(For disclaimers, please see pt 1)
My sister arrives with her usual whirlwind of chatter and textbooks
and laughter. She's not a frequent visitor to the West Wing, but
people remember her. Probably because she always makes a point of
greeting them all by name. Also, quite possibly because she's
friendly and pretty and cheerfully upbeat. Kind of like me. Except I
am not pretty; I don't care what CJ says.
Manny buzzed me in my office to let me know she was on her way, but
I'm barely into the hallway before I see her in Josh's bullpen,
darting from person to person with exuberant greetings. She doesn't
see me yet, so for a minute I stand back and watch her as she stops
to chat with Cathy and Donna.
My little sister. She'll always be little to me; I have Stereotypical
Big Brother Syndrome, and I'll never see her as anything but the
gangly kid with black braids and skinned knees, dragging stray dogs
and wounded birds home for me to `make all better'.
I know she's grown up now, but I can't wrap my brain around the
concept. My mind knows it's a fact, but in my heart it's only theory.
I lean against the glass window and watch as Cathy and Donna inspect
Sabrina from head to toe like maiden aunts who haven't seen her in
years, oohing and aahing at the monstrously huge textbooks weighing
down her backpack. And I grin to see them carrying on like old
friends. It makes me feel good to know people like Sabrina that much.
She hasn't always felt comfortable around here. Mostly because Lisa
frequented the place.
Sabrina used to call Lisa `the Barracuda'.
Josh comes out, studying a file in his hands, muttering to himself.
He stops when he sees Sabrina and he grins hugely, tossing the file
aside and holding his arms out in a big, `Come to Grandpa' kind of
invitation. Sabrina laughs and goes to him, and Josh hugs her for a
"How you doin', kid?" he says.
"Not so bad, old man."
Donna and Cathy snicker behind their hands.
Sabrina used to have this enormous crush on Josh, back when he and I
first met. I remember finding a piece of paper on the floor with
enormous hearts and the words `Mrs Sabrina Lyman' written over it at
least a hundred times. She threatened me with slow, torturous death
if I ever breathed a word of it to Josh.
During the campaign, she haunted headquarters and followed Josh
around as discreetly as she could without it being painfully obvious
she was feeling some serious longing in her adolescent heart.
Thankfully she got over it after a while. I think Donna had a lot to
do with that. I distinctly recall her sharp eyes taking in Sabrina's
reactions to Josh, and I think there may have been some big sister-
type of advice going down shortly thereafter.
At any rate, my sister and best friend are cheerfully sparring with
one another now, and Sabrina doesn't look the least starry-eyed.
Donna, on the other hand, is decidedly wistful as she gazes at her
boss. Her hands are clasped together, her head tilted to one side,
eyes fixed firmly on Josh as he laughs and talks. She's trying
desperately to remain professional, but to anyone with half a brain,
she's failing miserably.
Maybe Sabrina needs to have a chat with Donna one of these days.
And then Sabrina sees me, and flashes me the big Audrey Hepburn smile
she's had since she was a baby. It's shy and inviting at the same
time, the very basis of her charm, much like our father.
I realize suddenly that she's giving me a look patented by our
mother. The one we always called `Killing You With Concern'.
Jesus. If she can give me a Mom look, she really has grown up.
"There he is," Josh announces unnecessarily.
I walk toward my sister and she greets me with a hug.
"Sabrina was just telling us she's been studying divorce law," Donna
"She's gonna make a killer prosecutor one of these days," Josh adds
Sabrina grins. "It may come in handy soon."
"How so?" asks Cathy.
Sabrina's brow furrows. "Well, because Sam's..."
I clear my throat hurriedly and grab my sister by the arm. "But it
never hurts to brush up on divorce laws while you're living in DC." I
force a laugh that comes out sounding like Louis Armstrong clearing
Everyone looks at me strangely. Especially my sister.
"Come on; I want to take you to lunch."
Josh, Donna, and Cathy have grouped together and are gazing at me in
curiosity. What is it with these people? Why are they looking at me
like they know something's going on?
"Sam?" ventures Josh. "What's going on?"
Damn CJ for prolonging my torture.
"Nothing. I just - I haven't seen my sister in a while and I want to
take her to lunch."
"But you called me, Sam!" Sabrina protests. "You called me and you
Josh suddenly looks as if he's mentally piecing clues together. "Sam?
This wouldn't have anything to do with what CJ said earlier, would
I give another guttural fake-laugh. "How should I know? I don't know
what CJ said earlier."
Cathy, my traitorous assistant who has always tag-teamed with CJ to
conspire against me, crosses her arms over her chest and gives me a
piercing look. I tend to crumble under that look.
"CJ said that if we cared to look out our windows after the morning
press briefing, we might see an interesting pyrotechnics display
involving you and her and a big, flammable can of Whoop-Ass," Josh
Sabrina dissolves into giggles. "I love CJ!" she exclaims. "Where is
"In my office," I say with a pointed look.
I don't give her an opportunity to respond. I jerk her by her arm
into my office. She barely has time to hasten a goodbye to my friends
before I've slammed the door.
I turn to her, ready to admonish her for attempting to open her
mouth, when she pulls a Mom face - this one long-labeled `Don't Even
Think About It, Mister' - and says, "Just where exactly do you get
off not telling your friends?"
It does the trick and stops me in my tracks. I look at her in
"I mean it, Sam! Those people are your *friends*! They have a right
"A *right*?" I hiss in response. "I didn't think it was written
anywhere in the Constitution that I was obligated to burden my
friends with my personal problems."
She snorts derisively and throws her hands up in the air in a
universal sign of disgust. No Mom face needed here; this one is pure
"What's that supposed to mean?" I counter.
I raise an eyebrow. "Well. I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."
"Pretend all you want, *Mom*."
"I'm not pretending anything!"
"Deny, deny, deny."
"Do you have any idea how close you are to a beating right now? I can
still take you, you know."
Sabrina saunters over to my desk and makes herself comfortable in my
chair. She props her feet up on a stack of files and regards me
"Sabrina, I just didn't think it was fair to bother people with
Her patience is obviously reaching its limit. "Climb down off your
cross, Mom - I mean, Samuel - some people need the wood."
"Now that was uncalled for."
"I mean it, Sam! Jesus! I can understand you not telling *me* right
away - not that I'll forgive you any time soon, but I can understand
it; but not telling *Josh*? You guys are friends. You're supposed to
*share* these things."
"Sabrina, I don't live in the idyllic, after-school-special world you
seem to think I live in. Josh and I aren't at Sweet Valley High.
We're grown-ups with grown-up problems, and we deal with them in our
She snorts again. "Oh, spare me."
I sigh and sit down in my visitor's chair. Well, `crumple down' is
more like it; I am absolutely exhausted.
"I'm sorry, Sam," she suddenly whispers.
I smile gently. "Don't worry about it."
Sabrina drops her feet to the floor and leans across the desk. "I
mean it, Sammy. I'm sorry. You're going through a tough time, and I
come in here like the little sister from hell."
"Well, I hate to break it to you, but today's no different from any
other day in that respect. You've always been the Little Sister From
That eases some of the tension from her face.
"You've got enough to worry about. I mean it. Don't worry about me,"
I say. And I do mean it. There's no reason for her to feel bad about
the hole I've dug myself into.
"Come on, I'll take you to lunch."
Sabrina studies me with narrow eyes. "Don't change the subject. I'm
not through with you, you know."
I sigh once again. It's amazing I don't pass out already. "Okay,
fine. You and CJ both."
Sabrina brightens. "You know, I really do love CJ."
"She's never liked the Barracuda either."
"Sabrina, can you please call her by her name, instead of after some
hideous tropical fish with fang-like teeth?"
Sabrina pretends to reflect on this, scratching her chin and looking
thoughtfully up at the ceiling. "I don't think so," she says
finally. "I've always had a problem calling her `Lisa'. Lisa's such a
nice name. Lisa makes you think `sweet' and `cute'. Those words don't
apply to the Barracuda."
I can't help but crack another grin.
My sister pounces on it. "Aha! See? I knew you'd agree with me."
"I didn't say I agreed with you. I just grinned."
"You agree with me."
I shrug. "You make a very interesting argument, that's all."
Sabrina smirks. I think she's learned that particular smirk from
Josh. Also the condescending nod she follows it up with.
"You want a free lunch, or don't you?" I ask.
"Okay," she says.
Sabrina stops me at the door, placing a hand on my arm and giving me
that look that makes me feel like I'm eighteen again, and she's nine,
and she's coming to me because Billy Jefferson told her his brother
could beat me up because I was just a big nerdy sissy-boy. She was as
crushed as if Billy Jefferson's brother had actually made good on
that threat. I had to calm her down and reassure her that I was fine,
that I wasn't going to get into a fight with Pete Jefferson, and I
think, most important to Sabrina, that my feelings weren't hurt.
To Sabrina, this is the same thing, only worse. The threat to hurt me
has been realized, and she wants me to tell her it's going to be
okay. She wants me to promise that I'll be fine.
But I don't know if I'll be fine, and it just wouldn't be right to
make that promise.