Meg clicked off her cell phone and stared at it.
"That must have been some call," Preston said, coming into the sunroom and smiling at her. "That's the look you have when something significantly disturbing has happened. I think the last time I saw it, the Sox had just traded Scutaro."
"Again," Meg said, absently. "They'd traded Scutaro again. After giving him up to the Giants in 2012, one would think that they'd have realized the man is World Series gold. But, no, they traded him again, and lost their chance at the Series. Again."
"Next year in Fenway," said Preston, with the kind of philosophical jocularity only a Phillies fan could have. "Tell me about the call."
She looked at him. "I think that's my line, actually."
"Oh." He looked at her for a minute. "I was going to talk to you about it."
She nodded. "I'm sure you were. Probably the day after the deadline for primary nominations."
He sighed. "Meg. I was going to talk to you about it."
"Sure," she said. "On Super Tuesday? The day after the primary itself?" God, she sounded awful. Bitchy and wounded, and she hated it when they fought, but she had never tried to hit below the belt like this.
She was sitting on the couch in the sunroom, a pile of work beside her, and she plucked a sheet of paper from a briefing book about the new non-profit her firm was considering funding, folding it over and over until it was in a small square. It had taken a decade for her hand to regain this kind of mobility. Ten years, fifteen surgeries, and more hours of physical therapy than she could bear to think about. But now she could type with two hands. She could wrap both hands around a tennis racket. She could grip a ski pole. She could wave a campaign sign with the best of them.
He leaned against the wall beside the door. "Who was it?"
Meg looked at him. They were having a casual Sunday at home, which to them meant that he was working in the den and she was in this bright room, a floor down. Every hour or so one of them would wander over to where the other person was working, and they'd take a few minutes to chat or sometimes just to make-out, a somewhat juvenile but extremely accurate description of some of their breaks. Sadly, they had realized years ago that they couldn't get anything done while working in the same room.
She was wearing sweats she vaguely remembered picking up in the Harvard bookstore, sometime in her second year of law school, and an old Williams sweatshirt. She had tied her hair into a pony tail after they'd showered, and she only had lip gloss on because her lips dried out in the cold Philadelphia winter. He was wearing old ragged jeans and a soft woolen sweater, his favorite boat docks serving as slippers. She tried to remember if he had slippers. Bedraggled, old slippers: their backs misshapen from decades of being slipped on without care, discolored from being washed with the brights too many times. Maybe she would buy him some for Christmas this year: she always struggled over whether to buy him clothes, but pajamas were a good bet.
Potential yuletide gold aside, he looked like GQ could knock on their front door and he'd be ready for a photo shoot. A cover shot, nonetheless. Whereas she could maybe be in the the 'before' shot of a Good Housekeeping make-over feature, with a blurb that said something like, 'Meg has resisted the many tips from her glamorous mother, Former President Powers, and her husband, the dashing Senator from Pennsylvania. But now we've got our hands on her, and we're going to help the phenomenal Philly lawyer and consultant flow from boardrooms to ballrooms.' Something like that, anyway. She wasn't the one here who was the master of spin.
Beth would demand the magazine print 8x10" glossies of the 'after' shots for her, so she could frame them and hang them in their firm's hallways. Maybe an extra-large one for Meg's bathroom, to motivate her to take an extra thirty seconds in the morning and at least put on a coat of lipstick and some mascara.
If Beth did put up it up, Preston would take it down. One of the many, many reasons she'd married him.
"Meg," he said, and she blinked, focusing on him again. He looked uncertain, and that was certainly not something she got to see every day. "Who was it?"
"Neal," she said. The words tasted funny on her lips, leaden and heavy. "He called to congratulate me. Apparently David is under the impression that you're considering the nomination."
"I'm sorry," he said, crossing the room to sit beside her on the couch. "Meg, I'm so very sorry. I was very clear with them that the conversation be kept absolutely confidential."
"Apparently the regional chairman of the Democratic Party felt his husband, the former First Son and youngest lieutenant-colonel in the Marine Corps, could be counted on to keep the secret in the family," she said. Yes, she sounded as bitter as the words had seemed as she'd held them back. "David is otherwise very discreet."
"I need you to look at me," he said, taking her left hand in his. After all this time, he still wouldn't reach for her right hand. He would take it if she offered it to him, but - did he still see her as vulnerable? In need of protection? What other reason could he have for turning down the nomination without so much as talking about it with her? She pulled her hand away. God, could she be any more petty about this? But - to have heard it from someone else...
Preston sighed, a sound of pure frustration. "The last thing I ever want is to make you look like that. I should have told you. The very day the meeting was set up. I wanted you to come with me, in fact. And if I wasn't brave enough to tell you then, I certainly should have told you after the meeting."
"Before David beat you to the punch," she said, nodding. "It's easier to control the damage if you control the story." A lesson learned the hard way, for both of them.
"Stop it," he said. "God, Meg. I wanted to tell you. God, I've wanted to tell you for the last two days. It's just --"
"Just what?" she said, finally giving in to the temptation to unleash her temper. "Because I've been sitting here for the last ten minutes, trying to think of why you wouldn't tell me. God, if not for any other reason, because you knew that I was bound to hear it from somebody else. I knows it's been fifteen years, but it's not like Mom is completely out of the loop, you know. And, God, Neal is married to the next House Leader. Beth spends more time in the Beltway than she does in New York these days. How could you not have considered how I would feel, hearing from one of them that my husband has been asked to run for the Democratic nomination for the goddamn Presidency."
"I'm not the only one keeping secrets these days, am I?" he fired back. "When were you going to tell me?"
She flushed. Point to him. In fact, game, set, and match to him. "I just found out," she said, quietly. "I just - I don't know." To her absolute horror, she felt tears well up in her eyes. "I don't know why I didn't tell you," she said, finding the courage to look him in the eye. "I love you, you know that. More than anything. I wanted to tell you. I'm just -"
"Sweetheart." He took her hand, then, and she let him. In fact, she leaned in to him, and he kissed her forehead. ""You're scared. It's okay. You don't have to say it. I'm scared, too. That's why I didn't tell you."
"Scared to tell me?" God, it hurt to even ask that. After everything they'd gone through to be together, after five years of marriage - could he still not be sure of them? She'd never sensed anything like that from him before, but this was why people got divorced, wasn't it? One of them changed their mind.
He kissed her on the lips, so softly she almost - almost - cried again. "If I told you, you would tell me to run."
"Damn skippy," she said. "The country needs you. God, look at what Mitchell has done, in the last four years. I don't know if anybody else could even think of how to best clean up this mess. Mom has been encouraging you to run for years. It's not that I don't want you to run. You know that. I just didn't want to hear it from a third party, no matter how interested they are."
"You're pregnant," he said, kissing her again.
"I was going to tell you," she said. "Tonight. I thought we'd go for a walk by the river and I could tell you, by that tree."
"I can't lose you again," he said. "I can't put our family at risk. God, Meg. The things that could happen to that baby. Our child. Or, god help me, to you, again. I - I wouldn't be able to bear it. I would literally blow up small countries."
Oh. Shades of their long national nightmare, again. Still, maybe.
"We'll protect her," she said. He frowned at her, and she smiled through her tears. "No, listen to me. We will. Nothing will happen to me, and nothing will to him. Her. It. But we have to protect her future, too, and I can't think of a better way to do that than to have her father run this country."
Preston hugged her harder, and she felt his tears again her cheek. “We're going to be fine,” she said, again, and believed it, somehow. “There isn't anything we can't do together.”
“Stop coming up with campaign slogans,” he said, laughing as they kissed. “You're the best politician I know, but you're a terrible ad director.”
“Yeah,” she said, thinking. “I know. Levinson, maybe? Or that new girl, Tate?”
Preston nodded, and moved so that they were side-by-side again, head together. “I like Taylor, too. But maybe as deputy, until she earns her sea legs.”
Meg picked up her tablet and opened a new document. “Okay, first you call David back,” she said, making notes. “I'll find out what Charlie Krueger is doing. I think he's the best guy to run the campaign.”
“We'll talk to him,” he said. “Schedule that right after you book an appointment with your doctor. This is a joint venture, all of it.”
It always had been, she thought, and gave in to the urge to kiss him, again.