June 17, 1995
CJ's apartment
7:30 a.m.

He had barely finished knocking on her door when it swung open. Surprise lit her face for a split second, then faded into a familiar grin. "Hello."

Before he could reply, she turned back into her apartment, leaving him no choice but to follow.

"Did you read Karen Cahill's column today," she called over her shoulder as she walked into the kitchen.

"Do I want to?"

The television was tuned to CNN Morning News and three newspapers were laid open on the bar counter in front of a half empty bowl of granola and glass of orange juice. Comfortable in the simple patterns and rhythms of their friendship, they settled down at the bar. She continued to eat her granola as he grabbed the Times to read the aforementioned column.

"Have you had breakfast?"

Not taking his eyes from the paper, he silently nodded towards the styrofoam cup of coffee he had set on the counter.

"Where I come from, we don't consider a cup of coffee and a cigarette an acceptable breakfast."

"Where I come from, it's the accustomed breakfast," he said preoccupied, then looked up from the paper. "What did he do to her?"

"I don't know," laughed CJ, "but that's three in as many weeks. Whatever he did he better apologize soon." She finished the last of her orange juice and stood up to place the dirty dishes in the sink. "So, what's going on, Toby? Wait," she said, turning around, "I thought you were going to Virginia today."

"*We* are," he replied, checking his watch. "And we need to leave in about forty five minutes, so I suggest you change," said Toby, eyeing her pajamas, a small red t-shirt and baggy cotton pants. Her feet were bare and her hair was pulled back with a small clip.

Her eyes narrowed and studied him suspiciously. "Why am I going?"

The corners of his lips curled up into a sly grin, only amplifying her suspicions. "Because you are my dear friend, and-"

"Oh, God," groaned CJ.

"-I want to share with you the opportunity to view the 'democratic process in all it's glory,'" he said, throwing her earlier words back at her.

"I'm being punished," she concluded darkly.

"You tempted fate."

"And you're fate's little helper?"

"Well, I'm not comfortable with the 'little' part," his pretense of annoyance undermined by the amused glint in his eyes.

CJ crossed her arms, marking a defiant pose. "I already have plans for the day."

The smirk on his lips now clearly visible. "I'm sure your shoe closet can go unorganized for another day."

Her arms dropped as she recognized the words from her tirade the day before. 'My big project for the weekend? Organizing my shoe closet by color.' She looked at Toby, who had a triumphant expression on his face. "Damn."

********

Downtown Office Building
Roanoke, VA
2:30 p.m.

"I don't know which is worse," CJ said as they walked out of the office building from their meeting with Virginia State Senator, Douglas Coen, "the fact that he voted for a bill to make the waltz the official state dance, or the fact that such a bill actually came to a vote in the first place."

"No," replied Toby. "The worst thing was your joke about how heated the debates must have been, prompting him to spend the next fifteen minutes recounting the arguments for and against."

"Actually, I think we both learned a very important political lesson there."

"What's that?"

"That the Virginia Waltz Society is not a group to be taken lightly."

He didn't say anything, but she could see the small smile hiding beneath beard as they continued to walk down the sidewalk to his parked car. CJ couldn't help but notice what a nice day it was. They sky was a perfect robin's egg blue, lightly speckled with white clouds. The trees and grass were glorious shades of green. She was glad she had decided to dress casually in a pair of khaki shorts and crisp white short sleeved shirt. Toby, on the other hand, had to be uncomfortable she thought, dressed in his usual suit and tie.

"Toby?"

"Yeah?"

"This is punishment for tempting fate, right?"

"Yes."

And I tempted fate by saying I was bored?"

"Yes."

"See, I thought tempting fate by saying I was bored meant fate would strike back by making me unbelievably busy."

"Is that what you wanted to happen?"

"Yes!"

"Then that wouldn't be very effective punishment, would it?"

She rolled her eyes, but couldn't counter his logic. "I'm saying, that that was most purposeless and boring meeting I have ever been in."

"And how long have you been in politics, CJ," asked Toby, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and took pity on her. "The next candidate should prove more interesting."

"I doubt she could be less interesting," she retorted good naturedly, as they reached his car. "What time are we supposed to meet her?"

"We need to be in Lexington in two hours."

"Great," commented CJ. "We have time to grab a bite to eat."

"There's a diner on the corner."

They were about to reach the small diner, when CJ spotted a park across the street. "Toby, let's get a couple sandwiches and take them to the park."

Toby twisted his neck to look at her strangely. "And let them play on the monkey bars?"

"Eat the sandwiches at the park," she clarified, rolling her eyes.

"Why?" The lack of enthusiasm in his voice was clear.

She shrugged her shoulders. "It'll be like a picnic. It's gorgeous outside, let's enjoy it."

"Let's enjoy it indoors," Toby suggested strongly, "where there is air conditioning and waiters and no bugs."

"You don't like the outdoors," CJ accused incredulously as he opening the door.

"No."

********

CJ's apartment
Washington, D.C.
9:40 p.m.

The stars were just beginning to appear in the nighttime sky as they arrived back at her apartment from what she had taken to calling in her own mind, 'A Look at the Glory of the Democratic Process.'

Lindsay Webster, was in fact, infinitely more interesting than Doug Coen, CJ was relieved to discover. A former History professor before becoming the Vice President of Washington and Lee University, she impressed CJ with her habit of grounding her arguments in historical perspectives, often bringing new insights to an old subject.

More importantly to CJ, however, was Toby's reaction to the older woman. Over the past several weeks, she had observed him acting quieter and slightly more withdrawn than usual. It was a small, almost unnoticeable change. CJ had noticed it, however, though she was unsure how to help.

Perhaps it was the woman's passion in her beliefs that ignited his passions in his. Perhaps she presented a new challenge to him, intellectual realms not yet explored. Whatever the reason, Lindsay Webster found the man CJ knew and called him back.

Toby's behavior on the drive back to Washington stood in stark contrast to earlier in the day. He became so engaged in arguing his point, that several times CJ had to remind him to pay attention to the road. Mention of a recent survey ranking the U.S. Presidents led to a discussion on the lack of historical long term memory of many Americans, which extended into a debate on the media's role in the rehabilitation of Nixon in the public arena before he died, which became a friendly argument over the identity of Deep Throat, and through it all Toby groused about CJ's habit of station surfing on the radio.

She laughed at his feigned anger about the radio and smiled at his animated gestures and the spark in his eyes as they argued.

It had been more than twelve hours since they left that morning when they arrived back at her apartment. It was late, yet it was still early. When he walked her to her door, she invited him in like she had done so many times before. Andy was in New York like she was almost every weekend, and CJ knew Toby would wind up at his office before going home to their empty townhouse. He demurred for a moment, then accepted like she knew he would; hoped he would. His home wasn't the only place that felt empty sometimes.

As was their natural habit, they went to the kitchen. He flipped on the television to see what had happened in the world today. She started to search her cabinets for something to fix for dinner. Disgusted with the celebrity guest on Larry King, he turned the channel to C-SPAN for the British House of Commons Questioning of the Prime Minister.

"How does an omelet sound," CJ asked, already taking the ingredients out of the refrigerator. "Tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and cheese."

"You're determined to get me to eat breakfast one way or another, aren't you?"

She looked over her shoulder and smiled. "We all have to have our pet causes."

He just snorted derisively as he reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a beer.

"A beer, Toby?"

"I'll eat your no - meat omelet," he retorted, "but I'm going to have a beer."

********

She noted with satisfaction, but didn't dare comment when he cleaned his plate. He stood and put his dishes in the sink, then grabbed his discarded jacket and tie off the back of the chair. "I should start writing my report for Sloane."

"Toby, go home. Give Andy a call. The report can wait until Monday." She saw the almost imperceptible flinch of his eyes at his wife's name.

Before she could question it, however, he replied, "I have a conference call with Sloane and McNeil tomorrow afternoon and I need to figure out how to tell the Mid-Atlantic Director of the DNC that he is dead wrong without offending him, because-"

"Why," interrupted CJ, confused.

"Because he raises a lot of money for the party."

"No, why would you tell him he's wrong?"

Toby sighed. "CJ, she can't win."

"Because she's a woman?" Her tone was dangerously quiet.

"Yes, because she's a woman. She's a woman, liberal academic," said Toby, "and you know as well as I do that the Virginia 6th would never elect her."

"If the DNC put their full weight-"

"She would still lose and we'd be throwing our money and seat in the House away," he argued.

"So, you're going to run Doug Coen."

"He's got the best chance at winning, CJ. He's charismatic-"

"Like a used car salesmen," she said loudly. "He's more conservative than some of the Republican's in the House, Toby."

"He's a Southern Democrat."

"Well then, both of you need to take a glance at the Democratic platform some time," countered CJ. "He might as well be a Republican. He supports restrictions on a woman's right to choose and affirmative action. He opposes restrictions on guns. He dodges questions on Social Security and the Patient's Bill of Rights. I doubt he's ever met the environmental lobby-"

"I don't give a damn if he's really a Fascist, CJ," he yelled. "As long as he has a little 'D' by his name, he helps the Majority Leader stay the Majority Leader and it doesn't matter how he'd vote on a woman's right to choose or affirmative action because they'd never be put on the table to begin with! On anything else, he'll vote the way the leadership tells him to, because I think we can both agree the only thing he's interested in is the title of 'Congressmen.'

"Why should he listen to the Leadership," she asked. "You won't seriously consider running anyone else for the seat, what's to stop him?"

"CJ, she can't win. The Virginia 6th won't elect a woman."

"And they never will if the DNC doesn't get their heads out of their asses long enough to throw their support behind one! She might not win this one, but in the long run-"

"The long run's not my problem right now," argued Toby. "My problem is keeping a majority in the House, and to do that I need to pick the person that actually has a chance at winning, and that's Coen!"

They were both standing now, their faces red from arguing. This was simply another pattern of their relationship, they knew. They were both passionate people that had no problem disagreeing with the other. They had traveled this path together before, but something whispering in the back of their minds told them that this time they wouldn't end up in the usual truce. They were about to turn a corner they had never been before, their momentum refusing to stop and regain it's bearings.

"And your naive idealism aside, CJ, you know I'm right!"

Her eyes hardened. "Simple years of experience doesn't equate wisdom, Toby!"

They inched closer to the edge.

"I've worked on three successful political campaigns," she sneered. "How many have you worked on?"

Suddenly, they were off the map, into an unfamiliar territory with no clear way back and nothing to hold on to.

 

Democracy and the Great Outdoors - 3

 

 

 

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