In The Poppy Fields

3. Counterattack

By Miss Lucy
~
Sometimes I don't know what she's saying.
Sometimes I do,
Sometimes I don't,
know what she's saying.
But I know, I know,
I know what she wants to believe.
"Emaline," Ben Folds Five
~
[August 25, 2001]
The drugs make her babble. She is so out of it that I don't think she even knows I'm holding her hand right now. I can't really make out what she's saying, and it's unnerving me. She keeps chanting the same thing over and over, in this whispery soft voice, pauses, then repeats it. It feels like a prayer, and despite the fact I've caught her whispering prayers before, I don't recognize this one. I feel a gentle hand on my back and I turn to see Leo and Toby.

"I think she's praying," I say softly, looking back down at CJ's glassy, half-lidded eyes. "I don't know if she's conscious of it, or even if she's really saying a prayer. I don't recognize it."

"Well, Josh, I wouldn't necessarily expect you to know a Catholic prayer," Toby says wryly.

"No, well, I mean," I hesitate. "I've heard her pray before. She whispers it under her breath and through clenched teeth when she thinks no one can hear, but I've heard her. It's not what she's saying now."

Leo frowns and listens a moment. CJ whispers, stops, whispers again as Leo nods. "It's the rosary, Josh. She's sayin' Hail Marys"

"Ok, I know I'm no expert, but I do know that's not what she says. And why does it start different?" I ask.

"When you say it as a group, one person says the first part and everyone joins in on the rest," Leo shrugs. "What do you mean it's not right?"

"I don't know," I admit. "I've never heard her say Hail Mary. I know that one because of Joanie," I whisper. Leo nods, understanding. Toby looks mystified, but doesn't ask. He listens a moment and nods too.

"Josh is right, that's a different prayer. She says the other Mary prayer." I nod in agreement. Now Leo is puzzled and I know he needs to know what we're talking about or it'll drive him crazy. He's racking his brain for all the "Mary prayers" he knows, but nothing seems to come up for him. CJ just keeps praying. I hold her hand and don't notice the SS guys who come in and leave.

"Abbey, help me out here," Leo says quietly. "These two are saying something about "the other Mary prayer". Not Hail Mary, another one."

"Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by your confidence, I fly unto you O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful, O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my humble petition, but in your mercy, hear and answer me," Abbey recites. Toby and I both nod. "It's called the Memorare."

"That's CJ's prayer. When she's really scared." I explain.

"I could see why CJ would like that prayer," Abbey says. Leo nods, and Abbey leans around me and listens to CJ. Brushing CJ's limp hair away from her face, she says, "Glory be to the Father, to the Son and the Holy Spirit."

"As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end, amen," CJ whispers in the same voice she'd been using. She then starts whispering something I vaguely recognize as being part of the Lord's Prayer.

"Ok, good." Abbey says. We look at her quizzically, so she continues. "I was wondering if she'd respond to outside stimuli."

"She hasn't, not really," Toby tells her.

"I know. It's the drugs," Abbey sighs.

"She hates them," I say. I'm sure I said it earlier, but I want to say it again. She'll hate that she was drugged insensible.

"I know," Abbey says, squeezing my shoulder. "But she was so combative, that there's really not much of a choice. It won't be much longer, they'll switch to something that's not as strong, probably tomorrow, if she's calmer."

I bite my lip. CJ had been almost violent the first time she woke up, but I had thought it was fairly obvious that she just couldn't figure out what was happening, or where exactly she was. The doctors said it wasn't the head injury. She'd been unconscious for hours, but the last CT scan hadn't shown any damage at all. There was something wrong emotionally, and I honestly don't think drugging her is going to help. I said as much, but since I don't possess a degree in psychology, my opinion was ignored. Toby hadn't been there, but I think he would have agreed with me and in my mind, if the two people who know her best don't think it's a good idea, we ought to have some weight here, but we don't. It's very frustrating.

"Josh?" CJ blinks and tries to focus on me. She can't, both because of the drugs and because they won't let her have her glasses. Startled, I move closer, until I'm within range of her eyesight.

"I'm here, CJ." Everyone else holds still, because she sounds almost lucid, and they haven't seen that in days.

"Don't let them..." she trails off. "So sleepy," she slurs.

"I know, sweet-tart. They've got you all doped up," I tell her. This has happened at least twice before, but so far as I know I've been the only one here, both times.

"Not crazy," she protests.

"No, no, you're not crazy. You were just really confused and they didn't want you to get hurt. They thought they were doing what's best for you," I explain slowly. This is the most I've gotten out of her.

"Can we go home?" she asks. My heart almost breaks at her plaintive voice.

"No, honey, I'm afraid we can't. You have to get better first." I whisper.

"Wanna go home. Wanna see the ocean. I'll be better if I see the ocean," she whispers to me.

"You'll see your ocean. We'll fix it so you can." I say, trying not to cry.

"Don't wanna stay, Josh." I nod, knowing that's what she meant by wanting to see the ocean.

"I know you don't, honey. I know." I try to reassure her the best I can, but it's hard to reassure someone when you don't want what they want.

"You too," she says, tugging on my hand. I'm not sure what to say to that, but she slides back into semi-consciousness before I can respond.

I squeeze her hand, and get up from the chair to stumble out of the room. Leo follows me. "She doesn't want to stay?" he asks.

"God only knows what she means," I reply, not quite lying to him.

"Right." Leo looks at me speculatively. "Go home, get some sleep. I'll stay with her when Toby leaves."

I sigh. I really should go for a while. Hospitals seem to be as good as Yo-Yo Ma for setting me off, which makes sense. I'm doing all right, but there have been moments where I wasn't quite there. "If she wakes up like that, you have to get kind of close to her face. Before, she could hardly see an arm's length away from her. The eye doctor said he thinks it might be worse now, but he hasn't been able to test her completely. She gets scared if she can't kind of see you." I tell him.

"Ok. I'll remember," Leo assures me.

"I'll be back in a few hours, ok?" I figure he'll tell me to stay away for longer than that, but I think he knows it won't be possible. I can't not be here.

"Ok. Take your time," he says, reaching out to squeeze my shoulder. I nod, then turn and walk wearily towards the exit.

~
It's been a while
Since I could say that I wasn't addicted

It's been a while
Since I could say I loved myself as well and...
"It's Been Awhile," Staind
~
[July 9,2001]
There are three people here today. One of them is the Press Secretary. She is doing her job, mechanically, but no one notices anything out of the ordinary, because she's become very good at working on autopilot the past while. She responds to Toby's sarcasm with wit, patiently explains to Steve that she won't answer his questions about the grand jury for the thousandth time, and is ready for whatever facts Leo needs her to spin and regurgitate. Then, there is CJ, who hovers right behind the Press Secretary and tries to back her up with her usual personality. Except, lately, CJ has a tendency to see memories instead of people. Today, when CJ looks at Toby, she sees letters written in his familiar scrawl, each word tumbling over the next in a rush to leave his pen. Letters written on stationary from various campaigns, written on torn pieces of paper from steno pads and yellow legal pads, once written on the back of his mother's shopping list when he couldn't find any other paper in her kitchen. Leo's face brings to mind sarcastic comments and exasperation at her many mistakes when she was learning how to be the public face of the administration. The President is in New Hampshire and can't get her name right, always calling her the tall girl. She sees Sam's wounded eyes as he explains that his fiance broke off their engagement over the phone. Josh is barely there, indistinct in visions of blood on white pavement during a night she can't remember, but can't forget.

I am behind them both. I am hiding back here, where it's safe. There's a curtain between them and me. There's a wall between last night and me. I can't remember when I last slept. I couldn't tell you what I ate last. Everything is nicely covered with the haze of adrenaline that fuels the Press Secretary and CJ, because Claudia Jean can't do it right now. She needs to stay back here, shrouded by the slightly dizzy feeling of no sleep, no food and too much caffeine. I've forgotten how to make my stomach accept coffee as sustenance. I managed to keep down the Excedrin, and that is the only fuel I've been able to give them. I need to stay here, because if the fog clears, I won't be able to stop my mind from screaming. I won't be able to keep myself from crying. I won't be able to keep my secrets, and I *have* to keep the secret. I don't even know what the secret is, because if I think about it, I'm in that moment, I'm back in last night, and the night before that, and the week before that.

But while I'm hiding here, my mind is anything but a blank. It's moving too fast to keep up with my other personas. You can hide in speed and I've become good at it. The more you run, the farther you run, the less you have to face. And if you just keep running, maybe you can escape. The only thing Claudia Jean is quite sure of at the moment is that she ran this morning. Ran hard and far and what little she can feel of her body aches from it. Something happened when I ran this morning, and the little beep from my watch didn't register completely and I made the Press Secretary late, and I think that stressed CJ out a bit. I can't tell, because I can't really feel CJ right now. Usually, we're in synch. We're the same person, but lately, Claudia Jean can't handle being CJ. It requires certain honesty to certain people that she can't face right now, so I'm back here. I wonder if I could be addicted to this not sleeping. To this not eating. To this long distance running.

But asking that question would be asking for help, which would be tantamount to betrayal. I've been betrayed. I can't knowingly do it to someone else. I couldn't. Betraying myself is not quite the same. I joke about betraying the sisterhood, but I have committed the final betrayal. I've bought in to things I can't think clearly about. I had no choice- or rather, I had no good choice. I'm doing what I have to do to protect them, protect the people who love me. I'm becoming addicted to my miasma so I can save them. That's what is keeping Claudia Jean sane. Knowing she has to survive to be the sacrifice. It's always been about the sacrifice. What are you willing to sacrifice on this altar of democracy?

The Press Secretary can do the job. She can handle the press, memorize the facts, give an educated opinion on media matters. CJ can back up the Press Secretary, keep her from becoming an automaton, give her the ammunition to smack down the spin boys when needed. CJ can keep Claudia Jean from running too far away before it's time to go. But Claudia Jean is the only one who can be a sacrifice. I am the only one who can make it so the sacrifice is not in vain. And in order to do that, a certain amount of strategy must be employed. And right now, in order for Claudia Jean to strategize, she needs to not think too clearly about what is happening to her. She has to run, outdistance the events that make all this necessary. It's been awhile, but this murk is familiar, as familiar as my own name. I've fought this, but now, I don't think I can. Giving up might be the most prudent course of action, but not yet. I may be running, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to fight in the only way I can. I just have to make submission a weapon, as sickening as that sounds.

Use your addiction, Claudia Jean. Don't let it use you, just yet.

~
Fool, said I, you do not know,
silence, like a cancer, grows
Hear my words and I might teach you,
take my arms then I might reach you
But my words, like silent raindrops fell,
and echoed in the wells of silence
"Sounds of Silence," Simon and Garfunkel
~
[August 20, 2001]
"Leo? What the hell is going on?" Abbey Bartlet exclaimed as Leo walked into the Oval Office.

"Yes, Leo, what *is* all this?" Bartlet said, rising from the couch.

Leo sighed. "I'm sorry I didn't call sooner, but there wasn't much to tell. CJ is still unconscious, they don't know when she'll be waking up."

"Yes, but how did it happen?" Bartlet asked.

"We aren't quite sure. The only thing we do know is that she apparently intended to commit suicide." Leo was quiet a moment, looking down at the sheaf of papers in his hand. "You should read this, Jed," he said softly.

"What does it say?" Jed asked, just as quietly.

Leo took a deep, trembling breath. "It says that a man CJ had been seeing was not who she thought he was. It says that he stalked her in order to blackmail her into giving him information that could be used against us by a radical group that is so far left they might as well be on the right. It says that when she resisted, she was punished, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It says that she told him she was gathering the information he asked for, but that she was really gathering information on the group he was connected with so that she could give it to us. It says that she was willing to give everything she had to protect her family. She wrote it to Josh and in such a way that Josh is the only one who would have known how and where to find it. And when she couldn't hold them off any longer, she was ready to commit suicide in order to get out of the situation, because she thought telling us otherwise would be to betray us."

Jed and Abbey stared at him with horrified expressions. "What happened last night?"

"No one knows. Josh said he had a conversation with her yesterday afternoon that was something of an apology for the fight they had. He said he was going to go get something to eat, but she didn't want anything. He came back and found a note on his desk, and came and got me. We went over to her apartment and found her unconscious on the floor of her kitchen. The paramedics came and took her to Georgetown Medical, as an attempted suicide. However, the doctors can't find any evidence of self inflicted injury. The note she left Josh told him to look for something and this is what he found. The police are looking for Adam Cardington, because we think he's the one who did this," Leo explained, falling into a chair.

"What are her vitals?" Abbey asked.

"Judging from what they're telling us, they're pretty good. She has a severe concussion, but there doesn't appear to be any brain swelling. It's not clear whether there will be any damage, though," Leo whispered.

"If I called, do you think they'd tell me anything?" Abbey asked.

"Abbey, your license..."Jed said softly.

"Jed, I know, but I can at least reassure people," she said, worriedly.

"I'm not sure they'd tell you much. Donna's boyfriend works at Georgetown, he's been talking to the doctors and basically feeding her information that they aren't telling Josh or Toby," Leo explained.

"I see," she said.

"So what do we do about this?" Jed asked.

"Right now? We wait for CJ to wake up or for the police to find Cardington. We can't afford to make the kinds of accusations we all want to make until we can confirm things," Leo sighed. "Toby is talking to Andrea Wyatt. He wanted to see if CJ might have talked to her about any of this, but it's unlikely."

"She and CJ are friendly?" Jed asked.

"I guess. I know they used to be good friends before the divorce, but I think things chilled a bit after that."

They sat quiet for a moment, then Leo said, "I brought Sam and Ainsley back with me. Donna and Carol are with Josh at the hospital. I thought that was probably the best place for them. Come morning, Simon will do the briefings, and we're just going to say that CJ was involved in an incident if people ask."

"Ok." The President nodded.

"I'm going to go change. You should probably try to get some sleep, it's only 3," Leo said, getting up to leave.

"Right." Jed and Leo exchanged a long look. "I don't like this, Leo. Why didn't she say something?"

"Because, CJ of all people couldn't do something that she saw as a betrayal," Leo said simply.

"How did we not notice something was wrong, though?" he asked.

"Because it's CJ and she's good at hiding in plain sight." Leo sat back down. "You should see her right now, Jed. She is literally skin and bones. How did we not notice *that*? The shrink asked us how long CJ has been anorexic, Jed. We couldn't tell her. Toby said this was a long time coming, and I think he blames himself the most because he knew she would hide like this."

"We should have been making sure she was all right," Jed said. "What with the grand jury and all."

"And Josh said he was," Leo said. "He did his best. There wasn't anything we could have done without driving her farther away."

"You really believe that?" the President asked softly.

"I do," Abbey said, suddenly. "She's skittish, Jed. Always has been, we just didn't know why until a couple of months ago."

"And that's why we should have made it clear she could come to us with anything," Jed said, stubbornly.

"We have been, Jed." Leo sighed. "We have been since the first day she was on the campaign. I can't count the number of times I've seen Sam or Toby or Josh ask her if she was all right, and watched her tell them she was perfectly fine each time. She does it to me, too. The night of the shooting, she didn't want to do the morning shows, it was obvious she was upset, I asked her what was wrong, she said nothing was wrong, that she was just fine."

"Well, obviously she wasn't just fine," the President said.

Leo had no response to that statement and closed his eyes. Abbey just shook her head and reached out to rub her husband's back lightly. They sat motionless, not knowing what else to do but wait.
*

Across town, at Georgetown Medical, Josh and Donna sat silently on a ledge in the parking lot outside of the Emergency Department. Eventually Josh turned to Donna and asked quietly, "Was it this bad when you were waiting for me?"

Donna closed her eyes. "Waiting for you was horrible. It was the longest 14 hours of my life. But this..." she paused a moment, to think how to word her answer. "This is wretched. This is worse."

"How?" Josh asked.

"With you, we had a time limit. We knew that in 12 to 14 hours, the worst would be over. It was a no news is good news kind of situation. The longer we went without hearing what was happening with you, the better the chance that everything was going well and you would make it. This, though...We don't know how long this will take. We don't know if she's going to wake up and be just fine, or what. We don't know when we'll know. The doctors can't do anything other than wait, either, since we don't know exactly what happened. This is wretched, Josh," she finished quietly.

"Yeah," he said.

"The guy...Adam. Do you think they've found him yet?" Donna asked after a moment.

"I think someone would have told us," Josh sighed.

"Yeah, probably. I don't see how she managed to do all this," she said.

"She managed because she's CJ and has no conception of asking for help," Josh said, putting his head down on his knees.

"Mmm." Donna reached out to rub the back of his neck. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," he said, his voice muffled. "It's better out here."

"I would think so." They said quiet for another minute. "There would have been no good time for this to happen, but I think this was truly the worst time."

"She doesn't remember that night, you know," Josh said suddenly, sitting up to look at Donna. "Doesn't remember it at all."

"She doesn't?" Donna looked surprised.

Josh shook his head. "We talked about it at Christmas. The last thing she remembers is telling Danny that she wasn't sorry about misleading the press about the pilot in Iraq. The next thing that she actually remembers at all clearly, is Leo waking her up and having Sam drive her home after she fell asleep in her office almost two days later."

"Well, she did hit her head," Donna said.

"That's not why she doesn't remember, Donna. She doesn't remember because CJ doesn't remember traumatic events. It's how she copes, she just shoves it aside and never deals with anything. Toby's right. This is who knows how much stuff catching up with her," Josh said sadly. "I can't decide if it's comforting that this would have happened sometime anyway."

"Josh? Do you think she might have..."

"PTSD?" Josh interrupted. "I don't know. She doesn't have flashbacks, I do know that, because she asked me what they were like, but I know she has nightmares sometimes. Then again, I think we all do."

"She has nightmares of things she doesn't remember?" Donna asked.

Josh shrugged. "Just because she doesn't actually remember them doesn't mean she doesn't know exactly what happened. She *knows* every detail of what happened that night, she just sees it through other people's eyes. Sam told me that's why he did the morning shows, she admitted to him that she couldn't remember what happened. But she doesn't remember that conversation, either- Sam told me about it a couple weeks later. She doesn't remember seeing me in the recovery room, doesn't remember that she had to fight with the doctors to be allowed to see me- Toby told me that she did. She can't remember sitting in the President's hospital room telling him about the briefings, but she knows it happened because she has notes from the conversation."

"I think that would be almost scarier than actually remembering it," Donna said.

"In some ways, it's a blessing. It meant she could take care of everyone else- Leo told me once that CJ was truly what held everything together after that night and that if she had fallen apart, the whole thing would have gone to hell," he said.

"She was amazing, Josh. She was utterly calm about absolutely everything. I mean, I've seen the footage from the first press conference, but even then, she was more together than anyone else was. And then for weeks, she was the only one of us who actually could do anything," Donna told him, the awe apparent in her voice.

"But there's a price to pay for that," Josh said, looking at her.

"I know. We just couldn't think of it at the time," Donna admitted.

"Of course you couldn't. And I bet if you asked CJ how she was doing, she would have been surprised you were asking and have told you she was fine. And no one would have asked her, because we overlook her because she's always "fine". Sometimes I wish I'd forced her to talk to me once I was feeling better, but I was too scared to listen to what she would say. But I don't know that it would have made a difference, she would have just avoided me, and I just didn't want her to do that." He sighed and rested his head on his hand. "On the day...just a week or so ago, I guess. She was so quiet and so distant that I wondered if she was actually remembering what happened for the first time, or if she just felt awkward because she doesn't remember what happened. I never considered that she was distant because she was trying to deal with all of this."

"You couldn't have known, Josh. You're not a mind reader," Donna soothed.

"I could have noticed, though," he said. "I could have noticed," he repeated almost to himself.

There was nothing Donna could say to that. They sat silent until Josh's beeper went off and he glanced down at the message. "Donna, she woke up," he said, standing up hurriedly.

"She's awake?" Donna asked as he helped her to her feet. He nodded. "Oh, thank God," Donna whispered.

Josh nodded, hoping that God was listening to his own silent prayer, knowing that the struggle had only just begun.

 

TBC

 

 

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