins’ placentas. He said that they may need to be delivered early to ensure their health and safety.
As Ken was in Boston for a series of business meetings—and a nostalgic rendezvous with one his early mistresses, Lana—Faye telephoned him immediately expressing her concern, and asked him to return to New Eden as soon as possible.
The following day, with steadily rising blood pressure, fluid retention increasing in her legs, rising protein levels in her urine, and an intractable pounding headache, Faye was scheduled for an emergency caesarean section. The operation went smoothly, and the twins—a boy and girl—settled quickly into their new external environment with no apparent concerns or medical issues. Ken burst noisily into Faye's hospital suite on his return from Boston later that night only to find her beaming radiantly at the two swaddled bundles nestled next to her in the bed.
Given the devastating experience she’d gone through with little Adrian a few years earlier, it wasn’t surprising that Faye struggled through the first months after giving birth with fear and anxiety her constant companions. When the twins' first birthday came and went without them experiencing so much as a sniffle, however, Faye relaxed and started to enjoy her mothering role more. For a brief period, Ken was pushed aside from the centerpiece of Faye’s life in favor of her offspring. It was a wonderful period for Faye, her heart bursting open again and again as Eve and Alex brought joy and wonder into the Abercrombie home.
Yantra was often at a loose end while Faye doted on her children that first year. She thought that Faye hovered and worried too much, but it wasn’t her place to say so. Yantra was happy having long periods of free time, however, as she was fond of day-time soap operas and napping. Well before the twins second birthday, however, Yantra’s presence was needed more and more as Faye turned her attention back towards Ken's political campaigning.
Faye had always been a trusting person; she always told the truth, and she liked to believe that other people generally did so too. Her husband, however, had a whole other view on the matter. Ken’s regular sexual liaisons with his many mistresses had started during his college days at Harvard, and they'd continued unabated after his marriage to Faye. There was no doubt that Ken was well and truly addicted to these activities, and he felt it would be less painful for Faye if he told her nothing about that side of his life. On some level Ken knew his secret would be aired publicly one day . . . and that day was September 12th, 1999.
On the fateful day, Faye was deep in the throes of arranging a large charity fundraiser that she was hoping would take place at the Guggenheim Museum. Faye desperately needed to lock in the proposed date or she was in danger of losing the venue altogether. Annoyingly, Ken was not responded to her calls and messages. Uncharacteristically starting to get angry, Faye decided she would take a quick look at Ken’s calendar and make the decision herself. Faye knew that Ken kept a diary to keep track of his engagements—he was not yet a fan of the new electronic gadgets starting to become available at the time—but his precious diary was always either in his briefcase, or in the locked draw of his desk. This particular evening, however, Faye had spied it sitting in full view in the center of Ken's desk.
Faye sat down in Ken’s chair and casually flicked the diary open to November 23rd—the proposed day of the fundraiser. The evening was free; Faye was relieved. Before closing the diary, however, she glanced at September 12th, today, to see where Ken might be:
“Let’s see. 5pm - Danny Higgett, CNN, 357 Broadway. 7pm - dinner Harry Runnymead, Partisan Party Headquarters. 9pm - Honoré.”
Honoré? Hmmm, I wonder who Honoré is? We don't know anyone named Honoré that I can think of. Faye flicked back a few pages.
"September 9th. 9.30pm - Andrea. Who is Andrea, I wonder?” Flick, flick.
“September 7th. 7.30pm - Antoinette. Who the HELL is Antoinette. Kenneth John Abercrombie. Are you sleeping with other women? You are, aren't you? How dare you? Behind my back. And every other night. You ratbag!! Oooooo, how dare you? How DARE you?”
Faye was sitting in the darkened living room when Ken arrived home a little after midnight. The expression Ken saw on Faye's face when he turned on the light was enough to tell him that he’d been busted, and that there was no point trying to deny any of it. They talked, paced, argued, shouted, and screamed until the sun came up . . . but they came to an arrangement.
Nothing would change. The world—and especially the press—would never know anything was amiss at the Abercrombie household. Faye would accept Ken’s affairs, but she wanted to know no details of any kind about them. Faye was to be given complete control of the family, the home, and the money. She would continue to be the perfect wife, but from now on she would be the one calling the shots. Faye was no longer prepared to take the inferior position with respect to her lying, cheating husband.
“God damn you, you bastard. We have the perfect life. Together there’s the very strong prospect of us becoming President and First Lady of the United States of America. Do you know how big a deal that is? You know you can’t achieve that without me, don’t you? And you would screw all that up just to satisfy the pathetic cravings of your stupid little penis? Men!! You can be complete imbeciles sometimes!!”
The one person who, through no fault of her own, now knew every sordid detail of the newly discovered secret sex life of Ken Abercrombie, was Yantra Srinivasan. Not that she had any intention of telling anyone about it . . . yet.
Ken and Faye had to weather a near financial disaster when Abercrombie Industries almost collapsed in 2003, but Ken dodged a bullet, and he put the business back on track within a couple of years. The temporary setback did upset the timeline of the trajectory of the run for president, but Faye remained cool. There was some leeway in their schedule to adjust their target date; Ken was still young by political standards.
The more major crisis that confronted Faye came a few years later when Ken fell head-over-heels in love with one of his mistresses. How DARE he? Stupid, stupid man!
Ken started behaving like a smitten teenager, ignoring Faye’s warnings, and not caring about the consequences. Faye felt unmoored by this new dynamic where she couldn't control Ken. Most concerning of all was Ken’s apparent lack of concern when the press photographed him with the floozy, and the rumor mill started to speculate wildly in the tabloids.
Faye found herself besieged by paparazzi wherever she went. She took to wearing large hats and sunglasses, and being seen in public as little as possible. The official stance from the Abercrombie PR office was a firm, “No comment.”
A few months passed without another incident, and the world quickly forgot about Ken and Faye Abercrombie’s potential marital problems. They weren’t yet in the main spotlight, only circling in the wings. There were bigger fish to be caught, skinned, and pan-fried in the paparazzi pond at the time.
In the face of the undeniability of Ken’s infidelities and deep personal betrayal, Faye found a new strength within her, and a depth of conviction in herself which she now chose to put !00% behind an idea she’d been working on for a few years. Faye knew that the First Lady of the United States was a role which offered opportunities—sometimes for scandal, gossip, and drama, but also to make a real difference in the world. Here Faye’s utopian goal of universal peace, friendship, and harmony, that’d first birthed in her way back in elementary school, arose again as a new burning passion for Faye. She pulled a small team around her, and weeks later hosted a press conference to unveil her new project: Let’s All Get Along, or LAGA, for short.
Faye had recently read about some new research that conclusively confirmed that dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin—the hormones most associated with a feeling of wellbeing, happiness, and connection in humans—are all released in the limbic system of the brain when humans hug for more than a few seconds; this information had completely captivated Faye. The same researchers had also discovered that holding hands for more than a minute also triggered the release of these happy hormones. Faye thought it was so exciting. “Perhaps we can achieve universal world peace just by getting everyone to hold hands and hug more often?” When a follow-up paper from the same research group a year later confirmed even higher levels of dopamine and serotonin were stimulated by simply gazing into another person’s eyes for more than a minute, Faye knew she was onto something.
She set up a small research lab of her own, hired some enthusiastic staff who would initially be guinea pigs, but later also become the assistants she would need to get her message out to the world. Faye and her small band came up with what Faye coined her Prescription for Peace, as the first initiative to be promoted by LAGA, and she went public for the first time since Ken’s affair.
The media gave Faye’s new adventure unanimously positive reviews, and just one month later she appeared on the cover of Time magazine—surprisingly, before Ken had done so—as LAGA’s Prescription for Peace went viral, and people all around the world began spending three minutes every morning and evening gazing into another's eyes, hugging, and laughing together.
And so, Faye’s story now intersects with all of the other stories at the all-important point in time: July 4th, 2020.
The Partisan National Convention is being held in New Eden City, and Ken has officially been announced as the Partisan Party candidate for the 2020 presidential election. It was a foregone conclusion, given the collapse of President Krump’s popularity over his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter riots that followed the death of George Floyd, but having the official confirmation takes a significant weight off Faye’s shoulders. Faye knows only too well that a large percentage of the country, and indeed the world, had breathed a huge sigh of relief in the knowledge that Krump would not be in the White House for the coming four years. Faye is confident that the Abercrombies can help restore the country to health and greatness after the massive shock and economic turmoil that COVID-19 has recently unleashed.
Throughout the convention Faye has been on a high, feeling like life couldn’t possibly get any better. Her speech on the second evening had been extremely well received, and when Ken announces that Faye will be his vice-presidential running mate the convention attendees and press go wild. Faye is given the honor of making the closing speech of the convention, and she uses the opportunity to promote her charity, LAGA, and again outline her Prescription for Peace—modified as a result of social distancing, but still full of promise—which is extremely well received.
As the post-convention party winds down, however, Faye tries to find Ken but is informed by one of his aides that he slipped out quietly some time ago. Faye tries to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach; a feeling that’s very familiar for Faye these days, particularly when Ken is uncontactable, or acting distracted and distant. Faye knows that Ken will be at that den of iniquity, The Dark Side, with his mistress, Lobida. She also knows that Eve will be performing—strictly against Faye’s wishes—at the club for the first time tonight . . .