FF: Where I Stood
Characters: CJ, Abbey, Jed
Notes: This is set during “Dead Irish Writers” and after Abbey gives up her medical license. I’m not sure if I’ve used this song as inspiration before; it turns out I’ve written stories I’d forgotten about so it’s highly likely considering this is one of my favorite songs. Anyway, I thought I’d try to take a look at this episode from a different angle. Hope it works. Enjoy!
I watch Abbey slip from the room, CJ and Amy close on her heels. Looking around the ornately decorated room, I can hardly blame my wife for wanting some peace in quiet. I tried to make her happy and once again I have failed miserably. Over thirty years of marriage and I still can’t read all of her moods. It makes sense that she would want this to be a low-key affair; I wonder why I hadn’t realized it before now. Of course she doesn’t want to be the first lady tonight; she doesn’t want to put on the mask and smile at all the right people on the night before she meets with the board. Sometimes I wonder how she puts up with me.
A little while later, when she tells me she’s voluntarily surrendering her license for the remainder of my term in office, I can see the sadness in her eyes. When did I start putting my needs before the needs of my wife? When did this job become more important than my marriage? The answer, of course, has always been the same. I put my job before her the day I decided to run for president without consulting her. I told Leo ‘yes’ before I told my wife, something I still haven’t lived down. I knew she didn’t want to be first lady, but I wanted to be the president so… The things we do to women.
As I finish giving my toast, I look around the room, looking for her. She’s standing off in a corner, her arm linked through CJ’s, laughing at something my press secretary had said. It’s her real laugh, too, not the publicly approved laugh of the politician’s wife, but the genuine laugh of Abigail Barrington, the surgeon with a wicked sense of humor. It’s been years since I’ve heard her laugh like that, and I am envious of the fact that it is CJ and not me who made my wife’s day a little more bearable. I watch as CJ backs away from my wife, clearly not wanting to disengage herself from Abbey’s embrace. Abbey nods as CJ makes her exit, her eyes following CJ’s slender body from the room. Feeling my eyes upon her, my wife turns and smiles. It’s a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes and it feels as though I’ve been punched in the stomach.
The next night, I walk into the Residence hoping to comfort her. I knew she had a long day; giving up your medical license for your husband has to take it out of you. Finding the bed empty, I call out to her, hoping that maybe she’s just in the bathroom. When there is no answer, I know she’s gone to find comfort in the arms of another. Sighing to myself, I turn and head back to the West Wing, knowing in whose arms she’s seeking solace.
The hallways of the West Wing are empty, the staff having left long ago for a few hours of rest. I silently walk though the halls, heading purposefully to the communications bullpen and her office. I can see soft light coming through the closed blinds, and hear hushed voices coming from the door that hasn’t quite latched. Holding up a hand to stop my agents from following, I walk up to the partially opened door and peek through the opening. The sight before me is a shock to my senses, but is expected at the same time. My wife, my beautiful Abbey, laying in CJ’s arms, her head resting on the younger woman’s chest, sobbing. Claudia Jean is rocking her back and forth, running her fingers through Abbey’s dark hair and whispering words of comfort I cannot and do not want to hear. When CJ leans down to kiss Abbey’s forehead, I turn away, backing away from the door and heading back in the direction from which I came.
Somehow it feels right, leaving Abbey in the arms of the young woman. I have hurt the woman I love more than I thought possible. I made her lie to everyone she knows, including herself, and then, as if that weren’t enough, after all the lies, I came clean and exposed her lies to the world. I watched her fall apart and made no effort to help her. I was too busy trying to keep my head above water to be bothered with someone else’s trouble, even if that someone else was my wife. It seems right that Claudia Jean take my place. She and Abbey have always been close. The few times they have fought were my fault.
So I leave her there, wrapped in an embrace with the woman I once thought of as a daughter. It’s fitting that she take my place beside Abbey, if only privately. I know that eventually, when all of this madness is over, she will take my place beside Abbey permanently. And I also know that she will love her more than I ever have. Because, while I tell Abbey I love her more than anyone in the world, I have chosen myself over her more times than I can count, and she deserves to be loved by someone who can put her needs above their own. Lord knows I haven’t.