This is my second TWW posting, and it is from Josh's POV during "Celestial Navigation." Please let me know what you think.
Somewhere Along the Line
Somewhere along the line, my relationship with my assistant became more than just boss-employee. Even more than just friends. It's crossed over into something that scares the crap out of me. I love her. And I've been in love before. Or at least I think I've been. But these feelings I have for Donna are so much stronger. They feel so much more right than the way I've felt about any other woman.
I don't think I felt this way about her at first, so it definitely wasn't love at first sight. But it was definitely "something" at first sight. Maybe it was the way, almost from the beginning, that she anticipated my every need. Statistics, polling data, voting results would appear on my desk even before I could ask for them. Then, when I would lose them, as I do almost everything, she would have another copy in my hands before I could yell her name.
Or maybe it was the way she could keep up with me, both physically and mentally. While my long strides usually left most people in my wake, whether in the campaign office or the West Wing, she always kept up. And she would keep a running commentary going with me too. It's not everyone who can banter with me. I tend to be off- putting, sarcastic. Some people have even been known to call me hostile, but I just don't see it.
I find myself pondering these things during my drive home after my speech to a political science class at Georgetown. I'm surprised that Donna was in the audience, although she was doing a really good job at trying to be invisible. I didn't notice her when I first walked onto the stage, but after I hung up the first phone call from Toby, I caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye. Even though it was dark in the auditorium, one of the dimmer lights was hitting her blond hair. I would know that hair anywhere.
Then, in addition to the chaos surrounding Toby and Sam's drive through Conecticutt to pick up Judge Mendoza, I got nervous about continuing my talk. What was she doing there? Why didn't she tell me she was coming? Didn't she mention something about a date tonight? Was that a lie?
I managed to make it through the rest of my presentation. I had hoped to run into Donna during the break, but she was no where to be found. After a quick phone call to check on Toby and Sam's progress, where Toby so graciously again pointed out my huge gaffe in the press room yesterday, I tried to head outside for some fresh air. I assumed she was out there trying to avoid me. However, I got waylaid by a bunch of students with questions and then it was time to head back inside.
I looked for her again after the presentation, but she was already gone. Would Donna have come all the way to Georgetown just to hear me speak? She should have told me she was coming. We could have come together. She lives on the other side of town and though she claims her car is fine, I know it's quite a few years old. It makes me nervous to think about her driving back home late at night in an unreliable vehicle.
I'm confused as to why she would come to hear me speak and not tell me, but my mind can only begin to fathom the fascinating woman who works with me.
I didn't always find her so fascinating. In fact, there were some things about her which drove me crazy.
For example, during the campaign, I realized that her usual greeting in the morning would more often than not be followed by what I thought was some useless fact she'd picked up from who knows where. However, I soon learned that those factoids could be a good indicator of what my day would bring. If only I'd learn to pay closer attention to them.
Like the morning during the campaign when she told me that Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest state capital in the U.S., with a population of fewer than nine thousand people. Later that day, I found myself flying to Vermont for a campaign stop, where Sam was able to weave that factoid into a speech for President Bartlett about small communities making a big impact.
Or the day she greeted me with the fact that coffee is the second largest item of international commerce in the world behind petrol, a fact that came in handy during an international trade meeting later that day. Or the day we argued most of an afternoon when she insisted that Iceland is the world's oldest functioning democracy. And it turned out she was right.
There is this one incident that stands out in my mind, because it's was the instance where I realized I felt something more than friendship for her. It was right after President Bartlett was elected. We were closing up a campaign office in Texas.
"Morning Josh," she said as I came into the office where she was sorting files on the floor. She had pulled her hair up in a messy ponytail and was wearing shorts and t-shirt, because the building's air conditioning hadn't been working since the moment we moved in.
"Hey," I grunted in response because morning is not my best time and a hot, humid morning makes me even crabbier. I sat down next to her, immediately reaching for her coffee, because my mind is usually too scattered first thing in the morning to remember to find some of my own.
"You do know there's a Starbucks around the corner, right?" she asks, after I put the coffee down between us.
"Yes. I also know that you will have already visited it. But obviously you need more training, because you have yet to buy me my own cup," I tease, watching her drink from the cup. I feel a weird sensation in my stomach. I assume it's the affects of the coffee on my empty stomach as opposed to the thought that her lips are where mine were not a few seconds ago.
"You're the boss. You know what you're paying me and it's substantially too little to support another person's caffeine addiction."
"Maybe you could cut back in other ways," I smile back, pulling a pile of folders towards me. "You don't have to eat everyday, right? Or you could forgo buying another pair of shoes."
My pile of folders tips over onto hers and we both lean forward to prevent a complete collapse. With her face so close to mine, I can smell the vanilla- scented shampoo she uses and see the silver specks that swim in her blue eyes.
"You're not going to start making sweeping generalizations again about women and their footwear, are you?" she asks, a definite twinkle in her eyes, which lets me know that she's ready to begin the bantering we've raised to an art form.
"Nah." I respond. "You'd probably launch into your speech about men and sports, and I definitely don't want to hear your Howard Cossell imitation again."
She lets out a throaty laugh while putting her folders back in order again. She reaches for the coffee at the same moment as I do and I think it must be my imagination that sparks seem to fly between our fingers.
She looks up at me with a question in her eyes and before she can say anything, I say, "After you. After all, you purchased the coffee."
She lets out another laugh before taking a sip and handing the cup to me. She goes back to her files and says, "In honor of our last day in Texas, are you aware that a ten-gallon hat only holds three-quarters of a gallon?"
Normally, I give her a grunt in response, because sometimes her facts are so obscure that even I can't come up with a response. But not today. I'm hot. I hate this humidity. And I've been to way too many fundraisers in the past few days with cowboys wearing what I assumed were ten-gallon hats. I feel like bantering.
"How can that be? How can thousands of cowboys in Texas be calling their hats ten-gallon ones if they aren't? I think this is one incidence where your useless fact of the day is definitely wrong."
"They are not useless facts. They're bits of knowledge you're going to thank me someday for providing," she answers back in her best affronted voice, but I know better. There's a smile twitching at the edge of her mouth. "Besides I got this useless piece of information from an actual cowboy."
"Would this be the cowboy you were flirting so heavily with at the wrap-up party a few nights ago? The one who had to be hauled out the doors by his friends when he'd had one too many shots of tequila?"
I wanted to add, "The one I wanted to beat the crap out of because he kept touching your arm and brushing your hair out of your face? The one who got to dance with you more than once because he wasn't cornered between two state senators arguing the death penalty to death?" But I don't. Instead I get up and stretch my legs. Is it hot in here because it's hot, or is it hot in here because we're the only two in here?
"Is it my fault that he was a lightweight? How was I supposed to know that these rough and tumble cowboys can't hold their liquor? But that's really beside the point. He was completely intelligent and credible before getting drunk and I believe him."
"You believe him over your wise boss, who holds the fate of your next raise in his hands?"
"Yes, because aside from playing cowboys and Indians as a child, I'm assuming you aren't a real cowboy." She tilts her head up to look at me as she says that and my stomach does that weird thing flip-flop thing again.
"But I wanted to be a cowboy. Doesn't that count for something?" I plead in a feel-sorry for me tone which only elicits more laughter from her.
"Nope. In Texas, I only get my cowboy advice from real cowboys," she says standing up with a pile of folders in her arms.
I know those files are destined for the last box and then we'll be all done here, and that makes me sad. Even though it's broiling in here and neither of us has gotten much sleep the last few days, I feel energized. I want to make this moment last. "Well, I don't believe it and I think if you're going to bore me to death with useless facts everyday, you should at least have to prove them."
She rewards this statement with a look of steely determination, which I've grown to know means she's not giving up any ground.
"Well, find me a ten-gallon hat and three-quarters of a gallon of water and you're on."
I won't bore you with the rest of the details, but needless to say, I shelled out money for a ten-gallon hat at a western outfitter down the street. I also had to buy a measuring cup at the convenience store. Then, we had to give the owner of the store an extra 10 bucks to use the sink in the back of his store. And, of course, she was right. The hat only held three-quarters of a gallon. She made me wear the wet hat back to the office. Only the promise of a new cup of coffee kept her from making me wear the hat all the way back to DC on the plane.
So, now as I head home, for what I hope will be a relaxing weekend, I know I'm going to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what Donna's appearance at the speech meant. And if I really want it to mean what I hope it means. And if it does mean that what do I do next?