She pulled aside the curtain of the hotel room, grimacing at the sight of the driving snow in the lights of the parking lot. There were already two inches on the ground, the temperature hovering at a bone-snapping 15 degrees. "I hate this weather," she said, "my skin gets so damned dry I look fifteen years older."
"My love," he said, toying with her hair with his long gray fingers, "age implies dignity and wisdom, and that should work in your favor."
"Maybe for men, but not for women. It doesn't matter how much I know about how this government runs: if I look like hell, I'm not going to get the women's vote, because they'll just sneer and say that if I knew what I was doing, I'd know how to keep my skin moisturized and youthful-looking. And the clothes? I'm already coming under fire in the women's magazines for wearing suits that all look the same! No one cares if a man wears the same gray suit day after day and only changes his ties once or twice a year, but let a woman try to wear the same outfit two days running and every fashion freak in the Western world is frothing at the mouth and carrying pitchforks." She rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. "Makes me wish I was in China going for the Maoist vote."
"You know you don't mean that, my dearest Malory. Come here and sit on the bed, and I shall massage your temples and soothe your brave, brave heart." He moved to the king-sized bed with a curious gliding step, sat down on the edge of it without seeming to bend at any joints, and patted the soft quilted bedspread.
Malory Binton looked at her own face on the front page of USA Today with disgust. "Why do they keep running these pictures of me with that red nose and watering eyes? I'll tell you why -- that's a male-dominated press corps and they want any woman who has the ganas to run for president to look like an emotionally unstable weenie. My own damn staff didn't help any, saying I must have been overcome by emotion! I choked on a damn french fry, for Pete's sake! Nobody who runs for President of the United States is allowed to choke on a piece of food that goes down wrong, not if she's a woman! The President himself can choke himself half to death on a pretzel while he's watching a video of "King of the Hill" on television, and everyone just shrugs it off. But not me -- not a woman!" She crumpled the newspaper and flung it across the room.
"Be patient, my sweet Malory. Your time will come. The opposition party cannot win; the people of your land are sickened by the stench of oil and blood. They will see your greatness shine from you even as I do." He patted the bed again, blinking his huge dark eyes.
She relented, and sat on the bed beside him, brushing her hair back from her temples with her fingers. Her hands encountered his, and as he stroked her fingers, she was calmed by the familiar rubbery feel of his skin.
"What would I do without you?" she murmured. "You have been the greatest support I've ever had." Sighing, Malory closed her eyes in pleasure. "It's a shame that we have to be so secretive..."
"We have spoken of this before, my lovely one. Should we reveal my nature, we would have no peace as every country in the world would be clamoring night and day for my technology. I would be eaten up by the greedy war-mongerers, and you would be vilified for keeping me to your warm and sumptuous self."
"That's true," Malory admitted. "We've had some close calls with that filthy Weekly World News rag. I still don't know how they managed to get those pictures of us."
"It is because no one took them seriously," he said, raising his hands above his head. "But I have put an end to their presence in your food markets, and so we are safe."
"For which I am profoundly grateful." She rose and went to the mini-bar, filled a glass with ice and poured a tiny bottle of Jim Beam over it. She did not offer him any, because she knew from long acquaintance that he preferred his own planet's euphoriants.
"All right. I think I can whip that young punk -- at least I think I can if I can get Will to shut his stupid trap. All I asked him to do was to sign autographs and hand out "Vote for Malory" ribbons, and what does he do? Tries to wing it with speeches about my rivals' mistakes -- only he gets his information by reading blogs, for crying out loud." She swallowed half the icy liquor.
"My beloved Malory."
"We have an agreement never to speak of your husband."
"I'm sorry. We've just come such a long way since 2000 to have him get a big head when the groupie bimbos cluster around him waving microphones under his nose. Idiot."
The gray-skinned creature folded his long fingers in his lap, and pressed the lipless edges of his mouth together.
"Oh, don't be that way, come on. You know I don't care about that lowlife. It's his name, that's all. Come on, I'll stop talking about him." She played her fingers over his great gray head.
Hardly seeming to have moved, he captured one of her hands in his. Just then her cell phone rang.
"Yes?" she answered it. "Sure. Sure. Just give me a minute, okay? I need to check my makeup and hit the bathroom." She turned off the phone and turned to him as he stood from the bed. "It's Bobbi. The press is here to see what we're going to do about meetings tomorrow."
"Ah, my Malory. You are so efficient. Until later, then, my dear one." He let his fingers tremble across the planes of her face, causing her expression to gentle. Then he turned, and grasped something invisible in the air, turned it, and opened something that looked like a doorway into darkness. With one last gaze from his fathomless dark eyes, he stepped through, closed the door, and was gone.
Malory ran a comb though her bangs, straightened her suit jacket, and went to answer the knock at her hotel door.
Originally appeared 2008-02-04.