Welcome back to Your Imaginary Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Jezebel's new series in which we explore the wild and entirely fabricated world of dating a famous person. As is the risk with most fan fiction, things might get weird and things might get creepy, but the important thing is that we all have a good time.
This week, your imaginary girlfriend is Rachel Maddow.
She's just picked up the New York Times crossword puzzle and is rolling a chewed up pencil between her fingers. You chuckle to yourself. She could use a sharpie and it wouldn't make a difference. She never gets an answer wrong.
You glance at the clock before going back to preparing breakfast. 8:36AM. You can't believe you got her to sleep so late — usually she's up by 6.
You distract yourself with the pancake batter until you hear the telltale click of her pencil on the table top. 8:50AM. It only took her 14 minutes to finish the entire crossword.
Sitting down across from her, you reach for the paper to examine her work and jokingly click your tongue. "Last weekend, it only took you 12 minutes. You're slipping, Rachel Maddow."
She pulls her mouth into a frown, but her eyes, slightly obscured by her black square glasses, glitter with mirth. "Last weekend, I was in a hurry," she says, lightly flicking the chewed pencil at you.
"And this weekend?" Unintentionally, your voice has taken on a sudden edge. Ever since the election started — hell, ever since she got her MSNBC show — it's been nearly impossible for you and Rachel Maddow to spend quality time together without her Blackberry buzzing or her producers calling. You're still crazy about each other, maybe even as crazy for each other as you were when you first met, but you can't help but admit that your relationship has unique stresses.
This is what you get for loving a Rhodes Scholar.
"Don't get like that," she says, her voice soft. You know the time apart hurts her as much as it hurts you, but that doesn't make things easier.
"I'm not getting like anything." You go back to the griddle and begin preparing pancakes. "Could you cut the fruit, please?"
Her answer is cut off by the heavy vibration of her phone. It continues to buzz loudly, an audio manifestation of the room's tension.
"Just answer it," you say.
She reaches for it and hesitates before pressing the button to silence the ringtone. You look up at her surprised.
"I'm taking the day off," she says nervously. Her gaze sharpens and she grins. "But if Marcus Bachmann gets stuck in a well and there's no one around to make fun of him, that's on you."
Suddenly, you're smiling so big that you worry your face might split in half and your jumping up and down, spatula in hand and batter splattering everywhere.
"Ugh," Rachel Maddow jokes. "I take it back."
"Oh, no, you don't," you say, jumping into her arms and hugging her as tightly as you can.
"Alright," she says, squeezing your shoulder. "I don't take it back."
After breakfast, you load into the car with Rachel Maddow and Keith Dolbermann, the doberman/lab mix that you adopted together two years ago.
"Where are you taking me," she asks as you pull out of the long driveway that leads to your beautiful Connecticut home.
"You'll like it, I promise," you say mysteriously, guiding the vehicle to the highway and heading North towards the woods.
You drive for hours, the two of you fading in and out of comfortable silence and cracking jokes. It's a wonder that your conversation always comes this naturally. Rachel Maddow is so intelligent that it sometimes intimidates you. It would be easy for her to talk down to you and make you feel stupid, but she never does. Somehow she finds you as brilliant as you find her.
It's unseasonably warm for late November so you roll down the windows as soon as you get off the highway and onto the backroads. You inhale the heavy scent of damp wet leaves and sigh contentedly.
"We're close," you say, pulling the car into a small parking lot and coming to a stop. "But first, we walk."
You both get out of the car and Rachel Maddow opens the hatchback for Keith Dolbermann. He bounds around excitedly, happy to stretch his legs after the long drive.
Are you sure you don't want to take that with you?" You gesture to the phone that she's left in the passenger seat cup holder.
"Eh," she shrugs, trying to appear nonchalant. "Not today."
"Aw," you mock kindly. "It's so cute when you pretend that not working doesn't bother you."
"What do you want? I'm trying," she laughs.
"Yes, you are," you say, taking her gloved hand and leading her towards the hiking trail. "And you only have to pretend for this one afternoon."
You give her hand a squeeze so she knows that there's no malice behind your words, only affection.
"Good," she says, squeezing back. "Because this is torture."
You walk a few miles into the woods. The trail is uphill and you're both out of breath by the time you reach the overlook.
"See," you say, gesturing to the valley below you where the trees are so lush with red, yellow and orange leaves that they might as well be on fire. "You said you were sad that being busy with the election made you miss the fall colors, but there are still some left if you know where to look."
She doesn't respond, so you turn to look at her only to find that she is holding back tears.
"This is beautiful," she chokes out, Blackberry seemingly forgotten. "Let's do this every weekend."
"Sure," you say, smiling to yourself. You know that it's unlikely — you know that Rachel Maddow will always be busy because it's the only way that she's ever truly happy — but you also know that that hardly matters. Her mind is so quick that it would be a crime for you to slow her down and that's a huge part of what you love about her. Beyond that, you don't need much — the sight of her worried pencils, a late night conversation, a split pot of coffee in the morning and the occasional afternoon spent standing with her in front of a silent and stunning vista is more than enough to keep that sense of thrill in the pit of your stomach and the frantic-yet-welcome pitter-patter that she ignited in your heart all those years ago.