Disclaimer—Characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. No copyright infringement intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Author's Notes—To the Sirens... Gals, I love you to bits. I told you I'd come back. ;) Extra special thanks to Dis. You really are the greatest. ((Parlez-vous français? *G*))

Spoilers—Pilot, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen

Archive—Go for it. Tell me where.

Feedback—Always greatly appreciated.

With this Ring—It started with a little pink plastic jewel ring.

September 8, 1976. I met you then. I was nine. You hated the class pet, the cutest frog you have ever laid eyes on by the name of Hubert. You thought he was gross and, because I took him home six weekends that year, so was I. I don't know what your problem was. To this day, I don't. Hubert was cool.

We used to sit at the same long table at lunch, never together, though. I had cooties and you had little girl icky germs. If I happened to be on the swings and you wanted to swing, you'd purposefully go to the monkey bars. If I was playing King of the Mountain, you and your army of Barbie Girls--complete with ribbons and curls--would come and chase me and my GI Joe Commando Army Buddies away from the Big Hill on the playground. How dare we invade your tea party...

You stuck your tongue out at me and I pulled your hair... for which I was made to write a sentence fifty times: I will not pull anyone's hair ever again. And, by the way, I haven't.

On Valentine's Day, 1977, we had a party at school. Since we had had this rivalry since the beginning of school, I didn't know if I *had* to give you one of my Scooby-Doo valentines or not. After much consideration, I picked out one with Daphne on it. Daphne was pretty and Barbie-like; you'd like Daphne. I wrote your name on the envelope and stared at the "from" line. I... I couldn't. I couldn't possibly. It... It was suicide, to put *my* name on it. I wrestled with my inner demons: do I sign my name? Do I put "your secret valentine?" Did I *want* to be your valentine? Girls were still icky. Did I put my initials?

I signed it Hubert.

You shrieked and tore it to shreds.

March 29th came. I was eager to go to school. It was my birthday. I was *ten*. Double digits, man, it was *big*. There was going to be a party; it was going to be great. All my friends were telling me happy birthday.

I didn't have a happy birthday.

In fact, March 29, 1977 lives on as a horrible date in my memory.

You didn't come. You didn't get to have a cupcake with pale blue frosting and a little plastic clown stuck in it. You didn't help everyone else in Ms. Silverman's room sing to me.

After school, I went up to Ms. Silverman. She had been acting not like herself that day. "Where is she?" I asked when everyone had left.

"Where's who?"

"Lisa."

Ms. Silverman started to skirt my question. "People miss school all the time."

"Not Lisa."

"Sam--"

"Is she okay, Ms. Silverman?"

"There... There was an accident last night, Sam," she said, struggling to get the words out.

"A-accident?"

"She's in the hospital."

I begged my mom. Two hours later, she finally took me to see you. I brought you a goody bag and a cupcake that you would've had if you had gone to school. (It had been difficult to save you the cupcake from the party... had to fight Lester Macmillan for it. I was the birthday boy; I got my wish.)

It was scary, going to the hospital. Your room was dark. Mom let me go in alone, and your mom let me talk to you by myself.

"Lisa?"

"S'm?" You couldn't talk very well; you had a big bruise by your mouth, and your eyes were black.

"Yeah. I... I brought you a cupcake and a goody bag. It has two suckers--purple and yellow, one of those rainbow colored super bouncy balls, a little pink plastic jewel ring, and some bubbles. I... I didn't breathe on it or anything, but I had to touch it to bring it here. It shouldn't have too many cooties on it."

You smiled. You let me sit and talk to you while you ate the icing off the cupcake. I asked you what had happened, why you were there. You started to answer me when your dad came in.

I don't think I had ever been so scared in my life.

He was big, a giant with massive shoulders and chest like a semi-truck and tree trunk arms and legs.

You said you fell down the stairs.

And you never came back to Palm Grove Elementary.

I went to Mount Olive Junior High and every year I kept expecting to hear Lisa Sawyer on the class roll. It never was.

It never was in Madison High School either. I always thought about you, about your ogre of a father, the way you smiled when I gave you the cupcake and goody bag.

I knew I'd never see you again, especially as I drove cross-country to go to Princeton.

Sophomore English. It was a big class, some several hundred people. I sat down next to this brown-haired girl. I didn't look at her. I didn't look at anyone. I just wanted to get through the first day of class. The professor--Dr. Morgan--had someone start an attendance sheet. I printed my name on it and handed it to the girl next to me.

On her pinky was a little pink plastic jewel ring.

I looked at her face. What were the odds? "Lisa?" I asked breathlessly.

You smiled. "Frog boy."

We went to lunch. I told you my life story since fourth grade and you told me yours, clearing up a lot of details I had missed.

Your last name wasn't Sawyer anymore. You had changed it when her parents split. You said you didn't want the name of an abuser following you around forever. It was Silverman, after Ms. Silverman.

You smiled sheepishly. "I actually thought about changing it to Seaborn or Samuels... but decided against it."

I was flabbergasted.

And honored.

"I was told, when we left, that I should get rid of everything from my old life with my dad in California. I... I couldn't get rid of *everything*. I knew you were a good guy, even if you liked that stupid frog. I... I thought about you a lot. I... I never figured the feeling would have been mutual."

Before long, you had another class. You gave me your phone number and your dorm address, telling me you wanted to see me again and long before English class again, that that night would be great.

You kissed my cheek and were gone.

Thankfully only for a couple hours as opposed to almost a decade.

We studied together for English. We had dinner almost four times a week. We did everything together. Everything.

You came with me to Duke and took some post-grad classes while I went to law school.

You came with me to D.C. You worked for the DNC; I staffed on the Hill.

We met Josh Lyman, a wild and rambunctious guy from the minority whip's office.

You said you didn't like the instability of my career on the Hill. "Congressman are only in office for so long," you said worriedly. "I just don't want to see you struggling."

During Congressman Richardson's re-election campaign, I applied for jobs at some law firms. Richardson lost and Gage Whitney accepted. It was perfect timing and you seemed thrilled with the move.

We were doing great. You didn't have to work with the salary I was bringing home from Gage Whitney. I would come home and look at you--really look at you, staring at you almost. You picked up on it and started feeling self-conscious. That hadn't been my intention. My intention was... just to look at you...

The woman I was going to ask to be my wife.

Six weeks and I found a ring.

Four and a half hours to write the proposal. ("With this ring...")

Three letters--one word--that would change both our lives.

Life was *excellent*.

And Josh came. Bartlet was the real thing. Hoynes wasn't. Richardson hadn't been.

You were upset that I quit. I told you how they didn't listen to me, how I was beginning to *dread* going to work. I told you I liked politics; I had missed it. I told you I was going to New Hampshire and asked if you'd go with me.

You told me no.

No.

I can still hear your voice. I can still see your angry eyes.

I had reacted... not so great... I yelled. I demanded to know why not.

I had scared you... or something.

You *threw* the engagement ring at me. "With this ring, I say we're through." You pulled the little pink plastic jewel ring from your key chain and threw it, too. "With this ring, I don't ever want to see you again, Sam Seaborn! *Ever*!"

That was *it*. We were done.

I never knew why. Not until I got a letter September 8, 1999. After sleeping with Laurie, who turned out to be a high-priced call girl, and defending my best friend who was, potentially, about to be fired, and confessing all of my woes to my boss's daughter, the *last* thing I wanted to see was a letter from my old fiancée. As if my life weren't complicated enough that day.

I didn't read it. I had all but forgotten about it. Until a day about two weeks ago, some two years after the fact.

I had been cleaning out some old things. We were about to campaign again. I was turning my office and apartment into lean, mean, campaigning machines. And I came across it.

The first paragraph took up about three quarters of a page and was an apology.

The next two pages detailed why you left. 1.) You couldn't have your picture on television. If your father ever saw you... You didn't tell me what would happen. I don't think you wanted to think about it. "Josh says he's the real thing and you believe him. I learned you guys were almost one hundred percent right all the time, so... And then you guys won. You were right." 2.) You didn't want to hold me back. You knew I hated Gage Whitney. You knew it. And you knew I'd stay and regret it. 3.) If I had left and you had come with me, you said you couldn't play second fiddle to my career, my politics. You needed a husband who would be there all the time who would protect you. You said I could've been that guy, but it wouldn't have been me, and you would've hated me for it, and yourself.

And then you went back to apologizing again.

"I'm going now. It's something I'm good at. I'm going out with a bang, Sam... Love, Lisa."

That last... that didn't... I spent three hours on the phone talking to people I knew who could get me some information on you. My answers finally came from my friend Benny with the IRS.

"Lisa Michelle Silverman?"

"Yeah."

"Born August 30, 1967 in Los Angeles, California?"

"Yeah, that's her."

"It was... She died in 1999. September 8, 1999."

I had dropped the telephone. I couldn't understand. I tried. But then, right then, it just... The day I got the letter, the day I went through hell was the same day you died. The day you took your life.

And now here I am... reunited with Lisa Michelle Sawyer... or Silverman... almost Seaborn in LePatner Cemetery.

Kneeling at the grave, I pull a little pink plastic jewel ring from my pocket. "With this ring... I remember all of the insanity from fourth grade for seven months. Hubert and those dark curls of yours." I stick it down in the dirt a little before pulling out another ring.

A diamond engagement ring.

"With this ring... Life would've been so different."

End.

 

 

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