Mark left the room. But as he shut the door behind him, he saw Senator Janet Marley in the corridor. She was rather short, with blonde hair teased out into a bowl around her head – classic helmet hair, June had called it. While Marley normally wore the traditional Washington power suit, that afternoon she had on a full white shirt over jeans and ballet flats. Mark realized as he watched her pace that she reminded him a lot of Sharon. Or was it the other way around?
“Senator Marley,” he said.
“Oh. Yes, sir?” She turned and faced him.
“Would you mind stepping this way, please?” Mark said.
“Yes, sir.” Marley followed Mark down a corridor to a small alcove with a drinking fountain in it.
Both checked the hallway to make sure it was empty.
“Listen, Janet,” Mark said quickly. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got Dean Belwish on board with letting me decide how to discipline the boys. But before I accidentally undermine you, any feelings about Paul playing football?”
“Other than it’s the devil’s game and I’d be a happy woman if none of my children or grandchildren ever put pads on again?” Marley folded her arms across her chest. “That is my private opinion, however.”
Mark grinned. “I guess your constituents would have a few issues with that perspective. Which is why I think I’ve got a way to get Paul off the team more or less honorably. Problem is, I’m going to have to make it look like I’m coming down hard on him. Not to mention that he really shouldn’t be rewarded for pulling a rotten stunt like that, even if he was hoping to get in trouble and get out of playing football. So he should get a couple days of suspension and kicked off the team.”
“Suspension won’t look good on his transcripts for college.”
“But he can write about it in his entrance essay – lesson learned and all that stuff. Admissions folks eat that stuff up.”
Marley finally smiled. “Mark, I think you’ve got it. What about Rob and Duffy?”
“Two weeks of detention, but they still get to play.”
“So Paul has two days off from school and no more football. I thought you said he shouldn’t be rewarded.”
“He also has to apologize to Matt.”
Marley put her hand on Mark’s arm. “You know, Mark, I really appreciate you looking out for Paul. He needs a good man in his life.”
“Thanks.” Mark patted her hand. “He’s a good kid. Now, let me get everything buttoned down with the dean and then we can get the apology rolling.”
Neither he nor the Senator noticed that Sharon had entered the hallway. But she noticed Marley’s hand on Mark’s arm and Mark patting her hand and the warm look between the two. Sharon held her breath. It didn’t necessarily mean anything. And just because she and Mark couldn’t get together didn’t mean he should live like a hermit. Assuming that what she was seeing meant what she thought it did, even though it was just as likely that it didn’t because Mark could be warm and fuzzy with just about anybody.
Mark looked up at that moment and waved Sharon toward him.
“Ms. Wheatly,” he called. “Have you met Senator Janet Marley? Senator, this is my World Affairs Advisor Sharon Wheatly. She and Matt have gotten to be really good friends.”
Sharon walked down the hall and shook hands with Marley. “How do you do, Senator?”
“Fine, thanks,” Marley replied, sizing Sharon up, then looking back at Mark.
“Sir, Matt is here and according to the dean, it looks like he’s been exonerated,” Sharon said, keeping half an eye on Marley. “Eddie is also on the way with Rebecca and the other girls. Apparently there was a plan to meet to get pizza or something.”
“Would you do me a favor?” Mark asked. “I’ve squared things with Paul. Would you suggest to Matt that forgiveness might be in order?”
Sharon glared briefly, then smiled. “Yes, sir.”
She turned and left. Mark watched her go, only to get a nudge in the ribs from Marley.
“I like her,” Marley said, grinning. “I think she’ll be good for you.”
“Not you, too,” Mark sighed. “Come on. Let’s get things squared away with Dean Belwish.”