Disclaimer: See chapter 1
Warning: Themes of violence
"Hey Sam!" he heard as he was wandering around the lobby of the Washington Radisson. He looked around and finally spotted Freida waving him from the hotel bar that overlooked the lobby.
"I already ordered for you," she said as he approached. She was seated at a table near the balcony nursing a gin and tonic.
"Oh, and what am I having?" he responded in an amused tone.
"Scotch neat. It sounded like a good drink for an up and coming power broker."
He winced. Scotch was his fatherís drink. Whenever Sam went home, his father would tease him because all he ever really wanted was a good beer.
"Oohh. I can tell from your face that this scotch is going to go to waste."
"Donít worry about it. Besides, Iím not really in the mood."
"How was the lawyer search?"
"Well you gave me a lot of names of very prominent firms. Iím sure weíll find something," he said dispassionately.
"You would be good for this case, Freida. I havenít really found anyone else who would advocate and care about Donna like you would."
"You havenít met Alice Diaz yet. She will be back from vacation on Saturday. She is an amazing woman and a fierce lawyer. I know sheíll fit the bill for you. In the meantime, I can represent Donnaís interests until she gets back into town."
"And thatís all?"
"Sam, I live in New York. And besides, I am already up to my ears with my girls. You need somebody who can put 100% percent of their focus on this. Grey has so many resources, Sam. This is going to be rough. I will consult, but for me to take this on right now would be doing a disservice to Donna."
"Okay," Sam capitulated.
"You know, Sam, that damn John Grisham is a pain in the ass. He comes out with all these books and movies about the how small time lawyers can take on the big firms and win. You know thatís a bunch of crap, Sam," she complained.
"Youíre not holding out much hope for this case, are you?"
"Sam, this is a tough one. She doesnít report right away. Her evidentiary shows almost nothing. She lied to her boss. Grey files a lawsuit and she goes to the police after she has been served. Plus heís got the kind of lawyers that can turn anything into anything," she said looking at him.
"Donna didnít know what to do." Sam defended.
"Of course, Sam. It happens all of the time. The woman gets confused and afraid. She needs time to figure out what to do. It happens every day.
Please understand. I am not blaming Donna. She did what a thousand women do every day. Itís just that our great and wondrous justice system is not set-up to understand actions that are not based in logic."
"You mean, basically, that she should have not showered, she should have gone straight to the police, ignored social stigmas, lied to no one and, emotionlessly, reported the facts. This is what is expected." Sam responded angrily.
"Yes, Sam, basically thatís it."
"Why do you think weíre here lobbying for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act? It might not be a great bill, but itís something. Something is better than nothing, Sam," she proclaimed passionately.
Sam nodded his head and then remembered that today was the day that the girls were going to the Dirkson building to lobby their legislators. " How was your day on the Hill?"
"Lousy. Youíre going to have to buy me another drink for even asking," she growled at him.
"Janice said you had four appointments set-up," Sam persisted.
"One cancelled. One didnít remember we were coming. One guy thought that the girls were with the Future Homemakers of America. When he found out they were assault survivors, he started to lecture them about teen promiscuity." She noticed Samís look of horror and laughed.
"Donít worry, Sam. My girls are no push-overs. My mis-named Serenity was on the table in two seconds, yelling in his face, and giving him all sorts of advice about what he could physically do with himself. It was actually the highpoint of the day."
"You had four appointments." Sam reminded her.
"Yeah, we saw a guy named Mike Freeman. He is a freshman Republican senator out of South Dakota. He was the only one polite enough to read our book in anticipation of our visit. He was also very good about listening to their stories."
"He doesnít seem to know what heís doing here. Seems sincere, but overwhelmed. He told us that he has as much power in Congress as his receptionist does." Sam nodded. Freeman was a new man in town. He was going to have to sink or swim. There was already talk that he didnít have the stomach for Washington style politics.
"Sam!" He heard before he could respond to Freida. Below him, there were five of the girls waving madly at him. They all had wet hair, bare feet, and were in various states of poolside undress.
"Donít you dare come up here." Freida yelled over the balcony, but it was too late. They were already on their way. She turned to Sam. "They are going to put me into a vegetative state, Sam. My days are numbered. Iím sure of it. The manager has been up to see me no less than three times this week with various complaints. Last night, they tried to get the concierge to order them a male masseuse. The poor guy couldnít convince them that the hotel does not provide that type of service."
"Hey Sam!" Janice said announcing the arrival of the wet, smiling girls.
"You know itís inappropriate to be in the bar, let alone in your wet swim things." Freida scolded.
"Yeah, but we didnít think youíd ever bring Sam down to the pool to see us." Latasha complained.
"Besides, the manager is tied up in the kitchen with a little ordering snafu that occurred. He wonít bother us," Heather informed her. Freida put her face into her hands.
"What did you do?" she mumbled through her fingers.
"Nothing, Freida. We got hungry so we ordered some food, and we didnít like it so we sent it back," Pi-Ying said innocently.
"You ordered room service?" Freida emerged from her hands and looked at them with eyes wide.
"Pi-Ying never had lobster and steak before. So we ordered some of those, but it wasnít very good. There was some sauce stuff all over it. We tried to eat it, but could only get through some of it. It was all full of some kind of green salsa with pineapple in it. Yuck!" Serenity explained.
"So we sent it back," Heather finished.
"You sent how many half-eaten lobster meals back to the kitchen?" Freida asked like a woman awaiting a death sentence.
"Six. We ordered one for you too."
"Sam, where is that drink you were going to order me?" Freida grumbled.
Sam smiled at her and then turned to the girls who had puddles forming around their bare feet. "Listen you guys, go get into some clothes. I know the best pizza place in DC. Dinnerís on me. Be back in the lobby in thirty minutes. And I mean the lobby. We will be down as soon as Freida here has had her share of relaxation." He had barely finished speaking before they made a mad dash for the door.
"Sam, I am going to need at least two more relaxations with lime before I am going anywhere with my little darlings. She leaned back and closed her eyes. "Sam, get me the good gin," she said as he got up to fill her order. "Oh, and if the management starts looking for me, you tell them that I am nowhere to be found." She slumped back into her chair.
It was almost midnight when Sam entered the First Familyís Residence. The hallways were quiet and dark. A steward escorted him to the living room and left. Sam was suddenly sorry he came. The President and First Lady rarely had any time this quiet and here he was about to ruin it.
"Oh, there you are." Sam spun around to see the First Lady enter the room from the east entrance.
" Maíam this is really too late to disturb you. I am so sorry."
"Donít sweat it, Sam. Right now is one of the only times I will have available all week. So, show me what youíve got for him." Abby had settled herself into a couch.
"I know he is very busy this week. But I feel compelled to talk about something with him, and I thought you might be able to help. And, by the way, how is his back?"
Abby smiled. "Well, as you can imagine, he is a terrible patient. Heís crabby, combative, and whiney. Charlie looks like heís been through the wringer. I have only been back for the last six hours and already I canít stand to be in the same room. Watch out, because Iím going to let him out of bed tomorrow and send him down to the West Wing. You guys can take care of him for a while. Get him out of my hair. Charlieís going to need combat pay." Abbeyís response dissolved into general complaining.
"I have something for you to read." Sam decided to skirt any more references to The President.
"Sam, tell me itís not a bill. ĎCause if it is, if it has any legalese in it at all, I canít do it. I am just too tired to have to translate that stuff."
"No maíam, itís a book. And I think that you will pretty compelled by what it says," Sam said sincerely. Abbey could see the serious look on his face and she sat up a little.
"Well, hand it over," she said reaching for it.
"I would like to tell you a little about the authors if I may." He said softly. She gestured to the couch across from her and curled her legs up under her as if to settle in for a while. Sam sat down and began.
"I probably shouldnít be here," Donna said in a worried tone.
"We talked about this until 2 in the morning. I want you here. You want to be here," Josh reassured.
"What if I donít have a job?"
"We are not dealing with that until Friday. Letís just take each day as it comes, okay." Josh put his hand on her and softly massaged the small of your back. "Just relax. I wonít let you down, I promise you."
Donna took a deep breath and forced a smile for him. Things had been so much better since he showed up yesterday. He listened to her. He accompanied her to the police station and sat beside her the whole time, not saying a word through her entire interview. Afterward, he took her to his apartment and they talked late into the night. He wanted her to stay. He would sleep on the couch. But she knew better. She was too vulnerable. He was too. Their boundaries already lay around them in shreds. This was a situation ripe for potential disaster. She didnít afford any confusion. She wanted to reach out to him and tell him things that she had kept buried in her heart, but this wasnít the right time. There was too much at stake. There were too many others things that needed her attention right now.
After he returned her to CJís apartment, she lay awake for the hours that remained of the night, dreaming of someday, a day when she could hold him openly and confess her feelings and he would return them in full. That dream was a luxury item. She rarely allowed herself to go there. She worked so hard to preserve the working relationship that had become so important to her. But last night, she needed him and it was the only way she could have him.
"Hey blondie, I thought I lost you there for a minute," Josh said gently standing before her with his hands on her shoulders. "Everything is going to be fine. I know this. I feel it in my heart." His sincerity touched her.
She nodded at him.
"You know, I gotta go up to the Hill. Tobyís got me putting on my rabid dog act with a few key individuals. Heís got something up his sleeve. Although for the life of me, I canít figure out what it is. He tried to explain it again this morning and I still didnít get it. It seems to me that he wants to do the opposite of what we should be doing. But you know Toby. I had to let him call me an idiot a few times just so I could get off the phone. Youíre going to be okay, right?"
"Yeah." She lied. "Besides itís better if youíre not here. It means I can finally get something done in this office." He looked at her, searching her face for conviction. She shooed him away. "Go! Leave me alone so I can see what chaos you have created in my absence." He grinned at her once more before leaving.
CJ observed Toby with worried eyes in their briefing meeting. She didnít say anything. There were others there; Ginger, Sam, Carol. She knew how he felt about his privacy and she knew better than to voice her worries in front of others. His eyes were bloodshot and offset by dark circles. He was subdued and focused mainly on the trade bill strategy memo that he had laid on the table in front of him. She knew that he and the President were going to do something risky, and she figured that this could account for some of his exhaustion. But there seemed to be more going on.
She waited until the others left. He barely seemed to notice when they were the only two people in the Roosevelt Room.
"You doing okay?" she asked softly. She moved over to sit next to him, but she didnít try to get any closer. They had agreed in the beginning that it would be inappropriate to be affectionate with one another in the workplace.
"Yeah," he answered her.
"You guys got a big show coming up tonight, huh?" she was trying to approach him slowly.
He nodded at her.
"Sounds like the President is letting you be diabolical again. Does Leo know?"
"Yeah. The President said he almost had a heart attack. But heís going to go along with it," Toby told her.
"This plan keeping you up some?" CJ asked carefully.
"You can tell?"
"As my grandpa would say, your eyes look like a couple of pissholes in the snow."
"He was a profane guy, was he?"
She smiled. "Yes, my grandfather was an irreverent man, Toby. Now donít change the subject on me," she persisted.
"Itís been a hard week for all of us, CJ," Toby admitted.
"Yes it has," she agreed. She took a deep breath and continued. "Toby, are you wondering about what happened to me?"
He sat silently for a few minutes and she allowed him this time. "It fills me with so much anger, CJ," he said finally. "I donít know the details, but I can imagine so many different and terrible things. It came to me in nightmares last night. You would call for me and I would try so hard to reach you, but I never could." He bowed as head as he revealed these painful thoughts to her. She sat staring at him not sure of what she could do. Finally she put a hand on his shoulder and spoke to him.
"Look at Toby. Look at me now." He brought his head up and faced her. "Do you see a victim? Do you see someone who is terrorized?" He shook his head. "Those days are gone. This happened many years ago and it still hurts, but it does not control me. I know who I am and I know what Iíve overcome. Look in my eyes. Do you see that?" As if oblivious to their surroundings, he raised a hand and stroked her cheek for a minute. She reached up and took his hand and brought into her lap.
"I see it, Claudia Jean. Youíre the strongest woman I know. Itís just that I want to do something. I want to change it somehow."
She shook her head at him wearing a sad smile. "You canít, Toby. Itís part of who I am now. I would probably not be the Presidentís Press Secretary today if I hadnít been so determined to escape my hometown and those memories all those years ago. Do you understand that?"
He nodded again.
"I want to tell you about this. I want to tell you of my journey through that time in my life. I want you to know those things about me. But now is so hard. I feel like we need space and quiet for that. We have neither of those things right now."
"Yeah," he agreed.
"Right now, I need to have Donna and Margaret with me. I think it helps me as much as it does them. Do you understand?"
"Itís not that I donít miss you. I reach for you every night. I want you to be there for me if the dreams come again. This week has made me fear them again. I donít have them often, but it always feels like theyíre somewhere nearby, crouching, waiting for my sleep," her eyes grew moist as she confessed this to him.
"Well, CJ, you get the message out to your subconscious that Iím here and Iím not going anywhere. Tell it that Iím a pretty vigilant guy. And while, I donít want to have to get rough, if those no good, lousy memories show their ugly heads again, theyíre going to have to deal with Toby Ziegler," he was giving her his best tough guy persona. He reached for her other hand, and there they sat in silence, clutching hands beneath the table in the Roosevelt Room, while the pandemonium of a typical West Wing day happened all around them.
Feedback is appreciated.- Sheila