runawaynun: (birgitte ii)
[personal profile] runawaynun
Happy Galentine's Day [personal profile] chaila!

Here's my attempt at writing Birgitte Nyborg's future. I may have missed on her badassness and hopefully did not let too much of my pessimism about the world's future leak in. ANYWAY, I hope you like it.



i.

It was supposed to be a simple EU summit for her. Her job was to smile and smooth any feathers the financial minister ruffled. She had brought Laura with her to Italy, with the thought that the two of them could escape the gloom of Copenhagen and spend time in the sunshine together. Laura's first text message dashed those hopes.

She now stood on the beach, her daughter curled up against her side like she hadn't been in years, and on this gorgeous day, watched as the Italian Coast Guard brought the survivors of the latest capsized refugee boat. She felt Laura flinch against her as a group of women let out the unmistakable sounds of mourning.

"Mom, you can help those people, right?"

She ran her fingers through Laura's hair. "I'll try. But - " She's cut off by her phone. A text from Hesselboe: GET OFF THAT BEACH. Followed by a text from Katrine: good opportunity to show our immigration policy different from Liberals'.

She's caught once again between the reality of the government's policy on immigration and her party's principles. She chose to ignore Hesselboe's text. There was no need to go into the thousandth iteration of the 'we have an obligation to help our fellow humans' versus 'we are a small country with limited resources' argument with him.

Instead, she and Laura made their way to the Red Cross camp and helped in whatever way possible. They brought blankets and water to the survivors. She held their hands and listened to their stories in snatches of whatever language they found they had in common. She gave interviews to international reporters and expressed her wishes that Denmark would help Italy with this humanitarian crisis.

At the end of the day, she and Laura made their way back to their rooms. She found messages from Hesselboe that expressed their disapproval but acknowledged her actions had provided positive press for the country. She had congratulatory messages from Katrine and Bent for refocusing immigration issues on human needs. She had several messages from fellow foreign ministers about the need for a EU conference on refugees that she knew would result in many words but few actions.

That could all wait until tomorrow.

She hugged Laura and kissed her forehead. "We did what we could for today. I can't make any promises about the future."

Laura nodded. "I know, mom."


ii.

She had made a mistake.

She had made the basic diplomatic mistake. She told the truth without sugarcoating it. Now she sat on a park bench in Edinburgh and pretended to listen to Jeremy prattle on about . . . something.

She apparently failed at that task, too. "Birgitte, what's wrong?"

"This whole conference is depressing. We're creating economic zones and dividing the resources of the Arctic Sea among us and ignoring the fact we can do that because the ice is melting. And to make things worse, we'll extract the very things that - "

"That's very noble. However, something else is bothering you."

"I made a mistake."

"The Danes aren't invading again, are they?"

Her smile was more of a grimace. "A member of the American delegation mentioned to me what a 'blessing climate change must be, if it was real.' And I let him know what I thought about that statement and his country's role in creating the current crisis."

"Surely, it can't be anything they haven't heard before."

She ran her hand through her hair. "He recorded it and gave it to rightwing media in the States. Katrine called and said that the party's Facebook and Twitter are full of poorly-spelled hatred in English. It's going to be impossible to get the Americans to agree to this treaty now, let alone try to add the provisions for conservation I was hoping to add."

He took her hand. "The melting of the arctic ice caps is not your fault. American climate denialism isn't your fault. If this treaty fails, it won't be your fault."

She pulled her hand out of his grasp. "I'm not helping, either."


iii.

She toed off her heels. She spent most of the day touring around Beijing trying to sell Danish wind power technology. The government officials she was with were quite interested in that, much less receptive to her questions about human rights abuses. It had been a "bad air" day and the only thing she wanted was a shower.

Any thought of getting clean was banished as Katrine rushed into the room. "You were right!" She shoved her tablet into Birgitte's hands. "This budget is completely unacceptable!"

Birgitte knew that she had angered Hesselboe when the New Democrats allied with Labor and the other left-wing parties to defeat his plan to decrease government spending on green technology. Scanning through the budget summary, she didn't realize how much until then. "Tax cuts for corporations? Spending cuts on social welfare programs? Did Jon have any input?"

Katrine shook her head. "He said he came to the committee meeting and they handed him this budget."

Birgitte dropped the tablet on her bed and walked to the window to look at the darkening haze outside. "He's daring me to call for a no confidence vote."

"What are you going to do?"

She turned towards Katrine. "I'm not going to decide here. I'm so jetlagged, I can't - " She rubbed her forehead and sat down on the bed. "I'll convince the Chinese to buy our technology. Maybe then he'll realize how important environmental issues are for Denmark."

Katrine sighed and sat next to her. "You're going to have to make a decision soon."

"It's not just my decision. It's the entire party's decision."

Katrine rolled her eyes. "Of course."

"Let's see if our government minders will allow us a glass of wine."

Katrine made her way over to the wall and knocked on it. "Do you think they bug the Danish embassy or just the larger countries?"

Birgitte raised her eyebrows and burst into laughter. It was the humor of the supremely exhausted.


iv.


Birgitte sat on a bench in the Royal Library Garden near the water fountain. "I can't believe my eyes. Birgitte Nyborg in Copenhagen!" Bent handed her a coffee.

Birgitte gratefully took a sip and warmed her hands against the cup. "I've definitely been gone too long. My body thinks this is actually cold."

He laughed and sat next to her. "Have you seen the budget?"

She nodded. "It's unacceptable."

"We agree."

"What are my options?" She looked over at him. "One: I can try to fight Hesselboe on the budget and remain in government with the Liberals until the next general election. But staying in a government we fundamentally disagree with makes us look weak and like we are clinging to power.

Two: We can withdraw from the Government and force Hesselboe to have a minority government. But that could push him rightward to the Freedom Party.

Three: we can call for a vote of no confidence in the government and call for new elections. But that has the possibility of us landing outside of the new government."

Bent nodded and handed her a report. "Here are our newest poll numbers."

She scanned the first page. "Our poll numbers are strong and the Moderates barely register anymore."

"Look at the Freedom Party's numbers."

She turned a few pages. "Oh. It's the damn anti-immigration movement."

"They're becoming more popular."

"Bent, I don't see how our staying in a government we can no longer work with stops their influence. Hesselboe knows he can find the votes he needs with them."

"I think you've found your answer."

She smiled and patted him on the arm. "I'll gather the others."


v.

Her breakfast was interrupted by a familiar voice. "I always knew you were a bleeding heart, Birgitte. The UN?"

"Kasper!" Her face broke out into genuine grin. "What are you doing in New York?"

"I'm sure there's a military junta in a need of a spin doctor. Katrine said you usually had breakfast here."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Don't pretend like you have no morals. I know better."

"Only a few. What lovely corner of the planet have you come from?"

"I'm giving a report to the UNHCR about the refugee situation in South Kharun, which seems appropriate after the role I played as Statsminister in creating the country."

"You couldn't have known that the new country would erupt into a civil war."

"I was trying to stop the killing then. Now I'm trying to stop killing again. I don't regret what we did, Kasper."

"Very noble. But that's not exactly why you left Borgen, is it?"

"I did decide that I could affect more change in an international bureaucracy than I was during my years in the Opposition. Magnus started university, so I could spend more time abroad." She leaned in closer. "I also despise being irrelevant."

He let out a mock gasp. "Power has corrupted even Birgitte Nyborg?"

She made a face.

He stole a piece of fruit from her plate. "Are you here in New York for awhile or are you off to spread your reign of tyranny?"

"I'll go back to Copenhagen for a few months, then hopefully I'll have a new position with UN Women." She noticed an attractive red-headed woman frantically waving at Kasper. "Ah, now I know why you're really in New York, Kasper."

She watched him leave, glad that the ups and downs of his personal life no longer affected her professionally.


vi.

She stretched her legs out from her chair and laughed as Magnus, her baby, and his bride did some ridiculous dance. She was even happier as Laura's current girlfriend dragged her daughter to join in. She may have laughed too hard because both her children came to drag her out of her chair. Unable to discern whether there were steps, she settled for time-tested hopping around on the beat. After several songs and an abortive kickline that turned into a conga line, she bowed out to find something to drink.

As she sipped her water, she felt someone tug on her dress. Looking down, she found the flower girl. "Are you Magnus's mom?"

"Yes."

The girl looked puzzled. "You're Birgitte Nyborg, too, right?"

"Yes."

"I did a report on you for school."

Birgitte knelt down to look the girl in the eye. "Oh? What did you learn?"

She screwed up her face and thought for several moments. "That you were better than the boys."

Birgitte threw back her head and laughed. "I was!"

The girl smiled and held out her hand. "I'm Helle. Do you want to dance?"

"Of course!"

Months later, Magnus sent her a package with a framed picture of her and Helle dancing at the wedding. 'Mom - I thought you'd like a picture with your biggest fan.'


vii.

"It is a great honor that the Women's Museum [Kvindemuseet]* has put together an exhibition on my life. I am so grateful that Danes gave me a chance to serve as your Statsminister and for many years in in the Folketing. I hope you enjoy the exhibit and hopefully maintain a favorable opinion of me."

She paused. "However, it is maddening that we still need exhibits like this one. Since my time as Statsminister, Denmark has not had another woman in that position. There are several powerful nations who still haven't put women in leadership positions. Perhaps that is something this can inspire another generation of female leaders both in Denmark and the world."

After the crush of press and well-wishers, Birgitte finally had time to tour the exhibition herself. It was surreal to see moments of her life displayed in a museum. She came to a picture of her and Bent after she had won the leadership of the Moderate Party. She reached out touched Bent's image. "I miss you, old friend."

Her reverie ended when a small body crashed against her legs and arms wrapped around her waist. "Who's that, Grandma?

She smiled down at her youngest granddaughter. "That's Bent. He was one of my best friends."

"Oh. Did you really run the country?"

"For a bit."

She studied the picture for a few more moments. "It's strange to see you with brown hair."

Birgitte laughed. "It wasn't always gray, kære."

Laura came over and kissed her mother's cheek. "Congratulations."

Birgitte wrapped her arm around her daughter's shoulders. "We survived."

"Magnus wants to take a family picture while we're all together."

"Good idea."

She gathered her family together - her children, their spouses, her grandchildren - in a room which displayed her professional accomplishments. There was so much she wanted to yet and in a few days she would leave for Quito for conference on girls' education. But for the moment, she was content.

-----

*The Women's Museum is in Aarhus, so we couldn't see it when we were in Copenhagen. :(
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