(Chapter 2 of The Dualists can be found here)
“Regina Drisby!” The winner of the Student Council President election was announced, and Clover couldn’t believe it. She lost. But that was impossible. It must have been some kind of mistake. As she looked around, she could see that everyone else looked as surprised as she felt. And with good reason. She was Clover Lie, the most popular girl in school. Everyone knew and loved her, because everyone knew and loved her father, the richest businessman in town. On top of that, her entire campaign was managed by professionals hired by her father: they wrote all her speeches, designed all her posters, and even came up with her slogan (Vote for Lie: The name you can trust). There was no way she could have lost. And there was no way Regina could have won. Though she was pretty well-known as the best student in her class, she wasn’t exactly popular. She always seemed too busy to make friends; when she wasn’t studying for class, she was studying for entrance exams, or academic competitions, or doing charity work, or even practicing fencing. When she first declared her intention to run, Clover thought it was a joke, and she wasn’t alone in thinking that. But people began changing their minds when Regina started campaigning. She didn’t have flashy posters or catchy slogans. But when she spoke, it was with a passion no one expected from her. They didn’t hear the same Regina they heard in class, who spoke only to answer teachers’ questions with mechanical responses, recalled verbatim from the textbook. They heard someone who truly cared about her school, and its students, and wanted nothing more than to do everything in her power to help them. Even when she wasn’t giving speeches, she began talking to people more. Not as a politician, but as someone concerned for the well-being of her peers. As a friend. Clover realized why she’d lost.
“I cannot express how grateful I am for this opportunity.” Regina said, standing at the podium, “Naturally, I have an acceptance speech prepared, but honestly, I practiced my speech congratulating Clover a lot more, so forgive me if I mix them up.” “Excuse me,” Clover interrupted. “I know I’ve just lost, and this is Regina’s time to shine, but… Principal Dedekind, is it OK if I give my speech first? There’s something I’d like the students to know.” The Principal wasn’t expecting this. “I guess that if Regina is fine with it, I have no objections,” he said. “Go for it!” Regina said, “If you have something to say, then it’s my job as Student Council President to make sure it gets heard.” “Thanks,” Clover said. She removed some papers from the binder she was holding, and placed them on the podium at the front of the stage. She cleared her throat, and began speaking. “My fellow students. I believe that Regina did not deserve to win this election in the manner that she did. I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say in my congratulation speech, but it’s the truth, and you’ve been told mine is a name you can trust. I also know that I sound like a sore loser, but I assure you that I’m not. Because I didn’t lose at all.” The audience murmured in confusion. Someone could be heard saying “What a spoiled brat”. “IF YOU’D JUST LET ME FINISH” she continued, unable to keep her temper in check. “I… apologize for my outburst. I didn’t lose. Because I’m something far worse than a sore loser. I’m a fraud.” She punctuated her statement by crumpling up the speech written out before her, and tossing it into the trash can. “That speech I just threw out? I haven’t been reading off of it. And you know why? Because it’s my acceptance speech. Not the victory speech that I wrote, mind you, but the one that was written for me to read. Same as all my speeches. Every single word that I’ve said to you on this podium for the past weeks was manufactured by a man in a suit who was paid money to help a teenage girl win a class election. But not today. NOT TODAY!” She sounded like she was on the verge of tears. But no one was brave enough to stop her. Even the teachers looked terrified. “The only reason I’m not reading one of their speeches right now is because they didn’t write one for accepting defeat. These bozos are paid, I’m talking real 9 to 5 jobs, probably more money than the teachers that we entrust our very futures to, to consider every possibility in my campaign, draft a response to every question, a statement on every possible issue, yet they failed to even entertain the notion that I might lose. And, now that I think about it, they really didn’t have to. Because there’s no way I could have lost. Because this wasn’t my campaign to win or lose. It was theirs. And before you guys pipe up to dismiss me as a spoiled brat again, I want to make this perfectly clear: I’m not making excuses for myself. I’m not saying ‘oh, if I had run my campaign MY way, I would have won’. I don’t know the first thing about politics. If I tried to run my own campaign, it would’ve been a landslide. And that is the victory Regina deserves. This isn’t about her beating me. Again. I can handle losing. I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. No, this is about me not even getting a chance to properly compete with her. I’d rather lose by my own skills than have someone else win for me.” A moment of silence. One or two people began clapping, only to be silenced by Clover continuing. “BUT… the real winner here is you, the student body. Even if you didn’t realize it, you saw through the lies, and voted for the better candidate. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but Regina Drisby is… excellent. And I mean that. I sincerely believe that she excels at literally everything she does. In my life, I’ve met some powerful and influential people. Legislators, presidents, CEOs, you name it. But the single most qualified leader I have ever met is the very woman that you elected, Regina Drisby. It is my privilege to call her my Student Council President.” With that, she curtsied, and sat down.
A single clap echoed through the room. Another. The clapping picked up pace and the entire room joined in the applause that Regina Drisby started for her former opponent. She stood took Clover’s spot at the podium, straightened her papers, and cleared her throat. “My fellow students. I am… a bit worried that it sounds like I copied her speech. It is a nice way to start a speech, isn’t it?” She directly asked Clover, who nodded sheepishly. The crowd chuckled. “I am, in equal measure, thrilled and terrified by the office that I have been elected to on this day. For you see…” she trailed off. The audience grew uncomfortable. She had never seemed so flustered during a speech before. Without warning, she removed her glasses, calmly placed them on the podium, crumpled up the paper before her, and threw it to the garbage can, where it bounced off the rim and onto the ground. “Perhaps I should have removed my glasses after making the shot,” she joked, “Looks like Clover is beating me 1 and 0 in speech paper basketball.” Polite laughter. “I hope you’ll forgive me if this speech is not up to your expectations. I know I don’t really seem the type for public speaking, and the truth is, I’m not. I’m a nerd. I can barely manage private speaking.” She was visibly more nervous and uncertain than any of her previous speeches. “I speak by pouring my heart out onto the page, and then my mind edits it, again and again, until every word, comma, and period, is in exactly the right place. Then I practice it, over and over, until everything, down to the inflection, is just right. But NOT TODAY” She smiled at Clover, whose eyes were brimming with tears. “Not today,” Regina repeated, almost whispering. “Today I’m speaking from the heart.”
“I stand before you today as your Student Council President, not because I want to lead, but because I want to serve. I want to help people. I want to make this school a good place to learn, for everyone. I want to be someone who people can- er, wait, should that have been whom? Um… wait. Do-over. I want to be someone on whom people can rely to understand them and help solve their problems. And I have always truly believed that no person in this school could do that better than I could. I sometimes thought that I may be crazy for thinking that, but I never thought that I was wrong. Not until just a few minutes ago. Not until Clover Lie stood at this very podium, and did the bravest thing I’ve ever seen a person do. She admitted her flaws. I can’t even admit my own shortcomings to myself, let alone all of my peers. Well, I guess I just kind of… nevermind. What’s more, she gracefully accepted her loss. Not her loss to me in this election, which she maintains never occurred, but… she lost something today, on this stage. I may not know what it is, but it hurt her. I hurt her. And for that, I am so, so, SO sorry. But she also gained something. She gained my respect. Er, that’s not to say that I didn’t respect her before, but, I respect her a whole lot more, now.” She visibly lost her train of thought. “I’m pretty sure I was going somewhere with this. Sorry if I’m making it weird, I feel like I’m talking about Clover to the point that I’m making it weird, but I need to make sure I say what needs to be said.” Another moment passed as she tried to collect her thoughts. As she looked at her watch, she realized she was going way over time. “Oh yeah! Now I remember. I always thought that if I were president, I could help our school better than anyone else. Up until Clover inspired me in a way that I fear I could never inspire you. For the first time, my head was filled with doubts. What if she really would have made a better president than me? But then I remembered Clover’s faith in me. The faith that so many of you have in me. If I stopped believing in myself now, I’d be letting her down. I’d be letting all of you down. So I’m taking all those doubts, and I’m throwing them in the trash. And this time, I won’t miss.” The room filled with laughter, then an awkward silence. “Well, I guess that’s as good a place as any to end my speech, so… yeah.” she concluded.
(Chapter 4 of The Dualists can be found here)