* * *
He sits on a sofa in a sunny corridor. He can feel himself sinking into the seat pad. He wonders how many have sat here before him, waited their turn, had such gut-wrenching decisions to make. He wrings his hands, something he has not done for several months.
"Are you nervous?" asks his assistant.
"Of course I'm nervous. I don't know what I'm doing," he replies.
He looks at the floor. He is ashamed because he does know what he's doing. He knows that what he is doing will make him unpopular. He also knows that it contradicts everything he has come to represent.
"He will see you now." An aide sticks her head into the corridor. He takes baby steps towards the doorway.
Sunlight fills the room, though nothing penetrates the air of gloomy resignation. The elder statesman sits behind his desk, his fingers wrapped in a lattice of flesh and bone. The dour atmosphere emanates from his baleful gaze.
"You've already backed the other party." The statesman omits a greeting.
"You think that if you give them the chance to form a government, they will fail. In that situation, you can form a coalition with us."
"That's the idea, but-"
"You want to form a coalition with us anyway, but you're backing them because you want to appear fair. When they try, and they fail, you can look impartial. Though I should warn you that you've already lost supporters. The proles don't like it when you switch sides."
"I accept your offer. We will form a coalition when the blues lose."
He squirms on the hard chair. The words that came so freely now stick in his throat. This has been easy, but it worries him that his motives appear so obvious.
"Don't take it so personally. I should thank you, really. People wanted to vote for you to keep them out, but they didn't think you stood a chance so they voted for us instead". The prime minister contorts his face into an approximation of a smile. He reaches his hand across the table.
"Welcome to politics."