Letting Go of a Dream
The hallway to the Residence stretched endlessly ahead of her. Had it always been so long?
Her head was throbbing and her stomach was tight with pure rage.
A primal scream would be a wonderful release.
The steward anticipated their approach and, with impeccable timing, turned to open the double doors to the living quarters.
He was quietly deferential.
"Good evening, Mr. President. Good evening, Ma'am."
Abbey choked back the scream and nodded at the young man.
The doors clicked softly closed behind them and she turned on Jed, trying to keep her voice low, because too many people
were already whispering about her short temper.
"What the hell were you thinking? Just tell me, what the hell goes on in your head?"
"I couldn't let it go. It's a great concept. In fact, it is so great a concept that doctors, who see things as black or
white, can't appreciate it. It cannot be defined, because it is a concept of spirit, not of science. It is the brilliance
of society moving forward..."
"Abbey, it's about the potential for..."
"Is there any potential for you shutting up?"
That had probably been too loud.
She stopped and glared at him, letting the anger that had bubbled just beneath the surface all evening erupt. She had left
the dining room for three minutes, tops. Just three minutes. When she had returned to the table, every one of her guests had
worn a similarly pained expression as Jed expounded on the theory of curing cancer. Her husband was intelligent, and certainly
articulate, but he wasn't having much success trying to lecture the experts about their own business.
Abbey had tried to change the subject. Repeatedly. But Jed had treated her like an annoying fly, brushing off her attempts
to act like a civilized dinner companion. The conversational tide flowed only one way...his. Her furious glances were ignored,
and he was too far away to kick.
It was not surprising that coffee and dessert were unanimously refused as her guests offered the flimsiest of excuses for
leaving early. She sympathized and did not encourage them to linger. However, the last departing guest had dropped a bombshell.
"Abbey, do you know what he said when you were out of the room?" the woman had asked, showing obvious signs of distress.
"I really hesitate to guess."
"He told Ralph and John to get their asses back in their chairs! He actually ordered them! Nobody ever takes it seriously
when he refers to himself as Commander in Chief, but tonight he wasn't joking."
"He's under a lot of stress," Abbey had known her response was lame, but she really didn't want to refer to her husband
as a pain in the ass. Too many of the social graces had already fallen by the wayside tonight.
Now she stared at Jed, knowing that he had been totally overwhelmed by the thought of ridding the world of cancer. She
hadn't been there when he had ordered his guests to sit down. She suspected his manner had been both demanding and abrupt,
but not consciously inconsiderate.
But these people were her friends, and she was embarrassed. It hurt that he thought so little of her that he could be rude
to their guests. Beneath it all, she carried a wealth of pain that had been growing for months. She felt she had become only
an observer as he made some of the biggest decisions of their lives.
It was sad that most days ended badly now. This one certainly had.
"Jed, you told my friends, who were also our guests, to get their asses in their chairs. What in the world got into you?
How could you behave that way?"
"Abbey, they were walking around, talking, not even realizing how important this thing is. I'm sorry if dinner didn't go
the way you planned. Really. I got carried away, but we can do it again. I promise."
There he was, doing it again. Always a mistake, followed by a nebulous promise to fix it.
She stared at him and wondered what he would do if she unlocked that primal scream.
"This thing about curing cancer...I want to get the staff in and kick it around. It's unbelievable, Abbey! We can do this.
We can change the world."
He walked over and put his hands on her shoulders. She could see the excitement in his face over this new idea. He kissed
her and said again, "We can change the world."
He turned and walked away, out the door and down the hall. It was late into the evening, but he was going to cure cancer.
If she screamed now, he wouldn't hear. And the poor young man posted in the hallway wouldn't have any idea how to deal
with a demented First Lady. So she gritted her teeth and closed her eyes, letting the hot, angry tears pour down her cheeks.
By the time she had gotten out of her clothes and put them away, the tears had stopped and she had resigned herself, once
again, to the fact that he existed only for the Presidency. She had been stupid enough to think of it as a job, but she had
learned in the past months that it was a state of mind for him, an essence of being. Once it had been possible to tell the
difference between Jed, the man, and Josiah Bartlet, the President. She didn't think she could anymore. And it was apparent
he no longer made the distinction or thought it important.
Abbey thought that was why most days ended badly now.
It was amazing what a hot bath and a few glasses of wine could do. The anger evaporated and the sadness was almost bearable.
She slid into the big bed and tried to get comfortable. She turned on the TV, then clicked it off. Throwing down her magazine,
she decided she didn't need to know how to prepare a delicious dinner and still have time to be a sex goddess for her husband.
Definitely not tonight. She turned out the lights, and, exhausted from her emotions, fell asleep.
She opened her eyes to complete darkness and felt the unwelcome tug of someone pulling on the sheet. Chilly air swirled
into her warm nest, but, before she could protest about the cold, Jed had moved close beside her, putting an arm around her.
"Abbey..." his voice was low as he spoke into the side of her neck.
She chose to ignore him. Perhaps, if she were very, very still...
"Abbey," his breath was warm and soft, but she was not going to give in to him. "I know you're not asleep."
"Not any more, thank you."
"I'm sorry. I know that I ruined your party and I apologize."
"Okay. Go to sleep."
"Why is it that, more often than not, things just end badly? I'm so tired of that."
He did sound tired, and, more than that, unhappy. Abbey found it odd that he had unknowingly echoed her thoughts from earlier
in the evening. She hated that they had come to feel this way.
"It's not as bad as you make it sound," she said quietly. "It will get better."
She felt him give a heavy sigh and he was silent for so long that she thought he had fallen asleep.
"I want it to be better now," his voice was gruff.
He pulled her closer and she wondered what had been going through his mind for the last few minutes, because his body was
definitely not at rest.
Jed's voice came out of the darkness again. "Prove it. Show me that it will get better. I need to know that."
The wine and the nap must have made her mellow, because she couldn't summon up her anger anymore. It had melted away in
the darkness, to be replaced by the need to find a little joy at the end of the day.
Abbey could feel him nudging her thigh, and he wasn't being very subtle. Neither was he being shy about pushing up her
nightgown, so he could stroke her stomach, then move higher, to cup his hand over her breast. His thumb brushed repeatedly
over her nipple and she knew he could feel her tighten in response. A few hours ago, she would have pushed his hand away with
a cutting remark. Now she said nothing, but reached for the bunched up fabric of her nightgown and sat up just enough to pull
it over her head. He leaned over her, finding her lips for a long, deep kiss, and used both hands to caress and arouse her
breasts. He slid his tongue into her mouth and moved his hands lower, pushing down her panties.
He was doing excellent work with his hands, and one tiny part of her brain reminded her that she was too angry to let him
do such things, but she chose to ignore it. What she couldn't ignore was the increasing pressure of his arousal against her
thigh. She ran her hand down his abdomen, reaching lower, seeking the thick mat of hair and curling her fingers in it. She
gripped him firmly, feeling the veins throbbing as blood coursed in to fire his hardness. Relaxing her hold, she moved her
fingers to the tip, caressing the satiny skin, which was already hot and damp.
His hands were pushing her legs farther apart now, and she reached down to guide him as he entered her. She was very aware
that he knew exactly what to do, but tonight she wanted to keep touching him. He started thrusting immediately, faster than
she normally would have liked, but she was so aroused that she welcomed the fierce friction. She arched against him repeatedly,
feeling the ache spread and intensify. Her spasms began before his, and he kept thrusting into her contractions, creating
explosions of exquisite sensation. Her orgasm seemed limitless and she cried out with the absolute pleasure of it. With a
final deep movement, he stiffened in ultimate release, groaning in ecstasy.
Jed collapsed onto her chest, trying to regain control of his breathing. She let him rest on her for a minute, then she
moved so that he slid off to one side, keeping his arms around her. They were both too tired to talk, but there were so few
opportunities to do so these days. She needed to reconnect, if she could.
"Are you going to do it?" she mumbled.
"I already did. Where were you?" Jed chuckled.
"Not that. The initiative to cure cancer. Are you going to do it?"
It was a very simple statement, but she heard the depth of disappointment in his voice. He had been so excited, and now
it was evident that the exhilaration was gone.
"Why not?" she asked.
"For all the reasons you already know. It's intangible. And unrealistic. But it's a wonderful idea, Abbey, and I wanted
it to be true. I thought I could make it true, not just for the speech, or because it might help me get re-elected, but because
it would be so amazing for a world in so much pain."
She reached over in the darkness, following the sound of his voice, and touched his face, wanting so badly to ease his
Abbey was glad that she had been wrong. Her wonderful husband still existed, with his heart filled with improbable dreams.
He simply needed this job as the means to make them become reality. She wanted to hold on to him, but that was not going to
be possible. She could, at least, reassure him that he was moving in the right direction.
"It will be true, Jed, someday. And maybe it started tonight. Maybe you goaded somebody at that table into trying something
they hadn't thought of before."
"I probably just goaded them into refusing to ever have dinner with us again."
She laughed softly, "Their loss."
He sighed. "I don't know. I haven't been a paragon of success lately. I wanted to do better."
Abbey still had her hand on his cheek. She pulled his head toward hers, finding his lips for a gentle kiss.
"You will, Jed. You will."
Very soon, his regular breathing and relaxed limbs told her he was asleep. For this tiny space of time, her husband was
back, and they existed only for each other. But he dreamed of changing the world, and she knew she could only watch as his
job took him away. As it surely would, tomorrow, when he became the President again. But for now, he was just a man letting
go of a dream.
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