(An Alternate Version of In This White House)
Leo McGarry, White House Chief Of Staff, walked down the halls of the West Wing. Stopping in front of the Office of the Press Secretary, he took a long deep breath before stepping into the doorway. Inside he found Sam Seaborn, the Deputy Communications Director having a conversation with the owner of the office, C.J. Cregg.
“The two of you,” he said as he got their attention, “come take a walk with me.”
“What’s going on?” asked Sam as he followed Leo’s instructions, with C.J. a few steps behind him.
The veteran Chief of Staff didn’t immediately respond, thinking it was fortunate that he caught the two of them together. At least he wouldn’t have to do this twice. Waiting until they were out in the middle of the hall, he said what was on his mind.
“I wanted to tell you this out where there were people so you wouldn’t scream about it,” Leo said, wishing he were already on the way back to his office.
“Scream about what?” an already suspicious C.J. asked.
“The woman who was on Capitol Beat with Sam Sunday night...” Leo began to reply.
A few days before, Sam, as he had done many times before, had appeared on one of the Sunday Political Debate shows. Normally on one of these appearances, the Deputy Director of Communications wiped the floor with whoever the Republicans slotted to appear opposite him. Especially if his counterpart happened to be part of the more Conservative branch of the G.O.P.
To first his amusement, then his dismay, this time they had set him up with a young, rather attractive, but relatively unknown Political Activist named Ainsley Hayes. Not only did she prove to be a smart, knowledgeable and committed opponent, she was skilled enough to catch Sam off guard when he made a mistake and proceeded to mop up the floor with him instead. Even now, Sam remembered the words he had murmured to himself; “Please, oh please, let them not be watching.”
The ‘them’ being the rest of President Bartlet’s staff, and of course at least one of them had been watching. He learned later on his return to the White House that his friend and the Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman, had run into the office of Sam’s boss, Toby Ziegler and shouted:
“Toby, come quick. Sam’s getting his ass kicked by a girl.”
To which Toby, whom he also considered one of his best friends, replied by calling out to his aide, Ginger, to get the popcorn before following Josh back to the TV room.
Over the last few days, Sam’s performance, or perhaps his lack there of, had been a sore point for the Deputy Communications Director.
“What about her?” Sam asked, as if he could’ve forgotten about her so soon.
“I’m offering her a job,” Leo said, hurrying to get the words out.
“Where?” Sam interjected.
“Here,” the Chief of Staff said in a calm tone.
“Are you kidding?” C.J. said, her voice registering shock and dismay.
“No,” Leo simply replied.
“Are you kidding?” C.J. repeated, her voice rising in volume.
“No,” Leo again likewise repeated.
“Are you kidding?” C.J. repeated once more, her voice now more than doubling in volume.
“No!” Leo said once more, this time with an air of finality.
“Well, what the hell made you think I wouldn’t scream where there are people?” the six foot Press Secretary shouted loud enough to make everyone in hearing distance stop what they were doing and turn in her direction.
“Took a shot,” Leo said with a smile and a shrug of his shoulders.
“Leo!” C.J. retorted in the same loud tone, this time joined by Sam.
But having said his piece, Leo McGarry once again became the strong arm of the President and shushed their voices, leading them back to C.J.’s office. While he might not have fully agreed with the decision either, the President had decided he wanted the bright young woman hired, regardless of her Party or political outlook. And what the President wanted, his Chief of Staff would make sure that he got.
The funny thing about it all, he thought as he finally headed back to his office, he’d thought it would be Sam who had the most forceful objections to the new addition to the staff. He’d been surprised to find it had come instead from C.J.
A few days later, C.J. sat in her office at the end of yet another long and tiring day. The surrounding offices and desks were empty, with most of the staff attending a farewell. She wasn’t in the mood for a party. More specifically, she wasn’t in the mood for who she might run into at the party.
She had only had one run in so far in the past few days with the newest of the Associate White House Counsels and C.J. was thankful for that. She was even more thankful that during that brief encounter, Ainsley didn’t seem to remember ever meeting the Press Secretary before.
The tall brunette looked down into the drink she had poured for herself a few minutes earlier. It was rare that she drank in the office, but today she really felt like she needed it. The dark amber of the liquid reminded her of another drink in another city. One from another life, not so many years before.
The bar of the Revere Hotel was filled with the usual mix of Boston Cliques, one so different from the ones C.J. had become used to the last year in Los Angeles. Sometimes it was hard to realize that both cities were part of the same country.
They were so different, yet some things were universal. People young and not so young gravitated to places like this. Some came to try and meet that special someone that they could spend the rest of their life with, or only maybe just the next few hours. Others just came to drown their sorrows and maybe try to forget. At this moment, C.J. would have to put herself in the latter category.
Her problem was three thousand miles away, in a city where the sun hadn’t even set yet. Still, she couldn’t get it from her mind, no matter how hard she tried.
In the beginning, she knew taking the job at Triton-Day Public Relations had been a major mistake. Her real love had been working on the campaigns of local and state Democrats, trying hard to make a difference.
Still, it was hard to say no to Isabel when she offered her the position. Hard to say no to a house in Beverly Hills, or to a salary that could be almost half a million a year. In fact, the only real hesitation she felt at the time was because she and her new Boss had been lovers for the previous few weeks.
Yet in the end, she had proved herself adept in this strange new world. So much so that no one cared in the least whose bed she sometimes shared. That was the key word, C.J. reminded herself as she took a hard swallow of the dark drink she had ordered - ‘sometimes’.
Isabel was a faithless lover, and made no secret of the fact. At first, C.J. had been so taken with her that she didn’t want to believe that. Not even when people she trusted began to pass along late night gossip that they knew to be far more than rumors. No, she couldn’t bring herself to believe it, until the night she saw it for herself. The night she had practically had a front row seat to what a fool she had made of herself.
It had been one of the premier Hollywood social events of the season. One in which anyone not invited might just as well have closed up shop and moved out of town. Everyone who was anyone was at that party, and Isabel had approached it like a cat in heat. They hadn’t been at the party a half hour when C.J. realized that her significant other was nowhere to be found.
A wrong turn in search for the second floor bathroom had led C.J. to the door of a bedroom where she was sure she heard Isabel’s voice. It was almost like the plot of one of those horrible B-Movies that Triton-Day was constantly promoting. A peek behind that door forever ended the personal aspects of their relationship.
The voice had been Isabel’s alright, and she was far from alone. The woman C.J. thought she loved was spread out, disrobed, on the bed, accompanied by two young men as naked as she was. C.J. recognized both of them as up and coming actors, each the star of a newly released hit film. Triton-Day had been trying to work out a representation deal with the both of them for months.
At the moment, Isabel was practicing a most particular form of enticement, as she took one young man between her legs and the other in her mouth. From the look on her face, C.J. got the impression that Isabel was enjoying the negotiations as much as they obviously were.
From that day on, C.J. had become just another employee at the public relations firm, never again spending an intimate moment with her now lost love. The worst part of it all was that not only had Isabel not seemed to care, she hadn’t even ever asked why. Too good at what she was doing and actually beginning to enjoy it as well, C.J. wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of quitting. As long as she continued to keep the money rolling in, Isabel seemed to be just as happy with that situation as well.
Realizing that she needed to get away for a few days, if only to gain some perspective in her life, C.J. had jumped at the chance to spend a weekend in Boston. The Studios had asked for someone to participate in a televised debate at Harvard on the ever-continuing argument about there being too much sex and violence in movies and Hollywood’s responsibility to curb it. Not that the Studios planned to do anything to curb such things. There was too much money to be made with such movies. But by taking part in the debate, however, it gave the appearance that they were concerned.
.... There is more of this story ...