Disclaimer: See chapter 1

Warning: See chapter 1, themes of violence

Chapter 3 

A fish out of water


"You have to sit still!" Donna said impatiently to Margaret who sat at the kitchen table with her right elbow supported on a pillow. Donna was trying to fashion a makeshift sling to put over her red, swollen forearm.


"I want that softball bat right where I can reach it," Margaret growled. Donna had never seen her like this. Margaret had not shed tears over Greyís physical assault yet. At first, she had been a little disoriented from the blow to her face. Then she moved directly to rage. There was such an intensity present in her eyes. Without even looking at Donna, she began digging through closets until she found a softball bat and with it hanging from her good arm, she had begun pacing before the door. Donna had to physically lead her to a chair and sit her down before she could get a good look at her injuries.


"Owww!" Margaret complained. Donna had transferred her attentions to the puffy bruise growing over her left eye.


"You need to go a hospital," Donna said distractedly. She didnít know what else to say. This whole situation was becoming more horrific with each passing hour.


"He might come back," Margaret reasoned.


"Yeah, so letís not be here," Donna pleaded.


"I want to beat him with this bat." Margaret said matter-of-factly with a dark look in her eyes. Donna sighed deeply. She just wanted it to stop. She felt like she was on a carnival ride that just kept going faster and faster. She wanted to get off and run away to someplace quiet, where she could concentrate on forgetting everything.


The knocking began again at her door, the sound slicing through them like a knife. Margaret stood with her bat and stared at the door. With her slung arm, she could only hold the bat with one hand and she began to swing it back and forth.


"Go away," Donna screamed at the door.


"I need to talk to you, Donna," returned the door.


"No. I am calling the police," she yelled. Donna was shaking. Her breath was coming in ragged bursts.


"Let him in," Margaret said firmly. Terror was competing with the rage in her. Yet she stood her ground. "Donna, I am going to make him pay. I promise you that."


"Go away, Tucker. I will file charges. I swear to God, I will," she screamed.


There was silence for a moment. Then they heard a measured tone. "Donna, itís Toby Ziegler. Please open the door. Iím not leaving until I see that you are okay."


Relief flooded through her and her body sagged against the wall. Margaret looked at her, but didnít wait for an answer. She tucked the bat through her sling and went to let him in. Toby walked in with slowly. No one said anything at all. He looked around the room, taking note of the hole in the wall and the lamp lying in pieces across the room. Donna was shaking, her eyes wide and wet. The left side of Margaretís face was swollen and she returned his gaze with a mixture of fear and defiance, a bat hanging from the sling on her arm. It was hard for him to reconcile these images with the women he knew from the West Wing. The silence continued. Donna appeared to be gripping the wall for support. Toby approached her slowly and held out a hand. She didnít look at him, but she slowly extended her arm and allowed him to lead her to the couch. He gestured to Margaret, but she didnít move.


"Who did this to you?" he asked incredulously sitting next to Donna. She shook her head very softly refusing to meet his eyes.


"It keeps getting worse," she ventured finally. Toby recognized the look on her face as being similar to the one he had seen on her face Friday night. In that instant, he realized that she was in shock. It was eerily reminiscent of the faces he remembered the day of the bombing three months ago. Toby shook his head disgustedly for not recognizing it on Friday. "People keep getting hurt," she said after a moment.


"Donna, I want to help. I need to know what happened. Please." Toby advanced gently.


"Tell him, Donna," Margaret said fervently.


"I donít know how to stop it all. Do you see what he did to Margaret? Right in front of me, Toby, and I couldnít seem to do anything." Donna was overwhelmed. Toby let out a deep breath. He could see that this needed to be approached carefully. He didnít want to push either of them any farther than they had been pushed already. "Iím no good at this. Please God, I am the last thing these two women need." He prayed for guidance.


"Donna, if youíre not going to tell him, then I will." Toby could see that fear was beginning to take over in Margaretís eyes. "Tell him everything, Donna. You and I canít think our way out of a paper bag right now. Tobyís a smart man. He can help us."


"Iím afraid that I am going to lose everything," she said to Toby with haunted eyes.


"I promise not to add anything more to your burden." Toby said carefully. Promises were hard for him. His father had always taught him that promises were very serious pacts to make. If he said it, he would have to follow through and so he rarely offered them. Having committed himself, he hoped that he would have the sensitivity and wisdom to be helpful to them. Donna seemed to sense this commitment. She relaxed a little into the couch. Margaret gave a sigh of relief. Toby turned to her as she stood vigilantly near the door.


"Margaret, come sit down, please," Toby beckoned her. Margaret warily sat in the chair across from them, still keeping an eye on the apartment door. Toby wanted to ask for the bat, but he wasnít sure that she was ready to give it up.


Donna took a deep breath and looked him in the eye. "Do you remember the fight that Josh and I had on Friday? Well it was about a date I was going onÖ"





He listened carefully to her story. Patiently, he waited when she had to stop and remember the sequence of things. Margaret jumped in repeatedly to add her perspective on the weekendís events. When Donna got to the part about the stolen papers, she couldnít look him in the eye. Finally, she came to where Toby entered the story. Then she dropped her head as one might do as they awaited their sentencing. Tobyís patience masked a fury growing inside him. The idea that either of these strong and good women should be assaulted was eating a hole in him. The outrage of what Donna had gone through in two short days made it difficult for him to speak calmly. He wanted to yell, throw things, and rage on their behalf. But he could sense that neither woman had the stomach for further aggression. So he sat quietly when she was finished and tried to focus himself around solutions. Finally he could hold himself no longer.


"Do I understand correctly that you havenít been to either a hospital or to the police?"


She nodded at him.


"Why?" His tone was one of incredulity.


"Did you hear anything I said?" Her voice was rising. "Toby, I invited him up to my apartment at midnight after an expensive date. I was hoping something might happen. He hit my wall but he didnít hit me. Itís his word against mine!"


"But DonnaÖ"


"And do you forget that he has Joshís draft of our trade strategy, a draft that was in my apartment because of my blatant disregard of White House policy. Do you realize that Tucker Grey comes from a family so rich that their net worth equals the GNP of Denmark?"


Margaret sat silently through this diatribe watching Donna intently. Toby wanted to jump in and argue with her, matching her energy, but he took his cue from Margaret.


"Donít you see what Iíve done? I was so cocky. I was going to show Josh that I

was more than just a source to this privileged Republican. I actually thought this man liked me. Do you believe that?" Donnaís voice was filled with self-loathing. "He was just trying to help and I ignored him. I let a man up into my apartment Ďcause I knew better than anyone else. And then I let him steal sensitive material. Look at Margaret, for Christís sakes. She was trying to protect me, but I knew better. "Maybe we can get the papers back." I told her. Now look at her. Look at the mess that I have made."


Donna voice was racked with sobs. Toby was stunned by her raw emotion. He could see her dignity and self-worth lying before her in ruins. He and Margaret could do nothing but sit in silence, listening to her pain. Toby wanted Margaret to comfort her. She would know better than he how to do this. But he could see that Margaret was facing her own demons this day. He hesitantly put his arm around Donna and pulled her to him. She buried her face in his shirt and wept. He held her for a long time, letting her cry herself out, wondering if anything could be done to help make this right.





"So I still have no takers on the police idea, is that correct?" It was some time later and Toby was trying to formulate a plan. Despite her injuries, Margaret had begun channeling her grandmother once again. She was making coffee and had located another can of tomato soup.


"No Toby," Donna said firmly.


"Could we possibly discuss the reasons for that again?"


"Toby, are you a woman?"


"That was rhetorical, right?" he asked warily.


"I am not bringing this story into a police station right now. Toby, can you imagine what they would say to me?"


"Iíd rather not."


She gave him a look of frustration.


"Okay, letís try the hospital idea again. I thought we were making some headway on that one earlier," said Toby patiently.


"Iíve showered like 16 times already. They wonít find any evidence of anything," she insisted.


"Well, if I understand this correctly, they would be able to do some preventative things as well as treat anyÖinternal injuries you might have." Toby couldnít keep the discomfort out of his voice. Donna sat silently in the face of this information. Toby knew an opening when he saw one. "Besides, Margaretís arm is pretty swollen and they should probably x-ray her face."


Donna finally nodded her assent. Toby resisted the urge to give a victory yell.


"We can just have Josh, CJ, and Leo meet us there," he added for good measure. Margaret stopped short at this suggestion. A hissing sound from the burner alerted her to the fact that she was absently pouring the soup directly onto the burner rather than in the nearby saucepan. Donnaís eyes got wide at Tobyís idea.


"No, Toby. I canít see Josh right now. I donít want to see anybody." She was shaking her head at the enormity of the thought.


"Oh." Toby was anxious. These guys were the cavalry. They were going to come in and make sure that he didnít screw up any of this "being sensitive" business.


"Toby, I canít face him. What will he say? What will he think? Heíll be so disappointed. I just donít think I can bear it right now," Donna said apprehensively.


"Okay." Toby knew of no other thing he could say to that. There was silence again for a moment. Margaret was busy mopping up soup off the stove.


"Donít you think theyíll eventually find out whatís going on? Margaret, for instance, is a dead giveaway with that face. Do you really think Leo will let that sleeping dog lie?" Toby finally asked desperately, hoping that logic might play a role. Donna, however, did not have that luxury. She slammed her hand down on the table and walked out of the kitchen.


"Iím no good at this," Toby said miserably to the table.


"Sheís pretty scared," Margaret said hobbling over to him. Toby noticed this new affectation of hers.


"Margaret, did you get hurt somewhere else?" Toby asked.


"I kicked him pretty hard with my foot. I guess I didnít think about it until a few minutes ago. It is pretty swollen. I think I might have broken a few toes." Margaret lifted her purple foot into the air. Toby winced emphatically.


"This is insane." His arms went up into the air. "We sit here while you balloon up in every direction and Donna goes without a rape kit. Whatís next? Are you going to open another can of soup, Margaret?" From the hurt look in her eyes, he could see that his outburst wasnít helping. He stood and helped her into a chair.


"Iím sorry, Margaret," he said gently.


"Toby, you have to understand something. Donna thinks her life is in pieces. She doesnít think she has any control, no power. Do you understand?"


"I remember feeling pretty powerless not so long ago," he said nodding his head.


"We need to give her space. She needs to make the choices. Sheís still pretty overwhelmed, you know?"


"But I am thinking about CJ and Leo, for instance. Theyíre going to have our heads if we donít say something."


" I know. I thought about that. I could call in sick, but you know how he is about that. Heíll be at my door with a specialist by noon." Toby smiled a little at this. He suspected that it was just as much about Margaret unwillingness to take a sick day.


"Do you think you can handle him?"


"I wonít lie, but I wonít tell him either. Weíll have to see. And CJ?"


"Oh God! What time is it?" Toby panicked.


"3 p.m."


"Well my life ended about three hours ago. I would imagine CJ has arranged a special place in Hell for me by now."


"Iím sorry, Toby. Iím sure that Donna will let you tell CJ considering the circumstances."


"Sheíll let me tell to make things easier for me, but not because she wants CJ to know right now."


"Thatís about it, Toby," Margaret agreed.


"Then I guess Iím not telling CJ anything right now. Hereís hoping that she believes that I really would have gone camping with her." Toby said despondently. Margaret sat quietly for a moment until she could gather up the courage for her next question.


"The stolen papers, Toby, what you are going to do?"


"I donít know right now. That brief represents strategy. There are no State secrets in there. But it screws us for the vote this Friday." Toby shook his head and searched for more words. Finally he gave up. "I donít know, Margaret. I have to think some more."


"But you wonít do anything without telling her first, right?"




"Tell her that. She wonít have to worry that everything will happen without her knowledge. Itíll help."


"Margaret, you sure know about being helpful. Do you have a little personal experience with a situation like this?" Toby looked at her curiously.


"Something like that, Toby," she answered cryptically. She stood up carefully. Her foot was fully inflamed at this point. "Let me go get her. Itís time for us to go to a hospital."


"Are you sure you can go to work tomorrow?" Toby asked.


She turned to him, balancing herself on the kitchen counter and smiled wearily. "You know how we are. Leo and I maintain a very delicate eco-system. Anything out of balance, and both of us are a mess. He really will find out whatís wrong with me if I donít come in. Itís better if Iím present. He wonít be happy, but at least heíll have me where he can see me." She left him shaking his head over the symbiosis that could exist between two people.


Thinking about his own interdependence with another person, Toby picked up the phone and dialed. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and hoped for the best.


Feedback is appreciated.



Standing Tall - 4



Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings