"What about Lucy Shepard. Is anyone concerned about this girl. Can we now have a serious discussion about family values?" A woman calling into the O'Reilly Show said.
I shrank back into the comfortable but slightly sterile couch in the family room in the white house residence. I tried to stop my lip from trembling. That wasn't fair to my dad. He was trying to maintain such a stiff upper lip through all of this…. Lynching.
I knew that it was killing him inside not to be able to yell at the newsreporters who were hurting Sydney, him, and me. The newsreporters who were trying to distract him from doing the work that he became president to do. Distracting him from helping the people that he had signed on to help. In fact, many of the people who were now turning on my dad.
"Lucy Shepard's grandparents should insist that either Sydney and the President get married or that she stay with them.' I made a face. "Living with grandma Sally and grandpa Bob?" My mind flashed back to my last visit with them and the hours upon hours in the kitchen with Grandma learning how to fold bread properly.
"Okay, Lucy Shepard, get up." I said, realizing that nothing better was coming on the tv. "You are just going to get more and more depressed about the condition of the American populace." I snickered when I realized that I was mimicking what my father often said when the news got depressing.
Before going out to explore, I stopped at my father's door and quietly put my ear to the door. Sydney and dad were whispering to one another. I smiled wistfully. Dad is so happy. Sydney is his intellectual and emotional equal. She challenges him but also supplements him like only mom had.
I paused for a moment. "Don't think about that." I told myself. It was always hard to think of mom especially when I was alone. The fact that tomorrow was… tomorrow would just heighten it. Tomorrow would be hard enough.
I walked over to the oval office area to clear my head. I hoped to run into Uncle AJ. I needed a hug and I knew that if he were alone he would stop being dad's chief of staff and just be my Uncle AJ.
I stepped back when I saw that Uncle AJ was with Louis and Robin and stood outside the door out of sight. My heart fell again. Louis looked angry and Uncle AJ was trying to pacify him. Louis was an amazing man with such a large heart. He cared about Dad, us, and America so much. If he left the administration… the administration would be half what it was. Louis was the moral compass that Uncle AJ couldn't be because of his loyalty to dad. Louis spoke up when something needed to be said. Louis always made my dad remember what SHOULD be done and helped him remember to strive for that.
I waited behind the door heart in my mouth until Louis finally nodded at Uncle AJ thanked him and then left. "Lucy. I see you." Uncle AJ said, at last when Robin had also left.
"Louis isn't going to quit is he?" I asked running to Uncle AJ. I don't know if I could bear it if Louis left. All the changes around here….
He must have seen my feelings in my face because he knelt down and grabbed me in a hug. "Louis has a big heart. Don't worry. He knows that your dad is doing the best he can. But because he cares so much, he has these outbursts. "
That was one thing about Uncle AJ. He was an emotional and big-hearted man but he always acted practically. He somehow separated his emotions from his actions. His tone showed that he disapproved of Louis's inability to do this: recognizing and appreciating the political necessities and acting on them.
"Now, isn't it past your bedtime?"
I looked at the clock, with a jolt, dad was strict about bedtime and discipline. If I was up past bedtime I was really in for it… It was 8 PM.
I gave Uncle AJ an exasperated look as my heart stopped racing. "My bedtime has not been 8 since I was 9." I said, witheringly.
Uncle AJ laughed. "Still. Don't you have better things to do than spy on politics? Like homework… or watching Charmed?"
I made a face. "Nothing good was coming on TV." I had flipped through the channel like a hundred times.
Uncle AJ gave me a sympathetic look. "Read a good book then."
I made a face again. I had too much energy to read.
"Go shoot some hoops in the basketball court." AJ tried again.
"That sounds like a good idea." I ran off.
"Only for an hour, otherwise you will be way too wired to sleep." Uncle AJ called after me.
Yeah, yeah. I thought to myself. But I listened and stopped throwing hoops exactly sixty minutes later, after all tomorrow was, social studies again and it wouldn't do to fall asleep in class because I had been too wired to sleep the night before. Mr. Boring already complained to father once and she was sure he would do it again.
I woke up the next morning completely depressed and for a moment I didn't remember why. I put on my robe. "I need a hug." I thought when I remembered why and had sobbed for a few minutes.
"Dad must be outside, waiting for me."
I plodded outside, but dad wasn't there and instead there was his usual morning note. "Something important must have come up." After all, that was the only reason he would forget about today, right?
I walked aimlessly around the room a bit. I walked to my dad's room to be a bit closer to him. I saw Sydney's sock lying on the floor. Normally that would make me smile and I would see it as a reminder of the fact that my dad had someone in his life who cared about him again. But right now that just reminded me… maybe that was why dad forgot. He needed to love Sydney now. Sydney needed him… She would want to be the only woman in dad's life.
I tried to wipe my tears then. Dad should move on. Dad should focus on his and Sydney's life and relationship.
"But what about me." I blubbered.
There was only one thing to do. I needed a hug. I needed someone who understood but at the same time I didn't want to talk to dad and make things between him and Sydney awkward. I needed to go to Uncle AJ and Aunt Evelyn's house. I had figured out a way to sneak the secret service cordon last year, though I hadn't used it yet. When you were in inside the White House they got complacent. They thought that they had you surrounded and someone would see you. But the guards on the grounds, even if they saw you, were too focused on external threats. They assumed that the other guards were with you.
I grabbed my bag and snuck out. I felt unusually sad. Even sadder than I had last year. "Dad has Sydney now. That is good… but what about mommy?"
I ran to the DC metro and got off at the right stop, the stop I had been going to for so much of my life, and then ran up the street. I knocked on the door very fast. "Wait." I thought to myself. "What if she is not home?"
I berated myself for not thinking this all the way through. what was I going to do. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I heard loud noises inside the house. I was sure that one of them was Louis.
Uncle AJ opened the door. "Lucy Anne Shepard!" Uncle AJ said, opening the door and letting me in. "What are you doing? Where is your dad? The secret service." Uncle AJ's face showed his genuine concern-borne anger.
My lower lip trembled. He didn't remember either! What was happening? MAMM!
Louis and Robin made to come forward. "Lucy, that was very dangerous." Louis said, but his face showed concern and not anger. "You are the first daughter, the security cordon exists to protect you."
"Oh, Lucy." The voice I wanted to hear said, sympathy filling her voice.
"Aunt Evelyn!" I ran to her, glad to hear the sympathy and pain. Someone remembered. Someone shared my pain!
"Sweetie. I was just about to come to you. You should have called, your Uncle, dad, Louis or I would have come to get you." She reprimanded, albeit gently.
I smelled something that made me sob more.
I saw Uncle AJ sit on the couch behind us.
"Louis." Uncle AJ muttered. "What is the date today?"
"January 15th, why?" Louis said, consulting his watch.
Uncle AJ's face fell. I barely heard him mutter. "I can't believe I forgot. I am an idiot." He added, louder. "Come here, little one."
Louis and Robin left the couch so that Aunt Ev and I could sit next to Uncle AJ.
Just then a knock came on the door. I fled to the spot that I always fled to. The place I fled to on this day four years ago.
"Come in, Andy." Aunt Evelyn called. I was secretly glad to hear the reprimand in her voice.
"The Secret Service said she left the premises. I am sure she came here. I can't believe I forgot." Dad's voice came through. I felt a pang of guilt and remorse because of his breathlessness. I am sure he remembered half way through a morning meeting and then rushed to find me and panicked when he didn't find me there.
"Lucy." He called. "I am very sorry that I forgot. I am very sorry that I didn't remember this morning. I am sure that was very upsetting."
I rolled my eyes. Dad had this annoying habit of lecturing in a legal-rational way. He especially did it when he was upset or flustered. He would break everything down into its component parts and explain.
I was surprised, however, when he sat just outside my hiding spot. I guess dad was as smart as he looked, he had known where my hiding spot within Aunt Ev and Uncle AJ's house was.
I faintly heard Uncle AJ explain to Louis. "Today was the day that we told Lucy that her mom had terminal cancer."
I then heard Robin pull Louis up. "We will see you guys at work. Mr. President."
"Robin. Louis." Dad acknowledged.
"See you soon." Uncle AJ muttered in his tone of voice that indicated that his focus was on me.
"Sweetie. I miss her too." Dad ended with. "Next time, have Janey pull me out of whatever meeting I am in. they are not as important as you or as Mary."
That did it. I rushed out of my hiding spot and into Dad's arms.
I sobbed and sobbed as his strong and powerful arms held me. I imagined that I was five again when I believed that my dad could protect me and him and mom from anything. Like when he fixed my Barbie doll. "See, nothing a little glue can't fix." He had said, after I had thrown a two-hour tantrum believing that my Barbie couldn't be put back together again.
Just then I saw Sydney come in behind Dad. "But wait, wouldn't me being upset about mom and dad, upset dad and Sydney?"
I fled upstairs this time, confused.
"Oh I shouldn't have come in. this is your moment, not mine." Sydney said, regretfully. "I just wanted her to know it was okay."
"Perfectly fine." Aunt Ev said. "I also wonderful if her reaction wasn't amplified by something."
That made me lean out a bit more. "what could that be? I also thought I was being more weepy than usual. I was having a slight pain in my side too."
"Oh." Sydney said, understanding.
"Today of all days…" Ev said.
"Well that might have caused it."
"What?" Dad and Uncle AJ asked together.
They smiled seeing that they had talked in synch again. I missed that. I felt that that was something else that was lost in the hubbub of an administration.
I also wanted to know what they thought would be amplifying my reaction.
Aunt Ev and Sydney shook their heads. They talked with their eyes. Aunt Ev went to the kitchen. She came upstairs with a tray of fudge and I broke down in her arms. Mom and I had made fudge almost every day until she died. It was a project that she and I had done. Aunt Ev would help when mom got too sick to lift a spoon on her own. This was mom's special recipe.
I didn't even hear Sydney whisper something to dad.
"It is okay to cry. We all miss your mom." Aunt Ev said. "She was a special woman and kept your dad in line. More then anyone else I know.'
"What about Sydney. I feel bad. I am making a scene about mom and I am sure that she feels bad about that…"
"Lucy. She is your mom and Sydney doesn't mind at all. You come first. But more then that, Sydney knows she is not the first woman in your dad's life. Your mom and you are and were first."
Lucy hugged Evelyn. "You will feel better if you talk to him, but if you don't want to, I will shoo him and Syd away."
I stalled for a minute, thinking about it. "I will go downstairs."
"Atta girl." Aunt Evelyn patted my arm.
I went downstairs and found Uncle AJ and Dad in conversation, with Sydney patting Dad's arm.
When she saw me come down Sydney excused herself, smiling at me. "it is okay, Sydney." I said, softly. After all, she was a part of this today.
"I absolutely do not want to intrude." Sydney said. "Please do not think I will be offended if you ask me to leave."
"It is okay, Sydney." I repeated and it really was. After all, her dad would always be her dad. Her mom would always be her mom. It was just that… well Sydney was also there now.