The rest of the week passed quietly. It was the end of August in Washington, and with most of the Congress still gone for the month’s break, that meant few meetings. Even Sharon had less to work on than usual and by Friday, found herself looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend and downloaded several books onto her tablet in anticipation of some extended reading time.
Which was why she was less than thrilled when her mobile phone rang around 10 that Saturday morning and the President’s number was flashing on the screen. She took a deep breath and answered.
“Sharon, we’re going to need some help here,” said Mark’s voice even before she could say hello. “Melody, are you there?”
“I’m right here, Mark.” Melody’s voice was a little faint and sounded considerably more agitated than usual.
“June?” Mark asked.
“You’ve got me for the next ten minutes,” June said on her end of the conversation. She’d spent the week in New York. “We’ll be landing soon and I’ll have to turn the phone off. Oh, my god. It’s on the news already.”
“What?” asked Sharon, searching for a TV remote. But she was in her kitchen, cleaning up after her breakfast and the nearest television was in the back study.
“It’s a complete disaster,” sniffed Melody.
“Hang on, Mel,” said Mark. “We can make this work. Sharon, the children’s home is having their big donor’s party tonight. It’s one of their most important events because they need to raise money.”
“I can’t believe it,” Melody said. “I spoke with the caterers just yesterday. They said everything was ready to go.”
“That’s what everybody’s saying,” said June. “And today, gone. Poof!”
“The catering company just went out of business overnight,” said Melody, sounding as if she was trying not to cry. “Overnight!”
“I doubt that,” said June. “But, Sharon, it’s one of the biggest companies in D.C. And they had at least three other major parties they were doing tonight and today. And a wedding. Oh, my god, that poor couple.”
“We need to focus on the donor’s dinner,” Mark said. “Solly took the weekend off and most of her crew with her to cater her niece’s wedding in New Orleans. Russell said he could do the couple’s wedding.”
“Russell?” Melody asked.
“The sous chef here at the White House,” Mark said. “Solly left him behind just in case I needed feeding. I told him to work the wedding before Melody called me about the dinner. So how many are we expecting, Mel?”
“About a hundred and fifty,” Melody said. “They delivered the wine and the liquor for the bar – I think that was a sub-contractor, which is why we have it. But there’s no food and folks are supposed to be here at 6 pm. What are we going to feed them?”
“Get a ham or two,” said Sharon. “The weather’s hot enough, you can serve it cold and a ham feeds a lot of people for minimum effort. I’ve got a double oven here, so I could bake a couple and bring them over.”
“This was supposed to be a fancy sit-down dinner,” Melody said.
“Well, it’s not going to be anymore,” said June. “Don’t stress on it, Mel. Are the decorations there?”
“Nothing. The caterer was going to do that and we don’t even have the tables and chairs.”
“June, can you handle the decorations?” Mark asked.
“Yes,” said June. “I’m texting Tanks now. Shavings. They’re telling us to turn off our phones. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I’m on the ground.”
Sharon finally found her way into the study of the Georgetown townhouse where she lived and clicked on the TV.
“This looks major,” she said into her phone. “I just heard a fill-in chef say he’s going everywhere to find ingredients.”
“And Augie is texting me that that Maryland fundraiser their governor was doing tonight was cancelled,” said Mark. “I wonder….”
“You think we could use their catering company?” Melody asked.
“Nope,” said Sharon. “The Smithsonian nabbed them already, according to CNN.”
“We’ll take care of it,” Mark said. “I’ve done parties before.”
“This was supposed to be a luxury sit-down dinner,” Melody whimpered.
“It’s not going to be now,” Mark said. “But if it’s making this big a splash in the news, your donors are going to be impressed if you can give them anything more than salted peanuts and a glass of wine. Sharon, how fast can you get out to Vienna?”
“What?” Sharon asked.
“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Mark continued, speaking very fast. “I’ll get Eddie to meet you at the Vienna station. You guys go grocery shopping out there. Even odds everyone else will be freaking out but staying in town. You pick up whatever you can and we’ll figure out the menu based on what you get. I’m thinking a basic buffet. Two hot meat dishes, a salad, some vegetables.”
“We’ll need at least one vegetarian hot dish,” said Sharon. “What about hors d’oeuvres?”
“We usually do passed hors d’oeuvres,” Melody said.
“We’ll add that to the mix,” Mark said. “Maybe the kids at the home can do the passing.”
“No,” said Melody. “This is their night, too. Believe me, it’s really important to have them as guests. That way, they interact with the donors and tell their stories. It’s really important.”
“Fine,” said Mark. “We’ll get Matt and his friends to do the serving.”
“For sure,” said Sharon. “Let’s see, that’s two, four, six. Do we want to rope in Deborah and Allie? They’re sort of part of the group even though they’re the younger sisters.”
“Why not?” Mark said.
Sharon turned off her TV and went into the guest bathroom off the kitchen. “I’m about as decent as I can be. Where are we going to cook everything?”
“We have the home’s kitchen,” said Melody. “It’s pretty big.”
“I’ll scope that out,” said Mark. “I think our biggest challenge is going to be getting the food in, then we’ll figure out how to handle it.”
“Okay,” said Sharon. “Let me get a couple things together just in case I can’t get back here. Sir, can you text Coop and tell him I’ll text him when I get to the Vienna station?”
“Already done and Eddie has texted back. Cordelia will meet you at the station, text her the second you get above ground.”
“I need the number.”
“Coming at you.” Mark chuckled. “This is going to be fun. Melody, we’ve got this one in the bag. Your job will be to keep track of who is doing what. Think you can handle it?”
“Of course,” Melody said in a voice that said she was not at all sure she could.
“Good,” said Mark. “I’ll text everyone your number and have them text you so that you’ll have all our numbers in your phone. Keep a charger and plug on you. We are going to rock this one.”