Sheila’s Chance

by Weston Groom

After their first meeting, Sheila was taken with Beau as he was with her. They had stayed at the cocktail party until it started to break up, talking quietly in a corner.

[…..] They became a pair. Sheila was on her best behavior so far as it was possible. They went to movies and plays and to concerts and parties. Lots of parties. She told Beau about herself, usually when they were lying in bed. She told him a little about the affair she had with Dan Whittle several years before. She did not mention how it ended or that her memory was long when it came to being hurt. By now she was an up-and-coming newscaster for a major-market radio station, just one step away from moving up to television, and she was happy with her new man. Beau felt the same way, but with a few reservations. [ ………]

During this period, Beau’s column for the Times-Examiner was extremely popular and syndicated in more than a dozen papers. He was making a good deal more money than he ever thought he would in the newspaper business and he had moved to a charming apartment in Georgetown overlooking the river. Within a year he asked Sheila to move in and she accepted. Everyone thought they were a handsome couple. And they were.

Sheila got her first break in television when Beau prodded the producer of a local station to give her an audition. Within a month she was a reporter covering local stories. From time to time Beau would feed her tips that the reporters on the Times-Examiner had given him. She was able to make an impressive difference because of this and because she was simply hardworking.

Sheila was growing and maturing in a way that both pleased and disturbed Beau. He could see that she was cut from good journalistic cloth. She worried over her stories and was meticulous about doing them just so. She worked late and often received midnight phone calls at the apartment from a variety of sources she had cultivated. She had her eye on the network and they had their eyes on her. Several times her local stories made the national news. She was relatively happy during those days and even enjoyed commuting back and forth between New York and Washington.

To some extent, Beau kept her off balance just as much as Dan Whittle had done. Although she was more sophisticated now and more settled in her life. The small, idiosyncratic insecurities were less noticeable and less troublesome to her.

When she got the call from the television network, everything she had done — all the hours, the wearying frustrations and the herculean effort — finally paid off. She began as a reporter, which would ultimately lead to a correspondent’s job if she was good enough. She intended to make it. Sheila threw herself into the job with the determination of a mountain climber. She was careful not to be the prima donna Beau had warned her against. She played the good soldier, took orders and waited for her chance. She knew it might take a year or two or three, but sooner or later, if she was patient, it would come. What neither Beau nor Sheila could foresee was the sudden and ironic way Sheila’s career would be made.

Two weeks after she got the job Sheila was assigned to cover a hearing of the National Resources Committee of the House of Representatives. Dan Whittle was a member of the Committee and he noticed her from behind the podium when she entered the room. He smiled and nodded as she sat down. He stopped her in the corridor after the meeting. Sheila was surprised at the intensity of the pain she felt, but when he asked her to join him for lunch, she went along. Upon their arrival at the Capitol Hill Club, she excused herself to go to the ladies’ room and primp. She applied fresh lipstick and undid the top two buttons of the blouse. She was about to leave when she decided to slip out of her bra. She also let her hair down so that it fell around her shoulders.

Dan nibbled but he didn’t bite. By the time lunch was over he had, by her own count, glanced at her tits at least a dozen times. And she could tell he was impressed by the fact that she was now wielding power of her own with one of the largest media corporations in the world.

(Adapted from: Winston Groom, Gone the Sun , New York: Pocket Star Books 1996, 297 ff.)