5 o’clock Shadow

Prompt: Shadow


Cyril pushed his way in front of Pat, with a new white shirt, still in a plastic bag, in his hand. “Excuse me, Mrs N,” he said, and Pat turned sharply to Richard, to see if he would react to this intolerable rudeness. But Rich was in some kind of personal haze. He’d been campaigning hard, and too long, without a break. He’d wanted to call off this “damn” debate and attend a casual fundraiser with Pat, but his team, including Cyril, urged him to meet with the kid and show him who was boss.

But his eyelids were heavy, and the dark circles under his eyes simply would not disappear, despite the efforts of the make-up girl, a skinny young thing with stringy blonde hair. Cyril dismissed her with a wave of his hand. “He looks worse,” he snarled at Pat, as if it were her fault. He took out a white cotton handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at Richard’s eyes, an unexpectedly intimate act that made Pat inwardly cringe. Rich was strangely passive under these ministrations. Exhaustion oozed out of his pores. Cyril dabbed.

Cyril. Of all the people for Richard to be loyal to. Richard, who checked under the bed each night for conspiracies, trusted this nobody who had insinuated his way into the campaign. He was short, stocky and balding, and dated a stream of beautiful women who seemed to see something in his sneering, somehow shadowy persona that was completely invisible to Pat. She saw a man simultaneously unctuous and contemptuous.

She was taking the white shirt out of its wrapper. “It’s the wrong size,” she told Cyril, leaving out the phrase, you idiot. “It’s too big.”

“It’s fine,” said Cyril, leaving out the phrase, you bitch.

Pat silently put the shirt on a clothes hanger and then on a hook on the door of the room. “Does he have time for a quick nap?” she asked.

“No,” said Cyril. Richard did not seem to mind that they were speaking of him as a child, or as someone not in the room with them.

Pat had to go; Doris was waiting for her. She opened the door to leave. “At least make sure he has one last shave before he goes on stage,” she said.

“I’ll see what I can do, ma’am,” Cyril said. He sounded so polite, but oh, what an ass he was.