VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN
by Camille LaGuire
Lily sat next to her best friend, Grace, and watched the other ladies of the Silverton Ladies Hostess Club munch the appetizers, and whisper among themselves.
"They've eaten all the crab puffs," whispered Grace. "And the curry triangles. They're certainly going to vote for you."
"I don't know," said Lily, biting her lip. She so wanted to be elected to host the winter party, but she was new to the club. Her only friend was Grace, who was only a member because Lily was. Grace was not a cook, although she assisted wonderfully on decorations.
The club president, Irene Tackert, rang the silver bell and called everyone to order in the meeting room next to the reception hall. The fourteen members filed in. Lily hung back, but Grace pushed her along after, and they took seats at the end of the table.
"Time to vote for hostess of our winter party, ladies," said Irene holding up a cloth bag and a small box. She handed the box to the woman to her right. "As most of you know, there are fourteen blue and fourteen silver marbles in the box. Take one of each color, and hold it up to show you don't cheat!"
"Cheat?" harrumphed Grace, under her breath. "She's one of the contestants, and she's running the vote!"
Lily kicked her under the table, then smiled and chose her marbles and held them up. Grace grumpily did the same.
"Now," said Irene, as the last woman put the box on the side table, "before we actually vote, I'd like to congratulate our new member, Lily Allen, for being nominated in her very first year of membership! It must be quite an honor for her to run against me!" Somehow the smile on Irene's face did not look genuine. She held up the bag. "If you vote for me, put the silver marble in the bag. The blue marbles are for Lily. Remember, this is a secret vote, so don't let anyone see which marble you drop in the bag."
She went around the room, and one at a time the ladies put the marbles into the bag. When Irene came to Lily she smirked again.
"And it's all right to vote for yourself, dear," she said.
"Of course," said Grace. "One should always vote for the best!"
Lily kicked her under the table again, and they placed their marbles in the bag. Irene moved on to gather the rest of the votes, and Lily leaned close to Grace.
"Don't antagonize her. I don't have a chance anyway."
"I don't like the way she smirks. It's like she knows who is going to win."
"She does know, because she knows all the other ladies like her."
"They liked your curry triangles."
It was true. The ladies had eaten every one of the fried treats, and they'd gobbled the crab puffs too. Lily allowed herself a moment of hope. But now the voting was done, and Irene poured the contents of the bag out into a plate where all could see.
A dozen silver marbles glimmered on the plate. Only two blue marbles rolled among them. Lily took a breath and held her disappointment. Only she and Grace. Not one other person voted for her. Not one.
"Well," she said. "I told you."
The entire room was quiet, as the other ladies seemed to sense her disappointment. One of them stopped and patted Lily on the arm.
"Well, you know, you're new," she said. "You'll have a better chance next year, when the rest of them are used to you."
"Yes, you'll do better, I'm sure," said another. "You have honor, and that counts for a lot here. You really could have voted for yourself, you know."
"Thank you," said Lily, and she got up to follow the other women to the side table and drop off the unused marbles. Grace jumped up and hurried after her.
"She acted like she thought you voted for Irene," said Grace. "Why would she think that?"
"I don't know...."
"I'll tell you why! Because she voted for you. Everybody knew I voted for you, and there were only two blue marbles, so she assumed you didn't vote for yourself."
"But I did vote for me, so she couldn't have."
"Unless Irene cheated."
"She switched the bags," said Grace, and she pushed past to catch the woman. "Excuse me. Did you vote for Lily?"
"I can't say," said the woman. "It's against the rules."
"The votes are private," said Irene sharply.
"Well, we'll tell you who we voted for," said Grace.
"No!" said a chorus of ladies. Then one explained: "If anyone tells, that puts pressure on everyone to tell, and then it will never be a private vote, and then it will no longer be a fair vote."
"It wasn't a fair vote!" said Grace. "I'll tell you...."
Oh dear, thought Lily. Grace will get us kicked out of the club. She cast about desperately, and he eyes fell on the box where the marbles were kept.
"I know!" said Lily. "We won't tell! We'll stick to our sacred honor."
"Now listen Grace. It really isn't necessary. We can prove whether the vote was fair without anyone telling who they voted for."
"By un-counting them!" Lily pointed to the box. "Everyone put their non-votes into that box. It should be exactly the opposite of the vote--twelve blue marbles and two silver ones."
"We can't do that!" said Irene.
"Why not? It's the same as counting the votes in the first place."
Grace picked up the box and dumped its contents onto the table. There were thirteen silver marbles and only one blue.
"You see?" crowed Grace. "I told you they liked the curry! Everyone voted for you but her!"
Tomorrow I'll tell you a little about the writing of this story.
In the meantime, if you would like to see more of my short mystery fiction (most of it longer, some of it much darker), you can check out my short ebook: Waiter, There's A Clue In My Soup! Five Mystery Stories.
It's available at most online retailers for 99 cents: Amazon's Kindle, Kindle UK, and Smashwords as well as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, Sony, Kobo and Diesel.