Red, White &Royal Blue By Casey McQuiston , Chapter 8

“Okay,” he says. His mother sits across the table, hands folded, looking at him expectantly. His palms are starting to sweat. The room is small, one of the lesser conference rooms in the West Wing. He knows he could have asked her to lunch or something, but, well, he kind of panicked. He guesses he should just do it. “I’ve been, um,” he starts. “I’ve been figuring some stuff out about myself, lately. And … I wanted to let you know, because you’re my mom, and I want you to be a part of my life, and I don’t want to hide things from you. And also it’s, um, relevant to the campaign, from an image perspective.” “Okay,” Ellen says, her voice neutral. “Okay,” he repeats. “All right. Um. So, I’ve realized I’m not straight. I’m actually bisexual.” Her expression clears, and she laughs, unclasping her hands. “Oh, that’s it, sugar? God, I was worried it was gonna be something worse!” She reaches across the table, covering his hand with hers. “That’s great, baby. I’m so glad you told me.” Alex smiles back, the anxious bubble in his chest shrinking slightly, but there’s one more bomb to drop. “Um. There’s something else. I kind of … met somebody.” She tilts her head. “You did? Well, I’m happy for you, I hope you had them do all the paperwork—” “It’s, uh,” he interrupts her. “It’s Henry.” A beat. She frowns, her brow knitting together. “Henry…?” “Yeah, Henry.” “Henry, as in … the prince?” “Yes.” “Of England?” “Yes.” “So, not another Henry?” “No, Mom. Prince Henry. Of Wales.” “I thought you hated him?” she says. “Or … now you’re friends with him?”
“Both true at different points. But uh, now we’re, like, a thing. Have been. A thing. For, like, seven-ish months? I guess?” “I … see.” She stares at him for a very long minute. He shifts uncomfortably in his chair. Suddenly, her phone is in her hand, and she’s standing, kicking her chair under the table. “Okay, I’m clearing my schedule for the afternoon,” she says. “I need, uh, time to prepare some materials. Are you free in an hour? We can reconvene here. I’ll order food. Bring, uh, your passport and any receipts and relevant documents you have, sugar.” She doesn’t wait to hear if he’s free, just walks backward out of the room and disappears into the corridor. The door isn’t even finished closing when a notification pops up on his phone. CALENDAR REQUEST FROM MOM: 2 P.M. WEST WING FIRST FLOOR, INTERNATIONAL ETHICS & SEXUAL IDENTITY DEBRIEF . An hour later, there are several cartons of Chinese food and a PowerPoint cued up. The first slide says: SEXUAL EXPERIMENTATION WITH FOREIGN MONARCHS: A GRAY AREA. Alex wonders if it’s too late to swan dive off the roof. “Okay,” she says when he sits down, in almost exactly the same tone he used on her earlier. “Before we start, I—I want to be clear, I love you and support you always. But this is, quite frankly, a logistical and ethical clusterfuck, so we need to make sure we have our ducks in a row. Okay?” The next slide is titled: EXPLORING YOUR SEXUALITY: HEALTHY , BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE WITH THE PRINCE OF ENGLAND? She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles. Alex actively wishes for the sweet release of death. The one after is: FEDERAL FUNDING, TRAVEL EXPENSES, BOOTY CALLS, AND YOU. She’s mostly concerned with making sure he hasn’t used any federally funded private jets to see Henry for exclusively personal visits—he hasn’t— and with making him fill out a bunch of paperwork to cover both their asses. It feels clinical and wrong, checking little boxes about his relationship, especially when half are asking things he hasn’t even discussed with Henry yet. It’s agonizing, but eventually it’s over, and he doesn’t die, which is something. His mother takes the last form and seals it up in an envelope with the rest. She sets it aside and takes off her reading glasses, setting those aside too.
“So,” she says. “Here’s the thing. I know I put a lot on you. But I do it because I trust you. You’re a dumbass, but I trust you, and I trust your judgment. I promised you years ago I would never tell you to be anything you’re not. So I’m not gonna be the president or the mother who forbids you from seeing him.” She takes another breath, waiting for Alex to nod that he understands. “But,” she goes on, “this is a really, really big fucking deal. This is not just some person from class or some intern. You need to think really long and hard because you are putting yourself and your career and, above all, this campaign and this entire administration, in danger here. I know you’re young, but this is a forever decision. Even if you don’t stay with him forever, if people find out, that sticks with you forever. So you need to figure out if you feel forever about him. And if you don’t, you need to cut it the fuck out.” She rests her hands on the table in front of her, and the silence hangs in the air between them. Alex feels like his heart is caught somewhere between his tonsils. Forever. It seems like an impossibly huge word, something he’s supposed to grow into ten years from now. “Also,” she says. “I am so sorry to do this, sugar. But you’re off the campaign.” Alex snaps back into razor sharp reality, stomach plummeting. “Wait, no—” “This is not up for debate, Alex,” she tells him, and she does look sorry, but he knows the set of her jaw too well. “I can’t risk this. You’re way too close to the sun. We’re telling the press you’re focusing on other career options. I’ll have your desk cleaned out for you over the weekend.” She holds out one hand, and Alex looks down into her palm, the worried lines there, until the realization clicks. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out his campaign badge. The first artifact of his entire career, a career he’s managed to derail in a matter of months. And he hands it over. “Oh, one last thing,” she says, her tone suddenly businesslike again, shuffling something from the bottom of her files. “I know Texas public schools don’t have sex ed for shit, and we didn’t go over this when we had the talk—which is on me for assuming—so I just wanted to make sure you know you still need to be using condoms even if you’re having anal interc—”
“Okay, thanks, Mom!” Alex half yells, nearly knocking over his chair in his rush for the door. “Wait, honey,” she calls after him, “I had Planned Parenthood send over all these pamphlets, take one! They sent a bike messenger and everything!”

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