Don't Call Me That
Abigail Barrington sat in Hesburgh Library pouring over Notre Dame's medical textbooks. She loved sitting in the library. The quiet, the atmosphere of reverent learning. Yes, some of the boys tended to bother her, but most of them could be shut down with a few choice words from her. Women were still a novelty at Notre Dame, but she had proved herself more than equal to the brand new coeducation system. She smirked to herself as she read about Watson and Crick's experiments. Even twelve years after their 1953 discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, few textbooks contained truly substantive information. So here she was, at the library on a Friday evening, studying everything she could get her hands on.
Abbey stood up to go find another book, this one about the emerging science of molecular biology. None of her classes covered this information, but she would need to know it if she was going to apply to medical school in a few years.
After a few minutes scanning the stacks, Abbey found the book she was looking for. On the top shelf. Being barely five foot three, Abbey found herself at a crossroads. There was no ladder nearby. Not even a stepstool.
Jed Bartlet was walking through the library. He liked to go for a walk whenever he was confronted with a particularly perplexing issue. He had just come from a wonderful meeting with Father Donovan about the nature of evil. How can God allow suffering in the world? The Father left it to Jed to wrestle with the question of free-will and the Devil. It was quite a lot to consider. Outside, the campus was getting ready for a rally before the big football game. Jed would certainly be going, but for now, he needed quiet contemplation. Very few people were in Hesburgh this late on a Friday. He wandered the stacks, his hands in his pockets, thinking.
He came across a very curious sight. A very beautiful brunette was standing in the middle of an aisle, staring up at the top shelf.
"Planning to get that by telekinesis?" he asked.
Abbey turned sharply to find a very good looking man smiling at her. His blue eyes shone merrily as he pushed his sandy brown hair out of his face. "I need that book," she answered, pointing to the tome she wanted. "I hadn't really decided what to do." Her green eyes narrowed, haughtily daring him to do something.
Jed turned to face the problem and found that he, at five foot eight, didn't fare much better than she did in reaching the shelf. He paused to consider for a moment. "Alright, how about I lift you up get it?"
She glared at him. "I'd rather you didn't have an excuse to get up my skirt."
He raised his hands in defense. "I promise I won't." She didn't look convinced, so he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his bible. "I'm studying to be a priest."
To his surprise, she laughed. "Really? Then what are you doing here? I didn't think DNA research was really what men of the cloth were interested in."
"I'm interested in quite a lot of things. But no, I was just taking a walk. It's quiet in here. I like the atmosphere."
"So do I. Quiet and calm and full of knowledge waiting to be uncovered."
Her poetic statement surprised him. "I don't see too many girls in the library reading about DNA, especially on a Friday."
"Seeing as I'm the only one in the Biology department right now, I'm not surprised. And I don't like competing with crowds to get books I want. But anyway, I was trying to look up Watson and Crick, but the book I want is way up there. Are you going to lift me up, padre, or what?" She put her hands on her shapely hips and tapped her toe at him teasingly.
"I'm not a priest yet, but it would be my honor to assist you." Jed took off his jacket and set it on one of the shelves beside him. He picked the young woman up by her knees, being particularly careful to keep her skirt between his arms and her bare legs.
Abbey was lifted in the air by a pair of surprisingly strong arms. And he was being very considerate of her modesty, however much of it she pretended to maintain. Though after all, he was studying to be a priest. She extended her arms to get the book but found herself still too far away. "I can touch it, but I can't reach it to grab a hold of it," she explained.
"Alright, how about this?" he asked, his mouth muffled against her hip. He stood on his tiptoes, struggling to maintain balance. She might have been short, but she was heavier than she looked.
Jed jumped as high as he could manage, losing his footing in the process. Abbey grabbed the book and promptly found herself tumbling to the ground. She ended up directly on top of the fledgling priest. He groaned in pain.
Abbey scrambled to get off of him. "Oh my god, are you alright?"
"Don't take the Lord's name in vain," he grumbled.
"I didn't ask for a rundown on commandment number two. I asked if you were alright." She put the book down and grabbed his hand to help him up.
"Your precious molecular biology book hit me in the head."
She pulled him up and pushed his hair out of the way to examine the small scrape on his forehead. He couldn't help but be fascinated by the way those green eyes scrutinized him. And her hands…Jed put the shiver he felt in his spine right out of his mind. That would only lead to impure thoughts and a thoroughly awkward confession later.
He took her hands and took them away from his face. "I'll be fine," he insisted.
"You're sure?" she asked, taking a step back but still looking at him very skeptically.
"Yeah, I'm sure." He gave her a confident smile and reached for his jacket.
She picked up the book and started walking back to her table.
Jed accompanied her. "Can I ask what you want to learn about molecular biology for?"
"I'm going to Harvard Medical School."
She rolled her eyes. "In two years. Once I graduate."
"I graduate in '67, too."
"As a priest?"
He shrugged. "We'll see. That's what I'm thinking right now. Theology major. I'm still trying to decide between American Government and Economics for my minor."
"I'm a Humanities minor. I took Government last year and I'll be taking Economics next semester."
"And you're going to medical school?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Is that so hard to believe?"
"No, it's just interesting that you're interested in so many things. It's refreshing to meet someone so driven."
Her nose wrinkled as she smiled at the compliment. They had reached her table with the mountain of books. She stopped and turned to him, extending his hand. "Abbey Barrington."
"Nice to meet you, doctor. Jed Bartlet."
She scoffed slightly. "That can't be your given name. What's it short for, Jethro?"
He stared at her. From her expression and the tone of her voice, he couldn't tell if she was teasing him or if she was just insane. "Nope. Jed," he repeated.
Abbey nodded. "I like it. It suits you. Though now I'm a little attached to Jethro."
"Don't call me that."
"I think I will." She paused a moment, considering his expression. He wasn't angry, but possibly…embarrassed? Maybe just nervous. She sat down and opened the book he had helped her get. "Well it was nice to meet you, whatever name you want to go by."
"Jed is fine." He was mildly distracted by how her skirt lifted past her knees when she crossed her legs.
Abbey followed his eye-line and smirked. "If you're sure..."
"I am," he replied with resolve. He returned his gaze back to her face. It was a very nice face. Beautiful. That dark, curly hair framed her freckled skin. Those dark brows full of expression over those sharp green eyes...
Abbey wasn't quite sure what he was staring at, but she didn't hate it. "Thank for your help with the book," she blurted awkwardly.
"I'll let you read." Jed put his jacket on by whipping it over his head. Abbey watched him curiously. "I should…uh…get to the rally. Are you going?"
"No, I just got the book. I'd like to sit in the quiet and read for a while," she replied, politely declining.
"Okay then. It was nice meeting you, Abbey."
"You too. Maybe I'll see you around the next time I need help reaching a book."
"I look forward to it." He waved and turned to walk away.
"Bye, Jethro!" she called behind him. He stopped for fraction of a second before shaking his head and continuing on his way. Her throaty laugh echoed through the empty library. He smiled. It was a very nice sound. Even if she did call him Jethro.