(for disclaimer-type thingies, see pt 1)
The tape is ready on Toby's desk when we return to his office. He
slips it into the VCR without ceremony, and after a brief moment of
blue screen, the credits start for `The Rebecca Show'.
It's not too hard to describe `The Rebecca Show': It's like the old
days of `Donahue', with a fair amount of `20/20' and just a dash
of `Ricki Lake'. It's a chat show that panders mostly to the bored
housewives crowd, but like Donahue before it, has a certain level of
respectability. This is due mostly to Rebecca herself, a down-to-
earth woman in her late 40s who handles the delicate balance between
sensationalism and journalism with grace and ease. She's even won an
Emmy, if I remember correctly.
Lisa is introduced, along with a panel of women who include Stacey
Graham, the ex-wife of the former mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, and
Cecilia Chapman, who was married to Rory Chapman, an action hero who
was once as big as Schwarzenegger, but whose star has long since
We watch as the other women tell their stories. I know we are both
holding our breath as we listen to these incredible people relate
tales of horrific abuse, both physical and emotional. The pain and
strength in their eyes is amazing-just amazing. I am in awe of these
women. I want to boo and hiss right along with the audience. But then
it's Lisa's turn.
She looks fragile up there on the screen, her eyes huge, her lips
trembling. For a split second, I want to take her in my arms and make
it all better. I want to hug her, to reassure her, to do whatever it
takes to chase away that look on her face. But then I remember that
she's up there to lie about me. She's prepared to convince these
people that I hurt and betrayed her.
How can she do it? How can she belittle what millions of women have
actually gone through by getting up on that stage and lying? How can
she pretend when so many women have had to live with the reality?
But there's a little voice in the back of my mind and it's hissing at
me, reminding me of those bruises on my sister's arms.
Rebecca Clearwater is introducing Lisa. Toby stiffens in his chair
and sits up straight, aiming the remote control at the screen to turn
up the volume. He leans forward, watching intensely.
"Lisa, tell us about when you first met Sam Seaborn."
Lisa gives an incredibly sad smile, and with that one small gesture
the audience is in the palm of her hand. She used to do that to me.
All it took was that sweet, sad smile, and I was her slave. "Sam and
I met in New York," she says. "I was working for Merrill-Lynch and he
had just started at Dewey Ballentine, which is one of the top law
firms in the country. We met through friends."
"And what was your first impression of Sam?" asks Rebecca kindly.
Lisa smiles again, this time shyly, and glances away for a moment. "I
thought he was the most handsome man I'd ever seen." Immediately the
screen fills with an image of Lisa and me back when we first met. Our
arms are around each other's waists and we're smiling. The camera
closes in on my face.
"He certainly is handsome," agrees Rebecca.
The camera cuts back to Lisa.
"Yes." Her smile falters. "And he was incredibly charming and
intelligent. I think I fell in love with him the moment we met."
My chest tightens painfully at her words.
"Tell us about how your relationship progressed."
Lisa clears her throat and looks down at her hands folded on her
lap. "Sam was a very typical passive-aggressive," she says. Toby
makes a strangled sound in his throat. "He was outwardly, as I said,
incredibly charming." She pauses. "The thing is, Sam has always
projected a certain air of innocence and na´vetÚ. It draws you in, it
immediately puts you on his side. You can't help but be captivated by
"Captivated?" Toby repeats.
Rebecca tilts her head to one side, studying Lisa with kind
eyes. "And it was even easier for you to be captivated by the man you
had fallen in love with."
Lisa nods. "Yes, definitely. We began to see each other regularly. He
told me he loved me, too. He proposed within six months, and I said
yes. There was no question in my mind that I was meant to be with
"But there was a darker side to Sam," prompts Rebecca.
A flicker of sadness crosses Lisa's eyes again. "Yes, a darker side,"
she agrees. "He could be so--so cold and cruel. He pretended to be
all sunshine and happiness, but really, deep down, he had a very dark
spirit, and it came out when he and I were alone together."
"He hurt you, didn't he, Lisa?"
Lisa pauses for a moment and then nods again, and the audience erupts
with boos and hisses.
"Where did it all start?"
"Sam had always experienced drastic mood swings. Sometimes he would
spend hours, or even days, in black, black moods. But when he was
happy--oh, he was so sweet, so gentle." Lisa sniffles and wipes away
the tears that have begun to pour from her eyes. "I had learned to
live with it," she continues. "I loved him so much, and I I
rationalized his behavior. I thought that he was only upset with me
because I'd done something wrong."
The camera pans out over the audience as they buzz angrily in
response. I see many angry faces swimming in the crowd and I realize
their anger is now directed at me. I feel sick. These people actually
think I've done what Lisa says I've done.
How can they think that? How can they think I would ever do such a
hideous, repulsive thing? Don't they know I would never could
never have hurt Lisa, or anyone, like that?
"But then," Lisa is saying, "it all came to a head when Sam left his
job at Gage Whitney to join the Bartlet For America campaign. The
stress, the overwhelming pressure-I think it all just--"
I shoot to my feet with so much speed and force that it knocks the
chair back onto the floor. My heart is racing, my head is
pounding...Oh God, I'm going to be sick.
Toby looks up at me, troubled. "Sam?"
"I can't-I can't...Toby, I can't listen to this." I tear out of his
office like the devil is at my back, and I immediately crash into CJ.
She is startled for a moment but then regains her composure. "Hey
there, Samshine. Everything okay?"
Somewhere inside of me I recognize the question for what it is-the
worried inquiry of a friend, a friend who doesn't know where to even
begin to help me, who can't find words adequate enough to say what
she thinks I need to hear. But I don't rationalize the inane words, I
just react. I react with all the pain and humiliation that's been
building up inside me. I thought I let it all out last night when I
yelled at Josh, but it turns out there's so much more where that came
"*Okay*?" I repeat in disbelief. "You're asking me if everything is
*okay*?" I throw my arms out in a gesture of bewilderment. "Jesus,
CJ, if that isn't the most ridiculous question I've ever heard, I
don't know what is."
CJ blinks in surprise. "Sam--"
"Do you know what I was watching in there, CJ? Do you?"
The volume of my voice has drawn Toby out of his office. "Stop it,
"Sam, I'm sorry," CJ says soothingly. "It was a stupid thing to say,
I know. I didn't mean - "
"No, you *don't* know. You don't have a fucking *clue*. Is the woman
you loved destroying you piece by piece? Is she lying about you to
millions of people? Is she trying to obliterate everything you love
and believe in?"
"Sam." Toby's voice is more forceful this time. By now a small crowd
is gathering, and I'm vaguely aware that exploding at CJ is enough to
get me lynched around here. You don't mess with the one woman
everyone is crazy about.
But I don't care anymore, and my words are further proof of that
fact. "Tell me, CJ, do you stay awake nights wondering why Lisa is
doing this? Do you wrack your brain for something *anything*- that
might tell you *why*?"
"Actually, I *do*, Sam," she replies hesitantly. "And I think--"
"I don't want to hear it, CJ! I mean- God!" I run my fingers through
my hair. I can feel perspiration dripping from me. "*No more*! All
right? Will everyone just stop pretending to be in my shoes? You
can't do it!"
"Sam, that's *enough*!" This time Toby is practically screaming. It's
not just a Toby yell either; it's a yell that would do Leo proud.
Josh is pushing through the crowd of our co-workers, with Donna at
his side. "What the hell is going on here?"
"Nothing," says a visibly shaken CJ as she turns away from me.
"It didn't sound like nothing," retorts Josh. He looks at me.
My chest is heaving as the rage dissipates. I'm suddenly tired to the
bone. I want to collapse right here on the floor in the West Wing.
There is a ripple of resentment in the crowd of staffers. I hear
someone murmur, "...mood swings, just like she said...", and I freeze.
"All right, show's over, folks," says Donna in her best Josh-voice.
She starts pushing the crowd away. "Let's go. Back to work." She
throws the rest of us a worried glance over her shoulder and follows
the others, leaving the four of us alone.
Toby is standing next to CJ, speaking softly as her shoulders shake.
"Is she crying?" I ask Josh fearfully.
"No, I am not crying," CJ replies in a sharp voice. She whirls
around. Her eyes are rimmed with red, but her face is clear and her
mouth is set in a firm line. "It's going to take a lot more than an
outburst from a man clearly on the brink of insanity, to make me cry."
I smile softly.
She snorts. "Listen to me, Spanky. Now, I'll be damned if I
trivialize what you're going through, but you're a fool if you think
the stress isn't weighing on everyone. We're trying to help you, Sam,
but we're getting nowhere."
I remember Josh's words from last night. `It's like you're a
different person...You're slowly but surely alienating everyone who
wants to help you'.
As if he's reading my mind, Josh sidles up to me and says, "Have you
given any more thought to what Sabrina and I talked about with you
"Truthfully? No, I haven't." I sigh heavily. "But I'm about to."
Josh looks at me questioningly.
"Give me ten minutes," I say. I look at him and our eyes meet in
understanding. "I need to draft a letter to Leo...and I need to pack up
a few things. I think I'm going to be gone for a while."
I hand Leo my letter requesting the leave of absence as Toby looks
on. Leo reads it over with a grave face. He peers up at me through
his glasses and asks, "You're okay with this, Sam?"
"It doesn't really matter if I'm okay with it or not."
"Of course it does."
I shrug. "It's just something that has to be done, Leo."
I put my hand up to ward off any more words. "It's fine, really. I
know it's the right thing to do. I think I knew it all along, I just...
I just kind of needed to be here, you know?"
Leo nods wisely. "Of course I do. Look who you're talking to, Sam."
"What will you do?" he asks, pulling his glasses off and staring at
I shrug again. "I don't know. Watch daytime television, eat fast
food, sleep if I can."
Leo hesitates. "Josh said something about a-a lawsuit, maybe?"
"I don't know if I want to go there."
Toby finally speaks up. "You should seriously consider it. You can't
just wait for this to blow over. People are pushing heavily for your
resignation; feminist groups, the Domestic Violence Prevention
Committee, several key Republicans...You're a wanted man, Sam."
"Maybe you should just fire me," I say. I don't know if I'm serious.
"Don't even joke about that, Sam," orders Leo gruffly. He points to
my letter and says, "This is a temporary fix for everyone involved.
We'll get past this."
"And in the meantime," Toby says, "you have to think about a lawsuit,
Sam. No one should get away with what that woman is doing to you; I
don't care how public a figure you are."
"Yeah," I say half-heartedly.
"It's wrong, Sam. She's minimizing the experiences of women who have
actually been forced to live with abuse." Toby's really getting
worked up now. "She's crying wolf, and when it comes out that she's
lying-because it will, you bet your ass it will-- "
"Toby," says Leo.
"Enough. We don't have to deal with this right now."
"Leo, it's been over a week. When exactly are we supposed to deal
"I'll deal with it," I say, "in my own time and in my own way. But
for now...my head is spinning. I really can't process much right now
beyond the need to find a hole to bury myself in for the next year or
"Go home," Leo says kindly. "Have that crazy kid sister of yours stop
by to let us know how you're doing."
"I imagine it'll be difficult to keep her away," I say.
"Good luck, Sam."
"I'll walk you out," says Toby.
I shake Leo's hand and a few moments later Toby and I are striding
through the hall.
"I mean it, Sam, you have to consider it."
"That means a lot to me, Toby, that you would be concerned for my
well-being," I respond sarcastically.
"Don't be ingratiating; it doesn't suit you."
"I was being--"
"I know what you were being. Listen to me, Sam. If we find out why
Lisa is doing this, we've got a case."
"We." He waves his hand dismissively. "You know, `we'."
"You mean `we' as in Josh and Sabrina and me?"
He looks at me. "'We' as in Josh and Sabrina and you, and me and CJ
and Leo and Donna, and whoever the hell is crazy enough to help us."
"Toby, I didn't know you cared."
"What she's doing is wrong, Sam."
And there it is, the bottom line: What Lisa's doing is wrong. I've
been fighting this, hiding behind my hurt and misery, and my need to
be a sacrificial victim. I wanted to be noble, I wanted to take the
moral high ground by staying silent. But what has silence gotten me?
Lisa's not going to stop until she gets what she wants.
Toby's voice echoes in my ears. `What she's doing is wrong, Sam.'
I sling my backpack over my shoulder. "My house, tonight, ten
o'clock," I say as I begin to walk down the hallway. "And bring CJ,"
I add without turning around.
I don't look back to see if he paid attention. I don't look back as I
leave the security waiting area, as I walk through the parking lot,
or as I pull out into the horde of reporters. I drive all the way
home and I don't look back at all.
By 10:15, Josh, Sabrina, CJ, and Toby are all assembled in my living
room. They are seated around the room in various places and they are
all staring up at me expectantly as I stand before them.
"What's up, Sam?" Josh finally asks.
I draw in a deep breath, trying to steady my voice, but when I speak,
it shakes anyway. "I've come to a decision."
This makes them all sit up straighter.
"And?" Josh makes a `keep going' gesture.
I inhale deeply. "I want to get my facts together for a lawsuit...
All four of them collectively exhale in shock. Josh and CJ exchange a
look, smiles lurking in their eyes.
Sabrina jumps up and puts a hand on my shoulder. "Are you sure about
"You've got a case, buddy, I swear," promises Josh. "Sabrina and I
discussed it some more today, and I know we can do it. It's gonna be
tough, but we'll do it."
Toby just nods his head in approval.
"What about representation, Sam?" asks CJ. "Have you given any
thought to who you want as your lawyer?"
"I have," I say with a faint smile. "I can't say I've given it a
*lot* of thought, since I just came to a decision two hours ago...but I
don't think I'm going to change my mind." I pause, enjoying the
drama. "Josh? Will you do the honors?"
Josh, who has been munching a handful of chips, stops suddenly and
drops them to the floor. "*What*?"
"Well, you're a lawyer, aren't you?"
"Yeah, but not a *real* one," he protests.
I shake my head, still smiling. "There's no one else I want, Josh.
You're the man."
"God help us," Toby says with a roll of his eyes. "Haven't you ever
heard the old proverb, Sam? `A man who represents himself has a fool
for a client'? Did you know they've rewritten it to indicate that the
same applies to any man represented by Josh Lyman?"
But everyone is grinning in relief. I'm not worried. I'm in good
hands with Josh Lyman.
* * *
COMING SOON: CHAPTER 6 SEABORN VS. SEABORN