She choked back something between a sob and a growl as her fingers clamped the wheel, rain glistening on the pristine BMW of which she was once proud. No one understood. For the past year, she’d been drinking every drop of the comments on her articles, the praise and the condemnation alike. Each tweet ached.
She regularly fantasized about meeting the people who lobbed such acerbic tirades at her. After spending an hour or two with them in a coffee shop or a bookstore, they would realize she contained multitudes, that she wasn’t the assassin they believed. “Ms. Avery, we’re so ashamed,” she’d hear their voices say in the dark hallways of her mind. “We shouldn’t have rushed to judgment. You’re a complete, complicated person–a gifted artist, a talented soprano, a volunteer. You wield a dangerously sharp wit. You’re kind. Dogs adore you, and who wouldn’t trust a dog’s instinct? We understand if you can’t, but–would you forgive us? Please.”
But Melissa Avery hadn’t become one of the most popular hosts on the national circuit by confusing fantasy with naïveté. To the public, her mask was indistinguishable from her face. She covered immigration reform, moderated numerous panels on congressional race hubbub, offered detailed analysis of the State of the Union speeches–nothing happened on the Hill that she didn’t immediately dissect and frame and package.
No one knew that the tapings often ended like this, white-knuckled in her car. Division paid. It paid extremely well, and her booking fees now represented the most negligible source of her wealth. There were the books, the newsletters, the guest columns, the speaking tours, the endorsements, and most recently, even her own clothing line. Melissa slogged through night after night in her $2,500 dresses, glasses pushed up smartly, stretching facts and pitching talking points she only marginally believed, and hoping someday they’d all forgive her.
Her talent for the work was undeniable, and she had entrenched herself so firmly that she didn’t know how to walk away.