Disclaimers in PT1
By the Bondi Gargoyle
"Okay. So if I promise not to steal the covers tonight, can I have the right side of the bed again?"
She tossed a pillow at his head
"I'll take that as a yes."
They were sitting around in the living room when it started.
"When are you two planning the wedding for?" Betsy asked
Josh and Dona shot each other a look. "I don't know that we've really set a date." Josh offered up.
"I think May is a nice month." Roz said
"You think they're going to get a wedding organized in six months" scoffed Jo. "We planned yours for, actually no that was Betsy, you got married rather quickly as I recall. Now why was that?"
"I wasn't pregnant." Roz hissed, embarrassed.
"No, but what amazes me, is that you thought you were."
"Well maybe six months is a little ambitious " Betsy interjected trying to keep the peace "But if they aimed for August, we'd be able to pull it off"
"Oh sure we could have it at the Democratic Convention." Josh joked
"Well that's a good point. Where are you going to have it?" David put down his paper and joined in. "Here?"
"I was going to suggest you have it in Chicago." Pete said "There's this great boat on Lake Michigan. Remember Grace and Gary's wedding, Stac?"
"Hang on Pete" Rick jumped in "I don't know about a boat given all the kids. One of them is bound to get sick."
"You mean you are."
Josh was sitting on the footstool of Donna's armchair, and, as the verbal volleyball match continued, he turned around and looked at her with eyebrows raised.
"I'm thinking we could leave and no-one would notice."
"Do you want to take a walk?" she suggested
"I could be convinced," he agreed.
Donna rose from her chair. Josh was about to join her when Joanne, still in the middle of closing arguments on why the wedding colors could not be yellow and lilac, sat down behind Josh on the footstool. She leaned an arm on his closest shoulder, as she talked. With Joanne draped against him, there was no way he could stand up without her falling over. Josh shot Donna an apologetic glance
Sighing, Donna gestured for him to stay put and wandered into the kitchen. She stared at the contents of refrigerator and several cupboards but found nothing grabbed her interest. Finally she picked up a stack of mail that was piled on the kitchen counter. At the bottom was a copy of Time Magazine and she began to leaf through it. She stopped at an article reviewing an exhibit that was on loan from Russia to the Smithsonian. The President and his staff had attended the opening. She remembered Toby and Sam bickering over the speech for three days before, and at least three hours after the President had delivered it. Turning the pages she stopped at a picture of her and Josh. They were standing with the Russian ambassador laughing about something. A joke about vodka and American beer as she recalled. Taking the magazine with her, she walked back into the living room.
"Did you know I'm in Time Magazine, this week?" she announced over the din. They stopped and looked at her "See. That's Josh, that's me and that's the Russian ambassador, who is actually very amusing for a foreign diplomat. Did you know that? Most of them, well maybe it's the cultural differences, but if we smile at their jokes, we're usually just being polite. But not with the Russian ambassador, no sir, she's a card."
Donna glanced around at them "Did any of you manage to notice that I'm not in the least bit interested in the conversation you're having? Its supposed to be my wedding and I don't give a damn about what colors are used or when it is or where it is.
"Now this art exhibit I can talk about at great length. Mostly because I had to research it and write a summary on the full collection, so that Josh sounded like he knew what he was talking about if anyone asked."
"Its true." Josh admitted
"Boy and I thought Rick had Roz under his thumb" Joanne smirked "But Josh you're really the master."
"Okay to get briefly off topic, Joanne, stop flirting with Josh."
"Two days ago, you and Rob were screaming at each other so loudly the whole house could hear you and now you're making a play for Josh? We all know you're the smartest and the prettiest-mostly, because you never let anyone forget it- and I'm sure you could successfully seduce him if you tried hard enough but perhaps you could have the common decency not to do it in front of me."
"I don't notice Josh complaining." Joanne remarked
"Maybe he's too polite. Or heck, maybe he wants you. I don't know, or care but don't do it in front of me."
"Okay, hang on a-"
"Stay out of it, Josh!" Donna snapped
"Donna that's no way to talk " rebuked her father
"Dad, it's none of his business"
David frowned. "I'd say it is his business, since you're marrying him.
Donna took a deep breath and exhaled very slowly. "No I'm not"
"Sis," Pete jumped in "Look Jo's a trouble maker, we all know that but there's no need to call off the wedding. Anyone can tell he's crazy about you. We can all tell that just by looking at him"
"Then you're getting ripped off by your ophthalmologist." She held up the photo "He's not my fianc"e. He's my boss."
"He told us you work together " Betsy nodded "There's nothing wrong with an office romance."
"Except we're not having one. I don't have a fianc"e. I'm not getting married. I barely make to a second date these days. I don't have time. Working in the White House isn't like nine to five, its more like six to three and I mean those both to be a.m. How come you never phone and ask me about that? You all ask if I'm dating but no one calls and asks about work. Betsy you teach fifth grade social studies and Mom oversees an entire school full of kids. The President gets letters from schools all over the country. How come you two never call to ask me about some sort of project? And Dad, Rick, when the banking bill was passed, did you ever think I might have some thoughts on it? 'Cause you know I worked double over time for three and a half months while we were trying to get the votes. Mom, I know you have opinions about school vouchers, how come you never talk them over with me? You all think this is some phase I 'm going through, just because I didn't know at age ten what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. Poor Donna, so confused; poor Donna taken in by big bad Mark; poor Donna so lost. Well you know what? I'm in Time Magazine."
"I don't understand," Roz whispered to Betsy "If she's not marrying Josh. Why is he here?"
It was for Donna, the final straw. "I give up" she declared before turning to her sister-in-law. "He's here out of pity." She tossed the magazine on the coffee table and ran upstairs.
"Maybe I should..." Betsy rose to follow.
Josh shook his head "Give her a few minutes" he suggested
"I don't think you get to express an opinion" Rick snarled
"Why not?" argued Stacy "He knows her better than we do"
Pete picked up the magazine. "Stac, remind me to grab a copy of this on the way home. Dylan should have a picture of his aunt with the Russian ambassador."
"She's just being overly dramatic." Joanne sighed
"And that would be your job wouldn't it?" returned Roz, her jaw lifted as though daring Joanne to reply.
For the first time, in anyone's memory, Jo backed down; "Whole family's going mad. I'm going for a walk. Coming Josh?"
Josh stared in disbelief. "You missed the last few minutes didn't you."
"I heard enough to establish you're not marrying my sister. So come for a walk."
Josh shook his head "No thank you."
Berti watched Joanne leave before patting Josh's shoulder. "Well, the kids must be getting hungry. I think I'll start on lunch. Anyone up to giving me a hand?"
"I will " Roz got up
"Me too. " Betsy also rose "Mom, I think it might be worth doing some sort of White House thing."
Berti nodded "We should ask Donna when the President's next coming to Wisconsin..." she began as they disappeared into the kitchen.
"I think I'll go check on Donna." Josh announced, getting up.
"Actually you and I are going to have a little talk." David corrected.
David rose and pointed him toward the front door
As they headed outside, Josh heard Rick say, "And as for the banking bill, I don't know why she'd want to take credit for that."
Once outside, David seemed in no great hurry to speak. As Josh stood shivering despite his overcoat, the older man calmly extracted his pipe from his pocket and proceeded to fill and light it. He took a long draw and exhaled. The sweet smell of tobacco made Josh smile, despite his misgivings, remembering his own father's pipe. Finally David spoke.
" Josh, I don't like people who mess with my family."
"That was never my intention, Sir"
" What was your intention?"
"To help Donna, to pay her back for all the things she's done for me. She felt she needed to present a fianc"e. I turned out to be the most suitable candidate"
David nodded and puffed in silence for a few more minutes
"My wife tells me you think we're woefully out of touch with our youngest daughter."
"Gott im Himmel, just strike me dead" Josh pleaded under his breath
"Though apparently, so does our youngest daughter. Did you put her up to that?"
"No Sir, she deserves the credit for that all by herself"
"But you think it's to her credit."
Josh squared his shoulders "I do."
"Well so do I. I was very worried about her, after the trouble with Mark. I wanted her to move home. I can see now, that would have been a mistake. She's flourished in Washington. Don't tell the others this, but I'd have to say looking at all of them, I'm most proud of Donna."
"Can I tell her that?"
"No, but I think I will. She took the path less traveled, that girl and now she's having drinks with the Russian ambassador. Don't think I'm not going bore the pants off the Rotary club with that one." David smiled at Josh "Are you really a Packers fan?"
"Pity. Tell me something, Josh, why aren't you marrying my daughter?"
"I'm...I'm not sure I understand the question."
"You're quite obviously in love with her, why go through this whole charade. When she told you she needed a fianc"e why didn't you just ask her to marry you?"
Josh stared at David. It took him three tries to actually start an answer
"Mr. Moss, I'm not in love with her. I mean. I care about her, deeply but in a brotherly way."
"Uh-huh" David grunted, not buying a word of it.
"She's not in love with me either"
"Seriously, Sir, the biggest impediment to our wedded bliss, is that neither of us in love with the other"
"With the greatest possible respect, could you stop saying that."
"But if you could get past that, what did you call it, impediment. You'd marry her."
"It's a pretty big impediment." Josh argued
"No Josh, the fact that the two of you are either lying to yourselves, lying to each other or some combination thereof; that's the big impediment. If you'd get past that, you'd find the rest falls away pretty quickly."
"She works for me. I'm her boss. There are rules about these things." Josh surrendered one front, and tried a lateral attack
"Oh it's hardly 'Watergate'" David retorted "Joshua, those people in there, my children's spouses. With every one of them, I knew the first time I met them, it was a match. Even Rob, the way he and Jo used to be. You are Donna's match. Ever read Plato?"
"Not Plato's definition of love. Please I beg of you," Josh groaned "My mother brings it up every three months like clockwork."
David smiled around his pipe. "Who's she talking about?"
"I think I'll plead the Fifth Amendment."
"I'm hardly a grand jury."
"Sir, you make a grand jury look like a day trip to Coney Island." Josh kicked at the snow bank beside the driveway before he continued "David, I really like your family and I'm going to miss having Pete re-arrange my spine next year, but I'm not the guy."
" And much as I'm enjoying this chat, I suspect we're both going to freeze to death before I convince you of the truth, and I would like to make sure Donna's okay."
David shrugged "Go ahead. Personally I think you just contradicted yourself but by all means go in. Wait, one more thing."
"Because I'm stupid"
Josh leaned on the doorframe of Donna's room.
"Whatcha doing Donnatella?"
"What does it look like? I'm packing."
"Where are we going to go? I mean its Thanksgiving. There probably isn't a hotel room in the lower forty-eight."
"I thought we could fly back to D.C."
"See previous note on hotel rooms with regards to flights"
"Can't you wave your magic White House I.D. and get one."
Josh walked into the room and sat on the bed beside her suitcase.
"I suppose so."
"Well for a start, when Leo finds out, and trust me somehow he will, he's not going to be thrilled with me flashing my White House credentials."
Donna dropped the sweater she was folding and sank down beside him. "No he's not."
"But I think you should stay regardless. I know your family is driving you crazy. I know I'm probably driving you crazy, at this point. But you just told them something you've been wanting to say for years. Don't you at least want to stick around to see if they listened?"
"Why would they start now?"
"I don't know. 'Cause you're in Time Magazine?"
He smiled at her leaning over to get a look at her eyes "Your call, stay or go? I've faced Leo's wrath before I'll face it again."
"My family really likes you." She told him " I think they were looking forward to you being an annual guest."
"Yeah well." Josh shrugged uncomfortable with his own reactions "Are you going to come back down?"
"In a bit."
"You want me to stay?"
"Would it be alright if I just take a little time alone to think."
"Sure. When you do come down, go talk to your dad"
"Just go talk to him."
"I'm not sure I like all these cloistered meetings you keep having with my parents. What did you tell him?"
"That we weren't getting married, about twenty times, not that he listened. But I did get a preview of some things he really wants to say to you. Now I'm going to go lose at 'Go fish'"
"Look out for Chloe. She's a card shark."
He made it as far as the door before he turned around. "I want you know, whatever else does or doesn't get said. I'm proud of you."
"What, for telling my family to get off my back?"
"For all of it. Since day one."
They smiled at each other
"Thanks Josh. And you're not driving me any more crazy the you usually do"
As he walked downstairs he tried to figure out if that was a compliment or not