But Susan wasn’t picking up her phone. Sharon left a brief message, sniffed, then dried her tears.
“That’s that, then,” she said. “I’d better get going.”
“Stay for dinner,” June said. “We’ll eat up here and you won’t have to be alone and depressed.”
“I’ll get to make you depressed.”
June laughed softly. “Not really.” There was a knock on the door. “And there’s dinner.”
June got up and admitted the junior usher who rolled in a cart draped with a white cloth. Two filled plates, napkins, silverware, two glasses filled part way with a red wine and the wine bottle were laid out on the top. Within seconds, the usher, a young woman with a serious face and brown hair pulled into a bun, arranged the food and service on a small table next to the couch. June thanked her and the usher left, taking the cart with her.
“What’s this?” Sharon asked.
“Spaghetti Bolognese,” June said, handing her a plate. “Solly makes a really good one. You know, the kind that’s simmered for three days.”
Sharon looked at the plate, then picked up her fork. “You know, that does sound good.”
“It is,” said June, who had already twirled up her first bite. “It’s my comfort food.”
“You have a comfort food?” Sharon asked.
“Mm-hm.” June slurped a short strand of spaghetti. “I fell in love with it in Milan. There was a little trattoria not far from the design house where I was apprenticing. Our boss did not want us going there, and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a model. It was basta on the pasta, per Signor. Which is exactly why I and all the other girls went there every chance we got. And I’ve loved it ever since. At least, when it’s done right. I’ll even eat it when I’m relapsing.”
Sharon chuckled. “How is that going, anyway?”
“Pretty well.” June winced. “I was going to talk to Carla about the incest angle before things went south back in Nigeria.”
“About the what?” Sharon gasped. “June, I had no idea.”
“Huh? Did I just say that?” June shook her head in awe. “Wow. I really must be coming around a corner.” She looked at Sharon. “I’ve never told anybody. Well, I recently told Dr. Williams. She’s the one helping me to talk about it. I was going to talk to Carla first, just as a sounding board.”
“Do you want to talk now?”
“I don’t know.” June set her plate down, then gasped as she thought of something. “It wasn’t Mark.”
“I kind of figured,” Sharon said. “Was it Harold?”
“Oh, yeah. It started when I was five and he was thirteen.” June shuddered. “Good lord, I can’t believe I’m talking about this. I haven’t even told Mark, let alone my dad. I generally try to pretend that it didn’t happen. But then things seemed to be going really well with Doug.”
“As in Douglas Lee, the hair stylist you keep siccing on me?” Sharon asked. “I thought you were just friends.”
“We are and we aren’t. Doug has serious OCD issues. It’s totally weird. He works all day with people’s hair, but he can’t stand to be touched.” June took a deep breath. “But now he wants to move past his disorder and have a real relationship with me. And I want the same. I don’t even know how I’m going to tell him. And Mark. Good lord, he is going to be so upset that I didn’t tell him sooner.”
“Probably.” said Sharon. “But, June, you’re doing the best you can. He’ll understand that, even if he doesn’t like it.”
“I suppose,” June said. “He’s been protecting me my whole life. The one time I let something slip, he lost the election.”
June sighed. “It was really awful. I was gang-raped in high school. I didn’t tell Mark because, well, I was trying not to face it. Only one of the guys came out and busted Mark for it when he was running for state senate. And it looked really bad. It’s the only election Mark has lost.”
“Oh, June!” Sharon gasped, then got a hold of herself. “That’s horrible. What? You haven’t been through enough?”
“That’s why it’s so hard to tell Mark. It could really hurt him if it got out.”
“But, June….” Sharon swallowed, debating which issue to deal with first. “My god, you’ve been dealing with some terrible shit. But, but…. Look, hiding it hasn’t helped your brother. It hasn’t helped you deal with it.”
“I know.” Tears began to fall down June’s cheeks.
Sharon put her hand on June’s arm. “I’m guessing you haven’t been wanting to deal with it all, yourself.”
“You can say that again.” June paused and took a very deep breath. “I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. And I’ve mostly gotten past it.”
“Except for your relapses.”
June sighed. “Except for those.” She looked down at her spaghetti. “I was supposed to be cheering you up.”
“You did.” Sharon shrugged. “I suppose we both needed each other today. It happens. You made me feel better. I hope I helped you feel better.”
“Yes.” June aimlessly twirled some spaghetti, then straightened and held up her glass. “We are strong women.”
Sharon tapped her glass against June’s. “We are, indeed. That’s why we can hold each other up.”
“Yeah. We can do that.”
The two turned back to their meal, with the conversation bouncing back and forth between Sharon’s grief, June trying to tell her brother about her past and all manner of topics in between. By the time Sharon left the White House, the only problem the two hadn’t entirely solved was what to do about Rebecca Cooper and the arrival of Jodi and Tiffany.
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?”
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?”