As Marine One lifted off the White House lawn, Jed and Zoey sat quietly holding hands. Zoey stared blankly out the window, still reeling from the news of her motherís accident.
Jed was lost in thought. He flashed back to the conversation he had had with Zoey - was it only last night?
ĎHow do you know if youíve found the one?í
ĎWhen you meet someone, someone that you canít live without, someone that can turn your life upside down, someone that you would be willing to do anything for, give up everything for, then youíll know.í
Jed blinked back tears even as his mind raced. ĎI knew from the moment we met, Abby. I knew you were the one. The day you walked into my life, I knew it would never be the same. All that I have, all that I am is because of what youíve brought to my life. You are the one part of me that I canít live without. Itís hard enough when you are away from me for a few days. I canít imagine what my life would be like you were gone forever. Oh God, we havenít had enough time. Iím not ready for us to be over. You have to hang in there, Abby. You have to. Iím on my way. Iíll be right by your side. Always and forever.í He closed his eyes and let the memories wash over himÖ
35 Years Earlier
Near the Notre Dame Campus
South Bend, Indiana
"Tell me again why Iím buying your beer," Jed asked.
"Because youíre my best friend, because Iím heading back to school today and because Michigan trounced Notre Dame and you lost the bet," Leo answered smugly.
"But you should be buying me a round to console me."
"Ah, but when would I ever collect on our bet?" Leo challenged.
"The next time Iím in Michigan. Iím good for it."
"Hah! By then youíd swear you forgot who won the game and somehow Iíd end up paying the tab."
"You do it all the time, Jed."
Leo tapped the side of his head. "Yeah, you do. I never forget anything, Jed."
"Yeah, the mind of an elephant, the face of an ass."
"Just for that, youíre buying me another round."
"Shut up and drink your beer." Jed said with a smirk, as he signaled the waitress for another round, The two continued their banter while nursing their drinks.
Finally, Leo checked his watch. "Itís getting late. Iíd better get going if Iím going to make it back to the campus before midnight." Jed tossed a couple of dollars on the table and followed his friend out to the car. They shook hands and promised to call each other soon. Jed waited for Leo to drive off before turning and heading for the dorm.
It was always hard on Jed when Leo left for school. They had been best friends for more than five years now, but the bond between them was much stronger and deeper than Jed had with his brother, John. And even though he had made a few friends on campus, most of the time Jed kept to himself and counted the days until he and Leo would get together again.
Ducking his head against the sudden gust of wind, he didnít see the couple heading straight for him. He stumbled over his feet and did a mad tango with the girl to keep from losing his balance.
"Hey! Watch it!" the guy shouted. At six feet, he had Jed by a few inches. The taller man looked down at Jed and sneered, "Bartlet."
Jed looked up and spat out, "Erlich." He turned his attention to the young woman still holding on to his arms. "Excuse me, miss. Did I hurt you?"
"No, not at all," she replied sweetly. "But you really shouldnít be walking around without looking where youíre going."
"Iíll work on that," Jed said smiling.
"Next time, watch where youíre going, Bartlet," Erlich snapped. He took the young woman by the elbow and propelled her on their original path.
"Pompous pain in the ass," Jed muttered.
"Thatís not a very Christian thing to say, Josiah," came a deep voice from behind.
Jed grimaced at the sound of the familiar voice. He turned around, his face a mixture of embarrassment and repentance. "Sorry about that, Father Andrew."
The older man smiled warmly at his student. "Is there something wrong, Josiah?"
"No sir. I was just a bit distracted."
"Still moping about the game?"
"Not really. Just wondering what a nice girl like that was doing with a jerk like Ron Erlich."
"Thatís not really any of your concern, now is it? Besides, what makes you think sheís a nice girl?"
"I donít know. Maybe because I nearly knocked her over and she didnít get mad." He turned to stare in the direction she had departed.
"I see," Father Andrew said with a knowing smile. "Donít you have some studying to do, Josiah?"
Jed shook himself from his daydream. "Um, yes. Yes I do, sir. I was just heading back to the dorm."
"Very good. Iíll see you in class tomorrow. Good evening, Josiah."
"Yes sir. Good evening, Father Andrew." Jed turned and trotted in the direction of the dorm.
"Mr. President?" Ron tapped him lightly on the shoulder. Jed opened his eyes and faced the Secret Service agent in charge of his detail. "Sir, the pilot says weíll be arriving soon. ETA is approximately five minutes."
"Thanks, Ron." Jed looked over and squeezed his daughterís hand. She didnít look at him, but he felt her squeezing it back.