Mackenzie Allen looked up from the papers on her desk to see her husband lingering at the door of her office. Well, one of the doors. "What do you need, Rod?" She asked calmly. She smiled at her husband, glad to see him.
"Can you take a break?" He asked tentatively.
"Well, I'm not sure if the President of the United States is allowed to take a break, but I guess I can put this aside for you." She said with a smile. She was in a great mood, and everyone around her couldn't help but notice. Her brown eyes had a certain sparkle to them, and her red hair seemed to bounce with her merriment.
"Mac, we need to talk about something." He said.
She studied her husband for a moment. His light brown hair was graying, which she loved, but today it seemed off. His blue eyes were distracted, full of an emotion she hadn't seen since…well, she didn't want to think about that right now. "Rod, what's wrong?" She asked, finally picking up on his worried vibes.
He sat down across from her chair, a solemn look on his face. "It's about…Cait."
She felt a stabbing pain at her heart, and tried to ignore it. "What about her?" She asked quietly.
"She's alive." He said.
He began to speak, elaborating on what he had said, but she didn't hear him. Not really. All she could think about was her baby girl, the daughter that she had lost. A memory suddenly hit her hard.
It had been two years after she had had the twins. She had been starting to get sick in the mornings, and she'd missed her period the last two months. She took a pregnancy test, and was delighted to find that she was, indeed, pregnant. They had been trying for about a year, but had had trouble. Rod had been just as excited as she was, and they waited for nine months in anticipation.
Then, on May 16, Mac had given birth to a beautiful baby girl. They had named her Caitlyn, and loved her so much. A few days later their baby girl died, and they had been devastated. Mac had been hit hard, and the only thing that kept her from sinking into a depression was Rod and the twins, who needed her.
She loved her deceased daughter very much, but they didn't talk about her much. It was too painful for Mac to deal with, and whenever Cait's name was mentioned she sunk into a kind of depressed stupor, the painful memories always flooding back. Every May 16 she and Rod would visit the cemetery that her body lay in, and Mac would spend the day in quiet prayer.
Rod's voice brought her out of her thoughts. "Mac?"
"Yes?" She said, the tears that had suddenly filled her eyes threatening to spill.
"Did you hear me?" He asked.
Mac thought for a moment. Had she heard him? What did he say? "Cait's alive?!" She suddenly asked.
"Kind of." Rod said.
"What are you talking about?" She asked. "Spill it, Rod Calloway. Now!" She demanded.
He sighed and launched into his story. "The baby girl that died wasn't our daughter." He said simply, with a pause before continuing. "There was another woman in the hospital that gave birth to a baby girl the same day we did. Her name, coincidentally, was also Caitlyn. Now, this woman knew that her baby was sick and that there was a good chance that she would die soon after birth. Her doctor had been able to tell from the ultrasound. So she went to a different state to have her baby with a different doctor, so that they wouldn't know about this sickness until it killed the baby."
The pieces were starting to fall into place for Mac, but she continued to listen to Rod anyway. "FAS?" She asked.
Rod nodded before continuing. "When the babies were born, she snuck into the nursery and switched the tag from our daughter's foot to hers and then switched the two babies from their beds so that no one could tell. A few days later, our Cait died, but hers lived."
"But it really wasn't our Cait." Mac said. Rod nodded. "So our daughter is still alive, somewhere out there?" Again he nodded. "How did you find out about this?" She finally asked.
"The hospital contacted me." He said. "They ran across the footage from the night that she switched them. They did their research. They can't know for sure, of course, but they'd like to do a DNA test."
"How could I not have known?" Mac asked, more to herself. "How could I not have noticed the difference when they brought the baby back to me?"
"All babies are born with blue eyes, and they both had full heads of brown hair." Rod said. "Anyone could have made the mistake. I can't believe that I did."
"But I'm her mother, and I never noticed." Mac said, her head falling into her hands. The room was silent for a moment except for her sobs. She finally looked up at her husband. "What about this girl?" She asked. "What if she's our daughter? Then what do we do?"
"I don't know." Rod said. "I just don't know."
That night, when Mac went up to the residence, she found her mother waiting to ambush her with a plate of cookies and hot chocolate, their tradition. Mac smiled in spite of herself, and gave her mother a big hug. "So, Rod told you." It was more of a statement than a question, because Mac already knew the answer.
"You shouldn't blame yourself, you know." Mrs. Allen said. "It's not your fault you didn't know they were switched."
"I'm her mother. I should have noticed. I should have known that the little girl I was holding wasn't my own." Mac said, shaking her head in disagreement.
Mrs. Allen took her daughter's hand. "Mackenzie, the first time you saw and held your real daughter, you were exhausted. You had just been in labor for thirteen hours. You only held her for a little while, and then they wheeled her off to the nursery. That was when that vile woman switched her. Mac, it's not your fault. It's just…a horrible thing that happened. We can't do anything about it."
"What if she is my daughter?" Mac asked. "What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to pretend as if nothing's out of the normal? Am I supposed to ignore the fact that she's mine? That I'm her mother?"
"You do whatever you think you should." Her mother said softly. "Here's your chance to get your daughter back, to give her a mother."
"She already has one." Mac said. "How am I supposed to take her away from the mother she already has? What if she doesn't want anything to do with me?"
Mrs. Allen sighed and stood up. She walked across the room and grabbed a folder that was sitting on the counter. She carried it back to the table that they were sitting at and handed it to Mac. "Look at this." She told her.
Mac gave her mother a curious look, and then opened the folder. Inside was a picture of a girl with red hair and brown eyes. It was clipped to a sheet of information about a girl named Caitlyn Jones. The facts went something like this:
Name: Caitlyn Rose Jones
DOB: May 16
Age: 15 years old
Parents: Jenny Jones
Hair Color: Red
Eye Color: Brown
The facts continued, telling Mac the girl's favorite foods, books, music. It told her where the girl went to school, what sports she played (including crew, which was a sport Mac loved), clubs she was in, her grades, people she hung out with.
Mac looked up at her mother. "Rod didn't miss any steps on this, did he?"
"Look on the next page." Mrs. Allen said simply.
Mac continued to read. When she was finished, she looked up at her mother. "Her 'mother' is dead?"
Mrs. Allen nodded. "She was also an alcoholic. This girl hasn't had a mother. She hasn't lived with that woman since she was a baby. She's lived with the woman's parents."
Mac saw the tenderness in her mother's eyes. "If she really is my daughter, I'll need to step up, won't I?"
Her mother smiled. "That's up to you." She said. "You'll have to follow your conscience on that one."
Caitlyn Jones looked up from the laptop in front of her. She was in the library of her school, and her friend Morgan was staring at her, a worried look on her face. Catie sighed and sat back against her chair. "Yeah, Morgan?"
"Are you okay?" She walked around the table and sat down next to her friend.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Catie lied.
"You can tell me the truth." Morgan said.
Catie sighed. She knew she could tell Morgan anything, but this was something bigger than anything she'd ever had to tell her friend. Morgan looked at the laptop. "Why are you researching President Allen?" She asked curiously.
Catie sighed again. Should she tell her friend, or should she keep quiet. The president of the united states could quite possibly be her mother, and that scared the crap out of her. "Oh. Um, I was just…doing research for journalism." She lied. "I'm doing a personality profile on her."
Morgan sighed. "We don't have to write a feature story." She said. "Try again."
Catie smiled. "You're good." She said. "If I tell you, you have to promise you won't repeat it."
Morgan held out her pinkies. They crossed each other's arms and linked pinkies. "I promise." Morgan said.
Catie sighed once more. "Well, you know how I've always said that I'm nothing like my family? That I look nothing like them, that I'm not interested in the same things, that I don't have the same views?" Morgan nodded. "Well, there's a reason for that."
"What are you talking about?" Morgan asked.
"This is going to sound crazy, and I don't know if you'll believe me, but I hope you do." Catie said. She began to launch into the story, and Morgan listened with wide eyes. Catie explained how she had been switched at birth, and that she wasn't actually related to anyone in her family. When she was finished, Morgan was silent for a moment.
Then she asked the million dollar question. "Who are your real parents?"
Catie hesitated. Then she pointed to the picture of Mackenzie Allen on the laptop screen. "Our dear president." She said quietly.
Morgan's eyes grew even wider, though Catie hadn't thought that would be possible. "You're the president's daughter?!" She said loudly.
"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!" Catie said, covering Morgan's mouth with her hand. "It's supposed to be a secret."
"Sorry." Morgan said sheepishly. "But, in all fairness, you can't spring something like that on me and expect me not to freak out."
"So you believe me?" Catie asked.
"Why wouldn't I?" Morgan asked. "You would have no reason to lie about this. It's just so insane. What are you going to do about it?"
Catie sighed. "I don't know." She admitted. "You know, we aren't sure yet if she really is my real mother. We have to do a DNA test to be sure."
"When is this going to happen?" Morgan asked.
Catie was quiet for a moment. "Today after school."
"Well, we live in D.C. I guess this kind of thing shouldn't surprise me." Morgan said.
"No, probably not." Catie said. "Still, it's not like we could have anticipated something like this. I mean, the president for god's sake!"
"Do you want me to go with you?" Morgan finally asked.
Catie sighed in relief. "I thought you'd never ask." She said.
Morgan giggled and hugged her friend as the last bell rang. She stood up, and Catie turned off the laptop and followed. Morgan grabbed her bag and turned to Catie. "Ready to go get you a presidential mother?"
"Yes, yes I am."
Mac sighed and leaned back against the seat of the car. Rod grabbed her hand and squeezed. "It'll be fine." He tried to assure her.
They were traveling without an escort for once, because they wanted to do their best to keep it quiet until it was absolutely necessary to take the matter public. After all, they weren't even sure if this girl was their daughter. Well, genetically speaking. But ever since Mac had seen the picture of the girl, she had known without a doubt that Caitlyn Jones was her daughter.
She'd been quiet since she'd seen the folder, thoughtful. It had been a few days, and though she had handled every problem thrown at her with grace, she had been distracted. Rod thanked god that Templeton hadn't been around to see her, but he knew it was only a matter of time before outsiders began to notice.
He knew she had every right to be distracted, but he only hoped that they would figure out how to handle this soon. He wanted his wife back, and since this had been going on, she just hadn't been herself. He hadn't seen this side of her since Cait died, and he knew that she blamed herself for not realizing that the baby they had wasn't their daughter.
"Mac, talk to me." He finally said. "I know you're upset, but I'm your husband. This is happening to me too."
She looked at him with a small smile on her face. "I know it is." She said. And she did. She understood that she wasn't the only one who blamed herself. Rod tried not to show it, but he felt as guilty as she did for not realizing that the girl they held hadn't been theirs. And when she died, it had devastated them. They thought they had lost a child, but, really, they'd never had her to lose.
The car stopped in front of a big yellow house, and the secret service agent in the front seat turned around to look at them. "We're here." He said.
Mac nodded. He got out and opened their door. Rod got out and held his hand out for Mac. She took it graciously and stepped out of the car. She looked at the house and took a deep breath. It was big, obviously a family home. From what Mac had read in the file, Caitlyn lived here with her grandparents. The secret service had done a full background check on the grandparents, and they checked out good. They were good people, and took wonderful care of their granddaughter.
The house had a huge yard, and Mac could just make out a pool in the backyard, and next to it a trampoline. There was a treehouse in one of the big trees in the front yard. It was the perfect white-picket fence house. Rod squeezed her hand and she took a deep breath, and then they made their way up the walk. Before they got to the door it opened, and out stepped an elderly couple.
They smiled warmly at Mac and Rod. The woman, Ruthi Jones, was in her early sixties, but looked younger, as if she belonged in her fifties. Her hair was auburn, and she had soft hazel eyes. Her husband, David Jones, was in his late sixties. His eyes were a striking blue, and his hair was gray and thinning at the top. "Welcome, Madame President." They said warmly.
She smiled, and they invited her in. They led her into their living room, where there was a private doctor set up with needles to take their blood samples. She looked for Cait, trying to be inconspicuous about it, but couldn't see her anywhere. When she looked back, Mrs. Jones was smiling. "She's upstairs." She said. "If you'd like, I can take you to meet her. She's a bit nervous." She offered.
Mac smiled. "I'd like that." She said. She turned to Rod, who shook his head.
"I think I'll just stay here." He said.
She nodded, and followed Ruthi out of the room. David stayed behind with Rod, and they began to talk about sports. Mac smiled, knowing that her husband would love that. Ruthi lead her up a flight of stairs, and Mac couldn't help but notice the family pictures lining the staff. One in particular caught her eye, and she slowed down.
It was of Caitlyn and another girl. They were laughing, and Caitlyn's red hair seemed to sparkle in the sun. They were both wearing yellow dresses, and holding yellow roses. Mac didn't notice Ruthi watching her until she started to talk. "She's with her best friend, Morgan. Morgan's actually upstairs with her now."
Mac looked at Ruthi. Ruthi was surprised to see the hurt in Mac's eyes. "Madam President, what's wrong?"
"She's happy here, isn't she?" Mac asked. "I can't take her away from this. Even if she is my daughter."
"She is your daughter." Ruthi said. "I know it. I can feel it. I'm beyond sorry for what my daughter has done to you and your family, and I'd like to believe that maybe it's wrong, that maybe Caitlyn really is ours, but I know that she isn't. I can feel it. I've known for a long time." She paused for a moment. "Yes. She is happy here. But she needs a mother. It's all she really wants. And that's something I can't give her."
Mac looked at her, curious. Ruthi smiled and continued. "I love my granddaughter very much, but, if you are her mother, take her. Be her mother. It's what she needs."
"Do you really think that?" Mac asked.
"I do." Ruthi confirmed. "I believe it with my whole heart."
"You don't know how much that means to me to hear that." Mac said.
Ruthi smiled and turned. "Let's do this." She said, leading Mac up the rest of the stairs. They were now in a long hallway, with three doors on each side. Ruthi walked down the hall and knocked on the second door on the right. "Cait!" She called. "I have someone here to meet you."
The door opened, and a girl with brown hair was at the door with a smile. When she saw Mac her eyes widened, and she stepped away from the door. Mac's eyes wandered around the room until they settled on a pair of brown eyes identical to hers. They belonged to Caitlyn Jones. She stood up from the giant beanbag chair she was sitting on and smiled. She walked toward Mac and held out her hand. "Madam President." She said. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Please, call me Mac." Mac said. "It's great to meet you too, Caitlyn."
"Okay, Mac. And, actually, it's Catie. Or Cait. Not the hugest fan of Caitlyn. In fact, I only hear it when I'm in trouble." Catie looked over her shoulder at her friend. "This is my friend Morgan. She's a little…awestruck." She explained.
Mac smiled. "It's nice to meet you as well, Morgan."
There was an awkward moment of silence. "So…" Morgan finally said. "You might be my best friend's mother."
Mac smiled. "I'm hoping so."
"Really?" Catie asked.
"Yes." Mac said. "I've heard so many good things about you from your grandmother and I'm looking forward to getting to know you more."
"Well, thank you, ma'am." Catie said graciously.
Ruthi smiled at her granddaughter's manners. "So, are you guys ready to get stuck with needles?" She asked.
Catie made a face. "Oh joy." She said sarcastically.
Mac laughed. "So, I'm guessing you don't like needles either?"
"That's actually a bit of an understatement." Catie said with a smile. "I tend to faint and get sick at the sight of needles."
"Oh, thank God I'm not alone." Mac said.
"That seems surprising." Catie said as they began to make their way back downstairs. Ruthi and Morgan lead the way, and Mac and Catie followed. "The first female president of the united states is afraid of needles. I would think you would be made of steel by now."
Mac laughed. "I've only been president for a few months." She said. "It might take a little longer than that to make me Joseph Stalin material."
Catie giggled. They were downstairs now, and they entered the living room again. Mac quickly introduced Catie to Rod, and gave him a meaningful look. She had only just met this girl, but as soon as she laid eyes on her she felt…it was indescribable.
When Cait had died, a piece of Mac's heart had been ripped out. She moved on with her life, and pretended as if it wasn't there, but the whole was always present. But, from the moment she had met Catie, she could feel that hole starting to fill.
The doctor took their blood and hurried out to take it to the lab. They would find out the next morning. When the doctor was gone, they talked for a while before Ruthi stood. "Would you like to stay for dinner?" She asked.
Mac looked at Rod, who shrugged. She looked back at Ruthi and smiled. "I guess I can take a break for a couple of hours." She said. She noticed the huge smile that spread across Catie's face, and stopped one from spreading across hers as well. She didn't know why, but something about this girl intrigued her, and she wanted to know more about her.
Ruthi hurried to make dinner, and Catie offered to give Mac and Rod a tour of the house. "I'd like that." Mac said with a smile, and she followed Catie and Morgan out of the room. Rod was right beside her the whole time, and she could sense that he was as excited as she was about the situation.
Catie showed them the first floor, where there was a huge modern kitchen, a big dining room with a huge table ("We have a big family." Catie explained), and a big recreation room with a TV and big couch that looked comfy and inviting. She then led them upstairs. There was her room, her grandparent's room, two bathrooms (one in the hall and one in the master bedroom), and three guest rooms.
She then took them back downstairs and out to the yard. The backyard was even bigger than Mac had anticipated, and was beautiful. There was a vegetable garden at the edge of the yard, and a flower garden against the house. The pool was big, and so was the trampoline next to it. Catie told them stories of her childhood, and talked about how her and Morgan loved to push the trampoline right next to the pool and jump in.
Ruthi called them in when supper was ready, and they hurried in. Ruthi had made spaghetti, and though it was simple, Mac loved it. "You don't know how long it's been since I've had spaghetti." She told them with a smile.
"Getting sick of the navy bean soup?" David asked knowingly with a smile.
Mac smiled. "Just a little." She said.
She was sad to tell them that she had to leave as soon as they were finished, but the look of disappointment on Catie's face definitely made her day. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow morning." She said to them.
They said their goodbyes, and Mac and Rod got back in the car. Rod was glad to see that Mac was coming out of the stupor she had been in lately, and was chatting animatedly. Suddenly she became silent, and he looked over at her, worried. "What's wrong, Mac?"
"What are we going to say to the kids?" She asked.
Rod was waiting for this. "Well, I was thinking that maybe we should wait to make sure that she really is our daughter before we sit the kids down."
Mac nodded, thinking. "She's ours, Rod. I can tell."
"Mac, I love you, but you can't know that for sure. I'm hoping that she is, but they could be wrong." Rod said, trying to talk some sense into her.
"Rod, I understand what you're getting at, but I know she's ours. I can feel it. She's our daughter. We'll wait until it's a proven fact to tell the kids, but, mark my words, tomorrow morning that test will come back positive."