By: Tori Morris
Disclaimer: Some of these characters belong to me; others belong to Aaron. I trust you can recognize who's is who's.
Author's note: Pix gets her props for continuing to help me, when I probably don't deserve it. Bramble gets her props as well, with the hope she'll be back soon.
And now, the story...
July 5, 2001
I typed one handed while reaching in the drawer. Where were they?
"Ah, gotcha." I said as my hand brushed the cellophane, and I pulled out the thin box of cookies. Keebler FudgeShoppe Fudge Sticks. Quite possibly the most sugar filled cookies ever imagined by man. Guaranteed to induce diabetic seizures. I tore into them with a maniacal glee.
You know, it feels really good not to examine the fat contents of my food anymore. After all, whom do I have to impress? Sam? I ponder between typing and popping a couple of the chocolate covered, sugar cream filled wafers in my mouth. Heaven. Maybe I should run down to the mess for some milk, however. Yes, I should definitely get some milk. Right after R.E.M finishes telling me about the end of the world.
"Donna?" Someone asks behind me.
"Yup. That is my name." I say cheerfully, turning around to face him.
"What are you doing?" Larry asks.
"I'm hanging out. Why?"
"The music is a little loud, is all."
"Ok, sorry." I smile and slip on some headphones.
Larry says something that is either, 'right', or 'white', and then leaves me to my cookies and loud music. What was I going to do? Oh yes, milk. Well, let's turn to music off, and get my purse...
"Donna?" Josh asks, by looming over the side of my cubical wall. It's a good thing he talks in between breaks in the songs on my CD, otherwise I would have never heard him.
"Yes. I am said person." I respond, in between bites of cookie.
"Right..." He says, and hands me a file. "I need you to do some research on this." He drops some files in front of me.
"Ok." I say, walking off.
"Um your desk is back, that way." He says, pointing.
"Yes, it is. How astute."
"Shouldn't you be going to it, and you know, doing what I pay you for?"
"Potentially. After I get myself some milk."
"What do you need milk for?" He asks, as if he cared, which I know he doesn't.
"For the cookies, Josh."
"Ok. Whatever, but have the research done in an hour." He says and retreats past my office, snagging some cookies as he does so. I should smack him for that-a woman's cookies are private and not open for anyone to just snatch, but I won't.
"Will do." I say, and wander down to the mess. I pop into the line briefly and pick up a carton of milk, like they serve school kids, and pay for it quickly. Perhaps I should get a cookie jar like Mrs. Landingham had, and institute a 'no stealing cookies' rule.
"Hey, Donna!" Margaret says from nearby, excitedly.
"Yes, that is my given name." I respond quickly and peppy.
"My, you're cheerful. Have a good Fourth of July?" She asks, pointedly.
"As a matter of fact, I did. Sylvia and Rachel bought fireworks and we lit them off, and then watched Independence Day with a big tub of ice cream." I said.
"Oh. I went to the ball, with Leo." Pause. " I was just wondering, because I didn't see you there."
"Well, I didn't have a ticket."
"Oh. Didn't you want to go?" She asks.
"Nope, not really. Besides, Josh took Amy." I said, still cheerful. I had to get back to my desk soon, or the cookies would be all gone.
"And you're ok with that?" she asked, struggling to keep up with me on my way back to my desk. I swear, if all my cookies are gone...
"Yes, really. After all, she's his girlfriend, why shouldn't he go with her."
"Ah, I just thought you'd be upset with him, because, you know..."
"Nope, not really." I say, arriving at my desk and finding a good share of the cookies still there.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Want a cookie?" I offer, holding the box out.
"No thanks. I'm watching my figure." She says. I offer her a sympathetic smile. Ah, to be so deluded into playing the game of 'keeping your figure'.
"Well, thanks for thinking of me."
"Yeah." She said, staring at me like I had three eyeballs or something. "See you later." She started to walk off.
"You too." I said, as she walked off, and I grabbed a cookie.
Ah, total freedom. Such bliss.
I'm singing along with Alanis while researching Josh's thing, which is on the history of AIDS drug research. It's fascinating too.
"I am your grasping expectations, I see you..."
"Alanis, huh?" I hear behind me, since 'Still' is a rather soft song.
"Oh, hello Amy. Yeah. It's from the Dogma soundtrack." I explain, not caring how she got in the building.
"Great movie, isn't it?"
"Yep. Are you looking for Josh?"
"Yeah, is he here?"
"Not right now. Anything I can do for you?"
"Yeah. Can you tell him to cancel the reservations for tonight?"
"Sure. Any reason why?" I say, grabbing a post-it note.
"Andy's got the flu, and his regular sitter won't watch him when he's sick. She's afraid of getting sick herself." I ponder this-he's thirteen, and she still has a regular sitter for him?
"Well, can't you find another sitter? Josh'll be upset."
"No one I know is in town right now, and besides, I don't think..."
"I'll do it for you." I offer. It's only the nice thing to do. Besides, it's not changing diapers or anything. It's watching a young teenager.
"Really? No, I can't ask you to..."
"No, really. I'll do it. Josh deserves to go out tonight." I offer.
"You'll really do it? Are you sure? Andy can be a handful..."
"Thank you so much, Donna. That's so kind of you."
After twenty minutes, and many thanks and instructions, I'm ready to be a good friend and watch Andy so Josh and Amy can have a night out.
7: 45, June 6, 2001.
"So, Andy, promise me you'll be good for Donna." I can hear Amy pleading in the next room.
"I promise." He says, in that fake voice that everyone promises in.
"Promise." She stresses.
"I swear I won't scare her off like the last one." He says, loudly, as if to ensure that I heard him.
"You'd better, or I won't take you to that movie festival tomorrow."
"You'd never. I already have tickets."
"That's what you think." She says and leaves the room. "He's all yours, Donna."
"Great." I say.
"You have all the numbers?" She asks.
"Yep." I show her my notepad.
"Ok. See you later." She says, and heads out the door. I walk in the room.
"Hey, Andy, remember me?"
"You're my mom's boyfriend's secretary." He says, mechanically, as he starts up a video game machine.
"Well, actually, I'm Josh's assistant, which means I am the Assistant to the Deputy Chief of the White House."
"Right. Whatever." He says as the game machine turn on, and he starts some skateboarding game.
"So. I hear you invited Josh to your party a few days ago."
"What? No I didn't."
"No. That was my mom's idea. She always tries to make me like her boyfriends."
"Oh. So you don't like Josh?"
"He's a huge dumb-er, he's a dork." He says, and shoots me this glance like he doesn't expect much more from me. "But," he concedes, "He is pretty good at video games."
"Yeah? You play this with him?"
"Tony Hawk? Yeah." He says, and pauses for a minute to blow his nose.
"Could I try? I used to be pretty good myself."
"You play video games?" He sounded skeptical.
"I was the only girl out of five kids. Of course I play video games."
"Cool. You ever played this?"
"Nope. It's a Sony, right?"
"Yeah, Playstation." He said and paused the game, and unwinded a paddle for me.
"My ex-fiancee used to have one of these. Got it the day it came out. He was a sucker for this kind of stuff." I say, and I took the paddle from him.
"You want to be the girl skater?"
"No, you have to press up and triangle to do the handplants."
"Ah, gotcha," I say, as I send my character up the halfpipe, and manage to get her to do the handplant.
"Hey, not bad." Andy tells me, with a nod.
"Thanks." I say, and steal a glance at my watch. "Hey, are you hungry? Want to order a pizza?"
"Sure." He said, and pressed the green button, turning the game off.
"So, what's your mom been up to? She was at the White House today."
"Yeah. She's gonna paint a picture of the First Lady, for the portrait gallery."
"Really?" I say-that explains how she can get into the White House on her own now.
"Yeah. She really impressed the First Lady at that party they went to." He didn't sound to happy about it.
"What's wrong with that? Sounds like an exciting opportunity for your Mom." I say, shifting the phone to my shoulder.
"It's just, she got the job so she could hang around Josh more often, you know? She's always talking about him, about how lucky she is, because most guys wouldn't give her the time of day." He says, as I dial the number.
I frown. "That sucks."
"No kidding. I can't wait 'till they break up."
"What makes you think that's going to happen?"
He looks at me like I'm from another planet. "They couldn't be more different. He works in the White House, my Mom paints. There is nothing similar in their lives. She should have gone out with Daniel."
"Yeah, he's this guy, who's totally in love with my Mom. He's always looking for excuses to hang out with us, you know? Like holding art shows, and last summer, he took us on this tour of France with his students. When my Mom wasn't looking, he slipped me some wine." He tells me, conspiratorially.
"Andy, what kind of pizza?"
"I dunno, whatever you want."
"Half Hawaiian, half Meat lovers sound good?"
"Medium-half Hawaiian, half Meat lovers. Yeah, 324 Hoover. Thanks. We'll be waiting." I say and hang up the phone. "I really don't like meat lovers, but it's Josh's favorite, so I'm used to ordering it. So why doesn't she go out with this Daniel guy?"
He sorts through some DVD's, looking for a good movie. "I think she's afraid of messing up their friendship. She's not stupid. I think she knows he loves her. But, she's like afraid that he won't be a good role model for me, too. All this outside junk that has nothing to do with love. "
"And you think Daniel's a good role model?"
"I don't care. He's fun. And he teaches me all sorts of cool stuff. And, he loves her, which is more than I can say for Josh." He said, making a face at me, like he couldn't believe I was asking that.
"Hey, I think Josh really likes your Mom." I defend.
"You don't think so?" That's two people who think Josh doesn't love her-Sam and her son.
"No. I can't say why, but sometimes he just stares off into space, or doesn't seem quite there around my Mom. But Mom doesn't love him either. Love isn't something intangible. You can see it, and hear it. You just have to know where to look. And when I look at my Mom and Josh, I don't see love." He explains, and looks at me curiously.
"So? That doesn't prove anything."
"Maybe. All I know, is when Daniel's with us, his every bit of attention is on me, or my Mom. You can feel that he cares."
"That doesn't prove anything."
"Yeah, maybe. It just reminds me of my friend, Andrea. She was totally in love with this guy she was dating, Tom..."
"Dating? At your age?"
"Andrea's 19. She's in Daniel's art class-I met her on the tour."
"Oh." I guess that's ok, then.
"Anyway, she was totally all in love with him, but he never spent time with her. I mean, they were together, but he didn't know her favorite cereal, or what her favorite color was or anything."
"And she knew this about him?"
"Yeah. She loved him enough to know the stupid things about life. Like his favorite flavor of pop-tart." He explained, looking at me curiously. The doorbell rang, and I went to answer it.
"So, whatever happened to that girl you were talking about?" I said, as we watched the Matrix, between slow bites of pizza.
"Andrea?" He asked.
"Tom broke her heart, and she got all depressed for the longest time. Then last week, she started dating Julie."
"She's a lesbian?" I say.
"No, she's bisexual. Julie's the lesbian."
I suddenly feel out of my time. I never knew a lesbian was until I met Sylvia, and she had to explain some of it to me, and here was this kid, just shy of his thirteenth birthday telling me about his collage friend and her girlfriend.
I change the subject...
"So, don't you have any friends, you know, closer to your age?"
"Not very popular at school, huh?"
"I don't go to school. Mom home-schools me."
2:23 A.M., July 7th 2001.
"Mmmph." I said as someone lightly shook me.
"Hey Donna." Amy said, whispering, as I sat up on her couch.
"Hey. Um, sorry, I must have dozed off." I mumbled, rubbing my eyes.
"It's ok. We were out rather late." She says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear."I hope Andy wasn't too much trouble."
"No, not at all. We had fun."
"Great. How much do I owe you?"
"Owe-no, you don't owe me anything."I mumbled, grabbing my purse.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive." I said. I looked her in the eyes, searching for something-anything. I wanted to see what Andy was talking about. 'Love isn't intangible,' he said to me.
"Well, thanks for doing this, then."
I looked away. I wouldn't know where to look if I tried.
I should have asked him where you can see it, where you can hear it, I think, as I start up my car. Maybe I could have seen what he didn't.
The lights are on in my apartment. I put my key in the door, and Sylvia opens it before I can finish the rotation.
"Thank the gods! Where were you? Me and Rachel were freaked-we couldn't get you on your cell." She rushes, looking me up and down.
"I did some emergency baby-sitting for Amy. I left the cell in the car. "
"Well, that's stupid." Piped up Rachel, from behind Sylvia. Sylvia smacked her on the arm. Rachel stuck her pierced tongue out at Sylvia.
"Can I come in the door now?"
"Oh, Yeah," Sylvia said, letting me shoulder my way in before re-locking the door. "How did you get suckered into baby sitting for Josh's girlfriend?"
"I didn't. I volunteered so she and Josh could have a night out."
"You volunteered?" Rachel repeats, as Sylvia folds her arms. "Wow, that's a positive step."
"No, it really isn't." Sylvia says.
"Sure it is, Syl. She
willingly helped her mortal enemy have sex with the guy she loves." I blinked.
Well, I'd never thought of it that way.
"Must you always think of sex?" Sylvia grinned.
"Yeah, it's my nature..." Rachel said, toying with her tongue ring.
"Well, I think I should leave you two alone." I said, attempting a retreat to my room.
"No way. Not yet." Syl said, grabbing my arm. "You have to promise me, that tonight wasn't some sort of retreat back into an elaborate misdirection scheme."
"Syl, Rach, I swear, everything I told you is still true. I'm just being a good friend." I say, irritated.
Syl squints and looks at me, then Rachel. "I believe her." Rach says, as she looks at her girlfriend and shrugs.
"I guess I'm just too suspicious." Sylvia says and lets go of my arm. "Sorry."
"No problem, you were just worried about me." I say. And they were-they've always been there, trying to keep me from doing something stupid, and so far, they've succeeded. I haven't lost my job, and I haven't slept with my boss either.
"Yeah. Well, it's really late." Rachel said, yawning, and running her hands through her pink hair.
"Yeah, I'd better get some sleep." I say, and walk into my room. Sylvia followed me, leaning on the door frame.
"You really meant that-about being a good friend?" She asked.
"Yeah. I can't make him like me, and I don't want to ruin his future chances for happiness. You know, I think I was seeing things that were never actually there, so it's good for me to do this. To let go." I hear myself saying as I open my clothes drawer to find some pajamas. "It doesn't mean I have to walk out of the life I've built for myself entirely. I can build more onto it."
Syl smiles the tiniest of smiles, in the corners of her mouth. "Yeah." She closes the door as I begin to change, and she tells me about her day. I listen as I jump in the bed and snuggle in the covers.
"Donna? Are you asleep?"
"Sorta." I say, softly as I struggle to listen to her.
"It's late. I'll talk to you in the morning." She says, turning off the light in the hall.
"Yeah..." I mumble as I drift off to sleep.