Episode 151 – Fireside Conference

Sometime later, most of the group had gone to their respective tents, leaving June, Carla, Michael, and Inez sitting around the embers of the fire.

“So?” Michael asked June softly.

“What?” June asked, then giggled. “Seriously. I don’t get what you’re asking.”

“I don’t know,” sighed Michael. “It just seemed like things were pretty tense between Sharon and your brother up until a little while ago. Is Sharon in trouble or something?”

“Or something,” sigh Carla. “And it’s my fault.”

“No, it’s not,” June said, swatting at her. June looked at Michael. “You heard about Carla’s miraculous escape from Nigeria, right?”

Michael frowned.

Inez nudged him. “Yes, you did. I read you the story on the plane to London.”

“Oh, that!” Michael looked at Carla. “That was you?”

“Yes,” said Carla.

“She actually left with us on Air Force One,” June said. “The catch was my brother wasn’t supposed to know until we were in the air. That way he could honestly deny knowing what was going on.”

“Plausible deniability,” said Inez. “Okay.”

“Well, Sharon was part of it and Mark got a little annoyed,” June said. “He was also worried that we were letting our emotions get the better of us. Which we weren’t.

“Right,” said Carla. “I just hope I didn’t get Sharon in trouble.”

June groaned. “Not that much in trouble and it looks like they cleared the air a little while ago.”

“Yeah,” Michael said. “I found her at the edge of the village and him coming from that direction. She said she couldn’t talk about it.”

“Maybe she didn’t think she could,” June said.

“Or maybe she didn’t want her big brother to know what was going on,” said Inez, nudging Michael.

Michael just looked at June. “So, does she have a thing for your brother? Matt seems to think so.”

June laughed. “Actually, they both have it bad for each other. But they’re not going to do anything about it. I’m not sure what Sharon’s reasons are. She says she doesn’t want to be a public figure.”

“She really doesn’t,” Carla said. “It scares the snot out of her.”

“Then why does she keep falling for guys in the limelight?” Michael asked.

Inez shoved him again. “It was only that one time with your drummer. Her other boyfriends have been fairly low-profile.”

“Not that kid she was dating while in grad school. The one that became the big tech CEO,” Michael said. “He was all about the publicity and that’s when Sharon dumped him.”

Carla shoved Michael from his other side. “Her past history is irrelevant. It’s what’s going on now and June is right. Sharon has it bad for Mr. President and definitely does not want to be the First Girlfriend.”

“And Mark is equally hung up on her,” June said. “I’m serious. Half the West Wing staff is in on the conspiracy to get those two together because they can tell they like each other. And really, they just fit. You can tell.”

“Really?” asked Carla. “This could be fun. How do I get in on this?”

“Wait,” Michael said. He paused. “You sure they really like each other? I mean, I’ve had that vibe from her for a while now, but after the past day or two, I was getting worried.”

“They’ve definitely worked it out,” said June. “I caught them glancing at each other before Mark went to his tent. I mean, I know she isn’t in there, but I saw the look.”

“I did, too,” said Carla. “And it said she wanted to be in that tent with him.”

“Voice of reason here,” said Inez. “Maybe we ought to let them work it out.”

The others groaned.

“That’s no fun,” said Carla.

“We’ll just have to be subtle, that’s all,” said June.

“That lets Michael out,” Inez said, getting up. “Which means it’s time we were in bed. Come on, honey.”

“But,” Michael looked up at Inez and sighed. “You’re right. Good night, Carla, June.”

“Good night,” Carla said.

“Good night,” June echoed then got up, herself. “And really I need to go to bed, too. You coming, Carla?”

“Sure.” Carla got up and followed June.

Episode 135 – Sharon and Karen Talk to Mark

romance, romance fictionAs it turned out, Kent Jeffries, the administrative assistant and gatekeeper for the President, couldn’t find a space in Mark’s schedule until late Thursday afternoon. Sharon and Karen met in the foyer of the Oval Office, neither really in the mood for the coming discussion. Sharon had her laptop and Karen had her tablet.

For his part, Mark knew the second he saw their faces that this was not going to be a pleasant meeting. He got them seated on one of the two facing tan silk sofas, prepared some coffee, then took his seat in the chair at the head of the group, blue silk jack-something-or-other, June had called it. The material on the upholstery had a paisley design woven in.

“Well?” he asked slowly.

“It’s about June,” Sharon said getting right to the point.

“We’re concerned about her, as her friends,” Karen said quickly.

“Sir, there’s no easy way to say this, but based on her behavior this past month or two, we believe that she’s suffering a relapse of anorexia nervosa.”

Mark nodded and sighed. “You noticed.”

“Actually,” Sharon said, “I noticed as early as late last month. But I’ve known a lot of women with anorexia, so I can spot the signs pretty quickly. And Matt was asking questions a few weeks ago.”

“I see.” Mark pressed his lips together and nodded again. “Have you talked to her about it?”

“Not yet,” said Karen.

“Look, Sir,” Sharon cut in. “We know that it’s one of those conditions that make the person with it pretty resistant to facing it.”

“But there’s a lot of good research that shows the right kind of intervention has a high success rate,” Karen added.

“No. Not an intervention.” Mark suddenly got up and began pacing. “The last time we tried that, June totally blew us off and ended up in the hospital.”

“Sir, that’s probably why she landed in the hospital,” Karen said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Sharon looked at him. “I’m guessing you’ve been through this before.”

“Yeah. We have.” Mark shook his head and shuddered a little. “It’s the watching it that’s the hard part, knowing that you can’t do anything.”

“Which of June’s friends participated that time you had trouble?” Sharon asked.

“June really doesn’t have that many close friends,” Mark said. “It was me, my dad and her buddy Doug. You know, the hair stylist.”

Too well, Sharon wanted to say, but bit her tongue.

“All guys?” Karen looked at her tablet. “We’re going to propose something different. It’s an all-female group, including me, Sharon, her friend Niecy and her friend Carla.”

“Carla’s had her own problems with anorexia,” Sharon explained. “She’s pretty much over it, thank God, but she can speak to June in ways even I can’t. And I’ve done more than a few interventions for the disease.”

“We’ve also got a psychologist in Los Angeles who’s helping us plan the intervention and giving us pointers, things to look out for,” Karen said.

“Do you have any idea what kind of chance you’re taking?” Mark asked, his voice thick with pain.

“Not that much of one, Sir,” Sharon said. “It’s not generally the sort of thing that makes people worse, even though they can get pretty resistant. People who don’t respond are usually not going to respond to anything. You still don’t want to go in without any planning or without consulting a professional first.”

“Which we’ve done,” Karen added. “Plus, Sharon and Carla have experience with the disease. I’m doing the additional research.”

“We need to know what her triggers are,” Sharon said. “What sets her off.”

Mark stopped pacing and thought. “I don’t know,” he finally gasped. “She simply won’t talk about things. Dad and I have tried. She did a fair amount of therapy after we went to live with our father. But she just doesn’t talk. She wouldn’t even talk to our grandmother.”

“That may be why she hasn’t had very many close friends,” Karen said, looking at Sharon.

“Well, she does now,” Sharon said firmly, then stood. “Thank you for your time, Sir. Karen and I will keep you updated.”

Karen stood also, then put her hand on Mark’s arm. “Sir, she was there for me when I most needed someone. We’re going to take very good care of her. It’s the least I can do.”

Mark swallowed. “Uh, thanks,” he whispered, then recovered himself just enough to dismiss the women.

Alone, he sank onto the couch. Neither Sharon nor Karen had asked for his permission to stage the intervention. They had merely asked for his perspective, which meant they were focused on helping June. He knew he should be terrified, and he was afraid. He knew he should be angry, but he wasn’t. If anything, it felt as though the two women had slipped in and quietly lifted a huge boulder off the pile on his shoulders.

Episode 132 – Rose Makes a Plan

romance, romantic serial, romance serial, romance fictionIn her Minnesota home, Rose Jerguessen glared at her iPhone. The blasted thing had its uses, she supposed, but it was completely lacking when it came to ending calls. Swiping your finger was not nearly as satisfying as slamming the headset into its cradle.

Behind her, in the breakfast room, her friends – such as they were – were probably talking about her behind her back. Rose would review the security tapes later. Given that she was just as likely to be saying something malicious about any of them, depending on who had stepped out to go to the ladies’ room, it only made sense to keep up with what they were saying about her.

More disturbing was the news from Los Angeles. It was supposed to have been a simple operation, but apparently, that Tanaka bitch knew how to make herself look like a perfect saint. It was frustrating, really. Rose paid for the best people there were and they still couldn’t get that grasping little witch where it hurt. The best that could be hoped for was that she was distracted from going after Mark.

Rose sighed. A couple of her aides had suggested that perhaps Tanaka was not interested in Mark. It was possible. Still, her son was president – someone had to be going after him. And his head was so easily turned. It was up to her to protect him. But first, there would be some culling among her network. Then, perhaps, she would visit the White House, herself. Rose smiled to herself. Not only would she see for herself what Mark was really up to, her friends would be impressed. They’d been asking about when she’d go. Rose mulled it over. Maybe not right away, but soon. Soon.