Twenty years ago, he was a political journalist. He had reported in a country’s war zone, Afghanistan, and had interviewed many world leaders as well. While reporting on a non-embedded basis from Afghanistan in 2001, he was injured in a friendly fire incident when a U.N. warplane bombed the convoy of UNAMA and Kurdish forces he was with. The attacked caused him was left deaf in one ear and his friend was killed.
He had freely admitted to using hallucinogenic drugs offered to him by locals in various jungles of the world. However, in the next two years, he resigned and decided to be a businessman. He built his own business. Media Empire. His effort in a business was brilliant and made him the most successful businessman in Australia. He owned three magazines, three major film studios, a home-video company, a cable provider, a major broadcast network and the nation’s largest newspaper chain and one hundred talk radio stations. The relationship that he built with the government made him move forward to being a politician. That was exactly what he really wanted to be.
Long after, he eventually entered politics and winning the election and became opposition leader and leader of the Labor Party.
Ben Roger, that was the name. He was forty-five years old, strikingly handsome with brown unruly hair, green eyes, and an athletic body build. He drove home to Dalkeith, a little too quickly from Harvest Terrace, as he always did, in the Holden black that was his favorite toy. He lived with the wife and two kids. They built their beautiful house together when their kids were still very young.
Paula Higgins. She was a young business woman in Western Australia. She was twenty-eight years old with slim, provocative figure, exotic look, bold and had 150 of the IQ, and nature had taken care of the rest. But she found her look a disadvantage. Men were constantly propositioned her or proposing, but few of them bothered to try to really get to know her. She was a CEO of one of the second largest software company in this country and had done a remarkable job. People would agree that she was one of the best lobbyists of some companies as well. She was a very careful person when it came to the right decision, thoughtful and had been incisive in her assessments, and bold and courageous in her plans. She took no undue chances; her long- and short-term goals for the company had been brilliant and right on the mark. Within months, the company’s stock had soared and continued to climb ever since, despite the tough economy in Australia at this moment.
“Are you sure, we are going to win the deal?” Marc Maxwell asked.
“Yes, Marc. We’re nearly there!” Paula convinced him.
“How long will it take?”
“Give me another two weeks, and I can ensure, everything would be just fine?” she smiled.
Marc nodded and said firmly, “I have no doubt, Paula, but this time, just be careful, because it is going to be a huge result plus it will involve the government.
“I will, sir”, she said confidently.
Marc Maxwell was a chairman of the company and in his late fifties. He was intelligent and sharp. He had been running Austradic Software Company for fifteen years. He was respected by his peers and employees.
“I have no objection”, Ben responded in a low, chill tone, as the other member parliament entered the room, and he rested a hand on his shoulder.
“Yes, we cannot rely on public funding, we need to start lobbying the corporations for our political funding,” John Mackie said. He was other members in parliament.
Ben’s mobile phone rang. Standing, he glanced at the number on his caller ID and wondered whose area code was and then he knew it.
“Pardon me, I need to take this call”, He stood up and walking towards the door.
Answering, he said quietly, “this is a surprise”
“I have been thinking about you a lot”
“And I you”, swiftly he gathered his thoughts. “Where are you?”
“Rottnest Island. I’ve rented a place here until next week,” she paused and then added. “I was wondering how you’d like the guest house”…
He hesitated, mentally scanning his calendar as he tried to assess the risks and the rewards of speeding a celibate weekend woman.
In a tentative voice, she said, “I know you’re busy…”
“Abruptly”, he decided. “Too late to head me off. Just tell me how to get there?”
Her laugh conveyed relief, as though she had feared rejection.
The place she had rented in Rottnest Island was an eccentric rambling structure that seemed to have been constructed at different times in clashes architectural styles. He found her lounging on a balcony facing the gorgeous beach.
“Oh, Mr. Prime Minister, how are you?” she teased and hugged him.
“Not yet, but will be”, he kissed her cheeks.
“It has been a long time, Ben. And I actually had no idea that all of a sudden, you have crossed my mind”, she released the hug and smiled.
“You know that I will prepare myself very well for the campaigns, the next election, grab the public funding et cetera, et cetera, but I am hoping to get a big amount from the corporate.
“So, what is your plan?” she leaned against the railing, gazing across the sea.
“I am thinking of doing some kind of advertising as a public funded political campaign,” he said.
“Well, promoting major projects such as Elizabeth Quay, the new Perth Stadium and St. John Hospital and using the taxpayer,” he said dubiously.
“Hmm…do you think, it will be inviting the critic?”
“Maybe so”, he said.
Darkness began to envelop them. The moment passed, their silence seeming more intimate than before. Behind them, Ben noticed, a half moon had materialized above the sea. “If you were running for prime minister,” she finally said,” would you have come?”
In the darkness, he could hardly read her expression. “I do not know,” he said. “You know, that I cannot actually do this.”
“Well, at least that’s honest,” she responded. They fell silent again. When he reached for her hand, she did not try to remove it. Her skin felt warm to the touch. He cupped her face in his hands and whispered, “I miss you”. Then he touched her lips with his fingertip before covering her lips with a wild kiss. She kissed him back passionately and lost her control. He pulled, kissed her neck and unbuttoned her dress and unhooked her bra. Her nakedness sent a surge of delight through him, and kissed her all over, making marvelous shivers cover her. He came down her body with warm kisses and she moaned. She was wild with passion and her breast felt warm and firm against his chest. They finally made love.
Two months later…
“So, I am personally very positive that you will be the next Prime Minister, Ben! “Thank God. We got $ 55 Million from the corporate and $ 20 Million is public funding. And the most corporate who donated to us is Austradic! Wow, that’s unusual”, John Mackie said.
“Yeah, we are just lucky, John. So we are now confident to move forward!” Ben smiled and said to himself “thank you, Paula Higgins”
Approaching the Election Day, The Australian newspaper’s headline mentioned that today is black Sunday. Stock markets in the entire Australia crashed. There were some speculations. The news mentioned there was related between one of the second largest software corporations and the government, for contributing of the election’s funding.
“Mr. Roger, you have visitors, sir”, the secretary buzzed him on the intercom. “Where are they from?” Ben frowned.
“They said they are from the CCC, sir?”
Ben was silence. And he finally said “send them in”
They entered the sophisticated large room with contemporary design, architecture polished with shiny gray colours in most of the furniture. The bookshelves placed behind his desk and two black modern sofas with one glass round table placed tidily in the corner. It was a really comfortable office to stay and focus.
“Morning, Mr. Ben Roger. Let us introduce ourselves. I am Jake Thorpe and my partner, Sarah Watson. We are from CCC -Corruption and Crime Commissions.
“Have a seat”. Ben sat relaxed on the cozy sofa and said “So, what is all about?”
“Mr. Roger, we believe that you have heard the news about the stock market crashed?” Jake asked.
“Yes, of course… he frowned and said “So, what is the connection between that news and me?”
Jake moved closer to Ben and said “We have a report suspected serious misconduct by the government itself. Due to our respect, Mr. Ben Roger, after the investigation, we’ve found out that you steal public funding for the election campaign and the business deal that you’ve made with Austradic caused the stock market crash and major cooperates collapse and it caused major losses to the states”
“Who reported this, I mean…”his voice was trembling. Then he managed to get himself under control.
“Mr. Roger, the members of the parliament reported this to us and we revealed that you had a “secret mobile phone” with Paula Higgins. And we also knew that you have an affair with her and used the public funding for your own personal travel expenses to Rottnest Island and other places”, Sarah said.
“So, what’s next?” he choked, struggling to keep his voice firm, without waiting for the answer.
Ben Roger was finally charged seven years. He found guilty by stealing public funding for the political campaign and used $ 125.000, for his travel expenses deliberately.
A year later…
“Ben, I am so sorry for what happened. It was my fault. I’ve destroyed your life!” Paula looked at him in the eyes.
“It wasn’t your fault,” he said. “I was just being stupid, not carefully for what I did. I feel sorry for myself and my family, my wife, and my kids. They should have been proud of me being chosen to be the next prime minister…and now…I end up here”, his words came out as a sob.
“And how have you been, Paula?” It has been a long time”…
She cleared her throat and said “I-I have been doing good, thanks”. And sorry, I did not visit you immediately as you know, a thousand press were outside and the public accused you for what happened”
“Yes, it’s better not coming here, otherwise, they will think that you are the one who have caused me this and I would not like if they hate you for the entire years!
“Ben, it wasn’t my intention to cause you this and embarrass you_”she was sobbing.
Silence. Ben cleared his throat and said “Paula, I-I always adore you. I was thinking back how great and sweet we were when we’re still in the university. You have always supported me. Back in 2001, when our car was attacked in Afghanistan, my friend was dead…I realized that I was the only who survived. And I was thinking that I was lucky. I was thinking that I would spend the rest of my life with you. But then_
“Sorry…I was thinking that you were dead!” her eyes welled up with tears. “I was so frustrated and totally depressed. I missed you a lot. I couldn’t help myself…until I met George, my husband. He lifted up my life. I knew that he has been trying hard to heal me from my depression. And a few years later, I got better and got the best job that I’ve ever had in my life in Austradic. “And Ben…” she wiped her tears. “You were always on my mind. I never forget our togetherness, never will!”
Ben sighed and said “thank you, and I’ll let you know that you were always on my mind too”
Her tears were rolling down the cheeks. “I wish I could turn back the time. She looked at the watch and said, “Ben I think I have to go now, and I promise that I will visit you again next week”
Ben nodded and looked desperate, “take care, Paula”
The next morning, all the news in Australia’s headline reported that Ben Roger was found dead by hanging himself in the cell. And the state prosecutor’s office said they are investigating the death.
Paula dropped a glass of water on the floor. Shocked. Sad. Sorry. She was trembling and her tears were streaming down the cheeks. She could not believe what she had just heard. Ben, why did you do this? You said that you love me and I promise that I will visit you next week…
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves, the process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”- Eleanor Roosevelt.