Disclaimer: See chapter 1
Warning: themes of violence
Sam was sitting in his office alone. Everyone had cleared out for the evening including Toby who left carrying about twice the file load that Sam had been trying to carry earlier in the day. Sam was glad to be alone. He had a lot of thinking to do.
In his hands, he held a copy of "Young Voices", the book written by the Young Sisters with Voices group. He had been reading it for the last three hours completely oblivious to the piles of work that surrounded him. Kathy told him that Leo was looking for him, but, for the moment, Sam didn’t really care. He was too engrossed in the stories of the girls he had met that day. Some were written in verse or prose, others were written as firsthand accounts. There was even a haiku. He hadn’t anticipated the amount of depth, pain, and the beauty that he had encountered on these pages.
The girls had spent the better part of the day telling him their stories in person. He had been shocked by what he had heard. The violence of their experience, and the ignorance and apathy of the legal system horrified him. At first, he wondered about the accuracy of their accounts, but the sincerity of their words and feelings soon penetrated his doubts. It amazed him that young women who could face such atrocity were able to talk about it with frankness and strength. They seemed so normal and healthy and yet they told him things he would never have imagined possible. Sam had received a blow to his sense of idealism on this day.
Janice showed him the place on her head where her skull had cracked when her father had hit her with a two by four. Janice’s father had only received eighteen months in jail for that. The defense had convinced the judge that there were extenuating circumstances because Janice had sneaking out at night. The defense claimed that father was merely at his wit’s end about how to handle his rebellious daughter. Pi-Ying talked about being ostracized and ignored by her family when she reported sexual abuse by a cousin. She started running away to an aunt who did believe her. The courts labeled her a status offender. And then she had spent eighteen months in a detention facility before her aunt could gain custody. Latasha had been raped by several members of the high school football team at a party. When it turned out that the town’s star athletes were involved, Latasha was pressured to drop the charges by the coach and members of the city council. Serenity had also been assaulted by a popular guy in her school. The judge had seen his impressive grades plus his acceptance letter to Havard and had concluded that he deserved another chance. He had received one-year probation and 100 hours of community service. The judge then told Serenity that her attacker’s academic achievements should be an inspiration to her.
Sam had been choked with anger by much of what he had heard. Hours after they had left the White House, he was still haunted by their faces and stories. He couldn’t concentrate on anything else so he picked up their book hoping to learn more from reading their words. One of the things that most fascinated him was how their descriptions of hopelessness and rage were always balanced by the images of their eventual triumph against the pain. He read one passage by Heather over and over;
"For a while, I was so sad. I could think of nothing else but the assault. Then my cousin came to visit. One day, we were both lying on the couch in the front porch and she said that I should pretend that I was a princess who had been captured by an enormous and fierce dragon. This dragon had trapped me in a dark room and I had given into despair. Then she wanted to know how I would escape. At first, I didn’t want to play, but she finally convinced me to try. For days we played this game. We decided that the princess would not be the usual damsel in distress. We imagined her being tough and knowing how to fight. In our story, we said that she had given in because the dragon had cast a spell on her. So we looked for ways for her to rise up again and fight him. She was clever and brave, and so we found a way for her to escape the dark room. Then she fought terrible battles and faced horrible hardships against the dragon, and in the end she prevailed. She defeated the dragon and the kingdom was saved. I was sad on the day that my cousin was going to leave. I felt like she had brought fun back into my life for a short time and I worried that I would feel depressed again when she was gone. She put her arm around and told me that I was the princess in the story. She said that the dragon was the assault and that I must continue to fight against the dark places he wants to bring me. She told me I was clever and brave, and could always find ways to triumph against him. I started to cry. I will always remember how she helped me that week. After that, whenever I would feel bad, I would remember that I was a brave and clever princess and that I need to find a way to fight against the dragon. It always works for me. These days I am proud that I can stand tall wherever I go."
Sam knew that Josh had put him that room for a reason. Josh wanted him to see something related to violence against women that wasn’t papers and numbers. Josh knew that these girls would have an impact on him. He was right. Sam knew that Josh and Freida wanted him to do more than just listen to the stories. They would expect him to find a way to stand against the injustices that these girls had suffered. But they were asking him to do it behind the reauthorization of a bill that was weak and ineffective. Sam knew that they deserved better than that. Sam returned to his reading. Maybe these stories would give him some inspiration as to how he could confront his own ferocious dragon.
Toby was also sitting alone, thinking. Before him was spread much of the information that his staff had gathered for him throughout the day. In here somewhere, he hoped to find a way to salvage the trade bill. He was not interested in any further efforts to retrieve the stolen disc. He was sure that the disc was tainted. Grey was used to getting his way. The idea that he was sincerely offering to exchange the disc for some affidavits was preposterous. This guy was planning to walk away with everything. Toby was sure of it. Toby’s plan was to sit down with Donna in the morning and explain that even if they could retrieve it, they could never use it. Then he hoped that she would concentrate her energies on bringing charges against her attacker.
He knew from his earlier conversations with Josh that the disc contained information about which legislators would vote for the package and what trade-offs the White House would offer them. If Grey had leaked it, and Toby was certain he had, then the Republicans would know where to concentrate their energies before the vote. They would know whom to pressure. They would exactly how the President planned to get this done.
Toby had to find a way to reclaim that element of surprise from the Republicans.
There had to be a rabbit that could still be pulled from a hat. Toby figured that his only chance was to find this rabbit. Keeping the Republicans off balance was the only the trick left to them.
Despite his concentration on this project, he still found time to glance at the phone every few minutes. He had called CJ earlier in hopes that she would be less angry, but he only got her machine. He was hoping that she would call back. If she did, he would tell her that he was sorry again. And maybe she would forgive him for being difficult and pig-headed. Then he would know for sure that he wasn’t losing the best thing in his life. As he was playing out this scenario once more, the phone rang. He jumped for it.
"Hello CJ…Margaret, is that you?…Where are you?….What happened?…Is she okay?…How did he find you?…Yes, I understand that it can’t be hard…I’m sure all he did was ask for the name of the redhead on crutches while he was at the White House today…Yes, anyone could have told him…And I suppose you’re listed?…Alright, let me see if I understand this correctly. A process server came to your apartment and served Donna. He said what…Grey is planning to sue Donna?…For defamation of character and slander?…Craziness!…I agree, you’re not safe there…Who knows what’s next? This idiot is totally unpredictable…You have a cab waiting?...Okay, come here. Do you know how to find my place?…Margaret, now is not the time to talk about being an imposition…Just get here, okay. We’ll figure it out then."
Feedback is appreciated. Sheila