For all important information and my random rant, please see part 1.

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I like the bed I'm sleeping in
It's just like me, it's broken in
It's not old -- just older
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans
This skin I'm in it's alright with me
It's not old -- just older


CJ had worked hard to get where she was. She had passed that Calculus
test with a 93% and she had graduated in the top five percent of her class.
She had gone on to UCLA where she graduated with a master's degree in
communication. She worked her way up the ranks, working as a public relations
specialist for politicians, charities and eventually, she ended up in the
entertainment business. It was through the politics that she'd met Toby. It
was when she had just been fired from her miserable job as an entertainment
PR specialist that he had come to bring her back to the field she *truly*
cared about.
Thinking back over her life, she never missed Janie. She did in
college, back when she was still getting used to the idea of not having the
dark one around. Janie had taken off the day after graduation. She never said
goodbye and CJ had not heard from her since. That was Janie's way though. The
way to disappear. Since then, CJ had found other friends. She had forgotten
about Janie and the amibiguity that was their friendship. Now she was faced
with the idea of seeing Janie again, and the only thing she could think of
was dread.
"What are you thinking?" Toby asked softly. CJ paused and then sighed.
"It's next weekend. I can't take the time off from work." She said.
"You can. The thing is that you won't." Toby said before pointing to
the letter. "You want to avoid this person, so you won't take the time.
Besides, if it's on a Saturday, you can leave Friday night and come back
Sunday night. You can go visit your family while you're down there."
"Are you telling me to go, Toby?" CJ asked directly, looking at him
harshly. He smiled in that wry way that only Toby could smile, the smile that
said 'this is as much as you're going to get' and he shrugged.
"I'm not telling you to *do* anything. I am, however, reminding you
that there's no way to escape the past until you face it; until you say
goodbye." He said softly before handing her a few papers stapled together.
"That's the speech for Friday night." He said softly.


I'm not old enough to sing the blues
But I wore the holes in the soles of these shoes
You can roll the dice 'til they call your bluff
But you can't win until you're not afraid to lose


June 23, 1980

"You look good." Janie said, glancing at CJ before looking back at the
soccer field. There were many people standing around, congratulating their
friends or their children's friends while they drank their soft drinks. CJ
knew which ones had spiked their own drinks and which ones were high at the
moment. Janie did not fall into either of those categories for once.
"I'm wearing the exact same thing you are." CJ retorted as she leaned
against the tree. They were both dressed in their cap and gown.
"Where you going from here?" Janie asked, ignoring CJ's comment.
"Back to my dad's, I suppose." CJ replied. Janie shook her head.
"I mean, here. High school. You're going to UCLA, right?" She asked,
looking at her tall friend. CJ stood a good three or four inches over Janie's
head, but Janie's feet were a good two sizes larger, just in contrast.
"Yeah." CJ agreed, eyeing her friend carefully. There was a sort of
somberness to Janie's eyes, an eagerness that seemed almost dark.
"What are you doing over the summer?" Janie asked, glancing back at the
crowd, tracing her toe along the dirt.
"Interning with the Douglas Public Relations firm. You know that orange
building near Wilshire and fourth?" CJ asked.
"Yeah, I know it." Janie nodded. CJ paused.
"What are you doing this summer? You want to come and see if they have
another opening?" She asked. Janie smirked sardonically and shook her head
before looking back at CJ.
"I'm gonna hit the road for a while. See the sights. Go all over the US
and maybe even Canada. I have to get away from here for a while. Away from
the crowds and the expectations." She said.
"Did the judge say you could go?" CJ asked. Janie snorted.
"I'm a month away from being eighteen. Foster Fuckhead doesn't care
where I go, as long as I don't cost him any money." She said darkly before
digging out a box of cigarettes and withdrawing one. CJ didn't say anything
as she watched her friend place the slim white stem into her mouth and then
light it with her silver Harley Davidson lighter.
"You're coming back though, right? You said you got accepted to USC."
CJ said softly. Janie took a drag and then paused.
"Probably." She conceded. That was all she was going to say. "But I'm
not going to be one of those people who gives up before they even start. No,
CJ, I won't do that." She said before exhaling a thin cloud of smoke. "Even
when I turn eighteen, I won't be an adult. When any of us turn eighteen,
that's not when we become adults. It's something else. It's something inside
us. It's different for everyone. I won't give up before I start."
"What are you talking about, Janie?" CJ said softly.
"I won't be the person who comes to a twenty year high school reunion
and says 'if only' or 'what if', CJ." Janie said, looking at her friend. "I'm
not going to give up who I am, just so that society can be happy with me."
"Janie, what are you saying?" CJ asked.
"I'm not coming back, CJ."


Well, I look in the mirror
I don't hate what I see
There's a few more lines staring back at me


Present Time

CJ looked at the speech and then at Toby. "She never came back, Toby.
She lied to me at first, saying she would, and then she said she wouldn't. I
haven't seen her since the day we graduated." She said softly. "How could she
honestly expect me to keep this promise when she just...she just left."
"Do you truly not want to see her?" Toby asked directly, gazing into
his friend's eyes. "Think about it, CJ. No avoiding an answer. What do you
want to do?" He said softly. "Just stop and think about it." CJ paused,
thinking about his question and thinking about the time that she had spent
with Janie. Part of her was still angry that Janie had left. They were
supposed to have been best friends. CJ wanted to share the happier moments of
her life with Janie, but Janie couldn't do those things, could she? She
couldn't make those decisions.
"I only wish I knew what she was up to. I could go, just to see what
she's up to, to see if it was worth it for her." CJ said softly.
"If what was worth it?" Toby asked softly. CJ paused.
"Leaving me." She responded. "I was walking into a new world, not
entirely sure of myself, and even though I disapproved of Janie and a lot of
the things she did, I needed her as I needed a best friend. I needed someone
who could hold my hand and be a shoulder to cry on through those hardest
years. Because she left I had to start all over again."
"You did fine without her, CJ. You're a strong, beautiful, intelligent
woman. You didn't need her." Toby said softly. CJ nodded.
"No. I didn't need her. She was the one who had predicted my future for
me. She knew it all, Toby. But I was angry. I was angry because she had all
she could ever want and she threw it away." She said softly. "Everyday, I
stand at the press podium or in a room with you guys, and I wonder how many
people she could have helped with her knowledge, how much good she could have
done the world, how many people who would have died for the opportunities she
got... It makes me angry, Toby. I don't need her. But there are some
people who do."
"That's not your job." Toby said softly. "You can't--"
"I won't." CJ said. "I just won't go. That's all." There was another
pause in the room.
"I have to go work on the speech." Toby said softly before getting to
his feet. "Think about it some more." He added before leaving the room. CJ
watched the door close behind him and then looked at Janie's letter which was
sitting on the couch in the exact spot where Toby'd been sitting. She sighed,
picked up the paper and went back to her desk. She shoved it back into the
envelope and then shoved it into a drawer.
She wasn't going to go.


The nights have grown a little colder
Hey man, I gotta run
Now you take care
If you see coach T. Tell him I cut my hair


CJ had worked hard those twenty years. She had worked hard at UCLA and
then even harder as she branched out into the field she'd always felt
destined to be in. Janie wasn't on her mind a great deal. The first year
maybe, but only because CJ was not used to the people around her and she
missed having a friend. After that though, she found new friends and she had
moved on.
She was successful and proud of it. She had worked hard, succeeded in
life, found a career she loved where she was surrounded by people she
enjoyed. She was finally starting to get a leash on the boys' club around
here and she was getting the respect she felt she deserved. Well, something
close to it anyway. It was starting to feel like she'd never get all the way
there. Maybe by the time Bartlet left office. In six years.
It had been a long month. A long year, a long lifetime. CJ looked
around her office at the various things that she had collected over the
years. Sure, there were many, many papers and books, but there were also
pictures and various memorbelia. She had plenty of official White House pens
and mugs, but there was one thing that caught her eye. There was a photograph
on the edge of her desk. It was a picture of the staff standing in a circle
with their glasses raised and smiles on their faces. Those people were her
friends. They were her family. Together they had become the team that
governed America. They depended on each other. They succeeded together.
Next to the photograph was another one, a smaller one, of three young
girls playing together in the warm California sun. One was CJ herself.
Another was her oldest friend and neighbor, a girl named Allison and the
third was Janie, a step away from the others, gazing at the sea. They were
all roughly ten years old that day, Janie a year younger and Allie a year
older. Allie had moved away two years later and Janie had stayed. Not for
long though.
But CJ wasn't dependent on Janie. She never was. She wasn't even
dependent on the people that shared the large white office building with her.
She was dependent upon herself. Still, she needed their friendship, and when
she needed Janie, Janie was there. Janie left when CJ didn't need her any
more, and it only took twenty years to figure that out.
Still. She wasn't going.


It's been all these years
Can you believe I'm still chasing dreams
But I ain't looking over my shoulder


The Following Friday

CJ glanced around the crowded room of people all her age. She had been
recognized by almost every single person she'd talked to. There was only one
who had been out of the country since 1994 and had only just come home from
Egypt to receive the reunion invitation on the top of his large stack of
mail. The rest of the people had recognized her from the past when they knew
her or from the television where they saw her every once and a while. They
congratulated her on how far she'd come, on finding a job that was so
effective and influential; some commented that they were not in the least
surprised that she was a success. All talked about their lives more than they
said two words about her.
She was surrounded by the proud parents of Jake or Sandy or whatever
they just had to name their children. She was surrounded by happily married,
successful people. There were a few dozen misfits among the crowd, but all in
all, most of the graduates were happy. There were no crazy people who stood
out, no smokers in the middle of the room, no brunette wearing a leather
jacket and a motorcycle helmet. Nothing out of the ordinary. It was a room
filled with people who were approaching forty with smiles on their faces.
CJ walked up to the punch counter and smiled. She wondered if the man
at the punch bowl would recognize her, seeing as how he was her first date in
high school. He merely smiled back and then walked back to his wife. She
suddenly realized how lonely she was. 'Why the hell did I come here?' she
thought to herself. She checked her name tag and then walked over to the
table where she was supposed to sit. Apparently everyone had their place. She
did not want to pick at the buffet; for some reason, she was not hungry. Her
mind was racing through images of her life, everything that had happened to
her in the last twenty years. It couldn't have been that long, it went by so
fast. Her thoughts were knocked ajar when someone sat next to her.
"This seat taken?" A voice asked. CJ shook her head, not looking at the
person, not thinking about it. "Jeanie, your head in the stars again?" The
voice asked again, this time striking a familiar chord. CJ turned and looked
into a set of sharp ice blue-green eyes.
"You're late again. As usual." Was all CJ could manage to say. Janie
laughed and shrugged.


I like the bed I'm sleeping in
It's just like me, it's broken in
It's not old -- just older
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans
This skin I'm in it's alright with me
It' s not old -- just older


The two women walked along the sidewalk, inhaling slowly the crisp sea
air. Just a hundred feet away from them, waves crashed up against the night
shore. They were both walking barefoot in the sand. Janie was not smoking;
she had confessed to quitting not long after they had last parted. She was
wearing dressy khakis and a light blue button up women's dress shirt. No
leather jacket, no combat boots, no crazy stylings that used to be Janie.
She had grown up. She was someone new. She was someone CJ could honestly see
herself being friends with. There was still the same smirk.
"Twenty years, Janie. I told you we'd be ancient." CJ said softly as
she gazed up at the night sky. She only wished she could see the stars. The
light pollution from Los Angeles blocked them out.
"Look at us, CJ. We're not ancient. We're just older than we were,
which is not necessarily a bad thing." Janie replied as she shuffled the sand
between her toes. CJ smiled and thought of Toby's shuffling.
"You always had insight beyond your years, you know that?" She said,
all her inhibitions about seeing Janie again washed away with the waves.
"God, please don't say that. Then I *will* feel ancient." Janie
retorted with her trademark smirk. The smirk made CJ think of Josh.
"I think we'll never be as old as we feel." CJ said with a smile before
looking out across the ocean. The moon was high above, full and bright,
reflected in shimmers on the ocean waters.
"I knew you were going to be the public voice." Janie said, changing
the subject with a giddy smile. "When I heard you were working with Bartlet
on the campaign, I was ecstatic, you know?" She said softly.
"How'd you hear?" CJ asked, a bit curious. She still had no insight
into what her friend was up to these days.
"On the wire." Janie replied simply. "I'm a traveling journalist, a
writer of sorts. I go where the story is and I write about it. I've been all
over the world. The only place I haven't been able to get into is the White
House. Those lines are killer. You have to get up at 5:30 in the morning to
get tickets." She said with a playful grin. CJ laughed and nodded.
"I have to get up earlier than to get into the White House." She joked
back. Janie laughed and nodded. "If you're ever in DC though, you can come on
by. I'll vouch for you." She added with a smirk.
"I'm going to take you up on that." Janie retorted with a sly grin.
Then she looked out upon the ocean with a distant thoughtful gaze. "Always
knew you'd do well, CJ. I don't know if it means anything to you, but I
always looked up to you. I always knew you were gonna do great things in this
world, and you have. You've done it." She said softly, not looking at CJ. CJ
watched her old friend for a second and then looked out across the beach.
"I always thought it was the other way around." She admitted after
another pause. Janie chuckled and shook her head.
"You were destined for greatness, CJ, and you still are. There's so
much that lies ahead of you." She said.
"Why does it have to lie ahead of me? What have I got that you don't?"
CJ asked, a little sharper than she intended. Janie paused.
"You have a family, CJ. You had one growing up, you have one now. You
have people to depend on and who depend on you." She said with a weak smile.
"You have people to grow old with. You've got something special." She said
softly, a slight twinkle in her eye. That twinkle was Janie's. It always
would be. There was only one other person who had a twinkle like that and
that was President Josiah Bartlet. It was a twinkle that told of knowledge
and experience, of compassion and forethought. It was the twinkle that told
you everything would be all right. CJ missed it before, but she had it all
along. With a pause, CJ smiled.
"I guess you're right." She said. "But hope is not lost for you. It's
never lost for any of us. We still have a thirtieth and fortieth reunion
coming up. We have years of life ahead of us. We're still growing up, we're
still exploring. We all have hope. Even you." She added playfully. Janie
smiled and nodded.
"That's right, CJ." She said. "That's right."
"You okay, Janie?" CJ asked softly.
"I'm damn fine." Janie retorted. "You?" CJ laughed.
"I'm doing pretty well. I'm doing all right now." She said.
"Now?" Janie asked. CJ paused.
"Now that I know where I stand."
"Where's that?"
"Not old. Just older."

The End

 

 

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