Disclaimer: Not mine, blah, blah, no infringement intended.
Author’s note: I finally broke down and wrote my spin on the season finale. Obviously, it’s not a funny story, and it reflects the emotions I’ve felt and observed in my own times of tragedy
There are moments in life when you know, beyond all doubt, that your life is about to change forever. Usually, your life before was good. Afterward, you learn to deal with the change. It’s that moment of time in between that’s hard.
It’s the moment before you pick up the phone when it rings at 3 a.m.
It’s the moment when you see a car barreling toward you, and know that it’s going to hit you, and there is nothing you can do about it.
It’s the moment when someone you love says: “I have something to tell you. You’d better sit down.”
In those moments, all you can do is wait and pray.
Mallory O’Brian was in her apartment, grading her third-graders’ latest English assignment. She loved teaching – especially this age. The kids were old enough that they knew that they shouldn’t bite each other, but young enough that they could dream and wonder without being embarrassed.
It was getting late, but Mallory had the TV on, it’s volume low. She liked the little bit of noise, the comfortable background that kept things from getting lonely. She was her father’s daughter, so the TV was tuned to CNN. People teased her about it, but she liked to know what was going on.
She was wading through Bobby Johnson’s mess of misspellings when she detected a distinct note of alarm in the muted voice coming from her television. She glanced up.
And completely forgot about Bobby Johnson.
“Remote! Where’s the remote!?” Mallory looked around in frustration for that most elusive of objects. The depth of her terror was apparent when, instead of looking until she found the oft-lost thing, she actually stood and manually turned up the volume on the box its self.
“ . . . We don’t know many details at this time,” a talking head said, “but we can confirm that shots have been fired at the President. This happened a few moments ago outside the town hall meeting at the Newseum in Rosslyn, Virginia.
“We have part of a tape of the . . . assassination attempt . . . from one of our cameramen. You can see the Secret Service grab the President . . . now . . . and put him into the limousine. Then we loose the feed . . . Ah . . . we’re going live to Rosslyn now . . . obviously, things look quite panicked. We have a reporter on scene . . . Kim, can you describe what is happening?”
“Dave, things are very confused at the moment. As you can see from the emergency vehicles and activity behind me, at least some people were hurt in this attack. Who and how badly we do not know.
“We do not know the President’s condition.
We do know that his daughter, Zoe, and most of his senior staff were with him; we do not know their status. Details on who fired the shots are sketchy. Apparently the bullets came from a window of one of the buildings outside the Newseum, possibly the second or third floor. The White House is not commenting. As I said, we do *not* know the condition of the President or anyone with him . . .”
Mallory stared at the TV in shock. “This is not happening,” she moaned. She flipped the channel, but the news was the same everywhere.
Mallory collapsed backward into the couch – and onto the remote. She felt a brief and totally out-of-place relief at finding it before worry overwhelmed her.
She had known Josiah Barlet since forever. Barlet was one of the cornerstones of her life. He was always there with a laugh, a hug and an encouraging word. As an American and as his goddaughter, Mallory was deeply concerned.
Zoey, the President’s daughter, was her friend. “Zoe is 19 and invincible. She’ll be okay,” Mallory told herself.
Mallory scanned the now-repeating news video in vain for another man – Sam Seaborn. She had a love-hate relationship going with the Deputy Communications Director. She sometimes thought he might be *the one,* thought she wasn’t sure yet. Still, she wanted an opportunity to find out. The rest of the White House senior staff were also close and trusted friends.
But her greatest dread, of course, was reserved for her father.
She knew that her father was *there.* The White House Chief of Staff was rarely more than a few feet away from the Commander-in-Chief, a fact which was destroying her parent’s marriage.
“Dad, where are you?” Mallory had never felt so alone. After a moment of indecision, she picked up her phone and dialed a number.
Jenny McGarry was in bed with a headache after a long day. It still felt strange to her that there was no chance of Leo walking in . . . although he hadn’t exactly been a regular before.
She was just drifting off to sleep when the phone rang.
“Hello?” she asked in a somewhat puzzled voice.
“Mallory? Honey, what—“
“MOM! *Turn on the TV!*”
There was no mistaking the fear in her daughter’s voice, and Jenny knew immediately what had happened. She ran down to the living room TV, phone still in hand, and watched just enough that her fears were confirmed.
“Mallory,” she said into the phone, “have you heard from your father?”
“No. Mom –“
“I’m coming over. I just have to change. My cell phone is on. If you hear anything . . . if he calls . . .”
“What if I get a call,” Mallory interrupted, “*and it’s not him?*”
Mallory’s question immediately brought Jenny back to a night six years earlier. Leo had been missing for three days, and she had been frantic. She had known her husband was loosing his battle against the demons that plagued him. Her prayer all day had been for Leo to call. When the phone did finally ring, it was Jed. He told her that he’d found Leo and taken him to a rehabilitation center. That night Jed’s voice had been a blessed relief.
This night, however, a call from the President of the United States could only mean one thing. It wasn’t a call she wanted her daughter to have to take, especially alone.
“Mallory, I’m on my way over right now. I’m hanging up. I love you.”
As Jenny raced down to her car, she nearly choked on her terror.
“Dammit, Leo, I can barely stand the thought of you being out of *my* life,” she told the night. “I don’t think I could handle you being out of *yours*, too. So you’d better be okay.
The First Lady and the President had, of course, discussed the possibility of assassination attempt. It was an ever-present threat, but Abigail Barlet had never really believed it would happen.
Until the moment she saw her SSA turn pale and look at her with horrified eyes.
“Oh my Lor– it’s happened, hasn’t it?” Abby whispered.
There was a sudden frenzy of activity as agents ran in to secure doors and make sure that *their* protectee was safe.
“Ma’am,” the agent swallowed. “There have been shots fired at the President.”
“*Talk to me*” the First Lady said urgently.
“I really don’t know anything more. Everything is very confused. Ma’am, perhaps you should sit for a moment.”
Abby allowed her agent to lead her to a chair and get her a glass of water.
“Jed . . .”
And suddenly an even more horrifying thought hit her.
To lose the man who shared her soul would be nearly unbearable, but Abby knew in her heart of hearts that people could find new love, even if it was forever bittersweet.
To lose a person who had shared her very body for nine months was unfathomable. To her mother, Zoey Barlet was irreplaceable.
“My daughter . . .?” Abby asked the agent.
“She was there, ma’am. I don’t know anything about either of them.” The agent knew it was unprofessional, but she was a mother too. She took the First Lady’s hand. “I’ll tell you the moment I hear anything.”
David Ziegler was very tired. In fact, he was asleep.
He’d been orbiting the Earth a few hours before – when he really wasn’t supposed to be. Things had been a bit . . . tense. He’d heard that even the White House had been concerned. Which was to be expected, as the Communications Director was David’s brother.
David hadn’t bothered to go home to sleep. After the preliminary briefings, he’s just been too exhausted and crashed in a back room at NASA control.
Which was why he was very annoyed when some tech-fluky burst in, urgently shouting for ‘Dr. Ziegler.’
It took a moment to straighten things out, but once David had calmed the tech enough to get coherent statement, he wasn’t tired anymore.
Just very, very worried.
“I thought I had the dangerous job,” he sighed.
On the West Coast, where the sun was still up, two brothers dropped to their knees and prayed for their tall and talented sister.
A mother watched her sleeping child and wondered if she should wake her. “No, I’ll let her sleep,” the mother said. “In the morning, we’ll know for sure what we’ll need to tell her about her grandfather.”
A woman fingered pictures of her charming dark-haired son and took a frame off the wall. It was a law degree from Princeton. There was a note tucked into the back: “To my dear mother, in thanks for all her hard work and putting up with me. –SNS.”
A girl named Deena pulled a blanket around her and shivered as she wondered if she was alone in the world.
In the White House, at least two women tried not to panic as they worried about a man who was infuriating as he was charming.
A middle-aged couple held hands in front of the TV. They had never understood why their daughter had been so fascinated with the military and guns, but they we’re proud of her. Tonight, though, they could only think that perhaps she had intentionally put her own body in front of a speeding bullet to save someone else’s daughter.
Across the country, Americans watched in a fascinated horror. The situation was gruesome, terrible . . . exciting. Something important and dramatic was happening, but it wasn’t something that would shake the very foundations of *their* worlds.
Their interest was akin to the shiver of anticipation for the resolution to a torturous TV cliffhanger. The question: “Who’s been shot?” was a macabre exercise in human curiosity. They could watch, and wonder, and be content to hold their own families safe.
But for a few people scattered across the country, the answer to the question could bring relief or agony. There could be no comfort. And, with no answers but a thundering silence, they could only wait.
Just like the rest of us.
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