TITLE: Useful 1/1 

AUTHOR: Jo March 

Summary: So how do you get from Dr. Free Ride to Josh Lyman anyway? 

Spoilers: "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II" 

Archive: Sure, just let me know where it is so I can come and visit it. 

Disclaimer: They're not mine. They still belong to Aaron Sorkin and his corporate bosses. 

Rating: PG for the occasional profanity. 

Author's Note: Thanks, as always, to Ryo Sen, who needs to stop unpacking and start writing.


I refuse to be a victim.

I absolutely refuse to be one of those whiny, pathetic women sitting around and sobbing endlessly about her lost love.

Besides, I can't afford to do that.

I have exactly $125.32. Thank God I went to the ATM yesterday, because today I have no checking account. Well, okay, I do have a checking account; there's just no money in it. You see, it was a joint account. While I was sitting in my best friend's apartment, pouring out my heart about my fight with Alan, he was at the bank withdrawing every cent I'd earned.

I have no home either. How pathetic is that? I am now literally a homeless person. The lease was in Alan's name too.

My parents warned me, but did I listen? No, I was twenty and stupid. Now I'm twenty-three and much wiser.

Unfortunately, I am also homeless and broke.

Kitty says I can sleep on her couch for awhile until I can afford my own place. Getting my own place is not going to be that easy, however. With what I make, it could take months to scrape together enough for a security deposit plus last month and first month's rent.

Kitty suggests that I call my parents and tell them what's happened. They would, of course, bail me out. They'd send me the money to come home. They'd pay my tuition if I wanted to go back to school. They would never say, "We told you so." I'd just see it in their eyes every time I talked to them.

I love my parents, and I know they love me. But they've got this idea that their youngest daughter is the family screw up: Donna, who changes her major every semester; Donna, who drops out of school because she's in love; Donna, who comes running to Mommy and Daddy for help every time she hits a little bump in the road.

I am not going to be that person any more. I am not going to run to my parents or to Kitty or to Alan. Not that running to Alan-may he rot in hell!-is an option.

The place to start is to figure out what I want. Then I can devise a strategy for getting there.

I have no idea what I want.

God, I am pathetic. I've spent three years doing what Alan wanted, and I don't even know what interests me any more. Like my job. Why am I working at this job? I am one of two dozen secretaries for a major utilities company. I had another offer-with a small non-profit organization-that was much more interesting. But Alan told me to take this job because it paid more. I've been miserable ever since.

What the hell was I thinking?

And you want the punch line-the thing that makes this all so unbelievably pathetic? With Alan, the sex wasn't even that good. I figured it was my own fault: I was just too uptight and inexperienced; it would get better over time. I mean, what did I have to compare it to? I was barely twenty, and Alan was my first. I'd done my share of making out with guys, but I'd never gotten beyond what you'd call the heavy petting stage. It never did get better with Alan, of course. Just less frequent. He said that was because he was so tired from his long hours at the hospital. I bet he was cheating on me. I mean, doesn't it figure?

So there's one thing I can put on my list: I want good sex.

It's a start.

So what do I want besides good sex?

I want to feel valued.

I want to matter to someone.

Not the way I matter to my family-not in that "we love you even though you do keep screwing up" sense. I want to matter to someone because I'm smart and useful and because what I do makes his life better.

Well, dammit, I am smart; I did have a 3.8 GPA, after all.

I want to have fun.

Life with Alan centered around his friends, his work, his interests. I can't remember the last time I did something just because I wanted to.

Most of all, I want to say what I think.

This, according to my mother, has always been my besetting sin: my need to give people my unsolicited opinion. God knows this is the one thing Alan and Mom agreed on. And I've tried, I truly have. Take politics. I know a lot about politics. If I do go back to college, I should keep the political science and government major. I do think I have a flair for it. My personal views are what you'd probably call liberal. Alan already sees himself as the rich doctor he's on his way to being (thanks, in no small part, to my stupidity). For that reason, he describes himself as a Republican. Good little fiance (which is what he called me although he never got around to buying that ring) that I was, I held my tongue. Hell, I bit my tongue until I could taste the blood. I am so damn tired of not saying what I want to say. I'm telling you, if I am ever stupid enough to fall in love again, he just better get used to listening to what I think because I not keeping my opinions to myself any more.

Is it too much to ask of life to find someone who will like the fact that you have an opinion, even if it is different from his? Someone who would be disappointed in you if you didn't say what you thought? Someone who might even enjoy a good argument?

I am going to stop apologizing for wanting to speak my mind.

Kitty went to bed hours ago, but I'm making up my list and watching CNN with the sound turned low. They're doing a story about the governor of New Hampshire, who is running for the Democratic nomination even though no one believes he stands a chance. Two things strike me about this story: the governor-his name is Josiah Bartlet, which certainly sounds presidential-is saying what he thinks instead of spouting the same old political rhetoric you hear from guys like Hoynes. And the people in the background-the people who work for Governor Bartlet-are having fun. They don't look like they cry when they're getting ready for work because they can't stand the thought of one more mind-numbing day.

It's a shame New Hampshire is so far away. If New Hampshire weren't so far away, I'd volunteer to work for Governor Bartlet. I mean, I've already established that I like politics, and working for a presidential candidate would look good on a resume.

As the night goes on and I try unsuccessfully to sleep on Kitty's couch, I become obsessed with this idea. I think about how far I could go on $125.32. How much would I get if I sold my car and took the bus to New Hampshire? Then again, maybe I could sleep in the car. And I wasn't going to use the one-and-only credit card that wasn't in Alan's name, but I do have almost $700 worth of credit on it. I could get to New Hampshire. I could do this.

I have a plan.

In the morning, of course, Kitty tries to talk me out of it. She almost succeeds. I am this close to saying that I'll wait until next week and think about this more carefully. But then I think about going back to my job. I think what a miserable time I'll be having at work. I think about that news footage of the Bartlet staff.

In the end, Kitty loans me $75 and warns me not to sleep in the car or pick up hitchhikers.

The drive to New Hampshire takes me three days. This is what I learn on the road:

You should always take advantage of a motel's continental breakfast offer, even if the donuts are stale.

Radio stations play the same twelve songs, no matter where you are.

The instructions for changing a flat tire are not as difficult to follow as some men would have you believe.

A 1989 Toyota Camry can travel exactly 12.3 miles once the gas gauge reads empty.

I can travel from Wisconsin to New Hampshire alone without being raped, mugged or taken advantage of. I honestly did not know that. I also didn't know how worried I was about that until I found myself standing in front of Bartlet headquarters.

When I go in and volunteer, I don't expect anyone to shout, "Donnatella Moss! At last you've come to save me!" I do expect a little more gratitude, however. I mean, they're not exactly overrun with volunteers here. But no one asks anything about what I might be able to contribute to the campaign; they just point me toward a desk and give me some envelopes to stuff.

This is hardly the most efficient way to use personnel, I'm thinking. No wonder Bartlet is behind in the polls.

After an hour of envelope stuffing, I have another epiphany: They can hardly fire me, can they? I mean, why not walk around and see if there's something I can do? Something more useful than envelope stuffing.

I don't mean to pry into any of the offices. If offices are even what you can call them: they're cubbyholes with names taped to the windows, and they're in varying degrees of order. The one that says "CJ Cregg," for instance, is very tidy. There's a day planner on the desk with the schedule written out in precise block lettering. I'm betting that CJ Cregg is a woman. I go down the hall, looking into each office like some political-minded Goldilocks, until I come to the worst mess I have ever seen in my life. The sign on the window reads "Josh Lyman."

Josh Lyman, whoever he is, clearly needs someone to put his life in order.

It might as well be me.

It's amazing, but I don't feel all that nervous. Looking at this office, I feel like I could take care of the chaos Josh Lyman has obviously made of his world.

The phone rings, and answering it just seems like the natural thing to do.

I can be useful here. I can be valuable.

If I'm lucky, maybe I can even have fun.


The End




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