Habit forced Josh out of bed before five a.m.-no alarm; must have been an mistake-and out of the shower before five-thirty. By five-forty-five, the coffee maker had wheezed out enough coffee to fill a mug, and Josh tipped his head back, eyes closed and still gritty with sleep as he chugged without stopping for breath. Undissolved sugar spread over his tongue like a strip of sandy beach. Josh hitched one foot onto a couch cushion to tie his shoes as he ground his teeth, crushing the crystals with crunch-pops that drowned out the commentator flapping her gums on MSNBC. Some leftover hullabaloo about Vickie Hilton. He'd hear any real updates at the office if it was important, he thought, aiming the remote at the TV to turn it off before bolting for the door.
Straddling the threshold, Josh crouched down to the floor and reached for the morning's Post. He caught several headlines below the fold before he flipped the paper to its front. His eyes never reached the main headline; they froze on the colored illustrations flanking the paper's title. Josh blinked, frowning at the pair of cartoon turkeys, both sporting Pilgrim hats as they wished a 'HAPPY THANKSGIVING' to Post readers everywhere.
Josh pushed out a long exhale and felt his shoulders sag. "Damn it," he whispered, folding the paper in half as he stood and retraced his path to the center of his living room.
He tossed the paper onto an end table, hot disappointment burning in his chest. For a moment, he considered spending the day at the office, but he knew that he'd hit a wall fast. The President was in Manchester for the day, Leo with him. Sam had already flown to California, and Josh was reasonably sure that Sam was indulging in the opportunity to soak in UV rays. Toby had thrown himself headlong into inaugural preparations. CJ had, in no uncertain terms, promised a painful death to anyone who dared to interrupt her Thanksgiving plans, which involved some sort of solitary spa treatment. And Donna was undoubtedly enjoying-
Donna was probably busy. Not to mention that the rest of the people employed by the federal government-useful people, anyway-had taken the day off.
Josh toed off his shoes and kicked them toward the door before shrugging out of his suit jacket. He dropped it over the back of his armchair and began a lap around the room, circling the furniture like a sailor without a compass, stranded at-
Josh shook his head to clear the thought; he'd rather not think about sailors.
He wandered into his bedroom, his elbows locked straight as he walked, his back stiff. "I can't believe I forgot it was-" Josh cut himself off, biting his bottom lip as he dug through his dresser for a pair of sweats.
He'd realized it last night. He'd known last night. He'd told Donna. He'd brought it up before she'd left to meet-
It didn't matter. He'd had a momentary lapse of memory. He'd been tired, had been up late, filling his head with budget reports and news about East Asia. He'd forced other thoughts out of his mind: Sam's abrupt move across the country, Donna, Thanksgiving-all of it. He just hadn't realized he'd been so successful.
He frowned, fighting his way into a hooded sweatshirt, pushing down the wish that he'd been more successful, that he'd been able to forget it for more than a few hours.
Josh sighed, one hand squeezing a fistful of hair as he padded into the living room and sank into the corner of the couch. He found the TV remote, laying his arm across the armrest as he browsed the channels. His leg bounced, his foot striking the floor with a rapid, irregular beat as he cycled through the listings once, twice. He paused on the third loop for preview coverage of the Thanksgiving Classic-predictions favored the Cowboys over the Skins-but jabbed the remote, switching off the TV when the commentators segued into predictions for the upcoming Army-Navy game.
He sucked in a deep breath, squeezing his eyes tightly, struggling to blacken the images surfacing behind his eyelids. Donna's smile had been huge-beaming-when she'd skipped out of the office, on her way to meet Jack Reese. Drinks with Jack Reese. Freshly showered, wearing-God, he never should have told her to buy it-her long red dress for Jack Reese. Josh could see her face-mouth curving with a genuine smile, eyes bright and clear, a blush deepening on her cheeks with every cocktail. He could hear her invitation back to her apartment, imagine the first touch, the first-
Josh propelled himself off the couch, his jaw set hard as he shuffled through his closet for a pair of sneakers. His fingers fumbled with the laces, but he managed two sloppy double-knots before he scooped his keys off the table and hurried toward the door.
Today he'd find a distraction. Tomorrow he'd try to remember how to forget.