May 19, 2021

Leslie hung up the phone, made a note for herself and finished her third glass of milk of the day. She looked at her calendar and the tiny 82 in the corner. She was due to give birth on August 9th and August 2nd would be her last day of work. She'd miss her job and Mara terribly, but planned on returning to work after a little over a year long maternity leave. She said good bye to the Senators who left Mara's office and entered.

"I just got off the phone with Cheryl who confirmed she'd be flying in Friday night and spending a week with me, getting to know the routine."

"Leslie, you have to make sure she understands how we do things. I don't want anything to change. I still want to see my schedule for the next day when I leave. I want it on my desk in the morning. I finally know your filling system and it can't be changed. You have to make it clear to her that she is my gate keeper, not the boss of me. Tell her if she thinks she's going to bully my skinny ass into doing something, she's got another thing coming."

"Why don't you put that part in a memo to her. I'm not your mouth piece, remember?' Leslie asked with a smirk.

"Smart ass!"

"Yes Ma'am. I'm going for lunch now, do you want anything?"

"No, thanks."

"CJ, are you sure you want to look after Matty while we are gone?" Sam asked his friend.

"I'm certain Samuel, besides he is in school from 9-3. How much trouble can he get into?"

Sam's hearty laugh was CJ's first clue that the next 22 days may not be the cake walk she thought they'd be.

"If he gets on my nerves, I'll ship him off to Ainsley or Ginger. If that doesn't work, I'll just kill the little bugger."

"Cute CJ, I wish you luck. Did Mara remind you that June 7-11 he won't be in school?"

"Yes, on Monday and Wednesday he will be coming to the foundation with me. Tuesday we are going to the zoo and Thursday is the Spy Museum. Friday we will spend the day in Baltimore with Ellie and the kids."

"The Spy Museum won't entertain him for more than three hours.'

"I've asked them to arrange activities from 10-4. I'm not clueless when it comes to entertaining children Samuel. Are you looking forward to Anguilla?"

"Yes, I need those 22 days in the sun. It will be odd getting a security briefing every morning. I scheduled it for 8:30 every morning since Mara is never up before nine."

"Don't want your briefer seeing her naked?"

"No, it drives me nutty when I think about how many agents saw her naked over New Year's. This time there will be even more agents." Sam sighed.

"Just think, the next time, agents will be fighting for the Anguilla detail." CJ teased.

"What was that Claudia Jean? You want me to make you our Ambassador to Iceland?" Sam teased back.

"Humph, well since I'm not getting the appreciation I so richly deserve, I'm out of here. I've got to go to a briefing about Matty's security. If I don't see you, enjoy Anguilla and the agents ogling your wife."

"Shut Up! Good luck with my son, you'll need it."

"Bite Me Mr. President." CJ replied with a grin.

Sam rolled his eyes and hit the intercom.

"Ginger, what's next?"

"You are designating me as a National Treasure."

"Yeah, no problem, I can declare you a State of Emergency."

"Mr. President, if I get up from this chair you are in trouble and it will be more than your schedule I'll destroy."

"Fine, brat! I'll behave."

"That's better. You have a meeting in five with Dr. MCNally, Josh, Jenna and Admiral Cruishank. It's scheduled for half an hour. After that you are in with the cabinet for an hour and a half. I have a note, in your writing saying Cancer thing."

"Yes, today is the day I'm letting the cabinet in on the scope of curing cancer in ten years."

"Wish I could be a fly on the wall for that one. I can hear a few of them already."

"That is why I wanted all the preliminary research done. Now I should be able to answer any question with great authority."

"Authority?"

"Not as in expert, but as in, I said it now do it."

"Ah, I hear clicking heels, it has to be Jenna. Send her right in?"

"Yes please."

Josh was leaving his lunch meeting at the Watergate Hotel when he heard it. The first time, he assumed he was hearing things. The second time he heard it, he knew it had to be real. He turned his head hoping that the person yelling "Joshy Washy" wasn't one Eva Parker.

She could tell that Josh was looking for the voice and repeated herself a third time, "Joshy Washy!"

Josh zoned in on the voice and his face broke out in a huge grin. "Jenny's a penny." He replied and gave his old elementary school friend Jennifer Rowe a big hug.

"What on earth are you doing here?" Josh asked.

"I'm at a conference. How are your parents doing?"

"Well my Dad died during the first Bartlet campaign and my Mom is still doing well in Florida. What about yours?"

"Sorry about your Dad. My Mom died two years ago and my Dad is going downhill quickly. He just doesn't want to be around without my Mom."

"Sorry about that. So what are you doing right now?"

"I'm going to take a shower then figure out what I want to eat for dinner. Have any suggestions?"

"Yeah, my place. You can meet my wife and son."

"Josh, I don't want to make work for your wife."

"Donna won't mind. I just have to let her know to set an extra place at the table. I'll pick you up here at 6:30."

"See you then."

On his way back to the White House, Josh let Donna know he'd invited an old friend to dinner. She asked an intern to go pick up a cake for dessert and called Thomas to ask if he'd be so kind as to make her a salad. She wondered who this old friend was and what type of Josh stories she'd get to hear.

Thomas was actually rather bored when Donna called so he made an elaborate salad with every type of mixed greens imaginable. He made a tray of crab stuffed mushrooms and created a sweet mustard dip for a vegetable platter. He called her at five to let her know everything was ready. Donna gave him a kiss for the extra course and was on her way home.

Noah was waiting for his Mom on the front porch of his day-care. Once they were on their way home Donna told him he'd have to bring the cake in and that they'd have a dinner guest.

"So I have to be on State Dinner behaviour?"

"Yes."

"Who's coming for dinner?"

"An old friend of your Dad's. Would you rather have spinach and cheese ravioli or meat gnocchi for dinner?"

"Ravioli, can I make cheesy garlic bread?"

"Sure, just don't make too much, we have a vegetable tray and stuffed mushrooms plus salad."

"I rather have bread than salad."

"No kidding, but you still have to have some."

In the kitchen, Donna transferred the salad into a large bowl and tossed it lightly with some of the dressing. She munched on some of the vegetables as she cooked the ravioli and made her rose sauce. Once she was done, she called Noah in to make his garlic bread. She left the bread and mushrooms on warm in the oven and set the table. Noah came in from the backyard with a large bunch of flowers he had cut from the yard.

"Sweetie, that's so thoughtful of you. We don't have pink roses though."

"I could reach them through the fence."

"Noah, those roses belong to the Wallers!"

"They were leaning in to our property or I couldn't have reached them."

"Don't do that again."

"OK."

"Go start on your homework until your Dad shows up."

"I don't have that much to do tonight."

"Good, that means you should be able to get it all done before dinner."

Noah knew better than to argue with his Mom, especially after she didn't make a big deal about his flower napping. "Yes Mom."

Donna poured herself a glass of wine and went outside to sit on the back porch. She'd fallen in love with this colonial house the moment she saw it. Josh was about to point out that it didn't have a wine cellar and it was time to look elsewhere when he saw the look in his wife's eyes and caved instantly. Mara had insisted on lending them the money to buy the house outright and gave them an interest free loan. With an experts help, Josh had turned the storage room in the basement into a mini wine cellar.

Donna loved the porch that ran the entire length of the house. In the back, she had three cedar porch swings installed. She sat on the smallest one, sipping her wine and wondering if she could fit in a few spa appointments while Mara was on vacation. She'd signed up to go on Noah's school trip to the zoo and to bake one hundred cupcakes for the class bake sale. Donna figured no one needed to know that Thomas would be making the cupcakes for the cost of ingredients and a hug.

Noah closed his bedroom door and spread his homework out to make it look like he was doing it. He picked up the phone and dialled his candidate. Unlike Matty, Noah loved politics and wanted to follow in his Dad's footsteps. Noah Lyman, wanted to be the man behind the man. He figured he had to start somewhere and convinced a classmate to run for class president. He was bound and determined to get Brian Hamilton elected to the school's highest office.

"Hello."

"Hi Brian, it's me. Are you practising your speech?"

"I have to finish my English assignment first."

"Screw the school work, this is far more important. Second place won't get you the title or a shot a Susie Lemkie!"

"Ah fair Susie." Brian sighed.

Noah rolled his eyes. He thought Susie was a bubble head and had serious slut potential but whatever made Brian want to work was fine with him. "Yeah, the only way she'll be fluttering her eyelashes at you next year is if you win the Presidency. A fifth grader has never run the school before, we'll be making history."

"Isn't Susie just the greatest?"

"She's got a great rack, I'll give you that. Now focus! Read the speech to me."

Twenty minutes later, Noah hung up the phone after giving Brian feedback and two hours to practice. He looked at his four pages of math homework and went into his closet to pull out the grade 4 workbook that he had lifted off Matty. A year ago, Matty was cleaning out his room and Noah noticed a box filled with school workbooks inside. He recognized the books as they were they same ones his school used. He brought the box home telling Donna that he got some toys from Matty. In reality he had math, spelling, grammar and French books for grade four through seven, not to mention two written science projects and several social studies papers. He knew if Donna ever discovered his secret stash she'd kill him so he had them hidden in several different places. He heard a key in the door and headed downstairs.

Donna was surprised when a tall pretty brunette entered the house. She had assumed Josh's friend would be a man.

"Donna, I'd like you to meet Jennifer Rowe. Jen and I went to grade school together. Jen this is my wife Donna."

"Hi, it's nice to meet you, I've seen you on TV before, you work with the First Lady."

Josh started laughing which made Donna laugh too. Jennifer looked at them both and Noah decided to clue her in."

"Hi, I'm Noah. They are laughing because Aunty Mara refuses to be a First Lady so Mom is the real First Lady."

"Oh, thank you for having me to dinner Donna."

"You are very welcome, I enjoy talking to Josh's old friends."

"What she means is she likes trying to get dirt on me." Josh replied with a grin.

"I'm afraid the dirt I have on Josh ends in the middle of grade eight when I moved from Connecticut to Texas."

"Really? Did my dad ever get in trouble in school?"

"The better question would be if he was ever not in trouble." Jennifer laughed.

"Wow, look at the time, Jennifer has to go..." Josh teased.

"Joshua, we are having pasta go get some wine." Donna replied with a stern look

Noah escorted Jennifer inside and sat down right beside her on the couch.

"What grade are you in Noah?"

"Fourth, what was my Dad like in fourth grade?"

"Hmm...grade four...that was Miss Potter, no she was 3... it was Mrs Drummond. The Deadly Drum as we called her. To say she was not amused by your father would be putting it mildly. Miss Potter adored Josh even though he drove her crazy. Drummond hated him on sight and the only days he didn't have lines to write or a detention to serve was when she was away or when he was. I'd be talking to Josh and he'd get in trouble. "

"I'm sure Josh deserved most of his punishments." Donna added.

"Oh don't get me wrong, he was always trying to put his two cents in and arguing his point. He wasn't exactly diplomatic when a teacher made a mistake. I overheard our grade 7 teacher say that she'd cheerfully choke the little imp."

"Was he a class clown?" Noah inquired.

"No, he was a smart ass but not a clown."

"He still is." Donna replied and rolled her eyes.

"I'm withholding wine to those who tease me."

"I wasn't teasing you Joshy Washy, I was just telling Matty about fourth grade."

"Joshy Washy?" Noah started killing himself laughing.

Josh rolled his eyes, "Grade four...evil Deadly Drum, man did I ever hate that woman."

"The feeling was mutual apparently." Donna added.

"So did you and Dad ever date?" Noah asked.

Jennifer started laughing and Josh rolled his eyes. "No son, in my days you didn't start dating until high school."

"Last time I saw your Dad he was many things, but smooth with the ladies... Not so much."

"He never got better at it." Donna replied with a wicked grin.

"Yet you fell madly in love with me. I had game."

"I'll just let you continue to believe that dear. Dinner will be served in twenty minutes. Noah come help me."

Noah came out with the veggies and dip and placed them on the coffee table. He returned to the kitchen, popped two mushrooms in his mouth and then brought the rest out.

"You have to try these mushrooms Jennifer, they are amazing. You aren't allergic to crab are you?" Noah asked.

"No, I love crab too." Jennifer tasted one and sighed. "Donna these mushrooms are sublime."

"Thank you. So tell me more about Joshy."

Noah started laughing again until a look from his Dad silenced him. He ate another mushroom instead.

"Josh wasn't well co-ordinated so he was always one of the last people to be chosen in gym. He was useless at volleyball, not bad at basketball and pretty good at softball. I remember in grade 2 we had a gymnastics unit. We were all sort of scared of doing front rolls but Josh was convinced his neck would snap in two. If he hadn't' been so terrified, he might have done a decent roll, but he was trying so hard not to hurt his neck that the roll was actually really dangerous. Mrs. Tannis actually forbad him for ever participating in gymnastics again."

"So that's why you always flinch when I roll off the couch. You think I'm going to hurt myself?"

"Yes Noah, thankfully you know how to roll properly."

"Uncle Sam taught me in the pool at the Bay house. Was Dad a bully or bullied?"

"Neither, he didn't get involved in bullying and he only stepped in to stop it if no one else was going to. There was a girl we went to school with that both of us didn't like. Her name was Eva Parker and she wore pigtails with satin ribbons to match whatever she was wearing. She was very snotty and always going on about how much money her Daddy had and how she could buy us if she wanted to. One year some boys tied her pigtails together and since she didn't noticed they started twisting and turning until they were a knotted mess."

"I saw the beginning of it and looked at her strangely. I was going to tell her when she asked why I was staring at her and told me to go crawl back under my rock. I said nothing."

"The next day she came in with a hat on and a very grim face. Josh walked by and whipped the hat off her head. She had the funniest short haircut, it was worse than a bowl cut. Everyone started laughing and she ran off in tears."

"I felt bad about not feeling sorry for her." Josh added.

"Matty never let your Dad help you with a chemistry assignment."

"Hey it could have happened to anyone."

"No, only to idiots who weren't listening and lied about hearing instructions." Jennifer countered.

"As much as I want to hear about Josh blowing something up, dinner is ready. Josh please escort Jennifer to the table."

Over dinner Jennifer told them about Josh not listening to instructions and creating a fizzing disaster in the grade six science lab. Noah told her that Josh and the President were not allowed in the Mural Room during winter without adult supervision. Donna told the story including that Josh had the nerve to ask her to go get dry leaves.

Josh insisted on driving Jennifer back to her hotel and joking told her to be very grateful if she was still alive in the morning. Jennifer laughed and told him that Donna told her not to worry about any of his idle threats. Josh got her home address, phone number and wished her well. He got home crawled into bed and listened to Donna tease him for fifteen minutes until he silenced her with a kiss.

May 21st, 2021: 5:45pm

"Sweetie, if we are going to be much longer they should turn Marine One off ."

"Shush Sam. Now Matty, we've gone over everything with CJ so don't try to get away with anything. Dad and I will both have our phones if you need to call. They may not be on us though, so if you have to leave a message..."

"Yeah Mom, I get it. It's the same as every other time you go to the beach house. Have fun, wear sunscreen and don't worry about me."

Sam smiled, "That's my boy. Kiss your Mom good bye."

Matty gave his Mom a hug and kiss then high fived his Dad before waving good bye and heading to his sister's office.

"Come on Mara, the plane is waiting and so am I."

"Our baby is growing up. He didn't tell me he'd miss me this time."

"He's 13 dear, he'll be 14 in 2 months, you better get use to the idea."

"You're mean."

"Whatever, now move you butt towards the lawn and the helicopter."

Sam and Mara had just settled in to the plane when Sam's cell phone rang.

"Hello."

"I'll tell her, bye."

"Don't tell me we can't leave!"

"No, that was Matty, he wanted me to tell you that he'd miss you."

Mara smiled and gave Sam a kiss. Her son may be getting older but he was still her boy. Sam rolled his eyes at his crazy wife. He wondered if she'd ever let Matty grow up but she was happy and that was all that mattered.