The following Monday brought the sad news that Caroline Eddington had passed away. The news made for a very long week for everyone in the White House. The funeral was held on Friday. Al Eddington was his usual stoic self, which bothered Mark a lot more than he realized.
“Something just seemed off about the whole thing,” he told Sharon as the two prepared a cole slaw in Sharon’s kitchen to go with the pulled pork that Chef Solly had made and Mark had brought over.
“That’s because his daughters were completely avoiding him,” Sharon said. “All three of them. They pretty much hung onto their husbands and barely said squat to Al.”
“You think that’s what got to Al?”
Sharon paused as she sliced some red cabbage with her second-best knife. “No. I think it was Caroline dying. But he’s not showing his grief and in the process, he’s pushing his daughters away from him when he most needs them. I hope he takes some time off, but I’ve got a bad feeling he’s going to be at the Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday.”
“I told him not to come in, but he’ll be there.” Mark frowned. He thought as he shredded a small carrot onto a cutting board. “He even pointed out that there were some rumbles of genocide in Nigeria.”
“More than a few rumbles,” Sharon said. “It’s looking pretty grim, according to Bantu. But I have to agree with Al. It’s not even close to time for us be get involved militarily. For one thing, no one is asking us to come in.”
“Al seems to think no one is going to ask,” said Mark. “What the hell is he doing, keeping an eye on that?”
Sharon shrugged. “I guess it’s a distraction. But if he’s holding his grief in like it looks like he is, I am seriously not looking forward to when it all comes crashing out.”
“That is not going to be pretty.” Mark sighed. “I think I’m going to have to make a point of getting my briefings from Wanda Dereske.”
“Wanda?” Sharon asked.
“Al’s second in command,” Mark said. “I would have hired her except that Al was willing to come on board. But her contacts are almost as good as Al’s, and she’s not dealing with his issues right now.”
“I don’t think I’ve met her.”
Mark chuckled. “You need to come up for air more often. Her office is just down the corridor from yours.”
“Huh. Maybe I’ll go introduce myself on Monday. Do you want to do sandwiches with these? We can use the barbecue sauce as a dipping sauce.”
“Let’s just eat the pork as is. If you want the barbecue sauce, we can have it on the side.”
Sharon sampled a bit of meat. “Oh, my god. This is wonderful. Hm. Sauce or no sauce. I’ll just put some in this ramekin and we can dip at will.”
“Sounds good,” said Mark.
Once again, he found himself caught up in watching Sharon as she quickly laid out place settings on the counter next to the dining area. Which is why he left to go back to the White House shortly after they finished eating and cleaning up.
Sharon, for her part, was happy to see him go. It had been an uncomfortable week. And while dinner together had made things a lot more relaxed, she was still closer to Mark than she wanted to be – and not close enough.