On the morning of the elections, CJ had received a message from Donna: He wants to see everyone. Come over tonight, no later than eleven. Don't let him fool you; he still needs a lot of rest.
Sam had left the White House an hour ago-nine o'clock. Election results still scrolled across the bottom of her television screen when Toby arrived in her office, wearing his coat and raising his eyebrows with an unspoken question. Ready to go? CJ nodded, and, fifteen minutes later, their taxi rolled to a stop in front of Josh's building.
As Toby leaned forward to pay the driver, CJ looked past him to see Sam, Josh, and Donna sprawled on the front steps like a trio of lizards under heat lamps. Affection for them twisted into a tight knot inside CJ's chest. She wished she could capture them that way, sneak a photograph and mount it in a frame on her end table. She owned so few photographs of any of them. The last few months-hell, the last few years-had triggered similar thoughts. Occasional phone calls with her father and more frequent ones with Josh had sparked the overdue realization that memory could fail-would fail, even without a degenerative disease. She'd done her best to shove those thoughts down deep, bury them in her subconscious for another day. A day not so busy, not so full.
A day like today.
CJ let Toby exit first, taking advantage of the empty seconds to gather herself as she straightened her back, drew a full breath. By the time CJ stepped out of the car and onto the sidewalk, Josh had already bounded to the bottom of the steps to meet them. As Toby extracted himself from Josh's quick embrace, CJ caught a glimpse of Josh's clothes; the set of blue pajamas peeked out from the part in his coat. They hung off him as though they were fluid, dripping down his arms and legs, beyond the cuffs of his coat sleeves and stretching toward the ground.
Josh's voice floated light and soft into her ears, and CJ snapped her eyes to Josh's face. Her heart stuttered as she noticed his smile; she'd forgotten the shape of it. She'd had no reminders. No reminders of his smile, his build, and she'd forgotten. She'd forgotten his smile-his face-and had chosen pajamas two sizes too large for him. CJ sucked a scratchy breath down her throat and forced herself to smile, wrapping her arms around Josh's shoulders to pull him against her.
"Hey," she answered, turning her face into the curve of Josh's neck to hide her face and frustration. "How are you doing?"
"Good. I'm good," he said, curling one arm around her waist. "Glad you're here. I missed you guys."
CJ squeezed her eyes shut, the barbed-wire frustration dulled for a moment by the cool relief that washed through her with Josh's voice, his warmth. She held him tighter, struggling to adopt an air of normalcy. Chatter drifted from the stairs and filled the silence when CJ couldn't reply, unable to push any words up her throat.
Josh stood within the circle of her arms until she loosened her hold and pulled away. "You want a beer? Donna could run back inside and get you one," he said, turning back toward the steps.
CJ swallowed, pushed her hair away from her face, and managed a grin. "Sure. Thanks," she said and followed Josh.
Accepting a bottle of beer from Donna, CJ took a seat on a step beside Toby and watched her friends, listened to them, tried to commit them to her memory. The next day, she left the White House for lunch and returned with a new camera, hoping that someday its photographs, when she took them, might help her remember.