"Will You Remember Me?" - part 3
Disclaimers: see part 1
As usual the President insisted on leaving very early in the morning for their cross-country fly to Seattle, Washington on Air Force One. Toby let his gaze wander around the cabin and saw that everybody was deep asleep in the seat. He then rested his eyes on CJ, who was sitting next to her. He loved to watch her sleep. She always looked so peaceful when she was in dreamland.
"Excuse me, Toby." Charlie walked toward him.
"Hey, Charlie. What can I do for you?"
"Mrs. Bartlet wants to talk to you."
"Thank you, Charlie. I will be right there."
"Toby, have a seat," The First Lady said when she saw Toby walking into her cabin. The President was already asleep in his large seat.
"Thank you Mrs. Bartlet," Toby replied in low voice, not wanting to wake up the President. He was not in mood for trivia questions.
"I wanted to talk to you for a long time, but it seemed I always miss the chance. How are you holding up?"
"I am doing okay. Some days are harder than others, but I am holding on. Sometimes I felt I was pushed to the edge, but a smile from Catherine or Jacqueline always gives me the strength I need to go on. I keep telling myself that I have to be strong, not for me but for them, because I am all they have right now."
"Hanging in there. I am sure it won’t be long before CJ is back in your arms," the First Lady reassured him. "I made a reservation for you at the restaurant on the top of the Space Needle tonight at eight o’clock. Take CJ there, and have some good times. You deserve it, both of you."
"Not a word, Toby. Didn’t you propose to CJ there? The restaurant must have a special place in her memory. Taking her back there will certainly help her recollections."
"I love to take CJ out, Mrs. Bartlet. Unfortunately, CJ thinks that I am married to another woman, so won’t she grow suspicious if I ask her out?"
"Toby, you are the President’s best speech writer for crying out loud. I am sure you can come up with a good reason to talk CJ into a date with you." Abbey smiled at him.
J searched frantically in her suitcase for a dress to
wear on her date with Toby that night.
‘Date? Where did that come from? It’s only a dinner.’
Toby came knocking on her hotel room door two hours ago, announcing that he was going to treat her to a nice dinner tonight because he had a bet with her on the newest polling number of the Bartlet administration before her car accident months ago, and he lost. So, there she was - twenty minutes before Toby would come pick her up, and she still couldn’t decide on what to wear.
She walked toward the door when she heard a knock. Glancing at the clock on the nightstand, she realized that he was twenty minutes early.
‘Why does he always have to be early?’ ‘Why does he always have to be early?’ she
Pulling the door open, she was surprised to see a smiling Donna, standing at the other side of door.
"My lifesaver. Help me, Donna. Toby will be here in 20 minutes, and I still cannot decide on what to wear."
"Gosh, CJ. How
many dresses did you bring with you? We
are only going to stay here for a week. You
probably bring enough clothes to last for a month," Donna said, seeing the
stacks of clothes CJ laid on the bed.
"I learned my lesson the hard way, Donna. God knows when Roberto Bernini will decide to push me into a pool again. I like to be prepared. Come on, Donna. What should I wear?"
"Relax, CJ. It’s only a dinner. Why do you act like a high school girl going on a first date?" Donna couldn’t resist teasing her, and she was satisfied to see CJ’s face turning crimson.
"Hey, you brought the blue dress with you again," Donna shouted excitedly when she saw the blue long gown lying on the bed.
"Again?" CJ looked confused.
"You wore the dress to the party when we were here last time. Remember?"
"What party?" CJ still had no clue.
‘Well, it must be another thing that happened last year or so that I have no memory of. I hate not remembering,’ CJ thought dejectedly.
"Oops, sorry. Let me see. It was a year, no, two years ago. We were here for a town hall meeting. The President threw a great celebration party at the restaurant downstairs one night. You and Toby danced all night, and both of you were ecstatic. I did not remember seeing Toby so happy before."
"A celebration party? What did we celebrate?"
‘Now, I really dig myself a big hole. You cannot tell her that we were celebrating she and Toby’s engagement, so try coming up with another reason. And think quickly, Donna.’
"I… I… I cannot remember. Sorry. You know how many parties we go to each year." Donna smiled at her apologetically, hoping that CJ would buy her excuse.
"You said Toby and I danced all night. Was he married at the time?"
"No. No. He wasn’t married."
‘Okay. Do I want to know? Do I? Well, why not?’
"Donna, what’s Toby’s wife like?" CJ asked nervously, ignoring the sour feeling that was beginning to creep into her heart.
"She…she…well, I’ve only met her once, and it was a
while ago. I…I really don’t
know." Donna fumbled, but she
quickly realized that CJ’s mind was already somewhere else.
‘You are jealous of Toby’s wife,’ a little voice in her head said.
‘No, I am not.’
‘Yes, you are. You love him. You’ve been in love with him for a long time,’ the voice continued.
‘No, I am NOT!’
‘Yes, you are. Why were so sad that you cried your heart out when you realized that Toby is married with another woman? Or why do you dislike Toby’s wife so much, even though you have no clue what she’s like? Face it, Claudia. You are jealous of her because she married the man that you love.’
Depressed, CJ threw the dress that she was holding on the bed with a sigh.
"CJ, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I’m fine. I am just… I am just tired of not remembering. What if I’ll never get them back? You know, the memories of the good times I have with friends like you, Josh, Toby, Sam, the memories of laugher, or the memories of triumphs. I know everybody has been really nice to me. You all try to tell me everything that I don’t remember, but it’s just not the same." She let out another bit sigh.
"Don’t worry, CJ. I am sure you’ll get your memory back," Donna tried to cheer her up.
"Thank you, Donna. You’ve been such a great friend."
"You’re welcome. Now,
you’d better hurry. Toby will be
here any minute. Wear the blue
dress. It brings out the color of
"The place is beautiful. Thanks for taking me here. I don’t think I’ve ever been here before," CJ said after they were seated at the best table in the restaurant.
‘You did, CJ. I proposed to you at here. How can you forget?’ He wanted more than anything to tell her that, but he decided on a safer reply: "Thanks for coming with me."
"Toby, stop staring at me." CJ put down her menu. Her heart was pounding faster and faster under his intense eyes. She had noticed that he had been doing that a lot since he picked her up at her hotel room, and she liked to think that it was because he found her attractive. However she knew that couldn’t be farther from the truth; after all, he was happily married - at least that was what Donna had been telling her.
"Sorry, CJ, but you look beautiful tonight." Toby mentally slapped himself for looking at her so bluntly, but he couldn’t help it. CJ looked stunning in her royal blue halter back gown that matched her eye color perfectly.
‘You’d better get yourself under control, Toby,’ he thought to himself. CJ only thought of herself as his colleague right now, not his wife. If he weren’t more careful, CJ would probably slap him with a big sexual harassment lawsuit. Yeah, that would be a great headline for Washington Post - "the White House Press Secretary files a sexual harassment suit again the White House Communications Director, who is also her husband". ‘That would really look good on my resume.’
"Donna told me that we were good friends before the accident," CJ said, trying to hide her blush.
"I would like to think we are still good friends." Toby paused to take a sip of his wine. "So I see Donna has been telling you stories?"
"Yeah, on the weekends she would get out the photo albums and start to tell me the events associated with each photograph. Every now and then I can see the events that she describes to me in my head. Sometimes the pictures are clear, sometimes they are really fuzzy; however, in most cases I have no reminiscence on the things that she tells me. Even when I see something in my mind, I cannot tell what are my memories and what are just my imaginations. It has been almost a month since the accident, but my memory is still no better than when it was a month ago. I always feel like I am stuck in a big forest alone with thick fog all around me. I cannot see my way out. What if I’ll never get out of there? I am really scared." She fought to hold back her tears.
He patted her hand lightly. "Shhh. Don’t worry, CJ. Don’t be scared. You are not alone. I am here. No matter what happens or where you are, I will always be there for you. All you have to do is call my name, and I will be there by your side." He hated to see her like this. She was always so strong and so capable no matter how tough the situation was. He never saw her so depressed before, and it was heartrending to see her like this. "You just need to be patient. It takes time for your brain to sort out the pieces, like doing jigsaw puzzles."
"You know, that’s weird. Dr. Ryans, my psychologist, told me the exact same thing last week." She fleshed her a small smile.
‘Well, if you know I talked to Dr. Ryans at least once
a week discussing your progress, then you wouldn’t feel surprised.’
Their conversation was interrupted when the waitress brought their food to them. For a while, neither one of them said anything, and the only sounds were the sounds of their silverwares clicking with the plate. When Toby looked up from the pasta that he was eating again, he saw CJ staring into space, deep in thought.
"CJ, CJ! Earth to CJ."
"Oh, I am sorry, Toby."
"Are you okay? You look kind of pale."
"I am fine, Toby." She gave him a weak smile. "I am trying to figure out when I came here before - if I’ve ever been here before that is."
"You remember something?" Toby managed to keep his voice level.
"I don’t know. I
got this tingling feeling ever since I walked in here. Everything in here looked kind of familiar to me.
I don’t know how to explain it. It
was like I saw them in my dreams before, if you know what I mean."
Toby tried to hold back his excitement when he heard that. Maybe Mrs. Bartlet was right. Maybe his dark days was going to be over soon.
To be continued …